Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What stays with the house when it is sold?

Sometimes there are misunderstandings about what goes and what stays when a home is sold. Nasty emails and phone calls between buyers, sellers and real estate agents after the sale are common. Some people even end up in court because buyers assume that sellers would be leaving something behind.

In many cases, it depends on laws of the state. In other cases, it merely depends on what is customary for your location. That’s why it is important to work with a local REALTOR® who knows the ins and outs of the local market.

The question to ask is “Is it permanently attached?” If so, it’s fixture, and usually, it stays. However, some fixtures fall into the category of personal property. And that’s where we enter a gray area.

What is personal property?

Beds and furniture … there’s little question that they are personal property. Mirrors, art, chandeliers … they may seem custom made to fit the home, but they still fall under the category of personal property, even though the art may look as if it were made specifically for the home. If there is a question, it’s always best to ask. And get it in writing.

Here are three things usually included in the sale:


It’s not the norm everywhere to include all major appliances - including refrigerators and dishwashers - with the property. Always ask your REALTOR® about what is customary. If there’s any doubt, be sure to put it in writing as to what exactly is to be left behind, up to and including name brands.

Window Coverings

If there are window coverings present, they usually stay with the new owner. However, be sure to ask. The seller may have had the drapes custom made to match the furniture and will want to take the drapes to their new home. Make sure to ask and get it in writing.

Flat Screen TVs

TVs used to fall under personal property 100% of the time. Used to. But now media rooms and the large, flat screen, high definition TVs that are now professionally mounted above the fireplace or on the wall like a piece of art with the wires running through the walls are common. As a result, TVs are considered fixtures. Again, make sure to ask and get it in writing.

Sometimes sellers decide that they want to keep something or that they will part with it for a price. Sellers should document everything that will be included and will be excluded so there’s no doubt in the buyer’s mind what stays and what goes. Buyers should be as detailed as possible from the beginning and always ask the real estate agent during the showing or open house. If they say it’s included, make sure to get it in writing.

One more warning: Sometimes sellers will advertise “Appliances are included” and replace their high end appliances with lower-end models. Make sure to specify that “existing appliances” are included. And get it in writing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What should be included in your home listing

Did you know that what you say and how you say it can have a big impact on how effective your home listing is? The results can be selling your home more quickly and for a better price.

By the same token, using the wrong words and phrases can turn a buyer off as quickly as the right one can motivate a buyer to learn more. Here are some tips to improve your listing:

Be specific

Give as many details or facts about a property as you can. Include updates such as a new roof or driveway and items that differentiate your home from competitive properties. If your kitchen is a draw, don’t be afraid to drop brand names.

Use good grammar

Bad spelling and grammar, and using abbreviations that aren’t easily understood can be a big deterrent to potential buyers.

A photo’s worth

In a buyer’s market there may be more properties available than buyers to purchase them. With that much competition, sometimes the photo can draw the attention of a buyer or agent. Make sure you’re putting your home’s best foot forward with great photos.

Mention amenities

A great view or privacy won’t be apparent in photos or property details. Use the description to talk about features that aren't obvious.

Avoid exaggeration

Be realistic in your listing. Building a buyer’s expectations with a fluff-filled description only to have it fall far short in reality can turn a buyer off.

Use the right adjectives

The words you use can make a difference. Use descriptive opinion words if they are appropriate. Also use descriptions of the property within the copy. Using property descriptors and opinion words were found to increase the sale price by just under 1% for each instance. However, there is a limit. Don’t overdo it and turn off prospective buyers.

Motivate the buyer

In advertising, sometimes saying something is enough to make a large number of people believe it. That goes for pronouncements on pricing. Telling them it’s a good deal is enough to motivate them without being dishonest, even if it priced competitively with other homes in the area.

Remember that you have a very short time to attract a buyer’s attention. Make sure to deliver the biggest selling features in the first couple of lines.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The dual agency role in real estate

One of the things those who work in real estate can’t seem to agree on is that of “dual agent” on a home sale. While it’s legal – in some form, anyway – in all 50 states, getting people on both sides of the sale to come to a consensus is difficult at best.

What is a dual agent?

Many, if not most, REALTORS® can represent sellers as the listing agent. Their responsibility is to sell the home as quickly as they can and at as close to the listing price as possible. They act with the seller’s best interest in mind. For their efforts, they receive a commission.

When someone is ready to buy a home, they can employ a buyer’s agent to help them find their dream home. The agent acts on their behalf to negotiate the price, arrange for inspections, closing and all other things associated with buying a home. For their efforts, they receive a commission.

It may be called “transaction brokerage” by some states, or “designated agency” by others. Simply put, double-ending occurs when the same agency represents both sides of the sale of the home – the buyer and the seller. While it is legal, there are many who find the practice questionable.

The good news is, whether you’re buying or selling, if an agency hopes to represent both sides of a home sale transaction, they have to notify the parties involved.

The advantage is that with fewer people involved, the sale can be done quicker and more efficiently. The advantage to the agent or agency is that the commission is not split.

And thus arises the conflict because a single agent cannot represent the seller’s best interest while representing the buyer’s best interest. They could try to convince the seller to sell at a lower price, or oversell the attributes of the home to the buyer, in order to make the sale.

When you are hiring an agent, make sure to ask if he or she could possibly take you into a dual agent sale. If you feel comfortable, then proceed. However, if you feel that you may have remorse at the end of the transaction, it’s best to avoid the situation.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tips to make the mortgage process go faster

Mortgage lending is a very competitive industry. Lenders will sometimes promise home buyers that they can speed up the process. While they can cut a few days off of the process, it generally takes 30-45 days to close. To expedite the process somewhat, they can speed it up by scheduling appraisers, home inspectors and underwriters. There are some things you can do on your end to help cut down on the time is takes to close.

Get a handle on your credit

Having good credit is beneficial for so many reasons. Obviously, you'll need to meet a lender's credit benchmark in order to even qualify for financing. You're more likely to qualify for a more competitive rate and term if you have higher credit scores. It also saves time because you'll spend less time producing documentation and explaining some of the bad things that may appear. It's important to pull your credit reports and credit scores so you’ll know what’s there and what you can clean up.

Respond quickly to requests

You'll be asked to supply things such as tax returns and documentation from your employer. Ask your REALTOR® what your mortgage lender will need.

Buy a house that meets requirements

Federal Housing Administration and VA loans have standards and requirements that must be met in order to qualify for a loan. Make sure to ask your REALTOR® if your home meets those standards.

Don't add any new credit

Don't buy a car, boat, or make any other large purchase that can change your credit score. Don't even apply for a new credit card at a department store.

Find the right lender

Specialized products like government-backed Veteran Affairs and United States Department of Agriculture home loans require different knowledge. Make sure to ask about their turnaround times on loan files and the average number of days from contract to close.

Be sure to talk to your real estate agent about what you should and shouldn’t do to speed up the mortgage process.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Follow these tips to price your home correctly

Along with choosing a real estate agent that you’re comfortable with and marketing the home effectively, determining the correct asking price are three essential aspects of selling your home quickly and for the highest amount possible. The first are personal decisions; the last requires some research, finesse and some educated guessing.

Here are some tips to help you price your home right.

Look at the neighborhood

Consider comparable homes nearby that were for sale, recently sold or are currently for sale. This is perhaps the most important factor in pricing your home.

Local market conditions

Home sales is no different than any other industry. Supply and demand is a determinant of price. Your REALTOR® will have information about the supply of available homes compared to the demand of buyers.

Check out the competition

Visit open houses in the area to see how your home stacks up.

Price to appraise

The buyer’s appraisal price considers the prices of recently sold homes. Your sales price will be subject to an appraisal, unless your buyer agrees to pay cash or waives an appraisal contingency.

Don't pay for an appraisal

Though the buyer's appraisal will be important when it comes time to close, you don't need to obtain a separate appraisal prior to pricing your home.

Square footage

Every home listing states the square footage, but not all square footage is created equal. Two homes could have exactly the same square footage, but one could be an open floor plan while the other has separated rooms.

Beware of the high asking price

An agent may propose a high asking price to flatter you in order to win the listing, but will then push hard for a price reduction almost immediately. This is known in the business as "buying the listing." Make sure to avoid the trap by talking to several agents. If one comes in way higher than the others, they could be buying your listing.

Irrelevant factors

When it comes to pricing, there are a number of things that many homeowners think are contributing factors, but aren’t:

  • Price you paid for your house

  • Amount you want to net from the deal

  • Price the house would have sold for a few years ago

  • Amount you've spent on repairs, maintenance and improvements

Don't overprice your home

You may be inclined to list at more than what your home is worth in order to hit the price point you really want to get when the buyer makes an offer. This is dangerous because if you don’t get an offer, you may have to reduce the price, which can be an indication to buyers that it's probably more over-priced than the amount you just reduced.

Don't underprice it, either

Some homeowners deliberately underprice their home to attract more buyers and start a bidding war. This is just as risky as overpricing the home. If the bidding war you hoped for doesn’t materialize, you may only receive one offer at exactly your artificially lowered asking price.