Frequently asked questions about owning a home
What is the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker?
Most states require real estate sales professionals to be licensed by the state, so that they can control education and experience requirements and have a central authority to resolve consumer problems.
The terminology used to identify real estate professionals varies a little from state to state. Brokers are generally required to have more education and experience than real estate salespersons or agents.
The person you normally deal with is a real estate agent or salesperson. The salesperson is licensed by the state, but must work for a broker. All listings are placed in the broker's name, not the salesperson's.
A broker can deal directly with home buyers and sellers, or can have a staff of salespersons or agents working for him or her.
I'm thinking about buying a home. Where do I start?
The first step for potential homebuyers is a credit check. It's best to keep an eye on your credit reports so you can spot any mistakes and dispute them. You should also avoid running up high credit card bills in the months prior to buying a home.
These two steps will help you in the next phase of your game plan, pre-approval on a mortgage . A full-service real estate broker can help you with this portion of the plan. Pre-approval includes analyzing your income, assets, and present debt to estimate how much house you can afford. This means the lender has committed to loaning you money subject to the house you choose to buy. Being pre-approved for a loan will make you attractive to sellers because the contract won't be tied up with financial issues.
After you know how much you can spend, you're in the homestretch. This is the time for you to become familiar with neighborhoods and the features of a home. Educate yourself by visiting local real estate web sites and viewing the listings. This is also the time for you to decide what you want and need in a home.
A solid game plan needs a good coach. A Real Living Realtor can help you through all steps of the plan, prepare you for any unforeseen problems and eventually help you to buy the home of your dreams.
What should I consider when I start to look for a home?
First, put together a list of features and benefits you want in a home. Think of such things as pricing, location, size, and amenities. If you can't get a home at the price you want with all the features you're looking for, figure out what features are most important to you and rank them in priority so you know what you're willing to give-and-take. For instance, you could choose to have a large kitchen and smaller bedrooms?
You should also consider your future needs. Maybe now is the time to buy a larger home rather than buying a small home and expanding it in the future. Your agent can help you compare the price of homes with the features you are looking for or suggest alternate uses of space.
Should I buy first, or sell first?
The answer to this question lies squarely with you. Do you need the equity that's built up in your present home to complete the purchase of a new home? If so, you either need to sell first or consider a bridge loan or house sale contingency. If not, you may choose to buy first and sell later. Before making a final decision, Real Living strongly suggests that you engage a real estate agent with whom you can enter a trusting relationship. Then discuss this question with him or her, touching on every aspect of what it may mean for your particular situation.
How do I choose between renting or buying?
Owning a home offers tax benefits, as well as the freedom to make decisions about where you live. Homeowners, unlike renters, can secure a fixed-rate loan and lock in their monthly payments, so they can make investment plans knowing their expenses won't change substantially. Renters are at the whim of their landlord, who can raise the rent each year without a renter's input. Homeowners, on the other hand, are in control of their property and decide whether they allow pets, decorating, or permanent improvements.
Why do I need an agent to help me find a home with all of the technology and advertising available?
The Internet and newspaper are good places to start researching the current housing market. You can also find information to help answer many of your financing questions. But once you've looked at what's available, it's a good time to get a professional involved.
If you go it on your own, you might spend hours scanning newspaper ads and home magazines, driving through neighborhoods seeking "for sale" signs, or phoning about individual listings and still miss some of the best available homes. A Real Living agent will save you time, money, and provide access to a wealth of information resources to help find that special home.
If I'm thinking about buying a newly-constructed house, why do I need an agent?
Building a home often requires hours of research and decision-making. You must first decide what area you want to build in and which builder you want to use. After these initial decisions, you still have many choices of floor plans, building materials, and fixtures.
Personalization and freedom of choice are some of the benefits of building a home, but they can also be very stressful. An agent will guide you through the entire home building process and help you along the way should you need it. You'll still get to make the choices on your own, but your agent will be there to help, keeping your best interests in mind. Plus, buyer representation comes at no cost to you.
I have to make a choice between an updated home in an older neighborhood or a newer home in a more modern neighborhood. The home in the older neighborhood has almost everything I want and is much larger, but which makes the most sense as an investment?
If your goal is to buy a home for it's resale value and the one you are thinking of buying in the older neighborhood is at the upper end of values for that neighborhood, then it may not be the wisest choice. If it is similar or lower in price to the others, then there should be no problem, because pricing should be considered in relation to the local neighborhood and not compared to homes in other neighborhoods (for the most part)
Plus, is it a neighborhood on the decline, or are others going to be fixing things up, too, so that it is a neighborhood that is improving? It could turn out to be a very good deal as long as you don't "overpay" because of the recent improvements.
Remember that you also buy a home for it's value to you as a "home," and that is something else you should consider. Which neighborhood would you AND your family feel most comfortable in?
When buying a new home, what upgrades should we go for? What holds the most value? Do we upgrade the lot? Pick more square footage in the house? Add an extra bedroom?, etc.
A lot depends on why you are buying the house. Are you buying it mostly as a home or mostly as an investment? There is a difference.
For the most part, upgrades are high-profit items for builders. They aren't designed to enhance the value of the house, but make you happier with the house you do buy.
If you are looking at your home as an investment, then you buy from the smaller to medium size in the tract and spend only a minimal amount on upgrades. If you are looking at your purchase as a home, then you select upgrades that will enhance your quality of living.
One rule of thumb is to always upgrade the carpet and padding.
My house recently went into escrow that was supposed to last 60 days. One week before closing we were notified by the real estate agent that the house did not appraise for the amount agreed upon in the sales contract. The buyers are refusing to obtain another mortgage company or another appraisal at my cost. Do they forfeit their 2500.00 that is in escrow to me, or is it a technicality and they get their money back?
First, look at your purchase contract. Most Realtors put deadlines in the contract during which certain things must occur, such as appraisal or loan approval. Review the contract to see if they lived up to those types of terms in the contract. Second, press to find out why it took 55 days to get an appraisal. This just seems wrong. Request the name and phone number of the appraiser so your agent can make inquiries.
You’ve probably not being given the true reason for cancellation.
Escrow normally cannot release the deposit money without the permission of both sides. Continue to press until you feel you are being given the real reasons for not closing the transaction. Keep in mind that if you are asking for legal advice, that can only be obtained from a lawyer.
I'm selling my home "by owner," and a real estate agent who wants to show my home to a buyer said something about "agent protection." What does this mean?
This probably refers to the agent wanting to protect their right to a commission should you elect to sell to their client. In our home selling library, we have an article on types of listings. One of those is a "one time show." This is something the agent will probably come in and get you to sign before bringing in their clients. It identifies the client, the commission, and prevents you and that buyer from negotiating directly at a later time, with the intent to cut the agent out of the deal and not pay a commission.
I am looking at putting an offer in on a house listed for $134,900. The house is vacant and I believe it has been on the market for over 6 months. My realtor is saying is should bid 134,00 with the seller paying my closing cost and paying for a 2/1 buy down. I want to try and offer less. What do you think?
Your closing costs should be approximately $4000 or so (depending on what type loan you get, how many points, etc.). The 2/1 buydown (assuming it is an annual buydown) will cost the seller about $4000, too. By paying for these costs, if you offer a price of $134,000, the seller is netting the same as he would on if he accepted an offer of $126,000 and paid no costs.
If you think the house is worth less that $126,000, then make a lower offer. If you think it is worth more than $126,000, then you would be getting a deal with your Realtor's suggestion.
Your Realtor provides advice. You decide what to offer based on that advice.