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Marr Team Blog

Benifits of Home Staging

Home staging is essential when selling your home and helps to show off the true potential of your home. The overall thought of staging is to clear out clutter or other personal items that will distract buyers. You can also paint the walls a neutral tone, and furnish the space to show off how functional it is when staging. When buyers come through and imagine themselves there, you can bet an offer isn’t far behind. Lets talk about staging more in detail with a few great tips:

1. Boost curb appeal and welcome visitors with an inviting porch!  This is something you always hear, and with very good reason as the outside of your home is the very first thing a buyer sees. Many people thinking of touring your home will do a quick drive-by first, often deciding on the spot if it is even worth a look inside. This is why it is a good idea to make sure your home is ready to lure in onlookers by planting blooming flowers and fresh greenery. Keeping the lawn mowed and making sure your house number is easy to read are also great ways to attract home buyers. For an added bonus- wash those windows! As for the porch, even if you only have a tiny stoop, make sure to say “welcome home” with a clean doormat, potted plants in bloom and if you have room, even a piece or two of neat porch furniture. It is always good to keep your porch lights on in the evenings, in case potential buyers drive by and illuminating the front of the house makes it more inviting.

2. Clean is key!  From shiny floors to clean counters, every surface should sparkle. This is the easiest way to help your home put its best foot forward, and the cheapest! Some may opt to hire pros to do the deep cleaning, especially if you have a large house. Definitely don’t skimp on cleaning- this step is key! And while cleaning….lets talk about clutter! If you are serious about staging your home, all clutter must go- bottom line. It’s not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage or even garage space temporarily, but it is well worth the trouble. Clean and clear surfaces, floors, cupboards and closets equal more space in the eyes of potential buyers, so purge anything unnecessary or unsightly. It is easy to take this step personal and think that you are removing your “style” but when preparing to sell your home, you must remember that it may not be the style of those seeking to buy your home!! No worries, you can bring your personal style back into play in your new home.

Before

Before

Before

After

After

After

3. Pops of Color! When cleaning and clearing out clutter, it is easy to leave rooms more bare than they once were. Don’t forget that those buyers will see the pictures online first and a space that pops will help entice people to want explore the whole house. By placing something that draws the eye at the top of the stairs, in hallways or in corners, you can pique curiosity and keep potential buyers interested throughout a whole home tour. A piece of artwork, a painted accent wall, a window seat, a vase of flowers, a hanging light or even a small, colorful rug can all work to draw. As seen in the picture above of some before/after staging pictures of a home, placing a simple plant or wall hanging can change the entire look of the space and make it seem more interesting. Pops of color help stage a once boring home and bring it to life! Keeping decor simple yet somewhat neutral or to match the space directly are definitely things to consider. It has been proven that even staging an empty home on the market helps it sell faster! Buyers sometimes need help imagining the space and since you have cleaned and cleared clutter while placing furniture to show functionality, they can see the space in its entirety and enjoy the decor that much more.

These are just a few staging tips that can help as you prepare your home to sell. There are many more tips and advice we have to share with you as home staging is evolving and becoming more and more important in the real estate world. We, The Marr Team, stay up to date with all home staging trends as we do provide free home staging to all of our clients when we sell your home. Call us today at 214-620-0411 to get started, we would love to help!

FHA MIP Reduced

On January 9, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced that they will be reducing the annual mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) for most mortgages (closing on or after 1/27/17) by 0.25%!   This is GREAT news for eligible homebuyers!  These new rates are projected to save new FHA-insured homeowners an average of $500 in 2017.

HUD Secretary, Julian Castro, said consumers are facing higher credit costs as mortgage interest rates increase.

“After four straight years of growth and with sufficient reserves on hand to meet future claims, it’s time for FHA to pass along some modest savings to working families,” said Castro.

“This is a fiscally responsible measure to price our mortgage insurance in a way that protects our insurance fund while preserving the dream of homeownership for credit-qualified borrowers.”

“We’ve carefully weighed the risks associated with lower premiums with our historic mission to provide safe and sustainable mortgage financing to responsible homebuyers. Homeownership is the way most middle class Americans build wealth and achieve financial security for themselves and their families,” Ed Golding, principal deputy assistant secretary for HUD’s Office of Housing, said in the report.

Call The Marr Team at 214-620-0411 to help you find the home of your dreams, then call The Gail Hillman Mortgage Team to help you finance it!

For more information or questions, contact Gail Hillman NMLS# 312734 with Waterstone Mortgage at 972-200-3253 or ghillman@waterstonemortgage.com

www.GailHillman.com

 

Preparing to Buy a Home in 2017

Are you looking to buy a home in 2017?

Here are some great tips from one of our preferred mortgage lenders, Andy Butler with First Bank that will make the process less stressful and help get the best rate:

  1. Speak to a lender early!  Don’t wait until you are ready to start looking at homes before contacting a lender.  If you plan on purchasing in the June or July, contact a mortgage lender and get pre-qualified in January or February. There are numerous benefits to starting the process early.  First, this allows the lender to pull a copy of your credit report and gives you time to address any  discrepancies that may appear on the credit report.  It also allows the lender to help you come up with a game plan to pay down some debt if that will be needed in order to qualify for the price range you want.  And it also gives you a little more time to prepare your savings account for the necessary down payment on the mortgage.  by start the process early, you can eliminate much of the stress the mortgage process can generate.  Most mortgage rates are impacted by credit score so by starting the process early, you have more time to get your scores up as high as possible by the time you are ready to lock in a rate.                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  2. Get a referral. Since the real estate crash of 2008, the mortgage world has transformed into a complex set of rules and guidelines that has very little flexibility.  And when you add in the fact that the rules are constantly being updated and changed, finding a qualified, dedicated mortgage professional becomes even more important.  Talk to family, co-workers, and friends and ask them who they used when they closed on their last mortgage and then ask if they would use that mortgage lender again.  Finding a local lender that knows your market is a big plus.  Each state has its own unique rules and requirements so it’s best to find a lender in your state and even better, in your city or town.  Then ask for an appointment and go meet your prospective lender.  You are about to entrust this person with a lot of personal and financial information and a face to face meeting will help instill a level of trust or may lead you to interview another lender.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
  3. Two sides to every coin. While everyone loves a low rate and while it may give you bragging rights at the office, it is very important to understand the COST of a certain interest rate.  Lenders love to clog the internet with advertisements that show a super low interest rate but rate is just part of the equation.  You won’t know if you are getting a good deal until you know more about the mortgage that is attached to that rate.  Is it a fixed rate or an adjustable rate?  What is the term of the loan- 10, 15, 20 or 30 yrs?  And most importantly, what is the COST of that rate?  Lenders can charge additional “points” to buy down an interest rate.  When someone says “1 point” in the mortgage business, they mean 1% of the loan amount.  So if you are paying 2 points on a $250k mortgage, that’s an extra $5k in closing costs that you are paying in order to lock in a certain interest rate.  And that cost is money that you have to pay out of pocket, at closing.  If you are considering buying an interest rate down, as the lender to run a “break even” calculation which will tell you how long you have to keep that mortgage before the cost of the lower rate pays for itself.  You may be surprised at the answer as typically it can run from 7-10 yrs.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  4. Understand the process. Once you have found your lender, have a conversation with them and ask them to explain the mortgage process to you.  Knowledge is power and the better you understand the process, the less stress you will have and the better the experience will be for you.  There is a method to how the loan is processed and what tasks must be completed in what order.  By understanding this process, you can be better prepared to assist the lender if they need additional documentation as the loan is processed and underwritten.  Which leads to our next tip…..                                                              
  5. Be a team player.  Understand that you and the lender are on the same team and you need to take an active role in assisting them get what is needed to close the mortgage.  As mentioned above, mortgages have very detailed underwriting requirements and you should expect that the underwriter may need additional documentation to support income or more likely, assets.  Since the introduction of the Patriot Act, lenders are now required to source non payroll deposits that meet certain criteria.  If your mortgage professional asks for documentation to show where a deposit came from, don’t think there is anything wrong with you or the mortgage- it’s a common requirement.                                                                                                                                                  
  6. Tread water. When it comes to anything involving your credit report, once you write a contract on a home, don’t open new credit or put any additional charges on your existing credit.  And as silly as it may sound, don’t make any large payments on your existing credit without checking with your loan officer first.  All mortgage companies are required to pull an updated copy of your credit report a couple of days before closing and adding any additional debt to your credit profile before you close on your new home can wreck the mortgage.  And as attractive as the 0% interest offer from the furniture or appliance store is, don’t even apply for their credit offer until after you close on the home.  The mortgage graveyard is littered with loans that never closed because of Nebraska Furniture Marts once in a life time sale that happened the weekend before someone was supposed to close on their new home.

Following these tips will help you land a mortgage in 2017. Give the Marr Team a call at 214-620-0411 to help you find that home to buy!

Special thanks to our guest writer, Andy Butler, NMLS# 803225.

For more information or if you have any questions on lending;

contact Andy with First Bank at 469-277-3538 or at abutler@firstbankweb.com

Beazer Homes – Chateau Floor Plan – Miramonte Frisco TX

Walk-through the Beazer model home in Miramonte with us this Wednesday!! The beautiful Chateau floor plan offers 5 bedrooms, 4 1/2 bath in 4,601 square feet with many upgrade options. Miramonte is a gorgeous community located in Frisco and Prosper ISD. Definitely a must-see! Enjoy this Walk-through Wednesday video! Let us know if you have any questions or if you want to see this home, or any other, in person call us at 214-620-0411!

Respond quickly

Very good sense of market situation. Provided professional suggestions. Worked on very detailed things. Respond quickly.

– Valued Client

Beyond what we expected

Above and beyond what we expected from a realtor. We had looked in the McKinney area several years ago and worked with The Marr Team. Although we ultimately decided to move to Rockwall, our contact with The Marr Team was so positive. When we sold that house and decided to move to McKinney, we knew they would be our choice. When it’s time to downsize further and buy a condo downtown Dallas, we’ll be calling The Marr Team!

– Maureen

Our experience was awesome

Our experience was awesome!! Tina Marr and Michelle Gell worked with us from start to finish, and kept us up to date on all the process of the application, Thank you Marr Team.

– Victor

Provided meaningful opportunities

I had contacted Tina Marr several years ago when I was interested in a vacant lot she had listed to sell. She listened to what I was looking for and provided meaningful opportunities. We ended up not purchasing at that time but I kept her name for future use.

– James

This was the smoothest sell

This was the smoothest sell/buy transaction anyone could ever ask for and I’m a very demanding person. You all went above and beyond anything I could have asked for. You guys were all outstanding.

– Shea

K Hovnanian Homes – Langston

K Hovnanian Homes – Langston

For floor plan Friday we are featuring the Langston floor plan from K Hovnanian Homes that is currently available to build in the Heatherwood subdivision of McKinney with Prosper ISD as well as other areas around the Metroplex.  Beautiful 3,297 square foot home that is 2 stories with 5 bedrooms and 4 baths. The Langston also offers convenient butler’s pantry connecting the dining room and kitchen, luxurious master suite with corner tub and separate shower, and an optional media room which is perfect for movie buffs!! Call us today if you would like to see this floor plan or any others!
Horizon Homes – Eastbourne Plan

Horizon Homes – Eastbourne Plan

For floor plan Friday today we have a great 2-story home by Horizon Homes in the Light Farms Community located in Celina with Prosper ISD. The Eastbourne Plan is a 2 Story, 2,795 Square Feet house that features 4 bedrooms and 2-1/2 bathrooms.  This wonderful floor plan has many additional options available.

  • 2 Stories
  • 2 Car Garage
  • Optional 3 Car Garage
  • Optional 2.5 Car Garage
  • Optional Fireplace in Family Room
  • Optional Bedroom/Bath ILO Study/Powder Room

 

Beazer Homes Blakely Plan – Floor Plan Friday

Beazer Homes Blakely Plan – Floor Plan Friday

 

For floor plan Friday today we have a great 1-story home by Beazer Homes in the Miramonte Community located in Frisco and in Prosper ISD. The Blakely Plan is a 1 Story and ranges from  2,448 to 2,992 Square Feet house that features 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and a 3 car garage.

 

  • 2,448 – 2,992 Sq Ft
  • 4 Beds
  • 2.5 Baths
  • 3 Car Garage
  • Choice Option of Dining or Media Room
  • Choice Option of Flex Room
  • Optional 2nd Floor Gameroom
  • Optional Extended Garage
  • Optional Second Master
  • Optional Study

 

 

Light Farms American Legend Plan 1151

Light Farms American Legend Plan 1151

For floor plan Friday today we have a great 1-story home by American Legend Homes in the Light Farms Community located in Celina.  Plan 1151 is a 1 Story, 2,156 Square Feet house that features 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

  • 1 Story
  • 3 Bedroom
  • 2 Full Baths
  • 2 Dining Areas
  • Outdoor Living
  • Optional Elevations with Stone
  • Optional Study

For more information contact us at 214.620.0411


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Highland Homes – Plan 535

Highland Homes – Plan 535

For floor plan Friday today we have a great 2-story home by Highland in the Heatherwood Community located in McKinney.  Plan 535 is a 2 Story, 2,873 Square Feet house that features 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.  This wonderful floor plan has many additional options available.

  • Computer Desk ILO Unfinished Storage
  • 2.5 Car Garage
  • 3 car garage or Tandem 3 car garage
  • Extended Outdoor Living
  • Upgraded Master Bath
  • Extended Master Bedroom
  • Media Room
  • Additional Bedrooms Bath and Closets
  • Powder Room ILO Unfinished Storage
  • Dry Bar

For more information contact us at 214.620.0411

Avoid These Common Seller’s Mistakes

Avoid These Common Seller’s Mistakes

Selling your house can be both exciting and emotional. You may be looking forward to a great change with a move to a new town or a larger house, but you are leaving a home full of treasured memories. Although you have strong attachments to your home, it’s important put aside sentimental feelings and make this sale one of your smartest business moves. It pays to do your homework upfront in order to sidestep the most common seller mistakes. Think carefully about each of these pitfalls to avoid frustration for you and your family, and save thousands of dollars.

Mistake #1 – Trying to Sell Your Home before It’s Physically Ready
Don’t rush when making necessary repairs and cosmetic upgrades before putting your home on the market. You will lose money if you don’t make repairs ahead of listing your house thereby letting prospective buyers see the home’s faults. You are nearly guaranteed that offers will be lower, and the buyers will want credit back for work that still needs to be done after your property is listed.

Mistake #2 – Hiding Your Home’s Flaws
Trying to cover up serious problems like foundation issues, water damage, or mold can come back to haunt you. Don’t try to keep your home’s history a secret from the buyers. They will likely be discovered during the home inspection, and you could lose the sale. Also, if hidden problems surface after the house is sold, you could be faced with a messy legal battle. Be upfront with both your listing agent and your buyers.

Mistake #3 – Selling Your Home Without a Professional Real Estate Agent
Statistics show that homes without representation remain on the market longer and end up selling at a lower price than those listed with a professional. Your agent will help you price your home, research comparable properties, market and show the property, deal with the buyers and their agent, and help you negotiate the mountain of documents that goes along with a house sale.

Mistake #4 – Setting an Unrealistic Price on Your Home
Even in markets where inventory is tight, sellers need to be careful about overpricing their home. Properties that are priced too high frequently end up selling for less than they would have if they had been priced appropriately from the start. Pricing a home to sell is an art. You must look at comparable sales in your immediate area, as well as market movement, demand, location, and your home’s condition. Sellers who are forced to lower their asking price after their home has been on the market for several weeks lose their competitive edge in final negotiations.

Mistake #5 – Marketing with Bad Photos
Over 90% of buyers begin their search online, so your photos make the first and lasting impression. Make sure you and your agent post excellent photos to show off your property and its best features. Too many homes are shown with poorly framed, crooked photos of cluttered rooms. No appeal there! This is an easy one to get right, so be sure to nail it.

Mistake #6 – Refusing to Negotiate
Although your home has a lot of sentimental value to you and your family, it must be regarded as a commodity once you put it on the market. Put your emotions aside and be ready for reasonable negotiations. You need to start with a fair and realistic price on your home, but you should also build in a little elbow room. Many buyers will offer an extremely low-ball price just to see what the response will be. Of course, they want to pay as little as possible, and they want to feel like they got a great property at a bargain price. You can keep the buyers happy by accepting a bit less than your asking price, while still making the profit you need. An experienced real estate agent is an invaluable asset for negotiating the tricky path of getting your price without scaring off the potential buyer.

Benefits of Owning a Home

Benefits of Owning a Home

The emotional and financial stakes are high when purchasing a home, but rewards can be, too. There are intangibles that are tough to measure, such as stability and pride of ownership. However, there are other substantial benefits that are important to consider. When considering purchasing a home, be sure to look for a house that can grow with your family. The financial benefits of home ownership increase over time.

  • You don’t own anything when you pay rent. However, every mortgage payment increases your degree of ownership in your home and your equity grows. Home ownership requires buyers to save for a down payment and then save each month by paying down a portion of the mortgage principal. To equal this savings, renters would have to invest an amount equal to a down payment plus the monthly savings. Most renters don’t do that.
  • Your costs tend to be more predictable and more stable than renting if they are based on a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • You can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes.
  • In the long term, buying is cheaper than renting because, over time, the interest portion of your mortgage will eventually be smaller than rent you would have been paying. So, instead of paying off your landlord’s building, you are paying off your own home.
  • You can borrow against your equity to pay for major purchases, such as college tuition or remodelling.
  • When you sell your home you may qualify for capital gains exclusion depending on your total financial picture, it’s best to reach out to your accountant for full details.
  • Your home is indeed your castle to do with as you like. Paint the walls any color you choose and bang nail holes where ever you wish.
  • You have greater privacy without any requirements imposed by a landlord.
First Time Home Buyers

First Time Home Buyers

Buying a first home can be challenging and a little intimidating. Should you grab the first house that you can afford, or is it better to just keep renting? Although there is a steep learning curve if you hope to become a homeowner for the first time, some smart planning can make the process easier and get the most out of the purchase.

How’s your credit?
This is a good place to start. Your credit score is one of the most important factors in qualifying for a mortgage loan, so get a sense of where you stand. You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. Check them over for mistakes, unpaid accounts or collection accounts. Be aware of the amount of credit you are actually using relative to your available credit limit. Repairing damaged credit can take time, so start this process at least six months before you start home shopping.

What are your assets and liabilities?
You need to have a good idea of what is coming in and what is going out every month in your household budget. Tracking income and spending for a couple months is a good idea. Lenders will want to know about the regularity of your cash flow. If you are self-employed or work on commission, they may want to see a solid two years of earning history when considering your loan.

Organize your documents
Lenders typically want to see two recent pay stubs, the previous two years’ W-2s, tax returns and the past two months of your bank statements.

How much can you qualify for?
You need to know how much you can afford to spend. There is no fixed debt-to-income ratio required, but you should not plan on spending more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on housing. Lenders will consider how much other debt you have and how long you’ve been at your current job, in addition to your monthly income.

How much can you afford?
Figure out how much you will need for a down payment and your monthly mortgage payment. You also need to look at the home’s total cost. Be aware of closing costs, property taxes, home insurance costs and how much you plan to spend to maintain or improve the property.

Find a real estate agent
A professional agent can help you find properties in your price range and market area as well as protect you from the problems you may encounter during your search. Your agent will help you find a home, make an offer, negotiate price, get a loan and work through all the associated paperwork. Count on your agent’s expertise as a valuable asset as you make your first home purchase.

You’ve bought your new home — now what?
Congratulations on becoming a new homeowner! There are still a couple of good tips to keep in mind as your new place becomes your home. First, keep saving. An emergency fund for unexpected, yet inevitable, major expenses arise, such as broken hot water heater or air conditioning system. Also, keep up regular maintenance. Making home repairs while they are small is easier to manage and less expensive.

Home Buying Tips

Home Buying Tips

Buying a home may be the largest single purchase of your life and the process can be daunting. Organize your plans and expectations in the following order to simplify and smooth your way into home ownership.

Set Your Priorities
Whether you are a first timer or a repeat homebuyer, this is an emotional and financial decision. The best negotiators are the most informed. What can you afford? What is your credit rating? Do you have a down payment? Do you know the neighborhoods you prefer? What are the recent sold prices of the homes there?

Hire a Real Estate Agent
The process isn’t easy, and you will be glad to have experienced, professional advice to help your find properties, as well as guide you through with the maze of forms, financing, inspection and negotiating. Find an agent who you like and who knows the community well.

Arrange Financing
Most buyers need to finance the home purchase. Consult with a lender to find out the different types of mortgages and how you quality. Find out how much you can afford to borrow and get pre-approved. This is a crucial step before beginning your home search.

House Hunting
Looking at properties can be fun, frustrating and challenging. Where to live? What style of home? Old or new? Ready-to-go or a fixer-upper? Searching websites will bring up thousands of homes for sale. As you educate yourself on the market, your agent will help you narrow your priorities and make an informed decision about your final choices.

Make an Offer
This is another area where your agent is invaluable in negotiating for you. Decide whether or not you will go with the asking price. The offer will include conditions, or contingencies, necessary for the sale. These are items that must be satisfied within a set time frame for the sale to go through. A home inspection also should be scheduled.

Close the Deal
Closing or settlement or escrow are all terms for finalizing the sales transaction. The buyer and seller sign numerous documents and the closing agent disburses the money. The title company is responsible for having the deed and other documents recorded at the county office.

The Keys, Please
The home is yours. Your contract states when you can take possession of your new home. Ask your agent if you will get the keys at closing or after the deed is recorded. Along with the keys, you should receive garage door openers and security alarm codes if those are included. Then you are ready for the moving van, unpacking boxes and hanging pictures!

Moving In

Moving In

When closing is finally complete and the keys to your new home are in your hand, there are a number of things you will want to do to make your move as smooth as possible. If your schedule allows, plan on a day or more to get your new place ready before the boxes actually come through the door. Then move through the following checklist.

Change the Locks
You really don’t know who has keys to your new home, so changing the locks gives you assurance that you are the only one with access. New deadbolts are the smartest choice, and installation is not expensive.

Locate the Mains
Find the location of your new home’s breaker box. You don’t want to put this off until an incident leaves you fumbling in the dark looking for a flashlight that is still packed away. If the breakers aren’t labelled, get this done to save guesswork later. Finally, find the main water valve to your new home.

Pest Proof
Setting off a bug bomb or having an exterminator spray before you move in is a good plan. Even if you don’t see any crawly things, they are likely there, and you don’t want to share your new place with them.

Deep Clean
It will never be as easy to clean your new house again as when it is empty. Wipe out cabinets and add shelf paper if you like. Dust baseboards and windowsills. Have the carpet steam cleaned. Run a phantom load through the dishwasher and washing machine. Wipe out the refrigerator, freezer, and oven.

After the Movers Leave
Inspect everything after the boxes and furniture have been moved into your new home. Unpack the essentials first, including towels, bed linens, toiletries, and a enough clothes for the next few days. Find the coffee maker and the pet supplies, A few bumps and scrapes are likely during unpacking, so unpack a few basic first aid items. Make the beds. Other things for your “open first” box: toilet paper, trash bags, paper towels, kitchen basics and scissors. Once all those are done, you can move onto everything else from organizing closets to hanging pictures.

Let Everyone Know
You have a new address, and you need to share it. Fill out change of address information with the post office, credit card companies, banks, insurance company, and magazine subscriptions. If you have moved to a new state, your automobile registration, driver’s license, and voter registration will need to be updated.

Foreclosures &Short Sales

Foreclosures &Short Sales

A foreclosed property is one where the owner has been unable to meet monthly mortgages payments and the property is now owned by the bank. A foreclosed home is also referred to as an REO, or a Real Estate Owned property.

Although some REOs may be vacant or need repairs, they frequently look just like other homes on the market. Typically, they are sold in as-is condition, but they are often in move-in condition which may make they appealing to many buyers. Be aware, however, that the buying process of an REO is not exactly the same as other home purchases. Working with an agent skilled in the REO transaction will be a huge help answering questions and streamlining an REO purchase experience.

Banks are always motivated to get these properties off their books, and they usually hire a real estate agent to list it for sale. That means you can expect to find REOs listed alongside homes being sold traditionally in the same neighborhood.

Pros to Buying a Foreclosed Property

  • You can often expect to pay below-market price for the property.
  • You can secure financing for your purchase with a traditional mortgage the same as you would a “normal” home purchase.
  • You can do inspections, purchase title insurance and make your mortgage arrangements before completing the purchase.

Cons to Buying a Foreclosed Property

  • You will find that many banks will only sell these properties “as-is”, meaning you will be responsible for paying for necessary repairs.
  • Banks rarely negotiate the price they’ve set on foreclosed properties. They’ve researched the market and have set a price that they find reasonable and are very unlikely to go lower. However, since most REO properties are priced below other homes for sale in the same neighborhood, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for you as the buyer.
  • The purchase process frequently takes longer than a traditional home purchase.

The Difference between a Foreclosure and a Short Sale

As explained above, an REO is a foreclosed property that is now owned by a bank. A short sale is a transaction that happens when an owner owes more on the mortgage than the home is currently worth and the bank agrees to a sale less than the mortgage balance in order to avoid a foreclosure. These properties belong to the current home owners, not to the bank. The number of short sales has increased in recent years so you are likely to run into properties like this during your home search. Like REOs, short sales can be complicated, so you will want to work with an agent experienced and trained in negotiating these transactions.

Short sales look like other listings, but they likely have a lower asking price than other comparable properties. The term “short sale” is a contradiction because the sales process can take longer than a traditional purchase. However, because more and more short sales are appearing on the market, lenders are streamlining their procedures making it less time consuming. Data shows the amount of time necessary to close a short sale has decreased in recent years.

Possible Short Sale Challenges

  • Second mortgages: It is possible that a second lender might not agree to the same terms that have been set by the seller and the primary lender.
  • Mortgage Insurance: The mortgage insurance company is another entity that must agree to the short sale
  • Other liens on the property: A lien is a claim by a third party on a property for money owed. Liens must be addressed before the home can be sold whether or not the transaction is a short sale.
  • Government-backed loans: If the seller’s loan was an FHA or other government-backed loan, it can cause delays and challenges because the government must approve the sale arrangements.
  • HOA’s: Home Owners Associations may have transfer fees, document costs and unpaid dues. All of these must be addressed and a lender may or may not agree to pay these expenses.

You need patience and persistence in closing a short sale. A couple smart tips for short sales include hiring an agent experienced in this area and getting prequalified for your mortgage. Have a home inspection done, but be aware that you will likely be responsible for all repair costs, so weigh that against the reduced price of the property. You also need to know who is paying the agent’s commission and if you have to make up any differences there.

Why Work with a Real Estate Agent?

Why Work with a Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a professional in a field where most buyers and sellers are novices. This is very likely the largest single purchase you will ever make. After all, how often do you drop a quarter of a million dollars or more on a shopping spree? Home buying and selling is full of pitfalls that can be avoided with an agent to provide you with expert assistance, knowledge of the market and negotiation skills.

  • Your agent is the unbiased voice of reason who brings objectivity to the table. An agent helps sellers see past their emotional connection to their home and helps buyers deal with a multiple bid situation.
  • Your agent can recommend a good independent home inspector who can provide a list of repair needs. Then, the agent will help evaluate which repairs are reasonable and which are excessive as you get your home ready to sell. Your agent also has contacts with excellent contractors to make the necessary repairs.
  • Determining the price of your home is difficult: you want to realize a maximum profit without scaring off potential buyers with sticker shock. With their experience in your market area, most real estate agents can set the price of a home very quickly.
  • If you’ve ever bought or sold a house, you know that it involves a mountain of paperwork. Your agent can really save the day here because the possibility of missing something — such as initialing all the proper boxes — can drop substantially when you are working with a pro who knows all the paperwork nuances.
  • Professional real estate agents are familiar with local zoning ordinances and codes to be able to know if you can add on a new bedroom or put up a privacy fence. The agent should be able to make sure the city will allow your changes.
  • Licensed agents are required to keep a complete set of all your real estate transaction documents, making them a good resource for years after the deal has closed.
  • Plenty of pitfalls are can appear in the final hours of a sale that might kill the deal. Your agent knows to watch for trouble before it’s too late. Problems with the title or financing or timing are all things the agent knows to watch for and take steps to avoid. Agents are used to dealing with these kinds of issues and can work through nearly any challenge that might occur.

    Nearly 90% of buyers purchase their home through a real estate agent, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Your agent is an expert in sales, as well as marketing, social media and data analysis. Home sale rules are always changing and it’s your agent’s job to stay on top of the market and bring that expertise to you. Why wouldn’t you choose to have a professional like that working for you as you make this momentous purchase?

Understanding Escrow

Understanding Escrow

Purchasing a home involves a lot of money, many steps, and many documents. Because the transaction is complex, buyers and sellers do not exchange money directly with each other, but through a neutral third party in an escrow account. The escrow period begins when the seller accepts the buyer’s offer and the buyer puts down earnest money. The escrow officer, usually the title company or the listing office depending on what area of the country your sale takes place, holds the money and related documents until closing.

Other duties of the escrow officer includes keeping all parties aware of status of documents and funds related to the purchase; securing a title insurance policy, facilitating the requirements of the lender; prorating and adjusting insurance, taxes, rents and other fees; recording the deed and loan documents; and keeping track of all money owed and deposited.

During the escrow process, the sellers must carry out escrow instructions, including providing the deed to the property. They must also submit all other documents requested by the escrow officer, such as tax receipts, home warranties and insurance policies.

Buyers’ responsibilities include submitting a down payment and executing a deed of trust to secure the mortgage loan. They approve inspection reports, preliminary title reports and any other items specified in the sale agreement.

When the deed is filed and title to the property is transferred to the new owner, the deal is complete and the escrow is closed. The buyer and seller will receive a final closing statement which should be kept with their important papers. The documents will be needed the next time income taxes are filed.

Preparing Your Home for Sale

Preparing Your Home for Sale

Take a fresh look at your house. It looks great to you, but you have to look through the eyes of potential buyers. They need to be able to picture themselves in your house. Take a good, hard look both inside and out. Be critical because your buyer will be. It is essential to have your house clean, organized and inviting.

Curb Appeal
A good first impression is essential. Your lawn and the front of your house are the first things people see when they arrive.

  • The lawn should be pristine, nicely mowed and edged. Weed the flower beds and trim shrubs. Colorful annuals will have an immediate impact and fresh mulch is always a good idea.
  • Give the front door a good scrub or fresh paint. Add a tasteful welcome mat.
  • Check to see if shutters or trim need a paint touch up. Fix damaged gutters, siding or shingles.
  • Clean all windows inside and out.
  • Eliminate clutter and keep lawn decorations to a minimum. Put away all the toys. Remove or update old light fixtures or lawn furniture.
  • Keep everything tidy. Sweep the sidewalks, porch and driveway. In the winter, make sure snow is shoveled and sprinkle ice melt as necessary.

Stepping Inside
Once again, you have to make a great first impression. Everything must be sparkling clean, neat and appealing. There are many inexpensive ways to put a fresh face on your house and most of them only cost you some time. This is a ceiling-to-floor, roof-to-foundation clean-up project.

  • Declutter, then declutter again; rent a storage locker if necessary until your home sells. Potential buyers are seriously put off by clutter and we all have more than we need.
  • Remove personal items such as family photos and collectables.
  • Organize closets. The less you have in a closet, the bigger it looks.
  • Every space will be inspected by potential buyers. Straighten attic storage, the garage, and the basement.
  • Shampoo carpets and clean wood floors.
  • Polish the wood work around door frames and wooden cabinet doors.
  • A fresh coat of paint will give tired rooms a lift.
  • Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. Scrub sinks, mop floors and repair discolored caulking.

Small Details Count
Potential buyers will see many properties so you want yours to make a lasting positive impression. Having all the little things fixed can make a big difference in the perceived value of the home.

  • Remember that they will look in the small places, like medicine cabinets and kitchen drawers, as well as in every closet. Look at every space with a critical eye.
  • Add a vase of fresh flowers or a plant near the entryway.
  • Be sure kitchen and bath towels are bright and clean.
  • Check all doors, knobs, drawers and windows to make sure nothing sticks or rattles.
  • Dust ceiling fans and light fixtures.

Stay Ready for Showings
Get into the habit of keeping everything tidy all the time while your house is on the market. You want it to look like a model home — clean, uncluttered and fresh.

  • Make beds and clean up daily. Pick up papers and dishes. Vacuum, dust and remember to remove kitchen trash before each showing.
  • Let the light in. It makes rooms seem more spacious and gives a positive feeling to your home. Open all the shades and window coverings during the day. At night, turn on as many lights as possible.
  • The nose knows, so be vigilant against unpleasant odors. Smoke, greasy cooking smells, pet odors and even strong room fresheners are unpleasant. Air out the house before a showing. If you can, put on a pot of coffee or boil some cinnamon in a little water on the stove. You want your home to smell sweet, but subtle.
  • Keep your thermostat at a comfortable level. You don’t want potential buyers to notice the temperature — neither too hot nor too cool.
  • It’s best for pets to be elsewhere during a showing. Either take them with you or arrange for them to stay with a friend or family member. If this isn’t possible, they should be penned in the backyard or kennel. Try to keep indoor pets in a specific room and then put a sign on the door.
  • Stay vigilant. You need to make sure your home is available to been seen with very little notice. That means less than an hour or possibly even five minutes.

Remember that after location, the most important item to a buyer is a well-maintained home. Many flaws can be overlooked if the buyers know they can move in without a lot of trouble and expense.

Pricing Your Home

Pricing Your Home

It is tempting to determine the asking price of your home by figuring what you originally paid for it, adding the cost of improvements plus a healthy profit, and then put it on the market. This is a rookie mistake, however, and can cost you a lot of time and money.

It is essential that you place a smart, competitive price on your property. If the price is too high, your home stays on the market longer, increasing your expenses along the way. You may think it’s a good strategy to start high and then reduce the price if necessary. But, if potential buyers see a history of a dropped asking price, they will either wonder what’s wrong with the home since it hasn’t sold or they will think you must be getting desperate and will offer an even lower price.

Your real estate agent can tell you that sellers who list competitively from the start get a better price than those who list high and then go lower and lower. Let your agent help you avoid the overpricing trap. Together you can review a comparative market analysis of similar homes to yours that have sold in your area recently.

Also, consider your local market conditions. Are homes in your neighborhood selling quickly? Is it currently a buyer’s market or a seller’s market? Are you listing during the spring homebuying season or in the middle of winter?

Remember that some buyers are motivated by more than just price, so plan to be flexible to get your home sold quickly. When do the buyers want to move into the house? Can you, the seller, finance the the home? Are you willing to leave the patio furniture or an area rug? Be open and creative as you review the buyer’s offer.

Price your home based on reality, not just wishful thinking, and depend on your agent to be your best ally in finding your bottom line.

Staging Your Home

Staging Your Home

Some sellers hesitate to stage their home because they think it’s too much work or it’s too expensive or they really like their own decorating. So, why should you stage your home before your list it?

In brief, it will help you sell it faster and for a better price. Having your home on the market is difficult and you want the experience to be completed as quickly as possible. Staging gives you a chance to highlight your home’s best features and downplay the worst. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and your home is going to be scrutinized by many potential buyers. You want them to be able to see themselves living in your home. That means moving your personal touches out of sight and creating clean, open spaces to help buyers visualize themselves and their furnishings in it.

It’s hard to look at your home objectively and make the best choices for decluttering and rearranging. Your real estate agent can help you with that. Frequently, agents arrange for professional stagers to come in to make the hard decisions about what pictures to remove, how to arrange the furniture and make suggestions for quick updates that will make your home shine.

Staging gives you a headstart in getting ready to move. You must pack everything anyway, so start with the declutter process. Rooms crowded with stuff give the impression that there isn’t enough storage. Also, there are likely some minor repairs that will show up during inspection — get them done before listing as part of the staging process. Disrepairs make buyers think that your home hasn’t been maintained well so take care of anything that may catch a critical eye.

Stage the whole house to make the best impression. Give special focus to the front entry way and the room visible from it, the main living area, the kitchen, the master bedroom and any bonus areas, like a deck or den. Consider this list of inexpensive changes you can make to effectively stage your home:

  • Make sure the living room is arranged for conversation as well as for viewing the television. Buyers need to envision sitting in the space and talking without having to move a chair. Accent the room’s best feature, such as adding a pretty plant near the fireplace hearth to draw the eye.
  • Painting is an inexpensive fix to a tired room. Choose neutral colors for living spaces and more dramatic ones for bathrooms and the dining room. Neutrals need to be warmer tones like tan or khaki, not just an off-white.
  • If your kitchen cabinets are dated, stain or paint them. Replace scratched or nicked door pulls.
  • The master bedroom need to appeal to both sexes, so remove bedding and accessories that are too gender-specific. Paint the walls a neutral color, but choose a bright bedspread or comforter to give the room a focal point.
  • Buyers love plenty of storage space and they will open every drawer and closet door. Unclutter all of them and organize your shelves to show off how much storage your home really has.
  • Let the light in. When a showing is scheduled, open all the blinds and draperies. Turn on lamps and overhead lights. Make all the rooms look as light and airy as possible.
  • If you have children or pets, visually reduce their presence so the home appeals to buyers who don’t have them. Confine children’s toys to their rooms, pack many of them away and organize the rest attractively. Place pets’ food bowls and litter boxes out of sight. Be conscientious about pet odors, too. If you need to get rid of old carpet that has trapped smells, do it!
  • Your staging has to include the outside, too. Curb appeal is essential — you don’t want buyers to just drive-by. Add planters filled with plants and flowers by the front door. Trim shrubs and low hanging branches. Make sure the lawn looks good all the time. Take care of peeling paint and loose doorknobs. Replace a worn welcome mat with a new one. Powerwash the deck or patio and arrange the furniture into conversation areas.

Made the sale of our house easier than conducting a yard sale

I still do not believe how easy the whole process has been. All of the work your team put in, made the sale of our house easier than conducting a yard sale! Thank you all so much! I have been bragging on how great your team is and will highly recommend your services to anyone I know who is in the market.

– Jared

Everyone went above and beyond

I really felt that everyone went above and beyond to ensure the best possible sale of our home. And the honest feedback we received in pricing the home, the price it was sold at, etc., was much appreciated. Honesty, integrity, and caring was shown throughout the entire process.

– Shelly

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