Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Do You Really Want to do a FSBO?

   As a former Real Estate Agent, I guess I'm a little biased when it comes to selling a home by owner. I will not say that anyone can do it but basically anyone can try. The very first thing I will bring up is that you will need time and money to do it yourself. If you and your spouse are selling your home and both of you are working full time, it will take much more time than just weekends. You will need to do some marketing and basically your sign in your front lawn will not bring you any serious buyers. What you will get is many neighbors knocking on your door or calling to see if they can see how you live. I hate to put it that way but basically that is how things turn out. A Realtor will weed out all the looky-loos because the only way you will get serious buyers looking at your home is if they are weeded out by the buyer's agent and most buyer's agents will make sure that the buyers are pre-qualified to buy your home for a certain amount. If you think you can find a buyer without agent representation, it has happened but it is rare. Of course if you accept a buyer's agent you will have to give up at least 3% of the selling price.
   Most FSBO sellers have to do a little research because it is very important for them to price their home appropriately. You may be able to get a Realtor to do some of the research for you by interviewing at least three realtors and asking each of them to bring along some comparables or what's called a Home Market Analysis. Most realtors do these for free to get the listing. Be upfront with them and tell them that you're thinking of doing a FSBO but are undecided but you want to see what you can get for your home. If after the comparables come in and you still feel that you would rather pocket the 6% commisons then go ahead with a FSBO, go for it.
   Once you've made that decision to go it alone, look around for some Brokers that will do "flat fee MLS" listings for a small sum usually about $100.00 so that you can list your home in the Multiple Listing Service. By doing this you kill two birds with one stone. You will get the optimum marketing exposure for your home on all the high traffic real estate websites (Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com) because these sites get most of their listings from the MLS. These three websites alone get about 50% of all the real estate traffic on the internet. Most homes in today's market are found on the internet.
   Make sure you insert in writing on your listing that you will accept buyer's agents for the standard 3% fee. If you go ahead and sell to a buyer that has no agent, you will either have to hire an attorney for the real estate contract or find a broker that will do that for a minimal price.Finding a buyer with a buyer's agent, you'll get more buyer's that will be pre-qualified to see your home. The pre-qualification process will also have to be done for any buyers that do not have a Real Estate agent. If there is no commission for the buyer's agent they will not want to take their client to view your home. No one wants to work for free and who can blame them.
   A flat free Broker can also provide you with a linked lockbox installed in your home so that buyer's agents can show your home at their convenience. By doing this it will provide two things. Accessibility. Many times agents won't show a home if there is no lockbox. The setting of appointments is another wrinkle in an agents time and many won’t show a home if it involves setting appointments. The price for this service will pay for itself in the long run if you get just one more offer  than you would have otherwise.
   Because MLS linked lockboxes limit access to only authorized card holders and track each entry you will have piece of mind. When someone installs key lockboxes there is no telling who goes in/out of your home at any given time.The MLS showing times for your home can also be placed on the MLS listing by your flat fee broker..
   The yard signs are very important and they should be very professional looking. Make sure you let your neighbors know you are putting your house up for sale. Make some professional looking flyers and pass them out to your neighbors and co-workers and put them up in a box on your sign post so people who pass by have an idea as to some of the particulars( size, BRs, BAs,, etc.) and some pictures. Make sure you include the selling price on the flyers. Have some Open Houses and advertise those as best you can on social media and buy some generic Open House signs with arrows to guide your potential clients to your Open House.
   Your next step is to reach out to your social Networks ( Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, E-Mail). A small percentage of people actually find their new home that they eventually buy by purchasing it from a friend, neighbor or relative.
   If you do a FSBO and you make sure you follow these very important steps you'll end up a very successful FSBO seller.


Monday, December 21, 2015

How to Pass Your Home Inspection

Home Buyers Want to Know Your Home Inside-Out!

    While home buyers are as individual as the homes they plan on purchasing, one thing they share is the desire to ensure that the home they will call their own is as perfect beneath the surface as it appears to be on the surface.
   "Will the roof end up leaking?  Is the wiring safe?"  These, and others, are questions that buyers looking at your home will seek professional help to uncover, dig into and answer.  According to the industry experts, there are more than 150 items that will be checked during a home inspection - at least 33 physical problems will come under close scrutiny during the inspection.  We've identified 11 most common of these, and if not identified and dealt with, any of these 11 items could cost you dearly in terms of repair.  In most cases, you can make a reasonable pre-inspection yourself if you know what you are looking for.  And, knowing what you are looking for can help you prevent little problems from growing into costly and unmanageable ones.

1. Defective Plumbing
Defective plumbing can manifest itself in two different ways:  leaking and clogging. A visual inspection can detect leaking, and an inspector will gauge water pressure by turning on all faucets in the highest bathroom and then flushing the toilet.  They will also test for hot water temperature using a thermometer.  How long does the hot water take to reach your highest bathroom faucets?  If the water appears dirty when first turned on at the faucet, this is a good indication the pipes are rusting or corroding, or that your hot water heater is starting to rust - which can result in severe water quality problems.  If you have a well, and rust appears, it can be a normal event, however, some buyers may ask you to install a filtration system to trap the rust.   These systems can be very expensive.  Just be prepared.  Remember, we buy our Direct Buyers a One-Year AHS Home Protection Plan.

2. Damp or Wet Basement
An inspector will check your walls for a powdery white mineral deposit a few inches off the floor, and will check any wood around the stairs leading outside or up to the first floor.  He will observe to see if you have stacked anything on wood palettes, or if you feel secure enough to stack things right on the floor.  A mildew odor is almost impossible to eliminate, and an inspector will certainly be conscious of it.  You can help that type of situation by running a dehumidifier in the basement and by placing boxes of baking soda around the basement - maybe on top of the concrete walls at the sills.  It could cost you $800.00 to over $1,500 to seal a crack in or around the basement foundation or floor - depending on severity and location.  Adding a sump pump and pit may run you the same money, and complete waterproofing (for an average 3-bedroom home) may cost upwards of $4,500 or more.  When you and your real estate agent price your home, you need to consider any of these improvements if advised.  A sump pump is not a bad thing, so don't panic.   We also protect both the Buyer and Seller by having the Seller fill out a "Seller's Description of Property Form" which simply answers 42 questions.  We then have the Buyer initial it, so that the Seller can minimize any legal action later by failing to disclose important information.  If you have had water in your cellar - disclose it.  We've announced that a Seller had 4" of water in the cellar during the storm of 1998.  The Buyer signed off, and was happy with installing his own sump pump.  Err on the side of full disclosure.  Not doing so can cost you later.

3. Inadequate Wiring and Electrical System
Your home should have a minimum of 100 amps, and it should be of the circuit breaker electrical panel type.   Wire should be copper.   Some homes have  aluminum wiring. This can be a bad thing.  Inspectors will be careful to see if you have any "octopus plugs" where you've got the toaster, iron, and half a dozen other things all  plugged into one outlet.  This is an indication of inadequate circuits and a potential fire hazard.  Check all of your smoke detectors.  In Massachusetts, you are required to have working smoke detectors, and they will be certified by your local fire department prior to closing.  Generally, we take care of this, and 66 other items on our real estate checklist (Link here to see) so that you won't have to worry about them.  If you have a 60 amp fuse type electrical panel, it's not the end of the world.  Some banks may not lend against that type of system, and some buyers will negotiate about $750.00 - $1,300.00 or more to upgrade it to a circuit breaker panel.  Again, be prepared. We may adjust your price to factor this in.  But, don't price yourself out of the market by adding too many "fudge factors".  Your agent (if they are sharp) will help you to determine the whole picture.  Some inspectors will like to see what is called "GFI" Ground Fault Interrupter outlets installed in the bathrooms and kitchen within 6' of the water - around the sink area.  This is for "shock protection".  Older homes don't have these, but it's a good idea to have them installed.  It's one less item a home inspector will worry your buyer about - and they only cost about $50.00 each to buy and install.

4. Poor Heating & Air-Conditioning Systems
Insufficient insulation, and an inadequate or poorly functioning heating system are the most common causes of poor heating.  While an adequately clean furnace, without rust on the heat exchanger, usually has life left in it, an inspector will generally tell the potential buyer, "Hey, I can't check this heat exchanger, ask the Seller to have the oil or gas company to test, inspect and certify the system."  That statement alone can cost you $150.00 or so - even if there is nothing wrong with your system.  Our  recommendation is to have it checked anyway - before the home inspection, and give the document to your listing agent.  He/she should be on the ball, and pre-empt a lot of fear or apprehension on the part of the home inspector by offering it right up front to the Buyer's agent.  Inspectors (and your potential buyer) will greatly appreciate the fact that you took care of a possible problem in advance.  Another useful tool to consider might be to buy a one-year Home Warranty that covers the heating, air-conditioning, electrical, plumbing systems, and all built-in appliances. (We automatically buy these for our buyers).  Imagine handing that to your potential buyer - and we ALWAYS hand the warranty information to the home inspector because "he's off the hook" and can relax a bit knowing that everything is covered.  We generally buy these for our buyers if they are working with us.  They cost about $400.00, but they are a great investment for the buyer, and a heck of a selling tool for the Seller.  By the way, defective heat exchangers can leak carbon monoxide, and cannot be repaired - they must be replaced.  It might not be a bad idea to have a carbon monoxide detector near the furnace - in addition to your regular smoke detector.

5. Roofing Problems
This is the "biggie"!  We have seen deals fall apart because a home inspector said, "Hey, I can't tell how old this roof is - it could last you a month - or ten more years, I don't know"  This places the thought in the buyer's mind, "Oh oh, I need a new roof!"  You don't need to have a buyer think that nasty thought!   You should get the age of your roof - if it's available, and disclose it to your agent.  If it's 10 or 12 years old, and it's a 20 year roof, the Buyer may be comfortable with not having to worry about a huge replacement cost in a few years.  If the roof is 25 years old, the buyer WILL likely raise the question of how much is a new roof, and is the Seller willing to pay for a replacement.  Water leaks will trigger the roof questions.  Check in your attic, and see if there are any water stains on the wood roof.  Check to see if the flashing around the chimney leaks.  If so, that's an easy repair.  Check outside and see if your shingles are worn, splitting or curling.  If all the conditions are right, you may get away with not having to factor a new roof into your pricing.  We have factored these things in to the initial list price, and have anticipated a price reduction, so it took any sting out of the deal for the Seller and the Buyer.  Both were happy.  It's a skill to be able to balance repairs, list price, eventual selling price, and to work Offers and Counter-Offers so that the outcome is right for both Seller and Buyer.  Sometimes, a roof repair is all you need to certify that your roof is in good repair.  A contractor may wish to certify that your roof is in "good shape", so you may wish to hire one to do the roof investigation, age certification, and repairs - if any.  With certification in hand, your Buyer's home inspector will be happy to pass that info along to their buyer.

6. Damp Attic Spaces
Not to be confused with a roof leak.  A damp attic can be caused by poor ventilation - even in brand new homes.  It can be caused by poor insulation or poor installation of vapor barriers. . . or inadequate or missing gable or roof (ridge) vents.   This can cause water, moisture, mold and mildew to form in the attic.   We have seen brand new homes dripping water from the attic down the pull-down stairway, and into the second story foyer.  All due to poor attic ventilation.   This can lead to premature wear of the roof, structure and building materials.   The cost to fix this damage could easily run over $2,500.00.  Check it out.   See if there is a lot of moisture in the attic.  Are the joists dripping?   Sometimes simply adding larger gable vents or a "ridge vent" can cure the problem.  We've seen baffles installed improperly and this caused poor ventilation.   You can be sure the Buyer's home inspector will find this problem.

7. Rotting Wood - Insect Damage
This can occur in many places (door or window frames, trim, siding, decks and fences).  The home inspector will sometimes probe the wood (sticks a metal probe into it) to see if rotting is present - especially when wood has been freshly painted.  Sometimes, wood rot is caused by moisture, and sometimes it can be caused by carpenter ants or termites.   If you see "bug parts" laying around, be sure that your Buyer's home inspector will also observe this.  He will then recommend a separate Pest Inspection to determine if you do have ants or powder post beetles or termites.  If you do, be prepared to spend about $2,500.00 or more to have the termites treated.  Some buyers have backed out of deals even when the Seller has agreed to pay for the entire treatment.   Buyers don't want or need termites.   If you do see signs, get the termite people in to inspect, treat and certify that the process has started.  This can range upwards of $1,300.  They will guarantee their work for the next owner, too, so get this documentation and eliminate the question of termites if a home inspector spots them first.  If you don't see any bug parts, or live bugs, don't panic.  Don't inspect either.  Let it be discovered by a home inspector and negotiate your deal later.  Don't go looking for trouble.  If it's there - it will likely be obvious to you.

8. Masonry Work
Take a walk around the house and look at your brick steps, your chimney, and look in the basement at your chimney (if brick).  Is the mortar falling out?  If so, your inspector will tell you that the house needs to be "pointed".  A mason will have to be hired to re-point the brick mortar.  Sometimes, bricks are missing and water has reached the underlayment (wood).  If left unattended, this water will cause moisture problems, rotting wood - or worse yet, the chimney could be clogged with fallen bricks, or the chimney could start pulling away from the house - allowing water to seep in between the chimney and wood siding - causing water damage and rot.  To re-point a 50 s.f. area would cost about $350.00.  Take care of these things before you list your property.  If you cannot afford to repair certain items, work with your real estate agent to arrange for having the work done and have the contractors paid at the closing.   We have arranged to have septic systems installed, engineering fees for septic design, de-leading work, plumbing, and final re-seeding work done - all at the same house - and have all the contractors paid from the closing proceeds.  If you are selling, there is no need to concern yourself that you can't afford to have your home ready for sale.  A good agent will work with you and your sub-contractors to ensure that the work is done, and that they are assured payment at the closing.  This is not usually done, however, until the Offer is negotiated, the P&S is signed and the Buyer has bank commitment.  Otherwise, you and your agent are on the hook for repairs if your deal falls apart.  You and your agent are a "team".  There have been occasions where a contractor would not do the job without being paid, and the Seller could not afford to do the repair.  We have pre-paid some of these things, and we then receive our money back at the closing.  You work as a "team".  You and your agent are in this for the whole ride.  Choose a good one.

9. Unsafe or Over-fused Electrical Circuits
Unlike item # 3 above, this is where your Buyer's home inspector spots a fire hazard when more amperage is drawn on the circuit than was intended.  15 amp circuits (fused or breaker type) are the most common in  a typical home, with larger service for large appliances such as stoves or electric dryers.  It will cost you about $750.00 (or more) to replace your fuse panel with a breaker panel.  Home inspectors like to check the circuits to see if you have too many wires going into the fuse or breaker.  This is "overloading" the circuit and is a potential fire hazard. The inspector will check to see if the box is grounded properly.  He or she will check your electric dryer to see if it is grounded properly.  All of these "safety items" will be addressed in his or her report and generally - the Seller makes these "safety repairs".  Other "little stuff" in the report should be negotiated between your agent  and the Buyer's agent.   For example, the report may say that the bulkhead is rusty and could use painting.  This is normal, and most inspectors point out preventative maintenance items to potential buyers.  Good home inspectors NEVER scare a buyer.  They simply state the facts, and tell of the remedies.  Some home inspectors should be in other professions because they do SCARE buyers - especially first-time home buyers who are nervous anyway.  A skilled agent will be able to talk to the home inspector to determine if he/she will handle situations properly, fairly, ethically, and with the minimum of "nervous worry wart language" to the buyer.

10. Adequate Security Features & Radon Levels
An inspector will look for the basic safety features that will protect your home - such as proper locks on the windows, deadbolts on your doors, slider security, smoke detectors in the proper areas (off the bedrooms in the hallway, in the basement near the furnace, etc.).  Installing the carbon monoxide detectors is a good idea.  Your family's life depends on adequate smoke detector operation, and we personally recommend both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  We've seen detectors without batteries - because someone in the family wanted one for the TV remote!  Your entry doors should have deadbolts installed.  You should have smoke detectors installed because it is a requirement of Mass. law and you won't close without certification.   Now, about Radon gas.  Some Buyers may ask for (they pay for it) a Radon gas canister to be placed in the basement of your home.  If the Radon levels come back at or above a 4.0 reading, you should re-test in the event the can was no good.  Re-test could be done electronically at this time for a more accurate reading.  This could cost about $75.00.  If this test comes back at or above 4.0 P.C.L., you may have to install a "Radon Mitigation System" wherein a system of pipes and a fan is installed below the basement floor and the gas is vented to the outside - sucked through the pipes by a fan.  This system can cost the Seller around $1,300.00, but your house won't sell without doing it.  Your may wish to buy a radon can ($40.00), and install it yourself, run the test for 8 hours, send the can off to the lab, and get the result first.   If you do, it may be a good investment.  You can offer the test results to the Buyer.  The Buyer may wish to test anyway, but you will already know what the results will be.  It may take a little of the "Radon Worry" edge off you.  John bought a "rehab house" in Norton.  He had a home inspection, but knew that the home had lots of problems. The home had an asbestos-covered furnace, for example.  John had the radon check performed (clean) and had the asbestos people remove the furnace and all asbestos (cost about $1,100.00. The proper paperwork is in John's file for when he sell that home.  It takes all of the buyer's fears away to answer questions BEFORE they arise, and have all of the documentation to prove things to them....including having any building permits available.

11. Structural/Foundation Problems
An inspector will certainly investigate the underlying footings of your home as structural integrity is fundamental to a good home.  The inspector will check the support columns underneath your carrying beams.  He (or she) will check where the beams are set into the concrete wall.  Your walls and floors will be checked for cracks.  Sometimes, inspectors will notice "leveling jacks" placed under beams.  Sometimes, they will tell the Buyer that this is not the best setup, and may recommend replacing them with "lally columns".  This may require digging a hole in the cellar floor, about 24" deep - pouring a concrete footing, then installing the lally column.   This can cost upwards of $1,000.  We've seen homes where powder post beetles have come and gone - leaving joists and carrying beams "punky".  The cost to replace could exceed $15,000!  Work with your agent.  Find a knowledgeable one to walk you through your own home and point out things that should be done before you get your home ready to sell.  A final note about home inspectors.  Most of them are very knowledgeable.  Most of them want you to sell your home.  Most of them will not scare a potential buyer away.  All of them will tell the Buyer the facts about your home, and will detail the facts in their multi-page report.  The Buyer's agent will work with you to correct "safety items".  Some buyer's agents may ask you to do other types of work on the list prepared by the home inspector.  These "other items" are negotiable, and your agent should be able to work out the details of repair (or not) of those items with the buyer's agent - to the satisfaction of the Buyer and Seller.  It's obvious - choose the right agent up front, and avoid the pitfalls.

Get Top Dollar for Your Home

We are now living in a buyer's market and buyers are smarter and the fact is that most of the homes listed for sale never sell for the initial asking price. It's even more critical than ever before to understand and avoid costly seller mistakes so that you can sell your home for more money and in a timely manner.

1).    Know why you're selling, and keep it to yourself.
The answer to this question will affect almost everything in your decision to sell. What am I going to initially sell my house for and how much am I willing to discount it before it sells and what is behind that decision? How much time do I have to sell my house, do I need to sell it quickly or can I wait it out? How much money am I going to spend to get the house ready to sell? What's more important to you, the money you walk away with or the length of time your property is on the market? Depending on what your reasons are for selling your house will determine what strategies you will use in the sales price, the length of time you set to sell your house and how much money you want to make. However, it is very important that you don't tell anyone about your intentions so that you can become your own savvy seller. Anything that you reveal to anyone can and will be used against you when it comes time to negotiate. If you are asked about your decisions on any of these major decisions just simply say that your housing needs have changed and you want to get something different depending on your circumstances.

2)   Do your homework before setting a price.
There are several things you can do to set your price so that your home will sell in a timely manner and you will get the most money you could possibly get for it. Do your homework and drive around your neighborhood and pick up flyers or call the agents for prices. Some agents tend to be a bit aggressive, so just tell those agents that your relative is an agent and he is going to list your house. Go on the internet and get estimates online at places like MarketAnalysisForFree and especially at Realtor.com. Look in newspapers for homes in your area and prices. Once you've set your price, you've told buyers what you want to sell your home for, but remember that pricing too high is as bad as pricing too low. The things you must understand is that buyers are out shopping and looking for the best deal they can possibly get and they may have looked at 10 to 20 homes including your home. This gives them the ultimate chance to compare everything that is out there that they could possibly be interested in.
If the price of your home does not compare favorably to their expectations then you will be one of the many sellers that will be passed over by many buyer's prospects or agents won't take you seriously. Because of your pricing decision, your home could sit on the market for a long time, as a result, new buyers coming into the market will think there must be something wrong with your home if it is too low or they won't even look it if it is too high. Do your homework. That is why if you have an agent and he knows the market and the neighborhood he should be able to tell you exactly what the price of your home should be set at. By the way, don't ever fall for the line from agents that will tell you that you can get more money if you list with them. Find out for yourself first what homes in your own and similar neighborhoods have sold for in the past 6-12 months and research what current homes are listed for. This way you can weed out the agents that you interview who you feel have overpriced your home to get the listing. Know how much homes in your neighborhood are selling for and make sure you keep that number to yourself.

3)   Find a Good Real Estate Agent to Represent Your Needs.
I gave you some suggestions on how to select an agent in the last section on pricing but there are other ways to select the right agent. Price is important but if your agent lives in the same neighborhood that you do that is the optimal way to know that he will price your home at the optimal price. Since your agent lives in your neighborhood he will not jeopardize his own home by selling for less since he will someday want to sell his house for an optimal price. Homes are appraised according to what they are selling for within a certain pre-defined area and if you are in the same neighborhood as your agent than go with him if all the other qualities you look for in an agent are equal. Make sure that your agent is timely when you set up that interview and that he/she is available when you try to locate him or her. The interview process is very important so make sure you do some homework and ask the right questions. The selling of your home is not only the most important price decision you will have to make but could be the most costly.

4)  Maximize your home's sales potential.
In order to sell your home you must do everything possible to get it into the best possible shape that it could possibly be. Cleaning is one of the most important aspects of getting your house ready. If you have any clutter whether inside or out get rid of that first. keeping your yard nice and trimmed and having your home clean with no dishes in the sink are optimal things you must do to sell you home. If you need to paint and you have no money to get painters out there to paint, look at what needs painting and tackle that job yourself. Real Estate has a saying that "Location, Location, Location", but if you are not able to change your home's location or floor plan, you can certainly do a lot to improve its appearance. When people walk into your home you want them to feel the warmth and comfort that you feel about your home. Pick up, straighten, un-clutter, scrub, scour and dust. Fix everything that needs fixing, no matter how insignificant it may be. Present your home as if you were selling a personal product that you are proud to be the owner of and would hope that the next owner will feel the same way.

5)   Allow the buyers to imagine themselves living in your home.
People buy homes not because it's a logical decision but because of the emotion involved. Prospective buyers want to know if their furniture will fit in the living room, whether the king size bed fits in the master bedroom. Because of this emotional connection a good thing to do is to tell them of any improvements that you were thinking of doing but never got to it. Maybe you can knock down a wall and make the family room bigger so their couch will fit, etc. You can give them ideas on how they can paint it to their tastes and change carpets, change floors, or change the d├ęcor.

6)   Make it easy for prospects to get information on your home.
It is a known fact that Open Houses are a marketing tool for Real Estate agents ( tool for agents to find buyers ) and not necessarily a tool to sell your home. It is estimated that only 1% of people purchase their home because they stopped at an open house.
It is estimated that only 1% of people purchase their home because they stopped at an open house. The percentages for classified ads selling your home are even less. When choosing an agent get information on what things he/she will do to market your home. More and more people are looking to the internet before even getting a real estate agent when purchasing a home. Make sure your selling agent belongs to the local MLS ( Multiple Listing Service ) and make sure that if they are members that they will list your home in it. Many agents hold home listings so the can double end the sales, this delays the sale of your home or it may take longer to sell. To ensure that your home is listed on The MLS, connect to Realtor.com and look for it there. Also, make sure that your selling agent is technologically challenged and that they know their way around the internet.

7)   Know your buyer.
In order for you to be able to control things in the negotiation process, your objective should be to control the pace and set the duration of the selling process. The things you need to know in order to control that process are what? You need to know what your buyer's motivation is for buying your house. You also need to know how quickly they need to move in the buying process. Other things are, how much money do they have and how much can they use for a down payment and for closing costs? If you know this information it will help you have the upper hand in negotiating price because you will be able to dictate the terms on sales price thus ensuring that you will meet your goals on the bottom line.

8)   Make sure the contract is complete.
If you are doing a FSBO ( For Sale by Owner ) make sure that as a seller, you disclose everything. If you have a good Real Estate agent he/she should know everything that needs to be disclosed. Smart sellers most certainly will do more than is required by the law to disclose all known defects to their buyers in writing. If the buyer who buys your home suddenly discovers a problem with your home and you've disclosed that in writing, he can't come back with a lawsuit later on. Be absolutely sure that all terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the Sales contract and and whatever you do try not to diverge from the contract. One of the liable consequences of some sellers is to let the buyer move in before the close of escrow. Make sure that this is absolutely not allowed under any circumstances. At his point in the process of closing the sale, it is no time to deviate from having an unforeseen circumstance cause it to fall through.

9)   Don't move out before you sell.
The factors that will delay the sale of your home are tenfold but one is that if your home is empty it takes longer to sell. The cost of selling an empty house could cost you some money. If you move out and you have the funds, staging your home could help sell it faster. If you move, you're also telling buyers that you have a new home and are probably highly motivated to sell fast. This will give them an advantage at the negotiating table.

Tips on Buying or Selling your Home

When buying a home -- whether it's your first, second, or a getaway vacation home -- you're bound to have many questions. For example, how will you find a home that suits your needs? How much money will you need to afford the monthly payments? And how long will the home buying process take?
Sound familiar? If so, you've come to the right place. Our web site offers a wealth of information about the home buying process. Begin your journey by discovering the benefits of working with a real estate professional. Types of mortgages, how to apply for a mortgage, and finding a lender are a few other factors you should know about before purchasing your dream home.
While the experience can be filled with ups and downs, if you contact a real estate professional, you'll be in touch with a qualified person who will guide you through the entire process.

When selling your home there are no guarantees that a buyer will simply walk through the front door. In many cases you may have to bring your home to the buyer. Effective marketing will help ensure that your property receives maximum exposure to attract a ready, willing and able buyer.
The appearance of your home, a buyer's first impressions, and other considerations can also affect the sale of your home. Be sure to explore tips for increasing your home's value. Have you considered that home prices in your neighborhood and the value of your property are also factors used for pricing your home?
When you work with a Real Estate Professional, you can count on a specialist who can answer your questions, apply his or her in-depth knowledge of current market conditions, and access extensive resources that can expedite the sale of your home.

Increasing The Value of Your House
When you're preparing your house for sale, remember the importance of first impressions. The market isn't the only factor that influences whether you get your asking price. Appearance and overall condition play a major role. Here are some easy things you can do to make your home more appealing to buyers.
It is estimated that more than half of all houses are sold before the buyers even get out of their cars. So stand across the street from your house and review its curb appeal.
•Sweep front walkway.
•Remove newspapers, bikes and toys.
•Park extra cars away from the property.
•Trim back the shrubs.
•Apply fresh, clean paint throughout.
•Clean windows and window coverings throughout.
•Keep plumbing and all appliances in working order.
•Maintain all sealants (window, tub, shower, sink, etc.) in good condition.
•Make sure roof and gutters are in good condition; no repairs needed.
•Mow the lawn more frequently and plant flowers.
•Keep pet areas clean.
•Kitchen and bathroom should shine.
•Quick once-over with the vacuum; carpets should be clean.
•Place fresh flowers in the main rooms.
•Put dishes away, unless setting a formal display for decoration.
•Make beds and put all clothes away.
•Open drapes and turn on lights for a brighter feel.
•Straighten closets.
•Put toys away.
•Turn off television.
•Play soft music on the radio/stereo.
•Keep pets out of the way and pet areas clean and odor-free.
•Secure jewelry, cash, prescription medication and other valuables.
•Enhance the spaciousness of each room. Pack away collectables to allow buyer to envision own furnishings in home.
Important Reminders:
•Potential buyers usually feel more comfortable if the owners are not present.
•If people unaccompanied by an agent request to see your property, please refer them to your real estate professional for an appointment.
•Leave a number where you can be reached if you are leaving town, even for a weekend.

Six Things You Should Know Before Buying a Home

1)  You can, and should, get pre-approved for a mortgage before you go looking for a home. Pre-approval is easy and can give you complete peace-of-mind when shopping for your home.   Your lending institution can provide you with written pre-approval at no cost and no obligation, and it call all be done quite easily over the phone.  More than just a verbal approval from your lending institution, a written pre-approval is as good as money in the bank.  It entails a completed credit application and a certificate which guarantees you a mortgage to the specified level when you find the home you're looking for.

2)  Know what monthly dollar amount you feel comfortable committing to. When you discuss pre-approval with your lending institution, find out what level you qualify for, but also pre-assess for yourself what monthly dollar amount you feel comfortable committing to.  Your situation may give a pre-approval amount that is higher (or lower) than the amount of money you would want to pay out each month. Use the Mortgage Calculator to determine an approximate monthly P & I (principal and interest) payment.  Then work with your lending institution so that you don't waste time looking at homes that are not in your price range.   Remember that yearly property taxes and homeowners insurance are normally part of your monthly mortgage payment so both should also be taken into consideration.  I can provide you with current tax information and assist you in deterring the approximate total monthly mortgage payment.

3)  You should be thinking about your long-term goals and expected situation to determine the type of mortgage that will best suit your needs. There are a number of questions you should be asking yourself before you commit to a certain type of mortgage.   How long do you think you will own this home?  What direction are interest rates going in, and how quickly?  Is your income expected to change (up or down) in the near term impacting how much money you can afford on your mortgage?  The answers to these and other questions will help you determine the most appropriate mortgage you should be seeking.

4)  Make sure you understand what pre-payment privileges and payment frequency options are available to you.  More frequent payments (for example weekly or biweekly) can literally shave years off your mortgage.  Simply by structuring your payments so that they come out more frequently, will significantly lessen the amount of interest you will have to pay.  For the same reason, authorized prepayments of a certain percentage of your mortgage, or an increase in the amount you pay monthly, will have a major impact on the number of years you will have to pay and could shorten your mortgage term considerably.

5)  Ask if your mortgage is assumable.  An assumable mortgage is one that the buyer for your home can take over when you move to your next home.  This can be a very powerful tool at the negotiating table making it much easier and more desirable for a buyer to buy your home, and saves you any discharge penalties.

6)  You should seriously consider dealing with a Mortgage Expert.  Consider dealing only with a professional who specializes in mortgages.  Enlisting their services can make a significant difference in the cost and effectiveness of the mortgage you obtain.   For example, they can make the process faster thereby avoiding costly delays.   If you aren't sure of the avenues available to you, I can suggest companies which specialize in this area.

Six Basic Buying Tips

1. Prequalification

Prequalification is to everyone's advantage.  It lets you shop like a cash buyer. If you get prequalified before you find a home you want to purchase, you can get it quicker because you already know that you can get a loan for the home. It also helps in negotiating.  Let's say you find a home that is listed at $100,000 and you want to make them an offer of $97,000.The sellers receive another offer at the exact same time, and everything is the same on both offers except that the other offer is for $97,500. The only difference is that you have been prequalified and the other potential buyers have not.  It is a good possibility that the sellers will entertain your offer first, or possibly accept yours because they know that you can obtain the loan. To sellers, it may not be worth the risk to accept the other offer and then find out that the buyer cannot qualify for the loan. The sellers could then try to find you to take your offer but it may be too late because you've already bought another home, or have changed your mind altogether. Besides, prequalification is usually free and only takes about 15 minutes over the phone.

2. Beginning your search

Lesson One in searching for that new home: Let the real estate agent search for you! Find an agent with whom you feel confident. Trust that they have the tools to find what you want. If the agent does his/her job properly, they can find everything you might want in 30 minutes. The same search would take you a month at best. Many times, if you give a client a list of homes in their price range, with the specified number of bedrooms and baths, in the areas that they want to live in, a few days later they will call up their agent and say, "I saw this home in an advertisement that is not on the list you gave me, and I want to know why!" We must show them that the home in question is in an area they wouldn't want to live if it was the last place on Earth. Everything becomes calm again, and two weeks later the buyers do the same thing. Now we all make mistakes from time to time, but chances are what the agent gave you, the buyer, is a complete list of everything available matching the specifications you wanted.  If you feel like that is not the case, find another agent!

3. I've found a home...Now what?

Emotions run high when you find a home you are looking for.  Calm down!    This is a very big financial responsibility, and one you will probably live with for a long time. Look at the home again and make sure.  Take a notepad with you and write down the pros and cons of the house. Neighborhood? (Drive by the home on a Saturday afternoon and again that night. That is when most people are home and the kids are out playing. Do you like what you see?)  You wanted a garage and this house has a carport. Is that okay? Not everyone has the same taste, so look at the house and imagine it with your furniture and your taste in carpet, curtains, etc.  Ask yourself, what will have to be done to get it looking how I want it to look. After all that, now is the time to write up the offer. Here is where your agent will be of more help than you can imagine.  Find out an estimate of your closing costs (which does not include your down payment). Most people list their homes with closing costs in mind. A full price offer from a buyer typically asks the seller to pay some or all of the buyer's closing cost.  Remember this is not a rule, so it doesn't always work that way. Again your agent will inform you of these types of thing.

4. Inspections

Your agent will know what to do here, and all homes and loans are different so these may vary. Some of the things that need to be done may include:

Appraisal - Determining the value of the home.
Termite inspection - To see if the home has or had termite damage.
Well and/or septic tests - Of course you want clean, safe water and a working septic tank.
Survey - So that it is clear where your property boundaries are.
Structural - To make sure that the basic structure of the home or building is safe and sound
General home inspection - This is a good idea even if not required by a lender. It will let you know of things, such as how many more years before you need a new roof, or if the windows have small cracks. Little things that you may have missed.

5. Loan progress and finishing touches

Is your loan going through? Is the closing still on schedule.  Have you made arrangements for homeowner's insurance.  Did the inspection come out okay? Ask your agent, "What else do we need to do?"

6. Closing

A few days or maybe the day before closing, you should know how much money you need to bring to the attorney's office.  It needs to be a certified check. If you have made it this far, then your agent should be on top of things. If anything arises, ask your agent or the closing attorney.  Other than that, take your keys and enjoy your new home!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Home Marketing Strategy

    First you make the commitment to sell your home, then you have to interview a realtor to represent you. If you are doing a "Sale by Owner" these marketing tips will come in handy and they will also help when interviewing the Realtor. The marketing has to be done as a team with your real estate agent. Your Realtor should already have a marketing plan to present to you at the time of the interview. The main thing is to have your home in prime showing condition when you're ready to show your home. Here are some Marketing Tips.


Buyers are using a REALTOR® to look for their homes via the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Most area Realtors use their local Association of REALTORS® MRMLS and will list your home there and in other local MLS systems if desired. This MLS system is used by REALTORS® across Southern California to search for homes for their clients. We know that having a picture on the listing is very important and will try and get as many photographs as possible to give Buyer's Agents as much information and visual presentation as possible. We will also place a secure Lockbox that only certified REALTORS® have access to and will make sure that no one enters your home unless they have authorized access.


Short Sale Realtors approach each situation individually and works with lawyers and tax advisors on your behalf to achieve the best outcome - at no cost to you. They handle all the complex details and you remain in control. You approve the terms of the agreement and approve the final settlement. If a short sale is no longer in your best interest, you can cancel it at no cost.


According to the National Association of Realtors, 74% of home buyers say they used the Internet in searching for real estate. Make sure when selecting a realtor that his website is up to date and gets page hits which means that Buyers are looking to the Internet first before they contact an agent. This is one reason that that Realtors should build their business on referrals and have a contact mechanism in their website,


Because so many home buyers are using the Internet in searching for real estate, it is very important to belong to The National Association of Realtors (NAR). Since Realtor.com is now the official Website for the National Association of Realtors and Linda is a long standing member of NAR. every listing that goes up on local MRMLS systems automatically gets your home listed on Realtor.com.


Advertising is very important in a marketing strategy because if no one knows that your house is for sale no one can locate it. At Lighthouse Properties we pride ourselves in getting every listing in our local magazines (Homes and Land) and every week your listing will appear in The Press Enterprise ( Southern Riverside County ) Newspaper. Occassionally your listing will appear in the LA Times or The Press Enterprise depending on location.


Placing a sign in front of your home with contact information is very important. This is a form of advertising your home and letting everyone who passes by your home know that it is "FOR SALE". Make sure the Realtor's direct number is posted on the FOR SALE sign so anyone interested can call and they will answer every call to provide information on your home. Make sure Color Brochures are placed on the "FOR SALE" post so everyone will get general information on the home and again make sure contact information is included.


A Business attitude that will result in getting Personal Service is required from your Realtor. That has to be your Realtors commitment to you as a client. Your Realtor will need to give you the professional service you deserve because he depends on his clients to continue to be the sole source for all referral business. He's/Her Cell Phone is her Business Phone and you should always get him/her to answer. If you leave a message you should be guaranteed a return call within the hour. Make this one of your requirements when interviewing a Realtor.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The 10 Best Ways to Sell Your Home

What are the best ways to sell your home in any area? There are several ways you can do this. Here are some suggestions.
(1)Curb Appeal. --- One of the most important ways to do this is to make your home appealing to those who will be driving by and seeing that For Sale sign and noticing the curb appeal. The first impression people make about what's inside is what people can see on the outside. The home inspection will never occur if the buyer never makes an offer. And this won't happen if your home looks bad from the outside. The viewing appointments will almost always come in if you have an appealing and inviting home that will attract buyers.
(2) Make your Home Appealing. --- Another important point when those appointments start coming in is to make the home appealing to people walking through your home. This time they are not just driving through looking at the outside but actually walking around and looking at everything. One important point on the inside is that every room should be clutter free. The more clutter in the home the smaller it will appear to those who are looking. When buyers see nothing but stuff in each room, they have a harder time envisioning their personals in your home. Take out as much personal stuff that you possibly can and make the home appealing to everyone that walks through.
(3) Remove personal Items. --- If you have any personal items such as family photos and pictures on the walls, people will always be stopping and looking at those. If there are too many of these personal items the home will feel like it's someone else's and people will have a hard time picturing themselves in someone else's home. Knick knacks and personal items do subconsciously tend to turn buyers off. A few items are OK, but too many personal items will not get you very many offers from most buyers.
(4) Rid Home of Smells. --- An annoying and negative problem people have when they show their homes is how it smells. If a buyer can smell it there is no way a realtor can sell it. The odors that are the number one turn-off for buyers are cigarette odor and pet odors. The suggestion realtors make if sellers are smoking inside their home is to make every effort to cleanse the home of those odors. Ethnic groups can also have certain food odors that can turn buyers off. There are many times that I've walked into a home where the sellers have left for a showing and you can almost always tell who the owners are by the smell. Before putting the home on the market get the odors out by any means possible. If someone in the home is a smoker get them to start smoking outside. If you have pets, their has to be a way where your pets will need to migrate during the sales process period or they have to be closely watched and monitored to make sure there are no accidents.
(5) Pets be Gone. --- Most of the time realtors will setup appointments for buyers to view while sellers are out of the home. When this happens and there are pets in the home the sellers should always tell the realtor where the pets will be and usually they are left in the garage, in a cage, in a dog run or somewhere away from the buyers. It is usually better if the pets are removed from the home during the showing. Buyers love pets and the buyer many times will walk away from the home remembering how cute the pet was and nothing about the home. Since your home has competition from other homes you want them to walk away impressed with your home and not with your pet. The distraction of pets will also take time away from the viewing of the home. The attraction in the home will not be enhanced by the attraction of your pet and thus buyers will remember some other homes they've viewed instead of that cute pet.
(6)�Sellers Be Invisible. --- One of the golden rules for showing the home is to make sure that the sellers are not there. There is a saying in the real estate business that for every word that the sellers says to the buyer the seller loses money. Sellers tend to think that they are the expert on their home and know it better than anyone and would be the most qualified to sell it. They don’t realize that by opening their mouth they will prolong the length of time the home will sit unsold.  
(7) Pricing�Importance. --- If your home has been on the market for some time buyers will start wondering if there's a problem with it. When fear starts kicking in buyers will not offer as much as they would otherwise have offered because no one wants something that nobody else wants. The market may be on fire one day but it is still a price sensitive market. If the home is overpriced that is the absolute way to not get many offers and it will sit on the market for a long time.
When a home is overpriced many buyers tend to shy away from offering a much lower price for fear of insulting the sellers so they will just make offers on homes that are priced at the market price. Sellers usually think that no one pays full price so they will always have a negotiating price and buyers know that unless it is priced at what homes are selling in the area and they are flying off the shelf, that everyone makes offers. It turns out that if the home is priced right it will sell much faster than a home that is overpriced. Most homes sell for market price or over market and many sell for the asking price.
(8) Marketing Importance. --- In real estate sales there is always marketing involved. Most agents believe in the three P’s. Put a sign in the front lawn, place it on the MLS and pray that somebody else sells it. There are many other ways to market properties. There is newspapers, advertising, magazines, radio, television, internet (which includes the company website, your website, social media, Twitter, YouTube), virtual tours, flyers, mobile technology and many more. When selling make sure you ask the Realtor how your home will be marketed and which national site it will be syndicated when you are interviewing the listing agent.
(9) Interview Realtor. --- Make sure that when you are interviewing a real estate agent that you have your questions ready. It seems that all agents sound alike but they don’t always work alike and definitely don’t get the same results. It is really up to the seller to ask the most important questions. The agent on the other hand does this interview everyday and should know the answers off the top of his head. Sometimes it’s not very easy to ask the correct questions. I you need help in this area there are many resources on the internet to give you a very good idea on what to ask.
(10) Offers are Important. --- One very important and pressing problem that the sellers of a home are sure to run into if you’ve picked the right Realtor is that you will eventually get an offer. When those offers start coming in, make sure you don’t take any offer. Sometimes it pays to wait for the right offer. Don’t make the mistake of wasting time with a buyer that doesn't qualify which should be taken care of by your realtor. Make sure your realtor also takes care of the pre-qualified buyers so that no issues will suddenly appear after an offer has been submitted and accepted. Bad transactions can kill many deals so make sure there are no issues like home association problems. If you don't have a smooth transaction and these types of issues occur make sure the right questions are asked before you hire that special real estate agent.

Israel Torres is a former Real Estate agent, investor, artist and author.