Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When buying a new home, what upgrades should we go for? What holds the most value? Do we upgrade the lot? Pick more square footage in the house? Add an extra bedroom?, etc.

A lot depends on why you are buying the house. Are you buying it mostly as a home or mostly as an investment? There is a difference.

For the most part, upgrades are high-profit items for builders. They aren’t designed to enhance the value of the house, but make you happier with the house you do buy.

If you are looking at your home as an investment, then you buy from the smaller to medium size in the tract and spend only a minimal amount on upgrades. If you are looking at your purchase as a home, then you select upgrades that will enhance your quality of living.

One rule of thumb is to always upgrade the carpet and padding.

I have to make a choice between an updated home in an older neighborhood or a newer home in a more modern neighborhood. The home in the older neighborhood has almost everything I want and is much larger, but which makes the most sense as an investment?

If your goal is to buy a home for it’s resale value and the one you are thinking of buying in the older neighborhood is at the upper end of values for that neighborhood, then it may not be the wisest choice. If it is similar or lower in price to the others, then there should be no problem, because pricing should be considered in relation to the local neighborhood and not compared to homes in other neighborhoods (for the most part)

Plus, is it a neighborhood on the decline, or are others going to be fixing things up, too, so that it is a neighborhood that is improving? It could turn out to be a very good deal as long as you don’t “overpay” because of the recent improvements.

Remember that you also buy a home for it’s value to you as a “home,” and that is something else you should consider. Which neighborhood would you AND your family feel most comfortable in?

I have a family friend who is a Realtor. I like her and she is a help but she gives me one price to sell my home for and I think it is too low. So I called another agent who suggested a price more in line with my expectations. Who do I choose?

You might want to consult a couple more Realtors on the market value of your home. Most of the estimates should be in the same ballpark.

It could be that your friend is being more honest with you about the value of your home and the other Realtor gave you a higher number because he already knew you expected it. This is called “Buying a Listing” and is the subject of an article on our web site.

Or it could simply be that your friend is a good friend, but not that great of a real estate agent.

Mixing business and friendships is always risky to the friendship. On the other hand, if your friend is truly competent and was providing wise advice, she may be offended if you ignore the advice and choose another agent.

Why should I use a real estate salesperson?

A real estate salesperson is more than just a “sales person.” They act on your behalf as your agent, providing you with advice and guidance and doing a job – helping you buy or sell a home. While it is true they get paid for what they do, so do other professions that provide advice, guidance, and have a service to sell –such as Certified Public Accountants and Attorneys

The Internet has opened up a world of information that wasn’t previously available to homebuyers and seller. The data on listings available for sale is almost current – but not quite. There are times when you need the most current information about what has sold or is for sale, and the only way to get that is with an agent.

If you’re selling a home, you gain access to the most buyers by being listed in the Multiple Listing Service. Only a licensed real estate agent who is a member of your local MLS can get you listed there – which then gets you automatically listed on some of the major real estate web sites. If you’re buying or selling a home, the MLS is your agent’s best tool.

However, the role of an agent has changed in the last couple of years. In the past, agents were the only way home buyers and sellers could access information. Now agents are evolving. Because today’s home buyers and sellers are so much better informed than in the past, expertise and ability are becoming more important.

The real estate agent is becoming more of a “guide” than a “salesperson” — your personal representative in buying or selling a home.

What is the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker?

Most states require real estate sales professionals to be licensed by the state, so that they can control education and experience requirements and have a central authority to resolve consumer problems.

The terminology used to identify real estate professionals varies a little from state to state. Brokers are generally required to have more education and experience than real estate salespersons or agents.

The person you normally deal with is a real estate agent or salesperson. The salesperson is licensed by the state, but must work for a broker. All listings are placed in the broker’s name, not the salesperson’s.

A broker can deal directly with home buyers and sellers, or can have a staff of salespersons or agents working for him or her.

What is a Loan Modification?

We hear the word more and more often:  Loan Modification. What exactly is a Loan Modification?
When borrowers get in trouble, they can’t make loan payments. The bank is left with a few options that are ugly for everybody. Often, the best option is Loan Modification.

Loan Modifications allow the bank to make loan payments more affordable for borrowers. They may change interest rates, loan terms, loan balances, or other parts of the loan agreement.

Your payments get more affordable, and you don’t have to default on your loan. Banks choose to offer loan modification programs because it is easier to work with you than to go after you.

How to buy Distressed Properties with 30- 50% Equity?

Many of the homes for sale today – as many as half in some markets – fall under the category of “distressed properties.”

These are homes that have either gone through foreclosure or are being marketed as “short sales.” In a short sale, the homeowner can’t afford to maintain the mortgage, but the lender – rather than foreclosing – agrees to the sale of the property for less than the balance of the loan.

These types of sales have different dynamics than traditional sales – with more paperwork, often a longer transaction process and, in some cases, more frustration. For these reasons, many buyers shy away from foreclosures or short sales.

However, if you understand the potential pitfalls of purchasing a distressed property – and work with an agent who has a thorough knowledge of this market – you can get a great home at a great price.

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale is a property that sells for less than the balance owing on its mortgage. A short sale can be an underwater, an apartment building or even vacant land. If there is a mortgage balance that is greater than the market value of the home, that property is a short sale.

A Short Sale is a Privilege, Not a Right. Not every property qualifies as a potential short sale in a bank’s eyes. A bank must agree to grant a short sale. Banks are under no obligation to approve a short sale. Banks will grant a short sale if the bank feels it is in the bank’s best interest to approve the short sale.

It is in the bank’s best interest to approve the short sale if the bank will make more money through the short sale than to foreclose. It is estimated that banks might save 25% to 30% on foreclosure costs to grant a short sale over a foreclosure, but some investor guidelines make it more profitable for the bank to foreclose.

How to buy a Short Sale Home?
When you spot a short sale house that interests you, take your hand off the mouse and step away from the computer. Before you get all excited over the prospect of buying that short sale house, pick up the phone and call your real estate agent. Your agent needs to research that short sale listing first.In some real estate markets, fewer than one in 10 short sales close. Just because that home is listed as a short sale doesn’t mean it’s really for sale (because it’s subject to lender approval), nor does it mean it will sell at the advertised price.Here are 6 things you need to know before trying to buy that short sale:

  • Comparable Sales For That Short Sale House
  • Mortgage Amounts, Number of Loans and Lenders
  • Short Sale Listing Agent’s Track Record
  • Short Sale Seller Qualifications
  • Number of Short Sale Offers Received
  • The Listing Agent’s Short Sale Procedures
How to buy Foreclosure Properties?
Make sure you’re getting a clear title. This hasn’t necessarily been taken care of in a foreclosure. Together with your real estate agent, you should thoroughly study the title documentation to make sure there are no easement issues and all liens have been released. If you have any questions at all, talk to the person who did the title research to make sure you’re not going to have unpleasant surprises down the road.The main advantage to buying a distressed property is price. Traditionally, buyers have been able to get good deals, especially on bank-owned properties. And this can still be the case, though lenders have become less willing to accept extremely low offers. But sometimes a low price can come with hidden costs – in the form of repairs and maintenance that may have been delayed.

You may be getting a better price, but what if you have to replace the sprinkler system or perform major repairs?That leads to the necessity of having the property inspected. A foreclosure may have been vacant for many months, and may have gone through a winter with the utilities turned off. Broken pipes, a leaky roof and other potentially costly problems are a real possibility.

You may need more than one inspection: a regular property inspection and one by an engineer. Make sure the utilities are turned on during the inspection. You need to be incredibly well-informed as to the property’s condition, because 99 percent of the time the banks sell the property as-is. And they’re very serious about that.