Cobb County Real Estate and Community News

Dec. 22, 2019

What First Time Home Sellers Can Expect From the Process

 

What First Time Home Sellers Can Expect From the Process

(Seller Confidence Comes From Knowledge)


Finding a listing agent is the first major step in the home selling process. The general rule of thumb is you should interview three agents before making the decision.  I whole-heartedly support that thought. You want an agent that knows the market, the area that your house is in, and is good at marketing.

How Much is Your Home Worth?

Determining your home value on the current market is at the top of the list of questions that I’m asked. There are many elements that go into an accurate Comparable Market Analysis (CMA). The details about your specific home are at the center the analysis. This includes everything from the size of your home, to the year it was built, to the neighborhood it is located in, and much more. It will also include improvements and maintenance on the house. You can sell your house “as-is” but there are simple things that you can do to increase the value for very little cost or work on your part. One of the most important is improving the curb appeal

You want to avoid overpricing. This is one of the biggest errors that first time sellers make. It’s natural to think that by setting the price a little high, you’ll have room to negotiate and still get the full value. There are serious drawbacks to that strategy. Among the downfalls of overpricing is that it helps sell other homes in the neighborhood that are priced correctly.  It also leads to less showings and offers. When buyers see a substantial difference in the prices for similar homes, the less expensive one gets sold first.

There are actions you can take to maximize the selling price. Curb appeal excites prospective buyers about taking a look inside. Inside is where decluttering and some staging makes the next good impression. None of this needs to be costly. Decluttering is about showing spacious rooms that buyers are looking for. Painting a room or wall a more neutral color.  Changing out some light fixtures to make it more updated. All these things do not cost a lot but can add much more appeal to your home. 

Maintenance and Renovations

Next is taking care of any maintenance and repairs that might be needed. Maintenance and repairs are different from renovations. Taking care of maintenance both improves the attractiveness of your home and increases the pool of potential buyers. Although a few buyers are interested in buying a house needing some maintenance for a slightly reduced price, what most of today’s buyers want are known as “turn key” homes. Homes in good condition and ready for them to move in.

As a seller, you probably don’t want to do major renovations or improvements shortly before you sell because these aren’t always a wise investment. Sure, a newly remodeled kitchen is highly appealing but also costly. A fresh coat of paint and clean carpets can be a better investment of your time and money. Still, some renovations make more financial sense than others do. A new front door is both relatively inexpensive and adds greatly to the curb appeal. 

Inspections and Appraisals 

When you and a buyer agree on price and terms for the sale of your home, there are a few more steps in the process before the sale is completed. Two of the most important are the professional home inspection and the appraisal. A home inspection gives the buyer confidence that there are no unexpected problems with the house. A home inspection does not usually need to cause anxiety for a seller. A professional home inspector does not issue a “pass or fail” report. Every house, even brand new construction, has at least a few minor imperfections. A home inspection deals mainly with major components of the home this includes the foundation, roof, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, windows, etc. Once an inspection is complete a buyer will send you a list of repair items, they want fixed.  Then you, as the seller, decide with you agent what repairs you would do, if any. You are not obligated to do any repairs but generally the sellers do some repairs.    

The appraisal is different from the inspection. The appraisal is for the benefit of the lender that will fund the buyer’s mortgage. The lender wants a third party opinion on the value of the house to be sure they aren’t lending more than it is actually worth. In some ways, it is similar to the comparable market analysis that your agent prepares to help you determine the listing price, but an appraisal is much more formal and detailed. 

Closing Process for Sellers

This is the day and part of the process when the sale becomes final. This is the day that you collect the money from the sale. All of us want this to be a good day. The two main things that happen are signing legal documents and money changes hands. It’s important that everything be in order and prepared ahead of time. 

Activities that will already have happened include a title search to assure a clean title is being transferred to the new owner. If there are any liens, claims, or judgements involving the ownership or part of the value of the house, these have to be taken care of before the transaction can be completed. Any outstanding issues should be known several days or weeks before the closing date. 

Other things will also have already been completed. If there were any agreements or actions required from the home inspection, these need to have been completed. Also, anything else that was agreed to in the purchase agreement. For the buyer, the big one is usually having final loan approval.  The buyer may ask for a final walk through a few days before closing.

On closing day, there will be a lot of legal paperwork involved that you will need to sign. You have every right to asks questions and have an attorney present or review the paperwork before you sign it.  You usually don’t need to bring much to the closing. Typically, all you need is government-issued photo ID, the keys to the property, and any final documents that your attorney or escrow agent instructs you to bring. 

The other thing that usually needs to occur on closing day is that you have moved out of the house. Your possessions and any major appliances that are not part of the sale need to have been removed. It’s also a good courtesy to leave the house clean and in the condition you would like to find it. There can be exceptions to when you move and remove your possessions but any exception needs to be part of the sales contract. 

Of course, the money is probably the most important part of the closing process for you, as the seller. Typically, the seller does not need to bring any money to the closing process. The seller does have some costs but these are usually paid out of the proceeds from the sale (no cash required). Exactly how the money will be distributed and whom it goes to is detailed on the Settlement Statement at closing. You want to pay close attention and understand the closing paperwork, but the Settlement Statement is of extra importance because it determines how money will be distributed.

I hope you found this information useful about the basic process for selling a home.  The process can be stressful at times, that is why it is important that you have the right professionals involved.  Having the right professionals involved makes your selling experience and closing day go smoothly and is reason for you to celebrate the next phase in your life.

 

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you! 

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Posted in Seller News
Dec. 21, 2019

Major Parts of the Purchase Contract

 

Major Parts of the Purchase Contract 

(What you can expect in the legal paperwork)

 

A real estate purchase agreement is also known as a real estate contract. It’s a legally binding document between a buyer and seller explaining the details of the land or property purchase.

Most residential real estate contracts use a standard form that provides checkboxes and fill-in-the blanks that customize the contract to the needs of the buyer and seller. However, there can be exceptions that don’t fit neatly into the standard form. These exceptions are accommodated by adding an addendum to the original contract explaining the exception or change. An addendum is also used to record changes to the original signed contract (for instance a change in the closing date or that some personal property will also change ownership). Addendums are mostly for simple changes to the standard contract. 

Below are the major sections to the standard contract with brief descriptions of each section to give you an idea of what to expect. 

1. The parties to the contract. These are the full legal names of both the buyer and the seller that are entering into the contract along with the date the purchase offer is being made.

2. Legal description. This is the legal description of the property as it is recorded on tax records. It includes land lot, section, district, plat book and page, etc.  It is the description of where the property is located.

3. Earnest money, purchase price, and method of financing - The earnest money is similar to a deposit to assure the seller that the buyer will complete the purchase once certain conditions in other parts of the contract are met. There is no set amount that the buyer must agree to as earnest money but the seller does consider the amount as an indication of how serious the buyer is about completing the purchase. The buyer should clearly understand the conditions when the earnest money will or will not be returned to the buyer if the purchase is not completed. 

The purchase price and method of payment or financing are detailed in the contract. The purchase price is exactly that, the purchase price for everything included in the contract – this is straightforward. The method of financing can be more complicated and more important to the seller than the buyer might realize. The method of financing can be anything from an all cash offer to obtaining a mortgage. An all cash offer indicates that the buyer can complete the purchase quickly and with little or no complications. Obtaining a mortgage indicates that the buyer will be using a loan and will taking longer to close the sale because it requires the approval and funding by a lender. Other information goes into this section such as the amount of down payment, the terms of the financing, and lender information

4. Disclosures, inspections, and surveys - There are several paragraphs in the contract dealing with conditions of the property. These should be read and fully understood by all parties to the contract. The seller’s disclosure is attached as a separate document to the contract. The purpose of the disclosure is for the seller to inform the buyer about everything that he/she knows about the house.  Some of the topics include age of the roof and HVAC systems, is it part of homeowners association, has there been any insurance claims during ownership, etc. Some disclosures are mandatory such as if the house contains lead paint. 

The buyer is entitled to have a professional inspection done on the house by an independent party. The results of the professional inspection can be a reason for the buyer to not make the purchase or for parts of the contract to be changed (addendum). The buyer may also want to have a property survey done to be sure they know the property boundaries and of any easements that others (neighbors) may have onto the property. It’s important that the buyer understand all disclosures and read any attachments to the contract because after the sale is completed, the buyer is bound to all parts of the agreed upon contract.

There are several other parts to the purchase contract as well as the attachments. The main contract will include a list of all attachments that are also part of the contract. Other sections of the contract include:

  • Seller paid closing costs
  • Closing and possession date
  • Earnest money deposit.
  • Brokerage (real estate agents) relationships to the transaction.
  • Time limited of response to the offer or counteroffer 
  • Rights of the buyer, seller, and brokers if one or more party defaults on the contract.
  • Legal requirements such as electronic signatures, governing laws, duty to cooperate, and others.

A purchase contract may be one of the most important legal documents that you ever sign. Real estate brokers cannot give you legal advice although brokers can help you understand the options you have when making a purchase offer. Brokers also work closely with you to make sure both the buyer and seller portions of the paperwork are accurately and fully completed. 

 

If you need more information or have questions, please  contact us. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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Dec. 20, 2019

Things Retired Couples Need to Consider Before Buying a Property

 

Things Retired Couples Need to Consider Before Buying a Property

(You Have Choices in Retirement)


Your choices for a home are wide open when you begin retirement. You could invest most of your money in your dream home to live happily ever after or you could downsize for more affordability to travel happily and do other things that you want to do.

Let’s get a few basics taken care of right away. Unless you have a specific reason for a two story house, a single level without stairs will work for you today and in the future whether your mobility becomes an issue or not. Picking a location can be a little more difficult.  You can choose to be in city living with all the amenities and conveniences that city living has to offer or you can choose to live in a more rural setting and have the piece and quite from all the hustle and bustle of city living. Beside where you want to live, your current and expected future health is another important consideration. You want to consider if living on your own will remain feasible for many years to come or if you should be looking at planned communities that make transitioning from full independence to assisted living easy.

Besides health, your finances are often a driving force that deserves careful consideration…  

Retirement Finances are Often at the Top of the List

Unless you are among the exceptionally well off in retirement, you have a limited amount of money and income the make the most out of your retirement. Careful planning and knowing your options is important. Aging in place is certainly an option but if it is an older family home that has to much space and will soon need expensive repairs or renovations that might not be the best choice.  Also consider that your already paid for or nearly paid for home can be your largest source of cash to finance your retirement life.

You could use all of the cash from selling the house to possibly pay cash for a smaller home or you could make a small down payment on your next home and use the cash for many other things.  Of course, you can also do anything in-between. It’s always a good idea to talk with a trusted financial planner to fully understand all of your options.

It’s not only the cost of your home that affects you financially in retirement. Without a regular paycheck, your income will be changing and you need to take a fresh look at your budget. You may want to use some cash from the house sale to pay off installment payments such as cars and credit cards. That can make it easier to live more comfortably on your retirement income. 

Budgeting also involves the unwanted but inevitable. Be sure to ask yourself the fundamental questions – what happens financially if my spouse dies? What happens if we have large medical costs? Having a solid financial plan in place is always wise.  

Mortgages and Your Retirement

Legally, lenders can’t refuse you a mortgage based on age. However, lenders will pull your credit report and take a careful look at your income sources. Your debt-to-income ratio will probably change substantially in retirement. Before you make a sell or buy decision, make sure you understand how much of a mortgage you will qualify for. 

There may be several mortgage types now available that weren’t common the last time you shopped for a mortgage. The type of mortgage that makes good sense on your retirement income might also be very different from what made sense on your pre-retirement income. 

Consider the mortgage length that makes the most sense for your situation. A 30-year mortgage will have a smaller monthly payment than a 10-year mortgage. That leaves you more money in your retirement years. On the other hand, a short-term mortgage means your available monthly income will increase in 10 years when it might be needed for higher medical expenses. Of course, a Home Equity Conversion mortgage have become a popular option that you also want to at least consider. This option does not work for everyone.  You should talk with a lender that specializes in a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage. You have plenty of choices, but these aren’t always easy choices.

Living Essentials to Consider

It’s not all about your finances. Besides considering where you want to live and how you want to spend your money, consider what else you might need going forward. Whether it’s a condo, new construction, planned community, or fully independent living, your mobility needs to be considered. This includes everything from public transportation, if you can no longer drive, to no-step showers for easy wheelchair access. This is the generation of aging baby boomers, which is again redefining our social structure. New and recent construction is now designed with wide pathways in hallways, entryways, and bathrooms. Current houses also emphasize open and spacious rooms, which makes mobility much easier.

Please check out these other resources as you work through your choices.  Also, check out these other blog posts that might interest you.

Senior Housing: There are Lots of Options

Is Now the Time for Downsizing from the Family Home?

Tips for Buying a Condo

Aging In Place: Will Your Home Work for You?

Downsizing is a Step-By-Step Approach

Space Planning When Downsizing

Top 10 Tips for Downsizing

Homestead and Senior Tax Exemptions

 

I wish you all of the best and happiness in your retirement. I encourage you to continue reading our blogs. If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you! 

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Dec. 20, 2019

Stunning Ranch Home in Dallas, Georgia

 

Stunning raised ranch home in East Paulding. Very well maintain and cared for 3 beds, 2 baths on main, with nice hardwood floors, and open family/dining room. Spacious bedrooms with updated bath. Downstairs features an over-sized garage, with a HUGE finished bonus room, and half bath. Fenced backyard with nice deck, patio, and storage building. Convenient to schools, shopping, and just minutes to the Hwy 41.

 

Disclosures and Exhibits

Check our Latest Newsletter

Posted in Homes for Sale
Dec. 20, 2019

Spacious Townhome in Atlanta, Georgia

Location, Location, Location - Stunning spacious end unit townhome - walk into the home and see the great room with a wall of windows and stunning fireplace that leads out to a private fenced patio - hardwood floors, granite, tile, and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen- three spacious bedrooms- priced below market - excellent location - less than 5 minutes from I285, minutes from all the great restaurants and shopping on Roswell rd and Perimeter Mall.

Disclosures and Exhibits

Check our Latest Newsletter

Posted in Homes for Sale
Nov. 1, 2019

Is Now the Time for Downsizing from the Family Home?

 

 

Is Now the Time for Downsizing from the Family Home?

(A Smaller Home Very Well Could Be Right for You)


The word “rightsizing” may work better for you instead of “downsizing.” The time for this major life change is different for everyone. Maybe it’s shortly after your kids move out or after you retire. It might be even later in life when the house simply becomes too big to maintain or too difficult navigating around in. The time does come when most people experience more enjoyment from life in a home meeting their changed needs.

Right Size Your Way

Maybe surprisingly, a Gallup's annual Economy and Personal Finance Poll found that although total homeownership decreased from 71% in 2001 to 63% in 2017, the only age group to buck the decreasing homeownership trend were seniors (65+ years) that increased to 82%. So, wanting to continue owning their home seems to be what the vast majority of seniors are choosing to do.

There’s a long list of benefits for remaining a homeowner but in a more comfortable and smaller home. Cost can be one of the biggest incentives. And there are many costs to consider.

Costs. Savings with a smaller home come in many forms. First of all, you might be able to pay cash for a smaller home and stop making a monthly mortgage payment on the big old family home. Don’t think about what you paid for the home 20 years ago. Instead, think about what it might be worth today and what that will buy in a home more suitable to your needs today. Your big home might be worth $350,000 today even if you only paid $125,000 for it 20 years ago. If you sold it today to a young family needing all of that space, you could quite possibly buy a “rightsize” home for $275,000. You would be rid of the mortgage payment, own your home free and clear, and still have cash left over for retirement. Of course, you could do something similar with a reverse mortgage but that will not get you out of all the other expenses associated with a big old house. A rightsized house reduces costs in many more ways.

Energy effieciency. Energy effieciency is more than just better insulation and triple pane windows. Yes, you’ll get those with a newer house along with newer furnace and A/C systems that are both more efficient and less likely to need replacing or major repairs in coming years. Just the fact that the house is smaller means less cost for heating and cooling.

Maintenance and repairs. You’ll get a similar major cost savings by moving into a house with a new roof instead of needing to soon replace the roof on an aging house. You’re also likely to get newer and more energy efficient appliances that can include everything from the oven to the washer and dryer.

Less Taxes. Even if you decide to stay in your family home, I hope you take advantage of the tax breaks available with Homestead and Senior Tax Exemptions. Of course, a rightsize home will likely have less in taxes due each year. Smaller houses are built on smaller parcels of land and the land is a significant part of the property tax assessment. Besides the land, when you pay less for a smaller home than your current home is worth, that lowers the tax bill again. No mortgage and a smaller tax bill make a big difference in what your retirement income affords for your enjoyment.

Getting Close to Retirement? 

Shortly before retirement, many people go on a quest to pay off the mortgage and other debts. Switching from a big house to a smaller house can eliminate that mortgage and generate the cash to pay of your other debts. Even if you don’t pay the mortgage off in full, a condo or smaller house can mean a smaller mortgage with smaller monthly payments.

Pay off debts. If you’re fully set for retirement, good for you and enjoy. However many baby boomers feel like they still have a ways to go with their financial goals. If you haven’t done the math yet but are starting to dream about retirement, maybe it’s time to do the math. Not just the downside of adding up everything you owe on credit cards and other consumer debt but also the upside of how you can pay off that debt to enter retirement financially healthy. If you’re paying $500 or $700 or more a month for debts, consider what it would mean to your retirement lifestyle if you paid those debts off in full or at least a big chunk of it to significantly lower the monthly payments. If you’re one of the lucky ones without any consumer debt, think about how lower monthly expenses will enable you to add more each month to your retirement account or even retire now.

But gracefully growing older and retirement are about much more than money…

Is It Time for Positive Lifestyle Changes?

What you want out of life today probably isn’t the same as what you wanted at age 40 or 50. The needs of most people actually tend to become less as life goes on. Along with no longer needing the big house to raise children, you no longer need to be in the best school district or where your children’s friends grew up. 

What would be better today? Hopefully your health is good but some seniors benefit by living closer to medical facilities or maybe along a better public transportation system. For the activity orientated, it can be closer to entertainment, shopping, and sports venues.  If your family home was partly chosen to be close to work, moving closer to grown children and family might be better for your lifestyle today.

Without a doubt, rightsizing needs to consider a lot of factors that include more than the biggies of finances and lifestyle. Take your time to consider all the implications before making the big decision.

More Resources for Making a Big Decision

Please check out all of these resources as you work through your decisions. When you’re ready, have questions, or need more information please contact us or call us at (678) 570-8123.

Senior Housing: There are Lots of Options

Tips for Buying a Condo

Top 10 Blogs for Seniors to Follow

Aging In Place: Will Your Home Work for You?

Downsizing is a Step-By-Step Approach

Space Planning When Downsizing

Top 10 Tips for Downsizing

 

I wish you all of the best and happiness in your retirement. I encourage you to continue reading our blogs. If you need more information or have questions, please Contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you! C:\Users\user\Documents\Astral Services\Elance\Upwork\Active\Chad - Real estate Article & Blog Writing\Articles\Photo 4-19.JPG

 

Oct. 23, 2019

Qualifying a Listing Agent

Qualifying a Listing Agent

(What Haven’t I Asked That I Should?)

 

I’ve seen too many people hire an agent based on little more than appearance and a gut hunch. This is too important of a financial transaction to only go with your gut. I suggest you put together a plan that considers three or more agents and uses pertinent questions to make the best decision. Whether you’ve sold one home or a half a dozen, it’s usually been several years between each one. One of your first questions should be to simply have the agent refresh your memory about the overall sales process. If you’ve sold before, you’ll probably recall the basic steps quickly so most of your time can be spent on any rule and regulation changes and what those changes mean to you?

Interview Listing Agents

Ask questions like how long the average listing stays on the market and what types of homes are selling for the highest/lowest prices? There should be a lot of information about to your local neighborhood. Are 2, 3, or 4 bedroom homes most in demand? Do buyers want split levels or ranch style or basements (finished or unfinished)? But you don’t need to know everything about every sale for the past year. Focus on the information that is useful to you. 

One thing you should ask about the neighborhood is the general direction prices are going? You want specific information about prices for the past 3 to 6 months and things like if purchase agreements have been full offers or less than the asking price? If a significant number have been less than asking price, you want to know how much less (5% less, 10% less)? At that point, ask the agent how his/her recommended selling prices have done (average list price to sale price ratio)?

Also, ask about his or her marketing approach for your neighborhood. What’s been tried in the past? What worked well and what might not be a good approach? When is the last time a new approach was tried and especially for details about marketing your specific home?

Be Specific About Your Own Home

If you haven’t already, set up a face-to-face meeting with the agents on your short list. Plan to spend close to an hour with each. I’ve seen sellers simply hand over a written list of questions to be answered but you really should engage in a conversation to learn communication styles and to ask follow on questions when needed.

Although you don’t simply hand over a list of questions, you should have questions prepared as a guide.

  • What is the marketing strategy? Besides the MLS, will an online video tour be used? Where will videos, photos, and other marketing materials be posted online besides through the agent’s website? What are the other elements of the marketing strategy? Ask to see marketing materials from other listings as examples.
  • What makes them different from competitors? A good agent knows his or her strengths and weaknesses. It could be marketing, industry contacts, communication, negotiating, or something else. He or she should be able to quickly rattle off three or four. At a minimum, you want an agent who is honest, trustworthy, and assertive. They should also have a plan to bolster weaknesses.
  • What marketing changes will be made if offers aren’t being written within 30 or so days? Most listings are for 90 days. If you don’t see any action within several weeks, you probably want a “plan B.” Plan B should be more than just reducing the asking price.  
  • Will the agent be able to help you understand the pros and cons of different purchase offers if more than one comes in? You probably want to dig a little deeper into the agent’s knowledge and resources regarding mortgage loans and lenders. Interest rate volatility can affect even a prequalified buyer’s ability to close the deal. A good listing agent can rescue a faltering deal when they’re financially wise and well-connected with quality lenders. 
  • Ask about the agent’s statistics. Agents should know their numbers. At least ask about his or her list-to-price ratio. This is the final sale price divided by the most recent listing price. Another important statistic is the average number of days on the market.

  • Once the agent has seen your home, ask what small improvements will help achieve the highest sales price. Also, ask for staging advice.

  • Ask any other questions that are important to you.

Along with asking other important questions, before signing a listing agreement, you should ask the commission amount, terms, how long the agreement is for, and if there is a cancellation fee. Read the entire contract carefully. 

The commission or compensation certainly shouldn’t be the only criteria for deciding on a listing agent but it should come up in the discussion before making the decision. Other things you want to consider include the agent’s specific plan for marketing your home, experience level, and recent success selling homes similar to yours. 

I encourage you to continue reading our blogs for valuable information about the real estate market in the Atlanta area and for more specific information about listing your home.

If you need more information or have questions, please  contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you! 


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Oct. 22, 2019

Qualifying a Buyer’s Agent

Qualifying a Buyer’s Agent

(Finding Your Dream Home)


Buying a home is an emotionally challenging life-event for most people. It doesn't matter if it's your first home or your seventh, buying a home is a major undertaking. First time buyers always make up a significant portion of the market. That’s very true today with millennials being the lion’s share of first time buyers. Millennials, along with all homebuyers, have unique needs and requirements. Even in this age of information, most buyers will become a little lost in the buying process at some point.

Your Agent Should Always Have Your Needs and Wants in Mind

Your home buying experience is an exciting time when your agent has answers to your needs and wants. An experienced and skilled buyer’s agent provides an awareness and answers often even before you know a hurdle or concern exists. First time buyers and repeat buyers are not entirely different. One has never been through the process before and the other only goes through this life-changing process a few times in their entire life. It’s vitally important that the agent always keep your needs at the forefront of the process.

Typically, first time buyers are familiar with agreeing to and signing an apartment lease, which is much different than buying their own home. The types of questions these people would normally ask are something like – “can I have a pet?” or “what utilities will be paid for me?’ or “will I have an assigned parking space?” Obviously, these are very different from the questions that homebuyers need to have answered. A buyer’s agent should always help you understand the process.

Tips for Finding a Buyer’s Agent

Finding a buyer’s agent is a personal experience. You really should take the time to get it right. You’ll have your own preferences but these tips make a good starting point.

  1. Find your own real estate agent. If you call on a house being advertised online or go to an open house, you’re working with the seller's agent. You must understand the seller's agent has a fiduciary responsibility to the seller. Having your own agent flips that responsibility to focusing on you as the buyer. Your own agent will show you the house that you are first interested in as well as offer suggestions for similar homes or other homes that very easily could be a better personal match for you. 
  2. You also want an agent specializing in the neighborhoods you are interested in and who can tell you about neighborhoods you that haven’t considered. 
  3. Before deciding on an agent, come up with a list of what you want in an agent. It could be showing homes in the evenings, or in the way they communicate with you, or in their dedication to following through with the paperwork once you decide on a home to buy. The best buyer’s agent will be skilled at all of these but some will be a better fit with you than others are. You should make a few phone calls to create a list of possible buyer agents and then set up interviews with those you think will be your best match. 
  4. Create a "must have" list. It's easy to be caught up in the time consuming process of looking at every house on the market. Instead, let your agent filter the showings down to your "must have list.” You also include a "wish list" for your ideal home. You want to look at all of the houses on your "must have" list to find the ones that also have much of what’s on your “wish list.” But there is little value in looking at houses that don't meet your minimum requirements.
  5. Be open to suggestions. Go over your "must have" list in detail with your agent. As a professional, he or she might point out that the amenities you're looking for aren’t typically found in the ranch style house that you said you want. Instead, it might be suggested you look at two story homes that have been remodeled within the past ten years. 
  6. Learn about the neighborhood. Good buyer agents specialize in neighborhoods. Once you find your ideal home, take the time to learn about the neighborhood in-depth. Drive the streets during different times of the day and on the weekend. Try to talk to a few neighbors. Also, visit the local businesses where you are likely to be a customer. If you have kids, learn about the schools. This is going to be your new home, you want to make sure the entire neighborhood is a good fit.

A highly qualified buyer’s agent does much more than show you homes. He or she coaches you through the entire process from mortgage qualification, to finding the home, to writing the offer, to negotiating, to closing the deal, and much more.

Interviewing Buyer’s Agents

Besides your wish list, ask interview questions about these other important topics.

  • Prequalifying for a loan.
  • Current market conditions (buyers’ or sellers’ market and trends).
  • Loan options that are available.
  • The home viewing process – open houses, private tours, and giving you some background information about a home so that you can learn the more intimate details such as what might be motivating the seller.
  • Earnest money and purchase offer (with contingency clauses).
  • The typical negotiation process.
  • Helping you understand HOA covenants.
  • Home inspections.
  • Appraisals.
  • Buying and selling agency fees and who pays what.
  • The closing process and the fees you’ll be expected to pay.
  • The process of taking possession of the home.

There are certainly other buyer’s questions that you want answers to such as preferred school district, shopping convenience, commute times, entertainment, medical facilities, and much more. You don’t have to ask every question during an interview but you do want to come away comfortable that your agent will have answers when you have questions. 

 

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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Oct. 3, 2019

Caring for An Aging Parent When You’re an Only Child

 

Caring for An Aging Parent When You’re an Only Child

(Old Age is a Blessing That Should Never Be a Cause for Fear)


Your parents kept you safe when you were a young child until you were ready to take on the world yourself. They taught you to be self-dependent and provided the necessities of life at the same time. Your parents were the one constant in life that you thought would never change.

One Day You Open Your Eyes and Your Parents Are Old

It’s difficult seeing how much your parents have changed over the years and to finally realize how much they now need you. As life moves through the full circle, a role reversal happens. Your father, who once walked you down the aisle on your wedding day, can no longer climb the stairs without help. Your mother, who cooked three meals a day and cleaned up after everyone else, no longer has the energy to do any more than microwave a frozen dinner.

Mom and dad seem to be doing okay when you visit occasionally but their health is constantly on your mind. Still, you live three hours away and have your own children to raise. You realize that they are rapidly becoming more frail every time you visit. You’re ready to face reality, begin making some long term plans for their advancing age, and need for help. 

Now it’s your turn to give your parents the level of care that they need from you. It will be a challenge! 

You Have Many Options to Help Your Aging Parents

Depending on your parent’s age and physical condition, you may want to consider a series of transitions for their living arrangements. Their living arrangements are at the heart of how active their lives will remain for years to come but you may need to face the prospect that soon they will need daily assistance and eventually nursing care. So where do you start?

Maybe the first step is helping them down size out of the family home into a single level home without any stairs. Or maybe your parents are still very active and what they would enjoy most is an active community with plenty of recreation, social, and outdoor activities. As your parents become less mobile, their quality of life real does revolve around their local community. Fortunately, today we have communities designed for active seniors. Here are some resources that you will find useful.

Senior Housing: There are Lots of Options

Tips for Buying a Condo

Downsizing and Part Time Care Could be Your Answer

It’s pretty common for the elderly to go into denial that they need to make lifestyle changes. You may be the more mature adult in the relationship at this point in time. It could be time for you sit down and have that open and honest type of conversation they once had with you. Be prepared to express your concerns in a meaningful, helpful, and loving way. Don’t expect praise and flowers for caring about how they will get along during the years to come. Instead, be prepared for some denial and anger. Keep the conversation short but leave them with resources to consider once they realize you have their best interests at heart.

Top 10 Blogs for Seniors to Follow

Aging In Place: Will Your Home Work for You?

Downsizing is a Step-By-Step Approach

Space Planning When Downsizing

Top 10 Tips for Downsizing

Listen to What Your Parents Have to Say

You always wanted to be listened to and heard when your parents gave you advice and suggestions. Show them the same respect during these difficult conversations. They have likes, dislikes, pains, fears, and other emotions that can be hard to verbalize. Be patient and ask questions to help them express what is important to them as well as help you understand what will make them the most happy.

Even take notes that you can look back at later. Be prepared with a list of topics you want to discuss. Discuss all known medical issues and financial concerns. This may be a multipart conversation that needs to occur over weeks or even months. Make sure you have their attention during the entire conversation. Leave them with a list of what was discussed and any decisions made. They may need more reminders such as any signs and symptoms of aging that you have observed. Also a list of topics that you want to discuss the next time that you visit.

The transition will be easier and everyone will come away happier when you get your parents talking to you. Not only will things go more smoothly all around, but you may also learn some things about them that you never knew. Never make decisions without consulting them unless you are sure their thinking is not clear enough to add value to the conversation.

After this conversation is out of the way, with some input from your parents, you can put a plan in action allowing them the best life possible and your peace of mind that you have done as much for them as they once did for you.

 

I encourage you to continue reading our blogs. If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you! 

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Sept. 16, 2019

What is the Difference Between a Buyer’s Market and a Seller’s Market?



What is the Difference Between a Buyer’s Market and a Seller’s Market?

(Real Estate Has Cycles)

 

A Bankrate survey shows that many Americans (especially millennials) are developing a “skittishness” when it comes to real estate investing. We know the real estate market goes through cycles that eventually include a down market. Could this be the earliest stages of a down market that presents both homeownership and investment opportunities for the astute buyer?

The survey found that 32% of all Americans think the stock market is the best place to invest savings that will not be needed for at least 10 years. Another 24% say they prefer “no-risk” cash liquid investments for the long term. Only 22% now prefer real estate. This is the first time in 4 years that the survey did not prefer real estate. That’s a total of 78% of people surveyed. The remainder mostly preferred gold, bonds, and bitcoin. 

The Real Estate Cycle

Buying low and selling high isn’t necessarily a primary goal when buyers are looking for their next home but it doesn’t hurt when the low point coincides with a buyer’s needs. And high points can motivate sellers into the market when they are on the fence. The real estate market follows the basic market rule for supply and demand. 

The major phases of the real estate cycle are the bottom, which is a good time for buyers/savvy investors to buy low. The middle is when many homeowners hold tight while waiting for prices to appreciate in value. And there is the high point, which is the time to sell for a profit before the cycle dips back into a new low cycle. Sellers sitting on the fence want to make their move before the high cycle turns towards lower.

The last low cycle roughly lasted from 2008 to 2011. Since 2012, we’ve been in the middle of the cycle characterized by rapid appreciation in property values and rising rents. Although no one can accurately predict it, we are past due for a down turn in the cycle. Slowing sales volumes and more houses on the market for longer periods of time are strong indicators that the market might be shifting.

However, just because general investor sediment is beginning to turn away from real estate does not mean we are near the low point of the cycle or that this is even prime time to make big decisions. It is noteworthy that we may have turned from the top of the cycle and are beginning to dip lower. Another market characterization is prices first plateauing and then staying on the market for longer periods of time before decreasing (if prices even do decrease).

Whether this is actually happening and how significant any decreases become is anyone’s guess at this time. What the survey shows is a strong indicator that investment money is beginning to steer away from real estate. 

None of this should overly excite buyers or sellers because real estate prices have a very long history of going up over time. Cycles are merely trends that are often short term although last high cycle was exceeding long. What history tells us it that prices occasionally plateau and then again trend upward at a rate exceeding inflation.

Other Indicators the Cycle Might be Turning

One fact is difficult to disagree with. High prices have simply made it very difficult for potential buyers in the market to afford a house by qualifying for a loan. A saving grace that has sustained the market was the retreat in interest rates after briefly shifting higher. We remain at historically low interest rates and indications are rates will remain affordable. That places the focus squarely on home prices. 

According to a recent ConsumerAffairs Report, a combination of lower interest rates and slowing price increases is working in favor of buyers. However, Millennials are now the largest demographic of homebuyers. A different survey by Bank of the West shows 54% of Millennials believe the American dream of homeownership is no longer attainable. 

Affordability is a very real problem. Adding to the financial problems of Millennials is the huge amount of college debt that they owe, which no previous generation has ever held. According to the Federal Reserve, Millennials held a median average savings of only $2,600 in 2016 (most recent data). This has led 3 out of 10 Millennials to currently say cash is their favorite long-term investment.

The growth and high point of the real estate cycle has enjoyed a long and vigorous run. But it always goes through the full cycle. Almost certainly, this isn’t yet the time to be searching out bargain homes. However, as we enter into the slowing autumn and winter seasons, look for more indicators that buying sentiment is also changing. This is likely the time for well-informed buyers to be getting their finances in order for future opportunities. And for those considering selling to decide if the best market timing is now.

 

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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