Eid Al-Fitr is a Muslim holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. ”Eid” means festivities in Arabic and Muslims around the world celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy. May the blessing of Allah fill your life with peace and prosperity! EID MUBARAK!!
Buying a home is not as simple as checking online sites and finding the perfect home at the right price. It involves a complex maze of forms, financing, inspections, pricing and negotiations. A Realtor is a licensed professional that can take the complexities of one of your largest and most emotional investments and make them quickly disappear. Last week, I wrote about the first step to home ownership in our weekly mini-series called “10 Steps to Home Ownership!” Now that you’ve made the decision that you’re ready to buy, it’s time for the next step.
STEP 2 : HIRING A REALTOR®!
Realtors are great sources of information and assistance in the housing industry. They have a responsibility to serve the real estate market with integrity but not all Realtors are created equal. Make sure to ask the following questions prior to enlisting the help of any real estate agent:
- How many homes have you sold in the last 12 months? There are over 1 million practicing real estate agents and some work full-time while others work part-time. The number of years one has been licensed has little correlation with the amount of experience they have. Some Realtors continue to repeat their first year mistakes every year while others gain 20 years of experience in a few months. Each real estate transaction is unique and provides a great amount of learning experience for the agent and the number of transactions they did will really help shine the light on their experience.
- How many times were you a Buyer’s Agent in the last 12 months? The representation ratio is as important to the agent’s ability to help you as their overall sales experience. Ask your Realtor how many times they have represented the buyer only in a real estate transaction because buyer representation and seller representation are two very different concepts.
- Where do you sell homes the most? When you begin looking for a home you will need to narrow down where your ideal living areas will be. Using an agent with extensive knowledge of the area will aid you in finding the right home much faster.
- Do you have a network of contacts? A well renowned Realtor will have a list of loan officers, home inspectors and appraiser that he can recommend to you. They should be able to provide you with network of contacts that will make the home buying process much smoother and faster.
- How quickly can I expect a response from you? A big concern for home buyers is what will happen once you do start the home buying process. Will your agent be available by phone, text or email? Will you have to wait days to get a response? The home buying process has a strict timeline and failure to complete things according to deadlines could have a negative impact. Make sure your agent is readily available when needed.
- Do you have any references? You can always search for any agent online and read their testimonials but a true professional will have no problem letting you talk to some of his/her past clients. Ask to see references and find out if you can contact them? Whether they’re a new or seasoned Realtor, they can provide references from past clients or employers. You can also contact your local real estate board and find out if there are any active or past complaints against the Realtor.
- What are the TOP THREE things that set you apart from the competition? A good Realtor won’t hesitate to answer this question and will be ready to fire off why he/she is the best suited for the job. A professional is the one that is honest, assertive, analytical, available by phones/text/e-mail, friendly and able to maintain a sense of humor under trying circumstances.
- How much do you charge? Typically a buyer’s agent will get paid by the seller but there are some circumstances where they may charge a fee. Such fees typically include administrative fees charged by the Realtor’s firm or in some rare cases when they sell you a home that is “for sale by owner.” Ask if the fees are fixed or based on a percentage and remember that all fees are negotiable!
I am thankful to God that I survived an earthquake and hurricane in 1 week. Enjoy your Sunday and have great day!
Finding a great tenant can be crucial to the value of your rental property when it’s time to re-rent or sell. A dream tenant is the one that pays rent on time and maintains the property in great shape during their occupancy. In order to find such a tenant you need to have a plan or a professional property manager. Here are some key things you should consider when looking for the “perfect” tenant:
- LOCATION: You can’t change the location of your property (unless it’s a mobile home). A good neighborhood will attract good tenants so take this into consideration as you buy your next rental home.
- PRICE: Make sure you price your home slightly below market value. This will give you an edge over your competition by attracting more tenants to your home and giving you the option to choose the best one. Just remember, you lose 5% of your annual rent for every 2.5 weeks the property sits vacant.
- MAINTENANCE: Make sure that your house is in great shape. Do preventative and cosmetic maintenance as required. Nothing scares tenants more than houses that have old worn out carpet, leaky faucets and run down appliances.
- TENANT SCREENING: There is more to tenant screening than just a credit check. With the current rise in foreclosures and short sales, more people have bad credit but make great tenants. When screening tenants make sure to not only check their credit but also their employment history and past rental or mortgage history. Early problem signs include short term jobs and repeated late payments on credit cards, car payment or rent/mortgage without an excruciating circumstance. Make sure to scrutinize past problems carefully and interview each tenant.
- LEASE: Make sure to follow local laws and prepare a lease accordingly. Important stuff like rent due date, lease termination, security deposit and late fees are clearly written and understood by the tenants. You should also have clear guidelines for who is responsible for repairs and maintenance. I also require that my tenants provide me with cashier checks or certified funds rent, security deposit and application fees so I never have to worry about a bad check.
I am sure you’re aware that hurricane season has officially begun. As hurricane IRENE makes it’s way up the Atlantic and U.S. Eastern shore, we can do nothing but prepare ourselves and wait. However, this hurricane is a big risk to any real estate transaction that may be closing early next week. If you’re a buyer, seller, loan officer or Realtor working on a transaction that is schedule to close at the end of this month, YOU MUST READ THIS!
Many insurance companies are not issuing home owner’s policies because of hurricane IRENE!!
If you’re the seller, you need to make sure that your current coverage includes hurricane damage. If you’re not covered, you need to find someone that will cover you, otherwise you may be paying a lot out of pocket expenses to fix any damage prior to closing.
If you’re the buyer, you may not be able to get an insurance policy which is required if you have a loan. This can delay your closing and your earnest money deposit could be at risk if you fail to close on time.
If you’re the realtor or loan officer in this predicament, you need to contact your clients and make sure they’re covered. If not, you should come up with viable alternatives. Some suggestions include calling around until you can find a company that will give you a policy (there are still a few left) or extend settlement date into September.
Have a great weekend and stay dry!
I hope all you are safe after yesterday’s earthquake. The earthquake was registered as 5.8 in magnitude and centered in Mineral, VA. This was a large event could have been a lot worse and caused a lot more damage. Today, I’ll going to share some information with you to help you reduce your home insurance. This is not only help you in the short term but also help your pocket in case mother nature strikes again!
With the cost of insurance rising in recent years, it’s good to examine your policy periodically to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.
- Shop for the best deal. Get at least three quotes. See if your state department of insurance has any price comparisons available. But don’t just look at prices. Evaluate which companies provide the best customer service and are readily available to answer your questions.
- Raise your deductible. The higher your deductible, the less premium you’ll have to pay. The III says if you raise a $500 deductible to $1000, you may save as much as 25 percent.
- Buy your home and automobile policies from the same insurer. Some companies will reduce your premium up to 15 percent if you have at least two policies from them.
- Reduce the odds of being affected by a disaster. Make your home more resistant to disasters – you might be able to save by adding storm shutters and shatter-proof glass or reinforcing your roof. If you live in an older home, you should consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risks of water and fire damage.
- Understand the costs. The cost to rebuild your home is going to be different than what you paid for it. Don’t include the cost of the land in deciding how much coverage to purchase.
- Secure your home. Some companies offer a modest discount, usually at least 5 percent, for installing smoke detectors, burglar alarms and dead-bolt locks. Some insurers will also offer a discount if you install a sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations. First you’ll want to research the costs involved, and whether you’d be saving on your premiums.
- Inquire about discounts. Ask your company about all potential discounts. For example, some offer discounts to those 55 and older.
- Investigate group coverage. You may be able to get a group coverage plan through your employer or a professional or business group. See if it’s a better deal than what you have.
- Stay put. Many companies offer discounts for longer-term customers – sometimes up to 10 percent if you’ve had your policy through the company for more than six years. Be sure to compare prices against other companies once in awhile.
- Review your policy and the value of your possessions. If you sold that pair of diamond earrings or other valuable for which you have a floater policy – additional coverage for items not covered by a standard homeowners policy – be sure you’re not paying for the extra insurance.
Also, flood and earthquake damage are not covered by a standard policy. If you need flood insurance, which costs about $400 per year, you’ll want to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Most insurance companies offer a separate earthquake policy.
If you need a recommendation for a great insurance agent, contact me.SOURCE: http://www.realtor.com/home-finance/insurance/tips-for-reducing-home-insurance-costs.aspx
Buying a home is one of the largest and most emotional decision that can be made towards a great future investment. It may seem like a really complicated and lengthy process but in reality its just 10 simple steps that can be the key to your future of home ownership. I will talk about the details of each step in this weekly mini-series called “10 Steps to Home Ownership!”
STEP 1 : ARE YOU READY?
Not everyone is ready to buy a home. Some people think they are ready but in reality they are only toying with the idea of home ownership in their minds. Here are some questions you should ask yourself to see if you’re ready to be a home owner:
- Is buying an option or a requirement? You need to consider whether you’re buying this house because it’s the best thing for your needs or if you’re just become a victim to someone’s home-ownership sales pitch. Just because you’re eligible to buy does not mean that you have to buy.
- Is it cheaper to rent or buy? In most cases it is cheaper to buy a house than rent but there are some locations around the country where it is the other way around. Look at the rental and sales market in your community to see what is the best option for you.
- What are the things you need in your new home? Having a concrete list of all the things that are top priorities in the new home will help speed up your search. You should think beyond the number of bedroom and bathrooms, think in terms of living space, community, schools, etc. Define your goals since it will be essential when your Realtor® begins the search for your dream home.
- Do you have the money? Financing a loan should not be your primary concern, the real concern is the cash needed for the down payment and closing costs. Currently, a standard FHA loan requires 3.5% down payment. There are other programs that do offer 100% financing but these have stricter guidelines and harder to obtain. Whether you plan to put 20% or the bare minimum, you need to figure out how and when you’ll have the money ready? If the cash is not an issue for down payment or closings costs, do you have reserve funds saved for repairs that may be required in the new home? What about money for new furniture and other stuff?
- How soon do you intend to buy? This is a major factor in deciding if you’re ready. If you lease ends in 30 days, you may not have the time to buy a house (unless it’s all cash). A typical real estate transaction takes 30 days AFTER both the buyers and sellers have agreed on the price and terms of the contract. A time line is critical in helping you decide on your new home.
P.S. Today is the day for primary elections in Virginia, so don’t forget to vote!
You only get ONE opportunity to make a good first impression, so you want to make it count! By following these guidelines, you’ll enhance the attractiveness of your property and reduce the time it takes to generate serious offers.
How your property appears from the outside is important. To make a good first impression on a buyer, you must have a clean driveway, freshly mowed lawn or trimmed hedges to work wonders. Make sure to do a critical inspection of the exterior. Pay close attention to the windows, shutters, screens, gutters and paint. Also, don’t forget to keep the front door clean and clutter free. Nothing creates a larger unfavorable impression than these small exterior items.
As the buyers enter your property, the cleanliness makes a great appeal to continue or walk out. The most important is the front hallway, kitchen and bathrooms. If the property is owner occupied, make sure to do a room-by-room cleaning before leaving for work each day. If you have kids with heavy traffic stains on carpets, make sure it is steam cleaned or replaced if necessary. The same goes for hardwood flooring and tile, make sure it is polished and isn’t damaged or cracked.
LESS IS MORE
Clutter makes a poor impression. In closets, cabinets, kitchen counter-tops and other storage areas like basements, remove anything not needed for daily housekeeping. To make each room look larger, get rid or donate unnecessary furniture. Walk through the property and think : “Less is more.”
Make sure everything is in good working order. Dripping faucets, squeaky steps, loose doorknobs, faulty appliances can quickly create a bad impression and reduce the value of the property. A new washer may only cost $400-$600 but in the eyes of the first time buyer, the costs are multiplied to $1000-$1200. A few hours on repairs, whether by yourself or a handyman, can pay big dividends when an offer is made.
LITTLE THINGS COUNT
It’s easy to improve the appearance of any room. You may want to replace worn rugs or small pillows, put new towels in bathrooms or brighten up a room with a vase of flowers. Avoid using strong scents as they can be disliked by some buyers and may trigger allergies for others. Soft neutral scents are a great way to create a welcoming atmosphere and help the buyers mindset when writing an offer.
Get all the members of your household to pull together when it comes to getting and keeping your property ready to view. By getting everyone into the habit of spending a few minutes tidying up every morning for an afternoon showing, you improve your chances considerably.
If you need a professional opinion on what you can do to improve on the first impression your property makes, contact me today!
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So you’ve decided you want to sell or rent your house? When such a big decision is made, make sure you get a Realtor that is working for you! Selling or renting a home is a complex process that can be stressful and time consuming. A professional Realtor has a check list and does things that will get the listing sold or rented in the shortest time possible. Consider the following benefits before you decide to sell or rent your home yourself:
A Realtor will help you determine the selling or renting price of your home that accurately reflects it’s current market value. Remember there is nothing worse than an overpriced home. An overpriced home will help your competition and let your house sit on the market for a longer time. Realtors have a pulse on the current real estate market and will ensure that potential buyers are made aware of the great price of your home. A well priced home will get you many offers in a short time frame.
Marketing a home means more than just putting it on the Multiple Listing System (MLS). A Realtor can provide you with many useful suggestions on ways to improve marketability of your property, including cosmetic repairs and other items that will create a lasting impression so your home stands out against the competition. In addition, Realtors can tap into the highly productive and extensive industry network and advertise your property to other professionals, newly qualified buyers and tenants and former clients.
Realtors serve many functions, but perhaps the most important is their role as primary negotiator on your behalf. A Realtor realizes your goal is to sell or rent your home as quickly as possible and for the most money and will work closely with you to facilitate this goal. Realtors bring the knowledge and skills to draw up legally binding contracts, to assist in negotiating offers and counter-offers, and to offer counsel and perspective during negotiation. Realtors can provide valuable input that is objective, unemotional and professional to help you quickly meet your goals. Also, buyers or tenants will often feel more comfortable dealing with a Realtor than with the owner, specially when they decide to make an offer.
With knowledge and training in marketing strategy, negotiation tactics, and the workings of the current real estate market, a Realtor will be able to guide you through the selling or renting process and be able to explain exactly what to expect. A Realtor will maneuver you through the minefield of potential problems associated with appraisals, inspections, financing process, credit verification, escrow account and make you aware of your rights and responsibilities. A Realtor can work with you to strategize the best moves according to your own goals and point you in the direction of other specialized professionals who will aid you in different stages of the process.
An experienced Realtor can provide a sudden calm and euphoric feeling during the stressful process. So when you're ready to sell or rent your home, contact me and get ready to be amazed!