How to tell if your agent is right for you

I hate to say it, but you need to know the truth: all agents aren’t created equally. Some truly enjoy helping you buy the home of your dreams or sell your house and start a new phase in your life, while others simply don’t.

Additionally, certain agents are just more experienced or have better negotiation skills. So, how do you find the right real estate agent who will fight for you while you’re navigating the complicated (and expensive) streets of home buying and selling?

Ask previous clients

One simple way to discover if your agent will be great for you is to talk to his or her previous clients. First, you should ask your agent if there are any particular people they’ve worked with recently that will be disappointed. Then, give your agent a chance to explain themselves.

Agents aren’t perfect, but sometimes they’re expected to be and are blamed for circumstances that are out of their control. For example, if an appraisal comes back very low or high and the sale is unable to close at the accepted price, this could be something completely unpredictable.

After you’ve asked about exceptions, you can get a list of past clients and their contact information (as long as the previous clients agree to be called). This will generally help you understand how the agent has performed in the past.

If you don’t want to give anybody a call, there are often review sites online that you can look at, such as your agent’s Facebook page. It’s important to keep in mind that you should disregard the few exceptionally low or high reviews and instead choose to focus on the average.

How long have they been in the business?

This one isn’t always a great way to tell if the agent will be right for you, but it can usually help.

It is true that new agents are still learning and won’t know as much as an experienced agent. However, this could mean that they will bend over backward for you to prove themselves and help you as much as possible.

Another thing to consider is that every agent has a more experienced broker they must work under who they can usually go to for questions. If the business is smaller and the agent can go to the broker for every question they have, you might not even realize they’re new. However, there is the risk that the broker will not be able to help on a regular basis, leaving you with an agent who doesn’t know much about the market or the business.

This comes down to you. If you trust the new agent to work extra hard to compensate or you know through previous customers that agent’s lack of experience doesn’t affect the process, hire them. Otherwise, search for a more experienced agent in your area.

Ask about their previous listings

This accomplishes a couple different things if you’re looking to sell your house. First, you should look at how long the listings were on the market.

If it’s a very slow market period, it isn’t the agent’s fault if they don’t sell quickly. If you’re unsure about the current market, you can see how long it took similar houses during the same time to sell.

Additionally, sometimes people will not lower the price of their home or stage it how the realtor recommends, so nothing can be done to help the house sell.

However, if there is a constant pattern of houses taking an extensive amount of time to sell, there is probably a reason for this. Perhaps your agent doesn’t advertise the home well, doesn’t answer or return phone calls, or doesn’t know the market well enough to help choose a good price for the home.

Another reason for checking their previous listings is to see if they are similar to yours. If you’re looking to buy or sell a piece of land in the country, but the agent only has experience buying and selling apartments in the city center, they might not be the right agent for you.

They communicate well

Does the agent you’re considering answer the phone (within reasonable hours) and return missed calls quickly? Do they always call you or send you an email when they say they’re going to? Are they on time for your showing appointments or meetings? If not, consider not hiring this agent.

If they aren’t communicating with you in the beginning when they are attempting to sell your house or help you find one to buy, they certainly won’t communicate better later.

For example, if an agent wants to list your house but doesn’t communicate well with you, it is almost a guarantee that they will not answer the phone or regularly return missed calls when future agents or potential home-buyers call them. This means that your only chance of selling your house is if the buyer’s agent is determined for his or her clients.

Of course, agents do not have to be on-call 24/7. They are human beings with personal lives as well. However, being an agent usually does mean taking calls on the weekends and after the typical 5 pm (or setting up an answering service if the agent wishes).

If an agent never answers their phone or returns phone calls, it is extremely frustrating both for you and the person on the other end of this process. It’s a simple fact that along with being a realtor comes regular communication. So, make sure you only choose an agent who takes this into consideration.

How to choose?

There are some incredible real estate agents who love helping you find a new home or sell your existing one. However, there are also agents who don’t do as much as they could for their clients.

Following this list will help you recognize if your potential agent will be the former or the later because everyone deserves someone who cares when going through such an expensive and emotional process.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

 

How to increase your credit score

Perhaps you’ve just started learning how to budget properly or may have been unlucky in the past. Now, your credit score is not where you want it to be. While you can’t get a loan very a very low number, having a high credit score is not a necessity in buying a house. Yet, it certainly helps.

Lower interest rates are something everyone wants. Regardless of the reason that your credit score is lower than you would like, check out these tips for increasing it so you can better afford your new home.

First, pull your credit report. If your score is above 760, don’t worry about trying to get it any higher. You already have a great score. Otherwise, read on.

Follow three simple rules

Jeffrey Scott, a spokesman for FICO, claimed that all you have to do to raise your score is “Pay all your bills on time, every time, keep your credit card balances low, and only open new credit when you need it.”

While this advice seems obvious and you might not have been successful in the past, starting right now is important. Don’t lament about what happened before; start immediately paying your upcoming bills on time. This will greatly improve your credit score.

Also, if you can afford to, pay more than the required minimum payment each month to increase your number more quickly. A history of minimum-only payments can be a detriment to those viewing your report. Even if you’re only paying a little bit over the minimum, it will help (as well as save you money on interest).

Understand (and fix) your credit ratio

The way that your FICO score works is by comparing the amount of debt you have to your available credit. This means that some people’s advice of closing out your credit cards after they’re paid off is not a good idea.

Closing the credit card would mean that the amount of available credit you have will greatly fall. If you consider the credit ratio, you’ll see that this will negatively affect your FICO score, which is clearly the opposite effect of what you want.

If you don’t trust yourself not to overspend with the credit card, lock it away or give it to someone you can rely on.

While you should not only pay off your credit card bill as quickly as possible, you should also ask for a limit increase. Raising this will help improve your debt-to-credit ratio, helping your FICO score. The smaller percentage of debt will help you get closer to the interest rates you really want.

Don’t open new cards

When you understand credit ratio, you might think it will be a good idea to open numerous, new credit cards. Well, this type of behavior appears very risky to lenders and can hurt your score.

If you’re looking for one new credit card, this is acceptable. Just make sure you don’t open multiple accounts hoping for a better number.

On this note, older cards are actually better for your credit score. The length of your credit history factors in, so a long-term credit card account is better than a brand new one.

If the interest rate on your oldest card is very high or you don’t like the rewards it comes with, just put it in a drawer and don’t use it. This is a much smarter option than canceling it when it comes to thinking about your credit score.

Pay outstanding debt ASAP

Paying off any late accounts does not make them disappear from your record, but it does help. The longer these outstanding debts have been paid off, the more your credit score will grow.

It can be quite difficult to pay all current balances while also focusing on outstanding debt, but to improve your credit score, it’s a must.

Any errors in your report?

Do you feel like you should have a higher credit score than you do? Errors are not that uncommon. Check your report with a fine-toothed comb for things like balances that seem off or accounts that you didn’t create. Also, double check that every lender has accurately reported your credit limits.

It might seem crazy, but according to Forbes, “a whopping 25% of people who get declined for a mortgage had errors in their credit report.” These inaccuracies must be spotted and fixed by you by following the instructions on any of the credit bureau websites or your report.

Make sure you keep a record of everything involving your dispute. You can expect a response within thirty to sixty days of making the claim.

Don’t make any big purchases

This one is extremely important, especially if your credit has already been pre-approved and you’re waiting to close on a new house. Making any large purchase will affect your ability to get a loan.

If you’re trying to buy a car, take a nice vacation, or even purchase some appliances for your potential new house, just wait. These decisions can have very detrimental consequences, leaving you without a loan for your dream home.

Big purchases can also greatly impact your credit score because of the ratio explained above. Simply put, if you have more debt, your number will be lower.

Short and long-term changes

A fairly immediate change to your credit report will happen if you found any irregularities or errors in it. As soon as these are corrected, you should see your score go up.

It could take weeks or months of paying down balances to see a difference in your score. This entirely depends on you. For example, if you continue making minimum payments that are always on time, this will gradually help you score.

Instead, if you regularly make very large payments to the point where you have no or almost no debt left, your score will increase more quickly.

Paying off those outstanding debts could help you negotiate with lenders. However, you have to be patient about your credit score changes with this tactic as it takes from months to years to see large differences.

Follow the tips outlined above and your credit score will undoubtedly increase, potentially saving you tens of thousands of dollars in interest on your loan.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

Questions you need to ask while searching for your new home

When you’re house hunting, there are certain things you know you need to look for. For example, if you’re a family of five, two bedrooms probably isn’t going to cut it. If you’re an elderly couple or disabled, you need to make sure there is at least one bedroom on the main level.

However, there are some questions that might seem obvious that you simply forget to ask in the sometimes overwhelming process of buying a new home.

Tell me about the neighborhood/area

Things that are important to consider here are the growth of the particular area that you’re looking at. If you absolutely cannot stand traffic and don’t mind driving 20 or more minutes to reach your local grocery store, make sure you aren’t moving to a town that has an extremely high growth rate. You might end up moving sooner than you anticipated.

Another consideration is the local amenities, including restaurants, business, and shopping. This is completely up to personal preference, but make sure you consider how much is around the home and how far it is.

Public transportation is also important to certain people, especially those who don’t own a car. Rural America is certainly not a world leader in public transportation, so you’ll have to carefully look into this to make sure you’re looking at homes in the areas you really need.

One thing that probably every parent considers when shopping for a new home is the crime rate. Your agent will probably be experienced with the area, but a way to be certain about the crime rate is a simple Google search or call to the local police station.

Don’t forget about taxes! The property tax rate can vary by area, and your realtor is able to get all necessary tax information for you so you aren’t taken aback when you finally discover it.

One last thing to consider is the school district if you have or are planning to have children. Take a look at the statistics offered online or call or email the school district to learn about that particular school.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a neighborhood, so don’t forget these important questions.

What does it sound like?

If you’re a light sleeper that can wake up at the sound of a pin dropping, you should pay extra attention to this question. If the house is located on a busy street, are you okay with the noises? If not, tell this to your agent at the very beginning so you don’t have to waste time looking at houses you know won’t fit your needs.

It is also a good idea to drive by the potential home on weekend nights to see if it’s too loud for your tastes.

How old is the…

If you don’t have a very big budget for repairs, it’s important to ask the age of certain features of the house. It’s even possible to put repairs of old items in the offer contract, although this should be reasonable in regards to your asking price. An experienced realtor can help you understand the market value and determine your offer.

Unless it’s immediately apparent, it’s a good idea to ask about the age of appliances, the HVAC, the roof, water heater, heater or furnace, and air conditioning.

Keep in mind, some of these, such as a roof, can last many years are aren’t in need of a replacement unless there are specific aspects that look degraded. Typically, a home inspector will point out things such as a faulty roof, but it’s still a good idea to know the age.

Any warranties?

On the note of appliances, find out if anything has a warranty and if the current owner can provide that for you if you end up buying the house. This is especially pertinent if the owner just remodeled or bought something new for the home.

This could be applicable for many things, such as the garage door, HVAC, appliances, and more. This simple question could potentially save you a lot of money!

How is the home’s insulation?

Insulation is extremely important in keeping the home warm without overspending on your utility bill. Make sure that the home is well insulated in the walls and attic, particularly in colder climates.

How much are utilities and HOA fees?

When you’re calculating how much you’ll be spending on your home loan, don’t forget that you’ll need to take these additional costs into consideration (as well as taxes, which are mentioned above).

The majority of the homes in our area don’t come with an HOA fee, but it’s still an important question to ask in case they do. An experienced agent would likely tell you right away about this additional cost if it exists.

When determining the utility costs, sometimes you can just ask the current owner the average amount that they spend. Keep in mind, this will be different for different people as everyone has their own temperature preference.

Make sure you learn if the home uses gas, electric, propane, or a combination, and ask how much each bill is, as well as water or any other utility costs. Don’t forget that this includes waste removal if you live in certain areas.

What about parking?

This could be obvious depending on the house, such as if it has a two-car garage and you have two cars. But, if you have more than two cars, it’s important to find out if it is illegal to park on the street or not.

Don’t forget that if you have a very high truck, it might not fit comfortably in the garage. Make sure you’ll have room to legally fit each car you own.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

When is the best time to buy or sell your home?

On the second night under a full moon on Sunday when Jupiter is aligned–this is the day that you should buy or sell your home. Just kidding! It’s not actually that complicated. Yet, there are quite a few things to consider.

Of course, as a seller, you want the highest price you can get for you home. And, as a buyer, you usually want the opposite. So, the advice is different for buyers and sellers. Below, I’ve included tips for both so you can be as prepared as possible.

If you’re a seller…

As the smell of flowers fill the air, get ready to list your house because spring is the season of selling houses. There are many buyers out looking for new homes to move into during the summer during spring and early summer. According to a study by Zillow, May 1 – May 15 are the perfect days to list your house.

If you wait a bit to list your house, this could be okay as long as it’s not too late in the summer season. But, if you have the ability to fully control when you list your house, choose the days above.

School will be letting out for the summer soon and parents want to get a jump start on finding a house to move into during those warm months. It is incredibly popular for families with school-aged children to move during this season in order to not force a child to change schools in the middle of the year.

For those families that want to move in the summer, they often begin their search in the spring. As the air warms, people start to feel more encouraged and enthusiastic.

This is a smart move, as finding the perfect home, getting an accepted contract, and making it to closing, can take a few months at time. Also, if you wait until the late months of summer to list your house, not only will you miss out on a lot of families with young children, but also on those who are taking this time for vacation.

One of the reasons that you should sell your house during this time is because there are many more buyers looking, which means more competition. And as we know, this means you will likely get a better price for your home during this time.

However, it’s important to consider that this is also a popular time to sell homes, so there isn’t just competition from buyers finding their new home, but from sellers attempting to sell theirs at the same time.

Don’t worry though; the research shows that you are still more likely to get more for your home in the spring.

If you are unable to list your property during the spring or early summer months, it might be best to wait for fall. During early autumn, there is a new (although smaller) rush to find a new home before Christmas.

If you are unable to control the circumstances of when you list your house, or you’re simply very eager to sell it, don’t worry about listing it in the times not shown here.

While you are statistically more likely to get a better price for your home in spring and early summer, consider that there will be less competition from other sellers during off-times. There are still very serious buyers year-round.

If you’re a buyer…

While that bright sun peaks your optimism, it also peaks prices. About half of all homes are sold in the summertime, but most sellers and realtors know this. With the large amount of buyers competing over the homes, the price immediately goes up.

If you don’t have to worry about moving a child between schools or other worries, it’s best to avoid buying in these summer months. As winter is beginning, about late November through January, prices fall.

As reported by Time Magazine, median home prices in the summer of 2014 were $220,000. By the following January the median price had already dropped below $200,000. While this data is not related to the median size, age, or quality of the house, this is a continuous trend.

However, as mentioned in the previous section for sellers, competition matters. While there is less competition from buyers leading to you often achieving a better deal for the same home, it’s also true that many sellers wait until the off-season is over to list their homes.

This means that there is less of a selection of homes to buy in late fall or winter months. The number of homes on the market begins to decline in about September, moving pretty steadily downwards until after the holidays.

As expected, spring and summer months bring the highest number of options for buying a home. Although, condos aren’t bound by this rule, as typically condo owners don’t have to wait for the summer because of children in school.

With that said, it’s important to realize that you shouldn’t put your plans on hold for a certain season if it is difficult. The trade-off between achieving a cheaper price or having more selection is also an important consideration.

While these months, statistically, will help you get the best price for a home, many other things come into consideration, such as the amount of down payment you’re able to make and the current interest rate.

Finding an experienced real estate agent who will have expertise with the quarks of the market in your area is invaluable. If you are looking to buy in the East Tennessee area, I’d be happy to discuss the best times for you particularly, considering your circumstances and this specific area.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

The price is right..or is it?

If you’re a seller, your dream is to immediately get a full market value offer. But, how do you know if the price you set for your house is too high? There are so many things to consider when establishing a price, such as the neighborhood, market climate, and (of course) the house itself.

Follow these tips to make sure the price for your home is right.

Don’t let your emotions get in the way

It’s normal that you have a strong emotional attachment to the home where you raised your children, but, unfortunately, the buyers don’t.

While you might believe that it’s justified to have a higher price tag on your home, if your agent is telling you that the price is simply too high to sell, take the advice and lower it. Letting go of an emotional attachment to a house is hard, but if you decide to sell, a must.

Perhaps, instead, you think your real estate agent was simply wrong in the price they suggested. While this can happen occasionally, particularly if you have an inexperienced agent that does not know the area or market well, they probably have a good idea about what the price should be.

If you decide to set the price higher than your agent’s recommendation, read on for some more ways to tell if the price is actually too high.

Where are all the people?

If your home has been on the market for a while and hasn’t had many showing or any offers, there’s a very good chance the price is too high.

Consider that your home will almost always have more showings in June than in January, following the market pattern, and that the market will affect how many potential buyers and offers you will receive.

If you aren’t in any rush to sell and it’s a buyer’s market, consider waiting to list your property until a later date. However, if you need to sell now, the market might dictate that you drop your asking price to what potential buyers will realistically pay.

However, generally speaking, if you don’t have many showings or offers on your home after it’s been on the market a couple of months, it’s priced too high.

Priced higher than neighboring properties

This one is pretty simple. Either you or your agent should check out all the homes with similar square footage and amenities that have sold recently in your area. See what price they sold for and how long they were on the market before they sold.

Additionally, check active listings in your area, but remember that these homes aren’t guaranteed to sell for this price. If you want to price your home much higher than these comparables, it’s almost certainly a bad idea.

Your renovations might not be relevant

You may have very expensive taste and want only golden handles, but the potential buyers probably won’t share this particular fascination.

Of course, even more ‘normal’ renovations, such as putting a pool or deck in the backyard, might not earn you as much as you’d expect. According to Remodeling magazine, these projects offer an average 62% return on investment.

So the advice? Skip the remodeling project if you’re doing it for potential buyers (unless it’s something for staging, like painting the walls a neutral color). If you’re doing it just for the enjoyment of you and your family, go for it, but don’t expect to get reimbursed when you sell.

This is also true if you attempt to consider how much you paid for your house into the price now. Buyers aren’t interested in you making a profit, and the cost that you paid for the house is irrelevant to them and the current market.

So, make sure you price your home thinking rationally of the current market, not of your previous costs.

Don’t overprice to leave negotiation room

This might seem like a smart tactic, but in the days of Internet searches, it’s shooting yourself in the foot. The time of driving around neighborhoods you would like to live in and looking for “For Sale” signs are long gone.

While it’s true that some people still do this, the large majority use online searches. Additionally, every real estate agent uses an online search to scour the MLS for the perfect match.

This means that both potential buyers and their agents are entering a max price in the search engine. If your home falls outside of that price, even if you would easily negotiate down, there will be no one to negotiate with.

Also, even if the potential buyer does see your property, you might be priced too high to even get a lower, negotiable offer.

Price your home reasonably for maximum possibilities of showings and offers.

Will the appraiser agree?

This doesn’t happen until after the home is under contract, but don’t think that it’s not important.

An appraisal is a valuation of your property done by the buyer’s lender to understand the value of your home. This is to protect its financial interests on the small chance that they must foreclose on your home.

If the appraised price is far below the accepted price on your contract, there’s a chance the lender may not allow the buyer to purchase the home unless the price is lowered.

This is one reason to price your home fairly from the beginning, as a much lower appraisal amount can cause a lot of stress for both the buyer and seller.

Sometimes the appraisal will come back with an unpredictable amount that you, your agent, the buyer, and their agent won’t agree with. However, in general, you can trust your experienced agent to set a price that will help you sell your home as simply as possible.

What to look for when buying a house

What should you look for when you’re deciding on a house to buy?

Of course, there are the obvious choices you make before you even see the house, like what price range you can afford and exactly how many bedrooms you need. Then, there are the important aspects of a home like a solid foundation and sturdy pipes that are taken care of during the home inspection.

So, besides these basics, what are the things you should search for when you’re considering making such a large investment?

Decide your must-haves

Beyond a certain number of bedrooms, many buyers have requests that are absolutely necessary to them. Do you have a large dog that needs a space to run around? You know you need a house that includes a fenced-in yard.

Perhaps, instead, your summer revolves around grilling out with friends, so a house without a back deck is impossible to even imagine. There are any number of must-haves that could break the possibility of your purchasing that house.

Make sure you tell your agent any specifics before they find houses for you. There are advanced search options that help us find your perfect home with the right amount of acreage, views, and more.

Go ahead and bring that measuring tape

You already have beautiful furniture, so you surely don’t want to buy a brand new living room or bedroom set for your new house. Take down measurements of all necessary furniture before you visit your possible dream house.

Different from what you might expect, rooms can often seem much smaller without furniture inside. So, if you’re worried your king-size bed might not fit in this master bedroom, go ahead and measure.

Sometimes, room measurements are already provided with the listing, but keep that measuring tape with you just in case. Before writing off what could be a perfect house because a room seems too small, make sure you measure it first.

Can your cars fit?

This is something people surprisingly overlook. Typically, when you go to visit a property with the intention to buy it, you’re all in one car. Don’t forget to consider that your big family has four cars.

Can you all fit on the driveway without blocking each other in? Maybe there’s room to pull off to the side of the yard without infringing on the neighbor’s property. Or, instead, you can park on the street (but make sure this is allowed first!).

Whatever the case, don’t forget to think about this little fact.

So. Many. Stairs.

Maybe you’re a fit couple in your 40s, but if this is the house you plan to stay in for the rest of your life, make sure you consider this. This is a personal decision, but an important one. Would you prefer a ranch house with everything on one level?

Maybe people find that having multiple rooms on a second level is just fine as long as the kitchen and master bathroom are both downstairs. If you plan to live at this house for many years, think about what you like now and what you’d prefer in the future.

Is it hot in here?

Most homes today come with central heat and air, but not always. Living in the south, summers without air conditioning can be downright dreadful, and replacing a unit is extremely costly. Ask questions about the heat and air if you don’t live in a particularly mild climate.

Neighborhood

This is another clarification that is usually best to tell your agent at the very beginning so you can immediately start looking at homes that fit your needs. If you have children, do some research on school districts around the area to determine if there are any you would prefer.

Another important factor to consider is the crime rate in the neighborhood. Of course, you want your children to feel safe walking around the neighborhood with their friends or know that your home has a small chance of being robbed. Check out these rates before deciding on an area to live.

Also, determine if you prefer a rural, private area. Do you like being able to drink coffee on your front porch in your pajamas, even if this means you have to drive longer to reach the grocery store?

Otherwise, let your agent know you don’t mind losing a little bit of privacy for a neighborhood that has sidewalks and bike paths, allowing you to walk to ride your bike to the library. Before you decide to buy a home, make sure you think about all the neighborhood options, both for short-term and long-term happiness.

Storage space

Don’t trick yourself. Everyone thinks they can be incredibly organized if they start fresh in a new house, and while that may be true for a month or two, eventually you’re going to reclaim a ‘junk drawer’ and lose that organization.

If you found your ‘dream house’ that is perfect except for not having any storage space, it probably isn’t your dream house. As much as you want to believe just a few cabinets in the kitchen will be okay even though you’re moving from a house with 15 cabinets and a large pantry, it probably won’t be.

Check out how many closets are in the house and how large they are, if there’s any attic storage space, or if you can forgo putting your car in the garage in exchange for keeping all those Christmas decorations in there.

Of course, if finding a place to store boxes of childhood memorabilia (rather than the fact that there isn’t anywhere to put towels in the bathroom) is the problem, you can always consider renting a storage unit.

If you are not choosing a smaller house because of budgetary concerns, be realistic about how much storage space you truly will need.

Simplest Staging Secrets

You want your home to sell, fast. Wouldn’t it be a dream come true if you had multiple buyers fighting over it, giving full-price offers? Well, the possibility of this happening goes way up if you follow some simple staging secrets.

Now, don’t think that you have to pump hundreds of dollars into new furniture to stage the house perfectly. While you could replace your countertops with granite or completely redo your back deck, many of these staging secrets are very cost effective or free.

More important than hiring a professional to come stage your home for you is some good, old-fashioned TLC. Just following these tips and putting a bit of effort into staging your home will help it sell quicker than you could believe.

  • Pack up personal items and clutter

When you officially decide to list your house, it’s time to start packing. There’s nothing that makes the perceived value of a house drop more quickly than having a well-sized home buried in clutter. You might love having a couch and four arm chairs in your small living room, but is all of that really necessary?

Put excess furniture in storage or keep it at a family member’s house for a short amount of time. These staging secrets will help make the rooms look much bigger.

Additionally, all family pictures should be taken down or replaced with generic artwork. People have a difficult time imagining themselves in a house that’s full of pictures of someone else.

Essentially, make sure all of the clutter is gone. Anything that you can live without should be packed, sold, or donated. Just getting rid of unnecessary excess can go a long way in making potential buyers fall in love with your house.

And, just think, you’re getting a head start on all your packing!

  • Make the kitchen feel homey

When people stage a house without professional help, the kitchen is something they often ignore. This area is always very important to buyers, so make sure you add those tiny extra touches.

To help people imagine themselves hosting guests or enjoying family meals, set out a couple beautiful plates, a vase of fresh flowers, and possibly a bottle of wine. Things you already have sitting around can help the dining room and kitchen feel a lot less empty and cold.

  • Bright lighting

More staging secrets include making sure the lighting in every room is bright! If any light bulbs are burnt out or dull, replace them immediately. For rooms that don’t have much natural light, add a couple more lamps and make sure they’re all turned on when the potential buyer comes to visit the home.

Bright lighting makes the home appear more welcome. Additionally, you can strategically mount mirrors to dark, smaller areas. This simple fix will help the rooms appear larger.

  • Curb appeal is important

I already mentioned the staging secrets of placing a vase of flowers inside of your kitchen and/or dining room, but don’t neglect the outdoors! Some blooming flowers and plants on a front porch or in the yard do wonders to boost your curb appeal.

In addition to this, make sure your lawn is always well mowed and the yard is raked, depending on the season. Pressure wash your driveway, walkway, and porch, and make sure all the windows are clean! If you need to, you could also consider repainting or staining your porch.

  • Finish unfinished projects

It’s okay; we all do it. We decide it’s finally time to repaint that spare room, so we tape everything, roll up our sleeves, and get to work. Now it’s two years later, the tape is still up and only half of the wall was painted.

It’s time to finish these projects. There aren’t many people who want to buy a house knowing they’re going to need to do work on it from day one. And just imagine the sense of satisfaction you’ll feel knowing you finally finished your goal.

These simple projects should all be done before you start showing your home to potential buyers.

  • Make each room have a clear purpose

So, your spare room somehow became an office/junk room/play room/gym all at the same time? Don’t worry–this is more common than you think. Unfortunately, buyers don’t like this confusion. Make the room structured with a clear purpose.

You already have a desk in there because the room is partially an office? Great. Take everything else out, clear the clutter, possibly add some decoration, and make this room nothing more than just an office.

Even if the new buyers would prefer that this space becomes a guest room instead of an office, it doesn’t matter. With a clear focus devoid of messy confusion, it’s easy to see how this room can be shaped into whatever they decide in the future.

  • You love your pets, but others might not

Okay, your dog might be the sweetest angel who ever lived, but he also might be very stinky. Maybe he’s mostly an outdoor dog and only comes inside sometimes, or maybe you’ve just had him for so long that you don’t smell him anymore. But trust me, other people can.

This usually has nothing to do with you as a pet owner or how cleanly you are, but sometimes it’s just difficult to keep your house from smelling like pets.

Make sure you do everything you can when selling your house to avoid this! Get your carpets cleaned, take your pet to the groomer, and get some air fresheners. The best for this is the plug-in fresheners that automatically spray every so often.

This way, you won’t have to worry about constantly spraying the house or making sure candles are out. This simple secret will help buyers love your house even more.

Best Ways to get an Accepted Offer

Sometimes, you find an absolutely perfect house. It has everything you could ever dream of, it’s within your budget, and it’s in a great location. Chances are, you aren’t the only one that wants it, then.

What can you do to guarantee that you’ll be the one that scores your dream house? Here are some important tips to keep in mind and discuss with your realtor to make sure you get an accepted offer.

Just Ask!

This one has to be right on top because even though it seems so obvious, it’s something most people don’t do. Ask your realtor to communicate with the seller’s realtor to ask questions you’re willing to compromise on.

Ask if the sellers would like to push up the closing date to sell their house immediately. If this is possible with financing and inspections, go ahead and do it. On the flip side, some sellers would prefer a bit more time to get things settled with their job and pack. If waiting a little bit longer to close on the house doesn’t bother you, it might help persuade them to choose you.

Figure out what the preferred escrow period is. Then, are there any contingencies that your seller just wouldn’t agree to? Once you figure this out, you can see if you and the seller are still compatible.

Maybe there are some things that you wouldn’t normally think about asking, too. Most sellers prefer to keep all of their furniture, but if you like the way the house is decorated, ask if it would be simpler to purchase the home furnished. Some people just truly hate moving furniture and this simple question could move you towards getting an accepted offer.

Keep it clean

Try to remove as many contingencies as possible. As my professional advice, I believe a home inspection is almost always necessary. I’m not suggesting that you forgo security by taking away all contingencies unless you really know what you’re doing.

However, taking out the less necessary additions can help make sure your contract is as appealing as possible to the sellers, leading to an accepted offer.

Another way to make your contingencies more appealing is to keep their period short. For example, instead of taking 14 days to complete your home inspection, ask for something like 7 days.

You can make this work by scheduling a home inspection immediately upon acceptance of the offer. Then, you’ll still have time to schedule any necessary specialists to inspect if need be.

Money, money, money

Of course, not many people have the financial means available to offer cash for the sale of a home. If you do, you’ll skyrocket to the top of the list, likely getting an accepted offer.

If not, like the majority of people, you can still do many things to be more financially appealing to the seller. First, make sure you get pre-approved. If you send a pre-approval letter over with your offer, the sellers and their agent will know that you are prepared and this sale is much more likely to close.

Even if someone sends over an offer that’s a bit higher than yours, if you have a letter showing that this sale is more secure and has a lower chance of falling through, that seller will be much more enthusiastic about choosing you.

Another way to provide financial security to the buyer is to give them a larger earnest money deposit. This shows you’re extremely committed to buying the house and aren’t going to back down and that you have the financial means to do so.

Lastly, sometimes people are picky about their lenders. You can agree to get pre-qualified by their preferred lender even if you want to finance the home with your own. Someone the seller trusts telling them that you are able to buy their home can be meaningful towards an accepted offer.

Does the seller like you?

Some people will tell you the only thing that talks is money. That’s simply not true. There are some cases when two offers are extremely close and one is chosen because the sellers like those buyers more.

That doesn’t mean that if you don’t go get drinks with your seller, you don’t have a chance of getting their home. Instead, you need to prove that you are responsible.

Let me give you an example.

You are a seller and have two almost identical offers. You think back to your experience with these two buyers.

Family One was right on time to meet you or your agent (maybe even a couple of minutes early), they expressed how eager they are to move, how much they love the house and had a nice conversation with you.

Family Two showed up 30 minutes late without even a simple apology, didn’t give any kind greetings like “Hello” and “Goodbye,” and trash-talked the house the entire time that they were there.

Side note: some people think pointing out as many flaws as possible is a smart move for being able to talk to price down. While pointing out a few flaws might be necessary, some sellers could be quite offended if the only words you have to say about their house are negative. Additionally, when you’re competing with other buyers and are willing to make a well-priced offer, this is unnecessary.

So, thinking about these two families, which would you select? The choice is obvious.

Simply accepting a contract is not the end of the contact between buyers are sellers (and their agents). The seller wants to choose the buyer that is most likely to be kind and responsible, so they can be as certain as possible that the sale of their house will not fall through.

If you’d like your best chance of getting an accepted offer, contact an agent who is knowledgeable about writing the perfect contract.

Your Guide to Buying Foreclosures

So, you’re trying to get into real estate investment and you’ve heard foreclosures are a great deal. Maybe, instead, you’re looking to buy a new house and don’t mind putting in some TLC before you move in.

Either way, finding a great foreclosure can save you tens of thousands of dollars if you know what you’re doing.

What exactly is a foreclosure?

Well, technically, there are four different types.

Pre-foreclosure

This is also sometimes called a short sale. As you might understand from the name, this is actually right before the house is foreclosed on. The family no longer has the ability to make the payments regularly, so they make an agreement with the bank to sell to property for at least the amount that is owed on it.

You’ll help the owner avoid a huge hit to their credit score while also paying a price that is typically lower than market value. The cost is also lower pre-foreclosure than post many times because the lender doesn’t have to pay any of the costs associated with the process of the foreclosure.

Like most foreclosures, the home is sold as-is and each original lender has different requirements for how you can buy the property. Some require all cash, some accept a high down payment, and others accept more typical loans.

True of almost all foreclosures, being sold as-is means that you cannot make the sale contingent on everything passing the home inspection. This also means that you are disqualified from a lot of the typical loans.

Off to Auction

If the home has passed the first stage without selling, it goes through foreclosure and off to auction. It is much riskier to buy a home at auction because you cannot certainly know that the property doesn’t have liens or encumbrances.

In addition to this fear, you typically cannot see the inside of the house and don’t have the right to inspect the property, so you don’t know what condition it’s in. At the auction, it’s almost certainly cash-only, so you’ll have to come prepared with a cashier’s check, willing to take on the unknown for a great deal.

Real Estate Owned (REO)

This is by-far the most common way for people and small investors to buy a foreclosure as it’s easier and safer. If, for whatever reason, the home doesn’t sell at auction, the lender now takes full possession.

While you usually won’t get as good of a deal as you could at auction, the much-improved safety of buying this house is well worth the price increase. And, of course, you wouldn’t buy a foreclosure if it wasn’t a good deal, anyways!

Foreclosures are usually priced to bring in a modest profit for the lender but low enough to sell rather quickly. Typically, after the lender takes control of the property, the house will be investigated for liens. Sometimes, lenders are even required to pay these.

Like the other types of foreclosures, REO homes are almost always sold as-is. A common way of buying these homes is either with cash or an investor’s loan, but it is impossible with the traditional home-buyers loans.

The lenders will usually work with specific real estate brokers directly to sell the foreclosed homes, like us here at Priority Real Estate.

Government Owned

This is another popular way of buying a foreclosure. A popular site that we work with directly is  Hud Home Store. Homes are sold as-is and the paperwork required is a bit different than buying other types of homes, so make sure you have a realtor that knows the intricacies.

It’s possible to find great deals with government owned foreclosures, just as with REO foreclosures.

How to buy a foreclosure

We talked a little bit about how to buy each type of foreclosure above, but here we’re going to focus on the safest and most common way to buy a foreclosure. These are homes that have gone past the pre-foreclosure and auction stages.

  1. Get pre-approved

You might think the first step would be to find the house, but that’s not actually true, especially for foreclosures. If you find a foreclosed home way below market price in great condition, you can bet many other investors in your area have as well.

If you haven’t gotten pre-approved, not only can you not be certain that you can afford the house you want, but you have to wait for the lender to approve you before you can submit your offer. By that time, the house might’ve already been taken.

  1. Find a realtor that works directly with the banks with foreclosed homes

Most banks have specific real estate companies or brokers that they work with for selling their foreclosed homes. These agents are experts in their field, and thus selected to represent the bank.

They know the ins and outs of all the paperwork that has to be completed, the exact method for when offers are looked at, which properties that are about to go on the market, and if they’re a good deal or not.

If you’re preapproved, these agents can take you around to all the foreclosures within your budget, as well as alert you the second that new homes are on the market.

Luckily, if you live in East Tennessee, I work directly with HUD and Chase banks and can find you the great deal you’re looking for at Priority Real Estate.

  1. Make the offer!

Once you’ve found the house (or houses) you want to buy, it’s time to put in your offer! Here, again, you’ll need a knowledgeable real estate professional because the requirements can vary by bank and government agency.

If you aren’t paying by cash, you’ll usually need a specific loan that lets you buy the house as-is. These details would likely have been worked out with your lender before this point. Many banks don’t allow you to make the sale contingent on the home inspection, so make sure you’ve already checked out as much as possible!

Sometimes, the seller will wait a certain number of days the look at all offers (such as HUD does). Additionally, they could have multiple offers so it will come down to “highest and best,” meaning that multiple offers will be looked at and the highest and best will be accepted. Others it will be like a normal home sale where they can accept, reject, or counter your offer.

As long as you have an agent that understands the bank’s rules about making offers on foreclosures, like us at Priority, you’ll hopefully have bought your first foreclosure. Good luck!