How to Interview A Listing Agent

Is interviewing a Real Estate Agent such a daunting task?

Not really.

Too many people rush into choosing a Listing Agent. Once the idea of selling pops into their minds, they may choose the first Agent that crosses their path, whether via postcard, a Facebook Ad or billboard. In fact, 72% of home sellers contacted only one Real Estate Agent before deciding on the ‘right Agent’ they like sell their home through.

The big question here is how does one avoid choosing the wrong Real Estate Agent for the job?

Either you interview a Real Estate Agent and decide to hire him right there and then; or you opt to interview a couple of Real Estate Agents. Whichever route you as a home seller decide to take, make sure you have prepared at least a handful of questions, which should quickly determine whether your decision to hire that Real Estate Agent was the good one (or not)!

Most Real Estate Agents will not expect you to be asking these types of questions!

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Home Seller’s Guide

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This list of 10 questions to ask when interviewing a Listing Agent will come in handy in separating the wheat from the chaff:

Question #1: How long have you been a Real Estate Agent?

As much as enthusiasm and passion a beginning Real Estate Agent might bring to the table, when it is time for contract negotiation, it will be the (negotiation) experience of the Agent which will bring the deal to a successful close!

The more contracts a Real Estate Agent has written over the years, the more experience he will have in detecting, avoiding, preparing, anticipating potential pitfalls! As any experienced Real Estate Agent can attest, there’s no such thing a ‘simple contract’ – every contract is unique and will require a customized legal frame work, making sure the terms and conditions of the deal are ironclad!

Of course, you’ll always have these superstar Agents who are making a killing in their first year of real estate, but those are the exception to the rule!

The other nine questions below will filter through whether you’re dealing with such a super-talented Agent or just a fly-by-night individual!

Question #2: How many real estate transactions did you close last year?

This might perhaps be seen as a rude or inappropriate question to ask if it were asked in any other field than real estate.

Real Estate Agents are always talking amongst one another about production numbers, as it’s an integrate part of their business models, annual goals, and getting more business!

Whereas the abstract figure won’t necessarily tell you a lot (other than give you a rough idea how much commission the Agent made), it does give you an idea of how active the Real Estate Agent is.

It might be tempting to look at the total number and use it as the sole measuring stick on how successful the Agent was, but one needs to put it into perspective:

The Real Estate Agent who sold the lower number of properties over the past 12 months might not immediately be your first choice, neither should the Agent who sold 50 properties in a particular year.

And why might that be?

Agents who give the highest listing price, do get a lot of business from home sellers, who don’t necessarily know any better, until it’s too late and the property has been exposed to the market for way too long! The overpriced properties you see lingering about for months on end, and plenty of expired listings are proof of that.

In other words, the ratio of houses the Agent eventually sells versus the (overpriced) properties that he still has on the books (which is called the sales-to-listing ratio) will be an important number to watch.

Thus, while not immediately evident by hearing a raw number, put into context, it is very revealing who is the better Agent: a Real Estate Agent who sells 16 out of his 20 listings compared to another Agent who sells 35 out of 70 listings!

Question #3: Is being a Real Estate Agent your full-time job?

There is this misconception that being a Real Estate Agent must be such an easy job, which offers lots of free time, days off, and can make you bundles of money. But if you interview a Real Estate Agent who’s been around the block, you will more than hear something completely different!

While one might initially be going through training and learning the ropes on a part-time basis, providing a professional service to your clients does require a full-time Real Estate Agent.

How is the part-time Agent going to handle all the incoming viewing requests, specific property inquiries by home buyers or property valuations for home sellers if he’s too busy working another job?

Nevermind what might happen if there’s talk of writing an offer at the ‘wrong time’ for this part-time Agent. Time constraint? Availability? Imagine as a home seller to be losing such an interested home buyer because the (part-time) Agent’s agenda can’t accommodate!

Needless to say, hiring a part-time Real Estate Agent is not advisable!

Question #4: How often can we expect feedback from you?

Perhaps the line of questioning ought to go in the direction of who will be providing the feedback!

Is the Real Estate Agent working on his own, together with a personal assistant or is there an entire team behind the scene? And more importantly, who will end up being the person you, as the home seller, will get all the feedback from?

It’s only normal for a home seller wanting to know what the home buyers have been saying about their property during the viewings over the course of the week. Most well-oiled teams have this part covered with a feedback system to make sure the home seller gets proper, timely information about buyer feedback!

Not only before the property is sold, but also during and afterwards, it’s vital for the Agent to keep the home seller in the loop of where they stand in the process: is a home inspection due or is the bank appraisal taking place soon? Plus, will the Agent be present during those activities as well?

RELATED: 10 Ways to Prepare for A Home Showing in Under An Hour

Each of those events, as small or big as they may be, requires feedback to the home seller. This is where a professional Real Estate Agent (and/or team) stands out from the crowd! There’s no such thing as too much feedback!

Question #5: How do you normally communicate with your clients?

Depending on how the Agent responds to the previous question, you’ll lead right into this one.

Once you’ve established the frequency or timing of the feedback, you need to figure out which communication medium your Agent uses with other clients.

When you interview a Real Estate Agent, you need to make sure to inform the Real Estate Agent of your preferred method of communication!

Some people are stuck on a personal phone call following every showing appointment, others might be too busy and rather prefer you to send them a text message or email them a summary of what happened during the viewing.

Having said that, one of the biggest complaints people have against Agents is the lack of communication.

If an Agent happens to be in a client meeting and can’t pick up the phone, we all know that those things happen and a return call afterwards will set everything straight. However, I’m referring to the blatant lack of respect on part of a lot of Real Estate Agents who believe returning phone calls the same day is something of an unnecessary luxury. This Agent is in control of the sale of your life’s most expensive asset, so the least he can do is treat you with respect by returning your call(s) ASAP!

Question #6: Can you provide us with a recent list of client references?

There are pretty much two options you could go with:

(1) ask the Listing Agent for a list of recent client references, which is something he’ll more than likely have written out on a personal testimonial page on his website. You can also check sites like Zillow and Google for online reviews that the Agent cannot filter.

(2) maybe a better option would be to request the details of the last few homes he sold and consequently contact those people yourself. It might take a little bit more time and effort, but the feedback you’ll get from these previous clients will more than likely be quite informative, and more importantly, be unprepared by the Agent!

Question #7: How did you determine the asking price of our home?

Here, you have a couple of popular ways to arrive at the market value:

The most commonly used method (as well as the best one) is the Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which allows the Agent to look at the recently sold properties in your immediate vicinity, as well as the current properties for sale, all within a similar size, look and price range, in order to arrive at a fair market value!

RELATED: The Importance Of Proper Pricing

As you interview a Real Estate Agent, nothing stops you from asking him to show you some proof regarding the CMA’s conclusions.

RELATED: About the Comparative Market Analysis

Question #8: Will you personally be taking pictures of our home?

How often have you browsed a property portal and come across some incredibly bad pictures? What was the Agent thinking? And how did the seller approve that marketing material?

This makes you stop and think who could have possibly have taken those unprofessional photos?

RELATED: Mega Tips for a First-Time Home Seller

Whereas there are Agents who have particularly good photography skills and appropriate equipment to present your home at its best, the majority of Real Estate Agents don’t.

The importance of having great photos as part of your marketing cannot be stressed enough!

Bottom line: unless this Real Estate Agent is half a pro at taking real estate photos himself, insist on a Professional Real Estate Photographer.

Question #9: Which advertising tools will you be using to market our home?

Besides the traditional advertising tools, such as ads in newspapers, magazines, postcards, billboards etc., any decent Real Estate Agents needs to have a strong online presence.

Marketing should be happening all over! Your property needs to get exposed to as many potential home buyers as possible!

As a quick reminder, 90% of the home buyers start their home search online!

RELATED: Your Unique Marketing Plan

The internet is where all the researching and reading up happens, months before the home buyer even contacts the Agent!

Through the Agent’s online activities across many social network platforms, his personal website, and an active blogging calendar, chances are very good that the home buyers will keep running into that Agent’s content during their information-gathering phase. And who will they more than likely be contacting to help them find homes for sale on the Jersey Shore once they’re ready? After all, without even having met the Agent, these home buyers already have quite the impression of him due to this dominant online presence!

Question #10: Do you provide any additional services?

Sometimes it’s nice to know whether the Agent can offer you something different from the other Agents.

Any experienced Agent will immediately suggest helping out with the presentation of your home: from the cleaning & decluttering, to some of the needed repairs to the house, to getting that garden up-to-date, with extra attention pruning the shrubs & trimming the lawn.

Provided that the Agent has been working in the local area for many years, he’ll be able to set you up with a list of vendors as well, ranging from local handymen, attorneys, moving companies, to name but a few.

Keep in mind that the better Agents have your best interest at heart and don’t mean anything personal or hurtful if they point out potential negatives throughout the house.

The Real Estate Agent’s advice shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it is in their interest as well to have a more desirable and saleable product to present to buyers!

YOUR TURN

Have you recently interviewed a Listing Agent to sell your home? What did you learn? Did you rush through the process with regrets? Share your story on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE™ eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

 

10 Rookie Mistakes That Hurt First-Time Homebuyers

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, buying a house can definitely be overwhelming. With an Agent by your side to guide you through the process, you’ll make it through just fine – but you might want to be aware of these rookie mistakes.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide

If you’re searching for homes for sale on the Jersey Shore or Eastern Monmouth County where the market is ultracompetitive, making one of these mistakes could end up costing you big time.

Here are the Top 10 mistakes often made by first-time homebuyers:

1. Getting too emotionally attached

You’re about to purchase what’s probably the most expensive item you’ve ever bought. So try – as difficult as it is – not to get too attached. There will always be another house if you lose one.

A good tip would be to work with your Buyer’s Agent to find several homes you love so that you’re not too emotionally invested in one.

RELATED: How To Find The Right Buyer’s Agent

2. Finding the home yourself

We know you’re going to browse www.patrickparkerrealty.com and other real estate websites to find homes for sale in your desired location. But don’t rely on just your research skills. Finding your own home can be like diagnosing yourself of an illness.

Let your Agent vet homes for you. A good Real Estate Agent might find you properties that aren’t yet on the market. And of the homes that are on the market, your agent should be able to tell you what the home looks like, where it’s situated, the price per square foot in the neighborhood, and every other detail.

3. Going directly to the listing agent

If you’ve ever played Monopoly, there’s a card you might pick (a bad one) that says, “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.” It means you did something wrong and now must pay the penalty.

The same applies if you go directly to a Listing Agent who is hired by and represents the seller, not you. Unless the Listing Agent is someone you have worked with or know personally and know they are an amazing agent, this is a big no-no. You need someone representing your best interests and your best interests only.

4. Assuming you have no rules to follow as a homeowner

One of the draws of homeownership is freedom: getting out from under someone else’s rules, whether those of your parents or your landlord. But some homes have deed restrictions that come with conditions.

Deed restrictions vary, depending on the community you’re buying in. Their purpose is typically to ensure the property holds its value, which is a good thing. But if you have plans that conflict with the restrictions, you won’t be a happy camper.

Get copies of the restrictions, read them, and ‘look under the hood’ at the internal health of a condo or homeowners’ association. Look for things like whether reserves are kept, the neighbors are paying their assessments, if there are pet restrictions, and whether you can run a business from the home.

5. Not saving enough money

If you saved up enough money for a down payment, kudos. That’s a huge accomplishment. Unfortunately, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Transitioning from a renter or your parents’ home to your own home has incidental costs that may be overlooked.

RELATED: 5 Things You Need to be Pre-Approved For A Mortgage

Aim to have two to three months’ worth of mortgage payments in reserve. You should also count on paying closing costs (between 2% and 5% of the home’s price) and property taxes. After moving day, you’ll also need to buy household essentials you’ve never owned before, such as appliances, tools, and garden supplies.

Three to six months of expenses saved up in an emergency fund is even better. It’s not money to buy new furniture or remodel a room. It’s for the unexpected expenses, such as a leaky roof.

6. Not getting pre-approved for a loan

You’ve run the numbers several times now and know just what you can afford. That’s great. But if you want your offer to be taken seriously by the seller, get proof of income and assets in the form of a pre-approval letter from a lender.

This process can take just a few days and simply means that the lender has looked through your financial situation and is comfortable with the idea of lending you a certain amount of money.

7. Paying private mortgage insurance (PMI)

If you don’t put down at least 20%, you’ll have to pay PMI. Many first-time buyers pay this, she says. If you do, make sure you notify your lender when you pay down your mortgage and owe just 80% of the home’s value. Your lender will automatically cancel your PMI when you owe 78%, but you don’t want to pay a month more of PMI than you have to.

8. Not checking the price of homeowners’ insurance

Buying a home on the water is a dream come true for many people. But make sure you can afford to insure that home because it could be pricey. Being on the water means higher wind insurance and, of course, higher risk of flood. Other factors may increase your insurance, such as if your new home has a pool and more. Do your research ahead of time. Your Buyer’s Agent will have a network of experts you can ask about these things.

9. Not checking your credit score

Here’s a weird trivia fact: About 42 million credit reports contain errors. True, the error might be just a misspelling of your street address, which wouldn’t affect you. But some errors could hurt your score badly, such as showing you have late payments when you don’t.

Check your credit at least three months prior to house hunting. If there’s an error, ask the credit bureau to kindly fix it. Your interest rate depends on it.

10. Not getting a home inspection

All homes need inspections, even brand-new ones. But some homebuyers skip this step because they get emotionally attached to the home and want it no matter what. If the home does have issues, you’ll want the seller to fix them or to lower the price.

If you’re first-time homebuyers, you might be a bit shy about asking the seller to fix that stuck window or leaky faucet. But the reality is that the buyers who ask for more often get more. So don’t be afraid to speak up and get outstanding issues fixed before you sign those settlement papers.

YOUR TURN

Did you make any rookie mistakes and have tips to share? Sound of on our Facebook Page, or on our Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes People Make When Hiring a Mover

Moving is stressful. And when you’re busy finding a new place to live, selling your current home, and then packing up your entire life, selecting the crew who will move your stuff is likely last on your to-do list. That’s ironic, because you’ll be entrusting them with all your life’s possessions.

Even if you manage to hook up with The Most Amazing Moving Company Ever, we can’t promise bad stuff won’t happen. But you can prevent some unnecessary duress if you have the right team in place. The process starts by schooling yourself in what not to do.

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Here are five of the top mistakes people make when hiring a mover…

1. Waiting too long

So you’ve wait until the weekend before your move to make those calls to moving companies. Well, if you procrastinated in your search, you won’t leave any time to do adequate research and get estimates. That means you might not get the best rate (spoiler: Moving’s expensive!) and worse – you could get scammed.

Plus, delaying selecting a mover can reduce your options – and unfortunately, unlicensed and unethical operators rely on this aspect of human nature to take advantage of consumers.

Take the time to get three in-home written estimates and, time permitting, visit the moving company in advance of making your final decision.

2. Being a total cheapskate

No, you don’t want to pay more than you have to for a move. But beware of being too budget-conscious.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is going with the cheapest estimate. The cheapest bid typically means that the company uses casual, inexperienced laborers who don’t care a whole lot about your belongings.

Conversely, higher-end estimates almost always assure trained, professional, and experienced crews who will show up, smiles on their faces, and move your stuff safely and efficiently.

In other words: If there is a hiccup, they will figure it out. They’re not leaving your stuff on the front lawn.

Disreputable movers often lure customers with lowball prices and then hit them with unreasonable charges or, in extreme cases, even hold their belongings for ransom.

This actually happened to an educated member of the Patrick Parker Realty team after being displaced by Hurricane Sandy. There weren’t many choices due to so many displacements, but this member of our team did all her research. However, when the movers showed up that day, they turned out to be an outsourced crew by the original moving company she had hired.

So be diligent from the time they arrive at your door. Look for consistencies and inconsistencies, such as license numbers that should appear on the moving truck. Make sure everything that was discussed beforehand, is what is being delivered the day of your move and all paperwork being presented to you before the work begins aligns with all conversation and paperwork you’ve kept during the research process.

3. Not asking the right questions beforehand

A professional mover will be happy to answer any questions you may have, so if they seem uncertain or won’t give you straight answers, that’s probably a mover to avoid. Ask them about the moving process so you understand what they will be doing and when they will be doing it, from start to finish.

Here are some questions we recommend asking before selecting a moving company:

•  Are you licensed and insured?
•  Are you a certified professional mover who meets the standards of the American Moving & Storage Association?
•  Are you a member of your state’s moving association?
•  What price are you willing to put in writing as a “not to exceed” threshold price?
•  What are the dates you can commit to for pickup and delivery for my move?
•  Can you give me some references of people you have recently moved?
•  How are your crews selected?
•  Have you ever done business under another name?
•  What actions do you take to ensure that the people who come into my home are skilled, professional, and safe?

4. Falling for fakes

The internet is awesome. right? Whether you’re looking for comprehensive info on the best mortgage rates, or you simply must know immediately the name of that song that goes; “da-da-da-da-dah-ooh-ooh-yeah”, the web is there for you.

And it’s there for you to find your next mover, too. But we shouldn’t have to tell you that online info can lead you astray. Double check your info by getting moving company referrals from an industry trade association or use a site that verifies and vets moving companies.

Sure, there are sites like Yelp you can rely on, but don’t do yourself a favor thinking that if you use a pay-for site like Angie’s List that the search results are any more credible. Our aforementioned team member, that’s where she first found her mover before she performed her interview and research. When she contacted Angie’s List to make them aware of what happened, she was told that their listings are paid listings and they do not vet the businesses on their site. That is disturbing given what Angie’s List and other site’s like these imply in their ads.

Another word of caution: Beware of blindly trusting that the company you’re hiring is who it says it is… another scheme; some disreputable movers try to lure customers in by using names that are similar to reputable companies. Check the reputable company’s website to make sure the local agent is affiliated with the brand name it is claiming.

In addition, disreputable movers are often changing their name to escape consumer groups and bad reviews. Be cognizant of where your Mover is located on Google Maps and if there was ever another moving company located at that address, it a red flag. Sometimes you’ll find, as our team member did, there’s not even an office located at that address.

According to the American Moving & Storage Association, the lack of a physical, local address is a telltale sign of a fake mover. Here are other red flags:

•  No federal motor carrier number, which shows the mover is registered with the federal government for a state-to-state move
•  Movers who refuses to visit your home to provide a written estimate for an interstate move… Responsible moving companies will provide in-home estimates and explain why the pricing is the way it is
•  Movers who seem uncertain or unresponsive, especially when asked about their claims process if something gets damaged or lost

Ultimately, add this to one of the many reasons you should never buy or sell without a Real Estate Agent. Your Agent has a huge network of trusted professionals that handle every aspect of the buying/selling/moving process. Do not hesitate to ask your Agent for a Moving Company referral.

RELATED: Why You Should Never Buy or Sell Without A Real Estate Agent

5. Agreeing to pay a deposit or pay in cash

If you’re moving across town, this one’s a huge red flag.

Typically, you should not be required to pay a deposit to have your items moved, most companies request payment at the time of delivery.

If you’re moving out of state, your moving company could request a deposit. But make sure it’s reasonable.

A reasonable down payment should be in the hundreds of dollars toward your state-to-state move, rarely exceeding 20%.

Similarly, avoid movers that demand cash instead of allowing payment by credit card.

YOUR TURN

We hope you don’t, but do you have moving horror stories to share? What tips would you add to our list? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page. You can also visit our Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

 

Don’t Get Snowed Under by These 6 Winter Open House Blunders

Summer open houses are easy-breezy. The sun is shining, the air is warm, potential buyers are out in force, and your curb appeal is on point thanks to blooming flowers and a lush green lawn.

Winter is a very different beast when it comes to open houses. Buyers huddle inside, wary of the cold and snow. Foot traffic can slow to a trickle during the holidays, when folks spend time with family and friends and suspend their hunt for a home.

And if you create additional hurdles for potential buyers before you even open your door, it could be a long slog through the snowy months. Avoid these seven gaffes when throwing a winter open house, and make buyers feel the warm fuzzies for your home.

1. Not clearing a path, for goodness’ sake

No one’s going to be happy at your open house if you make them trek through a month’s worth of built-up snow to get there—or worse, if they slip and fall on an icy surface. Of all the open house mortal sins, causing a potential buyer to fracture a hip is definitely up there.

And clearing a path isn’t just about shoveling: Try laying down rock salt to keep any melted snow from refreezing.

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And make sure to look beyond your sidewalk. Snow buildup on your street might make your home less visible, or it could mean potential buyers will have to park farther away—and have ample time to snap out of the buying spirit. Shovel out plenty of parking spaces for visitors.

2. Skipping the ‘landing zone’

In most places, winter means snow and rain. And snow and rain mean scarves, jackets, gloves, and muddy shoes. Try as they might to be polite, potential buyers are tracking in all kinds of muck—all over your professionally cleaned or staged home.

Create a landing zone by your entrance to keep the mess at bay. Add extra hooks and a coat rack so no one is forced to tote around a heavy parka. Put up a placard kindly requesting guests to remove their footwear, and provide baskets or cubbies to stow the items. Don’t forget an umbrella stand.

Want to be really nice? Purchase inexpensive slippers so guests won’t have to shuffle about in their socks. They’ll love it.

3. Overheating the place

Piles of snow cover your yard, icicles dangle from your trees, and you can’t step outside without six layers of clothing. Winter isn’t coming—it’s here. But a serious chill doesn’t mean you need to turn your home’s interior into a sauna.

Find a reasonable temperature for your thermostat – and that does not mean 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember your potential visitors will be entering your house from a much colder outdoor temperature. Buried in hats, coats, and boots, they will find the 80-degree temperature downright steamy. Stick to 68 degrees to keep everyone comfy.

4. Phoning it in

Don’t limit yourself to the standard plate of supermarket cookies and bottled water. A winter open house requires more effort — and will be appreciated by those who had to abandon their warm spot on the couch to come see your home.

Hiring a caterer or investing in warm chaffing dishes to provide seasonal treats, snacks, and hot chocolate will make your guests feel right at home. And that’s exactly what you want.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Buyers and Selling Your Home

And make sure to flaunt that fireplace to give things an extra cozy feel. After all, you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) light that sucker for a summer open house, so you might as well take advantage of the season.

5. Lacking light

Darkness and dreariness rule during winter, but you want visitors to find your open house bright and cheerful.

Lighting can be one of the most important factors in selling a home. Second only to location, lighting is the one thing that every buyer cites as a necessity.

Sure, you’ve survived with your lights as is for long enough, but are they enough to entice your buyer? Give each room a long, hard look. If it lacks can lighting or any kind of built-in light fixture, double up on lamps to make the room pop.

Adding more bulbs isn’t the only way to brighten a room. Try removing drapes, scrubbing the windows, increasing your wattage, and trimming outside bushes to let the sun shine in.

6. Forgetting to keep an eye on the weather

You can host an open house in a flurry, but if those flakes become a full-strength blizzard, be prepared to reschedule. Know the forecast. A little flexibility can mean the difference between a low turnout and a house full of happy potential buyers.

YOUR TURN

Ever get snowed in by these Open House Blunders? Or were you able to bring buyers in from the cold? Sound of on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

5 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make When Buying in the Winter

Winter is supposed to be a buyer’s market, right? Fewer buyers = way less competition. After all, you have no problem trekking through the snow to find the perfect home. Let the others wait until spring. Right?

But winter home-buying assumptions can cost you. Just because the market moves slower doesn’t mean there aren’t pitfalls lying beneath the powder. Keep in mind these five common mistakes—otherwise you might just lose out on your dream space. And that would lead to a very long winter indeed.

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1. Failing to use your imagination

Yes, the property looks a bit … drab. But don’t all homes seem sad in winter, especially if they’re not charmingly covered in snow? Don’t dismiss a property because of bare tree limbs and dead grass. Imagine what the home could be in all its springtime glory.

Pretend the trees are blooming and the rose bushes are covered in color. That’s the mental picture you should use to make your decision.

2. Ignoring possible closing date delays

Don’t assume everything will go as planned. Things will go wrong and this is normal. Does the plumbing need updating? Is the wiring a little funky? These delay-causing problems are always a headache, but in winter they can create a full-on migraine. This goes double for custom or new-build homes.

While many trades will work through the winter, there are certain processes that cannot be completed during heavy snowfall or dramatically low temperatures. This can be frustrating and particularly problematic if the home buyers’ closing date on their current home is coming up quickly.

So, build in some buffer time for your new home’s closing – or just a little snow might crash your move-in day hopes.

3. Lacking flexibility

House hunting always requires a certain level of spontaneity – you have to be ready to pounce as soon as you hear a place fitting all your criteria is on the market. But when the weather’s against you, make sure to loosen your schedule even more.

4. Assuming you’ll automatically score a sweet deal

In the winter (generally speaking), home prices are lower. Sellers are motivated. The competition’s bundled up inside, warming their hands by the fire. Bidding wars are a vestige of the summer months. Now’s a great time to buy, right?

Unfortunately, the math doesn’t necessarily work in your favor.

A lot of buyers assume they can get a better deal in winter because [fewer] people are competing but that’s not always the case. Inventory is lower, so the number of people who are competing is similar.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your Dream Home

No, prices may not rocket to the sky-high levels seen when the weather is warm. But if you expect to score a bargain-basement home deal, you might be disappointed.

5. Lowballing your offer

If you don’t get a discount on a home during the winter months, maybe you think you can create your own discount with a lowball offer. Sellers listing their homes in the winter must be desperate to sell, the theory goes.

Think again.

Not only can a lowball offer be off-putting to the seller, but sometimes they can be so offended, they will be closed to a counteroffer. This is where working with your Agent to craft a competitive is critical. Nothing is worse than losing the home you love to another buyer because you prioritized the deal over finding a place that perfectly fits your family.

Related: About The Negotiation Process

YOUR TURN

Does house hunting in the winter leave you cold? Or can you skate past these mistakes and land the cozy home of your dreams? Sound of on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter feed. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

Trust Us: You Need an Open House Safe Word

safe-wordIt could be anything from “cornucopia” to “tarpaulin” — just make sure it’s memorable (and that your real estate agent is in on the plan).

Open houses are totally fun. You get to walk around in someone else’s place and pretend it’s your own. You’re not thinking about mortgage payments or roof repairs. You’re there in the moment — dreaming of the possibilities and just loving the current owner’s choice of decor.

However, it’s not always all floating bookshelves and Eames rockers. What do you do if you show up and the house is a hellscape of living nightmares? As much as you’d like to, you can’t just say, “Forget this noise,” hop in your muscle car, and spin doughnuts in the yard on the way out of there.

No, you need something subtle and elegant: a safe word.

Better safe word than sorry

A safe word is a single word (or phrase) that you and your agent agree to drop when you see a deal breaker and need to hit the eject button. The word can’t be “bedroom,” “fireplace,” “pied-à-terre,” or anything you might normally say when walking through an open house. Instead, think unusual or even exotic, like “cornucopia” or “tarpaulin.”

Here’s how it works: When you see something you don’t like, just toss your safe word into casual conversation and your agent will know it’s time to get out. It doesn’t matter if what you don’t like is decor, layout, smells, or even vibes. Your reason is your own.

The important part is that your agent will hear you and then start the fancy footwork needed to make a quick escape. Once you’re safely in your car making your getaway, you can talk over the whys and wherefores.

Make it memorable — and unmistakable

“Say, is that a tarpaulin I see tucked under the deck?” or “This living room layout really presents a cornucopia of options.” These are unique and unmistakable ways to make your safe-word plan of action beforehand, your agent will hear the word and execute the escape.

That short statement can get you out of all kinds of undesirable house dismays and you’ll be glad to have it in your arsenal. The desire to put your time to good use is pretty universal, but never is it more important than in the pressure-packed, time-sensitive world of house hunting.

Ultimately, the seller doesn’t want you wasting time in their house any more than you want to be wasting time in a house you’re definitely not going to buy. A safe word is an easy way to maximize your limited house-hunting time — without hurting a single feeling.

So grab a dictionary, a thesaurus, or maybe the random article button on Wikipedia and start scouring. You’re going to want a good one.

YOUR TURN

What creative safe words can you come up with? Use it in a sentence.  Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

5 Neighborhood Features That Boost Resale Value

Woman-Buying-Flowers-11-11When you’re in the market to buy a home certain factors are on the top of your list — be they large walk-in closets, a gourmet kitchen, or a private backyard. But beyond the details of the house itself, your potential new abode’s neighborhood will most likely be high on your list (location, location, location!).

Maybe it’s the community pool, the nearby biking trails, or walkability to the elementary school and grocery store. Or maybe it’s the overall curb appeal of the neighborhood… Who wouldn’t like a tree-lined street or a neighborhood bursting with inviting, colorful flowers and shrubs?

Here’s a list of the neighborhood features that not only satisfy your home-buying checklist but also boost your resale and property value in the future:

1. Walkability
Yes, it seems as if we drive or take public transportation everywhere these days. But the truth is, there’s something about being able to walk out your front door and head down the street to the grocery store or local coffee shop that not only appeals to potential buyers but also boosts your resale value significantly. Look for “close to all” in listing details… and scope out the neighborhood to see exactly what that means.

2. Amenities
Homeowners love neighborhood amenities. Typically, new-home communities offer pools, fitness facilities, parks and play areas. Amenities such as tennis courts, walking and biking trails, and dog parks do incredible things to boost a home’s resale value — especially for families looking to buy.

RELATED: How to Choose the Perfect Neighborhood for Your Family

3. Historic charm
The historic character of a neighborhood tends to help resale value, as it is a feature that is difficult to replicate. Many times, historically designated districts will aim to maintain a certain level of uniformity and have community commissions to help preserve the neighborhood aesthetic, which in turn will help preserve values.

RELATED: From the Victorian-era Ocean Grove to the small-town classic feel of Allenhurst, Patrick Parker Realty loves the many markets we serve that boast such charm

4. Unique homes
Not everyone wants to choose from the four models a builder offers — and only those four models — which is why neighborhoods that offer you the choice of semicustom or custom homes sometimes have a better resale value than ones that don’t.

Areas with custom and semicustom homes, compared to cookie-cutter production homes, tend to show larger increases in value over time. More astute buyers prefer unique homes with character that add to the charm of the neighborhood and are more likely to own for longer periods of time, creating less turnover in the neighborhood and higher value.

5. Schools
It almost goes without saying that if a neighborhood is located in a great school district, it immediately boosts a home’s resale value. If a home is in a quality school district, those communities tend to not only retain their value, but appreciate as well. There will always be parents who want their children attending great schools.

YOUR TURN

What neighborhood feature attracted you to your home?  Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Questions a Buyer May Ask at an Open House

open-house-jersey-shore-real-estateAn open house is one of the greatest opportunities home buyers have to look around, visualize themselves living in the house and, most importantly, ask questions about the property.

RELATED: 8 Steps to The Home Buying Process

While buyers will ask about the actual layout and physical characteristics of a home, as the home seller, be aware of several other common questions they may ask your real estate agent.

How Many Bids Have You Received?
When a buyer shows up to a home staging, they will likely have a good idea of your asking price. However, they may ask straightforward questions to help them gauge the true price at which you will really sell your home. For example, you may need to be prepared to disclose the number of bids you have received.

Why Are You Moving?
A buyer may ask your real estate agent why you are selling a home. Your agent is not required to share this information, but if they do, it can give a potential buyer a feel for where you stand. If you need to sell the property in a hurry, this could change how much a buyer offers to pay or how quickly he or she decides to make an offer, so it may be wise to offer this information.

Are There Additional Homeownership Costs or Special Rules?
Be prepared to explain any additional costs associated with purchasing the home you are selling, including fees or dues that come with certain properties. For example, if your home is located in a planned community, list the amount the buyer would need to pay for the association dues, additional taxes and other fees. Informing buyers of any neighborhood costs may play a role in their final decision to purchase the home or pass on the offer.

RELATED: Laws About Seller Disclosure

Make sure to also provide information about special regulations if the home you are selling is in a property like a condominium complex. Your real estate agent can normally provide details about communities that have special rules regarding pets or parking to any potential buyers.

Your Turn

Are you a buyer visiting open houses… what has your experience been like? Have you just purchased and have advice to future buyers? Sound off in Comments, on Facebook or Twitter and don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this one delivered straight to your inbox. And if you have any questions about getting started with the home buying process, a Patrick Parker Realty Agent is here to help! Contact Us today!

Buyer Beware: 5 Things Sellers Try to Hide

home-Buyer-bewareFound your dream house, made the right offer, and you’re ready to make a down payment? Not so fast. That fantasy home can turn out to be a real nightmare after you sign on the dotted line if the seller failed to disclose that cracked foundation or pest infestation.

Here are five things sellers commonly try to hide during the sales process, and the questions you can ask to suss out the truth.

1. Leaks

Leaky faucets, radiators, ceilings, roofs — you name it, real estate agents, brokers, and sellers might try to temporarily plug that drip to attract offers.

But sometimes honesty is a better policy and shows you that the property is well maintained. New York City – based real estate agent Jennifer Breu once showed a home in which the ceiling was falling down; she still got a ton of offers on it and made the sale by being honest that the repairs would be made soon.

“Leaks are very common, but they can be fixed very easily before the close,” says Breu, a licensed salesperson with Charles Rutenberg Realty who also represents buyers. “It doesn’t pay to mask something that isn’t a huge issue and can be fixed. Transparency increases value.”

2. Pests

The entire house looks wonderful, but believe it or not, termites could be eating away inside the walls. Disclosure laws about pests vary from state to state. Texas, Michigan, and North Carolina require that sellers tell buyers about potential infestations during the sales process.

3. “Emotional defects”

Depending on the state, sellers don’t necessarily have to disclose whether a property is haunted or if “emotional defects” such as a death or a murder occurred there. Last summer, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of the team that sold buyer Janet Milliken a house and did not tell her it was the site of a murder-suicide in 2006.

4. Issues with the roof or foundation

Great Neck, New York based Ian Aronovich and his wife fell in love with a house last year. Unfortunately, they spotted major cracks in the foundation that would’ve cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

“We smelled some mold in the basement, and asked the owner if we could cut a small section of Sheetrock to check for the source of moisture,” Aronovich says. “As we peeled away the Sheetrock, we noticed the crack. In the end, we did not buy that house.”

5. Age of systems

Atlanta Realtor Maura Neill sees a lot of sellers try to hide the ages of water heaters and HVAC systems with two simple words: “Don’t know.”

But a home inspector could find out that information very quickly. Neill says she and her buyers tend to get a good sense of the selling side from the property disclosure.

RELATED: Benefits of Advance Home Inspections

“When it states the bare minimum, we know we are either dealing with a disconnected or uninvolved seller who doesn’t really know their home or with a seller who knows there are issues and doesn’t want to disclose them.”

Questions you should ask:

  • Don’t just limit your questions to the real estate agents — ask your potential new neighbors about the home as well, says Rhonda Duffy, a top real estate agent in Atlanta. “Buyers should first ask three sets of neighbors key questions, including: ‘Why are the sellers moving?’, ‘Have you seen any repair trucks there lately?’, and ‘Are there any construction problems in the neighborhood?’”
  • Ask to see references and get a C.L.U.E. Report — that stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, a claims information report — from your homeowner’s insurance agent.
  • If a buyer wants to make a quick offer but still has questions, Maura Neill suggests that she can actually write that as a condition of her initial offer that those inquiries be answered at a later date but before the close. “Being diligent in getting questions answered is an important piece of the puzzle for buyers, who should take every opportunity to get to know as much about the house they are buying from the person who knows it best: the seller.”

RELATED: 10 Questions to Ask During An Open House

Your Turn

What is your biggest buying concern? Tell us in Comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or Subscribe to the Patrick Parker Realty monthly eNewsletter for more tips, guides and articles like this.

How to Choose A Buyer’s Agent

how-to-buy-a-home-jerseyAlthough Americans are smitten with the DIY craze, buying real estate is not a do-it-yourself project. Sure, it’s fine to surf the Internet to search for your dream home, but when it comes time to actually view the homes, make sure you are fully represented by your own real estate agent.

Many new homebuyers don’t understand that although it may be perfectly legal in your state for the seller’s agent to also represent the buyer, it isn’t wise. This situation is known as “dual agency,” a type of transaction that at one time was outlawed in all 50 states, and here’s why: The seller’s real estate agent has a duty to his or her client to act in the client’s best interests.

Now, how can this happen in a dual agency situation when the seller’s interests and the buyer’s interests are the exact opposite? Although agents feel they can offer the same ethical treatment to both parties, it doesn’t always happen. To protect your interests during the purchase process, secure your own representation. It costs you, as the buyer, nothing. The seller pays the buyer’s agent’s commission out of the proceeds of the sale.

Do I Need a “Buyer’s” Agent?

If having an agent who deals only with buyers is important to you, choose one is local and has expertise in the communities you’re searching.

RELATED: 5 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Neighborhood

There are several situations in which you absolutely must choose an agent who is a bona fide specialist:

  • The purchase of a luxury home
  • The mobile home purchase
  • Buying a short sale
  • The purchase of ranch property

Aside from these situations, pursue the best agent for your needs. Read on to find out how to go about finding this needle in a haystack.

Get Referrals

Whether you need a real estate agent to list your home for sale or to assist you with buying a home, a referral is the best way to find one. Ask everyone you know, including family members, co-workers, neighbors, friends and local business people. The checkout lady at the grocery store may have just purchased a home and adores her agent. So don’t neglect to ask everyone you come into contact with and start compiling a list of names.

What if you’re relocating to an area and don’t have a network of contacts there? There are several other ways to find the perfect real estate agent for your needs:

Online: The larger real estate sites, such as RealEstate.com, offer the opportunity to search for real estate agents in your area. At RealEstate.com, scroll to the bottom of the home page and click on “Professionals.”

Relocation Representative: If you work for a large company and find yourself relocating as a result of this employment, consult the employee relocation representative for a list of agents to interview.

Chamber of Commerce: Call the Chamber of Commerce located in the area where you are moving. The folks there typically have a directory of members and will be happy to refer you to several agents in the area.

Ask the Right Questions

Most guides to choosing the right real estate agent will counsel you to find out if the agent is full-time or part-time and suggest that you go with the full-time agent. The thinking behind this suggestion is that the full-time agent will have more time for you.

Not so fast. Ask a follow-up question: How big is your staff? The superstar agent with a staff of 25 is the agent you will probably never speak with or see until closing, if then. That’s not to say this person isn’t a good agent, but to remind you that if you’re looking for personal, one-on-one interaction with the agent you hire, don’t hire the superstar with a huge staff. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for speed and efficiency, the agent with a large staff is typically better able to provide that.

Ask the agent how many other clients he or she is currently working with. The more clients the agent has, the thinner his or her attention is spread. If you find a house online that you absolutely love, time is of the essence in a fast-moving market. Will the agent have time to accommodate your last-minute showing needs?

If it’s important to you that the agent has a certain amount of experience, by all means ask how long he has been in the business. Keep in mind, however, that new agents typically work securely under the wing of their brokers, so you are actually getting the wisdom and benefit of a highly experienced real estate pro, although second-hand.

As important as it is to ask the right questions, listening to the agent is equally as important. What types of questions does the agent ask? One of the most important is whether or not you have loan pre-approval. The savvy real estate agent understands that until you have seen a lender, looking at available homes is a waste of time, both yours and hers. Reject any agent who doesn’t pose this question.

Should I Sign an Agreement?

Many agents who consider themselves buyer specialists will ask that you sign a broker’s agreement.

This document commits you to working exclusively with the agent for a pre-determined amount of time. Broker’s agreements typically state that the agent will be compensated in the event the buyer switches to another agent and ends up purchasing a home shown by the original agent.

If the agent insists that you sign an agreement, ask for a short-term commitment. This way, should you decide the relationship between the two of you isn’t working out; you’re only locked into working with her for a short time. Agents typically ask for a 90-day commitment but the terms are negotiable, so choose a time period that you are comfortable with.

You are also within your rights to ask for a guarantee. Request that a clause be inserted into the agreement stating that if either party decides the business relationship isn’t a good fit, they will be released from the agreement.

Your Turn

Getting your finances in order and securing funding for the purchase of your home should always be the first steps in your home buying process. Finding the right real estate agent, while second on the to-do list, is no less important.

How did you find the perfect Buyer’s Agent?  Would you do something differently the next time you were looking to buy? Leave your feedback in Comments, on Facebook, Twitter or Subscribe to the Patrick Parker Realty monthly eNewsletter for more tips, guides and articles like this!


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