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.

open-house-in-new-jersey

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.

What Is a Real Estate Agent’s Commission?

Ever wonder what exactly a Real Estate Agent does? Are they worth the commission? Ever wonder if you’re paying too much for commission? Even consider going it your own via FSBO or using one of these new apps that are long on promises and short on results?

You may have a great Agent and they don’t communicate with you all they’re doing. Or, you may also have a rock star agent and who’s doing so much it hasn’t even occurred to you all the fine details going into your home sale.

Is a Real Estate Agent Worth the Commission

Here are a few facts that might help you sleep at night and have some peace about residential real estate commissions:

1. Real estate agents are sole proprietors

That means that even if they are a part of an agency, they are small business owners and cover all their own costs and carry all the risk. Do you own or have you ever owned your own small business? Then you know you wear ALL the hats and all the responsibility falls to you. Not to mention, your rather high tax rate!

They invest in you and your home. If they take on a listing, that means they’ve calculated the cost of marketing, photos, and time – lots and lots of time. High quality marketing – online and offline – and maybe even virtual tours. All that cost money. There’s considerable overhead if you are active in the field.

They have no salary and no real predictability in income. One deal may have to last them many months or maybe even longer.

2. The sale of your home may be covering for the loss of another

Deals fall through ALL. THE. TIME. Your particular sale may go pretty smoothly – great! I guarantee you it has ended up covering for a major loss on another deal. It’s the nature of business.

3. The real work begins once a contract is accepted

It may feel like all an agent does is show up sometimes for an open house here and there and put a sign in the yard. Or every time they come over, they’re telling you things you need to spend money on. But the real work is done behind the scenes and is intensified once an offer is accepted. Getting to the closing table is more and more challenging.

CASE STUDY

 

Pat Vredevoogd-Combs, a former president of the National Association of REALTORS, testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Housing to stark federal complaints about residential real estate industry pricing.

She submitted a list of 184 things that Listing Agents do in every real estate transaction as a part of her testimony to the committee. She stated, “By all accounts the general public is not aware of all the services that agents provide to sellers and buyers during the course of the transaction, probably because most of the important services are performed behind the scenes.”

Here is the list of (just) 184 things residential real estate agents do:

Pre-Listing Activities

1. Make appointment with seller for listing presentation.

2. Send a written or e-mail confirmation of appointment and call to confirm.

3. Review appointment questions.

4. Research all comparable currently listed properties.

5. Research sales activity for past 18 months from MLS and public databases.

6. Research “average days on market” for properties similar in type, price and location.

7. Download and review property tax roll information.

8. Prepare “comparable market analysis” (CMA) to establish market value.

9. Obtain copy of subdivision plat/complex layout.

10. Research property’s ownership and deed type.

11. Research property’s public record information for lot size and dimensions.

12. Verify legal description.

13. Research property’s land use coding and deed restrictions.

14. Research property’s current use and zoning.

15. Verify legal names of owner(s) in county’s public property records.

16. Prepare listing presentation package with above materials.

17. Perform exterior “curb appeal assessment” of subject property.

18. Compile and assemble formal file on property.

19. Confirm current public schools and explain their impact on market value.

20. Review listing appointment checklist to ensure completion of all tasks.

Listing Appointment Presentation

21. Give seller an overview of current market conditions and projections.

22. Review agent and company credentials and accomplishments.

23. Present company’s profile and position or “niche” in the marketplace.

24. Present CMA results, including comparables, solds, current listings and expireds.

RELATED: Why You Need An Agent To Sell Your Home

25. Offer professional pricing strategy based and interpretation of current market conditions.

26. Discuss goals to market effectively.

27. Explain market power and benefits of multiple listing service.

28. Explain market power of Web marketing, IDX and MLS.

29. Explain the work the broker and agent do “behind the scenes” and agent’s availability on weekends.

30. Explain agent’s role in screening qualified buyers to protect against curiosity seekers.

31. Present and discuss strategic master marketing plan.

32. Explain different agency relationships and determine seller’s preference.

33. Review all clauses in listing contract and obtain seller’s signature.

After Listing Agreement is Signed

34. Review current title information.

35. Measure overall and heated square footage.

36. Measure interior room sizes.

37. Confirm lot size via owner’s copy of certified survey, if available.

38. Note any and all unrecorded property lines, agreements, easements.

39. Obtain house plans, if applicable and available.

40. Review house plans, make copy.

41. Order plat map for retention in property’s listing file.

42. Prepare showing instructions for buyers’ agents and agree on showing time with seller.

43. Obtain current mortgage loan(s) information: companies and account numbers

44. Verify current loan information with lender(s).

45. Check assumability of loan(s) and any special requirements.

46. Discuss possible buyer financing alternatives and options with seller.

47. Review current appraisal if available.

48. Identify Home Owner Association manager is applicable.

49. Verify Home Owner Association fees with manager–mandatory or optional and current annual fee.

50. Order copy of Home Owner Association bylaws, if applicable.

51. Research electricity availability and supplier’s name and phone number.

52. Calculate average utility usage from last 12 months of bills.

53. Research and verify city sewer/septic tank system.

54. Calculate average water system fees or rates from last 12 months of bills.

55. Or confirm well status, depth and output from Well Report.

56. Research/verify natural gas availability, supplier’s name and phone number.

57. Verify security system, term of service and whether owned or leased.

58. Verify if seller has transferable Termite Bond.

59. Ascertain need for lead-based paint disclosure.

60. Prepare detailed list of property amenities and assess market impact.

61. Prepare detailed list of property’s “Inclusions & Conveyances with Sale.”

62. Complete list of completed repairs and maintenance items.

63. Send “Vacancy Checklist” to seller if property is vacant.

64. Explain benefits of Home Owner Warranty to seller.

65. Assist sellers with completion and submission of Home Owner Warranty application.

66. When received, place Home Owner Warranty in property file for conveyance at time of sale.

67. Have extra key made for lockbox.

68. Verify if property has rental units involved. And if so:

69. Make copies of all leases for retention in listing file.

70. Verify all rents and deposits.

71. Inform tenants of listing and discuss how showings will be handled.

72. Arrange for yard sign installation.

73. Assist seller with completion of Seller’s Disclosure form.

74. Complete “new listing checklist.”

75. Review results of Curb Appeal Assessment with seller and suggest improvements for salability.

76. Review results of Interior Decor Assessment and suggest changes to shorten time on market.

77. Load listing time into transaction management software.

Entering Property in MLS Database

78. Prepare MLS Profile Sheet–agent is responsible for “quality control” and accuracy of listing data.

79. Enter property data from Profile Sheet into MLS listing database.

80. Proofread MLS database listing for accuracy, including property placement in mapping function.

81. Add property to company’s Active Listings.

82. Provide seller with signed copies of Listing Agreement and MLS Profile Data Form within 48 hours.

83. Take more photos for upload into MLS and use in flyers. Discuss efficacy of panoramic photography.

Marketing the Listing

84. Create print and Internet ads with seller’s input.

85. Coordinate showings with owners, tenants and other agents. Return all calls–weekends included.

86. Install electronic lockbox. Program with agreed-upon showing time windows.

87. Prepare mailing and contact list.

88. Generate mail-merge letters to contact list.

89. Order “Just Listed” labels and reports.

90. Prepare flyers and feedback forms.

91. Review comparable MLS listings regularly to ensure property remains competitive in price, terms, conditions and availability.

92. Prepare property marketing brochure for seller’s review.

93. Arrange for printing or copying of supply of marketing brochures or flyers.

94. Place marketing brochures in all company agent mailboxes.

95. Upload listing to company and agent Internet sites.

RELATED: Your Custom Home Marketing Plan

96. Mail “Just Listed” notice to all neighborhood residents.

97. Advise Network Referral Program of listing.

98. Provide marketing data to buyers from international relocation networks.

99. Provide marketing data to buyers coming from referral network.

100. Provide “Special Feature” cards for marketing, if applicable/

101. Submit ads to company’s participating Internet real estate sites.

102. Convey price changes promptly to all Internet groups.

103. Reprint/supply brochures promptly as needed.

104. Review and update loan information in MLS as required.

105. Send feedback e-mails/faxes to buyers’ agents after showings.

106. Review weekly Market Study.

107. Discuss feedback from showing agents with seller to determine if changes will accelerate the sale.

108. Place regular weekly update calls to seller to discuss marketing and pricing.

109. Promptly enter price changes in MLS listings database.

The Offer and the Contract

110. Receive and review all Offer to Purchase contracts submitted by buyers or buyers’ agents. 111. Evaluate offer(s) and prepare “net sheet” on each for owner to compare.

112. Counsel seller on offers. Explain merits and weakness of each component of each offer. 113. Contact buyers’ agents to review buyer’s qualifications and discuss offer.

114. Fax/deliver Seller’s Disclosure to buyer’s agent or buyer upon request and prior to offer if possible.

115. Confirm buyer is pre-qualified by calling loan officer.

116. Obtain pre-qualification letter on buyer from loan officer.

117. Negotiate all offers on seller’s behalf, setting time limit for loan approval and closing date.

118. Prepare and convey any counteroffers, acceptance or amendments to buyer’s agent.

119. Fax copies of contract and all addendums to closing attorney or title company.

120. When Offer-to-Purchase contract is accepted and signed by seller, deliver to buyer’s agent.

121. Record and promptly deposit buyer’s money into escrow account.

122. Disseminate “Under-Contract Showing Restrictions” as seller requests.

123. Deliver copies of fully signed Offer to Purchase contract to sellers.

124. Fax/deliver copies of Offer to Purchase contract to selling agent.

125. Fax copies of Offer to Purchase contract to lender.

126. Provide copies of signed Offer to Purchase contract for office file.

127. Advise seller in handling additional offers to purchase submitted between contract and closing.

128. Change MLS status to “Sale Pending.”

129. Update transaction management program to show “Sale Pending.”

130. Review buyer’s credit report results–Advise seller of worst and best case scenarios.

131. Provide credit report information to seller if property is to be seller financed.

132. Assist buyer with obtaining financing and follow up as necessary.

133. Coordinate with lender on discount points being locked in with dates.

134. Deliver unrecorded property information to buyer.

135. Order septic inspection, if applicable.

136. Receive and review septic system report and access any impact on sale.

137. Deliver copy of septic system inspection report to lender and buyer.

138. Deliver well flow test report copies to lender, buyer and listing file.

139. Verify termite inspection ordered.

140. Verify mold inspection ordered, if required.

Tracking the Loan Process

141. Confirm return of verifications of deposit and buyer’s employment.

142. Follow loan processing through to the underwriter.

143. Add lender and other vendors to transaction management program so agents, buyer and seller can track progress of sale.

144. Contact lender weekly to ensure processing is on track.

145. Relay final approval of buyer’s loan application to seller.

Home Inspection

146. Coordinate buyer’s professional home inspection with seller.

147. Review home inspector’s report.

148. Enter completion into transaction management tracking software program.

149. Explain seller’s responsibilities of loan limits and interpret any clauses in the contract.

150. Ensure seller’s compliance with home inspection clause requirements.

151. Assist seller with identifying and negotiating with trustworthy contractors for required repairs.

152. Negotiate payment and oversee completion of all required repairs on seller’s behalf, if needed.

The Appraisal

153. Schedule appraisal.

154. Provide comparable sales used in market pricing to appraiser.

155. Follow up on appraisal.

156. Enter completion into transaction management program.

157. Assist seller in questioning appraisal report if it seems too low.

Closing Preparations and Duties

158. Make sure contract is signed by all parties.

159. Coordinate closing process with buyer’s agent and lender.

160. Update closing forms and files.

161. Ensure all parties have all forms and information needed to close the sale.

162. Select location for closing.

163. Confirm closing date and time and notify all parties.

164. Solve any title problems (boundary disputes, easements, etc.) or in obtaining death certificates.

165. Work with buyer’s agent in scheduling and conducting buyer’s final walkthrough prior to closing.

166. Research all tax, HOA, utility and other applicable prorations.

167. Request final closing figures from closing agent (attorney or title company).

168. Receive and carefully review closing figures to ensure accuracy.

169. Forward verified closing figures to buyer’s agent.

170. Request copy of closing documents from closing agent.

171. Confirm the buyer and buyer’s agent received title insurance commitment.

172. Provide “Home Owners Warranty” for availability at closing.

173. Review all closing documents carefully for errors.

174. Forward closing documents to absentee seller as requested.

175. Review documents with closing agent (attorney).

176. Provide earnest money deposit from escrow account to closing agent.

177. Coordinate closing with seller’s next purchase, resolving timing issues.

178. Have a “no surprises” closing so that seller receives a net proceeds check at closing.

179. Refer sellers to one of the best agents at their destination, if applicable.

180. Change MLS status to Sold. Enter sale date, price, selling broker and agent’s ID numbers, etc.

181. Close out listing in transaction management program.

Follow Up After Closing

182. Answer questions about filing claims with Home Owner Warranty company, if requested.

183. Attempt to clarify and resolve any repair conflicts if buyer is dissatisfied.

184. Respond to any follow-up calls and provide any additional information required from office files.

YOUR TURN

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8 Stellar Tips for First Time Homebuyers

Purchasing a home can be quite a challenging task, especially for first-time homebuyers. For most people, it represents one of the most significant monetary investments they will make in their lifetime and they want to get it right.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Homebuyers Guide

Unfortunately, the process can be quite complex and riddled with surprise expenses and unfamiliar technical terms.

RELATED: 7 Rooking Mistakes Common to First Time Homebuyers

Here are 8 stellar tips for first-time homebuyers to make the entire experience less stressful and help you save some money along the way:

1. Start saving for your down payment sooner than later

In most cases, the down payment amount is 20% of the listed value of the house, but many lenders also permit much less than that now. Some first-home buyer programs may permit as little as 3% down payments.

But when you put down a lower amount at this stage, it also means you will be paying significantly higher interest rates and heftier mortgage installations.

Use an online down payment calculator, to know what amount you would comfortably be able to pay.

2. Check your credit rating

Your credit rating is one of the first things a lender will check when you apply for a mortgage loan and the approval of your loan hinges on this aspect.

In fact, this will also help determine what the loan terms and interest rate will be. This is why it’s best to check your credit score well before you start the buying process.

RELATED: How Much Will Paying Off Credit Cards Improve My Score?

If you have a low credit score, try to clear off existing debts etc. improve your credit rating and then apply for a mortgage loan.

3. Look for a home within a comfortable price range

When you start looking for your first home, it isn’t difficult to go overboard and buy something you can’t really afford.

This is why you need to determine what falls within a comfortable price range and don’t be tempted to look at anything outside that limit.

4. Get a pre-approval letter

In continuation of the previous point, it’s best to get prequalified; this gives you an estimate of the amount a lender may be willing to lend you based on your credit history, income, and debts. But once you start moving through the home buying process, it’s a good idea to get a preapproval.

In this, the lender minutely examines your finances and then confirms in writing the amount they are willing to lend you and on what terms.

Having this pre approval letter in hand gives you the upper hand over home buyers that haven’t taken this step; it indicates to the seller that you are serious about buying the property

5. Conduct some research on down payment options

Most first-time homebuyers struggle to come up with sufficient money for the down payment. But there are a number of good first-time home buyer programs out there such as the federal mortgage programs that allow loans that have only 3% down.

In addition, there are Veterans Affairs loans and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans that you can apply for if you are eligible. You also have the option to approach close family members to loan you some money for making the down payment.

6. Factor in the closing costs

Most homeowners omit this aspect of the transaction. Apart from saving for the down payment, you would also have to budget for the amount required to close the mortgage and this can be significantly high.

These costs can range from between 2% and 5% of the total loan amount. The expenses you have to keep in view include title searches, building and pest inspections and homeowner’s insurance.

7. Set aside some money for after you move-in

Once you have sufficient money for the down payment and have factored in the closing costs, you need to have a comfortable cushion to pay for things that would need to get done once you move into the house.

This includes things like appliances, updated fixtures, furniture and furnishings as well as any other minor upgrades and additions you want to make once you start living in that house.

8. Consider the type of property to buy

If you want a more indoor space or a larger lot, you may assume you’ll purchase a single-family home. But if you feel that sacrificing space for extra amenities and lower maintenance is something that works for you; and you don’t mind paying a regular homeowners’ association fee, a townhome or a condo may be a better fit.

RELATED: How Big A Home Do You Really Need? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

In addition to all these things, look for a safe neighborhood that has a positive vibe, good schools, shopping centers and an efficient transportation system, hospitals, supermarkets, and pharmacies etc.

Make it a point to drive through the neighborhood at different times on different days to check out the activity, noise and traffic levels.

YOUR TURN

Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or Instagram feeds or on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.   

Real Estate Negotiation: 11 Items You Can Negotiate In Your Contract

So, you’ve offered on a piece of real estate. What happens next, however, is somewhat out of your control. Enter: Real Estate Negotiations.

You wait for a response. A seller could respond to your offer in three different ways:

1.  Accept it
2.  Reject (or ignore!) it
3.  Make a counteroffer

If they accept it, great! If they reject it, that’s OK; there is always another deal, or you could re-offer again. However, when a seller submits a counteroffer, that’s when the real fun begins.

A counteroffer (often just called a “counter”) is a response to another, earlier offer. In other words, if you offered $100,000 on a property, and the seller says, “No, I want $110,000,” that response from the seller is the counteroffer.

A counteroffer can be a good thing. It means the seller wants to sell to you and is willing to find common ground where both parties can get what they want. The negotiation process is where the two sides try to make that happen. Remember, both parties want the exact same thing: a sale.

Real Estate Negotiation

11 Items You Can Negotiate in a Real Estate Deal

Many people see the word “negotiation” and envision one party winning and the other losing. However, in a good negotiation, both parties walk away feeling like they achieved pretty much, if not exactly, what they wanted. When there is no negotiation, that’s when one of the parties tends to feel they got shafted! So remember: a little back-and-forth is a good thing.

RELATED: Is the Offer You Made on that Home Being Seen?

Keep in mind, this is not about negotiating just on the price. In fact, there are multiple parts of the contract that can be negotiated. For example, you could negotiate for any or all of the following:

1. Price How much are you actually going to pay for the property?

2. Closing Date When will you close? Next week? Next month?

3. Closing Location Where is the closing going to take place? Your title company? Theirs? An attorney’s office?

4. Contingencies What contingencies could be removed from the P&S agreement?

5. Financing Will the seller agree to carry a second mortgage on the property?

6. Closing Costs Who will pay for what during the closing process?

7. Home Warranty A home warranty is sometimes included in the sale of a home and covers certain repair items after the sale happens. This can help smooth any concerns on the part of the buyer. Will your deal include one? If so, who will pay for it?

8. Repairs What do you need the seller to fix before you purchase the property? Will you hold them to it? Will you buy the property “as is”?

9. Credits What about getting credits at closing toward certain repairs that are needed? If a new roof is needed, and the seller doesn’t want to put one on before closing, could you negotiate the cost of a new roof given to you at closing?

10. Possession Date When will you actually take control of the property? While it’s most common to transfer possession immediately after the title has been transferred, this is negotiable. Maybe the seller needs a few more weeks. Maybe you want to get in early. It’s all negotiable.

11. Items Left at The Property What is the seller required to leave at the property? Appliances? Tools? Furniture? This is all negotiable.

Again, these are all elements you can negotiate, either offering or asking for a concession. Perhaps the seller is firm on the price, but you can get more repairs done on the property before closing. Or perhaps they don’t want to do anything with the condition or the price, but the seller is willing to carry a contract on the property (seller financing) for a short period while you fix it up. The possibilities are nearly endless as to what your negotiation can produce, so look at negotiation as a huge opportunity for you to creatively achieve your goals.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Guide to Home Buying

You’re likely working with an Agent (or at least you should be), so you may never sit down across from the seller to engage in some television-worthy negotiation. Instead, the negotiation will take place through a back-and-forth exchange of documents signed by you, given to your agent, sent to their agent, and finally given to the seller. The seller will then either accept, reject, or reply with a counteroffer. Your job, at that point, will be to either accept the counter, reject it, or reply with yet another counteroffer.

RELATED: About Real Estate Negotiations

If you are offering on a property outside the MLS, through a private seller, your negotiations will likely be much more direct. In fact, you might negotiate every point on the hood of your car or sitting at the seller’s kitchen table. The back-and-forth will likely be much less formal, though we absolutely recommend putting as much of the negotiation on paper as possible, even if that just means pulling out a sheet of blank paper and writing down the terms.

YOUR TURN

What items have you negotiated in a real estate deal? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or Instagram feeds or on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox.   

How to Meet Your Neighbors: Icebreakers Even Introverts Can Pull Off

 

Want to know the secret of how to meet your neighbors? It’s this: Stop waiting for people to swing by with an apple pie. These days you have to be proactive and get out there yourself!

So how do you do that?

Granted, whether you’ve just moved in or lived someplace for eons, many find this simple act of reaching out amazingly hard. If that sounds like you, it’s OK: It’s all about knowing a few icebreakers. Here are a few that even the shyest of shy can try.

neighbors_housing_happiness

1. Hold A Garage Sale

This project doubles as decluttering—and works whether you’ve lived in a place for years or just moved in and didn’t get a chance to fully purge before you packed up for your new digs.

Not only will a garage sale provide you with a clean slate, it’s also a low-key way to meet your neighbors. Even if you don’t make a sale, you might be meeting your new best friend for the first time.

2. Ask To Borrow Something

Tools are one of the more popular items you may not have dug out of the box yet but find you’ll need right away. Don’t be too shy to ring the neighbors door and ask to borrow that hammer or screwdriver.

And remember, this is an equal opportunity endeavor: Sooner or later you’re bound to have something a neighbor might need, from a rake to cup of sugar. Go ahead and let your neighbors know to stop by “if you need anything”.

3. Do A Good Deed

Sometimes the best way to break the ice is to look for a way to pull someone out of it.

Three years ago, during an East Coast polar vortex, one of our client’s was leaving their home at 4 a.m. to attempt to get to work when he happened to see water gushing out of his neighbor’s garage. No one was home, so he called the fire department.

A sprinkler system had burst on the third floor and was destroying their home. Our client ultimately broke into the home but only to turn off the water and managed to save the home in the process.

Once his neighbors returned from their vacation they were very appreciative and are close friends to this day.

Not that you have to wait for disaster to strike. There are opportunities year-round; from plant-sitting during Spring Break and Summer Vacation to offering to clear leaves from gutters in the Fall or shovel snow in the winter. Who could refuse? And now you’ve got a friend whom, odds are, you can depend on in a pinch, too.

4. Find A Common Cause

Last summer a feral cat had a litter of kittens in the yard of one of our client’s homes. Concerned about their welfare—not to mention the number of cats already roaming her neighborhood—our client went door to door to bring the issue to her neighbors’ attention. Ten houses down, she found a neighbor eager to help the free-range cats. Today, cats in their community are well cared for—and these two neighbors are fast friends.

When you work together toward something that matters to you, you can’t help but bond.

Don’t have a passionate cause of your own? Then get involved in an HOA or local community group.

Volunteering is one of the best ways to get to know people because you move quickly past small talk.

5. Sometimes, Going Online Is A Good Idea

So maybe you want to be part of your community but work crazy hours. Or you’re always shuttling your kids from one after school activity to another and your schedule looks like that of an air traffic controller.

Maybe your nearest neighbor is a mile (or more) away. If meeting your neighbors “IRL” is a challenge, then maybe you do need to pick up that tablet or smartphone and join a local online group.

JOIN: The Bradley Beach Residents Group

JOIN: The Ocean Township Residents Group

JOIN: The Jersey Shore and Eastern Monmouth County Lifestyle Group

Have a goal though. Try and build relationships online that will lead to offline interactions.

You hear that? Your iPhone addiction actually can lead to meaningful connections outside your front door.

YOUR TURN

How did you break the ice with your neighbors? Do you have any tips to add to our list? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

How Big a Home Do You Truly Need? 5 Questions to Ask to Figure That Out

When it comes to homes, the popular credo is that bigger is better. More square feet = a larger slice of the American dream, right?

Not necessarily.

For one, bigger homes obviously cost more, and oversized McMansions can be harder to sell. As such, you’ll want a home that’s neither too big nor too small. But how do you strike that balance?

Here are five questions to ask yourself that will help you determine how much space you really need.

square-footage-real-estate

1. Is this my ‘forever’ home, or is ‘right now’ good enough?

While you can’t predict the future, it is possible to evaluate the likelihood you might be moving in coming years. If so, then maybe you don’t need to buy that perfect “forever home” where you’ll grow old; maybe a “right now” home is good enough.

There’s a common perception that you should be searching for your ‘forever home,’ and that pressure to find a place that has all the space you might ever need often leads buyers to purchase a home that might be too big. It’s OK to know that you’ll only live in a home for the next five or six years, and to buy a home that will serve your needs during that period. You can always re-evaluate and upgrade to a bigger space later.

2. What will my income look like later?

If you’re early in your career, odds are decent that your income will increase over the years. Or, if you’re reaching the end of your career, you may be looking at flattened or declining income. In either case, it’s never a good idea to get a mortgage at the max of what you can afford; it’s better to go small and have some wiggle room.

Nothing causes more stress than financial strain and a mortgage on a home that is a size too large is most likely to be your biggest burden, and a hard one to overcome. Happiness is often one size smaller than your dream home. That way, you can enjoy your home without dreading your monthly mortgage payment.

Also, remember more space means more time and money spent on upkeep and improvements, more rooms to fill with furniture, and higher utility bills to heat and cool the home.

3. What are my priorities?

Another question to consider is what you’ll use all that space for—and be honest: While you might dream of hosting epic dinner parties in that big formal dining room, will you really? Can you say with certainty that your in-laws will descend on you during the holidays and need a guest bedroom to crash in, or might they be just as comfortable in a nearby Airbnb?

Aside from justifying what you’ll use each space for, ask yourself what you’re giving up. If you dream of having a secret “travel fund” so you can see the world, that may be possible only with a smaller mortgage (and house). Or, perhaps you value things other than space, like school district or a walkable location. So make sure to factor in those variables, too—and make sure you aren’t sacrificing them for space you don’t need.

4. How much space do I want from my own family members?

If you absolutely must have privacy—to, say, get work done in a home office or chill out in your man cave—then that extra square footage may be well worth the money. But if you’re more the type who loves having their family members nearby, a large home gives people plenty of alone time… sometimes too much.

Recently when speaking with one of our buyers, she commented: “I’ve found that my daughter’s friends who live in large homes rarely even run into their parents.” So her preference was for something a bit smaller, because she prefers her kids a bit underfoot.

She was also seeking a more cozy vibe and a close-knit family environment a smaller home encourages. This was what the preference was for her family dynamic. You’ll have to determine yours.

5. Does this home feel spacious even if it doesn’t have much space?

Keep in mind that even small homes can feel spacious purely based on an open floor plan and lots of light. Meanwhile, large homes can still feel cramped if they’re dark or poorly laid out. So, when shopping real estate listings, know that the little number next to square footage may not tell the whole story.

For example, features like a long hallway may increase the total square footage, but they are spaces you pass through, not a true destination within the home.

So instead of focusing on total square footage, focus on the size of individual rooms where you see yourself spending the majority of your time. If all you do in your bedroom is sleep, does it matter if its massive or not?

YOUR TURN

In your experience, how much space is too much space? Or, did you find you underestimated how much room you actually needed? What did you learn about space when buying your current home? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Access Is An Important Factor In Getting Your House Sold

So, you’ve decided to sell your house. You’ve hired a real estate professional to help you with the entire process, and they have asked you what level of access you want to provide to potential buyers.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Home Selling Essentials
Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Home Fast For Top Dollar

There are four elements to a quality listing. At the top of the list is Access, followed by Condition, Financing, and Price. There are many levels of access that you can provide to your agent so that he or she can show your home.

home-sellers-hold-an-open-house

Here are five levels of access that you can give to buyers, along with a brief description:

1. Lockbox on the Door  This allows buyers the ability to see the home as soon as they are aware of the listing, or at their convenience.

2. Providing a Key to the Home  Although the buyer’s agent may need to stop by an office to pick up the key, there is little delay in being able to show the home.

3. Open Access with a Phone Call  The seller allows showings with just a phone call’s notice.

4. By Appointment Only (example: 48-Hour Notice)  Many buyers who are relocating for a new career or promotion start working in that area prior to purchasing their home. They often like to take advantage of free time during business hours (such as their lunch break) to view potential homes. Because of this, they may not be able to plan their availability far in advance or may be unable to wait 48 hours to see the house.

5. Limited Access (example: the home is only available on Mondays or Tuesdays at 2pm or for only a couple of hours a day)  This is the most difficult way to be able to show your house to potential buyers.

In a competitive marketplace, access can make or break your ability to get the price you are looking for, or even sell your house at all.

YOUR TURN

Did you recently sell your home? How did the access you allowed to buyer’s impact your sale? We want to hear from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Everything You Need To Know About Buying A Home This Spring

Blooming flowers and warmer temperatures don’t just mark the start of allergy season. Spring is also peak season for real estate sales. If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, you’re probably wondering what the current market is like and how to navigate it.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide

low-housing-inventory
The 2017 spring real estate season differs from past spring markets in some big ways. Here’s what you need to know…

1. Inventory Is Low

Home inventory has dropped for eight consecutive quarters, making it harder to find a home, according to Trulia’s research.

In 2017, homebuyers are up against a very competitive market, where there are fewer homes for sale that cost more than they did last year.

Hit hardest? First-time homebuyers. There’s a larger inventory of trade-up homes and luxury homes than starter homes. As prices rise, people who might have been looking for a luxury home may now be in the trade-up market. Those who would have been in the trade-up market are buying starter homes or hanging on to the homes they already have. This means first-time buyers have to put in extra effort to land a home.

RELATED: 10 Rookie Mistakes That Hurt First-Time Homebuyers

2. Homes Are Selling Fast

Understanding the current real estate market can keep you from being blindsided. Short supply is the dominant issue this spring. Homes that are priced at market and are in attractive condition sell in days.

You may want to act quickly when you find something you like, and be flexible with seller requests — two tactics that can help you buy a home in a competitive market.

3. Interest Rates Are Rising

Rising interest rates could price some buyers out of the market. The Federal Reserve announced in March that interest rates would be increased by a quarter point based on the growing confidence on the economy.

But interest rates are still historically low and affordable. Higher rates will likely decrease one’s home-buying power, but it’s unlikely to deter serious buyers who are actively looking for a new home. What’s likelier to happen, at least in the short term, is that more people will enter the market before rates get even higher.

4. Timing Is Everything

The hardest part of buying a starter home is saving the down payment. Once you have that in place, there are great options.

But should you wait to save 20% for a down payment to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), or should you buy now with only, say, 5% to put down before interest rates rise?

RELATED: Making Sense of Mortgage Rates, APR and PMI

In most cases, it becomes more expensive to wait. If it’s going to take you two years to save 20% and prices and rates rise, it’ll usually be better to go ahead at 5% and pay PMI.

RELATED: What Is The Cost of Waiting Until 2019 to Buy A Home

5. Consumer Confidence Is High

Rising interest rates signal a strong economy, and consumers, with renewed confidence in this strong job market, are buying homes. This is what most people call a comeback. People who found themselves underwater on their homes are now starting to see those homes gain value. They can now make — instead of lose — money on a home sale.

6. Try To Overlook The Little Things

If your ultimate goal is to become a homeowner this spring, you may wish to circle back to that older home with no upgrades that didn’t initially excite you.

Some available properties may lack modern layouts and amenities. Consider ignoring cosmetic issues like bad paint colors or poorly placed furniture and determine your budget for desired upgrades. In a competitive real estate market with low inventory, being able to overlook simpler flaws could be the difference between getting a good deal on a home and not getting a home at all.

7. Preapproval Is More Important Than Ever

You may need to offer more money to buy a home in this busy real estate season. First, figure out what you can comfortably afford. Don’t stretch yourself financially.

A good formula for a starter-home buyer would be to dedicate 38.3% of monthly income to your home — a 2.9 point increase from last year.

Once your budget is set, focus on prepping your finances for a home purchase. The more prepared in preapproval you are, the more value you add to yourself and your buying appearance. This means having all documentation in line so you can move fast.

YOUR TURN

Are you planning to buy a home this spring? Tell us why on our Facebook Page or Twitter or Instagram Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

The Difference Between Your Mortgage Rate and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

Understanding the difference between an annual percentage rate (APR) and an interest rate could save you thousands of dollars on your mortgage. But most homebuyers might not know that the interest rate and the APR measure two different costs associated with your home loan.

FREE eBOOK: Your Guide to Home Buying
The Most Critical Steps to Take When Buying Your Dream Home

Interest Rate and APR

An interest rate is the cost of borrowing the principal loan amount. It can be variable or fixed, but it’s always expressed as a percentage. An APR is a broader measure of the cost of a mortgage because it reflects the interest rate plus other costs such as broker fees, discount points and some closing costs, expressed as a percentage

Why have both?

The main difference is that the interest rate calculates what your actual monthly payment will be whereas the APR calculates the total cost of the loan.

RELATED: 6 Mortgage Terms To Know

You can use one or both to make apples-to-apples comparisons when shopping for loans.

For example, a loan with a 4 percent rate will have a lower monthly payment than a loan with a 6 percent rate, assuming both are fixed for the same term. Likewise, the total cost of a loan with a 4 percent APR will be less than one with a 6 percent APR.

Where it gets tricky

Interest rates and APRs have limitations to helping you understand the true cost of your mortgage. But taken together, borrowers should be able to use both figures to determine their total costs. The trick is to understand the interplay between the two figures.

If you are only focused on getting the lowest monthly payment, then focus on the interest rate. But if you are focused on the total cost of the loan, then use the APR as a tool to compare the total cost of two loans.

This chart shows the interest rate, APR and total costs over time for a $200,000 mortgage in which 1.5 discount points cut the interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point, and another 1.5 discount points cut the interest rate by a further quarter of a percentage point.

3 loans, same amounts, 3 APRs

3-loans-same-amounts-3-APRs

Time horizon matters

If you plan to stay in your home for 30 years or more, it probably makes sense to go with a loan that has the lowest APR because it means you’ll end up paying the lowest amount possible for your house. But if your time horizon isn’t that long, it may make sense to pay fewer upfront fees and get a higher rate — and a higher APR — because the total costs will be less over the first few years.

RELATED: Mortgage Default Explained… What Really Happens When You Can’t Pay Up?

APR spreads the fees over the course of the entire loan, so its value is optimized only if a borrower plans to stay in the home throughout the entire mortgage.

Figure the break-even point

If you’re planning to stay in your home for a shorter period, you need to do the math and determine your break-even point.

For example, if you chose a 0.25 percent lower rate for an additional 1.5 points because of the lower APR, but you moved in five years, you lost money. Your break-even on the points was seven years.

Unfortunately, those calculations can be confusing for many, which is why it’s crucial to pick the right lender. Your Buyer’s Agent should have excellent relationships with lender’s and can refer you to someone they trust.

YOUR TURN

Did you recently shop for a Mortgage? Do you have Buyer’s Remorse? What might you do differently now that you didn’t do then? We want to here from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Why Is There So Much Paperwork Required To Get A Mortgage?

Why is there so much paperwork mandated by the lenders for a mortgage loan application when buying a home today? It seems that they need to know everything about you and requires three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form.

RELATED: 6 Mortgage Terms To Know

Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Your Guide To Home Buying
The Most Critical Steps To Take When Buying Your Dream Home

home-loan

There are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any time in history:

1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank proves beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of paying the mortgage.

During the run-up to the housing crisis, many people ‘qualified’ for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their home. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again.

RELATED: Will I Qualify For A Mortgage?

2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business.

Over the last seven years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and also negotiating another million plus short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they need to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.

However, there is some good news in the situation.

The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allowed you to get a mortgage interest rate around 4%.

The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty years ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process, but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990s and 6.29% in the 2000s).

If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of around 4%, they would probably bend over backward to make the process much easier.

RELATED: How To Qualify For A Mortgage with Poor Credit

BOTTOM LINE

Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rates.


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