Real Estate FAQs
Answers to your common questions
Is there a best time to sell my house? +
Properties sell year round. It is mostly a function of supply and demand, as well as other economic factors. The time of year you choose to sell can make a difference in the amount of time it takes and the final selling price. Weather conditions are often a consideration. As a general rule the real estate market picks up in the early spring following a seasonal lull in the winter months.
During the summer, the market usually slows. The end of July and August are often the slowest months for real estate sales. The strong spring market often places upward pressure on interest rates, many prospective home buyers and real estate agents take vacations during mid-summer. After the summer slowdown, sales activity tends to pick up for a second, although less vigorous, season which usually lasts into November. The market then slows again as buyers, sellers and real estate agents turn their attention to the holidays.
The supply of homes on the market diminishes because sellers often wonder whether or not they should take their homes off the market for the holidays. There are still buyers in the market place, but now those buyers have fewer homes to choose from. Those homes on the market at that time have considerably less competition. Generally speaking, you'll have the best results if your house is available to show to prospective buyers continuously until it sells.
Are there important factors to consider when selling a home? +
The two most important factors are price and condition in selling a home. The first step is to price it properly. Then, go through the house to see if there are any cosmetic defects that can be repaired. A third factor is exposure. It is also important that the home gets the exposure it deserves through open houses, advertising, good signage and listing on the local multiple listing services, as well as the internet. Choose the real estate agent that you believe will get the job done, not the one that quotes you the highest price - sometimes just to buy your listing.
How much is my home worth? +
There are two methods many people use to determine their homes value, an appraisal and comparative market analysis. Appraisals vary in cost and are defendable in court. They average about $300 for a single family home and more on multi-family dwellings. Appraisers review numerous factors and base information on recent sales of similar properties, their location, square footage, construction quality, excess land, views, water frontage and amenities such as garages, number of baths, etc.
A comparative market analysis on the other hand is an informal estimate of market value performed by a real estate agent or broker. It is based on sales and listings that will compete with your property that are similar in size, style and location. A range of values will be determined thus arriving at a probable market value. Many REALTORS® offer a free analysis anticipating they will have a new client. The analysis or opinion should be in writing and should involve professionally accepted appraisal practices. Some individuals do their own cost comparison. It may take several hours of research at the county recorder's office, where there will be indexes to match street addresses and parcel numbers. Once matches have been chosen a tax card can be used to find the assessed value, size, style, number of rooms, baths, etc.
What should I do to get my house ready? +
The way you live in a home and the way you sell a house are two different things. First and foremost, "declutter" counter tops, walls and rooms. Too many "things" make it difficult for the buyer to see their possessions in your rooms or on your walls, however don't strip everything completely or it will appear stark and inhospitable. Then clean and make attractive all rooms, furnishings, floors, walls and ceilings. It's especially important that the bathroom and kitchen are spotless. Organize closets. Make sure the basic appliances and fixtures work and get rid of leaky faucets and frayed cords. Make sure the house smells good: from an apple pie, cookies baking or spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. Hide the kitty litter, and possibly put vases of fresh flowers throughout the house. Pleasant background music is also a nice touch.
The second important thing to consider is "curb appeal." People driving by a property will judge it from outside appearances and make a decision then as to whether or not they want to see the inside. Sweep the sidewalk, mow the lawn, prune the bushes, weed the garden and clean debris from the yard. Clean the windows (both inside and out) and make sure the paint is not chipped or flaking. Also make sure that the doorbell works.
Should I make repairs? +
Minor repairs before putting the house on the market may lead to a better sales price. Buyers often include a contingency "inspection clause" in the purchase contract which allows them to back out if numerous defects are found. Once the problems are noted, buyers can attempt to negotiate repairs or lowering the price with the seller. Any known problems that are not repaired must be revealed as a material defect. You do not have to repair the problem, only reveal it and the house should be appropriately priced for that defect.
What are my obligations to disclose? +
Items sellers often disclose include: homeowners association dues: whether or not work done on the house meets local building codes and permits requirements; the presence of any neighborhood nuisances or noises which a prospective buyer might not notice, such as any restrictions on the use of property, including but not limited to zoning ordinances or association rules. It is wise to review the seller's written disclosure prior to a home purchase and ask questions if it does not satisfy you entirely. Sellers do not have to disclose the terms of other offers. You may disclose the existence of other offers, so that all parties are aware that they should be submitting their best offer.
Are there standard contingencies in an offer? +
Yes, the two most basic contingencies in a purchase contract are financing and inspections. You should read and fully understand all the contingencies or clauses in a contract before you sign.
Should I be flexible in granting contingencies? +
That often depends on if you are in a buyer's or a seller's market, the condition of your home, the price you hope to get, how motivated you are to sell, as well as the quality and quantity of the offers you are getting. Any contingencies that are negotiated are written into your contract. Both the buyer and seller can place requirements on the table during the negotiation phase. A frequently seen contingency is regarding the sale and closing of the buyers home before they can purchase yours. Whether this requirement is reasonable, or even achievable, depends on the individuals involved. Financial capabilities usually play a major role in negotiations. Few people can afford to own two homes simultaneously, except for some all-cash buyers.
What do I do if my house is not getting activity? +
Even in a slow market, price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home. If a home is not getting the activity it needs in order to sell it is probably because it is overpriced for the market. The first step is to lower the price. Then go through the house and see if there are cosmetic defects that you missed that can be repaired. The second step is to make sure that the home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage and a listing on the multiple listing service and internet. A third option is to remove the home from the market and wait for overall housing conditions to improve and catch up to the price you are asking. Finally, frustrated sellers who have no equity and are forced to sell because of a long term illness, divorce or financial considerations should discuss their specific situation with their mortgage lender and their real estate agent.
I’m a first time home buyer, what should I do first? +
Before looking for a home, determine your price range, down payment amount, and estimated settlement charges. Lenders use different variables including income, debt load and credit scores to determine how much a potential buyer can take out as a mortgage. Knowing what you can afford makes finding the right home easier.
Why do I need a home inspection? +
Before you close on a home, you should hire a home inspector to evaluate its condition. That way, you avoid surprises after settlement, and you can see the condition of the home firsthand. You can also order additional tests for radon, wood destroying insects or lead paint.
What are the benefits of having a buyer’s agent? +
The home-buying process, from looking through listings to actual settlement, has many steps to be fulfilled and deadlines to be met. Your agent can guide you through the process, whether you are looking at your first home, transferring to the area, or searching for investment property.
Additionally, a buyer's agent is familiar with past home sales in the area and can help buyers decide on a fair offering price for a home.
What can I do to help my kids move? +
Children tend to mirror their parent’s emotions. If you are happy, they’ll be happy! Let them pack their favorite belongings in special boxes to help them feel like their world is moving along with them to the new house.
Why should I be pre-approved with a lender before I look at homes? +
Before you start looking for a home, knowing what loans are available to you, and their rates and terms, lets you focus your search on getting the best home for your money. A pre-approval letter is also part of the buyer's offer on a home. Having this letter in advance ensures that the seller will take the buyer’s offer seriously, an important factor anytime, but especially if there are multiple offers.
What are some inexpensive tips I can use to sell my house? +
Don't underestimate the value of curb appeal! A neatly mowed lawn, fresh flowers and a new front door will impress buyers before they get out of their cars. Indoors, clear clutter from bedrooms and closets to make your home seem more open. Your agent can help make your individual home shine.
Which home improvements will have the most payoff when we sell our home? +
In general, you can expect improvements to kitchens and bathrooms to add the most to your resale value. More substantial remodeling can also pay off if the new addition puts your home in the same class as others in the neighborhood. Your agent can tell you which improvements will add the most resale value to your home.
What does “Sale Pending” mean? +
When a buyer and seller sign an Agreement of Sale, there are contingencies that need to be met before the sale is final and closed. Sale pending tells us that an agreement has been entered into but all the contingencies haven't been satisfied yet. For example, the buyer might still need to apply for a mortgage, if the buyer can't arrange for financing for some reason, the home might come back on the market.
Can I estimate how much I will make from the sale of my home? +
After helping you set a listing price for your home, your agent can give you an estimate of your expected expenses and proceeds, or net “walk away” cash. To estimate your “walk away cash,” subtract the mortgage payoff (including any home equity loans, settlement fees, commission and taxes) from the sale price of your home. Remember, this is only an estimate, and any changes in the figures will affect the final outcome.