Posts for Syndication

What Do Real Estate Agents Do?

By Virtual Results

What Do Real Estate Agents Do?

You’ve probably been told that if you’re buying or selling a house, you should work with a professional real estate agent. But do you know what real estate agents actually do for you? We understand that it can seem kind of mysterious. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the types of activities your agent is doing on any given day to help you close the deal.

They stay updated on the local market

The real estate market changes quickly, and a good agent will spend time every day checking in. They will review listings to find new properties, see which ones have been taken off the market, or what homes may have had a price reduction.

They respond to inquiries

Being a good agent means being responsive to clients’ needs. Real estate agents are always answering emails, returning phone calls and coordinating meetings and showings. They’re reaching out to potential new clients and meeting the needs of those they are currently working with.

They market their properties

It takes more than a listing in the MLS to sell a home. Agents will spend time marketing the homes they represent. This includes posting ads in newspapers and magazines, creating websites, printing postcards and flyers, making videos, hiring photographers and writing posts for social media.

They attend appointments

Agents will meet with both buyers and sellers. They will also attend meetings with inspectors, appraisers, photographers, contractors and anyone else that may have a hand in the transaction.

They prepare paperwork

Agents are responsible for preparing both offers and counter-offers for a house. Contracts can be extensive and confusing, and an agent will help explain and clarify what each document includes.

They negotiate

A large part of buying or selling a home is working through negotiations with each party. An agent can often spend weeks in negotiations, and will need to stay on top of what each party is agreeing to, to make sure all aspects of the deal are happening as they should.

They continue to learn

Professional real estate agents are required to keep current on market regulations. Most states require that agents attend classes and take tests to renew their licenses. Ongoing education is a large part of the life of a successful real estate agent.

They put out fires

Real estate agents are also continually putting out fires – not literal ones, of course. Buying and selling real estate is a complex process, with many pitfalls and obstacles along the way. A good agent will know what to anticipate and can help smooth out the rough spots of the process. Often, a client will not even know there has been an issue, because their agent has taken care of it before it became a problem.

They keep clients calm

Buying or selling a home can be one of the most stressful things you do in your lifetime. It’s easy to feel emotional. A good agent will understand where your emotion is coming from, but will maintain a healthy detachment. They will help solve problems and make the process easier, from that first email to closing day.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Buying a Home For Sale By Owner

By Virtual Results

Buying a Home For Sale By Owner

For Sale By Owner (FSBO) homes are just that – homes that are being sold without the assistance of a real estate agent. As a buyer, you may be wondering about buying a FSBO home, especially if you’re working with an agent. While there are certain risks and challenges you may face, a home that is FSBO can be a good opportunity. Here’s what you should know.

The buyer can use an agent

Even though the seller is not using an agent for the transaction, it does not prevent the buyer from using one. However, it does mean that the seller needs to agree to cooperate with your agent. Agents make a living from the commissions they receive. In order for them to earn a commission from a FSBO transaction, the seller needs to agree to pay their commission, or to apply a credit at closing so the buyer can pay the fee.

You should still get a mortgage pre-approval

Even though you and your agent will be dealing directly with the seller, you will still want to obtain a mortgage pre-approval letter before making an offer. Although a seller is likely more inexperienced about the process than an agent would be, it can still signal to them that you are serious about buying their home. In a busy market, this is especially true, as the sellers may get more than one offer.

Be sure to include contingencies

When writing up the purchase contract for the home, make sure you include any necessary contingencies. You want to make sure that you legally have a way out of the deal if the house doesn’t live up to your expectations. Contingencies you’ll want to consider including are:

  • Appraisal
  • Mortgage approval
  • Inspection
  • Clean title
  • Insurability

Decide who pays for what

There are additional fees associated with buying and selling property, and you will want to make clear from the beginning which party is paying for what. Ask your agent for advice on who would customarily pay for these fees.

Don’t skip the house inspection

When buying a FSBO home, you definitely do not want to skip the inspection. Make sure to hire a reputable house inspector. Even if the seller is honest, they still may not know all the hidden problems in the house.

Use an escrow account

In a typical real estate transaction where both parties are represented by agents, earnest money and other fees are deposited into an escrow account that is held by a neutral third party until closing. Do not hand your earnest money deposit directly to the seller. There is usually a small fee associated with opening an escrow account, and it should be decided beforehand who will pay for that.

Get a C.L.U.E. report

Be sure to request a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.) report. It will show you if any insurance claims have been made on the home in the last five years. You’ll be able to clearly see if the home has suffered any damage in that time, such as flooding or fire.

The bottom line is – if you find a FSBO home you love, don’t think you have to go it alone. A trusted real estate agent can help you through the process, from the initial offer down to closing day.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Smells That Sell

By Virtual Results

Smells That Sell

You’ve de-cluttered, re-painted, made repairs and updated your home’s curb appeal. That means you’re ready to sell, right? Not necessarily. Although all those tasks are essential for getting your home in shape to sell, don’t overlook one important factor – the smell. Many potential buyers can be swayed – or put off – by the scents in your home. Here’s a look at the smells that sell.

A clean smell

First and foremost, your home needs to smell clean. And by clean, we don’t mean that it smells strongly of air freshener. Scented cleaners only mask odors, which are often still detectable underneath the heavy perfume smell. The only way to achieve an authentic clean smell is to deeply clean your home. This includes:

  • Cleaning carpets and mopping floors.
  • Scrubbing kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Washing or dry-cleaning curtains, linens and bedding.
  • Removing pet items such litter boxes and pet beds.
  • Vacuuming or steam cleaning upholstery items like sofas and chairs.

Avoid using products with a strong smell. Instead, use those with very subtle smells or, better yet, those that are fragrance free. While you want the house to smell clean, you don’t want it to smell like bleach.

A simple smell

Once you’ve neutralized odors in your home, you can enhance a buyer’s experience by employing a simple scent. Think about the kind of environment you want to create. Do you want to emphasize how fresh, clean and bright your home is? Then choose scents like citrus, lavender or green tea. Are you hoping that buyers will find your home cozy, warm and inviting? Then go with scents like vanilla, rosemary, thyme or cinnamon. Does your home feature lots of wooden beams or walls? Then choose a smell that will enhance that aesthetic, such as cedar or pine.

How to achieve a pleasant smell

There are several different ways to achieve just the right scent in your home without going overboard:

  • Candles – Candles are one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to infuse your home with a pleasant smell. Just be sure that they are not located in a place where they can be knocked over.
  • Oil diffuser – There are many types of diffusers on the market that use essential oils to freshen the air. These are a wonderful all-natural solution that will also add a touch of humidity to the air, which is especially good if you live in a dry area.
  • Simmering pots – Simmering pots are another easy and natural way to make your home smell wonderful during a showing. Just add some scented ingredients to a pot with some water, and simmer on the stove on low heat for a few hours.
  • Scented plug-ins – Many people enjoy the convenience of scented plug-ins, which are available from a variety of brands. Just be sure to choose a scent that isn’t too strong or that has a complex or chemical fragrance.
  • Reed diffusers – Reed diffusers have also become a popular method for adding scent to your home. Scented oil is released through sticks that are placed in a vase with the oil. Just be sure that the smell isn’t too overpowering in a small room.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different smells when you’re selling your home, to find just the right one that will appeal to potential buyers.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Packing for a Last Minute Move

By Virtual Results

Packing for a Last Minute Move

The ideal amount of time to prepare for a big move is two to three months. Having up to 12 weeks gives you plenty of time to organize, make all your arrangements and pack. But sometimes circumstances don’t allow for the luxury of  “enough time.” If you’re about to embark on a last-minute move, don’t panic – it can be done. Here’s what you need to do to make it happen.

Start now

Procrastination is not your friend when you’re faced with a last-minute move. As daunting as the challenge may seem, don’t let it keep you from digging in. As soon as you know you’re moving, buckle down and get to work.

Create a timeline

It might seem counterintuitive to spend precious time getting organized, but it will pay off. Write down everything that needs to happen between now and moving day. Then create a packing calendar. Set aside a block of time for each task that needs to be completed, such as packing the bedroom. You might also then want to list the tasks you need to complete to pack the bedroom. This could include packing your clothes, packing all your decorative items and packing your linens. Most importantly, stick to the schedule.

Purge, purge, purge

The more items you have, the longer it’s going to take you to pack them. Now is the time to purge all those things you haven’t used in awhile. Be ruthless in your assessment of an item. Unless it is something you use frequently or has strong sentimental value, you should let it go. Unless you have extra time to sell your discarded items, donate them to charity. You can save even more time by finding an organization that will pick up your items for you.

Eliminate items that aren’t allowed

There are certain items that moving companies will not transport. The list will vary by moving company, but will generally include hazardous materials like propane tanks, pool chemicals and fire extinguishers. Many moving companies will also prohibit perishable food, firearms, liquor and cleaning supplies. Either properly dispose of these items or give them to friends and neighbors.

Get your supplies

If you have the time, it’s great to accumulate used boxes for your move. But if you’ve got to be fast, then order your supplies from a moving store, office supply shop or even Amazon and have them delivered. You’ll pay a premium, of course, but you’ll save yourself a ton of time. Don’t forget bubble wrap, packing peanuts and packing tape!

Ask for help

Lastly, if you’re faced with a quick move, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People who care about you will know that you’ve got a challenging task ahead of you and will most likely be happy to help. Friends and family can help you get rid of the things you don’t want anymore, or help pack up boxes and load the moving truck. If you’re really pressed for time and can afford it, consider hiring professional packers who will come in and do all the work for you.

Compliments of Virtual Results

What to Let Go of Before You Move

By Virtual Results

What to Let Go of Before You Move

Let’s face it – things have a tendency to accumulate. And if you’ve been living in the same place for more than a few years, chances are you’ve collected items you no longer use.

But if you’re relocating, transporting those unused items will cost you time, energy and money. It’s worth it to unload those things you likely won’t need in your new place. Here are our suggestions of what you might want to let go of before you move.

Unused appliances

Yes, that hot dog toaster seemed really awesome when you ordered it off Amazon late one night. But have you used it more than once or twice? If not, let it go. This goes for any other appliances that are gathering dust on your counter or in your pantry. Sell or donate those that are in working order. For those that aren’t, look into recycling them.

Unread books

You probably have a book or two – or hundreds – that you haven’t cracked open in a long time. While the impulse to hold on to books is a noble one, you should seriously consider donating or selling any that you don’t regularly use. Books are heavy and take up space. Moving books can be exhausting, especially if you have to carry box after box up one or more flights of stairs. Do yourself a favor and unload them before you move.

Unworn clothes

You’ve been hanging on to that really cute dress for years, thinking that someday it might fit again. The same goes for the jeans, coats and sweaters that have been taking up space in your closet. Does it make you feel good to see them in there? It probably doesn’t. Why not pass them on to someone who will wear and treasure them, especially if you have business attire that can be put to good use? Give yourself a break and start fresh in your new place, stocking your closet with clothes that fit properly and that you wear regularly.

Low-quality furniture

We all have that bookcase, chair or coffee table leftover from our younger days. You know the one – it’s made out of particle board and has seen better days. Cheap, low-quality furniture is likely to be damaged during a move. Pass it on to someone who will appreciate it, and replace it in your new home if needed.

Doubles

Do you have two blenders? Do you really need two blenders? You probably don’t, unless you’re running a smoothie operation out of your kitchen. Unless the items are meant to be a pair, let go of anything that you have a double of.

Items you borrowed

Did you happen to find your neighbor’s snow shovel when cleaning out the garage? Even if you’ve accidentally been holding onto it for years, you should try to return it. This goes for any items in your home that don’t belong to you. Their rightful owners will most likely appreciate their safe return. And this way, you’ll have a reason to meet your new neighbors when you need to borrow a shovel after the first snowfall.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Don’t Sabotage Your Credit

By Virtual Results

Don’t Sabotage Your Credit

If you’re shopping for a home loan, you know that your credit score helps to determine what kind of loan you qualify for and at what rate. The better your score, the more favorable your terms will be. But do you know everything that goes into calculating your score? Here are some of the things that could negatively impact your rating. Avoid them while shopping for a loan and closing on house, unless you want to sabotage your credit.

Applying for new credit

While you might be tempted to open a new line of credit while house shopping, don’t. We know you’re going to need the extra cash to buy things for the new place, but applying for new credit can bring your score down. If you really need that extra buying power, wait until after you close.

Closing accounts

In addition to not opening new credit accounts, you should not close any old ones, either. Closing accounts can hurt your score in two ways. First, it will change your debt utilization ratio. The ratio is determined by how much debt you have divided by your total credit limit. Second, it also reduces the length of your credit history, which is also used to calculate your score. The longer your credit history is, the better.

Co-signing a loan

Just like you shouldn’t apply for new credit, you also shouldn’t co-sign on a loan while you’re trying to buy a house. Co-signing for a loan will be treated basically as though you have applied yourself, which will ding your score. So don’t co-sign on a family member’s car loan, for example, until after you’ve secured your mortgage.

Late payments

This one is probably obvious, but do not miss or make any late payments while shopping for a home loan. Even one missed payment can affect your score. Plan ahead and make sure you have all your payments covered for the coming months.

Maxing out your limit

Remember the debt utilization ratio we told you about earlier? That number is also affected should you max out your credit limit. If you are using more than 50 percent of your available credit, it starts to show in your score. Try to keep your debt utilization ratio under 30 percent if at all possible.

Missing errors on your credit report

Most importantly, do not fail to check your credit report before applying for a home loan. Ideally, you should do this at least three months before you begin shopping around. Millions of credit reports contain errors, and the only way to know if yours is one of them is to check your report. It would be heartbreaking to not qualify because of an error – especially if you’ve followed all the suggestions outlined above. You can order a report for free annually from AnnualCreditReport.com. If you see errors, contact the credit bureaus. It can take time to have the errors removed from your report. You’ll want to make certain it is error-free before you start applying for those loans.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Avoid These Home Buying Mistakes

By Virtual Results

Buying a house – especially for the first time – can be a huge undertaking. It’s a complex process, making it easy for mistakes to happen along the way. If you’re buying a home, here are some common pitfalls you should avoid.

Not getting pre-approved for a home loan

Even if you know that you have the financial wherewithal to afford a mortgage, you shouldn’t skip getting pre-approved for a home loan. Having a mortgage pre-approval letter signals to a seller that you are serious about your offer. Not having a pre-approval can mean the difference between your offer being accepted and the seller choosing a competing offer instead.

Not shopping around for a loan

While you’re in the process of getting pre-approved, you should also be shopping around for a lender. Fees and rates can differ widely from one lender to another. Some may offer better services or products. You should plan on looking into all your options, including national banks, regional banks, your credit union, and online lenders.

Not checking your credit report

You may think you have excellent credit, but that doesn’t mean your credit report reflects it. It is estimated that around 42 million consumers have errors on their credit reports. Are you one of them? The only way to find out is to order a copy of your report. You should check your report at least three months before house shopping, to allow enough time to fix errors if you find them.

Taking on new debt

Your credit report is used to determine what kind of loan you qualify for. If you make any large purchases with credit, such as a car, before your loan closes, your loan could be denied. Even slight changes in your credit ratios could cause an underwriter to deny your loan. Save those big purchases for after closing.

Not interviewing agents

Working with an agent is always a great idea, particularly if you’re buying a home for the first time. But remember that not all agents are the same. Just like any relationship, there are good matches and bad ones. Get recommendations from friends and family, research agents online, and conduct a few interviews. You’ll be working with your agent for several months. It’s helpful to partner with someone that you feel comfortable with.

Getting too emotional

A home will probably be the most expensive purchase you ever make. It’s easy to get emotionally attached, knowing your home is going to be the center of your life, possibly for years to come. But given that there are so many variables in the home-buying process, it’s best to maintain some emotional distance. Sometimes the home you really love will be sold to someone else. Treat it like a business transaction and be ready to move on.

Not working within your budget

Lastly, be sure to look for homes that are well within your budget. Keep in mind additional costs like taxes, insurance, utilities and fees. Don’t assume you’ll be making more money in the future. There’s nothing more stressful than worrying you won’t be able to pay your mortgage from month to month. Choose a home that fits comfortably within your means.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Dealing With Seller’s Remorse

By Virtual Results

Buyer’s remorse is a fairly common occurrence, happening when someone makes a large purchase, such as a home, and feels regret afterwards. But have you heard of seller’s remorse? It’s also normal for those selling a home to feel regret or anxiety stemming from their impending home sale. If you’re starting to feel seller’s remorse, here’s what you can do to deal with it.

Prepare emotionally before the sale

Seller’s remorse often happens when a seller feels an emotional attachment to a home. It’s understandable, given that your home is where your life happens and you likely have many memories of happy times in that place. If you want to avoid seller’s remorse, start emotionally preparing for the sale now. Make a list of why this home isn’t perfect for you at this time, and why you need to move on. Allow yourself some time to grieve for what you’re leaving behind. That’s a totally normal response. If you have the luxury of time before your sale, start the process of letting go early on.

Know your reasons for selling

You’re more likely to experience seller’s remorse if you don’t have solid reasons for moving. This could include feeling like you should sell now because the market is hot, or thinking you should downsize because friends your age are doing it. If you don’t have a compelling reason to sell, you might get cold feet when it comes time to sign on the dotted line. On the other hand, if you’re selling because you need more space, you’re relocating for a new job or your circumstances are changing due to a divorce, you’re far less likely to experience remorse. Even if you do feel pangs of regret, your reasons for moving will allow you to proceed more confidently with the sale.

Focus on your future

It’s tough to say goodbye, especially if you really loved the time you spent in your home. If you’re feeling blue, remind yourself of what lies ahead. Focus on the positive aspects of your future. Start researching your new neighborhood and make plans for your new living space. Find reasons to get excited about the next chapter of your life. Remind yourself that your feelings are going to be strong during the selling process, but will settle down once the sale is complete and you’ve moved on. And remember that your feelings are completely natural.

Work with an agent you trust

One of the best ways to help alleviate seller’s remorse is to work with a real estate professional that you trust. Your agent is your partner and your advocate and can help you navigate the complexities of the selling process. Unlike you, they will be able to maintain an emotional detachment and treat the sale like a business transaction. Working with someone you trust means you have someone who will help you make tough decisions, and who will also be compassionate about your feelings, having worked with many sellers in the past who have gone through the same things.

Remember, seller’s remorse is a common reaction to the home-selling process. By doing your emotional homework and focusing on the future, you can get through this trying time and leave your old home behind without any lasting regrets.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Selling Your Home in the Fall

By Virtual Results

Selling Your Home in the FallIt’s almost time for sweaters, fall foliage and pumpkin spice lattes. And if you’re like some homeowners, it may also be time to sell your home. While fall may not be the most popular time to list your home for sale, it can have its benefits. Follow these tips to make your home for sale stand out this season.

Know your buyers

When selling in the fall, it’s important to understand who the most likely buyers are going to be. This allows you to target your efforts for the appropriate audience. Most families with schoolchildren probably made moves during the summer so that their kids would be settled in time for the school year. In the fall, you’re more likely to encounter empty-nesters and millennials. Be sure to highlight amenities that would appeal to people in these age groups. This could include the ability to walk to nearby restaurants or any smart-home upgrades you may have made. In addition, think about staging an extra bedroom as a home office or gym.

Amp up your curb appeal

Fall is an easy time to add some curb appeal to your home. Be sure to clean up all the yard debris and dead leaves and clean sidewalks and driveways. Display some potted mums and pumpkins on the front porch.

Take photos now

A late fall or winter landscape can look pretty bleak. A gray sky, brown grass and bare trees don’t show your home off at its best. If you’re able, take marketing photos of your home now while the weather is nice and trees still have their leaves.

Create a cozy atmosphere

Fall brings with it cooler temperatures, so it’s important to make potential buyers feel comfortable and warm. If you have a fireplace, make sure it’s clean and in working order. If possible, have a fire going during showings. While you don’t want to go overboard with seasonal decorations, a tasteful fall centerpiece or door wreath can add considerable charm. Nothing beats the scents of fall, so don’t be afraid to bake a pie or light a scented candle.

Check the furnace

Before you turn on the heat for the first time, check the HVAC system. Change the furnace filter and vacuum vents. An inspection is going to include your furnace, so it’s better to discover problems now so you have time to fix them.

Turn on the lights

Fall also means shorter and darker days. In order to make your home appear as bright and spacious as possible, open all the curtains and blinds during showings. Turn on all the lights, adding more as needed. Also be sure to turn on closet and appliance lights. If the walk up to the front door is dark, install some outdoor lighting along the path.

Be flexible

Lastly, understand that fall schedules can be more hectic. Weather can easily derail plans. Be flexible with showings and your closing date whenever possible.

While autumn can be a slower time in the real estate market, it doesn’t mean you can’t sell your home quickly and for a great price. Follow the advice above and you can maximize what the season has to offer.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Moving During the School Year

By Virtual Results

Moving During the School Year

Moving during the school year is not an ideal situation. But sometimes it cannot be avoided – for instance, if you’ve had a job change. While relocating during the school year can be disruptive, there are steps you can take to smooth the process. In fact, most kids who move while school is in session end up adjusting just fine in the long run.

If you’re expecting a mid-year move, here’s what you should do to prepare.

Keep the kids in the know

As difficult as it will be to break the news of the move to the kids, the sooner you do it, the better. By telling them in advance, you give them time to mentally prepare and to say goodbye to their friends. Allow your kids to openly share their feelings so that they can process them.

Coordinate with your current school

Before the move, take time to coordinate with your child’s school. Meet with the administrators or guidance counselor to obtain transcripts. Talk with your child’s teachers about what they’re currently covering in class. This will better prepare you for what they’ll need to know going into a new environment.

Choose a new school

As soon as your move is confirmed, you should begin to look at schools in the new area. This can help narrow down in what neighborhoods you’d like to search for a home. Research schools online and if possible, schedule an in-person visit. Talk with a guidance counselor about where your child currently is in school and how you can all work together to make the transition smooth. Find out how your child may need to catch up in the curriculum so you can do that before arriving.

Get your child involved

Once you’ve determined where you’ll be moving, introduce the kids to the new community. Research what kinds of activities are available for them, from sports to dance classes. Let them decide some of the things they’d like to try when they arrive. This will give them something to look forward to.

Schedule an orientation

If possible, schedule some time for the kids to visit their new school before they begin classes. By meeting their teachers and getting familiar with the building, they’ll have less anxiety on that first day.

Monitor those first few weeks

Even if it seems like your kids are adjusting just fine to their new routine, keep a close eye on them. Volunteer at school functions and get to know some of the other parents. Ask about what they’re learning in school, what they like and even what they don’t like about their new school. Encourage them to make new friends.

Stay in touch

Moving can be tough on kids, so encourage them to stay in touch with their old friends. It can be comforting to them to be able to communicate with friends who know them, and help alleviate the anxiety of forming new friendships. It can even help boost their confidence so they’re more willing to be social in their new environment.

The bottom line is – moving can be hard on kids no matter what time of year it happens. But by knowing what to expect, you can make a mid-year move easier and less stressful for everyone.

Compliments of Virtual Results