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Tips for Picking a Real Estate Agent — Part I

How to Pick a Real Estate Agent

How to pick a real estate agent

One of the most challenging parts of buying or selling a home is picking a good real estate agent. How do you know who’s good and who’s not? Can you rely on word of mouth or should youdo some investigating of your own? Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, there are things you can and should do to assess a real estate agent’s past performance in order to gauge their potential success for finding or selling your home. Here are some tips for picking a real estate agent.

Because we don’t typically have the information about real estate agents that we have about other service professionals, it helps to ask potential agents for a list of what they’ve listed and sold the last twelve months. Be sure to ask the agent if any of the clients listed will be pleased or disappointed before you begin making phone calls. When you speak with past clients ask what the asking price was and then what the sales price was. You’ll also want to ask how long their home was on the market. If you are selling your home, you’ll want to ask if the properties on the list are similar in price, location and other salient features to yours. What you should be looking for is an agent who specializes in the same type of home you’re selling.

Look up a Real Estate Agents Credentials

Another way to check a potential real estate agent’s background is to look up their licensing. There are boards that license and discipline real estate agents in every state. To find out if the person you’re considering is licensed and if they have experienced any disciplinary actions or complaints you’ll want to check with your state’s regulatory body. In some states, like Virginia, Arizona and California, this information is accessible through online databases.

Knowing how to avoid a real estate agent who has been disciplined is one thing but, how do you pick one that’s a winner? Look to the awards. Peer-given awards are huge endorsements. One that speaks mountains is the “Realtor of the Year” designation award. This is awarded by the local or state branch of the National Association of Realtors. These are agents who have been judged to be the best by their peers.

You wouldn’t select a brain surgeon to perform your heart surgery and the same is true when it comes to selecting a real estate agent. You want one with the right credentials. Real estate agents, like doctors, also specialize. When you see alphabet soup after an agent’s name, this indicated this person has taken additional classes and are specialized in certain areas. For example, an agent with CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) behind their name is someone who has completed additional training for handling residential real estate.

If you see 4ABR after their name, this means they have completed additional coursework to represent buyers in real estate transactions. They are an Accredited Buyer’s Representative. An agent with the SRES designation is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist who has completed training that allows them to better help buyers and sellers who are aged 50 and up. An agent with “R” behind their name is a member of the National Association of Realtors. This is an individual who has formally pledged to support the association’s code of ethics. Nearly half of real estate agents out there are realtors compared to one-third five years ago.

In “Tips for Picking a Real Estate Agent — Part II,” we discuss additional tips for deciding on the most well-suited person to find or list your home.

In “When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Buy HUD Homes – Part I,” we discussed why it’s important to work with a real estate agent when it comes to purchasing a HUD home, programs

Couple with new home

that are often available to help you save money on closing costs and why owner occupant buyers have an advantage of real estate investors.

Here are some additional things to consider when it comes to purchasing a HUD home.Purchasing a property that is a government foreclosure offers first time homebuyers with an excellent opportunity to purchase their dream home for a lot less money. However, when purchasing a government foreclosure, you’ll want be sure to remember the importance of doing due diligence. You’ll want to take the time necessary to thoroughly investigate the home’s price to ensure you’re getting a reasonable deal. While preliminary research can be done on websites like Zillow.com, there’s other data that only real estate agents have access to. This is why working with a real estate agent is essential. Your real estate agent can provide you with a comparative market analysis that equips you with the knowledge you need to ascertain if buying a particular government foreclosed property is a good deal in the current home market. Never assume that a property is going to be an excellent buy just because it is a HUD home. When you’ve done your homework, there are fewer surprises and you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing when you’ve truly gotten a good deal.

First Time Home Buyers

Many first time homebuyers may have encountered government foreclosures that are being sold “As Is,” but aren’t fully aware of what to expect with such a property. Government foreclosures that are sold “As Is,” means the property has either suffered some damage or is in need of some repairs. The damage and repairs needed could be minor to extensive and so viewing the property and doing the homework mentioned above is imperative. There are situations where money may be offered in escrow to pay for certain repairs but not always. It’s up to the buyer to view to property, assess any damage and repairs that need to be made and determine if the home is worth the amount of money it will cost to purchase home plus the money it will take to repair it.

First time homebuyers should also be mindful of government foreclosures that have been on the market for longer than four months. For example, if a home here in St. Louis was first listed on the market back in May 2013 and you first see it in August 2013, there are certain repairs that aren’t immediately visible. A small leak around a window or in the roof can cause a home to become overrun by mold both inside and outside the home’s walls. Unless you have a hypersensitive nose or allergy to mold, the only way you’d discover this is several months down the road as the problem grows worse, or by getting a thorough home inspection. Regardless of whether you think a home has mold or not, getting a home inspection is the best way to discover those surprises before you purchase the home. The deal’s not done until closing and so you still have time to change your mind depending on what the home inspector finds. A good home inspection is worth its weight in gold.

Most of the time the damage and repairs needed in many HUD homes simply requires a little bit of know-how and some elbow grease. It’s this know-how and elbow grease that can save you thousands on the next purchase of your home.

When first time homebuyers start their search for a new home many are hesitant to consider looking at HUD homes because they are under the misconception that such properties

aren’tworth as much because they are located in blighted areas. This isn’t always true. The current housing market is flooded with HUD government foreclosures in areas at every price point, making a HUD home a viable option for achieving homeownership. Here are some things to consider when it comes purchasing a HUD home.

The good news about shopping for HUD homes is that there are plenty available on the market today. With so many HUD homes out there you’re bound to find one you like, making the dream of homeownership a reality sooner and more affordable than you might think. Finding the HUD home that’s right for you is no different than buying any other home — it takes the same amount of research. Unlike other homes on the market, a real estate agent is the only person who can legally show you a HUD home. Working with a realtor and sharing your wish list and desired area with them is the best way to find the HUD home that’s right for you.

There are government foreclosures in cities all across the country. If you have a specific area or neighborhood in mind, there’s a good chance you’ll find a HUD home in that area and at your desired price point. In some cases the previous owner has simply defaulted on their loan and moved out, leaving the house in excellent condition. However, there are some instances when the home has sustained damage. But if you’re handy, you may be able to benefit from purchasing a HUD home that comes with money in escrow with repairs or specific programs that offer funding for rehabilitating and repairing HUD properties.

Many first time homebuyers never even consider a HUD home because they believe it will be difficult for their bid to win against real estate investors. The truth of the matter is owner occupant buyers have an advantage over investors because investors are not allowed to bid on HUD homes until the property has been listed for 30 days. Working with a real estate agent to submit a competitive bid that’s more likely to be accepted is the best strategy.

Many first time homebuyers save a long time to come up with closing costs and escrow fees. Fortunately, help is available for these expenses when purchasing a HUD home. There are some cases when HUD will pay up to 3% of closing costs for buyers who have negotiated for it in their bid for the home. And depending on the situation, HUD will also pay the escrow fee, potentially saving homebuyers $350-$900. Savings like these make a huge difference when it comes to making the purchase of your new home more affordable.

In “When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Buy HUD Homes – Part II,” we will discuss due diligence, “As Is” foreclosures and things to consider when looking at properties that have been on the market for several months.

With housing inventory down 40% or more from two years ago, purchasing a house has become much more competitive. To land the home of your dreams you have to be savvy, creative and well-educated about your local housing market. This begs the question, how do you beat other buyers to the property you want? Here are some methods to consider.

Tips for buying your dream homeA fundamental part of buying your dream home is knowing the difference between what you need and what you can live without. Real estate brokers often advise their clients to come up with a wish list of everything you want in a home. But it’s also helpful to be realistic and make a list of things you can and cannot live without. A four bedroom house might be nice, but if you can manage with just three, that’s one less bedroom you’ll have to clean or pay for. You should also consider how long you plan to live in the home and your future needs, especially if you plan to start a family. Plan to buy a home to accommodate a growing family for five to seven years ahead.

Another way to beat other buyers to the property you want is to get pre-approved for a loan rather than pre-qualified. When you get pre-approved for a loan, you know the exact amount you can borrow. A pre-approval letter shoes potential sellers you are a serious buyer and have the funds to go through with purchasing the home. While there are investors who will offer to buy the same house for cash, your pre-approval letter is the next best thing to an all-cash offer.

Knowing the neighborhood where you plan to buy a home is essential as well. Relying on real estate agents for a home search in the multiple listing service is not the best way to find the right neighborhood. You’ll want to thoroughly research a location so you can determine whether or not the neighborhood offers the amenities that you prefer. When you know a neighborhood well and like it’s amenities, you’re better prepared to move quickly when the right home goes up for sale.

When it comes to a competitive housing market, it helps to be in the know and be ready to go. A good real estate agent will notify you right away when a house that matches your criteria shows up in their listings. But not always. After all, you probably aren’t their only client. This is why many savvy buyers who found their dream home set up mobile alerts with several consumer real estate listing sites and hit the refresh button frequently throughout the work day. When the house you’ve been watching for comes on the market, you’re ready to go.

It never hurts to make yourself stand apart from the competition. Attaching a personal letter to your offer that tells a little bit about your family and why you want the house can make a big difference to the seller. In some cases it could beat out all-cash offers. There’s something to be said when the seller sees that the home will go to a good family who can not only afford it but will also take care of it.

The last thing a seller wants is a lowball offer and no one wants to spend a lot of time going back and forth either. Especially since the seller could receive a higher offer and take it. In a competitive housing market it’s best to make an offer that’s close to or even above the list price. It should be an offer you feel good about and one you where the seller is more likely to come back with a stronger counteroffer.

Finally, do your best to avoid adding any stipulations, requirements or requests for personal property in your offer. When you include add-ons it complicates things. When it comes to comparing offers, it’s easier for the seller is to seek offers that are cleaner and more clear-cut. You can always talk to your real estate agent about items that can be negotiated after the offer is accepted.

Plan ahead for the harsh weatherLabor Day Home Improvement

One of the best opportunities to do some home improvement projects to get your home ready for winter is Labor Day weekend. Having an extra day off from work gives you the extra time you need for projects that require more time. The trick is to plan ahead and focus on preparing your home for the harsh weather that winter brings.

If you yearn for BBQ on the last official weekend of summer, look no further than your crock pot. Buy a full slab of ribs on Thursday or Friday before the weekend hits. On Saturday morning get up early and brown the ribs in your oven. Once browned, cut them into separate pieces, place them in the crock pot on low with a bottle of your favorite sauce and simmer for 6-8 hours. When dinner rolls around you’ll have tender meat that falls off the bone and you won’t have to stand next to hot grill after working hard on other projects all day.

One of the best ways to prepare your home for winter is by cleaning the gutters or eaves. This protects your home from any water leaks which can cause roof damage and a wet basement. When gutters are full of leaves, branches and dirt, water pools and your home’s eaves is more prone to sagging, rusting and pulling loose from the house. When this happens water drains into your basement or into your ground floor, damaging drywall, floors and carpeting. Excess water causes mold, an even bigger and more costly mess to clean up.

To clean your home’s gutters you need a ladder and a good pair of gloves to protect your hands from the gutters’ sharp surfaces. This task can be done in as little as 30 minute to an hour depending on the size of your house. It’s best to position the ladder in one spot and clean the gutters from the roof rather than moving the ladder around the house, climbing up and down every time. Better to maneuver on your hands and knees from the top of your roof. Homeowners who experience vertigo, have a fear of heights or are prone to clumsiness should consider hiring someone to do this task.



Replace Door Trims or Weather Stripping

Another Labor Day weekend project that gets your home ready for winter and actually saves you money on your heating and cooling bills is replacing door trims or weather stripping. There are two types of weather stripping for doors. Look for sweeps for the bottom of the door and foam weather-stripping for the area around the door’s trim. Attach sweeps to the bottom of your doors with the screws provided. Be sure your door’s trim is clean as the foam strips have self-adhesive that require extremely clean surfaces in order to stick well.

A third Labor Day weekend project that also protects your home’s outdoor surfaces from the elements is outdoor painting. Grab your scrapers, brushes, rollers, primer and paint so you can protect your home’s siding, trim, doors and eaves before the weather gets bad. Paint is the best way to protect these surfaces before they require a more expensive repair or replacement later. When unprotected wood rots you face a much more expensive and labor intensive project.

A fresh coat of paint on your home’s fascia boards, soffits and under-hangs helps extend the life of your roof and adds more curb appeal and value to your home. When the boards that support your roof are well protected your roof will last longer. Labor Day weekend is also the time to paint or seal a deck or back porch. Textured paint and sealer makes walking on these surfaces when their wet or covered in snow that much safer.

A little bit of elbow grease goes a long way to protecting your home for the harsh weather winter brings. Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to do these home improvement projects.