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5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Real Estate Agent

by Denise D'Amico
 
Five Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Real Estate Agent

A qualified real estate agent can streamline the homebuying and selling process, help you save money and serve as a liaison with your best interests in mind. But how do you find the right agent?

Here are five critical questions to ask when you're interviewing agents:

1. How many buyers or sellers have you helped in the past year?
An active agent is more likely to be up-to-date on the market, and local and state laws. Furthermore, an active agent with experience in your neighborhood, or the neighborhood where you’d like to move, is better positioned to help you.

2. Do you have advanced training?
Any licensed real estate agent can help you buy or sell a home. But an agent who has advanced specialty training is better qualified to assist you. For example, an agent who is an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) has enhanced training to work specifically with buyers. An agent who is a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) has special training to handle short sales and foreclosures. RE/MAX has more agents with ABRs and CDPEs, and other respected credentials, than anybody.

3. What services do you offer?
A buyer’s agent should help you schedule showings, assist with negotiating the price of the new home, guide you through the paperwork, be there at the closing table, and provide insights through any contingencies during the process. For sellers, an agent should help set the price of the home, based on a comparative market analysis (CMA). Ask the agent how he or she will market your home (websites, videos, direct mail), and other expert advice on staging your home and other sales techniques. On either side of the transaction, your agent must be able to negotiate skillfully on your behalf.

4. Who else will be working with me?
Many successful agents work with a team. These teams are typically structured to provide top customer service and efficiency through the buying and selling process. You can clarify with the agent how his or her team operates. And if you’d like more information about what it’s like to work with an agent, don’t be shy about asking for references.

5. How often will I hear from you?
Make sure the communication plan aligns with your expectations. For buyers: Do you just want to hear when there’s a new home that may interest you? Do you want regular check-in calls or emails too? For sellers: Do you want to hear from your agent only after a buyer has toured your home, or do you want to be kept in the loop on a weekly basis?

Remember, you want someone who will work hard for you, but also someone you're comfortable with. Find a RE/MAX agent in your area.

Setting Your Home Sales Price Too High Is Risky!

by Denise D'Amico

 

Sellers: It's Risky Pricing High to 'See What Happens'

Every seller wants to get the best deal for their house—especially when you consider that as much as $500,000 in profit can be earned tax-free. So why not just price your house to the moon? After all, you can just bring it down later, right?

Well, there are a few problems with that. If you price high and then slowly start bringing it down…and down…and down…buyers are going to notice. It makes that home start to seem like it’s in a bargain bin. You want your home to appear like a deal, not cheapened goods. When it sits on the market for an extended time because of overpricing, buyers are going to wonder why. Would you feel urgency as a buyer if you read that a property was listed 180 days ago?

Probably not.

To set a realistic price, consider these tips:

  • Do your due diligence. What have houses like yours sold for when the deal was made in a reasonable time? And what were the original prices of those homes?
  • Have an honest discussion with your real estate agent. He or she knows the area, and wants to sell your home as quickly as possible for the most competitive price. What does he or she think is reasonable?
  • Be an assertive seller, but don’t overplay your hand. Remember, the little extra money you hold out for may not be worth the six months or year of mortgage payments you’re stuck paying in the meantime!

To make sure your home price is set correctly before you sell, contact Denise D'Amico at 847-551-9290. She'll gladly share her 20 years of experience to help you sell you home successfully for the highest price in the shortest time. Visit The D'Amico Group website.

5 Ways To Prep for a Home Purchase

by Denise D'Amico

 

5 Ways To Prep for a Home Purchase

 

By Katharine Davis, RE/MAX Editor

Yes, I know the leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping and the holidays are fast approaching. But my sights are set on spring – the season when my husband and I hope to become first-time homebuyers.

Spring may seem ages away now, but fall is actually the perfect time to start planning for a post-winter purchase. In actuality, it’s less about the season – real estate isn’t tied to weather, after all – and more about the time frame needed to properly prepare.

If you’re like me, you dream about buying a house but wake up to the reality of loose-end finances and the overwhelming prospect of a monthly mortgage. You – and, specifically, I – need these extra months to get ready for one of life’s biggest investments.

So how to prepare?

1. Check your credit – Requesting a credit report is actually one of the easiest things you can do; clearing fraudulent activity is one of the hardest. That’s why it’s important to check your credit history early in the process if you’re thinking about buying. If you find something negative on your report, it could take months to clear things up. The U.S. government allows for one free report each year from each of the three national credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Visit annualcreditreport.com for your free reports. It's a great first step.

2. Pay down debt – This might seem like a no-brainer, but banks don’t want to see that you have a whole lot of stuff and not a whole lot of money. Banks need to know you’ll be able to pay their loan first and foremost, and they like to see a high credit score, which debt negatively affects. So start paying off those credit cards, and put off purchasing that new car or making any other major purchases until after you’ve secured a mortgage. Speaking of mortgages…

3. Build a down payment – Conventional wisdom says a down payment should be no less than 20 percent of the home price. A 20-percent down payment is something to shoot for, but it's not necessarily required or entirely realistic, particularly for first-time homebuyers. A 3.5 percent down payment is the minimum required to secure an FHA loan. So although you might not end up bringing 20 percent to the transaction, you will have to prepare to bring some cash to the transaction.

4. Research neighborhoods – This is where the fun starts. If you’re not sure which part of town you’re looking to live, get out and explore! Drive around, walk the streets, visit the shops and eat in the restaurants. If you don’t see yourself living there, then move on to the next community. And don’t forget to research school districts – even if you don’t have children or don’t have children in public schools. Homes in good school districts move the fastest when it’s time to sell – should that day ever come.

5. Get pre-approved – Unless you’re paying cash, nothing shows a seller you’re ready to buy quite like having a pre-approval letter from a lender. Plus, you’ll know exactly how much you can borrow, which can guide you toward properties in your price range. Plan to secure a pre-approval just before you start looking at homes. Meet with several lenders to determine which company you trust most and which one can offer you the best terms and interest rate. Oftentimes, your real estate agent can provide you the names of reputable lenders.

Find a local RE/MAX agent who can walk you through all the steps involved in buying a home and ultimately help you find the one that's your perfect fit.

5 Buyer Mistakes to Avoid When Buying A Foreclosure

by Denise D'Amico

 

5 Buyer Mistakes to Avoid When Buying A Foreclosure

 

Increase your chances of a successful REO purchase by avoiding these mistakes:

1. Hiring an inexperienced agent: Work with a Realtor who is well versed in foreclosures in the area you're searching. Look for someone with advanced training and a great deal of experience in distressed properties.

2. Not knowing the law: Foreclosure laws vary by state. What your neighbor’s cousin did in Florida won't necessarily play the same in California. Consult a Realtor familiar with your state’s laws who has facilitated REO purchases in your area in particular.

BUYER TIP

Get pre-approved for a mortgage. This is a good idea whether you intend to buy an REO or a traditional property. Not only will preapproval help you set your price range, but it will also help speed up the closing process after your offer is accepted.

3. Aiming too low: It's true that banks want foreclosures off their books, but that doesn't mean they'll accept a lowball offer. When making an offer, your agent should justify it with comparable data. An extremely low offer can derail negotiations. An experienced agent can coach you through the offer process.

4. Considering price only: There's more to an REO property than price. Some properties have extreme damage, and the cost of repairs could easily eat up any discount you're getting. Have the property inspected and see it for yourself. Objectively assess its value based on physical condition, location and your ability to improve the property.

5. Thinking short-term: Understand local market conditions – your agent can explain them in detail – before jumping in. Consider not just what’s happening now, but also where the market may be headed as you define your goals for your REO purchase. It's common to buy an REO to live in long-term, or to keep as an investment property for rent.

If you're thinking about purchasing a foreclosure or short sale property, contact Denise D'Amico at 847-551-9290. The D'Amico Group website.

5 Tips to Narrow Your Online Home Search

by Denise D'Amico
 
5 Tips to Narrow Your Online Home Search

 

 

You’ve decided to make the leap and move. Excitement. Anticipation. A little anxiety. You’re probably feeling a mix of all these emotions, especially as you navigate various online home search sites.

But with so many factors at play it can seem overwhelming. So where do you start? Here are five tips:

Talk to an agent – If you’re serious about buying in the next few months, your first step is to enlist the help of a local RE/MAX agent to assist you in your search. A good agent can help you identify exactly what you want in a property and identify neighborhoods that would fit your lifestyle – and budget – best. Also, your agent can set you up to receive property alerts via email or text when a home matching your criteria comes on the market, meaning you don’t have to stay glued to a computer to find the latest property matches!

Do your homework – Before searching for a home, familiarize yourself with the buying process. On remax.com, you’ll find an in-depth homebuying guide that will walk you through the process, from getting pre-approved for a loan and selecting an agent, to making an offer and getting to closing. In other words, research the process so you know what to expect, then dive into your online home search. Remax.com is a great place to start.

Use the “Advanced Search” – The best way to narrow search results down is using the “Advanced Search” feature on remax.com.  Select a specific price range, zip code(s), amenities, property types, and other criteria that will weed out homes you’re not interested in. If you don’t see as many listings as you had hoped to find, your parameters might be too restrictive; you might need to remove a few to find more properties. You can be as specific – or as general – as you want to be using this functionality. Also, don’t forget the “Hide” feature on remax.com, which is a great tool that allows you to hide listings that come up in your search results that you’re not interested in; this reduces some of site clutter so you can focus only on the front-runners.

Look for homes with photos and/or virtual tours – Photos can help you narrow down your choices, particularly if you realize the layout of a home doesn’t work for you, or the exterior needs a lot of work. Like the saying goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so take time and care to look at all photos and virtual tours. If a property doesn’t have a single photo, that could be a red flag that it’s not in show-ready condition.

Research the surrounding area – Once you’ve found some homes that interest you enough to look at in person, learn more about the neighborhoods and surrounding areas so there are no surprises.  For example, if walkability is really important to you, visit WalkScore.com, which rates an address between 0 and 100 based on walkability. GreatSchools.org allows you to research nearby schools based on test scores and parent/student ratings. If you find homes online that look amazing and the price is right, but the schools won’t cut it for your little ones, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

8 Tips for First Time Sellers

by Denise D'Amico
8 Tips for First-Time Sellers

 

If you’re selling a home for the first time, it’s quite a different ballgame from what you experienced as a first-time buyer.

Ultimately, you’re in control of the process. You call the shots on prepping your home for sale, deciding on a listing price, accepting (or rejecting) offers, and a host of other factors.

But you might want to heed the following eight tips to help ensure the best possible outcome (for more tips, visit the RE/MAX Home Selling guide):

1. Hire an experienced real estate agent – A real estate transaction is filled with complexities and nuances that a professional, skilled agent can help you navigate. Don’t risk going it alone. Contact your local RE/MAX expert .

2. Detach yourself from the process – You’ve made memories to last a lifetime in your first home, and saying goodbye is hard. But be careful not to let your emotional attachment get in the way of making sound decisions, particularly when it comes to staging and pricing your home. Try to see your home as a potential buyer would. Pretend you’re a potential buyer and walk through your home. Make a list of what you like about each room – and the things you’d change.

3. Don’t overprice – Some sellers might think that in today’s low-inventory market they can overprice their home and get top dollar. In reality, if you price it competitively, you’ll create a flurry of activity and (possibly) get in a situation where multiple offers are rolling in. Overpricing at the start hurts your chances of getting a quick sale, especially if numerous price reductions are needed.

4. Declutter and stage for a quick sale – Buyers who tour your home will have a hard time seeing their own families in it if you have photos of your own children plastered on the walls, or if you have jarring paint colors or décor in every room. Repaint the walls with neutral, earth-tone colors, and remove excess decorations from walls. Consider renting a storage unit to store large furniture that overpowers your main living areas; rooms should appear as spacious as possible.

5. Make the necessary repairs/upgrades – Ensure that all systems and appliances are functioning properly, as these items will come up in a home inspection that might cost you more money and, possibly, the whole sale down the road. The rule of thumb is to make improvements to your home that will help the property show well, but don’t put a ton of money into capital investments such as a basement refinish or high-end flooring, particularly if such upgrades aren’t consistent for your neighborhood. You likely won’t get that money back in the sale.

6. Give your home curb appeal – Your home’s front exterior is the first thing potential buyers will see when they drive by, and it’s likely the first photo that will appear in an online search. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint, add some bright flowers to your entryway, and make sure that any cracks or major cement damage is fixed. Consider renting a pressure washer to get rid of the grime and buildup on the outside of your house, and definitely keep the yard mowed and tidy. A little elbow grease goes a long way to making a positive first impression on buyers.

7. Keep an open mind for negotiations – What’s more important to you: Walking away with asking price (or more)? A quick closing time? Putting out as little up front cash in closing costs as possible? All of these are considerations you’ll need to make as you evaluate offers. Also, keep in mind that you have the ability to negotiate with counter-offers. Sometimes, you can sweeten the deal by offering to pay a buyer’s closing costs (if feasible), or leaving some appliances behind. A few concessions can go a long way in the negotiation process, and your Realtor can work with you to carefully evaluate and respond to each offer.

8. Get ready for closing – Once you’ve accepted an offer and signed a sales agreement, you’ll start prepping for a closing. Also called “escrow” or “settlement,” closing is the final meeting between the buyer, seller, their agents and a loan officer (or an attorney, in some states) where the buyer pays their portion of the costs to the seller and the buyer’s new title and any mortgage liens are properly recorded. The closing agent will calculate what monies are due to the owner and what credits need to be applied to the transaction, such as taxes, title fees and other closing costs.

Listing Photos: What To Look For When Shopping

by Denise D'Amico

 

Listing Photos: What To Look For When Shopping

These days, very little is left to the imagination when it comes to browsing homes for sale online. With virtual tours, professional photos and mapped locations, it's easy to see what you might be getting – before you ever set foot in a potential purchase. Technology certainly has its advantages, doesn't it?

These listing features help you, the homebuyer, narrow down your home search and direct your real estate agent to specific properties. And although you shouldn't risk ruling out an otherwise perfect property based solely on its online reputation – hey, even houses have bad days – photos and videos can help save time and energy when it comes to building your short list of homes to tour.

So what should you really be looking for based on these photos, videos and mapping tools? Start with:

  • Layout. Does it meet your space needs? Is it OK that your must-have second bathroom is in the basement?
  • Potential Repairs. Have the original hardwood floors seen better days? Are you up for the challenge of rehabbing?
  • Yard maintenance. Does the home feature a half-acre yard – on a hill – with 30 bushes that need regular pruning? Will you have time to maintain it all – and is the yard worth the effort?
  • Lot location. Are you concerned about being on a corner lot at one of the neighborhood's main intersections?

Remember, photos and videos can't always capture everything, so consider your top three priorities in a home. When you think you've found them in a property online, it might be worth taking a look in person – even if that shade of green in the kitchen isn't your first choice.

Preparing Your Home For The Right Buyer

by Denise D'Amico

Diva Montell and Jeorge Holmes at DiBenedetto!

by Denise D'Amico

 

Absolutely Amazing Singers

A Must See!

The Dash

by Denise D'Amico

 

THE DASH

It has inspired millions around the world!

 

 

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