What Does A Real Estate Agent Really Do?

April 16, 2014

During the home sale process, there are a lot of decisions to make. One of those decisions is if you want to use a realtor. What does a realtor actually do? Here area  few details for you:

The Commission Fee

The commission fee is highly negotiable and varies between each local market. The commission is based on the total purchase price of the home and runs between about 5 to 7 percent. This may not sound like much, but when you are selling a house that is 200,000 dollars, then even a 5 percent commission fee means that an agent will be getting a good chunk of change.

So, what are the services for this amount of money? In general, the job of a realtor is to assist in the listing, marketing, and closing of your home by providing you with the best staging advice, a liaison between you and other buyers, as well as a network of personnel to to help you with all the steps to selling a house such as attorneys, painters, appraisers, etc.

Listing Your House

During the pre-listing phase of your home, your realtor will assist you in making your home look as fabulous as possible. They will help you decide on an asking price tor the property by evaluating your home again other compared properties within the local market and then give you a listing price that they think is appropriate. The agent will evaluate what can be improved upon in the house before the listing is made. They will suggest repairs and ways to stage your home effectively, and then help you with finding the right contractors, painters, and other repairmen if repairs are necessary. After all of this, agents will often take pictures or hire photographers to get the best quality photos of your home to post on multiple websites. Pictures are very important as people from anywhere will be able to view them and will draw them in.

Marketing Your House

Realtors will post your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) website and in other media to alert potential buyers that an new listing has been made. Websites such as Trulia and Zillow which are fairly new are very affective as they are so easily accessible and easy to use. Agents will handle the process of interested buyer’s calling, scheduling, showings, and conducting open houses and personal tours.

Assistance With Closing

Closings are often the hardest part of dealing with realty and when a realtor really comes in handy. When a buyer makes an offer on a house the agent will work to bridge the gap from you and the potential buyer. In states where a real estate attorney is not legally required, realtors can advise you on whether you should accept or decline an offer, and what to make in counter offer. A good agent will help put you in touch with appraisers, inspectors, and other people that you might need for closing on a house. Agents can also help you find a title agent that can help your during the closing.

Summary

Depending on the amount of knowledge you have about the real estate process, a realtor might not be needed at all. You are not legally obligated to use a real estate agent to sell your house, but some states do require you to have a real estate attorney during the signing of the contract. You are the one that has to decide how much assistance you require in order for it to run smoothly with the least amount of stress as possible and if that is worth paying the commission for a realtor.


6 DIY Bathroom Storage Tricks

April 9, 2014

Bathroom are often the tiniest, but most used rooms in home, so it’s important to utilize as much space as possible. Here are some top ways to find storage in a small bathroom:

1) Install a big medicine cabinet

For much of the last century, medicine cabinets were small, because people knew how to get by without a lot of stuff. They were typically set into the wall between studs. If you’re not into the strict codes of the past, rip out the old unit and install a large wall-mounted cabinet. Yes, it will encroach a bit into the room, but your compensation is thousands of cubic inches of usable storage.

2) Go with vanity over a pedestal sink

The temptation with a small bathroom is to install a pedestal sink. The idea is that it will make your bathroom “feel” bigger. As that is true, there will be little to no storage. Instead, install a vanity and set your sink into it, or on top of it. Vessel sinks are a nice compromise between pedestal sinks and vanities.

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3) Use the space over the toilet!

Shelves or cabinets are great ways to use this underused spaces. Just leave enough rooms between the bottoms shelf and the top of the toilet thanks, so you can easily access the flush mechanism to make repairs. There are hundreds of over-the-toilet organizers available. Some mount to the wall, whole other have legs that straddle the toilet tank and rest on the floor. It’s a very inexpensive way to add not only more storage space, but a nicer look to your bathroom.

traditional-bathroom-storage

4) Hang hooks behind the door

There are all sorts of racks designed to take advantage of the space behind the bathroom door. Some racks install over the door top; other hang on the hinge pins. Keep in mind that towel bars are better for hanging wet towels, but hooks are great for robes and clothing. In a punch, use a classic back-of-the-door show bag and fill the compartments with extra soaps, shampoos, bandages, combs, and so on.

5) Hang stuff in the shower area

Some find shower organizers that hang from the shower head bothersome and useless. A better way is to hang the organizer near the back of the shower area. Doing so may require that  you install a hook in tile, but that’s easier than it sounds. Use a punch to nick the tile and bore an anchor hole with a masonry bit. While you’re at it, install a few extra hooks for hanging brushes, shower caps, wash clothes, etc.

6) Use less stuff

The first rule of organization is to get rid of stuff. Clear out hair and skin products you tried once and never used again. Do the same with old medicines. Turn old towels you rarely use into rags.  And limit your stock of bathroom cleaning agents– you’d be surprised how versatile a big bottle of white vinegar and a jar of baking soda are.

 


9 Tips to Make Packing Easier

April 2, 2014

Packing is always expensive, time-consuming and stressful. If you’re going the DIY route, here are nine tips to make the task a little simpler for you and everyone involved:

1) Clear out the junk:

Get ride of items you don’t plan to move. If you intend to give something away to a friend or family member, either deliver it to them properly or set a deadline for them to come and pick it up.

For those items that aren’t being handed off to friends or relatives, consider selling them at a garage sale or donating them to charity, or simply toss them.

2) Collect free boxes

Rather than forking over money for boxes, check with local grocery, liquor and hardware stores to see whether they can give you leftover ones.

Liquor store boxes are ideal for books and heavier items, as they are usually more compact, easier to handle, and sturdy.

Local moving companies in your area often have free boxes left over from other moves as well.

3) Label the boxes

Based on the rooms and where they’ll go, label boxes on every side.

You never know how things are going to end up being stocked in the moving truck, and nothing is more frustrating than having to flip a box around to find out what room it belongs in.

Also labeling colors for each room (such as red for the kitchen, blue for bathrooms, etc) may also help for more organization.

4) Don’t skimp on tape!

We’ve seen far too many people buying cheap packing tape, and then applying just a single piece to the bottom of a box containing cherished items.

Buy good tape and a lot of it. It’s easy to open boxes later with a knife or even a set of keys.

Don’t forget to pick up a heavy-duty tape dispense made for shipping. You can buy one for $20 or less at office supply stores or other retailers. It defiantly pays off in the long run!

5) Consider the weight

Remember, the bigger the box, the lighter the content. Books should go in small boxes,  shoes and clothes in midsize boxes, and bedding in larger boxes. It’s easier for movers and won’t break their backs.

6) Stay focused

Finish packing each room before switching to the next. We tend to get distracted and fail to finish when you do more rooms at once. All this does is leave you with a whole lot of last-minute packing by throwing stuff together in unrelated boxes.

7) Don’t waste space

To conserve on boxes (and believe me, the less the better) you should pack belongings into coolers, totes, laundry hampers, baskets, empty suitcases, and empty drawers.

8) Throw in the Towel

Save money on bubble wrap by using towels, clothes, and blankets as cushioning for glasses and other breakables.

9) Always pack the kitchen last

Chances are, all that packing will make you hungry, and you don’t to be scrounging around for plates, utensils and cups. A full, happy stomach will make moving easier and less stressful. The last thing you want to be is hungry and stressed out.

 

Remember, packing and moving days are always stressful and hard and you want to do it as fast as possible to get it over with, but at the end of the day you’ll thank yourself for taking time to use these tips to make everything a little easier in the long run.

 


How To Get Squeaky Clean Windows

March 26, 2014

It’s true, washing windows isn’t something most homeowners look forward to, but once the task is completed- the results can be breathtaking. Plus, it’s easier to enjoy sunny days when your windows are sparkly clean. Here are some tops on how to clean your windows like a pro.

Equipment: To make window washing less of a chore, make sure you’re armed with the proper tools. Pros recommend using a good quality squeegee. If you’re determined to make window cleanliness an ongoing priority, consider investing in several sizes. A 12-to 15-inche squeegee will work for the majority of your windows, but if you have divided windows, you may need a smaller squeegee as well.

Also on your must have list: a T-bar style window scrubber. This device looks like a mop and comes with removable sleeves that can be washed when they get dirty.

While you’re gathering supplies, be sure to pick up a bucket that’s large enough to fit your largest squeegee and scrubber, lint-free clothes, sponges, a metal scrubber, ladders, detergent, and steel wool.

The Basics:

Start your beautification efforts indoors and move outside, where the glass is likely grimier.

Many pros use just squirt of dish washing liquid in half a bucket of cool water. Without stirring up a bunch of bubbles, dip your scrubber into the bucket. Then, scrub your window, moving the scrubber up and downs across the entire surface of the window. Use a smaller sponge to get into corners you can’t sufficiently clean with the scrubber.

Next, it’s time to squeegee. Start in an upper corner and pull the squeegee evenly across the window, side to side. At the end of each stroke, wipe the squeegee’s blade with a clean rag. With practice, you’ll be able to angle the squeegee slightly so the water drips downward.

Remove any water remaining on the edges of the glass with a damp – but not wet – chamois, then use a towel to wipe up any water spilled on the sill or floor. Repeat the process until all your windows are squeaky clean- indoors and out.

Tricks of the trade:

Mineral stains, sticker residue and tree sap are the sorts of challenges window cleaning pros encounter every day. Here’s a roundup of some of their tips for ensuring your windows are as clean as they can be:

  • It’s best to clean windows on cloudy, dry day. If you try to wash them on a bright day, you may find direct sunlight dries your cleaning solution before you can properly polish the glass.
  • For stubborn mineral stains that won’t budge with regular washing the glass and cleaning it with a small amount of nonabrasive cleaner, like Bar Keepers Friend, on a clean, wet cloth. You can also use a solvent such as acetone or mineral spirits on a clean, dry, lint-free microfiber cloth. Simply rub the spots and avoid getting cleansers or glass twice to remove the residue.
  • A tip for spiffing up those hard-to-clean divided windows: Use a hacksaw to cut a squeegee downs to size, to fit into the small window panes. Micro-fiber cloths work well for cleaning windows. Caution against using fabric softener when you wash these cloths as it will reduce their absorbency.
  • Frosted, film- covered or decorative glass should be cleaned following the glass supplier’s specific cleaning recommendations. Do not use razor blades or other scarpers when cleaning decorative glass.

 


Real Estate Trends For 2014

March 19, 2014

As the real estate industry gets their feet wet and looks ahead to the remainder of 2014, there is hope on the horizon. The coming year is the one that many industry experts say will be the “recovery from the recovery” as far as real estate is concerned. Both buyers and sellers have a lot to look forward to.

To get a full picture of what to expect, take a look at some interesting tidbits related to the real estate outlook for this year:

Increase in home values

Real estate analysis company Zillow predicts that the value of American homes will increase by 3 percent in 2014. Zillow also estimates that mortgage rates will rise to 5 percent, the highest since the recession. This makes it a favorable market for sellers but the overall economic recovery will hopefully spur more potential homeowners to action.

Millennials still aren’t buying

Despite most industries tailoring marketing to Millennials (the current generation that’s between the ages of 18 and 34 — people born in the late 70s, 80s, and 90s), this group is still not making an impact when it comes to home buying. In fact, even as the members of this demographic expand family size, Millennials are not buying as many homes as their parents did. Still, industry analysts are interested in the movement of this group that has seen especially strong homeownership in places like Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Austin.

Job growth, interest rates have influence

In the Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2014 survey, respondents expressed the importance they felt the following issues had in relationship to buying real estate, on a scale of 1 to 5 (greatest importance):

Job growth – 4.63

Interest rates – 4.46

Construction costs – 4.03

Land costs – 3.85

Inflation – 3.68

Global economic growth – 3.6

Energy prices – 3.37

Affordable/workforce housing – 3.15

Green buildings – 2.75

Industrial property will top commercial buying

When it comes to commercial properties, industrial land and buildings will lead the way in 2014. Following behind are hotel, apartment, retail, and office properties. While many real estate investors claim to want to buy industrial property in the coming year, just 10 percent want to sell it. This may negatively impact the trend – or buyers may be able to convince sellers if the price is right.

Dodd-Frank will better protect home buyers

Though the new Dodd-Frank mortgage rules may make it more difficult for people to obtain mortgages, they are designed to protect homeowners from foreclosure. The new laws call for stricter repayment qualifications, stronger consumer protections against foreclosure, and requirements for escrow accounts. Consulting with mortgage brokers is the best way to understand the individual impact of these laws on your own buying situation.

All of these trends together paint a much brighter picture of the real estate industry, and the economy overall, than those of even one year ago. As people gain more confidence in the economy, it will be reflected in the real estate industry – to the benefit of both buyers and sellers.


Follow the mortgage money: Why 2014 should be a good year for housing

March 12, 2014

Outcomes are often determined by deeply partisan politicians who sometimes, but rarely, decide to come together to solve tough problems, and federal regulators who see laws like Dodd-Frank as providing mere starting suggestions for the rules they ultimately write according to their own whims.

Remember the original qualified residential mortgage (QRM) regulation, which as proposed would have required that lenders retain a share of the risk in mortgages made to borrowers putting less than 20 percent down? Invented out of whole cloth by bureaucrats who regulate banks.

That said, here are a few fearless forecasts for 2014 and beyond.

For really big housing issues like comprehensive tax reform and replacement of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, forget about 2014. There’ll be smoke,. there’ll be a lot of talk and campaign promises. But think 2015 or maybe the post-presidential election 2017 session of Congress for any real action. until then it’s hard to see how either gets done. The players are simply not up to it.

Both House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., have spent the past year meticulously examining the federal income tax code. They’ve been looking for ways to streamline and simplify current deductions, credits and special interest preferences, with the goal of possibly lowering maximum tax brackets for individuals and corporations.

They held hearings, commissioned staff studies and produced draft legislative proposals that are guaranteed to upset virtually every major industry — real estate and housing, in particular.

Though Camp has not yet disclosed what’s in his package, the word that it seeks wholesale cutbacks in deductions and credits — mortgage interest, capital gains, property tax write-offs among many others — in order to partially pay for lower tax brackets and other simplifications. When and if Camp actually introduces his bill, he’ll get kudos for his courage to address such a complex issue. Then watch as the Republican leadership backs away like it’s a dead skunk, too unpleasant to handle in an election year. Baucus is likely to meet a similar fate in the Senate.

Serious consideration of broad-based tax reform will have to wait until the next election sweep — House, Senate and White House — by one or another of the parties. The earliest that could happen is 2016, assuming the Republicans retain the House and Democrats the Senate in 2014.

With a new president, figuring out how to streamline the code will take at least another year, even with one party in charge. Mortgage interest, capital gains and other key real estate provisions should be safe until then.

The fates of Fannie and Freddie may well be the same story: Though committee hearings were held this year in both the  Senate and the House on how to phase them out and create a replacement secondary mortgage market system, the bills that have emerged are philosophically so far apart that the gap cannot be bridged in the 2014 election year.

Republicans in the House want little or no federal role in mortgage finances other than a pared-down Federal Housing Administration. Senate Democrats insist on a strong federal financial backup for the mortgage market, and more than a few would like to retain something along the lines of Fannie and Freddie, perhaps combined.

Meanwhile, Fannie and Freddie are generating surpluses, and appear set to keep minting money by the billions for the federal Treasury. In an era of ballooning budget deficits, who’s going to stop that?

Certainly not the new head honcho for oversight of Fannie and Freddie, Mel Watt, who is replacing Ed DeMarco. Watt won’t take long to install the Obama administration’s agenda at the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the mortgage gains.

Even before his arrival as director, Watt has had an impact: DeMarco canceled cuts in Fannie and Freddie maximum loan limits that he had already scheduled. He knew full well that Watt would reverse them anyway (with DeMarco on his way out, the FHFA on Monday announced that it was seeking public comment on a plan to reduce loan limits in October).

Once in office, Watt is likely to open the door for the  first time to principal reductions for Fannie-Freddie borrowers who have trouble affording their loans. DeMarco had long resisted White House demands that he allow such debt reductions on agency mortgages, angering the president and liberal Democrats.

Watt is also likely to look for ways — consistent with his legal role as conservator — to open conventional financing to broader segments of the homebuying public by easing up on credit score and other underwriting standards and possibly cutting current 5 percent minimum down payment requirements.

In other areas:

  • Get ready for some exceptionally bumpy mortgages market conditions in the first half of 2014 as lenders to figure out how to comply with the new qualified mortgage and other rules taking effect, beginning in January. Look for longer processing times, more rejections on QM ground, all complicated by likely increases in mortgage interest rates as the Federal Reserve’s “tapering” of its securities purchases begins to phase in. More contracts written on home purchases are likely to fall through, and applicants are certain to find early 2014 a more challenging marketplace than they would have encountered in 2013.
  • After 18 months of cordial working relations with industry groups, look for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take more of a bare-knuckles approach on key issues for Realtors, builders, and lenders, such as the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), equal credit opportunity and mortgages servicing complaints. The bureau is now likely to pick up on the Obama administration’s emerging second-term shift to he left in domestic policy, and go for the jugular on real estate issues such as affiliated business arrangements.
  • For the overall real estate market, 2014 is likely to be the first relatively “normal” year in terms of sales, inventory and price changes, since the bust in 2008. Rock-bottom inventories in multiple markets, especially California, helped push prices abnormally up in 2013. But listings should be less of a problem in most parts of the country in 2014.

Sellers have more confidence they’ll get fair pricing, plus millions of previously underwater owners have crossed over into positive equity status in recent quarters, giving them a shot at selling. Unless rates spike or Wall Street sees a 20 percent-plus correction, the better balance between supply and demand should make 2014 a good year.


Why Today’s Homebuyer Needs a Real Estate Agent More Than Ever

March 5, 2014

Many homebuyers think they can save a bit of money and hassle by representing themselves when looking to buy a house. These buyers want to do all the work an agent would be doing to find and buy their home, and get paid a commission to do the work. What many buyers do not understand is the commission is payable to the listing agent who agrees to pay a portion of that to the Realtor representing a buyer.

Usually, if there’s no buyer’s agent, the seller’s agent gets the entire commission. Some agents will accept a reduced commission if representing both parties. The seller can save some money that way. Not often does a buyer see much of that saved commission.

Realtors get many emails each year from homebuyers, usually first-timers, who want to know how they can get a real estate license so they  can save money on the purchase of a home.

The truth is, you do not have to get a license to buy a home, and you do not have to work with a real estate agent. In order to get a license, you have to work through a broker, who generally gets a percentage of each commission.

The buyers who want to do this are usually planning on buying a home that costs higher than the average for a first-time homebuyer in this market – and plan on saving a good portion by doing the work themselves.

Without a realtor, buyers have no consultation on where to look for potential homes, how to ask for a price reduction, or have the seller pay the closing costs, equal to roughly what the listing broker was expecting to pay out to a cooperating broker bringing a buyer to a sale.

Buyers who are represented have a system of support helping them with things such as writing price reductions into contracts, and suggestions on how to make an offer better and more competitive, so they have a chance in a multiple-offer situation.

Many unrepresented buyers do not have their offers accepted in a multiple-offer situation. This is usually when they give up and talk to an agent.

It would be easier for buyers to represent themselves when the market is leaning towards a buyer’s market. Multiple-offer situations are very common today, and unrepresented buyers often lose in those situations because of the lack of support they have. Today’s buyer often has to compete with experienced agents, and that causes them to be at a disadvantage.


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