4 things buyers consider when buying a home.

Pretty Please

So you’re ready to put your house on the market. You want to get it sold and move on to the next phase of your life. All you need to do is stick a sign in the yard and wait for someone to call, right? It really can’t be that hard. You love the place. It has so much character anyone who just walks in the door will appreciate it as much as you have. But after a few unproductive visits by people who don’t seem to share your passion for your castle you may begin to wonder what is really going on inside those buyers’ heads. It’s not that complicated. They are considering the same four things you will be considering when you begin your new home search. Two of those criteria you have complete control over. Two of them you don’t.

1.      Location

You’ve heard it before: location, location, location. It’s become somewhat overused but don’t disregard the fact that everyone who looks at your house is going to be working out how they will get from your address to everywhere they need to go in their lives. Work, school, church, shopping, proximity to other family members, all of these will play a large role in determining whether your address works for them. To make matters more complicated, everyone who walks in your door will have a different set of places they’ll need to go, starting at your address. Everything else about your house may work for them but if it’s too far from one of their important destinations they won’t buy your house. You can’t control this priority for the home buyer. Your house is where it is. You can’t move it.

2.      Floorplan

You enjoyed the spacious upstairs game room. It’s large enough for a pool table and a 55” 4K UHD TV. Being able to send the three kids upstairs to their rooms at the end of the day, leaving the entire downstairs to you and your spouse, has also been a real plus. But when a buyer comes to look at your house and realizes that there is no spare bedroom downstairs for his 85 year old mother when she comes to visit, your house will be marked off the list. Floorplans reflect the lifestyle of the owner. They complement and enhance the way we live. If they don’t work, short of agreeing to build that second bedroom on the back of the house, you’re not going to sell your house to that person. Floorplans are permanent. For the most part, you can’t make significant changes in them.

Even though these two characteristics of your home are very important to buyers, you can’t really do anything about them if your property comes up short on their list in either area. In these two cases you are simply waiting for the right buyer to come along who values the location and layout as much as you have.  If they’re on the fence about whether or not they could make the combination work, the next two items on the list are where you can make changes that might just tip them over the edge.

3.      Condition

Here is where you as a seller can influence the buyer that your property is an excellent choice. If you’ve been keeping up with your maintenance, the overall mechanical condition of the house is good. Everything is in dependable working order: HVAC, water heater, kitchen appliances, anything with moving parts will all be in good repair. Interior and exterior paint, carpet, landscaping, and lighting will be clean, well kept, and up to date. Determining if this is true may take a bit of focus on your part. After all, you’ve lived in the house for a long time. Maybe you’ve gotten used to the way the back door sticks when you try to open it. The dishwasher makes a weird sound in the rinse but it still cleans the dishes. That frayed corner of the carpet has been there since fluffy was a puppy. You’ve obscured it with a table but a buyer won’t be impressed with your ingenuity. Take care of these things in advance. Don’t let them quietly be the reason someone says “no” to your home. If you have to spend a few hundred dollars on a new dishwasher or to get the fuzzy wallpaper taken off the walls in the guest bathroom, do it and look at it this way. You should have done it a long time ago. What were you doing with fuzzy wallpaper in the bathroom in the first place?

4.      Price

This one is the Holy Grail. It’s the one point that you control as a home seller where it can be difficult to find balance. You want to get as much as you can for your property but you don’t want to wait around forever to make a sale. As your Real Estate agent I can show you how your house compares with others that have sold in the area. I can suggest a price that will make you competitive within the market place. In the end, though, it’s very important to remember that while you set the listing price, the market sets the sales price. Your willingness to work with any offer will directly affect how quickly your property will sell. It’s important to consider also that your mortgage payment, insurance, taxes, and utilities all continue as you are waiting for a sale. Be sure to factor that in when you are looking at each offer.

Even though you have no control of the desirability of your property’s location or the floorplan of the house, with the two parameters you do control you might be able to swing a reluctant buyer your way. If the house is immaculate and priced competitively a buyer just might be willing to drive an extra five miles to work every day in order to enjoy your home.

Remember, your house isn’t the only one the buyer has to choose from. If you make sure your approach to marketing is better than the next guy’s, you’ll be the one who ends up at the closing table first.

If you are currently in the market to buy or sell a home in Tulsa or the surrounding areas, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I have twelve years experience in this market and I can make the process as easy as possible for you. I look forward to meeting you soon!

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4 phrases that you should never say at work if you want people to trust you

file7951263251529Today we delve into the issues of interpersonal relationships. Maybe a somewhat off base topic coming from a Real Estate agent, but since I deal with people all the time I have made it a habit to be as straightforward as possible when communicating to clients and friends. This is not to say one needs to be rude in any relationship but I have found that everyone appreciates someone who will be definite and deliberate when providing information. This article is by Judith Humphrey and is written from the viewpoint of the employer/employee relationship. But these four points could be adopted by anyone in any situation who wanted to improve their communication skills with friends and colleagues.

A friend of mine was recently telling me about her new job. “I like it, except my boss is hard to read,” she said. “I wish she’d just come out and say what she thinks!” Instead, her boss uses wishy-washy expressions like, “Hopefully you’re okay with this?” and, “I might possibly have a suggestion for you.”
As organizations become flatter, communicating well in every direction is getting more important. But managers and leaders are often worried about sounding too controlling, so they soften what they say. Their team members, taking their cue, bury their own ideas under hedging expressions that muddle their meaning. Before long, everyone just winds up sounding less clear, confident, and authoritative than they actually feel. In order to make sure you sound like you know what you’re talking about, cut these common words and phrases from your vocabulary.

1. “I’m not sure, but…”

For starters, it’s okay not to be sure about something. After all, false confidence is often just as bad as open ignorance. But saying “I’m not sure” when you really do have a decent grasp on the matter only undercuts your cause.
When your employee, for instance, says, “I’m not quite sure, but I should have the report done by Friday,” you’re left to wonder whether that means you’ll actually have to wait until the following week, or that they’re just being modest. There are better ways to communicate tentativeness in cases like this: “I’m waiting on a few more data points from our finance team, so as long as those come through tomorrow, the report will be ready by Friday.” Now your employee sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.

Similar qualifiers to avoid include “only a thought,” “just my opinion,” “hard to say,” and “this might be a silly question.” None of these humble idioms help you make a compelling case about a complicated topic, or let you underscore what you do know in a situation where there are unknowns. The goal isn’t to minimize uncertainty or downplay risks. It’s to be taken seriously as someone who can navigate those gray-area experiences with well-founded confidence.

2. “Sort of” or “Kind of”

When someone says, “I sort of think” or “I kind of suspect,” it’s clear they either don’t want to come out and speak the truth or else don’t really know their own mind.

Maybe a sales manager says something like this: “I kind of think we should approach that client again–it’s been a long time since we’ve heard from them. What do you think?” Is she uncertain about going forward and genuinely wants your opinion, or is she just trying to give direction by softening her statement?

Or perhaps your boss says, “I sort of liked the work you turned in last week.” Perhaps she’s suggesting your work wasn’t up to snuff, or perhaps she’s just giving you a compliment and softening her language. It might seem like an unimportant difference, but in reality it leaves you not knowing how to respond: Do you keep doing what you’ve been doing, or do you ask for feedback on how to do better work next time?

Not only do these phrases create a lack of clarity for team members, they also make team leaders who use them sound less confident and transparent than they should.

3. “Maybe,” “Possibly,” and “Potentially”

“Maybe,” “possibly,” “probably,” “basically,” “largely,” and “hopefully” are all words that smack of indecision. If a manager says to a staff member, “Hopefully you’ll be okay with this change,” his listener might wonder whether she actually has leeway to challenge it.

Many qualifiers like these have a similar effect. An employee tells a supervisor, “The project is largely complete”–instead of actually saying when it will be done or why it’s not quite there yet. An IT manager says to an internal client, “It’s basically a software problem, but possibly we can fix it pretty soon ourselves.” Is this good news or bad news? Who knows! None of these phrases instill much confidence that the speaker has a handle on the situation.

4. Using the past tense when you mean the present

How many times have you been in a meeting and heard a colleague say, “I thought I should mention that . . . ” or, “I was thinking we should . . . “? It sounds like the person talking no longer quite believes in whatever idea they’re putting forward. Compare those past tense expressions to phrases like “I want to mention . . .” and “I think we should . . .” and the difference is clear.
Similarly, when you say, “I just wanted to point out that our project is well under way,” the first part of the statement hedges the rest of the sentence that comes after it, which is actually positive. It’s as though you really did have something to say, then thought better of it, but finally decided–hesitantly–to put it out there anyway. You’ve just created confusion, rather than announcing clearly and confidently that your project is going just fine.
If you want to sound like a capable speaker who knows what you’re talking about, don’t water down your message. Avoid these four patterns and expressions. They don’t make you sound more approachable–they just make you sound uncertain, even when you aren’t.

Everyone has one: Pick a bad habit you need to shake at work. Make it your goal to start fixing it this week.

This article originally appeared on Fast Company

If you are currently in the market to buy or sell a home in Tulsa or the surrounding areas, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I have twelve years experience in this market and I can make the process as easy as possible for you. I look forward to meeting you soon!
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I Spy

So this happened. I had a client find a property from a list I send him online every day. He was so smitten by the property that he drove up from  Dallas that weekend to take a look. He has good taste. It’s roughly a 2700 square foot contemporary property in an exclusive community just to the north of Tulsa. It has everything you might want: 1/2 acre lot, private bath in every bedroom, hardwood floors throughout the house, open concept with elevated ceilings and plenty of windows across the back of the house overlooking the salt water infinity pool in the back yard. It even includes an in-ground storm shelter in the third bay of the three car garage. That’s important here in tornado alley. All this could be his for under $500,000.00 (prices are very reasonable here in Tulsa)!

As we were walking through the house commenting on the many upgrades we wandered into the study. There on the wall was an Education Certificate confirming the owner’s graduation from a government school specializing in intelligence gathering. This guy was a US spy! Think NSA, CIA, FBI; not saying which. He could be reading this.

When I initially arrived at the address my client was already there. He had seen the owner drive away while he was waiting for me to arrive. After we left the house and as we were leaving the subdivision my client later told me we passed the owner who was returning home at the same time. He thought it was a coincidence. I believe it was not. He most likely knew when we were finished with our tour because his house probably alerted him when we left.

To be honest, this isn’t all that uncommon any more. One of my other clients who had installed a very sophisticated security system after a break-in put their house up for sale. When buyers would visit, the owner could tell me when they arrived and how long they stayed because they had to disarm and re-arm  the security system when they came and went. The owner was alerted every time by an app on her smart phone.

In another instance I went to a house to preview it for a buyer. I couldn’t tell whether it was occupied or vacant so I rang the door bell just in case. No one answered the door but I could hear dogs barking inside so I didn’t enter. Later I verified the house was vacant so I went back a second time. Inside I found a sophisticated system with cameras and remote sound capability. The dogs weren’t real. But it was enough to keep me out.

There are Realtor stories about unaware agents who would hold open houses and during the slow times would rummage through the owner’s drawers. Caught on camera, they would ultimately lose the listing and possibly their license.

What this means for you if you’re in the market to buy a home is that you should always consider the possibility that you are under surveillance whenever you’re in someone else’s house. Under normal circumstances this really shouldn’t be a very big deal. You’re there to look at the house, not the stuff inside. As long as you display the correct amount of respect for others’ property you will not have any issues.

However, you might want to reserve voicing your remarks about the property until after you’ve left. You don’t know who might be listening. If you absolutely love the house and must have it no matter what, if you say all this while you’re in the house the seller might be more inclined to hold out on you to see how badly you want it.

In Oklahoma it is not illegal to use video surveillance cameras to monitor movement inside your house. It is illegal, however, to also embed audio with the video without announcing that full surveillance is watching and listening to you while you’re there. But then, you are in someone else’s house, after all. If the sign is missing, how would you ever know anyway?

This shouldn’t really change the way you walk through the process of checking out possible new homes for your family. After all, the seller deserves to have his property left the same way you found it, cameras or not. Just do your dreaming about the possibilities in the driveway. You deserve your privacy, too.

If you are currently in the market to buy or sell a home in Tulsa or the surrounding areas, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I have twelve years experience in this market and I can make the process as easy as possible for you. I look forward to meeting you soon!

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What makes a room a bedroom?

If you’re buying or selling a property, knowing the correct way to describe what you are selling or looking for is crucial. Here is a description of what actually qualifies as a bedroom from Portland Real Estate journalist Cathie Ericson.

Does anyone who is not from the other side of the galaxy really need to ask, “What is a bedroom?” Actually, yes. Welcome to the nuances of real estate speak, where not everything is as it seems.

There are, in fact, a number of details that make a room a “bedroom”—and both home buyers and sellers had best know them to avoid misunderstandings.

“Since a home and/or bedroom can go through many incarnations over its life, sellers should be familiar with what makes a bedroom a legal bedroom prior to listing their home, to ensure there are no issues holding up the sale when a buyer has been secured,” says Carl Ekroth of Douglas Elliman in New York City.

Bedrooms are one of the most important selling features of a home, notes Mark Abdel, a real estate professional with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Minneapolis–St. Paul. So it’s no surprise that homeowners want to slap that label on as many rooms as possible.

“Sellers can usually set and get a higher price the more bedrooms a home has,” Abdel says.

Six features that define a bedroom

The laws vary by state, but here are six ways you can tell if your room is a bedroom rather than just a “room”:

Minimum square footage: This is the top issue, says Shaun Anders of Douglas Elliman. Although this can vary from state to state, 70 to 80 square feet is generally the acceptable minimum. “Sellers in urban markets such as New York City and Chicago would love 5-by-7[-foot] rooms to qualify as a bedroom, but no go,” says Anders.

Minimum horizontal footage: The minimum square footage doesn’t tell the whole tale. A bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet in any horizontal direction. That is why you can’t call a hallway a bedroom!

Two means of egress: There have to be two ways out of a bedroom. Traditionally, these would be a door and a window. Ekroth adds that in most markets, a skylight would also qualify as that means of egress.

Minimum ceiling height: At least half of the bedroom ceiling has to be at least 7 feet tall.

Minimum window size: The window opening must be a minimum size, usually 5.7 square feet.

A heating and cooling element: We’re talking a heater (a space heater won’t qualify) as well as a way to cool it down, whether that’s by opening a window or good old AC.

Does a bedroom need a closet?

Contrary to popular belief, a bedroom does not have to have a closet to be considered official. (Your significant other might disagree, but legally, at least in most states, it does not.) Closets are expected in newer homes, but older ones might require a more creative approach to stowing your clothes.

So what can you call a room that doesn’t hit these requirements? Based on your state, you could get away with calling it an “office,” “nursery,” or the ultimate catch-all, “bonus room.” Because bedroom or not, just about any indication of extra space will make most buyers’ eyes light up.

Cathie Ericson is a journalist who writes about real estate, finance, and health. She lives in Portland, OR.

If you are currently in the market to buy or sell a home in Tulsa or the surrounding areas, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I have twelve years experience in this market and I can make the process as easy as possible for you. I look forward to meeting you soon!

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11 reasons “For Sale by Owner” is a terrible idea

Pretty PleaseIt’s the time of year when home sales tick up. Since the market is active anyway, some homeowners may believe selling their property themselves will be just as easy without an agent. After all, as the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. If the “tide” were the only consideration, then maybe it would be easy. But as Chris Rediger explains here in his excellent article, there’s more to it than that…

Frank, a smart and tech-savvy Denver homeowner, thought he’d skip the agent commission and sell his house himself.

He researched his home’s property value, found a buyer and got the house under contract. It seemed like a done deal until he realized in a panic that he had seriously undervalued the property — by more than $100,000. Frank had misunderstood the report he’d pulled and incorrectly valued the house.

The error cost him $30,000 to get out of the contract.

In your dealings with potential sellers, you’re going to run into people who will question the worth of an agent. Or you’ll come across a smug homeowner who’s got it figured out and listed his or her home for sale by owner (FSBO).

1. Scams happen

Judy (not her real name) in Raleigh, North Carolina, fell in love with a FSBO home. She agreed not to use an agent and paid the homeowner $3,000 in earnest money.

Then the homeowner changed his mind. With no contract signed and no receipt, Judy lost all her earnest money. She trusted the homeowner when she should have trusted an agent.

FSBO scams happen to both buyers and sellers with little recourse besides hiring an attorney.

Common scams include fraudulent papers (appraisals, loan documentation), foreign buyer deposits (scammer sends too much in a bad check and then requests a refund), purchases through a third-party (a fake attorney, etc.) and asking for personal information.

2. Liability is all on the seller

Everyone makes mistakes. A seller (or buyer) who doesn’t have the representation of a licensed agent pays for those mistakes. Attorneys can close a real estate transaction, but they don’t carry errors and omissions (E&O) insurance.

So if homeowner Sandy lists “hardwood floors” as a feature and the buyer discovers it’s just a wood veneer, chances are Sandy is going to pay for that mistake.

An agent would have either caught the mistake or covered it with E&O insurance. Let’s face it: this is a litigious society, so what homeowner wants to be a target for lawsuits?

3. Paperwork is daunting

The 2015 National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers showed that understanding paperwork was one of the most difficult tasks for FSBOs.

Depending on the state, there are a variety of legal forms that are needed, including but not limited to a sales contract, property disclosures, occupancy agreements and lead paint records.

Sure, ready-made contracts can be downloaded easily enough. But does an untrained seller understand what all that means? Would the seller know how to customize that one-size-fits-all contract?

4. Sellers can get stuck in a bad deal

Like Frank, FSBOs who sign on the dotted line and then realize an error are stuck. They have to pay the buyer (if they’re willing) to get out of it or just take the deal.

5. FSBOs sell for less

In 2015, FSBOs lost about 16 percent of the sales price with a median selling price of $210,000 (agent-assisted homes sold for $249,000).

Homeowners selling by themselves simply don’t have the time to devote to the process, don’t know the market value, don’t understand market reports and don’t properly market the property.

If the FSBO seller sold to someone he or she knew, the median dropped to $151,900 (because cousin Sue is doing them a favor and expects a deal).

6. FSBOs spend more time on the market

Unless the seller knows someone who wants to buy the home, FSBOs take longer to sell than homes listed with an agent. For the same reasons, they can’t get the right selling price.

No one is “behind the curtain” running the marketing show. On average, 18 percent of FSBOs were unable to sell within their chosen time frame last year.

7. FSBOs lack representation

There’s no one looking out for the homeowners who sell on their own. They have no one to call if they have a problem or a question.

Dave found this out when he sold his Morrison, Colorado, home himself. Studying for his real estate license, Dave felt confident he could handle the contracts. Then the unexpected happened.

When his house was under contract, a state patrol car pursuing a speeding motorist crashed into a downstairs bedroom. Repairs threatened to push back closing, and suddenly, the buyer was asking for a storage unit, the cost of temporary housing and more.

He was lucky enough to have an agent friend who could step in, but a homeowner with no representation could have been out thousands of dollars unnecessarily.

8. Inspections are problematic

Sellers who don’t know the rules can get stuck with unnecessary and costly repairs. When Sue sold her 10-year-old Highlands Ranch, Colorado, home, after the inspection, the inspector said she needed to change the stairs from the garage to the house because the code had changed.

He listed other code changes, and the buyer began to demand these be done. Surprisingly, the inspector didn’t know that because these items were to code when the house was built, the seller wasn’t responsible for these changes.

9. Marketing is limited

FSBOs have limited resources to market their home. The 2015 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers showed 42 percent rely on a yard sign, 32 percent rely on friends and family, and about 15 percent use social media.

Relying on the neighbors and Uncle Bob’s second cousin has its limitations. Even paying for the MLS listing won’t be enough because there’s no incentive for an agent to bring a buyer to a FSBO.

10. Hidden costs add up

The mindset for most FSBOs is saving money. Chances are these sellers are being nickeled and dimed into a pretty big chunk of change.

They’re paying for a lot of extras: signage, flyers, photography, MLS listing, attorney (required in multiple states for FSBOs), home warranty (optional but hard to sell without one), home inspection, a wood destroying pest inspection, credit report for buyers (if applicable), contracts and the list goes on.

11. Time costs the seller money

The biggest cost to a homeowner is their time. You might hear the argument that it doesn’t take an agent that much time to sell a house. And honestly, given the technology at our disposal, that’s true — to an extent.

But it will take a homeowner a whole lot longer. They don’t have the expertise or the access to the resources agents have. What is their own time worth to them? How much time will the seller spend researching the market and contracts? Is the seller going to leave work to unlock the house each time there’s a showing?

If you’re ready to jump in, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I can help you sell the house you’re in and find a better one for you and your family. Let’s gat started!

Chris Rediger is the co-founder and president of Redefy Real Estate.

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2017 Home Selling Trends

overheadMoving season is back and the market is already showing signs of activity.  If you’re thinking about moving this summer, what kind of market are you likely to find? Rebecca Lake with SmartAssethas a look at five trends that could affect the market across the US this year. You can see the original article here.

  1. Home Prices May Stabilize

Home prices have been on a steady incline in recent years. But that momentum may begin to slow down in 2017. Since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in a year, that could have a stabilizing effect on home prices. The National Association of Realtors estimates that price growth will slow to 3.9%, down from 4.9% in 2016.

For sellers, that may lead to a shrinking profit margin in previously hot local markets. Buyers, on the other hand, may be better positioned to snag a deal on a home in areas where prices have recently skyrocketed.

  1. Demand for Housing Could Heat Up

According to the National Association of Realtors, we could see an uptick in the demand for properties in 2017. Specifically, the NAR is predicting that existing home sales will top 6 million in 2017, which is similar to forecasts from the Mortgage Bankers’ Association, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The increased push for housing may be driven in part by a growing number of millennials who are venturing into homeownership for the first time. In addition to purchasing single-family homes, younger buyers may buy condos as well.

  1. More Millennial Buyers May Head to the Suburbs

While big cities are still popular among young adults, many Millennials are interested in living in suburban areas. Research shows that 47% of millennial homeowners have opted to buy houses in the suburbs, largely due to the lower cost of living that it entails. The amenities that many suburban areas offer are also appealing, even if it means that homeowners have a longer commute.

This trend could be good news for suburban homeowners who are planning to put their homes on the market in 2017. For buyers, the primary advantage of choosing the suburbs over the city is the ability to stretch their budgets. For example, $325,000 may buy you a three-bedroom home in the ‘burbs versus a one-bedroom studio in the city.

  1. Homeowners Could See Their Equity Rise

While the National Association of Realtors is projecting a slowdown in home prices, other housing industry experts are taking a different stance. CoreLogic, for example, is forecasting a price increase of 5.2% through September 2017. If home prices increase at that rate or close to it, some homeowners could see their home equity rise.

Having more equity in your home is a plus if you’re hoping to sell your home or refinance. The more equity you’ve built up in your property, the more you stand to make if you decide to sell your house. If you’re refinancing to pull equity out of your home for a major renovation, a higher equity value will give you more borrowing power.

  1. Supply May Shrink in Some Cities

Despite rising demand, available housing may be sluggish in certain markets. According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of available properties declined by 4.2% between 2015 and May 2016. Currently, inventory is down by an average of 11% (year over year) in the top 100 major metro markets. That’s not expected to change much in 2017, which means buyers could face more competition as they attempt to purchase homes.

Final Word

Whether you’re preparing to purchase a new home or sell an old house in the new year, it’s important to know how housing trends could affect you. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the market can help you avoid being left out in the cold by rising interest rates or a widening gap between supply and demand.

If you’re ready to jump in, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I can help you sell the house you’re in and find a better one for you and your family. Let’s gat started!

 

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The 6 worst mortgage mistakes you can make

loansThis is an article written for MoneyTalks News by Maryalene Laponsie. It has some excellent advice about the process of getting a home mortgage. It has been slightly edited. To see the original article, go here.

Is your house your castle? Or a monkey on your back?

Your answer might depend a lot on your mortgage. Getting an affordable property at a great rate can make you feel as if life couldn’t be any sweeter.

But ask anyone who bought a house with a mortgage they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford, and they will likely tell you their house has brought them nothing but frustration and tears.

If you’ll be in the market for a new place soon, make sure you avoid the following six mortgage mistakes.

1. Not reviewing your credit first

At least six months before you go to your first open house, you need to go to AnnualCreditReport.com. That’s the official site to get free credit reports issued by the big three reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each agency annually.

In addition to your credit reports, it’s also critical to see your credit score. Some banks and credit cards now offer the most widely used credit score, the FICO score, as a monthly perk for their customers.

You’ll need your credit score to be in great shape if you want the best rates. A 2013 study by the Federal Trade Commission found 5 percent of consumers had errors on their report that could result in less favorable loan terms. Bottom line: You want to identify and correct any errors before you apply for a mortgage.

2. Failing to get preapproved

The next mistake you can make when applying for a mortgage is failing to get preapproved.

Getting preapproved by a bank is one way to avoid the heartbreak that comes from falling in love with a house you can never buy. It may also give you an edge if yours is not the only offer for the same property. A seller will feel more confident selecting a bid from someone with a mortgage preapproval rather than a person who hasn’t even begun the process.

However, don’t get carried away by whatever preapproval amount you receive from the bank. Remember, what the bank thinks you can afford and what you can actually afford may be two different things. A lot of people lost their homes in the Great Recession because they were given loans they couldn’t pay back. Don’t make the same mistake.

3. Not shopping around for the best rate

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says nearly half of mortgage borrowers don’t shop around, and that’s a big mistake. Seasoned shoppers search for the best deals on soap, furniture and cars, but some fail to look for a better mortgage rate.

It may be convenient to use your primary bank for a mortgage, but that could also be expensive if its rates aren’t competitive. According to Bank of America, for every 0.25 percent you can reduce your interest rate on a $200,000 mortgage, you’ll save $30.55 per month. Over a 30-year period that can add up to a lot of extra cash.

4. Ignoring mortgage fees

While you’re investigating rates, don’t forget the fees. Many mortgages come packed with fees of all kinds. Some — such as your county recording fee — are likely fixed, but others are negotiable.

Before your closing, you should be provided with a good faith estimate of the fees. Ask your lender to review what they are for and then see if you can negotiate a lower price. These are a few of the fees likely to have the most wiggle room:

  • Loan origination fee
  • Application fee
  • Broker Fee
  • Underwriter fee

5. Not having cash for a down payment

Not having a down payment stashed away can sink your prospects of getting a mortgage. After being bitten by the housing market crash, traditional lenders shy away from giving mortgages to those bringing nothing to the table.

Experts say you generally need to have a down payment of between 5 and 20 percent to qualify for a conventional loan. And if you put down less than 20 percent, be prepared to pay mortgage insurance.

6. Not understanding your mortgage terms

Underwater mortgages weren’t the only problem homeowners faced during the Great Recession. An untold number of people also lost their houses simply because they signed on the dotted line without understanding what the heck their mortgage entailed.

For example, people thought they’d hit the jackpot with adjustable-rate mortgages, known as ARMs. Homeowners were fine for the first few years while their mortgage rate was fixed and low. But when it reset to the current market rate, that affordable monthly payment suddenly wasn’t so affordable.

A 2008 report from the Federal Reserve Board found that more than 75 percent of the subprime loans issued from 2003-2007 before the housing market crash were “short-term hybrids” that worked like ARMs. By 2008, more than 21 percent of these subprime loans were seriously delinquent.

The moral of the story is to always understand what you’re signing up for. It’s not enough to know what your monthly payment is today. You also need to ask if the interest rate can change and if so, when and by how much will it increase.

If you’re not comfortable with the loan terms or don’t understand them, it’s better to walk away than to make an expensive and potentially life-altering mistake.

If you’re in the market for a new home, call me today at 918-809-5199. I can help you get started with a list of mortgage specialists you can contact for more information.

 

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New vs. Used – what’s the difference?

If you’ve been searching for a new place to live for a while you’ve probably asked yourself that question. In the sense that both choices provide you with shelter for your family there isn’t any difference. Each one is still a house, after all. Whether you buy new or used is mostly a matter of personal priorities. Here are the basic differences you’ll find when you compare new homes to pre-owned.

1.       Price: new home prices start in the $140’s. If this is your first home purchase you may find that a bit steep.

2.       Size: like everything else, it costs more to build a new house today than it did just last year. If you’re shopping with a budget you’ll find older homes will be larger.

3.       Amenities: new homes have the advantage of offering all the newest technologies and extras.

4.       Condition: older homes will have some “wear and tear”. As long as it’s not excessive and the current owners have kept up the maintenance, this isn’t really an issue.

You get the idea. It’s important to sit down and determine what is more important to you. New will be smaller, old will be larger. The best idea is to ask your agent to help you look at both. As you do your research you’ll begin to see the differences for yourself.

An important thing to remember is that your Real Estate agent is able to show you any property you want to see, whether it is new or used. New home builders have the same arrangement with agents that individual owners/sellers have. Chances are good that your agent already has professional experience with the builder you are researching. You can take advantage of that relationship to learn things about the builder’s reputation that you won’t find on Yelp.

And best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything. The seller, whether it’s an individual or a builder, will pay your agent’s commission. If you are ready to start your home search call me at 918-809-5199 and let’s get started!

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5 Things Renters Should Know About Owning

DSC03025For renters who aspire to be home owners, transitioning from an apartment to a house requires a shift in their thinking. The financial changes that come with owning, the need to consider planting longer-term roots in a neighborhood, and new neighborhood rules are things renters need to prepare for. Moving can already be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life, but it may be doubly so for a new home owner. As your Real Estate agent and a home owner myself, I can help you learn about the life-changing event of buying a home.

Understand how your financial investment is changing. As a renter you may see an increase in your monthly rent every lease term, but you don’t see exactly where it goes — toward property taxes and insurance, even “luxuries” such as trash pickup. As a home owner you don’t have a landlord who handles all those details, so you need to be ready to juggle the financial responsibilities of home ownership. It’s not rocket science, but knowing what to expect and maintaining a budget can make the step into home ownership much smoother.

You are in your new location for the long-term. As a renter, you can bounce around from home to home every year if you want. But when you own a home, you have to stay put — unless you plan on renting it out, which most home owners don’t. Location is going to play a much more significant role in your future, so evaluate school districts, access to amenities, and commute time as you search for your new home.

You may be abiding by a new set of rules. As a renter you don’t think about possible homeowner association rules you might be governed by, such as trash pickup rules or any curfews or rules pertaining to animals. Make sure to get all the information on neighborhood rules and associations that govern the area where you might be wanting to live.

You’ll have a new mindset: Home owner. Life as you know it is about to change. Once you purchase a new home, you will no longer have a landlord to tend to things including lawn care and plumbing. Ask me for contact information. I know people.

Neighbors can affect your home’s value. Renters don’t care who their neighbors are as long as they’re quiet (enough). But you’re now going to want to know whether your new neighbors are renters or home owners. This can help you gauge current and future home value in the neighborhood. If the neighborhood consists mostly of rental properties, it is likely a home owner will lose money on their house in the future. Renters do not always feel responsible for maintaining their properties the way home owners do. Property value comes down to curb appeal. Less-appealing neighborhoods often have more-appealing prices, which is not always good for buyers and home owners.

These ideas aren’t meant to scare you away from owning your own home. You’ll find the perks far outweigh any downside when compared to compartment living in your standard three story apartment complex. It’s simply a paradigm shift to a new way of thinking about how you and your family live. If you have questions, call me at 918-809-5199 and we’ll talk about possibilities!

This article is a revised version of an article originally written by Rob Rimeris, owner of EverSafe Moving Co. in Philadelphia. EverSafe is a five-star, full-service company that offers affordable moving and storage services.

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Improving curb appeal: 7 low-cost outdoor projects with instant results.

2The home selling season started early this year in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Traffic is brisk and the good ones aren’t lasting very long. If you’re ready to sell you want buyers to see your house as one of the “good ones”. Before you put your house on the market make sure that it will make a great first impression when the prospective new family pulls up to take a look. Here are some quick, easy, and inexpensive ways to make a great first impression, suggested by Trulia’s Brie Dyas.

Every little thing counts when you’re hoping to get the best price for your home — especially in a crowded real estate market. “Buyers are looking at 12 to 17 homes before they write an offer,” says Jeff Lowen, who specializes in Washington, DC, real estate. While most sellers make sure their home’s interior is spotless, staged, and even smelling of cookies, ignoring the exterior could keep a potential buyer from even stopping the car to take a closer look. Although it’s likely you’ve addressed the bigger issues (paint and pressure washing, keeping the lawn manicured, etc.), those small details can make a huge impact when it comes to that first impression.

Here are seven landscape design projects to tackle before you even consider listing your home for sale.

Address to impress

Out with the old, in with the new. A fresh set of house numbers can enhance the overall style of your home. Choosing a material that matches other exterior features creates a cohesive look, but don’t underestimate the impact of a bold design choice with finish, font, or size. There’s a range of styles and prices to choose from — you can find numbers priced at a few dollars at big-box home improvement stores to more than $20 each at specialty shops.

Nail the mailbox

Think of your front door as the ambassador to your home; it’s often the first thing a buyer sees when viewing your home from a distance. Patrick Parker, broker and owner of Patrick Parker Realty in Bradley Beach, NJ, suggests painting the mailbox to give it a face-lift. Don’t be shy about replacing the post or the mailbox itself. Classic options start around $50.

Repaint the front door

“The exterior painting litmus test is this: no peeling paint or exposed untreated wood should ever be present,” says Sara Benson, real estate agent and broker-in-charge at Benson Stanley Realty in Chicago, IL. This rings true for the front door too, which is subject to significant use that can impact the finish. Freshen it up with a new coat of your current color or enliven the entire exterior by painting the door a brighter hue. A gallon of quality, semi gloss exterior paint won’t set you back more than $50. (For an extra-fresh look, repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.)

Wash up

You can rent pressure washers at your local home improvement or hardware store for less than $100 a day. A good (gentle) scrub will take off the grime that can make siding look dingy and dull. Don’t forget to take it to your deck too, where the scourge of all homeowners sometimes lurks: mold. “Wood decks are perceived to be a great deal of work, so treating it for mold now is a huge plus,” says John Mangas, broker and co-owner, RE/MAX Preferred Associates in Toledo, OH.

Light it up

“Outdoor lighting, especially landscape lighting, can generate ambiance and drama,” Benson says. “After the initial daytime viewing, buyers often drive by the ‘home of their dreams’ at night. A well-lit residence can act as a magnet that increases desire.” Put a spotlight on a lovely landscape detail and line the walkways. And don’t forget to turn on your porch light. You’ll want buyers to notice that freshly painted door, even when it’s dark outside. Basic LED landscape lights can be found for as little as $50 at most big-box home improvement stores.

Clear out the gutters

Gutters overflowing with dead leaves? It’s not a great look, and Jennifer Kjellgren, owner of Atlanta, GA, boutique real estate agency InTown Expert, names it one of the top turnoffs for potential buyers. Spring is the perfect time to tackle this chore, but it can be a messy task. If you’d rather hire a pro instead of buying a ladder and some sturdy gloves, expect to pay $125 to $175 minimum for a professional’s help.

Let it “grow”

If you don’t have a green thumb, you can fake it with a few key purchases. Patrick Parker recommends mulching flower beds and planting bright-colored flowers. Parker also advises spending a little time tidying up the hedges with a trim. The total cost for this mini-makeover: under $200, based on how many flats of blooms and how much mulch you need.

If you’re ready to sell, give me a call 918-809-5199. We can talk about how to make it happen.

This article was edited for clarity and brevity. To see the original article go here.

 

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