How to Find a Real Estate Agent

The hardest part of any task is getting started, and buying and selling real estate is no exception. Before you begin ‘Marie-Kondo-ing’, packing boxes, or even browsing online for a future home, you should be looking for a real estate agent. A good real estate agent can make the difference between getting a house you love or settling for a house you like. They can make the difference between a smooth process and a process that makes you swear off real estate ever again. Whatever your price point, there are some basic things to look for when it comes to shopping for a real estate agent. You need someone on your team who knows your area, how to price a property, how to market it, and how to negotiate.

Sellers: 

  • Start the search by getting recommendations from friends or colleagues. 
  • Interview at least three brokers. Questions like: Have you sold in my neighborhood? Have you sold in my building? 
  • Ask what deals they’ve recently made and how long they’ve been in the business. If someone is new, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Other things like connections and passion can compensate for experience. 
  • Get references and check them.
  • Ask for a listing presentation — a pitch that includes data on comparable sales and the specific plan the broker has for marketing your property.  
  • Ask your top candidates to show you some other properties they’re representing. It will give you a sense of how they will handle your property. Would you buy from them?
  • Beware of the broker who tells you only what you want to hear. If one realtor estimates your property at the number you want, not the number the others have estimated, there’s a reason and it’s not because the other ones are wrong. If one realtor says you need to make no changes, and the rest say you should update the bathroom, again. . . it’s not everyone else that’s wrong. At the end of the day, the market determines the price your property will sell, not your realtor. 
  • Finally, do you like them? You will have to work with them over a long process, with moving pieces and other people involved. And if you don’t like your realtor, probably potential buyers won’t like working with them either. 

Buyers

  • Instead of asking the right questions, when looking to buy a property you want to pay attention to a realtor who asks the right questions. A conscientious realtor will ask you: What’s your timing? Are you prequalified for a mortgage? What’s your financial picture?
  • A good realtor will be familiar with your area. If they don’t often work in the location you are considering buying, they may not know how to get you the best deal or negotiate as well. 
  • Pay attention to the details. A great realtor will listen to your needs and also be intuitive to what you really want. Good instincts and listening skills go a long way in buying and selling. Look for that realtor who’s going to say “This isn’t what you were originally looking for, but I think we should take a look anyway. . .” After all, if it was as simple as shopping online for a house, you wouldn’t need a realtor. But a finding the right home in the right neighborhood is so much more complicated. A great realtor will make it feel as easy as loading your amazon cart.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of going with a solo realtor versus a team. The advantage of the team is the idea that someone will always be available. But on the flip-side, if multiple people are handling your experience there’s a risk of getting disjointed and inconsistent service.
  • Don’t be afraid to go with someone else if you get into the process and find the fit isn’t right.  There’s no contract. (And don’t sign one!)

The Countertop Crossroads

 

You’re done. Done “decorating” with a carefully positioned pot-holder or vase. Done apologizing for your mauve countertop circa The Golden Girls. You just want your scratched, gouged, burnt, or simply hideous countertop to be new. Unfortunately, your budget has other ideas. Don’t lose hope just yet! There may be an option you haven’t considered. You may be able to repair your old or damaged countertop.  

 

What Can Be Repaired? Solid surfaces, laminate and tile.  

 

What Are the Repair Options? Solid surfaces were popular in the eighties and are extremely durable and seamless, they are the easiest to repair because of how durable they are. Laminate, solid surface or tile can also be re-covered with a composite material. The material goes on as a liquid and dries into a hard, new surface.  

 

Can I Choose Different Colors? It’s all well and good to repair a mauve countertop from 1992, but you’re still left with the same countertop. Don’t worry! If you choose the composite material, you can choose both different colors and finishes—from something resembling granite to something as simple as a different color solid surface.  

 

Will I have To Remove My Cabinets or Sink? Typically, no.  

 

How Long Does It Take? Anywhere from one to three days.  

 

What does it cost? Solid surface repair can run between $200-600, depending on the problems. Composite material will run around $1200.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Renting or Selling

Maybe it was the second glass of wine, but when you had to listen Rob Schmobb talk about how he converted his former home into an income property, it seemed like a tempting idea. Forgo the hassle and risk of selling your current home, use it as an income property and move on while improving your finances. What’s the downside? Well, there’s six things to think about first.

  1. Do you want to be a landlord? Being a landlord is different than being a homeowner. The expectations of a renter are going to be place more demands on your time and finances.
  2. Research the rental market—estimate how much rent you could get with the help of a broker and if it would cover the mortgage, taxes, and expenses.
  3. Ask an accountant about tax implications.
  4. Do you need a property manager? If you are moving out of town, you need to hire someone to take care of the property and tenants.
  5. Crunch the numbers– estimate your rental profit and compare it with cash you would get for selling your home.
  6. Do you really want to be a landlord? It’s a thing.

Using your current home as a rental property can be quite successful and rewarding. Check the numbers and see if it’s a situation that can work for you.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Four Common Mistakes Sellers Make

When it comes to selling a house, one mistake can cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars—or, even worse, make you and your unsold house sit like milk left out on the counter. To keep from going bad, here are a few of the most common mistakes people make when selling a home.

Fudging the Photography. It’s tempting to get your cell-phone and take a few snaps of your house, expecting potential buyers to see the charm under the Christmas decorations, stack of mail you’ve been meaning to go through, and kid’s soccer gear. Over 44 percent of potential home buyers start searching for their next home online before contacting a real estate agent or loan professional. This means, photography delivers the first impression they’ll have of your home. Photography is what decides the list of houses they want to see. Don’t cut corners when it comes to pictures.

Not addressing deferred maintenance issues. That thing you’ve been meaning to fix, but don’t want to—the mold on that one wall in the basement, a cracked window—it’ll all come back to haunt you during the inspection process. It’s a good idea to go ahead and address any deferred maintenance issues before putting the property on the market, and be upfront about any issues you haven’t addressed yet. Concealing issues with the property will create a trust issue between the buyer and seller once both parties are in the escrow period and could derail the transaction.

Overpricing. Nothing keeps your house curdling on the counter longer than overpricing. It leads to a home being on the market for much longer than initially expected and ultimately selling for a lot less than if the home were priced properly from the beginning. In other words, it’s not a good idea to price the home higher than what your agent recommends just to test the market. This will come back to bite you in the end.

Working with a real estate agent you trust to sell your house can keep you from making these common mistakes. Like a mom sweeping in to put the milk in the fridge, find one who’s there to keep things from going bad.

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Summer To-Do’s for a Year-Round Tidy Home

While nobody likes extra chores in the summer, it’s a little more than mowing lawns and slowly killing your garden by forgetting to water—it’s a time to keep on top of maintenance so you can kick back and enjoy your home year-round, without any repair surprises.

Outside:

  1. Weed the garden weekly—make a habit of grabbing a few weeds as you stroll through the yard and you’ll never have a choked bed
  2. Mowers should be set to the highest setting to protect the grass against the drought. Resist the temptation to mow short
  3. Water plants early in the day or around sunset to avoid frying your plants. Most plants prefer a good soaking a few times a week rather than a light shower every day. Porch ferns may need more watering as they are well-drained and often in sunshine
  4. Deadhead your flowers
  5. Use a lawn sprinkler once spring showers end. If yours are built in, check while in use for any issues
  6. Keep up on pool maintenance to avoid long days working on the pool. Keep the skimmer clean, clean the filter, check chemicals, scrub the pool sides weekly and keep it vacuumed
  7. If you plan on doing any exterior repairs, summer is the best time

Inside:

  1. Reverse your ceiling fans to counter clockwise to circulate cool air down
  2. Clean your air conditioning filters once a month
  3. Cover windows that get direct sunlight
  4. Check your emergency supplies—heat and storms can knock out power and you want to have first aid, water, batteries and flashlights, and battery powered radiator.
  5. Create or review your family emergency plan in case of bad weather
  6. Check for signs of bug or other infestations so you can address anything right away—don’t forget to check the attic
  7. If you’re planning any home improvement projects for the fall, now is the time to meet and schedule with contractors