The Baltimore and Harford County Area Market Update – December 2012

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In the wake of our nation’s housing market ups and downs over the past several years, 2012 has certainly been a strong one in terms of a comeback. Particularly at the cusp of the New Year, we are seeing some good things happening. There are still some challenges but overall this is a great time for buyers and sellers alike.

Fewer Distressed Sales on the Market

At one point foreclosures had a significant presence on the market but slowly they have dwindled downward. Today we have some foreclosures in our inventory but not so many that they impact the industry and price indexes. With interest rates as low as they are today, many investors are grabbing well-priced homes – often resulting in multiple offer situations and artificial price inflation.

Short sales, however, are still taking a long time to process. Though most banks have streamlined their processes, people should still be wary of the many steps involved. In fact, if buying a short sale home in our area, buyers must be willing to accept two things. First, prices are not as low as they were just a couple years ago. Second, banks are now expecting sale prices closer to market values before they will approve the short sale. It’s imperative for buyers to be patient during the process and to confirm whether there are any encumbrances on the property such as multiple mortgages or tax liens.

Holidays Still a Good Time to Sell

One of the biggest holiday season misconceptions many sellers have is the notion that there is less real estate activity during this time. The truth is that though there may be fewer buyers, there are equally as fewer homes on the market. Since the buyers that are out there are very serious, the result is about the same number of sales as in the “busy season” during the spring and summer in percentage compared to active inventory.

Spring Sales Require Wintertime Prep

If you are like the countless homeowners that are comfortable with selling once the spring season begins, now is the time to start preparing your home. Whether you need to fix up things that need repairing throughout the home or remodel – try to do it in advance. Once you are ready to put your home on the market, it should be in tip-top condition so you can expect to yield top dollar.

We offer a complementary thorough walk through to share with you the things we feel could use some R&R. We also have a stager share their tips with you on how to maximize marketability and ultimately get you the best price, in the quickest time and with the least hassle.

Strengthen Your Credit Now for a Strong Future

A lot of people have unfortunately faced many hardships during the past several years, with anything from job loss to relocation, downsizing, health concerns, death, divorce or more. Credit scores have been impacted so much and banks have tightened their lending guidelines to a level that rebuilding credit is actually now a part of the home buying process for many. If you are unsure where you stand financially according to mortgage guidelines, contact us and we will put you in touch with a reputable lending partner. You will receive guidance on how to rebuild and replenish a strong financial standing.
No matter what your home buying or selling needs are, we encourage you to start exploring your options now. We can be reached at 410 638 9555 or directly via email at Thank you for the opportunity to serve you!

Maryland Residents Have Until December 31st to Claim Their Homestead Tax Credit

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A surprisingly small number of homeowners across the State of Maryland have applied for the Homestead Tax Credit this year and it comes at a time when many are still working to improve their individual financial situations. Through the end of this year, homeowners have the ability to log onto the state’s Department of Assessments and Taxation website to 1) check whether they have filed for the tax credit during the past five years and 2) file if not done so already.

The financial ramification of not doing so is fairly significant. So much so that for residents of Baltimore County and Baltimore City – the expected increase of taxation can be as high as 4%. The number is even higher for those homeowners that reside in Harford County, with an increase of up to 8% possible.

Rather than face the potential of that much more expense year after year, homeowners can simply visit the Department’s website at, click on Real Property Data Search and check to see if an application has already been filed or click Those needing an application can have a form mailed to them by submitting a request to the email address:

Among other things, the application form will have information about your property’s access number and the property account number as well, important pieces necessary to move forward with the Homestead Tax Credit process. These two will allow the form to be submitted online, resulting in an email confirmation number – otherwise not available when applied via snail mail.

Rather than regret it later, we would like to strongly suggest to all homeowners in our area that they visit the Department website, check to see whether they need to apply for the Homestead Tax Credit and get it done as soon as possible.

As stated in this letter  by the State of Maryland’sDepartment of Assessment and Taxation, more information about the application is found on the website under Homestead Eligibility Application in the center column of the home page.
If you have any questions about the Homestead Tax Credit, or anything else related to real estate – please do not hesitate to call us at 410-638-9555. We look forward to assisting you in any way we can!

Getting a Loan in Today’s Environment Is Easier Than Most People Think

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We often get asked about the ease of getting mortgages and it’s an understandable question given the rollercoaster ride our industry has faced since 2007. But today, things are a lot different than they were just a few years ago. Banks are still particular but they are not afraid of lending. In fact, they have plenty of money to lend.

The real question is “how has the process changed?” and also whether or not it is actually difficult to obtain a mortgage. And the answers will surprise you. Not only is the process to obtain a mortgage easier than most people seem to think but also it is really not too much more a changed process than a few years ago.

Banks Are Simply More Cautious

It used to be that most people could walk into a bank, present their ID and almost literally walk out with a bank note and keys in hand. Well, ok not exactly but it was almost that easy and credit scores were not as important as they are today. What has changed is that banks now take extra precautions to ensure borrowers’ financial viability and ability to repay the loan. There has never been a more thorough documentation process involved and for good reason.

Today, a borrower must show that they are responsible citizens that are worthy of paying back their debts. They must have a credit score of 620 or higher and income must be proven with at least 2 months’ pay stubs, two yeas of employment on record and 2 years of tax returns to corroborate the financials. Bank statements are also required as part of the process.

The bottom line is this: if you pay your bills on time, can prove a reasonable income level and a low enough debt-to-income ratio that supports the mortgage you are looking to obtain, chances are you will be approved. Making payments on time is critical as it is the primary source of information that lenders will review when they look at your credit report.

Many Loans Offer Low or No Down Payment

As far as the ease of being able to actually obtain the home, a lot of people are unsure of lenders’ down payment requirements these days. The truth is there are many programs out there that allow buyers to put only 3%, 5% or even NO money down. Depending on which program and financing options you select, there are benefits offered to military veterans, people seeking homes in certain areas in the outskirts of the city and also income-based low down payment programs as well.

One of the most popular financing options that many buyers choose is FHA financing which requires just 3.5% down on the purchase of a home. Since this option is not limited just to first-time buyers it is a great choice for many buyers.

Buyers Can Contribute to a Smoother Process

Some of the things that buyers can do to prepare in advance and to help the financing process go as smoothly as possible include preparing two years of tax returns, employment pay stubs and the two most recent months of bank statements. In addition, retirement statements, divorce decrees and rental histories showing responsible repayment habits.
Now is a great time to buy a home! Don’t let the rumors out there discourage you from starting the process. Lenders are lending. Right now homeowners are able to function in a home for far less than it would cost to rent each month. In fact, it often costs less to move into a home than it does to move into a rental unit, considering the first and last month’s rent and security deposit.

If you would like to explore your options, we invite you to contact us today! We look forward to making your real estate dreams become a reality.

Fast-Tracking Foreclosures Have Many Homeowners Jumping for a Short Sale Before It’s Too Late

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Are you behind on your mortgage payments? Does it seem that you have no way out and a foreclosure is inevitable? Well before you give up, consider a short sale. In fact, now may be the best time for you to sell your home as a short sale because of what may be soon to come. Banks are filing for foreclosure faster than ever before – and this comes at a time when many homeowners with underwater mortgages have become complacent, expecting more time.

Not only should you put your home on the market now as a short sale to avoid a foreclosure but also, making the move quickly could possibly save you thousands of dollars in taxes.

Right now, and through December 31, 2012 any forgiven debt may be discharged under the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act. What this means is that any money you are discharged from paying back that would otherwise be considered as income by the IRS, is exempt from taxation through the program period. But as soon as January 1, 2013 rolls around, unless the program is extended, you would have to pay taxes on that “income”.

So if you are behind on your payments and it seems the bank is getting antsy, take this advice: consider short selling today.

We deal with many of these and would be happy to sit down with you to discuss your options. Contact us today!

Help Us Help Our Community this Saturday, October 6th!

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Join us from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. Saturday, October 6th and help us fill our 20-foot moving truck with non-perishable food for the Harford County Food Bank.  We will be located in the Greenbrier Safeway Shopping Center just off of Route 22.  Diane Lyn from 101.9 Lite FM will also be there giving away great prizes.  So come on out and support your community. We hope to see you there!  Click here to see the flyer and find out all of the details on how you can join our team to help feed Harford County. >>

Determining an Accurate Selling Price of Your Home

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It’s very common to want to overprice your home but the truth is it can really backfire. It is important to make sure you are getting good market statistics that accurately depict the goings on of your marketplace and once you have those numbers that you use those statistics in determining your pricing benchmark. Since real estate is very local, anything that goes on in the next state or even the next region may not have much impact on your particular neighborhood. In fact, within one area there may be several different results when looking at and studying buyer trends and habits.

Have an Appraiser Evaluate Your Property

One of the ways we suggest sellers get an idea of what they might expect for their home is to get an appraisal done on your home as that will likely provide a true estimate of the home’s value. At the time of purchase, lenders will require that a buyer have an appraisal done anyway. Getting one done ahead of time will not only help to determine your price but also serve as a tool to corroborate the price you set during negotiations.

Get a Comparative Market Analysis

Another excellent tool used by those in the real estate profession to help determine the right price range for your home is a Comparative Market Analysis. Your real estate agent will do an in-depth analysis of all the similar homes in your area that have recently sold. Considering the previous six months’ sold homes, they will end up at a price based on what the market will likely accept.

Accurately Priced Homes Sell Faster

It is not an easy feat to have a home on the market with all the showings, keeping the home in tip-top condition and presentable as well as the uncertainty factor of not knowing when the home will sell. That is why the more accurately you price your home to begin with, the faster it will sell and the more money you can expect to get for the home.

Keep in mind that buyers these days are usually already well into their buying cycle, particularly since they are using the Internet and other resources online to conduct thorough searches of available properties. Chances are that by the time they make it to your home, they have already looked at many other properties and probably any that were for sale in your neighborhood. These are the buyers that make offers on properties quickly and they are most serious.

To have a home that is overpriced is a missed opportunity especially if you are serious about selling and want to sell as quickly as possible. That is why it is critical to price it right the first time.
If you would like to evaluate what your home would sell for in today’s market – contact us today and we would be glad to assist you with the process.

What To Ask Before Choosing to Hire An Agent to Sell Your Property

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One of the most common things we hear as top-producing real estate agents is about how homeowners had neglected to properly interview the agent they had for their home. To help avoid that from happening, here are some factors to consider before you hire a real estate agent to sell your home.

Amount of Time Devoted to Profession

The real estate industry is one that can be very flexible for some yet completely encompassing for others. Your challenge will be to look for an agent that has made the profession their full-time career. The difference will be in the amount of time you can expect them to give you and the expertise level you can expect in return.

Level of Demonstrated Expertise

Experience comes from working with multiple clients in many different situations. As you interview prospective agents, take the time to inquire about past and current clients. Find out about the types of deals the agent specializes in. Are they specifically geared toward buyers or do they have experience with listing transactions? Don’t be afraid to check whether they are good at their job through references.

Length of Time Other Listings Remain on Market

Look into the length of time other listings they have taken have remained on the market. If you see a predominantly long number of days their properties sit on the market then it might indicate a lax marketing strategy – or worse, none at all. Marketing is a key component that you should be looking for and if a prospective agent lacks a viable marketing plan, you may want to think twice about that agent.

List to Sale Ratios

A lot of agents use less than scrupulous tactics to gain sellers’ business. One example is promising their clients higher selling prices only to disappoint their clients when the market dictates their home is worth less. Look for an agent’s list-to-sale ratios on other listings they have had. Are they being sold at or at least very close to the listing price? If not, it could be an indication of bad pricing advice or worse, evidence of those sneaky tactics to reel in business.
Keep in mind that these are just a few of the things that impact the success rate of a strong real estate agent. What you need also to be looking for is a winning combination of character, values, tech-savvy and market-smart techniques. No two attributes will be enough – rather it is essential that you feel comfortable with your agent, can trust them and are fairly certain that they deliver on their promises.

Hartford and Baltimore Counties – Market Update September 2012

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Homes Selling Quickly

We are seeing a lot of activity in our marketplace. A very positive thing for sellers – something that many have been waiting for since the market crashed in 2007. Homes are selling very fast – our average Days On Market is now at 26 days and new listings are selling quickly and with good results.

Well-Priced Homes Getting Top Dollar

The key to quickly selling properties is often the way it is priced. We are reporting a lot of properties that are priced to sell and those are the ones that not only get top dollar on their homes but also experience multiple offers, giving sellers an edge over buyers. Another factor that impacts the outcome is that buyers today are savvier than ever before so they recognize a property with a realistic (or unrealistic) price.

Inventory Continues to Dwindle

We are seeing a significant reduction in inventory this year over last – with as much as 30% fewer homes available on the market in Baltimore County and anywhere from 20 to 25% fewer homes on the market in Hartford County (depending on the month). What this means for sellers is that they are enjoying less competition and therefore can expect a higher list-to-sale ratio. For buyers this means there are fewer properties to choose from so it is imperative to be decisive and take action on properties of interest.

Strong Showing Homes Selling Faster

Homes that have been de-cluttered, neutralized and enhanced to suit a wide range of buyers are the ones that are selling the fastest. The idea is to allow buyers a chance to visualize themselves in the space – so the fewer personal items and more “blank slate” décor that is used, the better your selling prospects will be.
For a customized consultation to evaluate your real estate goals and how we can assist you, contact us today at 410 638 9555 or email at We look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Tax Breaks for Short Sale Sellers Expire December 31, 2012

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One of the most unfortunate outcomes of the housing market crash was plummeting housing values followed by a series of events leading to a weak economy that further negatively impacted the real estate market. Those people hardest hit as a result have been mortgage holders of homes that are no longer worth at least as much as what is owed on them.

As time continued on and homeowners continued to struggle with keeping up on their mortgages, we started to see loan modifications and other drastic measures taken by banks and property owners to deal with these struggles.

Short sales became a household name as the benefits became more apparent; the government issued a tax break for those people suffering a tax loss as a result of forgiven debt. When a home that is worth less than what is owed on it and a bank agrees to accept the lesser amount, the difference is considered taxable income. Regardless of present day large-scale struggles suffered by countless Americans, they would have to pay income tax on the forgiven debt.

In 2007, however, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act addressed this concern by allowing cancelled or forgiven debt resulting from the sale of a primary residence to be exempt from taxation. The Act, however, is set to expire at the end of this year.

What does this mean for people considering selling their home as a short sale? It means that now is the time to start your short sale if you have been considering one. Because after December 31, 2012 any short sales that close will incur a good amount of income taxes on the forgiven debt. And that amount can add up quickly.

Now, even though short sales have come a long way and some are taking as little as 30 days to process, most of them are still processing for 45, 60, 90 days or even longer. If you are not sure whether there is enough time left to initiate a short sale, contact us today and we will review all the circumstances of your home and financial situation with you. There is still time to put in an application for a short sale but the end of the year is fast approaching.

July 2012 Market Update – Harford and Baltimore Counties

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Do you know how to detect a strong and solid real estate market? Look no further than our own back yard. In fact, aside from the slow but steady status of home prices and values, things are overall improving in our marketplace. And the good news is that it is a market that works in favor of buyers, sellers and investors alike.

Increase in the Number of Sales Transactions

Across the board we have experienced an increase in transactions, making it a very ideal time for sellers to list their homes. With fewer homes on the market and buyers beginning to pick up the pace in case the market does rebound sooner than later, the result is a higher probability of success for homeowners choosing to sell.

Fewer Homes on the Market
We are currently reporting about 20% fewer available homes on the market particularly good quality homes in desirable locations that are in great condition. Buyers realize the opportunity at hand and as they see inventory continue to dwindle they are actively seeking out good homes on our MLS. Another positive outcome of the lower inventory is an improved Days On Market average. While the entire year’s average DOM is about 125, the figures from the last 30 days are showing an average DOM of about 90 days.

Multiple Offers and Higher List to Sale Ratios

Homeowners that have chosen to list their homes are enjoying a higher list to sale ratio with most receiving multiple offers on their properties. This makes it the perfect time to be either a buyer or seller – because as a seller you know you have some leverage in negotiation and buyers can still walk away with a great deal. List to sale ratios are anywhere from 91 to 95% and in some cases we are even seeing 100%.

Continued Low Interest Rates

The great deals continue for buyers and investors with interest rates hovering at their record setting historic lows, making the market a phenomenal environment to be a first time buyer, move up homeowner or investor. Recently there have been mortgages offered and accepted at 3.25% for a 30-year fixed rate FHA loan.
If you are considering buying, now is a great time! With interest rates as low as they are – you will be getting the deal of a lifetime! Combine that with the low prices and relative ease with which you can go through a mortgage process compared to just a couple years ago, it could not be a better time to buy.

Conversely, sellers are also seeing some great results. Though some properties are more in demand than others, with the drop in inventory chances are you will generate a lot of interest and receive some good offers on your home.

To make our process even more efficient, we have developed a new program where we match buyers with properties before they even go on the market. Whether you are a buyer, seller or investor – we encourage you to contact us so we can match your needs with your goals and together achieve success! We look forward to hearing from you.

The Lee Tessier Team Receives National Attention as Real Estate Expert Advisors Aired on NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX

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On a recent television show “New Masters of Real Estate”, we were fortunate enough to have been showcased as an expert in the industry by the National Association of Expert Advisors. During that interview I was asked to share some key points as to what makes a strong real estate professional stand out from the rest. We thought this would be valuable information for our clients (both existing and future clients) so here is a recap of what was discussed on the show.

Gaining Strength In Numbers

One of our biggest assets is the ability to serve our clients with a uniquely specialized team that is dedicated to serving specific service areas. When we get an incoming inquiry, the first thing we do is to gain as much information as possible to learn the areas within which the client requires assistance. Like the triage in a hospital, our designated team member then directs the client to the appropriate person on our team.

Getting the Word Out

The single biggest mistake that many agents commit is not properly marketing their clients’ properties. We realize that marketing is the key component to getting a home sold so we place a heavy emphasis on that aspect of the business. In fact, we spend thousands of dollars each month on marketing alone – more than what many agents make in any given year.

Most agents do what I call the “three P’s”; they PUT a sign in the yard, PLACE the home on MLS and then PRAY the home sells. Not only do we spend plenty of time preparing the home before even listing it on the market, we also work to reach our extensive buyer database to match the right buyer with the home. Additionally we actively market the property by placing it on multiple websites. Rather than straight photographs we hire professionals, both photographers and videographers, to take High Definition images of the home.

Putting Our Expertise to Good Use

There are basically two categories in terms of real estate agents. There are either those 10% that do 90% of the work or the other way around. At the present time, in Baltimore and Harford Counties approximately 40-50% of homes are not selling. In an ongoing month, 10% are selling. Would you rather be in the group that is seeing success or have your home sit around for months on end?  Our team ensures that positive result and we do it through years of experience and expertise. In fact, we recently took two homes that were on the market in excess of 200 days and we sold them within 17 and 21 days respectively.

Another aspect of our specialized attention to our clients’ needs is that we don’t just perform market comparisons to help determine your selling price – we go out there and get to know the neighborhood thoroughly. We know and understand market conditions and act upon them. When a house down the street doesn’t sell, we set out to find out why – whether it is due to bad presentation, lackluster marketing or the wrong negotiation techniques. We put an emphasis on making sure the home we have listed on that same street doesn’t exhibit the same gaps as the unsuccessful homes in the neighborhood.
Our team has grown sizably over the recent past and this year we are forecasting double the number of buyers and sellers serviced by our company. The video New Masters of Real Estate as seen on CBS, NBC, FOX and ABC is just another example of how dedicated we are as a team and how we are regarded as experts in our field. I invite you to visit us and give us the opportunity to serve you! Call us today at 410.638.9555 or 410.803.0900 or email

8 Secrets to Getting Your Offer Accepted by Sellers in a Multiple Offer Situation

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With our shifting real estate market comes new (and in many cases) welcome problems to have to deal with. Take the relatively new occurrence of multiple offer situations in our area lately. After months (and years) of a buyer-controlled market, we are finally seeing fewer homes available and more buyers interested in the choice properties that are out there.

So what do you do if you are a buyer faced with multiple offer competition?  You BEAT that competition!  Here are eight ways to get around those other offers, make yours stand out and GET the home of your dreams!

Avoid a Bidding War in the First Place

One of the easiest ways to avoid a bidding war is to act fast on your interest in a home. If you see it, like it and want it – make an offer on it!  There is no reason to delay things because eventually you will have a chance to look back on the purchase while it is under contract and iron out any details. But if you don’t want other buyers fighting for the same house, beat them to it.

Keep The Emotions Out of It

Some overzealous buyers that don’t have their offers accepted lash out and retaliate against the sellers. Expressing anger and disappointment through a letter or via their agent is not a smart way to handle the situation. Often the first offer on a home is not even realized, where the seller revisits other bids received, going to their next choice. If you handle rejection gracefully, maybe with a thank you letter expressing regret but that you’re interested in the home should they change their mind, you may walk away with your dream home after all.

Bring Some Personality to Your Offer

While some agents prefer to make offers on behalf of their clients in writing and other impersonal ways, the best way to do it is by bringing an element of personality into your offer. Write a handwritten letter expressing what you love about the house and that you’ll take care of it just like they have for so many years (if applicable). This will show your sincerity in wanting the house and it will also stick in their minds when they go back to review all offers received on the property.

Choose a Communicative Agent

As mentioned in the previous point, some agents choose lackluster means of communication. When hiring your agent, be sure to select someone that is warm but also on the ball and quick.
Accessibility is key for the buyers’ agent as much as it is for the sellers’. If the seller is to gauge the level of your enthusiasm then they must be getting those signals from your agent.

Know Your Numbers

Sometimes the final sales price doesn’t matter. There will be an appraisal before the home is financed, which is the value that you will end up paying on the home. Knowing in advance gives you a head start over other buyers since you will be armed with knowledge ahead of time and can anticipate a reasonable offer accordingly. You should be aware of price per square foot as well as other comparable sales in the area. Keep in mind, there may not even be a need for a bidding war because the price might be capped by the appraisal anyway.

Don’t Stray From the Straight and Narrow

Offers that are simple, cleanly written and to the point are the ones sellers respond to the most. Especially in a multi-offer situation, sellers do not want to have to rifle through endless pages of contingencies, conditions, minor detail mongering and other unnecessary things. The easier you make it for the seller, the better your chance to get the home of your dreams. Remember that at the end of the day you can go back and identify any specific wants you may have but just wait until you have an accepted offer.

Choose Your Priorities Carefully

A common request these days is for FHA buyers to request assistance from the seller with closing costs. If you are a buyer that is faced with a multi-offer situation and you have the choice to not ask for closing costs – you may just be able to win your bid after all. Most sellers today are selling their homes after 10, 20 years and they have no idea of the recent trend of closing cost sharing. To avoid this and the potential of losing your bid on the home overall, don’t ask the seller – make alternate arrangements for closing costs. Borrow from someone. Accept a gift from a family member. Tap into your savings.

Do Better Than the Rest

An excellent tool used by buyers in these situations is to offer more than everyone else. Everyone wants more money and in today’s market sellers are already getting less than what they had expected to get. If you have found the home of your dreams pay extra money to make sure your offer is the one that is accepted and it will offset any costs you may have needed to put into a less-than-perfect property otherwise.
Remember, this is a time when more buyers are vying for fewer available homes. So nothing is foolproof and there is always the potential of not winning your bid. The best defense you can have against that happening is to be prepared in advance. Get ready to be disappointed. If the home you are looking at is perfect, chances are there are others looking at it with the same eyes too. Aside from putting into our secrets into play, the best thing you can do is to stay realistic. When the right house comes along – things will fall into place. Good luck!

5 Reasons Homes Don't Sell

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Who does not want to get top dollar for their home?  The truth is that with the countless homes that have been on the market during the past several months – in many areas, just getting an offer is great news.  But regardless of your location, it is important to avoid making mistakes that could cost you the sale of your home.  Here are five things that sellers do wrong (and what you can do right) that end up in an unsold house.

You want as much money as you can but that ends up backfiring when homeowners overprice.  The priceshould be set at middle or low end of the range for your home to be able to sell.  It’s important to review area comparable sales to gauge what other homes in the same neighborhood have recently sold for.  Overpricing helps other homes in the neighborhood sell and it also slows down your offers.

Staging and Photographs
Staging has become more popular – arranging furniture and removing personal items from the house.  It allows buyers to look at the home with a blank slate and be able to envision their own lifestyle in the home. Another benefit of this is that the home’s features will be in plain view for buyers rather than being buried beneath mountains of the seller’s stuff.  High quality photographs are another part of effectively selling a home.  Almost all buyers begin their property search on the Internet and photos are pivotal to the process. 

Access to Property
Restricted access to the property will hinder successful sales because buyers will not be able to get in and see the home on their own schedule.  If you have a busy schedule that may seem difficult to work around, meet and discuss alternatives with your Realtor such as installing a lock box on the front door or setting up specific blocks of time each week that allow for some level of predictability without sacrificing accessibility to your home.

Attendance of Seller at Showing
One of the cardinal rules of real estate transactions during showings is that the seller must not be present while the buyer is reviewing the property.  If you happen to be present when a buyer shows up, leave quickly and do not interact with the buyer or their agent.  If that is not possible for some reason, make yourself as scarce as possible by either going to an area of the home that they have already looked at or go outside for a little while. 

Rejecting First Offer
The first offer you get on your property is usually the best offer you will get on your property.  It is important to look at that first offer as your best one and keep in mind that the longer the home remains on the market, the lower the offers are going to get.  Offers come in between 15 to 20 percent lower than the asking price but the home usually sells within about 5 to 10 percent of the asking price.

If you would like us to review your home and provide suggestions on how you can improve your chances for a successful sale, contact us today!

Keep Your Home Safe While on Vacation

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With summer fast approaching, you might already have vacation on your I wanted to share with you on this little video clip my favorite safety tips. In fact, I have multiple critical steps to prepare your home for safe keeping while you're away, to keep your nest safe and secure.

This is exactly what I did to prepare my home while I'm on vacation:

The best way to keep your home safe in your absence is to make it appear you are home, leaving absolutely no clue you're actually away. Light, time and noise are your greatest weapons to accomplish this. Follow these tips to ready your home and keep it safe:

- Ask someone you know and trust to keep an eye on your house.

For short trips, ask one of your neighbors to pick up your mail and your newspaper. If you are going to be gone longer, however, be sure to stop by the post office and have your home mail delivery stopped until you return.

Be sure to provide neighbors, friends and family members with emergency phone numbers so you can be reached quickly. It's a good idea to leave a spare house key with a relative or neighbor as well.

- At least a couple of weeks before you leave for vacation, decide what to do about your pets. You may want to have a friend or neighbor stop by each day to provide food, water and exercise. Or you may want to hire a professional pet sitting service or take the pets to a reputable kennel. This decision should be made well in advance so that proper arrangements can be made.

- Use timers on lights, televisions and radios to provide sound and illuminate the inside of your home.

- If you still have a home phone, change the setting on your answering machine so it picks up on the first or second ring—or just turn down the ringer. A constantly ringing phone is also a good sign no one is home.

- For long absences, you may want to turn off the main water valve. This will help avoid problems with frozen pipes in winter and leaking pipes in the warmer months as well as other plumbing issues.

- Keep shades up and blinds and curtains open to make it appear you're home.

- Keep bushes and shrubs near your home's entrance and walkway well trimmed. This will eliminate hiding spots for burglars.

- Keep the outside of your home well lit. Burglars won't go where they can be seen.

- Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway, occasionally moving his or her car indicate your coming and going.

- Leave the air conditioner on. A silent compressor on a hot day is a good indication you aren't home or turn your thermostats down (or up) before you leave. There is no reason to spend money heating or cooling the home when you are not there. It depends on what the weather is like in your area. Check out the 10 day forecast before you leave.

- Have the lawn mowed by a friend or lawn service if you are away longer than a week in the warmer months.

- This one is tough for those addicted to Facebook but posting to Facebook where you are at all times you are not only sharing this with your 'friends'. Those posts and photos allow others to find out when you are away and where you are. This isn't as concerning when you are local as you could post a comment or photo as you are ON your way home or just arrived but when your, say, at Disney World, those with ill plans regarding your trip away from home.

- Be sure to turn down the temperature on the hot water heater and unplug televisions and other appliances. These appliances will be drawing electricity whether they are on or not. Unplugging them will help lower your electric bill.

- Don't forget about the plants. If you are having a friend or pet sitter care for your pets, ask them to take care of your plants as well. Simply soaking the plants with water before you leave is not enough. A better idea is to create a self watering system if you cannot have someone care for the plants. For small plants, make a self watering system by filling a plastic container with pebbles. Then fill the bottom of the container with water. This allows the plants to slowly absorb the moisture they need, without the danger of their roots becoming waterlogged. Larger plants can be mulched with a damp towel or newspaper to prevent the loss of moisture.

- When the day to leave for vacation finally arrives, try not to make that departure too obvious to those passing by. If you have a garage, be sure to pack the car with the garage door closed. If you do not have a garage, you may want to pack a couple of items a day in order to avoid broadcasting to the world that your home will be unoccupied.

- This last tip isn't a security measure for your house but for your credit (you know I always care about that as well) as you need to keep tight check over your credit in order to purchase or refinance your home!

With all the excitement of the upcoming trip we sometimes get carried away, plan only for the trip and security of our home for while we are away and leave for our stress-free trip. But wait!! You suddenly realize the day before you return the date! You've missed your mortgage payment, car payment, credit card, and utility due dates by a week or more! This happens more than I'd like to hear and the credit company doesn't accept this as a viable hardship excuse. So ensure you plan ahead. Go on and sit down to make all the payments needed to be made in advance before your trip and all those due up till a few days after your return for good measure to ensure you don't get tied up with the return home and forget this very important task to protect your credit rating!

As you can see, there is a lot to think about before you jump in the car or on a plane for vacation. Use this checklist as a way of bringing peace of mind to you and your family. Enjoy your vacations without worrying about the safety of your home while you're away.

Ten Questions Every Homeowner Should Ask an Agent

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As you embark upon what will be one of the most important transactions of your life – whether buying or selling a home – you should be absolutely certain that you are happy with the real estate agent you have hired to help you manage it. 

To help you with this all-important hiring process, here are ten important questions to ask an agent before you decide on whether or not to hire them:

Question #1
How Close Do You Get in Sale Price Related to Asking Price?
It is important to ask for this information as it relates to the past 60 days.  Given that many agents are not that active in the market, you would be best served to obtain the most recent information possible.  As a seller, your agent’s ability to come close to the asking price is a strong attribute and can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in your transaction.

Question #2
How Many Days on Average Does It Take You To Sell a Home?
What’s the average number of days on the market for properties listed by your prospective agent? Since this statistic can reach as high as six to nine months in some cases and as much as a year, it is important to ask how your prospective agent ranks on the scale.

Question #3
What is the Rate of Homes Sold on a Monthly Basis?
Knowing the absorption rate of homes similar to yours that are on the market allows valuable insight as to how the market is performing for your particular needs.  Not only does it give sellers a glimpse into the system and how it would translate to their own sale but it also presents a broader view of the entire market in general.

Question #4
What Do You Do Differently To Get Homes Sold?
Especially with the current trying economic times, many agents have been faced with adversities trying to sell the homes on their list.  One of the best ways to learn if your agent is a top producer is to question how they have successfully sold or marketed difficult homes.

Question #5
What Percentage of Deals Do You Represent the Buyer Versus Seller? 
Some agents work primarily with sellers while others work mostly with buyers and still others are experienced with dual-agency deals.  Depending on your needs, you will benefit from an agent that specializes in one of the two.  It is important to ask which side of the fence your prospective agent tends to represent. 

Questions #6
How Many Homes Did You Sell Last Year?
Nothing speaks louder than numbers.  A very important statistic, ask what the total number of homes sold last year was and if possible try to get a more long-term picture of the agent’s performance in this regard. You can also ask for a month-to-month breakdown to see if there are certain stronger months.

Questions #7
Can You Provide a List of the Ten Most Current Clients You Have Worked With?
Rather than rely on the given list of referrals that many agents have handpicked, it’s a good idea to obtain a list of clients that are currently working with this Realtor.  It will provide a much-needed glimpse into the agent’s performance on various stages of real estate transactions.

Question #8
How Much of Your Work Day Do You Dedicate to the Real Estate Industry?
You want an agent that is 100% committed to their  job and if they are focusing more on a day job with real estate being a secondary career, you run the risk of inaccessibility, lack of knowledge and experience plus lackluster motivation.  Find out how they feel about the real estate industry and whether they are passionate about their work.

Question #9
What is Your Style of Marketing – Proactive or Reactive?
What is your potential agent’s style of working?  Does he or she speak to a large number of people each day? Are they proactive or reactive in nature when it comes to marketing? See how this lines up with your real estate needs.  Are you in a hurry to buy or sell?  Does a laid back agent hinder your efforts? Or does slow and steady work better for you?

Question #10
What Does Your Daily Schedule Look Like?
The typical schedule of a real estate professional can be very telling.  By asking for a copy or general idea of how they conduct their day in terms of their work, you can get a good idea of how much time is devoted to the profession and what kind of business they are running.

5 Things You Should Do When You Move Into a New Home

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1. Change locks

Unfortunately, you can’t assume the keys you’re holding are the only keys to your home that could exist out there. Play it safe and have all the locks changed as soon as you can.

2. Re-program garage door opener

Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the security of your new home. Most garage door remotes have a reset button that you can hold down to reprogram the opener. If you want more concise instructions, note the make and model of the opener and contact the company to walk you through the steps.

3. Replace furnace filter

Most manufacturers recommend that a furnace filter be changed once a month during the heating season to ensure the most efficient performance. While there are higher-quality filters that may not require monthly replacement, it’s still a good idea to check the filter monthly and, of course, replace it when you move into a new place.

4. Install new batteries in smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector

You have no way of knowing when the batteries were last changed and if the home has been unoccupied, it’s probably been awhile. Test the alarm and detector and put new batteries in each. This investment of time and a few dollars is well worth it, given the stakes.

5. Replace toilet seat covers

We probably don’t need to go into specific details, but most people insist on swapping out toilet seats.

Why Some Homes Sell More Easily And How To Make Them Sell At a Great Price

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Everyone who puts their home on the market wants to sell it and sell well.  So what is it that sets those people apart who are able to powerhouse their way into a deal very soon after they list their property?  How do these people manage to successfully get the price they want and with the terms that they are happy with?  The answer lies in five simple, but very effective aspects of selling real estate that experienced Realtors have come to learn after years in the business.

Location, Location, Location!

Yep, that famous saying you’ve heard has a lot of truth to it.  How and where your property is situated makes a huge difference in terms of your selling success.  Things like being centrally located (to the city), being within a good school system, having access to shopping, dining and entertainment facilities plus nearby recreational venues, all add to the value of a property’s location.

How’s That Property Looking?

Believe it or not, what all those design TV shows keep saying, is true.  How you present your home when you put it up for sale has a lot to do with your potential selling success.  Do not underestimate the power of curb appeal.  By spending a little bit to update the house, in almost all cases, it translates to a far better received house on the market.  Fix things that are broken, try to decorate or set up things in a neutral way so that buyers can imagine themselves in the home.  A bright red wall, for example, is not everyone’s idea of a perfect family room color.

How Much Did You Say That Was?

The single most important factor when looking at a home’s selling capability is its price.  Buyers are definitely very savvy, especially these days when it’s a buyers’ market.  Not only will they be fully aware of area property values but they will also call you on it if you overprice your home.  In a market where buyers have considerable more inventory to choose from than if it was more a seller’s market, it is very important to focus on setting a realistic price.

Terms, Perks and Other Deal-Sweetening Things

Of COURSE the cool people that agreed to throw in the backyard Jacuzzi will sell their house before you sell yours.  The trick is to know and understand exactly how to entice the buyers into wanting your home.  What are the ways to do that?  Some of them are in your hands, like offering to add extra items like curtains or fixed furnishings – while other factors are market-dependent, like the current interest rates.  But at the end of the day, one of the key reasons successful sales happen is because the terms were favorable and agreeable to both parties.

Boy Was That Ever Easy, Thanks To The Realtor’s Experience!

Most homeowners who try to sell their home on their own, what’s known as a FSBO in real estate jargon, usually don’t.  The simple fact of the matter is that by going through a Realtor, homes have a far better chance of selling – and this is for many reasons.  But it’s not just any Realtor that is the key to success; rather it’s choosing an experienced professional who knows their stuff.  
As long as you are market-savvy, you understand what buyers are looking for and are willing to accommodate the things that will set you apart and give you the edge over other sellers, your property should sell.  And even more so, by following through with the five things that homes do sell with success, you will sell your home and sell it well. 

What Every First-Time Home Buyer Needs To Know Before Getting Started

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If you are considering purchasing a new home, then you probably know now is the best time to buy. In fact, we haven’t seen such incredible market conditions for buyers in as many as sixty years! But there are a lot of details that people may not realize. To help you achieve success during this process and end up with the perfect home, at a great price, in the best location and at a great interest rate – there are some things that we feel you should know before starting.

Buying for the Right Reasons Is Key

In recent years, we’ve seen an influx of property “flips” where a home is purchased at a low price, numerous updates and upgrades are made through a series of renovations and then the property is resold at a premium price. If you’re thinking of buying in today’s market for this purpose, think again. One of the current market conditions that generally holds across the board nationally is declining or low housing values.

If you plan to buy a home for you and your family to live in, it couldn’t be a more perfect time. Also, if there is imminent relocation in the near future you may not want to invest in a home right now. Be sure to plan on living in the property for at least several years before reselling again, in order for it to be a sound investment.

Credit Is More Important Than Ever Before

Having a good credit score was always an important factor in buying a home but nowadays with lenders exercising extreme caution and care before doling out loans (see Subprime Lending Crisis to understand the shift in lending practices) a good credit profile is essential. Where homeowners might once have been able to secure sizable funding to buy a home in the past, lenders completely scrutinize each detail of a potential borrower’s credit history and standing. In fact, there are new credit scoring methods being used by many lenders that may lead to even more difficulty for many homeowners with less than desirable financial practices in obtaining mortgages.

Despite the added scrutiny on credit, many first time homebuyers are successfully obtaining FHA loans, as long as they have a minimum FICO score of about 640. An added benefit of FHA loan programs is that buyers can obtain as much as 6% in seller concessions that goes toward closing costs.

Grant Money Is Available To Ease Closing and Down Payment Costs

Before beginning your search or deciding on a price range for your property, be sure to research whether there are any grants you may be eligible for toward your home. An example is the Community Development Administration’s grant designed to assist homebuyers with down payment or closing costs. Depending on where you live there are other grants available as well.

VA Loans Provide Added Benefits for Military Veterans

Considering the recent changes in Iraq with many veterans returning home and needing to settle down, VA guaranteed home loans are a welcome avenue for countless military first-time homebuyers. With concessions such as reduced or waived lending fees and no down payment – VA home loans are a great option for veterans or honorably discharged military personnel.

Preparation Now Will Save Headaches Later

As you begin searching for the perfect home, it is important to know exactly what you can afford. The most important step in determining that is to have a consultation with a loan officer. You should receive a good faith estimate that will outline exactly how much money would be paid by you out-of-pocket, the amount you may need to obtain from sellers as concessions and also the amount of your monthly payment. Armed with this information you will be in a much better position to bid on homes that are in your price range and those that you know you can afford. Also, when it comes to multiple offers on a home, sellers like seeing a copy of a preapproval letter and prefer to deal with buyers that have already secured pre-qualification. It’s something that can make the difference when competing against other buyers and negotiating a sale.
Congratulations on your decision to buy a home for the first time! We hope that with these tips, the buying process will be fruitful as you get into a home that will provide you and your family long-lasting happiness and security!