Every real estate transaction is different with varying nuances, but there are some frequently asked questions that we would love to answer!
Seller frequently asked questions:
When is the best time to sell my home?
Many consider spring the best time to list a home—the weather is perfect for house hunting and parents buying a house have time over the summer to get settled into their new surroundings before the start of the school year.
But the best time to sell your home is when you’re ready. You should even consider selling your home in the winter when there are fewer houses on the market and more serious buyers. When demand is high and supply is low you can expect competing offers on your home.
Cleveland area market is seasonal in some neighborhoods, but in others it is not. When you meet a REALTOR® to talk about your home, they will examine your neighborhoods market trends including statistics on when is the best time to list a home. In some instances, it is better to list during a time window, in others, it is the opposite. Sometimes, if your home is the only home on the market, buyers have less choices and therefore may be willing to pay a higher price.
How is the housing market?
Or rather, how is the market in YOUR neighborhood. The best indicator of the market is the average number of days it typically takes to sell a correctly-priced newly listed home as well as the “odds of selling”. Every community is different and the market varies by season. The only way we can accurately answer that question is by examining your neighborhood.
Very generally, the market is always good. A fairly priced home should sell in under 60 days.
Should I price my home higher so there is room for negotiations?
This is the most common mistake well-intentioned sellers make. An overpriced home stays on the market longer and often results in a lower selling price. A fairly and accurately priced home often sells within 30-60 days. When the home has been on the market for a while, the first question a buyer asks is “What is wrong with it?” and the next comment is “It has been on the market for a while, I am sure we can negotiate the price.” If a product has been on the shelf for some time, there is a greater chance it will go on clearance; consider pricing the home according to the market conditions and enjoy a quick sale.
What do I need to disclose to buyers?
If this question crosses your mind in regards to an issue, you need to disclose it. The seller must disclose any and all known defects and problems with the home. The buyer can (and sometimes does) litigate over issues that were known to seller but were not disclosed on property disclosure forms.
Failing to disclose now, can lead to a variety of problems later. Once the home is under contract, in most cases the buyer will have a home inspection. If the home inspector finds something that should have been disclosed, the buyer will either walk away from the sale or ask for a price reduction. If the inspector misses the issue, and the buyer can pursue court action against the inspector and seller. However, if the seller disclosed the problems, the buyer is aware of the issues prior to making an offer; said buyer is less likely to walk away from the purchase and cannot ask for a price reduction because the issues were known at time of writing an offer.
Do I need a REALTOR® ®?
Yes. A competent, experienced REALTOR® is worth so much more then the commission he or she charges.
An experienced REALTOR® will discuss your neighborhood market trends; seasonal trends, the available inventory, comparable sold properties; how much the comparable houses sold for and why.
The REALTOR® will walk through your home and talk about inexpensive improvements that will yield a higher selling price. If appropriate, the REALTOR® will invite a professional stager to ‘stage’ your home; weather it is by replacing furniture, adding/removing accessories or more involved projects like repainting certain rooms or surfaces. Said projects cost a few hundred dollars but can put your home into a completely different pricing category with much higher selling proceeds.
The agent will recommend a fair listing price and will explain why they chose that listing price. They will invite a professional photographer, and videographer; will create professional brochures and flyers.. Your REALTOR® will explain their marketing plan and their strategies on how they plan to sell your home.
What is my home worth?
The best way to determine the market value of your home is to look at what comparable homes have recently sold for. A comparative market analysis (CMA) is a detailed analysis of comparable homes sold over the past six or 12 months. A CMA takes into account factors such as the neighborhood, square footage, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, kitchen upgrades, lot features, the style of the home and type of flooring, etc.
It is very important to price the home correctly at the very start of listing and marketing. Homes that are overpriced fall into a stagnant mass of homes that just “sit” on the market. The most common buyer question about a home that has been on the market over 60 days is “What is wrong with it”. The home is perceived as not something that others want and so the buyer questions if it is said home is something they want. The next comment from the buyer is “It has been on the market for a while, that means we can make a low offer.”
When you sell your home, it becomes a ‘product’ and needs to be packaged like a product. This includes a correct listing price. Buyers are cautious and suspicious when t comes to a product that has been on the shelf for a while and the mentality is very similar when it comes to houses that has been listed for a while.
What is the difference between assessed value and market value?
The assessed value of a home is used for property tax purposes, not the price someone is willing to pay for a home. Assessed value can be found on the county website. If it is lower then the listed price, that simply means the property taxes are based on a lower county amount. If the assed value is higher then the listed price, once the home is purchased and transfers ownership, the new owner can petition the county and dispute the value. It is a fairly easy process and the county in most cases will change the assessed value to the confirmed sale price.
What is the difference between list price and sale price?
The list price is the asking price. The sale price is the actual price the home sold for.
How do I get the house ready for a showing?
There are two most important recommendations: clean every surface and declutter. Clean, mop and scrub every surface. Try to achieve a ‘hotel’ look – a buyer should feel the home has been maintained and not be distracted by moldy grout in the bathrooms.
Declutter! If your experienced REALTOR® suggests a staging specialist, take notes! Remove and extra furniture, and all collectibles, accessories and personal items. The home should ‘show’ very neutrally. The buyer needs to visualize themselves in the space, not be distracted by collectible memorabilia or a sink full of dirty dishes.
We live in our homes one way, but when we sell a house, we sell a product. The product needs to have attractive packaging. If your home looks like a new construction model home with bare counters and minimal, tastefully arranged furniture, you have succeeded.
We realize it is hard to live in a ‘model home’ and we understand, but having your home in its best condition will ensure a quick sale; provided the home has been priced at a fair market value.
How do I market my home?
You don’t. Your REALTOR® does. A REALTOR® will develop a comprehensive marketing plan that will cover all marketing channels. Print advertisement to strategic neighboring communities. Strong online presence on major real estate website with highest web traffic. Social media strategies, email campaigns, personal phone calls, etc…
Why is the house not getting any showings?
If the house is not getting any showings, chances are the market is stating it is overpriced. The buyers are looking at value for the price when choosing which homes to see. If the home is overpriced and the value is not there compared to other homes on the market, the buyers will not show up. Speak with your REALTOR® and discuss what are the market conditions, what has changed since the home has been listed and what can be done to increase buyer traffic.
How do I handle a low offer?
Never reject an offer outright. A low offer can be insulting, but the reality is that some people still think we are in a 2009 real estate market. These buyers may also be price-buyers, but they ARE buyers and they are making an offer. A good REALTOR® will always advise to begin negotiations. Your home remains on the market and you do not lose anything by negotiating. More often than not, an agreement can be reached with a low ball offer.
What are seller concessions?
Seller concessions are buyers side closing costs that the seller agrees to cover at closing. If a buyer is low on cash, they may ask the seller to cover their closing costs. At the time an offer with seller concessions is presented, your REALTOR® will present a Net Sheet detailing your selling expenses. If the seller agrees to pay a portion of buyers closing costs, the Net Sheet will show reduced selling proceeds.
Sometimes paying buyers closing costs is necessary. In those cases, in an extremely oversimplified example, if the seller wants to receive $100,000 from the sale, they offer to sell the home to the buyer at $103,000 and agree to pay $3,000 in buyers closing costs. In this scenario, the seller raises the selling price and does agree to cover up tot $3,000 in buyers closing costs, but still receives the $100,000 in proceeds.
What is a sale contingency?
A sale contingency is a provision or a condition in the contract paperwork. The buyer agrees to purchase the house but reserves a right to home inspections. If the condition of the house is satisfactory, the buyer releases the contingency and the contract is pending on loan approval.
What are home inspections?
Once the seller and the buyer agree on a price and all contractual paperwork is signed, the buyer typically reserves 7-10 days for home inspections. The buyer may invite professionals of any kind to the house and inspect the property for safety concerns, possible issues and necessary repairs. Typically the buyer will have a general home inspection and a radon gas inspection. If appropriate, the septic, well flow rate and water potability will be inspected and tested. The buyer may bring in any type of inspector into the house within the allowed period.
Typically the inspections are done for informational purposes. Sometimes, the inspectors uncover safety concerns or major components at the end of their lives (like roof or furnace). Should the buyer find a serious issue, they will either choose to walk away from the house, ask the seller to fix the issue or request a price reduction to compensate for the concern.
Do I have to make any repairs to the house?
Yes and no. Depending on the outcome of the buyers home inspection, the buyer may request that certain issues are replaced (or simply to lower the price for needed repairs). The seller may decline outright, but there is a risk of the buyer walking away from the contract.
In other cases, if the buyer is using FHA or VA financing to purchase the home, the lender may require certain repairs prior to lending money for purchase. These repairs may include securing electrical wires, installing railings near stairs, pealing paint, broken windows, severely deteriorated roof etc… In order for the buyer to obtain financing, the seller has to seriously consider making the repairs as the bank will not lend funds to the buyer otherwise.
What if the house appraised below contract price?
The buyer may choose to walk away from the contract, or the buyer may choose to ask the seller to lower the purchase price to the appraised value. There is no obligation for the seller to lower the price, but if the seller does not, the buyer cannot obtain financing for the purchase.
What happens next?
At inspection completion and receipt of appraisal, the title company and the buyers loan officer begin working on the loan documents. This process typically takes several weeks. Once the documents are ready, the closing is scheduled.
Buyer frequently asked questions:
Should I get pre-approved for a home purchase loan?
Meeting with a mortgage officer should be the first step of a home buying process. Obtaining a thorough pre-approval will clearly determine a goal purchase price, necessary down payment and monthly payments. Some buyers qualify for a conventional loan (5% – 20%) down payment, some can only qualify for an FHA loan (3.5% down payment). Some buyers qualify for VA financing and sometimes a rehabilitation loan is necessary if a buyer wants to purchase a property that needs extensive work.
Don’t confuse pre-approval with prequalification. Pre-qualifications are done online with few clicks of a button by the buyer. Pre-approval on the other hand is a conditional commitment by the bank to lend money for a home purchase.
Lastly, the market is moving at a very fast pace. Many home sellers find themselves in a multiple offer situation and will not consider an offer that is not accompanied by a pre-approval. You could miss the house of your dreams because your paperwork is not in order.
Quick note – if you are denied a loan by one lender, talk with your REALTOR® – banks are very strict with their financing, but mortgage lenders that work with multiple providers are able to accommodate struggling buyers. Your REALTOR® will refer you to several mortgage officers.
Should I rent or buy?
Buying a home is a good investment, particularly if you plan to stay in the home for at least 5 years. Right now, interest rates are low and in majority of cases, it is cheaper to buy then to rent. Even as the interest rates start to inch upward, the rates, remain at historic lows.
The question you want to ask yourself is “where do I want to be tomorrow.” If you can’t commit to owning a home for more than a couple of years, it may be better to rent. Otherwise, it is a fantastic time to buy.
Should I rent-to-own?
Renting to own sounds like the ideal compromise between renting and buying, but it is misleading. The phrase rent-to-own is a red flag that you may not be getting the best terms. The financing option is often marketed to people with less than desirable credit that are in desperate situations.
Should I sell the home I’m in now before buying another one?
If the right home comes along at the less-than-right time, there is an option to make an offer contingent upon selling your home. It is a serious contingency and the seller of your dream home may have hesitations as they would have to wait until you sell your home and that can take months. Consider listing your home at a fair market value. An experienced REALTOR® can, with certain confidence estimate a listing price at which you can expect to go under contract within a reasonable time frame. Parallel to selling your home and negotiating offers, look for a house you’d like to call home.
Do I need a need a REALTOR®?
Yes. An experienced REALTOR® will help you navigate complexities of the transaction process; she will anticipate your needs, avert you from making mistakes, will recommend reliable professionals and expertly negotiate the best possible purchase price.
A home purchase is one of the largest financial transactions in a person’s lifetime. The process is complex with many nuances that a seasoned agent will take care of on your behalf. The REALTOR® will guide you through the transaction, explain every possibility, negotiate and ensure the process moves smoothly.
Am I responsible for REALTOR® fees?
The buyer is rarely responsible for REALTOR® fees—typically, the sellers selling costs include real estate commissions.
What is a short sale?
A short sale is a process where the seller owes more on the home then the home can sell for. The seller’s lender must agree to accept a loss on the sellers mortgage and allow the seller to sell for less money than the seller owes to the bank. Sometimes short sales close, sometimes they do not. There are many nuances to short sales; the seller must demonstrate financial hardship, the bank must approve the selling price and the buyer must be willing to wait, and wait and wait… Short sales negotiations with the bank can take as long as 60 or 90 days and, in some cases, even more. There are no rules and often the house can go into foreclosure even though it was in the middle of a short sale. Short sales are typically considered distressed properties and are usually in need of much work.
What is a foreclosure?
A foreclosure or real estate owned (REO) property is owned by the bank or the lender. Bank owned houses are very popular with investors and rehabbers. These homes range in condition from needing extensive cosmetical updates to structural issues.
How old is the roof, furnace, water heater and air conditioner?
The goal is to find out the condition and age of the major components of house that are the most expensive to replace. A buyer’s offer will be much lower if the roof is on its last year.
How many homes do I need to look at?
Asking this question is like asking someone if they believe in love at first sight. You might fall in love with the first house you see. But, however long you’re in the market, you’ll know when you’ve laid eyes on the right house.
What purchase price should I offer?
An experienced REALTOR® can offer insights into the value and psychology of the housing market. Having an idea of a fair market value can help get you the best price for a house without the risk of offending the seller with a low offer. Every situation is different, and many factors play a role in the final contract price, but generally, in Greater Cleveland area, homes sell for 94%-98% of asking price.
What is an earnest money deposit?
An earnest money deposit is a good faith deposit, collected within 3 days of signing a contract, unless specified otherwise in the contract paperwork. The money is kept in a separate escrow account and is part of the buyers purchase price. The earnest money amount is deducted from the buyers closing costs at the closing.
Should I do home inspections?
Absolutely. A professional home inspector will examine the home and all of its exterior and interior spaces and components. A home inspection is a thorough process that looks for maintenance recommendations, safety concerns, age and functionality of the home’s components.
What type of home inspections should I do?
Typical contract terms allow a buyer to do any type of home inspection within (usually) 7-10 days of signing of contract. Generally, a buyer will do a general home inspection that looks at all outside and inside components of a house; all major systems, safety concerns, maintenance issues, etc. Buyers typically choose to do a Radon Gas inspection. Radon is a tasteless, odorless gas that is very harmful and the only way to know if it is inside a home is to test for it. Where appropriate, a buyer will choose to do a septic tank inspection, well water flow rate and water potability inspections.
Buyer however has a right to bring any professional into a home for any time of inspection. If the roof looks questionable, a buyer can bring in a roofing professional etc.
If the inspection results are alarming, do I have to buy the house and do I lose my earnest money deposit?
If the inspections uncover serious issues or significant safety concerns, the buyer can choose to walk away from the purchase. The buyer may request the seller to repair or replace the uncovered issues. In other cases, the buyer and the seller may renegotiate the purchase price to reflect the emerged defects.
The home inspections are for informational purposes; the goal is for the buyer to understand the home and any issues or concerns as well as maintenance requirements of the home. Every home will have a pool of details that require attention. If, however, the inspectors uncover undisclosed safety concerns or expensive necessary repairs like roof replacement or failing furnace, then the findings are used to renegotiate the price.
If a buyer completes the inspections and asks for a mutual release of contract within 3 calendar days of inspection, the earnest money deposit is returned to the buyer.
What is an appraisal?
Buyers lender of choice will send out a third-party appraiser to review the home and make sure that the home is worth the money being lent to purchase it. This process is used to make sure that if the buyer stops paying for the home, the bank can return their money by selling it.
What if my home appraisal value is lower than my purchase price?
If the bank feels the home is worth less than contracted purchase price, a buyer may walk away from the purchase. A buyer may also bring additional cash to cover the difference or insist on re-negotiate with the seller to lower the purchase price.
What is next?
After inspections come appraisal and once appraisal comes back with approved value, the title company and the lender begin collaboration on loan documents. The process takes a few weeks.
What is the closing process?
Once all of the paperwork is prepared by the lending institution and the closing documents have been coordinated by the Title Company, the closing date is set. This is the date when a buyer signs all lenders documents and the title company takes transfer documents to the County. The county records the transfer of the deed and you are the new owner. Congratulations!