What You Should Really Know About Browsing for Homes Online

It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s important to take everything with a grain of salt!

Shopping for houses online illustration
Image: HouseLogic

Oh, let’s just admit it, shall we? Browsing for homes online is a window shopper’s Shangri-La. The elegantly decorated rooms, the sculpted gardens, the colorful front doors that just pop with those “come hither” hues.

Browser beware, though: Those listings may be seductive, but they might not be giving you the complete picture.

That perfect split-level ranch? Might be too close to a loud, traffic-choked street. That handsome colonial with the light-filled photos? Might be hiding some super icky plumbing problems. That attractively priced condo? Miiiight not actually be for sale. Imagine your despair when, after driving across town to see your dream home, you realize it was sold. 

So let’s practice some self-care, shall we, and set our expectations appropriately. 

  • Step one, fill out our home buyer’s worksheet. The worksheet helps you understand what you’re looking for. 
  • Step two, with that worksheet and knowledge in hand, start browsing for homes. As you do, keep in mind exactly what that tool can, and can’t, do. Here’s how.

You Keep Current. Your Property Site Should, Too

First things first: You wouldn’t read last month’s Vanity Fair for the latest cafe society gossip, right? So you shouldn’t browse property sites that show old listings.

Get the latest listings from realtor.com®, which pulls its information every 15 minutes from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), regional databases where real estate agents post listings for sale. That means that realtor.com®’s listings are more accurate than some others, like Zillow and Trulia, which may update less often. You wouldn’t want to get your heart a flutter for a house that’s already off the market.

BTW, there are other property listing sites as well, including Redfin, which is a brokerage and therefore also relies on relationships with brokers and MLSs for listings.

The Best Properties Aren’t Always the Best Looking

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. But what they don’t say is a picture can also hide a thousand cracked floorboards, busted boilers, and leaky pipes. So while it’s natural to focus on photos while browsing, make sure to also consider the property description and other key features.

Each realtor.com® listing, for example, has a “property details” section that may specify important information such as the year the home was built, price per square foot, and how many days the property has been on the market.

Ultimately though, ask your real estate agent to help you interpret what you find. The best agents have hyper-local knowledge of the market and may even know details and histories of some properties. If a listing seems too good to be true, your agent will likely know why.

Treat Your Agent Like Your Bestie

At the end of the day, property sites are like CliffsNotes for a neighborhood: They show you active listings, sold properties, home prices, and sales histories. All that data will give you a working knowledge, but it won’t be exhaustive.

To assess all of this information — and gather facts about any home you’re eyeing, like how far the local elementary school is from the house or where the closest Soul Cycle is — talk to your real estate agent. An agent who can paint a picture of the neighborhood is an asset.

An agent who can go beyond that and deliver the dish on specific properties is a true friend indeed, more likely to guide you away from homes with hidden problems, and more likely to save you the time of visiting a random listing (when you could otherwise be in the park playing with your canine bestie).

Want to go deeper? Consider these sites and sources:

Just remember: You’re probably not going to find that “perfect home” while browsing listings on your smartphone. Instead, consider the online shopping experience to be an amuse bouche to the home-buying entree — a good way for you to get a taste of the different types of homes that are available and a general idea of what else is out there. 

Once you’ve spent that time online, you’ll be ready to share what you’ve learned with an agent.

HouseLogic logo

HOUSELOGIC

HouseLogic helps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible. 

work area built into wall unit

‘Homework’: The Rise of the Home Office

Families cramped together around a kitchen table, working, and learning online isn’t sustainable for productivity. Now, more home builders and interior designers are carving out workspaces.

October 13, 2020 by Barbara Ballinger


Even before the pandemic, the work-from-home trend was growing in popularity. Improved technology and connectivity are allowing people to be more productive at home as employers have offered greater flexibility. But now that COVID-19 has made working from home even more prevalent—coupled with students learning online—many families are finding themselves crowded around the kitchen table or staking out various nooks to accomplish tasks on their laptops or tablets.

Mary Cook, founder of a Chicago-based commercial interior design firm, Mary Cook Associates, has experienced this challenge firsthand. She took the dining room table for her office in her suburban house; one of her three children claimed the sitting area in the parents’ suite, another picked the furnished basement, and the third chose a table in the family room. Fortunately, Cook’s husband is retired and so doesn’t need to compete for working space.

desk area on landing at top of stairs

The finagling has made real estate professionals note the need for more functional, designated work-from-home solutions. This has led to the creation of home offices using two techniques: reconfiguring existing spaces or adding new square footage. These new home office designs vary in size and location—some near the main living space or bedrooms, others in basements or attics. There’s also the trend of outdoor accessory dwelling units if the plot size and local building codes permit them.

In addition, some new homes might soon offer multiple workspace options on different levels, says Jeff Benach, a principal of Lexington Homes, a Chicago-area homebuilder. For years, his firm’s plans have included a flexible space on the main level of their three-story townhome design that some homeowners use as an office.

“With the pandemic, more buyers—maybe 50% more—are interested in that plan because of the potential for having an office or e-learning space,” Benach says. “It’s become a bigger priority, and we’ll include it in more designs and communities.”

flexible room used as a home office

The company also offers options in other designs, including a lower-level finished space, a loft near bedrooms on an upper level, and a built-in desk with shelves at the top of a stairway.

Pyatt Builders, based in Carmel, Ind., regularly includes a flexible room in its 2,000-square-foot new homes, which the company is now emphasizing on social media and in its email blasts. “It can work as a home office or remote-learning classroom,” says Todd Pyatt, owner and president. Because of concerns around COVID-19 and more homeowners’ desire for private workspace, the company is considering including both a home office and a space designed with more flexibility in its 2021 construction projects, Pyatt says.

dedicated home office space in room with built shelving and cabinets

One of the country’s largest homebuilders, Los Angeles–based KB Home, recently redesigned some plans that include a fully outfitted home office.

“It’s the first time we’ve specifically offered a dedicated workspace with a range of options that provide an affordable work-from-home experience,” says Jeffrey Mezger, chairman, president, and CEO. The design features a built-in workstation with cabinet space, open shelving, and an upgraded electrical package. Home buyers can customize the space more with soundproofing, lighting, ceiling fans, window treatments—even with a beverage center, half-bath, and outdoor entry.

“The company will add options to meet clients’ evolving needs,” Mezger says. Two of the company’s California communities will introduce the concept, after which the option will be available nationally.

Recognizing the demand for private conversations, another homebuilder, Toll Brothers, based in Horsham, Penn., is developing matching home offices for couples.

Cook, who designs model homes for the company in several markets, says people tend to speak louder when they are on a call or in an online meeting than they do in person. She also points out that home offices work best with enough counter or desk space to spread out papers and set up equipment. Well-designed offices, she says, should be flexible enough to meet the needs of different family members at different times because most homes aren’t large enough to include a separate office for each person.

office space with sliding barn door

However, more important than size is creating a quiet space. Before the pandemic hit, KTGY Architecture + Planning used to design “home management center” desks in high traffic areas. Now the company is brainstorming how to close off those centers. Making a space that could be as small as a phone booth with a door would let residents take a call or have a Zoom meeting in private, says Jonathan Boriack, associate principal in the firm’s Oakland office. “It’s not a place where you’d work all day,” he says. His firm’s other solutions are to steal space from a laundry room, pantry, or hallway. “The challenge is to control noise,” he says.

The good news for homeowners who incorporate almost any variation of a home office is that they may be adding value to their home now and beyond. “Remote work is here to stay,” Boriack says.

How to Be a Savvy Open House Guest

Getting smart — about what to do, ask, and avoid — can move you ahead of the crowd.

Asking the right questions at open houses
Image: HouseLogic

Editor’s Note: As restrictions related to Covid-19 begin easing up, the National Association of REALTORS® is encouraging virtual home showings, regardless of whether in-person showings are allowed by states or local communities.

If you’re considering holding an open house, your agent will have an honest conversation with you about any concerns, including whether doing so would contradict current government recommendations or mandates, especially in geographic areas with shelter-in-place mandates. If after discussing these issues, you and your agent mutually agree to an open house, your agent will discuss necessary precautions to minimize exposure to and the spread of COVID-19.

Ah, the open house — a chance to wander through other people’s homes and imagine yourself knocking out walls and gut rehabbing their kitchens. This is what dreams are made of (or at least episodes of HGTV).

In all seriousness, going to open houses (and scheduled private showings) is one of the most exciting parts of the home-buying experience. Beyond the voyeuristic thrill, visiting houses allows you to assess things that you just can’t see online.

Most Popular in Buy a Home: Step-by-Step

Anyone who has taken a super-posed selfie knows that a picture doesn’t always tell the whole truth. Professional listing photos can make small rooms look spacious, make dim rooms bright, and mask other flaws of a home — but you don’t know any of that until you actually see the house yourself.

You can tour houses at any point, but it can be helpful to first discuss your needs and wants with your partner (if you have one), do some online research, and talk with your agent and your lender. That way, you — and your agent — can take a targeted approach, which saves you time and can give you an edge over your buying competition.

So, before you start viewing, follow these tips to get prepared. 

Make It Your Job to Know Which Houses Are “Open”

There are four ways to know when a house is available for viewing:

  • Ask your agent. He or she will have details on specific properties and can keep you informed of open houses that fit your criteria.
  • Use listing websites. A number of property sites let you search active listings for upcoming open houses. On realtor.com®, for instance, when searching for properties, scroll over the “Buy” tab and click the “Open Houses” link to see upcoming ones in your area.
  • Scroll social media. On Instagram, for example, you can search the hashtag #openhouse, or similar tags for your city (#openhousedallas, for example), to discover open houses. Many real estate agents and brokerages also post open house announcements on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; find ones from your area and start following.
  • Drive around. Cruise through the neighborhoods you’re interested in — it’s a good way to get a sense of the area amenities — and look for open house signs. 

And while you’re searching, be sure to jot down the location, time, and date for any open house that strikes your fancy. It will make it that much easier to plan times and routes for hitting as many homes as possible.

Get There Early (and Say Hi to the Neighbors)

If you’re seriously interested in a home, show up to the open house early. That way you’ll beat the rush, and the agent showing the house (AKA the host) will have time to focus on you and your questions.

And don’t be shy! Many home buyers hop from one open house to the next without talking to the listing agent. But chatting up the host can help you learn information that you wouldn’t get by only touring the premises.

If a house seems like a match, take a walk around the neighborhood. Strike up conversations with the neighbors to get an insider’s perspective on what life in that community is really like — families, singles, what the vibe on the block is like, and whether the homeowner’s or condo association (if there is one) is easy to work with.

Ask Lots of Questions, But Avoid TMI

To make the most of your open house visits, have a list of questions in mind for the host — and take notes while you’re there, so you can keep track of what you learned. 

At the same time, remember this: Your interaction with the host could be the beginning of negotiations with them. If you end up making an offer, you’ll use the information you’ve gathered to inform your bid. (They’ll also remember that you were an engaged yet courteous person, which can’t hurt your cause.) 

Equally important: Oversharing could hurt your negotiating power. 

Be careful about what information you share with the agent hosting the event. This person works for the seller — not you. The host can and will use stats they’ve gleaned about you to counter, reject, or accept an offer. 

Keeping that in mind, here are eight questions you can ask a host to help determine whether a house is a good fit for you:

  1. Have you received any offers? If there are already bids on the table, you’ll have to move quickly if you want to make an offer. Keep in mind: Listing agents can’t disclose the amount of any other offers, though — only whether they exist.
  2. When does the seller want to move? Find out the seller’s timeline. If the seller is in a hurry (say, for a new job), they may be willing to accept an offer that’s below list price.
  3. When is the seller looking to close? Price isn’t the only factor for many home sellers. One way to strengthen your offer is to propose a settlement date that’s ideal for them. For example, a 30- to 45-day closing is standard in many markets, but the seller may want more time if they haven’t purchased their next home yet.
  4. Is the seller flexible on price? Most listing agents won’t tip their hand when you ask this question, but there’s always a chance the agent says “yes.” And, in some instances, the seller has authorized their agent to tell interested buyers that the price is negotiable. In any case, you might as well ask. (It’s kind of like googling for a coupon code when you buy something online.)
  5. How many days has the home been on the market? You can find this information on the internet, but the seller’s agent can give you context, especially if the house has been sitting on the market for a while. Maybe the home was under contract but the buyer’s financing fell through, or the seller overshot the listing price and had to make a price reduction? Knowing the backstory can only help you.
  6. Has the price changed? You can see if there’s been a price reduction online, but talking to the listing agent is the only way to find out why the seller dropped the price.
  7. Are there any issues? Have there been any renovations or recent repairs made to the home? Some upgrades, like new kitchen appliances, are easy to spot, but some are harder to identify. Specifically ask about the roof, appliances, and HVAC system because they can be expensive to repair or replace. BTW, repairs like a leaky faucet, aren’t  things that need to be disclosed.
  8. What are the average utility costs? Many buyers don’t factor utility bills into their monthly housing expenses, and these costs can add up — particularly in drafty older homes. Ask the listing agent what a typical monthly utility bill is during the summer and during the winter, since heating and cooling costs can fluctuate seasonally. Be prepared for higher utility bills if you’re moving from an apartment to a single-family home.

Now that you’ve got your answers, there’s one last thing to do: Thank the host before you go. You never know — you could be seeing them again at the negotiating table soon.

HouseLogic logo

HOUSELOGIC

HouseLogic helps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible. 

4 Bottom-Line Tips to Decide: What Is the Value of My Home?

Here’s how to price your home to sell fast.

Your home is more than just a bunch of rooms under a roof. It’s the space where you watched your daughter take her first steps, hosted Super Bowl parties, and celebrated holidays. Those memories are priceless. But when sell your house, the warm and fuzzies can’t factor into the question: What is the value of my home?

You aren’t selling your memories; you’re selling a house.

This is where an agent can help. You’re the one who will set your listing price, but your agent has the expertise and local knowledge to advise on how to price your house so it doesn’t languish on the market.

#1 Don’t Go High Out The Gate

You think your house is great. The problem is sellers often think their house is so great that they list at too high of a price and miss the window of sales opportunity that comes with a new listing.

“By listing too high, you lose your most important leverage and timing because it’s new,” says Ali Evans, an agent in Santa Barbara, Calif. “If you overprice it, you miss out on all those buyers.”

The longer your house sits on the market, the less likely you are to get your asking price. Because buyers expect there’s a deal to be made on a house that’s been on the market for months. 

“If something doesn’t move in the first 30 days or so, then people start thinking that they’re not going to be paying full price any longer,” Evans says.

Bottom line: Listen to your real estate agent about home value, because she knows how to price your home to sell fast. She’s looking at all of the comp prices and knows what the competition is like in your market. 

#2 Don’t Assume Upgrades Will Get You A Higher Price 

You renovated your kitchen after you watched too many episodes of Property Brothers. You looooove the way your reno turned out, because your kitchen is now stunningly modern, as kitchens on HGTV are. Everyone else will love it too, right? So you want to push up the listing price.

Don’t be so sure everyone else will pay big bucks for it, Evans says.

“Upgrades that are done in very specific taste can be tricky. Updates that are neutral are going to appeal to a lot of people will see more value,” she says. “But upgrades don’t always equal value.”

In fact, research from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® shows you might recoup 59% of your costs, based on a national average, on a complete kitchen upgrade.

In other words, just because you put $65,000 into your kitchen renovation doesn’t mean you can list your home for an additional $65,000. Your agent can help you assess the market value of your upgrades and answer the big question, What is the value of my home?

#3 Don’t Set A Dollar Amount You Need To Make

Having an idea of what you want to earn from your house sale is fine, because you’re looking at your home as the giant investment that it is. But pricing your home so that you will make a certain amount of money is the wrong approach.

The number you have in your head may not be in line with the market. This is where doing research on the housing market comes in handy, as well as listening to your agent. 

“Make sure you understand the logic behind the price your agent suggests,” Evans says “It’s important to not be frustrated that it’s $20,000 below where you want to price it, and understand the thought process.”

Your agent will research the market to see what other houses in your area are selling for. He also knows the market, the inventory of houses for sale, and how your home compares to others in the area.

If you’ve listed the home too high, and you’re not getting any bites, don’t be afraid to do a price correction, Evans says. Lowering the price shows buyers you’re realistic and motivated. Adjusting the price is a key part of knowing how to price your home.

#4 Don’t Let Emotions Get The Best of You

For most people, selling a home is emotional. Whether you’ve lived in your house for four years or 40, you’re attached to it.  But it’s important to not let your emotions drive you to price your house for more than it’s worth. 

Listen to your agent on how to price yourhome. His cool-headed knowledge of the market and real estate inventory will be a wiser guide for pricing than your irrational love for the bay window in the living room, the restored hardwood floors, and the way the light shines in your beloved sunroom in the morning.

“Pricing can’t be an emotional thing,” Evans says. “It needs to be based on market analysis, which is why an outside perspective is important.”

When you ask yourself, ‘what is the value of my home,’ think with your head, more so than your heart.

HOUSELOGIC

HouseLogichelps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible. 

5 Big Steps to Buying Your First Home

Hello Everyone,

Buying your first home is a major milestone in your life and being able to fully understand the process is the key. I came across this great article I wanted to share with everyone today.

Purchasing a home is a lengthy process—and for good reason. Not only is it one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make, it is also one that you cannot easily reverse. So it’s important to make sure that your finances are in order and you’re ready to commit to living in a particular location for several years before taking on such a responsibility.

In “4 Smart Steps to Take Before Buying Your First Home,” we identified what would-be buyers should do years ahead of time to prepare financially for the big purchase. Here are the steps to complete the home-buying process.

Find the Right Real Estate Agent for You

Once you’ve saved enough to make a down payment—stashing away at least 20% will help you lock in better mortgage terms—finding a real-estate agent you trust is your next step. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 12% of buyers purchased their homes in 2013 without an agent. And, indeed, there’s nothing stopping you from visiting open houses on your own. Keep in mind, however, that the agent at the home for sale represents the sellers and is working to get them top dollar. A buyer’s agent will work on your behalf to negotiate the best sale terms and price.

Start by asking family members or friends for recommendations, says Steve Brown, NAR’s immediate past president. When my fiancé and I purchased a new townhome last year, we sought an agent who was familiar with the neighborhoods in which we were looking, would respond quickly to our calls and texts and would make us feel comfortable asking rookie questions. My sister referred me to the real-estate agent who had helped her buy her condo a couple of years earlier, and we ended up working with him as well.

If you don’t know anyone who’s recently bought a home, find an accredited buyer’s representative in your area via NAR’s search tool. Or try contacting realty agencies in your city, says Michael Espersen, a Metairie, La.-based real estate agent with Coldwell Banker. Talk with the managing broker and ask to be connected with an agent who does a lot of business in your desired neighborhoods, he adds.

Find a Lender With the Best Rates

Your real estate agent will likely recommend a lender that he’s worked with before. While going with his recommendation may be convenient, it might not get you the best deal. “The only party in the transaction that cares if the mortgage is a good deal is the borrower,” says Keith Gumbinger, vice-president of HSH.com, a publisher of mortgage information and rates. “Everyone else just wants to make sure the transaction closes.”

That’s why it’s important to shop around and compare loan terms. When evaluating potential lenders, consider the following:

Interest rates, including whether they are fixed or adjustable.

Points, which are fees paid directly to the lender in exchange for a lower interest rate. Be sure to get those quoted as a dollar amount so you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay.

Additional costs you’ll have to pay at closing, such as loan-origination, underwriting and broker fees.

My fiancé and I got rate quotes from four different lending institutions, including a firm suggested by our agent, my personal bank, a commercial bank used by a trusted friend who’d recently purchased a condo and our builder’s lending company. We eventually decided not to go with our agent’s recommendation. We were able to get better deal with our builder’s lender, which included a lower interest rate, as well as the builder covering the cost of certain upgrades to our home.

Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

You will find it almost impossible to make an offer without proof that you are eligible for a home loan. During my search, every seller required a copy of the preapproval letter attached to the written offer. “Preapproval is important because it signals to a seller that you’re more likely to be able to get the deal done, as opposed to someone who doesn’t already have a financing source in their back pocket,” Gumbinger notes

In order to get preapproved, your lender will run a credit check and review your financial documents, including a few years’ worth of tax returns, recent pay stubs and bank statements. If everything checks out, your lender will provide you with an official document that states how much you’ve been preapproved for. A word of caution, however, for first-time home buyers: Don’t mistake the preapproval amount for your own budget. (Your monthly mortgage costs shouldn’t exceed 28% of your gross monthly income, according to industry lending guidelines.)

Look at Houses Online and in Person

Finally, it’s time for the fun part— actually looking at houses. You can search for properties on websites like Yahoo Homes, Trulia or Zillow, or through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) search set up by your real estate agent, as well as by scouring your local newspaper for home-sale listings. Before setting foot in a potential home, however, be sure to research the surrounding community, school system and important amenities, such as proximity to shopping and public transportation, Espersen says. A simple online search might uncover deal-breakers such as a high crime rate or poor public school ratings.

During your in-person visit, keep an open mind. Cosmetic negatives, such as garish paint colors or dated door handles and light fixtures, are easily fixed and shouldn’t deter you from making an offer on a place that otherwise fits your needs.

In 2014, buyers searched a median of 10 weeks for a new home, according to the NAR’s report. My home search took somewhat longer—nearly four months. No matter how long it takes, you want to be sure the house you decide to buy is one you’ll live in for at least five years. That’s the time frame it usually takes to see any significant appreciation in value and recoup your out-of-pocket purchase costs including home appraisal, home inspection and broker’s fees. Those costs combined can range from 2% to 5% of your home’s final purchase price, according to the legal site Nolo. If you discover your home doesn’t fit the bill and decide to sell sooner or in a down market, you will likely take a financial hit, Gumbinger says.

Make an Offer on a Home

Once you’ve found a home that meets your requirements, get ready to make an offer. With your agent’s assistance, draft an offer letter stating your desired purchase price and any contingencies you’d like to include, such as a home inspection. You should also include your earnest deposit, which is typically 1% to 2% of the total purchase price. Sellers consider it a good-faith measure that further demonstrates you’re a serious buyer. If your offer is accepted, the earnest deposit will be applied to your down payment.

This step may involve some negotiating between you and the seller. For example, as part of your offer, you might ask the seller to help cover the closing costs or provide a one-year home warranty. The seller can either agree with your terms outright or come back with a counteroffer, which happens if they feel your initial offer was too low. If there’s a counteroffer and you accept, sign and return it to the seller and their agent as soon as possible. A counteroffer typically has an expiration date, according to Realtor.com; if you fail to respond by that date the seller can accept an offer from someone else.

Once an offer has been accepted by both sides, the seller’s agent will draft a purchase contract. When it’s in your real estate agent’s hands for review, make sure that it lists the agreed-upon selling price; identifies any items, such as major appliances, to be included in the sale; and clearly states when closing will occur, Brown advises.

Closing on a Home

In advance of going to settlement, make sure you have copies of important documents such as the purchase contract, proof of homeowners’ insurance and inspection reports in case you need to reference them during the actual proceeding. When the big day finally arrives, you’ll need to have a certified or cashier’s check in-hand that covers your closing costs. Your mortgage lender will provide an exact amount ahead of time.

Remember, there are lots of documents that have to be signed including the mortgage agreement and the deed to the home. If anything is unclear, do not hesitate to ask questions of your agent, the seller’s agent or the lending representative on hand. Once you’ve signed your life away (just kidding!) and you have the keys in-hand, the home is officially all yours.

Next up is packing and moving—but you’re on your own for all of that, dear reader. Good luck!

Remember to give us a call to speak to one of our Agents today!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers Realtors

(210) 479-1222

It’s A Buyers Market

Hello Everyone,

A home buyer does not want to be caught off guard in a seller’s market . It’s one of the reasons that the most important thing a home buyer can do is trust his or her real estate agent to advise on market conditions. If it is a seller’s market, it could very difficult, if not almost impossible, to buy the first home a buyer wants to buy.

Because home buyers generally have very little interest in the real estate market when they are not buying a home, they don’t always know how the market moves from one season to another, much less from month to month. It is often uncomfortable for a buyer to be told the market is a seller’s market when the buyer may believe otherwise — especially a buyer who is trying to buy in a down real estate market.

Markets can change almost overnight. When the market changes to a seller’s market, a buyer’s home buying strategy needs to change with it. In a seller’s market, a home buyer is unlikely to be successful using the same techniques practiced in a buyer’s market.

Preparing the Home Buying Offer in a Seller’s Market

Time is of the essence. Multiple offers happen with more regularity in a sellers’ market than a buyer’s market. That’s because by its very nature a seller’s market is defined in part by low inventory and lots of home buyers. A beautiful home that is priced well can attract more than one offer. Remember, you might not be the only buyer.

  • Price. Price is not always the most important factor. But do not offer less than list price. Realize you may need to offer more than the amount the seller is asking.
  • Earnest Money Deposit. A larger earnest money deposit might look very attractive to a seller. Ask your agent for advice on the deposit; then consider doubling or tripling that amount. You’re going to pay it anyway at closing.
  • Don’t Request Favors. This is not the time to ask the seller to give you the refrigerator or washer and dryer, or part with fixtures, or paint the front door.
  • Delay Buyer Possession. If it is customary for the seller to move at closing, give the seller a few extra days to move. Another buyer probably won’t think of this maneuver, and the seller will look more kindly upon an offer that lets them move at leisure.
  • Submit Preapproval and Proof of Funds Documentation. If your preapproval letter is from an out-of-area broker or lender, get a local preapproval instead. Match your preapproval letter to your sales price and date it the same day as your offer

Ask Your Agent to Call the Listing Agent for Tips

Listing agents are often very busy. If your agent can save the listing agent some time by preparing the offer correctly, the listing agent might be inclined to recommend your offer over an offer from another agent who did not complete the offer the way the seller expects.

Think of it this way. Say a listing agent has two offers. One is exactly the offer the seller would like to sign. The other offer is not, and the other offer would need a counter offer from the seller to compensate. Should the listing agent prepare a counter offer or should the buyer’s agent revise the offer?

In this situation, it is better for the buyer’s agent to revise the offer. It is faster. During the time it would take the listing agent to prepare a counter, send the counter offer for a signature, and then deliver the counter offer to the buyer’s agent, another full price could arrive. If you want to be the first offer, the best offer and the only offer the seller will accept, your offer needs to match the seller’s expectations.

If you wait for the seller to sign a counter offer, your offer could fall by the wayside. Your buyer’s agent can find out what the seller wants by calling the listing agent or by reading the verbiage and instructions in MLS. Ask to see the agent’s MLS information sheet. The agent’s MLS printout is probably different than the information a home buyer receives.

Jump on that Seller’s Market Showing

Don’t be that buyer who wants to wait until the weekend to view a home in a seller’s market. By the weekend, that home could be sold. Try to be one of the first showings. Sellers usually don’t enjoy having buyers come through their homes at all hours of the day, so most would like to see their home sold quickly.

If you write a good offer, a fast offer and a clean offer, your chances of acceptance are far better than those of a buyer who is unprepared. It may astonish you to know how many buyers are often unprepared.

Please give us a call to speak to one of our agents today!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers Realtors

8 Smart Projects to Increase the Vaule of Your Home

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to share these great tips to consider when thinking about selling your home,

If you’re smart and dedicated, homeownership can be a lifelong, extremely valuable investment. And while repairs, updates and renovations can help to improve this investment, how do you know which ones will yield the biggest return? Remodeling Magazine recently released its annual Cost vs. Value Report, a useful resource that examines 36 of the most popular remodel projects across 102 U.S. markets, and compares how each stack up in terms of retained value. Based on this data, here are eight of the most valuable, yet practical home improvement projects you should consider investing in this year.

(Credit: Iriana Shiyan/Bigstock.com)

1. Replace Your Front Door

Your front door is probably the most utilized and therefore, weathered part of your home. For a quick and relatively inexpensive improvement project, consider swapping out your wood door for a steel one, which will provide you with a 101.8% return on investment. At an average cost of $1,230, a steel door is sturdier and will last longer than a wood one, will require much fewer repairs, and can be customized according to your color and finish preferences. If steel is not your thing, you may also consider a fiberglass door, which while almost double the price, will provide you with many of the same benefits, and a 72% return on investment.

(Credit: Michael Shake/Bigstock.com)

2. Incorporate Stone Veneer Into Your Home’s Façade

Natural stone veneer siding is a beautiful way to enhance the look and feel of your home. With this alternative to traditional masonry work, you’ll get the same authentic beauty and color variation that you would with the more expensive marble or slate. At an average cost of $7,150, you’ll see a 92.2% return on investment by adding stone veneer siding to your home’s facade. While you’ll probably need to hire a pro, an added bonus with stone veneer is that it’s quick and relatively easy to install.

(Credit: flashygal/Bigstock.com)

3. Install a New Garage Door

With an average cost of $1,595, you’ll see an 88.4% return on investment with a new garage door. Depending on your style, you can choose from a wide range of materials that include steel, fiberglass, glass and wood. No matter your choice, a new garage door is the perfect and affordable way to immediately improve the curb appeal of your home.

(Credit: Enka Parmur/Bigstock.com)

4. Install New Siding

Vinyl siding is one of the most practical updates you can make to your home. A relatively new innovation on the home-building front, vinyl siding installation averages $12,013 and sees an 80.7% return on investment. Not only can it withstand extreme hot or cold weather, it is virtually resistant to rot and decay. Vinyl siding comes in a wide range of colors, does not fade, and if insulated, can be extremely energy efficient.

(Credit: rodho/Bigstock.com)

5. Build a Wooden Deck

Whether you are looking to enhance the front of your house with a wraparound style or your backyard with a freestanding variety, a new deck is well worth the investment. On average, decks cost $10,048 and provide an 80.5% return on investment, depending on style, and wood species. Remember that whatever material you choose for your deck, in order to preserve its color and longevity, you’ll want to make sure you actively apply a finish for extended protection.

6. Do a Kitchen Facelift

If you were to make any one improvement to your house, it should be to your kitchen. And while this may sound like a big and expensive endeavor, there are plenty of ways you can make meaningful updates without too much pain and suffering. At an average cost of $19,226 with a 79.3% return on investment, a kitchen “facelift” that includes one or two new appliances, refaced cabinetry, and new countertops, will make a world of a difference, without completely breaking the bank.

(Credit: Wollwerth Imagery/Bigstock.com)

7. Replace Your Windows

Whether it’s for function or aesthetic reasons, after years of use, your windows will need to be replaced. With an average cost of $11,341 and a 78.8% return on investment, you should consider upgrading to wood window frames. In addition to their visual appeal, including the ability to customize color and design, wood windows provide great insulation and are energy efficient. The one drawback to wood window frames is that they do require ongoing maintenance. At an average of $11,198 with a 72.9% return on investment, you could alternately consider vinyl window frames.

(Credit: dbvirago/Bigstock.com)

Renew Your Roof

If you inspect your roof regularly, you will have a good sense of when it needs to be replaced. And although it may seem like a hefty expense with an average price of $19,528, you will see a 71.6% return on investment if you add a new roof to your list of projects this year. While there are a number of materials you can choose from for your new roof including wood, clay and metal, the best and most affordable bet is asphalt shingles.

Thank you for reading these great tips and remember to give us a call to speak to one f our agents today!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers Realtors

(210) 479-1222

Homebuyers Mistakes to Avoid

Hello Everyone,

Buying a home can be both exciting and overwhelming for the first-time homebuyer. If you’ve decided to take the plunge into home ownership and have already started the search process, make sure you’re not making some common first-time homebuyer mistakes.

Your upcoming investment could end up being a bad decision if you overlook some important facts about home ownership and sign that contract before you’re really ready.

Here are five mistakes first time homebuyers need to avoid:

1. Searching for the dream home before getting prequalified for a loan. Save yourself the disappointment of not being able to afford the home of your dreams by getting prequalified for your loan before you start house hunting. Instead of picking out a price range and searching listings, take the time to talk to a lender about how much house you can realistically afford and what the monthly payment breakdown – with all taxes and other fees included – will be. The amount you are preapproved for will help you create a realistic budget for your home search.

2. Delaying the buying process in hopes of a better rate. Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and statistics at the Credit Union National Association, points out that adjustable rates are now at rock bottom at about 3 percent. If you really are ready to make the commitment for home ownership, talk to a lender about securing a loan at an adjustable rate instead of a fixed rate.

3. Thinking short term. It’s easy to get carried away with that new home search and overlook some important information about the neighborhood you would move to, future developments in the area and the resale value of your home. As a first-time homebuyer, the idea of selling your home in the near future probably isn’t at the top of the priority list, but it should be. “Buy that first house with the idea that you can resell it with some ease should your plans change in five years,” says Mike Bacsi, senior mortgage loan officer and assistant vice president at Johnson Bank. “Hold off on buying the super charming or quirky house until you are financially established and can afford the charm.”

You also need to think about the long-term effects of your decision to buy that home. If the neighborhood is undergoing any type of redevelopment phase, the value of your home could increase in the near future. If you end up buying an older home in hopes it will appreciate in value, keep in mind that your investment could be a risky one.

4. Making an emotional decision. While the right home for you is a matter of personal preference and affordability, you need to separate your emotions from the decision before signing the contract. Turning a blind eye on that moldy basement or creaky floorboards because you’re enamored with the architectural style of the house can lead to financial troubles in the future. You want to make sure you’re investing in a home that will offer you a good return on your investment and ideally has a good resale value.

Take the time to run the numbers, create a pro and con list of each property and use an objective approach for your homebuying decision. Remember that even realtors and homeowners selling a home on their own will be pitching their property to prospective buyers using all types of marketing strategies. Keep an open mind, but also do your homework to make sure you’re investing in a home that you can be happy with for years to come.

5. Overlooking hidden costs. In addition to that monthly mortgage payment, you need to consider the cost of home maintenance, utilities and property taxes. If you are buying an older home, you may end up needing money to cover the cost of repairs and renovations. While the selling price can give you a fair idea of what you will be investing for your home, you also need to look at all of the extra costs required to maintain your home and cover property taxes.

Your lender or realtor may not necessarily be the best source for this type of information, so start researching costs on your own. Turn to a home inspector for a list of existing or potential problems that may need to be taken care of in the near future. Consider getting quotes from renovation specialists or builders in the area to price out potential updates and home improvement projects. Also, don’t overlook moving costs and extra furniture you might have to purchase to furnish a larger living space.

Please give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our Agents today!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers Realtors

(210) 479-1222

Five Crucial Home Selling Decisions if You Want to Sell in 2015

Hello,

If you’re planning on selling your home in 2015 there are five crucial decisions that can help you maximize your sale price, get your home sold quickly and do it all without the mountain of stress that often comes with the sale of your home.

Decision #1 – Decide to prepare sooner than later. Home sellers who wait until spring to get their home “ready” are already behind the curve. The real estate year is in full swing by March 1st and homes that sell quickly and for top dollar during the “selling season” are the homes where the owner had a plan, got their home ready, staged, and listed early in the year.

Decision #2 – Decide to prepare yourself emotionally. Selling your home can be very emotional. When you receive an offer for less than you think your home is worth, it generates a whole host of negative emotions. You can feel angry, frustrated, and think everyone is trying to steal your home from you.

Well, they’re not. Buyers just want to know they’re getting the best price. We all feel similar when we make a big purchase. So be careful to manage your emotions. And if you get a “low-ball” offer rely on the help of a trusted professional. A good agent can often gently negotiate the price into a range where everyone wins. The key is to keep your emotional swings in check.

Decision #3 – Be realistic and price your home accordingly. One of the big keys to getting your home sold quickly, for the most money, is pricing it correctly. If you price your home too high, thinking you’ll “test the market,” it can be costly. Your home can sit on the market too long and get labeled as a “no-need-to-show” because you’re viewed as being unrealistic.

You see it all the time. Sellers think they are going to “hold out” and get a better price. Well, you need to consider how soon you want to sell? The reality is you can get just about any price you want if you’re willing to wait long enough. If you wait 5-7 years your home will very likely sell for a more than it will today. But if you want to sell in 90-120 days for top dollar, pricing is a crucial issue that you should discuss at length with a trusted real estate professional.

Decision #4 – Reconcile reality quickly. This is somewhat similar to decision #2, but it’s actually more practical and actionable. Emotions can be hard to define and control, like in point #2. But what is fairly easy to judge is your market’s numbers, and the realities of value.

Agents always hear things like, “But my home has this, this and this. Therefor it should be worth a lot more.” In theory that’s somewhat true. However, the reality you have to be prepared to reconcile is, if people won’t pay more for those things, it doesn’t make your home worth more.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to soften you up so you give your home away. The goal is to help you get the highest possible price, in the shortest time, with the fewest hassles. But something that’s very important to deal with is reality, not wishful thinking. Wishful thinking backs tens of thousands of home sellers into very difficult positions every year.

Having a clear objective view of reality, as well as a trusted professional to help guide you through the emotional ups and downs, can help you avoid a massive mountain of emotional stress, while your home just sits on the market.

My encouragement is, prepare yourself for the true realities, while maintaining high standards throughout the process. It’s a balancing act that with the help of a trusted professional can be far easier to navigate.

Decision #5 – Trust your gut. When interviewing agents there are few things more important than a deep level of trust between you and the agent you choose to represent you. And trust comes in two crucial parts. The first is professional competency.

To trust someone with what is likely the single biggest financial transaction of your life, you need to have confidence that the agent you choose has the skills, technology and ability to fight hard and win what’s in your best interests. That’s why choosing someone just because they’re a “friend of the family” isn’t always the best choice.

The second layer of trust is personal. When you work with someone on something as important as the sale of your home, you need to know you can trust that person personally.

You need to feel a deep sense of confidence that your agent puts your needs in front of their own. It’s not about flash and glitter, or how many homes that agent sold. What’s important is, “Can I trust this person with my financial future?”

That’s where “listen to your gut” comes in. most of us can sense authenticity and integrity. It comes out in many ways and generally when you’re in the presence of it you know in your gut. Sometimes the person might be a little quirky, other times they’re not, but again it’s not about flash and charisma.

The bottom line, choose someone you trust on both a professional and personal level and “go with your gut.”

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. Selling your home is a life altering series of decisions. The better prepared you are to make those decisions effectively, the better the end result.

And as always, if there is anything at all I can do to help you, please feel free to call us at 210-479-1222, or toll free, 888-868-1222. The conversation is always free and you’re under no obligation of any kind. Our entire objective in our conversation is always to help you in any way that I can.

  Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222 Scott.Myers@Century21.com
Find us: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | ReachFactor | Google +
Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio http://www.century21.com/pressRelease.c21?id=169

Top 10 Tips for Selling Your Home During the Holidays

Hello Everyone,

Happy Holidays! Here are some great tips on selling your home during the best time of the year!

Attract homebuyers even during the holidays with these useful tips!

The holiday season from November through January is often considered the worst time to put a home on the market. While the thought of selling your home during the winter months may dampen your holiday spirit, the season does have its advantages: holiday buyers tend to be more serious and competition is less fierce with fewer homes being actively marketed. First, decide if you really need to sell. Really. Once you’ve committed to the challenge, don your gay apparel and follow these tips from FrontDoor.

  1. Deck the halls, but don’t go overboard.
    Homes often look their best during the holidays, but sellers should be careful not to overdo it on the decor. Adornments that are too large or too many can crowd your home and distract buyers. Also, avoid offending buyers by opting for general fall and winter decorations rather than items with religious themes.
  2. Hire a reliable real estate agent.
    That means someone who will work hard for you and won’t disappear during Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s. Ask your friends and family if they can recommend a listing agent who will go above and beyond to get your home sold. This will ease your stress and give you more time to enjoy the season.
  3. Seek out motivated buyers.
    Anyone house hunting during the holidays must have a good reason for doing so. Work with your agent to target buyers on a deadline, including people relocating for jobs in your area, investors on tax deadlines, college students and staff, and military personnel, if you live near a military base.
  4. Price it to sell.
    No matter what time of year, a home that’s priced low for the market will make buyers feel merry. Rather than gradually making small price reductions, many real estate agents advise sellers to slash their prices before putting a home on the market.
  5. Make curb appeal a top priority.
    When autumn rolls around and the trees start to lose their leaves, maintaining the exterior of your home becomes even more important. Bare trees equal a more exposed home, so touch up the paint, clean the gutters and spruce up the yard. Keep buyers’ safety in mind as well by making sure stairs and walkways are free of snow, ice and leaves.
  6. Take top-notch real estate photos.
    When the weather outside is frightful, homebuyers are likely to start their house hunt from the comfort of their homes by browsing listings on the Internet. Make a good first impression by offering lots of flattering, high-quality photos of your home. If possible, have a summer or spring photo of your home available so buyers can see how it looks year-round.
  7. Create a video tour for the Web.
    You’ll get less foot traffic during the holidays thanks to inclement weather and vacation plans. But shooting a video tour and posting it on the Web may attract house hunters who don’t have time to physically see your home or would rather not drive in a snowstorm.
  8. Give house hunters a place to escape from the cold.
    Make your home feel cozy and inviting during showings by cranking up the heat, playing soft classical music and offering homemade holiday treats. When you encourage buyers to spend more time in your home, you also give them more time to admire its best features.
  9. Offer holiday cheer in the form of financing.
    Bah, humbug! Lenders are scrooges these days, but if you’ve got the means, then why not offer a home loan to a serious buyer? You could get a good rate of return on your money.
  10. Relax — the new year is just around the corner.
    The holidays are stressful enough with gifts to buy, dinners to prepare and relatives to entertain. Take a moment to remind yourself that if you don’t sell now, there’s always next year, which, luckily, is only a few days away.

I really hope this article helps and remember to give us a call to speak to one of our Agents today!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers Realtors (210) 479-1222