Buyers and Sellers Guides

Buyers of property today have many more tools to work with than buyers of just a few years ago. One of these tools is a “buyer’s agent”. A buyer’s agent is a real estate licensee who works for you, the buyer. Pennsylvania law requires that a buyer’s agent has to have the buyer’s interests at heart, will listen carefully to understand the buyer’s needs, will work with vigilance to find the right property, will help with negotiations on price and inspections, and will make sure that the purchase process is as smooth as possible for the buyer. The buyer and the buyer’s agent sign a contract called a “representation agreement” that spells out the obligations of each party to the contract, just the way a seller and a listing agent would sign a listing contract to sell a house. When you sign a representation agreement with me, you hire over 30 years of real estate professionalism during which I have been consistently the top agent in my office for production and client satisfaction.

In a word, yes. In practice, your obligation to pay your buyer’s agent is most often fulfilled through the commission that is paid by the seller to his or her agent. You do not need to have extra cash to pay your own agent. In the rare case when the listing commission is not split with the buyer’s agent, payment to the buyer’s agent can be worked into the financing of the transaction. There may be a small administrative fee due at settlement.

When you buy, you invest in a home, in a community and in yourself. As you make mortgage payments, you build up your equity and increase your assets. When you rent, you pay money to a landlord. You never see it again. When you buy a primary residence, you receive tax benefits, too. You may deduct from your income the amount of real estate taxes and mortgage interest that you pay on that residence, so your income tax bill is significantly smaller on April 15th.

Strategize with your agent. Choose a mortgage company, get pre-qualified. Sometimes I advise buyers to actually apply for a mortgage loan. You want to be in a position to win in a competitive marketplace. Think about the requirements you have for a new home and articulate these as clearly as you can to your agent. You and your agent should work as a team. Check out real estate sites on the internet. Download our app. Drive through neighborhoods and check out sale signs. Your agent will be scanning all those things along with the multiple listing service, and she will be networking with other realtors to know what may be coming on the market. Be ready to move quickly when the property becomes available.

There is always some anxiety in this situation. You are not alone. Many others face the same prospect. We will look at your finances and determine how to approach it. Sometimes a home equity line of credit can transform your home equity in cash for you to use. There are low down payment mortgage programs that can solve the problem. Sometimes folks in this situation will sell, then they will rent a while until the right house comes along. Sometimes we are able to negotiate a longer than usual time to settlement so there is more time to find the right property. Where there is a will, there is a way. If your financial picture dictates that you must sell before you buy, you may be assured that, as your buyer’s agent, I will scour the landscape to find your new house.

When searching for the right mortgage, you want to consider several things. The interest rate, although a major factor, is only one of them. Other factors include: lender charges at settlement, how long the lender has been in business, the lender’s references, the lender’s reputation for service. You want to find a lender who will make it easy for you to apply for your loan. For instance, a mortgage company can help you to apply for a mortgage online. You don’t have to go to any banking office between 9 am and 3 pm anymore.

The best way to get to know a neighborhood that may be unfamiliar to you is to tour it. Take a walk at different times of the day or evening. Say hello to people you meet. Ask them how they like living there. I have found that census reports, internet-produced neighborhood reports and police reports often do not give an accurate flavor for many communities where the housing stock, quality of life, and vitality of community spirit are attractive and strong. No matter what neighborhood you choose, when you discover the house that suits you, we will do our due dilligence to make sure the price is right.

You and your buyer agent will perform the same kind of analysis that a seller does when choosing an asking price. My clients and I search for recent sales of comparable homes in the market place. Armed with that information, we consider the property’s condition and location, and we also consider how much my clients want the house. An offering price becomes clear quickly.

Every house, no matter how new or old, will need maintenance from time to time. You know within yourself how much skill, energy or time you have to devote to such tasks, and you will choose a house accordingly. To be sure you have a good sense of what you are getting into, your offer will include inspection contingencies. I always recommend a “property inspection” contingency to my buyers so they will have a period of time when a professional home inspector will look over the entire property with thoroughness and care and will issue a written report detailing its condition. Other possible inspections to have include environmental issues like radon, asbestos, lead in water or paint, and underground tanks, wood infestation, and water or sewer inspections when the property has a well or a private sewer system. Many of these inspections are commonly done and good inspectors are readily available. Your choice of inspections may depend on the strategies in your offer.

If I am your buyer agent, I will not let you get into a situation where you won’t get your mortgage. Period. End of story. Rest easy.

HOMES FOR SALE

A professional, licensed real estate agent should be able to appraise your property for you. Once you know its range of value, you can decide, with the agent’s guidance, what the best asking price would be.

I often advise folks in this situation. Together, we will take a look at your resources in hand, at the value of your present home, at the time frame within which you must operate, and at the conditions of the market place. We can make a determination of how to make it all happen for you with a minimum of sleeplessness. I will be there with you every step of the way.

Interview several real estate agents. Find out what their experience has been. Do they know your area? How many sales do they make in a year? Will they share references with you? What would they do to sell your property? How does their company back them up and what resources can the company bring to bear on the marketing of your property? Are they professional and business-like in their manner? A successful smooth sale will depend on the expertise of your listing agent. Demand the best.

Selling property is a business transaction. If you have the experience and qualifications to do this kind of business, then go right ahead. Ask yourself what you would do if you had to have surgery, if you had to go to court, if you needed a tooth pulled. Would you do these things yourself? Probably you would get a professional to help you. That’s what you should do when you must sell property. A professional realtor can advise you, can create a buffer between you and an emotional prospective buyer, can make sure you comply with the laws regarding real estate sales, and can make sure your buyer is financially qualified to buy your home. Listing with a licensed real estate agent is statistically likely to get you a higher price for your house in a shorter amount of time.

A professional realtor will go through your property and point out those things that should be tended to in order to get the highest price in the shortest amount of time. Sometimes it pays to spend a little money to make a lot of money. Today’s real estate market demands that you make your house look as good as you possibly can. You might consider hiring a professional home stager to prepare your property to show to the public.

Please do. An enormous number of sales can be traced back to the buyer seeing a sign in front of a house. If a buyer calls our office because they have seen a sign, it means the buyer has already accepted the location of the property. Part of my job may already be done. I use many marketing techniques to sell my clients’ properties (call me about them), but it is rare that I wouldn’t recommend putting up a sign.

Maybe. Maybe not. A “cash” offer sounds great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean there is no risk for the seller. It doesn’t even mean the buyer will bring a wad of cash to the settlement table. How do you know the buyer has the cash? Maybe the buyer is going to get a loan anyway. You need to know where the money is before accepting such an offer. A realtor can help you with that.

A professional realtor will help you determine both the credit-worthiness and the financial capability of your buyer. I never want my sellers to sign an offer and take their property off the market until we have all assurances that the buyer will get the necessary mortgage. So I insist we be provided with the buyer’s financial information, and we then go through the detailed analysis that will tell us what we need to know.

Your realtor should be able to spot possible problems before they occur. Together, working as a team, you can make sure that all the details are taken care of before settlement. When I list a property for sale, I am careful to publish all the information a buyer will need to make an informed decision about buying, and I guide my seller to complete the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement (required in Pennsylvania) in as much detail as possible. Those two things alone set an honest, open tone for the entire sales transaction that will serve my seller–and the buyer–well throughout.

This is for you to decide depending on your comfort level with handling business. About half of my clients use attorneys to walk through the legal ramifications of the transaction with them. About half do not. Many attorneys hire me as their realtor. And, since my husband is a real estate attorney, I must say they are a wonderful, helpful group of professionals. Remember, there are many different kinds of attorneys. The lawyer who handles patent law, litigation or corporate law is probably not the lawyer you should enlist to reveiw your real estate documents. Just as you would choose the appropriate medical specialist for your particular physical complaint, you should also choose the appropriate legal specialist for your real estate transaction.

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