Jodi Bakst, Author at
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How to pick the right real estate agent?

How to pick the right real estate agent?

Once you’ve decided to buy or sell a home, the next step is to hire a real estate agent. The right realtor will make the process as easy and low-stress as possible, so it’s important to choose someone trustworthy, knowledgeable, and experienced.

With so many available real estate agents, though, it can be hard to know who to pick. Every realtor you interview will tell you why they’re the best in the area, so it’s up to you to do your homework on prospective agents. Here are nine ways to find the perfect realtor:

1. Get referrals.

Word-of-mouth referrals can be the best way to narrow down your search. Everyone has different needs and priorities, so a realtor who’s the perfect fit for your friend or neighbor may not be the perfect fit for you. However, getting an honest recommendation from someone you trust will lead your search in the right direction. Ask around your community to get a list of realtors who are liked by other homeowners in your area.

If you’re struggling to find referrals from people you know, use the internet. There are plenty of review and testimonial websites that can help you find trustworthy professionals in your town.

2. Review their history.

Experience shouldn’t be your only consideration when hiring a realtor, but it is important. A reputable real estate agent should be able to offer specific numbers relating to their sales.

Ask your realtor how many sales they’ve achieved in your neighborhood. Also, review their recent transactions and compare the listing price and the sale price. This should give you a good understanding of their negotiating skills. Consider the number of days their previous properties spent on the market, too.

Your realtor should have experience selling or closing on homes similar to yours. If most of their previous work is with houses far larger or smaller, their past experience may not be helpful for you.

3. Look them up online.

In this day and age, almost all realtors have an online presence. The internet plays a massive role in home sales today, so your real estate agent should be active online as well. Explore their website or their social media profiles, and look up their current listings on real estate sites. Not only can this help you learn more about the realtor, but it also shows you how your home will be marketed.

4. Ask them about their plan.

Not all realtors use the same strategies, so it’s important to understand how your realtor works before you officially hire them. Some real estate agents strongly embrace online marketing, and others prefer postcard mailings or other forms of print marketing. Some will help you stage your house before a showing, and some may take professional photos.

Realtors that offer these extra services may charge more, but they’ll also deliver great results. Your real estate agent should be able to explain their plan to you step by step so that you can be sure they have a clear, actionable strategy.

5. Be sure they’re not just telling you what you want to hear.

You might be tempted to work with the realtor who tells you that they can sell your home in a week. However, be wary of real estate agents who make these dramatic claims. It can be tough to hear that your home won’t sell for as much as you’d hoped, but it’s also a sign that your realtor is being honest with you.

You and your realtor should both be able to communicate openly with each other. You should feel free to voice any concerns or problems you have, and your realtor should be transparent about the realities of buying or selling a home.

6. Consider their support.

Some realtors work independently, and others are supported by a team. Typically, real estate agents who have a team provide better services because they can delegate certain tasks to their support staff.

Your realtor should have connections to other professionals in the area, too. For example, it can be very helpful to work with a realtor who has a relationship with a mortgage company, repairman, or closing attorney. Finding and meeting with all of these parties can be difficult if you don’t have any connections, but a real estate agent who knows the right people will make the process much easier.

7. Choose someone you get along with.

A realtor could have years of experience, a strong knowledge of the market in your area, and all of the resources needed to sell your home quickly, but if you don’t get along with them, you shouldn’t hire them. Work with someone you trust and enjoy spending time with. Selling or buying a home isn’t usually a fast process, so you should feel comfortable around your real estate agent.

8. Work with someone who has your best interests at heart.

When speaking with your prospective realtors, try to get an understanding of their core values. Some people are in the business because they’re passionate about helping people find the perfect homes, and this passion will shine through as they speak about their work.

Others are more interested in benefiting themselves. If you get the impression that a realtor is much more focused on their own success and image than on your satisfaction with the process, you should probably move on to someone else.

9. Trust your instincts.

When it comes to making judgments about people, your gut feeling is often right. While you should still do your research before hiring a realtor, don’t ignore your instincts. If something tells you that you shouldn’t work with a certain real estate agent, it may be best to listen to that feeling. If it feels right, that may be a sign that the realtor is a good fit for you.

Choosing a real estate agent isn’t an easy decision, but if you take your time and do your research, you should feel confident that you’ve hired a great realtor. Don’t rush the decision or make your choice based on only one factor. Instead, consider the experience, portfolios, and personalities of several realtors in your area. Then, you can trust that the real estate agent you hire is the best fit for you.

4 Strategies to Protect Your Biggest Asset -Your Home – in a Divorce

4 Strategies to Protect Your Biggest Asset -Your Home – in a Divorce

Divorce is one of the most stressful events a person can ever endure. Not only does it take a huge emotional toll and disrupt your entire life, but it can cause havoc on your finances as well. And due to the highly emotional nature of the proceedings, it can be very easy to make financial mistakes that will affect you long after the proceedings are over.

So how can you make sure you protect your financial interests, especially your investment tied to your home, during a divorce?

Here are four strategies to help you.

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1. Stay current on your mortgage payments.

Divorce commonly leads to foreclosure, but you should do everything in your power to stop this from happening. Divorce lawyer fees are expensive, and making mortgage payments on your own if your spouse moves out can be tough. Sometimes, couples ignore mortgage payments during a divorce because of stress or a lack of communication, or simply to spite one another.

However, staying current on your payments will help you get your money’s worth for the home if you decide to sell it. If you’ve missed payments, you may have to sell the home for less than the remaining mortgage balance to avoid foreclosure. If you want to stay in the home, staying up-to-date on the payments will increase your chances of being awarded the home in the divorce settlement.

If your ex is keeping the home, it’s still important for you to be informed about the mortgage until your name is officially off of the agreement. You don’t want to be held financially responsible or see your credit score plummet if your ex stops making payments. A divorce attorney can help you draft a Property Settlement Agreement, which notes that your ex is taking full ownership of the home and requests that the mortgage company provides you with monthly statements.

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2. Keep the property in good condition.

Home maintenance and upkeep tend to slip during a divorce. Everyone is stressed and busy, and caring for the home probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind. There may be difficult emotions attached to the home, too, which can make it hard to put work into the property.

Deferred maintenance can affect the value of your home, though. If you’re selling it now, you won’t get as much for the property as you would if you were up-to-date on repairs and replacements. If you plan to keep the home, failing to take care of the property could lead to costly repairs in the future. Divorce is expensive, so running into a financial emergency shortly after can be devastating.

A little bit of preventative maintenance today can make a big difference for your home. Reduce the risk of major malfunctions or accidents by fixing the small issues in the home now. Often times, these little problems are inexpensive to take care of, but they will escalate into massive financial burdens if you wait.

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3. Protect your premarital assets.

If you bought your home before marriage, you’ll be in a better position to keep the property. You’ll have to prove that the asset is non-marital, though. Be prepared to show thorough documentation that proves you paid for the home yourself before your marriage.

If both of your names are on the home’s title, it will be more difficult to claim ownership of the asset. Your ex may also have some claim to the home if they made efforts to maintain or improve the property and if the value of the property increased during the marriage.

Different states have different laws regarding splitting assets during a divorce, and it’s often unclear who has the stronger claim to the home. If you and your ex both want to keep the home, the matter will need to be settled in court or with an agreement by your attorneys.

Another option is to set up a land trust for the real estate that you acquired before you were married. This protects your privacy by making the land trust the legal owner of the asset, so your name isn’t publicly attached to the property. By removing your name from the property, you weaken your ex’s claim to the asset.

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4. Take advice from experts.

No matter how calm and rational you are, you are not an unbiased party in your divorce. This is one of the most stressful life events, and there are a number of overwhelming emotions involved. Even if you and your ex are amicable, you’re at risk of making regrettable decisions if you don’t run your plans by a professional. Having at least one unbiased expert in your corner is key.

Third parties like realtors, divorce attorneys, and financial planners won’t have any emotions attached to the situation. As seasoned experts, they understand the intricacies of the process, and they’ve helped countless others through similar situations. Their advice is incredibly valuable as you navigate this difficult event.

Time and organization are the two most important factors for protecting your home during a divorce. Start strategizing as soon as possible, and keep careful track of all of the necessary legal and financial documents. Divorce proceedings are complex, but preparing adequately will help you secure your home.

Be Careful To Check Your Lender’s Mortgage Loan Costs

Mortgage Loan Costs

Lender Bait and Switch Practices

I have clients who’ve recently worked with some of my non-preferred lenders, and I found some of their practices to be questionable. 

When a buyer starts working with a lender, they’re required to give them a disclosure of all mortgage loan costs so they know their interest rate and estimated closing costs. Throughout the lending process (you may change the rate or loan program you’re looking at), you’ll see subsequent copies of these numbers. Sometimes, though, lenders don’t review these numbers with you, so you need to look very closely and make sure you understand them. The last thing you want to do is get to the closing table and see a numbers that don’t make sense or that you were not expecting.

You should consider your Realtor a trusted resource throughout the process and have them review these documents as well. We do it all the time for our clients. Ask your lender to review these documents with you to make sure you understand them. If anything, you should get to the closing table and be delighted to discover that what you’re supposed to pay is significantly less than what you expected. 

“The last thing you want to do is get to the closing table and see a bunch of numbers that don’t make sense.”

So, please check your numbers closely to make sure the lender is not all of a sudden charging fees you weren’t aware of, like a fee to buy down your interest rate. 

This is exactly the kind of thing we at Real Estate Experts do to help our clients, so if you’d like to know more about this topic or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.  We would be happy to help in any way possible.    

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9 Dos and Don’ts How to Sell a House to a Friend (or Family Member) Without Damaging Your relationship

9 Dos and Don’ts How to Sell a House to a Friend (or Family Member) Without Damaging Your relationship

Selling your home is always stressful, and selling to a friend or family member may cause even more challenges. In some situations, selling to your friend is a great choice for both parties. You can skip the staging and showings, and you know that the buyer is someone you trust.

Mixing business and personal relationships is risky, though, so you should approach the situation carefully. Without planning and taking precautions, your real estate transaction could damage the relationship.

Here are 10 dos and don’ts if you’re planning to sell your home to a friend:

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1. Do: Hire a real estate agent..

Because you’re selling to a friend, you may be tempted to go through the process without a real estate agent. No matter who your buyer is, though, a real estate agent is a key figure in the transaction.

Your agent is a neutral third party who can help you navigate disagreements or problems along the way. They also are there to guide you through the legal and financial process. Real estate transactions are complicated, and selling your home without the help of a professional could lead to misunderstandings or oversights.

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2. Don’t: Be secretive about your relationship.

Transparency is key when you’re selling your home to a friend. Don’t be secretive about the fact that you’re friends with the buyer. Being open about your friendship will help both of you get the best possible deal.

Tell your real estate agent right away that you’re planning to sell to your friend. You should also tell the transaction broker, attorney, and the other parties involved in the sale. If your friend is applying for an FHA mortgage, you will have to fill out an Identity of Interest Certification form, which will ask you about your relationship with the buyer.

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3. Don’t: Offer a steep discount.

You may want to help your friend or family member by giving them a big discount on the home, but be wary of taking a loss. A small discount can be a kind and worthwhile gesture to your friend.

However, you shouldn’t sell for such a low price that you can’t pay off your mortgage or put enough down on your new home. Not only is this bad for your finances, but it could cause feelings of resentment toward your friend or family member in the future.

Selling below market price can cause problems for the buyer, too. The IRS considers a discount of more than $15,000 to be a gift, and they’ll expect your friend to pay taxes on that value.

4. Do: Request that your friend get pre-approved.

Regardless of how close you are with the buyer, they’ll still need to be approved for the mortgage before they can purchase your home. You don’t want to go through all of the steps of selling your home only to have your friend be denied at the last minute.

Pre-approval ensures that they will qualify for the mortgage, which can help both of you feel more confident as you begin the process.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is quick and easy. All your friend has to do is visit the lender’s office for an income and credit check. If they meet the qualifications, they’ll get a pre-approval letter that proves their eligibility.

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5. Don’t: Disclose your financial details.

Transparency between you and your friend is important to avoid conflict during the transaction, but you don’t need to know everything about their financial history. You’ll see your friend’s pre-approval letter, but you don’t have to view their other financial details.

Everything else can stay between the buyer and the lender. Your realtor and the other professionals involved can also help facilitate the process without disclosing sensitive financial information.

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6. Do: Consider future problems.

Your friend or family member may assume that they know everything about the house, especially if they’ve spent a lot of time in it. When problems arise, though, they might feel cheated.

If you’re aware of any problems in the house, be honest with the buyer. Tell them how old the appliances are and whether or not you anticipate any repairs in the near future. Transparency about the state of the home is critical for you to maintain a good relationship with the buyer

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7. Don’t: Skip the inspection.

The home inspection is an important part of the process as it allows for negotiation and transparency. Even if you’re completely honest about the damage or repairs you know about, there may be some problems with the home that you’re not aware of.

Your friend has the right to ask for repairs or request a price reduction. Sometimes, negotiating in this way with a friend or family member feels awkward. However, it’s far better for your relationship to work out these issues before the transaction takes place.

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8. Do: Get every agreement in writing.

When you sell to a friend, you may feel like you don’t need every detail in writing because you trust them and their intentions. A verbal agreement doesn’t mean anything in the eyes of the law, though, so it’s wise to get everything in writing. This will clarify all the details of the transaction so that there are no misunderstandings or miscommunications.

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9. Don’t: Complete paperwork without a professional.

Selling your home requires a great deal of legal and financial paperwork. Even if you and your friend are on the same page, you should have a realtor and a lawyer help with the documentation.

Without a professional present, you could overlook crucial details in the agreement, which will lead to serious legal trouble. Working with a professional will save you time and effort, too, as you won’t have to research or prepare the documents on your own.

As long as you approach the transaction with all the typical precautions, both you and your friend should be happy with the deal. You’ll save time by selling to your friend, and you’ll know that your home is in good hands. By being transparent, working with professionals, and following the normal protocol, you can ensure that you stay friends after the sale.

What Do Buyer Agents Really Do?

What do buyer agents really do? To give you an idea, I made a list of every task we take care of from the beginning of the home sale process to the end. Between meeting a new client and handing them the keys to their new home, there are 60 items on this list (some of which we do repeatedly).

What Do Buyer Agents Really Do?  My list:

  1. Buyer needs assessment
  2. Explain Agency – how Realtors work with buyers and sellers
  3. Explain commissions and how Realtors earn their money
  4. Explain the Offer to Purchase and Contract and how to construct a competitive offer
  5. Set up auto search in MLS
  6. Give buyer access to the best search Apps
  7. Monitor MLS
  8. Recommend three lenders for buyer pre-approval
  9. Get pre-approval letter or proof of funds
  10. Help with loan process
  11. Preview properties
  12. Show properties
  13. Promptly return phone calls, email and text messages
  14. Send MLS documents on every property of interest
  15. Research tax information and history of all properties of interest
  16. Prepare a Competitive Market Analysis on every home of interest
  17. Explain the good, bad and ugly of every home visited
  18. Be a repair expert – know what you are looking at
  19. Set expectations throughout the entire process
  20. Be a local expert
  21. Know the market
  22. Explain the details of how real estate transactions work
  23. Advise buyer on most competitive offer based on the situation
  24. Write offers
  25. Review offer with buyer before sending
  26. Negotiate offers (you can write 10 offers per buyer)
  27. Deliver Due Diligence money to the listing agent
  28. Deliver Earnest Money to the closing attorney
  29. Get ALL necessary legal paperwork in appropriate office tracking system
  30. Get Restrictive Covenants
  31. Schedule inspections
    1. Home Inspection
    2. Termite Inspection
    3. Radon Inspection
    4. Well Inspection
    5. Septic Inspection
  32. Attend Inspections
  33. Schedule Follow Up Inspections
    1. Structural Engineer
    2. HVAC
    3. Plumbing
  34. Get Repair Estimates
  35. Negotiate Repairs
  36. Set up Closing with Closing Attorney
  37. Make sure the lender orders the appraisal
  38. Order Survey
  39. Order Home Warranty
  40. If negotiate compensation instead of repairs get to attorney and lender
  41. Make sure buyer gets home owners insurance
  42. Make sure buyer transfers utilities
  43. Schedule re-inspection to check repairs
  44. Attend re-inspection
  45. If repairs are not done, get repair list in writing to listing agent
  46. Make sure buyer is attending closing
  47. Get power of attorney if buyer is not attending closing
  48. Check buyers marital status, if divorced or separated make sure buyer has a Free Trader Agreement
  49. Make sure buyer has received the Closing Disclosure on Time
  50. Coordinate with Lawyer & get closing numbers
  51. Review closing numbers with buyer
  52. Correct closing numbers with attorney and lender
  53. Schedule final walk-through before closing
  54. Attend final walk-through
  55. Negotiate anything necessary at end to protect buyer 100%
  56. Get client closing gift
  57. Attend closing
  58. Close out file at office
  59. Enter closing numbers in office tracking system
  60. Initiate all post-closing client follow-up

In today’s competitive marketplace, we may write as many as 10 offers for a client. Sometimes people go under contract, start the repair process, and then for one reason or another, the contract is terminated. After that, you have to start the process all over again.

Our job goes way beyond just opening doors for people. We have to be knowledgeable about every detail of the real estate process, the market itself, and various areas and neighborhoods. On top of that, we have to know how to negotiate. One of the most important aspects of the home sale is the repair process, so we have to know excellent inspectors we can rely on and contractors who can give reliable repair estimates. Most Realtors will tell you that they’re basically general contractors because we’re so involved in every part of a home’s repair.

All of these details are being managed (with the help of the lender and closing attorney) so we can get the best of everything for our clients—the best home, loan, homeowners insurance, repairs, etc. A good buyer’s agent will go above and beyond for their client throughout the home sale process. Additionally, while we’re working with our clients, we have to manage our business and marketing. After all, if we don’t have any business, we can’t do business.

At Real Estate Experts, It is All About You!  Please read our reviews to hear what out clients have to say about us.

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