On March 3, I chatted with KXLY4 about Spokane’s current seller’s market and gave tips to buyers. Full story: http://bit.ly/AlyssaCurnuttKXLY4
So you’ve decided to buy a house or sell your current one. Now you need to find an agent. How do you get started? Here are some tips and things you should look for when choosing a real estate agent:
- Know the difference between Realtors and plain ol’ real estate agents. Realtors are real estate agents, but not all agents are Realtors. Realtor is a registered trademark with the National Association of Realtors. NAR – for short – members take a pledge and promise to abide by a code of ethics that has pretty high standards and practices.
- Ask your family and friends for references. Almost everyone knows a real estate agent, but that doesn’t mean all real estate agents are good ones. If Aunt Susie tells you that you have to use her best friend or Cousin Bob’s girlfriend is an agent…thank them, but then check them out for yourself. You might not get along with them as well as someone else might, or you might find out they only do real estate on the side, so it’s not their full-time gig. Just make sure to do your own homework.
- Go to open houses. Not only will you start looking at houses to figure out your needs and wants, but you’ll meet a real estate agent at each open house you go to. It’s a non-threatening working environment where you can interact with agents. Grab their business card, strike up a conversation and make notes about them. Then pay attention to whether or not they follow up with you in the next couple days. If they don’t? They might not take their job seriously or have good marketing tactics, which are both red flags if you’re buying or listing a house with them. A good agent will follow up promptly, even just to thank you for stopping in.
The best piece of advice I can give you? Choose someone you like and trust. You are going to work very closely together for the next three to six months (or even longer.) You will want to know that they have your back and that you will get along well.
Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, addresses this perfectly. He says, “When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”
It’s pretty expensive to buy and/or sell a house – and I’m not just talking about the purchase price. There are fees tacked on, but who pays for what? And what are the fees for? Today we’re diving into closing costs and what each party can expect to pay.
Both buyers and sellers typically both pitch in on closing costs, as they are expenses incurred by both parties in transferring ownership of a property. But let’s break it down.
You can expect to pay 3-5% of the purchase price at closing. Meaning, if you purchase a home for $200,000, you can expect to pay $6-10,000 in closing costs. That 3-5% goes toward title insurance, a credit report fee, the appraisal and loan origination fees – among other things. The lender will also collect about two months of advanced payments on property taxes and insurance.
Some closing costs (like the home inspection) are paid before the home is officially sold, but most are covered at the end when the house closes.
You can expect to pay about 9% at closing. This goes toward state excise tax, some fees (like title and escrow), and the big dog: real estate commissions. Real estate commissions are 6% (on average). I get this question from sellers a lot: why do I have to pay for the buyer’s agent, too!? Well, you are actually hiring the listing agent (your agent) for 6%. Then they use half of their commission as an incentive for other professionals in the area to bring them a matching buyer. If the listing agent is able to bring their own buyer to the table, then they get to keep the full commission.
One more heads up: the closing company pays your last water bill and they will typically collect about double what’s expected – just in case. Then they will reimbursement you the following month with whatever is left.
If you’re just looking at real estate online or you’ve met with an agent already…you’ll quickly learn that real estate has it’s own language. You’ll hear all about putting your home on the MLS, the agent putting together a CMA and “sorry, but that home is already contingent.” Say what!? So today, I’m breaking down real estate lingo.
- MLS: You’ll hear your agent say they will put your house up on the local MLS, and this stands for multiple listing service. This is the central hub where agents share their listings with other agents. It lists everything you would ever want to know about a house…and sometimes more.
- CMA: You’ll also hear your agent say they will put together a CMA for you. This stands for comparative market analysis. This is what your agent uses to find out the home’s value and determine a fair asking price. They do this by using your house as the subject house and use other houses as comps.
- Comps: Comps are properties that recently sold and are extremely similar to the property being analyzed, in terms of square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, location and overall shape.
- Contingent: When you find a house online that you LOVE and call your agent to tell them about it…then they come back and tell you it’s contingent? That means they are under contract for the property, but it’s dependant on something else happening. It could be contingent on an inspection of the house, on the buyer’s house selling or the appraisal.
- Earnest Money: Once you have reached mutual acceptance on a property, you have to put down a deposit immediately. That’s earnest money. It’s a deposit showing that you are serious and committed to the contract. Assuming everything goes well and as planned, this money will go toward the buyer’s down payment on the house or closing costs. However, the seller will keep the earnest money if the buyer breaches the contract or just gets cold feet toward the end.
- Escrow: This is where earnest money is usually kept. It’s a neutral third party that holds funds and documents before a property is closed. They handle it all for a fee that’s usually paid in the closing costs. They make the transaction happen, using the forms and documents that the agents put together and you signed. This company is also sometimes referred to as a closing company.
- HOA: You’ve probably heard all about the monthly or yearly fees you may have to pay to them an HOA, but what is a homeowners’ association? It’s an organization made up of neighbors who manage the common areas of a neighborhood; think parks, snow removal, pools. They are also responsible for enforcing any covenants, conditions, and restrictions (commonly called CC&Rs) that apply to a property.
- Appraisal: This is a requirement by the lender and is the process of determining the value of the house. This isn’t necessarily the same price as the selling price. It’s just the loan officer making sure the property is worth as much as the loan is for.
Buying and selling a house is something most people do pretty rarely, but thanks to the internet and opinions from well-meaning friends, family and strangers…everyone has some ideas and opinions to share about real estate. Unfortunately, a lot of those ideas are, well… wrong. Here are five real estate myths that trip up buyers and sellers.
Real estate myth #1: When pricing your home for the market, leave room for negotiations
One of the most important things you can do when listing your house is correctly price it. Don’t worry about leaving “wiggle room” for negotiations. If you price it too high, people won’t waste their time even looking at it, and your house will likely sit there on the market for a long time…long enough that even when you do drop the price a couple weeks later, people will look at it and assume something must be wrong with it.
Real estate myth #2: Selling A Home “For Sale By Owner” will save Lots of Money
The main reason sellers think selling their home “for sale by owner” (or FSBO) is a good idea is because it will save them money. These same sellers usually assume that selling homes is easy – it’s just putting a sign up and posting the house online, right? FSBO’s often lose money by not hiring a real estate agent. It could be overpricing the home so it sat there for eight months or the seller might not know the best ways to negotiate the best price and terms. You’ll also find that buyers expect a substantial discount when you go for-sale-by-owner… so what you save on a real estate commission may end up meaning a lower price. It’s not impossible to sell on your own for the same price as you would with an agent, but it’s not easy.
Real estate myth #3: Sellers will earn back everything they invested in remodeling projects when it comes time to resale
It’s nearly impossible to get 100% of the money put into a remodel. Remodeled kitchens and bathrooms are huge selling points to prospective buyers…and if you fix the air conditioning, sprinkler system or roof, you will sell your house a lot quicker, but you probably won’t recoup everything that you spent.
Real estate myth #4: Your down payment must be 20%
Yes, a 20% down payment is definitely ideal to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). However, many lenders offer home loans with as little as 3.5-5% down. Plus, there are SO many options for down payment assistance. A lot of the programs are geared toward lower-income home buyers, but you don’t have to be destitute. Reach out to me if you need help getting in contact with a great lender to go over your options – I know several!
Real estate myth #5: The only up-front cost as a buyer is a down payment
Unfortunately… not quite. If you’re a buyer, closing costs will run anywhere from 1 to 3% of the purchase price. There are also a handful of fees, taxes, and other costs, like for inspections, credit reports and insurance. Your lender will give you a loan estimate for your loan shortly after you submit the application and this estimate will include about what the closing costs on your home will be. Sellers in Washington can expect to pay about 9% of the purchase price in closing costs, which includes title insurance, escrow, commissions, taxes…you know, all that fun stuff.