“OMG I have to have this home!” Your guide to winning the bidding war

A nationwide real estate franchise firm recently claimed that nearly 60% of their transactions involved multiple offers.

Unlike the bidding wars of the past, these aren’t all deep-pocketed investors who are submitting the winning bids. A buyers’ real estate agent in Virginia related a story about her client who was paying cash for a home.

Since cash offers typically win, imagine that buyer’s surprise when the home went to another buyer who offered almost twice the listing price for the home. In all, the home received 129 offers, according to a story at prnewswire.com.

Although being able to come in over the price others are offering is one way to win a bidding war (and the technique we offer up first, below), keep in mind that there is more to a real estate purchase agreement than price.

This spring’s hot sellers’ market requires an arsenal of techniques and strategies if you’re going to win a bidding war on the home you’ve fallen in love with.

Ensure you win

The best way to enter a housing market that is experiencing multiple offers on homes for sale is to go into the battle with a clear strategy.

Because you may need to make an offer higher than the listing price, plan to shop only for homes priced less than your loan pre-approval amount.

This gives you wiggle room with your money. Hopefully, enough to beat out others who came in at the top of their loan amount range.

Dazzle them with cash

Fortunate are the homebuyers in today’s market who have the means to pay cash for a home, or have in-hand a pre-approval which allows them to bid high.

Buyers who pay cash for a home present a contract with fewer contingencies, such as a loan-approval contingency. Since there is no loan involved in the purchase, they also have the ability to waive the appraisal—an attractive feature to sellers in multiple offer situations.

If you aren’t among these cash-laden homebuyers, read on.

Tweak the contract contingencies

The news is full of stories about homebuyers willing to waive the home inspection (just one contingency in the typical purchase agreement). It’s a risky move and one to consider at length before faced with the decision.

There are other ways to treat contingencies that may be attractive to the homeowner:

  • Have the home inspected, but let the sellers know in the contract that their responsibility for problems will be limited to structural issues only.
  • Shorten the time allowed in the contract for your contingencies. If the contract states you have 14 days to have the home inspected, offer to have it done in seven.
  • A fast-moving market with rapidly escalating home prices puts home sellers on edge when it comes to the appraisal. Homes are selling so quickly, it’s hard to keep up and the appraisal may come in lower than the listing price. To ease the home seller’s anxiety, consider adding an addendum to the contract that you will pay a certain amount more than the appraised value (if you’re budget allows).

“The best offer is a clean offer,” is an old real estate saying and it is never truer than in a sellers’ market. Whatever you can comfortably waive in the purchase contract do “clean up” the offer, do it.

Choose your team carefully

You aren’t alone in this process—at least you shouldn’t be. When choosing your homebuying team (agent and lender), choose carefully. In this lightning-quick market, responsiveness is a quality worth its weight in gold.

You’ll need a team that not only responds to your communications, but to one another as well as the listing agent. Nobody should have to guess at where the others are in the process.

We hope to be a part of your team. Reach out to learn just how responsive we are.

3 types of insurance you’ll need when you buy a home

If you’re like us, there are two subjects that make your eyes glaze over: taxes and insurance.

Sure, we learned a lot about the latter with the introduction of the ACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). We are now somewhat familiar with premiums, deductions, co-pays and the like.

But, that’s health insurance. When you buy a home, you’ll be required to buy certain policies of a different type and some you may want to consider, depending on region.

Let’s start with the basics of mandatory insurance—those policies you may be required to purchase before you close on the home.

Title insurance

The home purchase transaction doesn’t involve just the buyer and seller. Other entities, such as the lender, have interests to protect as well. And financial protection is what insurance is all about in the homebuying process.

When an offer is accepted, the lender begins the process of determining whether the home is worth what you’ve promised to pay, whether you qualify for a mortgage and whether there are any problems with the home’s title.

These problems are known by several nicknames, such as “clouds on the title” or “title defects.”

Is the homeowner who is selling you the home actually the owner and does he or she have a legal right to sell it? Is there anyone else who may have a claim, full or partial, to the property?

The title search will also include learning if there are liens against the home, outstanding judgments and unpaid taxes, among other issues.

The title officer will perform a search of public records to find the answers and then issue a report known as the abstract of title or preliminary title report.

Anything of a negative nature that will affect the lender will be brought to the seller’s attention so that it can be remedied. The lender will not issue funds to you to purchase until this is done.

If the title is clean, on the other hand, the lender will go ahead with the loan, but will expect a title insurance policy to be issued in case anything crops up in the future.

This policy is known as a lender’s policy and it’s required. There is a separate policy to protect the owner, which is optional. Your real estate agent can advise you on whether or not to purchase this policy.

Private mortgage insurance

Homebuyers have a love-hate relationship with private mortgage insurance, or the mortgage insurance premium in the case of the FHA-backed loan.

It’s an additional expense not only at closing, but every month for the life of the loan (in many cases).

Without it, however, borrowers who can’t come up with a 20% down payment would be unable to purchase a home.

Learn more about private mortgage insurance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and you’ll find additional information about FHA’s mortgage insurance premium online at hud.gov.

Homeowners insurance

We’ve so far learned that title insurance protects the lender against future claims against the property, PMI (or MIP) protects them in case you default on the loan.

What happens if the home burns down or experiences another calamity? This is where homeowners insurance enters the picture.

The difference between this insurance and the two previously mentioned is that homeowners insurance also protects the homeowner.

A standard policy is unlikely to cover the home for certain disasters, such as flood and earthquake. If the home is in a flood zone, however, you can purchase a separate insurance policy, under certain circumstances.

“Flood insurance is available to anyone living in one of the 23,000 participating NFIP communities,” according to officials at FEMA.gov. NFIP is short for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Government-backed loans typically require this insurance if you live in a flood zone.

Yes, there is a lot to consider when purchasing a home. Do yourself a favor and consult with your insurance agent early in the process. He or she will help you determine which type of homeowners insurance is right for you and your lender.

Real estate FAQ: What are loan origination fees?

One of the most confusing aspects of the home purchase, at least for first-timers, is the mortgage process. From the weird terminology used to how it all happens, we frequently meet with dazed stares when we say the “M” word.

The word “mortgage,” by the way, comes from an old French word for “dead pledge.” It was so named because the debt dies when it’s paid off.

We think it’s aptly named because 30 years feels like we’ll be paying on it until we die.

At any rate, the process isn’t as complicated as it seems. Let’s take a look at one aspect of obtaining a mortgage that we receive a lot of questions about: origination fees.

Everybody needs to get paid, right?

There is no getting around it, origination fees “… can add several hundred or thousands of dollars to the total cost of your loan,” according to Angela Brown at FoxBusiness.com.

And, no, the fees that you’ll pay aren’t included in the interest rate.

Enter: origination fees. Thinking of them like the lender’s paycheck for processing your loan takes some of the sting out of paying them. After all, everybody needs to get paid.

Some charge more than others, which is why it’s important to compare the offers from several lenders. We’ll show you how to do that, below.

What’s included in the fees?

What lenders include in origination fees varies, which is why, again, it’s important to take your time shopping for a mortgage.

Some of the more common fees include:

  • Processing (what you’ll pay to have your documents examined and the information verified)
  • Application fee (a somewhat silly fee you pay just for the “privilege” of applying for a loan)
  • Underwriting fee (checking to ensure you qualify)
  • Appraisal fee (a charge for reviewing and analyzing the home’s appraisal report)
  • Document preparation fee
  • Funding

Note, again, that not all lenders charge fees for some of these tasks. In fact, there are loans out today that charge zero origination fees.

The pros at eloan.com, however, offer a warning about these loans:

“These lenders are likely to factor in the cost of the loan process into other areas of the loan, such as the interest rate. When comparing loans, be sure to check whether the origination fee is or isn’t included in the annual percentage rate or APR.”

How much are these fees?

Naturally, the fees vary according to lender and your financial picture. As a rule-of-thumb, “Home buyers typically pay about 0.5% of the amount they are borrowing in origination fees,” according to Hal M. Bundrick, certified financial planner and “… a NerdWallet authority in money matters.”

Aly J. Yale, at credible.com, states a range (0.5% to 1.5% of the loan amount), or “… $1,000 to $3,000 on a $200,000 home loan.”

Many of these fees, by the way, are negotiable.

How to compare lenders’ origination fees

Many real estate consumers don’t understand that a mortgage application is just that: an application. It does not bind you to the lender, legally. The lender will either accept or deny the application and you can then either accept or deny their offer.

Submitting applications to several lenders is not only ok, it’s wise.

Lenders are required, by law, to supply you with a 3-page form, the Loan Estimate (see image below). This form will supply you with all the information you need to compare lender offerings.

You’ll find the lenders’ origination fees listed on page 2, section A.

“When comparison shopping lenders, the key is identifying the fees that are valid, perhaps even negotiable, and the fees that are tacked onto a loan to pump up a lender’s profit,” also known as “junk fees,” Bundrick suggests.

You are welcome to shop around for some of the fees, as noted on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s sample below.

Another important thing to look for when comparing lenders’ offers is the loan’s annual percentage rate or APR. In fact, this figure is the one to use in your lender comparisons, not the advertised rate.

The latter is what the loan will cost each year. The APR is the advertised rate with the fees tacked on, “… such as mortgage insurance, most closing costs, discount points and loan origination fees,” according to the pros at Bank of America.

Their best advice is to “Compare one loan’s APR against another loan’s APR to get a fair comparison of total cost — and be sure to compare actual interest rates, too.”

Let’s fix that credit score

Although the homebuying frenzy continues, millions of Americans whose employment was impacted by the pandemic are being left out.

Without a job, maintaining a decent credit score can be challenging. However, you will get back on your feet and there are ways to fix the damage so that you can buy that dream home.

Credit score basics

“The goal of a credit score is to provide a quantifiable prediction of the likelihood of default in the next 24 months,” according to Thomas Wade with the American Action Forum.

In other words, it determines a borrower’s creditworthiness.

The scale of credit scores ranges from 300, the worst possible, to 850, “… considered the unicorn of the financial world: a perfect credit score,” according to Stefan Lembo Stolba at experian.com.

Only 1.2% of credit scores from FICO® have reached that magic number, so don’t feel bad if you aren’t among them.

Scores that fall below 850, are grouped as follows:

  • 300-629 Poor
  • 630-689 Fair
  • 690-719 Good
  • 720-850 Excellent

FICO, short for Fair Isaac Corporation is the data analyst that determines these scores. They do so by analyzing our credit reports from the “big three” credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

The most important thing to understand about your FICO score is that it’s fluid, moving up and down according to how you use credit.

Rule number one to raise your credit score

The easiest way to increase your FICO score is by avoiding late payments. Every month, pay your bills on time.

If you think this sounds too simple to be true, consider this:

“… someone with an average credit rating of 707 can raise their score by as much as 20 points by paying all their bills on time for one month,”

according to Jessica Seid, CNN/Money staff writer.

The credit card trap

There are tricks to using credit cards and loans when it comes to trying to repair your credit. These tricks are evident when we consider how the reporting agencies look at credit card use.

  • Age of credit–Older credit, whether cards or loans, makes the potential borrower appear less risky. New credit can ding your FICO score by as much as 10 points.
  • Balances– Maxed out credit cards can cause up to a 70 point reduction on your credit score. The agencies want to see available credit.
  • Lack of accounts–If you have no credit card or loans, credit agencies will wonder why.

If you’ve been caught in the credit trap, start paying down your high balances first. Don’t close any credit cards.

No credit score?

A 2019 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) showed that “22% of Americans Don’t Have a Credit Score,” according to Matt Frankel, CFP at fool.com.

Because they have no history of credit use, the credit reporting agencies consider these people credit risks.

If you are among this group, you’ll want to do the opposite of those with low scores. Get and use a credit card, ensuring that you pay the entire balance, on time, every month.

Tip: Obtain a secured credit card from a company that reports to the credit reporting agencies.

How to fix your credit score, step-by-step

  • Obtain your reports from all three of the major credit reporting agencies. Americans are entitled to one free credit report from each, annually, from annualcreditreport.com. For additional information on the free credit reports, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
  • Comb through the reports looking for errors. Dispute any that you find. The FTC website shows you how.
  • Vow to pay your bills when due.
  • Reduce your credit card balances.
  • Since older, seasoned credit is more attractive to credit agencies, don’t let old cards go stale. Use them, but remember to pay off the balance when due.
  • Request an increase to your credit limits. Avoid the temptation to max out the additional credit, though.

Selling under the influence of kids

Come on, admit it: You started watching those DIY home selling and staging TV shows the minute you made the decision to sell.

You’re not alone. But you should keep in mind that those amazing TV stagers have unlimited budgets and tons of people to help them.

The shows don’t reflect the reality of the basic American home seller’s situation.

Depending on how you’ve maintained the home since you bought it, preparing it for the market can be expensive. All the repairs, the painting, the cleaning and decluttering – it’s a lot of work as well.

Add on the price of hiring a professional home stager and we’re talking some big money coming out of your pocket.

Making your home the belle of the local real estate market is, however, one of the most important things you can do to appeal to a broad range of buyers and make top dollar at the closing table.

Enter: Kids

The most annoying part of selling a home when you have children is having to keep it tidy and staged while it’s on the market.

The second most annoying aspect is those potential buyers who ask for a last-minute showing.

We’ll get to some tips for the latter in a minute. First, let’s talk about staging a home that harbors children.

Plan for chaos

Those last-minute showing requests are a pain. But if you truly want to get the home sold you need to accommodate buyers–and get the kids on board.

Consider the following tips:

Determine how long it will take you to tidy up the home in time for a buyer to do a walk-through. Then, ask us to put a notice in the MLS that you require that much notice for showings.

For instance, if it will take you an hour, we’ll let buyers’ agents know that you need an hour’s notice for showings.

This will give you at least enough time to cover the basics of pick-up, cleaning and getting yourself and the kids out of the home.

Keep the kids distracted while you tidy up. Unless, of course, your kids are immensely helpful and quick. (If so, care to trade?) Otherwise, park them in front of the TV so they stay put and don’t create new messes.

Purchase some laundry baskets from the dollar store and use them to stash toys, mail, dirty dishes and all the other clutter you encounter as you run through the home, tidying up. Then, throw the baskets in the trunk of the car to get them out of sight.

One online parent suggests that you check every toilet before leaving the house. Kids – potty – flush – if yours are like mine when they were little, they tend to skip the latter.

Prioritize

Let’s take a list of the basics of straightening up when you have limited time. These tasks are prioritized from the most important to the lease.

Start in the kitchen:

  • Move the dirty dishes from the sink to the dishwasher and scrub the sink.
  • Remove clutter from the countertops and then wipe them clean.
  • Wipe down the stove.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Sweep the floor.

Move on to the bathroom(s):

  • Flush the toilet and put down the toilet seat.
  • Clear the clutter from the countertops and wipe them down.
  • Clean the sink and wipe water spots off the faucet.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Replace soiled towels with fresh ones.
  • Sweep the floor.

Work on the entry way:

  • If you have a table in the entry way, remove any clutter and dust.
  • Remove all clutter from the entryway and the areas of the home visible from it.

Turn your attention to the bedrooms:

  • If you haven’t made the beds yet, do so now.
  • Pick up toys and stash as many as possible out-of-sight
  • Remove all clutter.

On your way out the door, turn on all lights in the home (including in the closets) and open all the window coverings.

Count heads to ensure you aren’t leaving any little ones behind and head to the park, congratulating your babies on a job well-done.

3 tips to make buying a home less stressful

Buying your first home is exciting. At first.

If you’re like most, at some point the anxiety creeps in. It’s normal. As with anything new, you have questions, you may have fears and, at times, may even feel stressed out. Even repeat homebuyers feel anxious during the homebuying process.

“As it turns out, many Americans, about 40%, say buying a new home is the most stressful event in modern life …” according to housingwire.com’s Kelsey Ramirez, citing a survey by a nation-wide real estate website.

Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said they were reduced to tears at some point during the homebuying process.

It all boils down to a lack of confidence-the same malady that afflicts all of us when learning a new process.

There are certain points in the process that are more stressful than others so today we’ll introduce you to those and point you to where you can learn more.

Learn all you can about the mortgage process

Surveys say that most consumers know very little about mortgages. For instance, “Many people believe that if you don’t have at least 20% down, you can’t buy a home,” according to the folks at rocketmortgage.com.

It’s a myth. There are many home loans on the market with only a 3% down payment requirement. Some have zero down payment terms.

Rules for qualifying for a mortgage are also misunderstood. Many consumers are under the impression that the qualification process is stricter than it is. Yet, when asked about qualification standards, such as debt-to-income ratio, about half of the buyers surveyed didn’t know anything about them.

If you don’t think you can afford a home, you may be laboring under some common misconceptions. When you clear those up, you’ll go into the mortgage application process far more confidently. Here are some websites to help you get up to speed:

Once you’re familiar with the process, start searching for a lender. Ask friends, family and colleagues who they used (if they had a good experience).

Then, start applying for mortgages, keeping an eye out for the lender that is the best at getting back to you promptly and that is able to explain things in easy-to-understand terms.

Go ahead and apply to several. You are under no obligation if they say yes and, it gives you a chance to compare lenders to find the best rates and terms.

If you’re worried about your credit score from all of credit pulls, don’t be. “Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO), the creator of the FICO model, states that multiple mortgage inquiries that occur within 30 days of one another do not affect your FICO score,” according to Greg Depersio at investopedia.com.

To be safe, according to Craig Berry at themortgagereports.com, try to submit all of your loan applications within a two week period.

Stressed about the down payment?

Earlier, we discussed the down payment myth. For some homebuyers, however, even a 3% down payment is a fortune. It shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream of homeownership, however.

If you serve, or have served in our nation’s military, or you are the surviving spouse of someone who served, you may qualify for a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan. These loans require zero down payment. Learn more about this program at va.gov.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also offers a no-down mortgage for those who wish to purchase in eligible rural areas. To learn if the home you have your eye on is considered “eligible,” enter the address here.

The USDA offers several programs and you can learn more about them online at usda.gov.

You’ll can also apply for the various municipality, state and federal down payment assistance programs. Ask your lender for a list or search online.

Hire the right real estate agent

Interview real estate agents carefully to ensure that you find the right one for your needs. After all, your real estate agent will be your advocate during the homebuying process; you’ll be doing a lot of leaning on your agent.

During the interviews, ask questions, share your concerns and pay attention to the responses. Choose someone who understands how stressful the process can be and helps put you at ease.

It has been said that “knowledge is power.” The more you know about the process of buying a home, the more empowered and less stressed you’ll feel.

Top 5 ways to lose money on your home sale

It doesn’t take much to turn off buyers. Right now, however, there are so many in the market, clamoring for homes in decent areas and in good condition, that homes are practically selling themselves.

Getting the most money possible for your home, however, requires a bit of work. Skipping the following, basic tips, is like throwing money away.

Let’s see if we can step up your home’s game so you can reap maximum rewards.

1. Ignore your home’s appearance from the curb

“Curb appeal” isn’t just a concept from home and garden TV shows; it’s actually what gets homebuyers out of the car and into the house.

Stand at the curb and take a look at the exterior of your home and the landscaping. Like what you see?

If not, a little bit of elbow grease can change that.

If your home needs painting, paint it. Stick with neutral colors, such as gray, taupe and white, according to the experts at Benjamin Moore.

For a pop of interest, paint the door a coordinating color. Black is popular right now, but red and blue are attractive as well.

Next, turn your attention to the landscaping. Just as you’ll need to do to the interior, clean the landscaping of any debris. If the lawn isn’t dormant, mow it and add fresh mulch to the beds.

Then, add attractive plants (even if they’re potted). Ensure that the exterior of the home is as inviting as possible.

2. Assuming since you can’t smell it, buyers won’t either

We’ve all walked into a home and been blasted by stinky, stale odors. Whether they come from pets, kids, cooking or cigarettes, these odors can have potential buyers running for the door.

Fabrics hold odors so consider having upholstered furniture professionally cleaned. Change the HVAC filters for they, too, tend to hold odors. Dry-clean or launder drapes, curtains and throw rugs.

If the odor is cigarette smoke, you may need to paint. Wash the ceilings and walls first with ammonia and water. Then, use a shellac-based primer, such as Zinsser B-I-N, before applying the paint.

3. Your bathroom seen better days

Yes, we understand how difficult it is to keep the hardest-working room in the home tidy. But bathrooms are important to buyers, so yours should be spotless and completely depersonalized.

After cleaning and painting (if necessary), remove personal items, such as toothbrushes, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. from the countertop and the /tub shower’s interior. Ensure that the shower curtain and the toilet lid are closed.

A good rule of thumb for the bathroom is that if something is not decorative, remove it from view.

4. Your home’s interior gives off a“cave” vibe

For as long as we can remember, homebuyers value a light and bright atmosphere over all else. Most of the time they don’t know why a dark home feels uncomfortable; it’s more of a perception.

It’s imperative to remedy a lack of natural light in the home. You can do this with additional lighting and by opening all window coverings.

Dark and gloomy doesn’t sell homes. Light and bright does. Light up every dark space in the home.

5. Assume buyers won’t look at your garage.

You won’t like this one.

Clean the garage.

In their efforts to de-clutter their homes for sale, we see many clients shove all the excess into the garage. Bad move, especially in light of the fact that 86 percent of homebuyers want garage storage space.

Show them how roomy yours is by removing oversized items (take them to storage) and cleaning the garage with the same zeal you did when cleaning the home. Organize what’s left so that the room screams “Look at all this storage space!”

Ensure that while it’s on the market, your home is the belle of the neighborhood. Correcting these five deal breakers is inexpensive and easy but play a big role in your home’s presentation.

10 must-read tips to get your home ready for the inspection

You have only one chance to impress the home inspector. Of course, you can’t possibly know everything that might show up on the inspection report, but you can make your home appear well-maintained and take care of some common problems before the inspector knocks on the door.

  1. Clear all access points that the inspector will use. These include the attic, water heater and electrical panel.
  2. Change the HVAC filters and clean the fuzz off the vent covers.
  3. Ensure that all light switches work and replace burned-out bulbs.
  4. Clean out the fireplace. Check the damper to ensure that it is operating properly. Cracks in the brick? Seal them with a high-temp silicone sealant.
  5. How are those windows? Replace cracked glass and torn screens. Then, open every window in the home to make sure they slide smoothly (both upon opening and closing). While they’re open, take a rag and some cleaning solution to the tracks. Finally, clean both inside and outside glass.
  6. Another common problem that makes its way onto too many inspection reports is water-damaged wood, especially the soffits, fascia, window sills (and here you thought you were finished with those windows!) and door trim.
  7. Cracks and holes in stucco should be sealed. We found a YouTube video (“How to Repair Cracks and Holes in Stucco”) that will walk you through the process.
  8. The pros at TheBuildingInspector.net suggest that owners of wood-framed homes should ensure that mulch isn’t piled up the foundation. “You should be able to see 4 inches of exposed foundation,” they suggest.
  9. Those same pros urge you to ensure that your kitchen appliances are clean and that they work properly. (Ice maker as well).
  10. Fix any leaks in the ceiling. Then, seal the stain and paint.

Remember, the home inspector will perform a visual inspection of the home and its components. This includes the HVAC system, plumbing, heating, gas lines and electrical panel.

The inspection will take between two and three hours and, as tempting as it may be to be present, the buyer (who hired the inspector) will often tag along, with his or her real estate agent, naturally.

If you have any questions about the home inspection process, please feel free to ask. We’re happy to provide all the information you need.

 

Selling your home? Get ready for the legal paperwork

The home selling process is unlike any other. Sell a car and pretty much all you do is hand over the keys and the pink slip.

Selling a home requires mountains of legal paperwork, however. From listing to closing, get ready to sign a lot of papers.

Sadly, it can become so burdensome that many home sellers (and buyers too), become overwhelmed and stop reading what they’re signing. Big mistake.

If you can’t stomach reading another document, run them by your attorney. This is important stuff and you need to understand what your signing.

Today we introduce you to two forms that you’ll receive and help you understand their importance.

Listing Agreement or Contract

When you choose a real estate agent to represent you in the sale of your home you are actually hiring his or her broker. Only the broker is legally able to enter into a contract with home sellers and buyers.

Real estate agents (unless he or she is also the broker) act as the broker’s representative (which is why they are called “agents”).

This is important information that most real estate consumers don’t understand. The listing agreement is a contract between you and the real estate broker who is being represented by a real estate agent.

There are certain items that must be included in this contract according to federal and state law and the National Association of REALTORS® (if the broker is a member).

The basics include:

  • The offering price
  • The date the contract begins and ends
  • The amount of the broker’s fee (the commission you’ll be expected to pay at closing)
  • Your agreement for your agent’s broker to cooperate with other brokers and how that other broker (the one who brings the buyer) will be compensated.
  • Whether or not your broker can reveal previous offers.

Other items you may see include:

  • Your permission to allow the broker to put up a sign in the yard and a lockbox on the door.
  • Your permission to allow the broker to list the home in the Multiple Listing Service and online.
  • A list of items that are not included in the home sale (such as appliances).
  • Your promise that you own the home and there is no pending notice of default on the property. 

Seller’s Disclosure

Real estate brokers have legal and ethical duties to both parties in the transaction – duties that their agents must carry out.

Sellers, too, have duties and one of them is a legal duty: disclosure.

Failure to disclose aspects of the home that may impact the buyer’s safety and comfort or the home’s value can land a home seller in court, facing huge fines.

A home defect discovered after the sale is the primary court dispute in the real estate industry.

Take your time when filling out this form. If you don’t understand anything, ask. Although we aren’t licensed to practice law, we’re happy to help in any way we can.

Answer the questions honestly. If you truly don’t know if a certain defect exists, say so. If you do know, however, you have a legal duty to disclose your knowledge.

Tasks most homeowners neglect when getting the house ready to sell

Preparing a home for the market is a lot like trying to get a sip of water from an open fire hydrant. Depending on how well you maintained the home, it can be overwhelming.

In the frenzy to get the big things done, some of the small, but critical tasks remain unattended to.

We see it often. An otherwise well-prepared home with just a few small items that need attending to.

Since bathrooms and kitchens are the rooms most important to most homebuyers, we’ll concentrate on them.

If you’re getting your home ready for the market, put these on your to-do list.

Get the bathroom ready for homebuyers

  1. Ring around the toilet bowl? Get rid of it. Even though we always suggest to our sellers that they leave the toilet lid closed, we often find it open.

A ring at the water line or any other part of the bowl that’s visible will be noticed by those viewing your home.

We spoke with a team of professional cleaners who offered up a few tips:

Start with bleach. Pour about 1 cup of bleach into the bowl and walk away. If the stain hasn’t calcified, it should be gone in about 30 minutes to one hour.

If it remains, grab a pumice stone. Let the water drain from the toilet as it’s flushing and use the water turn-off valve (usually behind the toilet) to turn of the water before it starts refilling.

Lightly scrub the stain with the pumice stone.

If all else fails, consider buying a product specific to removing calcium and lime, such as CLR. You can pick it up at Walmart, Home Depot and online at Amazon.com.

Follow the instructions carefully and that ring should be a thing of the past.

  1. Nasty grout

The internet is full of helpful and not-so helpful cleaning advice. One of the most common chores we’ve seen is cleaning bathroom grout. The suggestions for the job include everything from toothpaste to the ubiquitous baking-soda-and-water to vinegar.

It turns out that bleach is the best grout cleaner. Use it right out of the bottle and let it sit before scrubbing away the grime. Do wear gloves and a face mask for this job.

Too toxic for you? Try using oxygen bleach powder (sodium percarbonate). A well-known brand is OxiClean but there are others as well. Check out this list at Amazon.com.

Mix the powder with enough water to make a paste and smear it over the grout lines. Leave it there for 15 minutes.

Add more to the areas where the solution has soaked in, ensuring that the grout is always flooded with the paste.

Finally, use a toothbrush or other small scrubbing implement to scrub the grout, adding more if needed to remove the stains.

Get busy in the kitchen

  1. Look at listings of homes for sale and you’ll no doubt come across one of our pet peeves: photos, school work, etc. stuck to the front of the refrigerator. Remove them, please.
  1. Clean the glass on the oven door. Yup, it sounds like a huge headache of a job, but we promise, it’s not.

Before starting, lay an old rug or towel on the floor in front of the oven to catch any paste or other substances that may fall to the floor.

Wipe the glass surfaces down and then spread a baking soda-water paste over the glass window portion. Lay it on as thick as possible, swirling as you spread it.

Allow the paste to remain for 30 minutes then use a clean, wet rag to remove it. You may need to wring out the rag and wipe several times to remove it.

If any stubborn stains remain, use a sharp razor blade to gently scrape them away.

Repeat the procedure on the front of the glass window in the oven.

Finally, use your favorite window cleaner to shine up the glass.

3. Organize the contents of kitchen cupboards. Yes, potential buyers will open the cupboards and the pantry door.

While it may seem nosy, they’re looking to see how roomy they are and whether they will contain all of their kitchen “stuff.”

If you haven’t yet removed items you rarely use (especially larger items, such as that ice-cream maker or waffle iron), remove them now.

Then, organize what’s left so that when potential buyers peer in they see lots and lots of space.

  1. Clean the inside of the dishwasher

Remove and clean the filter. You’ll find it beneath the spray arm on the bottom of the dishwasher’s interior.

Get the water from the faucet as hot as you can tolerate and rinse the filter, using an old toothbrush to scrape away food particles stuck to it. Once it’s clean, replace it in its spot inside the dishwasher.

Use a dishwasher cleaning product to finish the job. Cascade manufactures one but there are others you can find at the supermarket, Walmart or purchase online at Amazon.com. Follow the instructions carefully.

  1. Shine up stainless-steel appliances

Buyers are in a long-time love affair with stainless steel appliances.

Yet, if you’ve look at listings of homes for sale recently, you’ll notice that many homeowners neglect to clean off the handprints and spilled food and drink.

The best way to clean these appliance fronts is with WD-40 (available at auto parts stores, big-box home improvement stores and many supermarkets).

Spray the product on a rag and wipe down the appliance. With a clean rag, wipe the surface again. Finally, use a microfiber cloth to buff the finish.

Don’t forget to replace dead lightbulbs, clean their fixtures and wash the windows in both rooms.

Now, you’re one step ahead of the competition.

Happy selling!