Understanding the Role of the Real Estate Agent

Not sure you need an agent to help with your real estate transaction? Here are seven ways they bring value you might be missing out on.

The road to homeownership can be bumpy, and it’s often filled with unexpected turns and detours. That’s why it makes sense to have a real estate pro help guide the way.

While real estate websites and mobile apps can help you identify houses you may be interested in, an experienced agent does much more, including:

1. Guide. Before you tour your first home, your agent will take time to learn more about your wants, needs, preferences, budget and motivation. A good real estate agent will help you narrow your search and identify your priorities.

2. Educate. You should expect your agent to provide data on the local home market and comparable sales. The home-buying process can be complicated. A good agent will explain the steps involved – in a manner that makes them understandable – and provide counsel along the way.

3. Network. An agent who is familiar with your target neighborhoods will often know about homes that are for sale – even before they’re officially listed. Experienced agents tend to know other agents in the area and have good working relationships with them; this can lead to smooth transactions. Your agent may also be able to refer you to trusted professionals including lenders, home inspectors and contractors.

4. Advocate. When you work with a buyer’s agent, their fiduciary responsibility is to you. That means you have an expert who is looking out for your best financial interests, an expert who’s contractually bound to do everything in their power to protect you. If you find yourself in a situation where the same agent represents both the buyer and seller, things can get trickier, advises Scottsdale, Arizona-based real estate agent Dru Bloomfield.

“A lot of people think they’ll get a lower price by going straight to the listing agent, but that’s always not true,” she says. “If I was representing both the buyer and seller, I’d be hard-pressed to take a low-ball offer to the seller. But, as a buyer’s agent I’d do it, because I have no emotional ties or fiduciary responsibility to the seller. Buyers should work with an agent who can fully represent them.”

5. Negotiate. Your agent will handle the details of the negotiation process, including the preparation of all necessary offer and counteroffer forms. Once your inspection is done, the agent can also help you negotiate for repairs. Even the most reasonable consumers can become distraught when battling over repair requests; an agent can do “the ask” without becoming overly emotional.

6. Manage minutia. The paperwork that goes along with a real estate transaction can be exhaustive. If you forget to initial a clause or check a box, all those documents will need to be resubmitted. A good real estate agent understands the associated deadlines and details and can help you navigate these complex documents.

7. Look out. Any number of pitfalls can kill a deal as it inches toward closing; perhaps the title of the house isn’t clear, the lender hasn’t met the financing deadline or the seller has failed to disclose a plumbing problem. An experienced real estate agent knows to watch for trouble before it’s too late, and can skillfully deal with challenges as they arise.

Professional real estate agents do so much more than drive clients around to look at homes. Find an agent you trust and with whom you feel comfortable working; you’re sure to benefit from their experience, knowledge of the local market and negotiation skills.

Related:

Originally published July 21, 2014.

Source: zillow.com

In the Market? Here’s What You Should Know About Contingencies

Home contingencies are aspects of home purchase contracts that protect buyers or sellers by establishing conditions that must be met before the purchase can be completed. There are a variety of contingencies that can be included in a contract; some required by third parties, and others potentially created by the buyer. While sellers in the current market prefer to have little to no contingencies, the vast majority of purchase contracts do include them, so here’s a primer to help you navigate any that come your way!

Financing Contingency

The most common type of contingency in a real estate contract is the financing contingency. While the number of homes that sold for cash more than doubled over the last 10 years, the majority of home purchases — 87% of them, in fact— are still financed through mortgage loans.

Why is this important? Because most real estate contracts provide a contingency clause that states the contract is binding only if the buyer is approved for the loan. If a contract is written as cash, in most cases, the financing contingency is removed.

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Why Does The Financing Contingency Exist?

This contingency exists to protect the buyer. If a buyer submits a winning offer, but can’t get approved for a loan to follow through with the purchase, this clause can protect the buyer from potential legal or financial ramifications.

Tip: Homeowners can, and should, request to see a buyer’s prequalification letter before accepting their offer.

Home Sale Contingency

For many repeat homebuyers, they must sell a property in order to afford a new home. Whether they’re relocating for work, moving to a larger home, or moving to a more rural area, 38% of home buyers in a recent survey reported using funds from a previous home to purchase a new one. This is where a home sale contingency comes into play; this clause states that the buyer must first sell their current home before they can proceed with purchasing a new one.

Why Does This Contingency Exist?

This is another contingency that exists to protect the buyer. If their current home sale doesn’t close, this clause can protect the buyer from being forced to purchase the new home. In other words, they can back out of the new home contract without consequence. Keep in mind that in a seller’s market, this type of contingency offer is less desirable to sellers; in fact,  they may rule out your offer completely if this is included.

TIP: In many situations, homeowners can negotiate escape clauses for the home sale which would allow them to solicit other offers and potentially bump the current buyer out of the picture.

Home Inspection Contingency

Not only is it common, it’s also wise to include a home inspection contingency in any offer. Whether it’s a new home or an existing home, there is no such thing as a flawless house. Home inspections can uncover hidden problems, detect deferred maintenance issues that may be costly down the road, or make the home less desirable to purchase completely. A home inspection contingency essentially states that the purchase of a home is dependent on the results from the home inspection.

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Why Does This Contingency Exist?

Whether it’s a roof in need of replacement or an unsafe fireplace, homebuyers need to know the maintenance and safety issues of the properties they’re interested in purchasing. If a home inspection report reveals significant (or scary!) findings, this protects the buyer from the financial burden that repairs would require. This is why agents will tell you it’s never a good idea for a home to be purchased without a home inspection contingency.

TIP: The findings from the report can usually be used to negotiate repairs or financial concessions from the seller.

Sight-Unseen Contingency

Especially during sellers markets, it’s not uncommon for a home to have dozens of showings within the first couple of days of listing. This breakneck pace can create a scenario in which homebuyers may not be able to coordinate their schedules to get a timely showing appointment. To help prevent missing out on the chance to buy a home, buyers in this situation will sometimes make offers on the home, sight unseen.

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There’s no sugarcoating it…this is a high-risk strategy with ample opportunity for negative consequences. However, if this strategy is used, many real estate agents will add a sight- unseen contingency to their offer. This contingency states that the offer for purchase is dependent on the buyer’s viewing of, and satisfaction with, the property.

Why Does This Contingency Exist?

In a market with shrinking inventory, desperate buyers want a fighting chance at a hot property; in some cases, that can only exist by submitting an offer before they can see it in person.

TIP: Sight unseen offers are also high risk to the seller. If you include this contingency in your offer, try to keep other seller requests to a minimum. 

Why Contingencies Can Be Positive

In a seller’s market, buyers may feel the pressure to remove as many contingencies as possible in order to compete. But, it’s important to remember that contingencies are actually safeguards in place to prevent buyer remorse, expensive future repairs, or financial calamity. It’s always crucial for buyers to hire a seasoned real estate agent who can advocate for their best interests, negotiate and strategize in safe and competitive ways, and advises them of the risks of each decision.

Looking to Buy? Don’t Go it Alone!

The homebuying process is a complex one, but that doesn’t mean you’re left with all the heavy lifting. Find your dream home and a local agent on Homes.com, then visit our “How to Buy” section for all the step-by-step insights for a smooth process.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

5 Expenses Homeowners Pay That Renters Don’t

Thinking about buying? Be sure to include these five items in your calculations.

Homeownership may be a goal for some, but it’s not the right fit for many.

Renters account for 37 percent of all households in America — or just over 43.7 million homes, up more than 6.9 million since 2005. Even still, more than half of millennial and Gen Z renters consider buying, with 18 percent seriously considering it.

Both lifestyles afford their fair share of pros and cons. So before you meet with a real estate agent, consider these five costs homeowners pay that renters don’t — they could make you reconsider buying altogether.

1. Property taxes

As long as you own a home, you’ll pay property taxes. The typical U.S. homeowner pays $2,110 per year in property taxes, meaning they’re a significant — and ongoing — chunk of your budget.

Factor this expense into the equation from the get-go to avoid surprises down the road. The property tax rates vary among states, so try a mortgage calculator to estimate costs in your area.

2. Homeowners insurance

Homeowners insurance protects you against losses and damage to your home caused by perils such as fires, storms or burglary. It also covers legal costs if someone is injured in your home or on your property.

Homeowners insurance is almost always required in order to get a home loan. It costs an average of $35 per month for every $100,000 of your home’s value.

If you intend to purchase a condo, you’ll need a condo insurance policy — separate from traditional homeowner’s insurance — which costs an average of $100 to $400 a year.

3. Maintenance and repairs

Don’t forget about those small repairs that you won’t be calling your landlord about anymore. Notice a tear in your window screen? Can’t get your toilet to stop running? What about those burned out light bulbs in your hallway? You get the idea.

Maintenance costs can add an additional $3,021 to the typical U.S. homeowner’s annual bill. Of course, this amount increases as your home ages.

And don’t forget about repairs. Conventional water heaters last about a decade, with a new one costing you between $500 to $1,500 on average. Air conditioning units don’t typically last much longer than 15 years, and an asphalt shingle roof won’t serve you too well after 20 years.

4. HOA fees

Sure, that monthly mortgage payment seems affordable, but don’t forget to take homeowners association (HOA) fees into account.

On average, HOA fees cost anywhere from $200 to $400 per month. They usually fund perks like your fitness center, neighborhood landscaping, community pool and other common areas.

Such amenities are usually covered as a renter, but when you own your home, you’re paying for these luxuries on top of your mortgage payment.

5. Utilities

When you’re renting, it’s common for your apartment or landlord to cover some costs. When you own your home, you’re in charge of covering it all — water, electric, gas, internet and cable.

While many factors determine how much you’ll pay for utilities — like the size of your home and the climate you live in — the typical U.S. homeowner pays $2,953 in utility costs every year.

Ultimately, renting might be more cost-effective in the end, depending on your lifestyle, location and financial situation. As long as you crunch the numbers and factor in these costs, you’ll make the right choice for your needs.

Related:

Originally published August 18, 2015. Statistics updated July 2018.

Source: zillow.com

5 Myths (and 5 Truths) About Selling Your Home

True or false: All real estate advice is good advice. (Hint: It depends.)

Everyone has advice about the real estate market, but not all of that unsolicited information is true. So when it comes time to list your home, you’ll need to separate fact from fiction.

Below we’ve identified the top five real estate myths — and debunked them so you can hop on the fast track to selling your property.

1. I need to redo my kitchen and bathroom before selling

Truth: While kitchens and bathrooms can increase the value of a home, you won’t get a large return on investment if you do a major renovation just before selling.

Minor renovations, on the other hand, may help you sell your home for a higher price. New countertops or new appliances may be just the kind of bait you need to reel in a buyer. Check out comparable listings in your neighborhood, and see what work you need to do to compete in the market.

2. My home’s exterior isn’t as important as the interior

Truth: Home buyers often make snap judgments based simply on a home’s exterior, so curb appeal is very important.

“A lot of buyers search online or drive by properties before they even enlist my services,” says Bic DeCaro, a real estate agent at Westgate Realty Group in Falls Church, Virginia. “If the yard is cluttered or the driveway is all broken up, there’s a chance they won’t ever enter the house — they’ll just keep driving.”

The good news is that it doesn’t cost a bundle to improve your home’s exterior. Start by cutting the grass, trimming the hedges and clearing away any clutter. Then, for less than $50, you could put up new house numbers, paint the front door, plant some flowers or install a new, more stylish porch light.

3. If my house is clean, I don’t need to stage it

Truth: Tidy is a good first step, but professional home stagers have raised the bar. Tossing dirty laundry in the closet and sweeping the front steps just aren’t enough anymore.

Stagers make homes appeal to a broad range of tastes. They can skillfully identify ways to highlight your home’s best features and compensate for its shortcomings. For example, they might recommend removing blinds from a window with a great view or replacing a double bed with a twin to make a bedroom look bigger.

Of course, you don’t have to hire a professional stager. But if you don’t, be ready to use some of their tactics to get your home ready for sale — especially if staging is a trend where you live. An unstaged house will pale when compared to others on the market.

4. Granite and stainless steel appliances are old news

Truth: The majority of home shoppers still want granite counters and stainless steel appliances. Quartz, marble and concrete counters also have wide appeal.

“Most shoppers just want to steer away from anything that looks dated,” says Dru Bloomfield, a real estate agent with Platinum Living Realty in Scottsdale, Arizona. “When you a design a space, you need to decide if you’re doing it for yourself or for resale potential.”

She suggests that if you’re not planning to move anytime soon, decorate how you’d like. But if you’re planning to put your home on the market within the next couple of years, stick to elements with mass appeal.

“I recently sold a house where the kitchen had been remodeled 12 years ago, and everybody thought it had just been done because the owners had chosen timeless elements: dark maple cabinets, granite counters and stainless steel appliances.”

5. Home shoppers can ignore paint colors they don’t like

Truth: Moving is a lot of work, and while many home buyers realize they could take on the task of painting walls, they simply don’t want to.

That’s why one of the most important things you can do to update your home is apply a fresh coat of neutral paint. Neutral colors also help a property stand out in online photographs, which is where most potential buyers will get their first impression of your property.

Hiring a professional to paint the interior of a 2,000-square-foot house will cost about $3,000 to $6,000, depending on labor costs in your region. You could buy the paint and do the job yourself for $300 to $500. Either way, if a fresh coat of paint helps your home stand out in a crowded market, it’s probably a worthwhile investment.

Related:

Originally published April 1, 2014.

Source: zillow.com

3 Things to Do When Your Neighbors List Their Home for Sale

The sign just went up next door. How does your neighbor’s impending sale affect you?

Most people think their real estate concerns end once they’ve closed on and moved into their new homes. But when a neighbor’s house goes on the market, there can be some important implications for you.

Here are some tips for staying real estate aware.

1. Document important disclosure items

For the most part, good fences make good neighbors. But sometimes the folks on the other side of the fence don’t cooperate, and unresolved neighbor conflicts tend to arise when one of the homes goes on the market.

Have a property line dispute? Or an issue with a broken fence and you want the new buyer to know about it? While sellers in most states have a duty to disclose issues to potential buyers, not all areas require this.

Do your new neighbor-to-be a favor and alert the seller’s agent to anything the buyer needs to know about your neighbor’s property.

2. See things differently

Open houses allow buyers to spend some time exploring a home, but these events also present you with a chance to see your home from your neighbor’s perspective.

Once at a busy open house in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, an open house visitor made a somewhat obvious beeline for the back of the house. He immediately got on the phone and started talking with someone about where he was standing, giving orders to move left and right.

It turned out this visitor lived in the home behind, and he was checking to see the neighbor’s view into his home.

The open house is your chance to check your home’s paint job from the neighbor’s yard or simply to see your home from a different perspective.

3. Know and learn the market in real time

Typical sellers claim and save their home online, but they also keep searches going after the fact. Why? To keep tabs on the market, see the comps and have a real-time sense of what’s happening nearby.

Just like when you were a buyer, knowing about the area and types of homes in the market is a good move for any homeowner. Take a neighboring home for sale as an opportunity to see what the market bears. You can also learn about the latest trends in home design.

Speaking to a real estate agent can keep you informed of changes to property taxes or how assessments are changing in your town. A smart real estate agent, working their listing, will be an incredible resource to would-be clients down the road. Leverage their experience when your neighbor sells.

Take note when your neighbor goes to sell their home. It’s not just a time to nose around, but to document, inspect or learn from the home sale. Some homes get listed once in a lifetime — take advantage of the opportunity.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 31, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

5 Ways to Win in a Purchase Money Market in the New Reality

During my recent conversations with sales leaders, managers across the board expressed concern about their originators adapting to the new environment of rising interest rates and the shift to purchase money.

Sherlock: not having an accurate view of sales performance is a recipe for disaster
Pat Sherlock

The decline in refinance business is a reality with mortgage applications dropping 43% in the last week, according to the MBA. This raises a critical question: how many lenders and originators will be able to transition to a purchase money marketplace when the easy money of refinancing is replaced by the hard work of finding customers who want to purchase and finance a home?

Every experienced mortgage lender has certainly witnessed big changes in interest rates over the last 20 years. Sometimes it happens quickly. Other times it can be a slow climb to higher interest rates. This time, it is a little of both. The global pandemic caused the Fed to drop interest rates to historic lows and now, with the end in sight, rates are inching back up.

The real question for lenders and originators that have 90%+ refinance business is: can they switch to the traditional purchase money market that still depends on local relationships or will they decide to sell out to other, better structured lenders? Frankly, the selling out strategy has likely already run its course, leaving lenders that have not invested in digital technology or sales training with few alternatives.

5 Steps to Success

That said, what changes should originators who have been living off of refinance lending make to succeed in a purchase money environment? Here are five recommendations:

  1. Develop a marketing plan. Yes, I know having a plan doesn’t seem like the right strategy when a loan officer is panicked and needs income. But, setting aside some time to analyze the market and identifying underserved opportunities is a worthwhile activity because where producers commit their time and marketing resources is always a balancing act. There are only so many hours in a day and spending them correctly matters a lot.
  2. Understand growth in the local area. An originator’s marketing plan should determine what home building activities in their local market are driving growth. Is it new construction, retirement homes, second homes, etc.? Every market is different and understanding where growth will be coming from is critical. Looking at the research the local municipality has already done is a good start.
  3. Identify underserved market opportunities and the people associated with them. Every market has underserved opportunities that some individuals have already recognized—you want to know these professionals. Rarely is an underserved market completely void of participants. An originator’s job is to develop relationships with the parties in the market before other loan officers decide to market to them. Building relationships takes time and requires originators to form relationships with builders, attorneys, real estate agents and other professionals.
  4. Don’t forget about previous customers. Since developing and building relationships is time-consuming, originators must also work their database of closed loans over the last several years. Former customers are already familiar with an originator’s service levels and a certain percentage might be interested in purchasing a second home or investment property. Some clients might be receptive to listening to a webinar on the latest trends in the local real estate market. This is a great opportunity for originators to partner with a realtor to target a particular audience. The real estate agent can provide his or her perspective as part of the webinar or live stream event. However originators reach out, they should avoid sending mass emails and direct mail. Consumers want a more personal, customized approach.
  5. Rekindle referral business. Originators who have a plan, determine their niche and develop relationships with referral sources and customers in an underserved marketplace are on the path to success in a purchase money environment. Working former customers is a smart way for producers to generate current business while establishing relationships with new referral sources.

Implementing all five strategies is a great way for originators to position themselves for robust performance in a purchase money market.

Pat Sherlock is the founder of QFS Sales Solutions, an organization that helps organizations improve their sales talent management and performance. For more information, visit https://patsherlock.com.

Source: themortgageleader.com

5 Things to Do Before and After Closing

Your journey doesn’t end on closing day. Here are some next steps to consider before you actually move in.

You’ve been house shopping for months or even years. You’ve endured a series of offers, property disclosures, inspections and reports. Finally, after so much excitement, stress and anxiety, the house hunt has come to an end.

But the story isn’t over yet. Here are some next steps to consider before you actually move in.

1. Plan renovations well in advance

Rarely does a buyer get a place that’s move-in ready. By the time you’ve signed a contract, you have lots of ideas about how you’ll live in the home, how you’ll customize it and what work needs to be done.

If the place needs work, don’t wait until you’ve closed to engage a professional. Either at your final walkthrough or during a private appointment, get the proper contractors in the house and start collecting bids for necessary work. If possible, have floor sanding, painting or small fix-it work done before you move in. Real estate agents work with all kinds of tradespeople, so they’re often a great resource for referrals. 

2. Set up the utilities

Some people assume the utilities will work once they walk in. While many utility companies have grace periods (the days between when the seller cancels service and the new owner calls), you can’t always assume this will be the case. If you have an out-of-town seller, they may have canceled services the day they knew all contingencies were removed. In this instance, the grace period likely lapsed, and you may be stuck dealing with the electric company, waiting for an appointment or just being without power when you really want to start painting, fixing or cleaning.

The best plan is to call the utility companies and get service set up well before closing. If they haven’t received cancellation notice from the seller, let the seller know to take care of that.

3. Change the locks

Assume that everyone has a set of keys to your new home. The seller’s real estate agent likely gave copies to their assistant, a painter, a stager or even another agent at some point during the listing period. That’s why the first person you should call after getting the keys is a locksmith.

4. Hire a cleaning crew

There’s nothing worse than showing up with the movers, dozens of boxes and your personal belongings only to discover the seller hasn’t had the place cleaned.

Assume the worst and get a professional cleaning crew in there the minute after closing. Even if the seller did clean, they may have done a poor job. You want to start life in your new home with a clean slate. The bones of the place will be sparkling clean, and you won’t be scrambling to get cleaners in while the home is in a state of unpacking disarray.

5. Have a handyperson, contractor or designer on call

Moving involves the kind of stuff you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Things like aligning your framed artwork, centering the couch in the living room or getting the large rug set up in the master bedroom can drive you crazy.

While it may seem like a luxury, investing a few hundred dollars in hiring someone to help with these tasks will save time and potentially relieve you of a giant headache.

Thinking ahead is the way to go

As your closing date draws near, you’re probably exhausted. But taking a little extra time to plan ahead will save you time, money and stress — and make the move into your new home so much more satisfying.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow. Originally published February 2013.

Source: zillow.com

How to Measure the Square Footage of a House or Apartment

It’s important to understand just how big your space is.

When you find the perfect place to rent in your chosen neighborhood that’s also within your budget, you probably aren’t wondering whether the square footage in the listing is accurate. However, that calculation is one of the most important factors when evaluating a property’s value. After all, if your rent is based on 1,200 square feet, you have the right to get what you’re paying for, right?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides guidelines for measuring and calculating residential square footage. Many builders and real estate agents follow these, but because compliance with these standards is voluntary, what’s advertised isn’t always accurate.

Also, square footage guidelines can vary depending on where you live: Some states disclose this information, and others don’t. Here’s how to measure the square footage of a house or apartment.

Gather a few supplies for the task

Tape measurer on wood.

Calculating square footage is pretty easy. First, you will need a couple of things on hand that will help you measure the space:

  • A large piece of paper
  • A pencil
  • A calculator
  • A laser measuring tool or a measuring tape

Sketch out your space

If you’re planning to rent a one-story condo that’s rectangular, that’s an easy calculation: Measure the width and length, in feet, and then multiply those two numbers.

Since most properties aren’t perfectly shaped, however, you’ll probably need to complete a few steps to get the full picture. Begin by drawing a diagram of all rooms and hallways, and be sure to label each one so you can keep track of the measurements.

If you’re looking at a new rental unit, ask the landlord if you can see the builder plans of your apartment’s floor plan because the square footage is usually already calculated.

Measure each room

Going room by room, measure the length and width, rounding off to the nearest half-foot.

Real estate agents often use an electronic laser distance measuring tool. If you have one, place it on a wall, aiming it directly at the wall opposite it. You will then see the square footage displayed on the device’s screen. A tape measure works well if you don’t have a laser tool.

Multiply those numbers, rounding off to the nearest square foot, then write down your measurement on your sketch. For instance, if the kitchen is 10 feet by 16 feet, the total square footage is 160 square feet.

If a room has an alcove, such as a living room with an area for a home office, measure that space separately and add it to the overall square footage of the room. The same is true for rooms with closets: measure each one by multiplying the length by width.

Sketching out square footage of an apartment space.

Leave out these spaces, because they don’t count

Generally, ANSI standards suggest counting only finished spaces — any lived-in area that has walls, a ceiling height of seven feet or more and a floor. So, if you can’t walk on or live in a certain spot, that is a non-usable space, not part of the gross living area. For example, if you’re renting a house, patios, porches and garages — don’t count towards your unit’s square footage. If the garage is converted into a living space though, it will count in the overall square footage.

Pool houses, storage areas or guest houses are also excluded, and in some states, so basements.

Calculator.

Add up all your measurements

Once you’ve measured each space, you can add up all your numbers to find out the rental unit’s total square footage.

How to calculate square footage if you can’t visit the unit

If you’re apartment hunting from another location and can’t physically measure the rooms, there are other ways to find out a house’s total square footage.

You can look up the city or county’s property records. Some towns make detailed property records — including square footage — available online. If not, and you’re working with a real estate agent, he or she can pull this information for you.

Or, you can hire an appraiser to measure the property for you.

Square footage is an important factor when renting

Measuring an apartment or house’s square footage helps determine its value. While knowing this information can help you decide if a property is worth the rent being charged, remember that calculating square footage is subjective.

Some landlords and real estate agents may use ANSI guidelines and some not. Certain states require square footage in every listing description while others do not. That’s why it’s up to you to figure it out yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.

Source: rent.com

Selling a Property with Tenants

In this article:

How do I sell a rental property with tenants?

When you decide it’s time to sell your rental property, there are two main courses of action you can take as a landlord: Waiting for the lease to expire before selling, or selling while your tenants are still living in the home. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options.

In many parts of the country, the real estate market is booming, which means that landlords who may have been holding onto a property while they waited for their equity to increase may now decide that it’s finally the right time to sell.

Of course, if you are a landlord selling a house, there are probably people living in it. Selling with tenants can be a challenge, and a tenant can make or break your sale. You’ll have to plan well in advance, communicate openly with your tenant, and make some compromises in order for your sale to be a success. Let’s explore the pros and cons of each option.

Option 1: Wait for the lease to expire

Pros

Allows time for updates: If you’re able to wait for your tenants to move out, you’ll be able to clean, do any cosmetic updates, and just generally spruce up the home before listing, which may help you snag a higher sale price.

Can alleviate timing issues with closing: In a hot real estate market, the home could sell quicker than you expect, and depending on the terms of the lease and regulations in your state, you may have trouble getting your tenants out in time. If the home is unoccupied when you list it, you can accept the best offer without having to worry about timing.

Cons

Mortgage carrying costs: Each month without tenants is a month when you’re on the hook for the mortgage payment. If it takes a few months to prepare your home for sale, list, accept an offer, and close, you’ll be responsible for the full carrying costs.

Landlord solution

Once the lease has expired, you’ll probably want to get the property sold as quickly as possible. Consider selling with Zillow Offers. You can have an all-cash offer in-hand before your tenants have even moved out. If you like the offer you receive, you can close quickly and reliably, on a date that works with your (and your tenant’s) timeline.

Option 2: Sell with tenants in the home

Pros

Built-in staging: When a home is furnished, buyers often have an easier time picturing themselves living there. If your tenant has taken good care of the home and decorated it nicely, it may be more desirable to potential buyers.

It’s attractive to investors: Having tenants already living in the property is a big selling point for anyone who might be looking to buy the home as an investment property — you’ll be saving them the hassle of finding a tenant!

Cons

Disgruntled tenants can make showings difficult: You’ve just told your tenant they have to move out. And now you expect them to keep the home showing-level clean and accommodate showings and open houses? This can be a difficult pill to swallow, and unpredictable tenants can have a big impact on how the house shows.

Landlord solution

In order to persuade your tenants to cooperate with your listing plans, consider offering them lower rent for a few months in exchange for an agreement to show a clean and well-kept home. Other incentives include offering a flexible move-out date or reimbursing moving costs.

Review lease agreement to determine legal options

Whichever path you choose, the first step you should always take is reviewing the lease agreement you have with your tenant. You should also look up laws in your state regarding how much notice to vacate you are required to give. Your real estate agent can be a great resource for local legal requirements, as well as offer tips for a successful sale with tenants in the home.

The actions you can take — and when — mostly depend on what type of lease agreement you have with your tenants.

Month-to-month lease

Send a letter to your tenants, letting them know the date their lease agreement will be canceled and the date they’ll need to move out. In most states, you need to give them either 30 or 60 days’ notice, but make sure to check your local laws. Whether you can show the property while they’re still living depends on your existing lease agreement.

Fixed-term lease

If the lease includes an early termination clause, you can vacate your tenants with proper notice. If not, you’ll just have to wait until their lease is up. There is one exception: If your tenant has failed to pay rent or violated any lease terms, you may be able to terminate the lease early.  

Give thought to the message and delivery

You can catch more flies with honey, so the old saying goes. And these important conversations with your tenants go a lot more smoothly when you consider not only what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it.

Be respectful and informative

Meeting in person is best, so ask your tenant to meet you for a cup of coffee. Make sure to allow enough time to address all of their questions.

landlord notifying tenant of home sale

When selling rental property, it’s best to be straightforward and open with your tenant.

Offer your tenant a chance to buy

If your tenant really loves where they live, they might be interested in buying the home. It’s fine to approach your tenant about this option directly, but if they’re interested in purchasing, you’ll definitely want to work with a real estate attorney. There are a few ways these transactions can happen:

  • A lease-to-own with a one-time, non-refundable option fee that allows tenants the right to purchase the home within the year, at a set price. In the meantime, they keep paying rent.
  • A lease-to-own agreement that is structured so a portion of the rent goes toward a down payment.
  • A seller-finance agreement. You, as the property owner, serve as the lender, instead of a bank. The tenant agrees to make payments to you over a period of a few years, often with one balloon payment. The biggest benefit for the seller is the money you’ll make in interest on the debt. In order to take advantage of this type of sale, you’ll need to own the home free and clear, without a mortgage.

Go over all the details

It’s best to agree in writing on things like how much notice you’ll give before showings (at least 24 hours is usually the legal minimum), what time of day the showings will happen, and what condition the home should be in.

All photos from Shutterstock.

Source: zillow.com

Buying A Home? Here’s How To Navigate Intense Bidding Wars

It’s no secret that residential real estate is an extreme seller’s market. For sellers, this is excellent news, as many are netting hefty profits on their home sales. For buyers, however, the stress of multiple offer situations, higher prices, and intense bidding wars has become the new normal.

If homebuying is on your 2021 radar, it’s crucial to prepare for the reality of this market. And while you may have heard horror stories of bidding wars, don’t worry — it IS possible to win a multiple-offer situation and secure the house of your dreams! Here are 7 things to know when navigating these situations.

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Come Out Strong

Even if a home isn’t currently in a multiple-offer situation, it can become one in a matter of hours. That’s why it’s important for buyers to always put their best offer on the table from the start. While buyers may hope the seller will negotiate a lower offer, that just isn’t the reality of the current real estate market. Sellers have the luxury of rejecting any offer that isn’t ideal.

Dan McQuillen of The Danberry Company Realtors in NW Ohio says “In this market we are telling the buyers that they better assume they only get one chance at getting the house.” But, what is a strong offer in this market? In a nutshell, meeting the seller’s list price or above, not asking for concessions, providing a quick close, and even requesting minimal to no repairs, could go a long way in winning intense bidding wars.

Get Pre-Approved

While cash is king in the real estate world, most homebuyers need to obtain a loan to purchase. Sellers want the reassurance that buyers have the capability of getting approved for a home loan. McQuillen adds that he frequently sees buyers make the mistake of “not being pre-approved with a reputable lender.” By working with a local lender who is confident in your loan approval, you can help reassure sellers that you’re a qualified buyer who can make it to the closing table.

(READ MORE: How to Finance Your Home)

Keep Requests To A Minimum

In a seller’s market, the seller is in the driver’s seat, leaving buyers at their mercy. Given the current status of the real estate market, sellers don’t need to provide concessions to buyers. Sellers in today’s market prioritize “clean” offers: no closing cost assistance, no contingencies, no additional warranties, etc. McQuillen sums it up: “Don’t nickel and dime the seller.”

If a buyer does need to request seller-paid closing costs on their behalf, McQuillen suggests “write a higher offer and find out what else is important to the seller. There may be things besides price that the seller would like.”

Be Prepared To Lose A Few Rounds

It’s not uncommon for homebuyers to go through multiple rounds of bidding wars on multiple homes before they finally get an offer accepted. This is what causes many buyers to become discouraged with the process. However, it is possible to buy a home in this market—you just need perseverance, a highly experienced real estate agent, and realistic expectations.

Get An Agent….Then Get Real

The single greatest asset in navigating an intense seller’s market is a dedicated advocate in your corner. A buyer’s agent is a representative who does much of the heavy lifting for buyers. Their experience and knowledge of the market can assist buyers in creating offers that provide the most appeal—from price, to closing date, and everything in between. Buyer’s agents are knee-deep in multiple offer situations every day, and many have the hard-earned experience to set their client’s offer apart from the crowd.

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One of the greatest mistakes a buyer can make in a multiple offer situation is have lofty expectations. Expecting sellers to reduce the sale price, leave behind thousands of dollars worth of furniture or complete extensive repairs is simply not the reality of this real estate market. If you’re not entirely sure what the whole reality of the market is, it’s one more reason to work with an agent.

Be Flexible

Several factors can help you navigate intense bidding wars, but there is one thing that could derail all those efforts: inflexibility. If you’re unwilling to look outside a geographic area, or rigid on your closing date, or refuse to negotiate on the terms of your offer—you will create a scenario that only brings more difficulty and frustration.

In all areas of the process, it’s important that buyers are flexible. That flexibility can help you stand out among a sea of offers.

McQuillen suggests “It could be that the seller would really like to sell the house and be able to rent back the house for a period of time,” so by offering a flexible close date, your offer could very well rise to the top of the list.

Know When To Fold Them

In this market, real estate agents are seeing buyers offer thousands of dollars over list price, waiving inspections, and even agreeing to pay over appraisal value out of desperation to win bidding wars. But, that desperation can be a recipe for buyer’s remorse.

As McQuillen explains, “The risk in waiving an inspection is there are some pretty significant issues with the house that the purchaser would be stuck with. The risk of waiving an appraisal is that the house doesn’t appraise and, worse yet, appraises for significantly less than the purchase price; then the purchaser has to come up with more money out of pocket than they were anticipating.”

If in the course of the bidding war the seller is expecting you to overextend yourself or open you up to greater risk, it’s okay to walk away from negotiations. It’s better to have rejected the deal than to sign up for a bad deal.

Extra Advice: Stay Informed

Trends and market conditions can change in mere hours, so stay informed with all the up-to-date information you need with Homes.com resources. Local market reports, tips and advice, and consumer resources are all at your fingertips, so keep us bookmarked!


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com