Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Fun--Which Home in the Hundred Acre Wood would be YOUR Choice?

Okay all you homebuyers out there....Just imagine for one moment that you were going to buy a home in the Hundred Acre Wood (you know that wonderful place where Winnie the Pooh and all his pals hang out). Let's pretend that Pooh and all his friends have decided to put their homes up for sale. Whose home would you choose?
  • Eeyore's? I'd avoid this one. An A-Frame built of sticks without a proper foundation that a butterfly could knock down in a second isn't worth consideration.
  • Gopher's? Though Gopher's actual home is never shown, it would appear to be underground. Underground, earth berm homes lack the curb appeal necessary for most buyers.
  • Owl's? The tree Owl's house is built in doesn't seem to support the weight of the home. On a very blustery day, the whole thing could be blown down.
  • Pooh's? Now at first glance, Pooh's place looks sturdy but I'd question the upkeep of a home maintained by a bear of very little brain. When a homeowner cannot even take down the name plaque of the previous owner, Mr. Saunders, it is doubtful that he would have the ability to do the upkeep on the interior. Besides when the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down, much of it ended up inside Pooh's house.
  • Rabbit's? Now Rabbit was a character that really took care of his property! He always seems to have a rake or broom in his hand. His garden is fenced and meticulously arranged. But he does seem to have a egress problem with his door. If a guest cannot have dinner, or several pots of honey, without getting stuck on the way out, there is a problem.
  • Tigger's? It seems that Tigger may be the homeless resident of the Hundred Acre Wood as he is always bouncing up to his neighbor's homes but never appears to be at his own.
  • Christopher Robin's? Though probably the best choice of a home as it is currently being occupied by humans, Christopher Robin's home is not located in the Hundred Acre Woods and so it does not meet your current buying criteria.
  • Kanga's? All things considered, I would choose Kanga and Roo's home. Kanga seems to have a lovely, well maintained rambler with a covered front porch. We know it is a two bedroom because Roo has his own bedroom. All other homes in the wood appear to be one room efficiency dwellings. To me, Kanga's two bedroom gem appears to be a choice for a home buyer in the Hundred Acre Wood.
The question above is whimsical but not unlike what an actual buyer might go through when considering homes for sale currently listed in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Multiple Listing Service (MLS). I have shown a few foreclosures in the past that were not much better than Eeyore's pile of sticks. This is especially true when it comes to unmaintained decks. There have been several so rickety, that my clients and I avoided being on at the same time, if at all.

I have also shown homes with narrow hallways and doorways. Though, I only recall one home where a full grown person could have actually gotten stuck in the floor opening of a spiral stairway, there were several others where I had to recommend buyers to consider how furniture would get in and out due to tight corners and narrow spaces.
And maintenance issues, or lack there of, by people whose heads seem to be a little "stuffed with fluff" is a common occurrence. I have seen homes where repairs were quite literally made with duct tape rather than a proper replacement.

Most home buyers strive to find the well maintained gem similar to Kanga's house. Buyer's dream homes usually are properties where all repairs and replacements have been made to code with proper materials. It is a house that is usable and accessible to everyone in the family without ducking their heads or turning sideways to squeeze through a doorway. Sometimes a buyer will even choose to look outside their original location parameters and consider a home on the edge of the preferred community to buy the exceptional home of their dreams.
Finding and buying the perfect home takes time but the process is made much easier when working with a knowledgeable REALTOR® that can tell an Eeyore-designed pile of sticks from a comfortable cabin like Kanga's.

*Note All Character Photos were shots of Disney® Pins in a personal collection.

Copyright 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's the Weekend! Let's Hit the Road and Check Out Open Houses!

It’s almost spring! (Okay...after the winter we have been having we can pretend right?) Now that springtime-buy-a-new-house bug is starting to bite. You know that little feeling that tells you that this is the year to buy a new home.

Interest rates are low still at record breaking lows (and we know they cannot stay there much longer). There is a great selection of new and existing homes. And frankly, you are just tired of renting!

So how do you go about finding a first home? Most people start on the internet. Since you are reading this, it is a good bet that your first step will be an online search. But after spending days, weeks and months online, now its time to venture outdoors and see some houses.

So on a perfect winter Sunday, you start driving by some of the properties that were presented so beautifully on the computer screen. You see the real estate signs and the open house arrows, you drive slowly past the home but can't step on the pedal that will slow the car. You are frozen with questions.

What will you say to the agent in the home?
What do you do?
Relax. You are not alone. Many first time home buyers panic outside of an open house because the are unsure of what will be expected of them after they walk through the door. Heck, some aren’t sure before they step over the threshold whether or not to ring the doorbell or just walk in. So you are in very good company if you have been driving by your dream homes.
Here’s a few tips for getting the most out of attending real estate open houses.
  1. Get out of the car! Sounds so simple but you can tell more about the home from the inside of the house than the inside of your car.

  2. Walk right in! If you feel self conscious, ring the doorbell first just for fun. That way you can be certain it works.

  3. If the agent doesn’t say “Hello”, say it first. Let them know you are just checking out the place.

  4. Take a look around. Check out every room, closets, basements, attics and ask the agent questions about the home.

  5. While you are checking out the house, check out the agent. Size up REALTOR to see if he or she is someone that you would want to represent you in the purchase of your home.
Here’s the thing, the first home you visit may or may not be your dream home after all. Heck, probably not even the second or third one will have that "IT" factor for you.
But stopping in open houses gives you a unique opportunity to size up REALTORS. Yep you want to check out several agents to find one that you would want to work with for the next few months. (The home buying process can take a 3-4 months want to make sure you LIKE the person you are working with!) If you take a Sunday and go to 6-7 open houses, you will meet 6-7 different agents. Some you will like; some you will hate; and one you will downright love to work with.
When you make that connection with a REALTOR, sign a buyers’ representation agreement, visit with a loan officer for pre-approval for a loan, and then have your agent show you every home on your short list. Not all home owners allow open houses. Working with one agent will save you time and frustration and allow you to quickly see all of the homes you have been scouting out online.

So what are you waiting for? Get in the car and get out there. Your perfect home and REALTOR awaits!

One Last Tip...If you really don't think you can get out of the car, start visiting REALTOR blogs to get a feel of an agent's personality. Find a few agents that you like and call them to discuss your needs. When you make a connection, sign a representation agreement with the agent. Now your REALTOR will set up private showings and take the open house pressure away.

Copyright 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

First Time Homebuyer’s Real Estate Word for Today is Dual Agent

In a past episode of Cash Cab, an Emmy award winning television game show, a taxi full of contestants with stumped by the acronym, FSBO. This is a term often used in the real estate world to describe a person selling their home by owner (For Sale By Owner). As a REALTOR® I was a bit surprised but then I started to remember of all the times a glazed look came over a buyer’s eyes when I mentioned escrow or earnest money. These terms are also easily be confused with other real estate and mortgage terms like down payment or cash to close. Buyer confusion is totally understandable because homebuyers are not buying a house everyday.

This is only one of many terms that could possibly confuse a First Time Homebuyer so I thought a glossary of real estate terms might be helpful. For the past several weeks I am presented terms often used by REALTORS® in a series of posts for the first time homebuyer with explanations. This way you can skip buying that big “how to buy a house” book or attending that
First Time Homebuyer Class and have a quick resource at your fingertips. I am continuing the series with Today’s Real Estate Term:

Dual Agent When the same broker represents both the buyer and the seller in a transaction it is Dual Agency. The term dual agent sounds a bit sinister, after all in a good spy movie a dual agent is sharing secrets and usually to the detriment of both countries and organizations involved. However in real estate there is no espionage involved. All agents must explain agency to clients before substantial real estate discussions take place.

All real estate agents work for a broker which an organization that holds their license. In a smaller company, the broker may also sell real estate and work as an agent. In fact, her/she may be the only agent in the brokerage. The important thing to understand is that every agent working for a specific broker in essence represents every buyer and seller when a contract for representation is signed. This means no agent in the brokerage can do anything to break the fiduciary duties of loyalty or confidentiality (or any other fiduciary duty).

So when an agent at a specific brokerage writes up a contract for his/her buyer for a colleague’s listing the office, that agent is no longer a buyer’s agent. It becomes a dual agency. A buyer needs to understand that he should sign a contract for representation BEFORE seeing any homes or writing up any offer. At the point of the contract, the buyer can agree to dual agency or request exclusive buyer agency. If the buyer agrees to potential dual agencies, they may choose to visit homes listed by their agent's broker. Whenever they do, their buyer's agent automatically becomes a dual agent and cannot discuss offer any strategy that would compromise the seller (and vice versa).

Copyright 2011