Monday, October 31, 2011

REALTOR® Selection 101—How to Choose the BEST REALTOR® for YOU! (Part One of Two)

How does the average home buyer or seller find their REALTOR®? Did they meet a friendly person hosting an open house? Call their best friend's brother who just got licensed? Answer an ad on Craigslist? I don't know the percentages but I am certain that most home buyers don't spend any more time researching their real estate agent than they do their groceries. But a home is not an everyday purchase; it is too big of a decision to not have sound advice. So how does one select a good REALTOR® to work with?

The average American will buy or sell property only 2-3 times during their lifetime. It is imperative to have a logical process to select a real estate agent. Purchasing and selling a home for your family is a very emotional situation. If you chose an agent wisely, you will be confident that your REALTOR® is on your side through the entire purchase and/or sale even when your emotions are running high.

As a REALTOR® working in the Twin Cities north metro, I love assisting people to find the perfect home. Many of my clients come from the referrals of past clients but I also meet home buyers at open houses and through various marketing avenues. When I meet a potential client, I expect questions about myself and my business. I answer additional questions about living on acreage, wetlands and lakeshore. I field questions on properties in Anoka, Washington and Ramsey Counties. Sometime the questions are about specifics of homes the buyer is interested in and often the questions are about the real estate market in general. But unfortunately not all of these potential clients ask pertinent questions. Some are already be caught up in the emotional buying process of a major life change.

Here is a great step-by-step approach to selecting the perfect REALTOR® for you. Part one of this article outlines how you can prepare yourself to set up meetings with potential REALTORS®. Part two (which I will post tomorrow) will give you specific questions you can ask of potential agents so that you can make a good decision.

Step ONE
Ask YOURSELF these few questions

1. Who do you trust for advice?

Is it a parent or grandparent? Maybe a close friend or uncle? Or is it your sibling or boss? Think about the qualities that person possesses and why you look at them as an advisor. If your trusted advisor is your grandfather, you might prefer working with someone older. If you tend to bring your problems to your best friend, you might want a REALTOR® with similar characteristics to your friend.

2. How demanding are you?

If you are an impatient person who needs answers as soon as you think of a question, you will need a REALTOR® that is available to you. If you are more laid back, you might prefer a REALTOR® with a similar style.

3. Do you prefer to use email, text or the phone as your main source of information?

Some REALTORS® are very computer savvy and will answer an email within a few minutes. Some love to text with their clients to provide an immediate answer. Others answer emails once a week and don't even know how to send a text There are REALTORS® who return calls only one time a day or week. There are others that always answer their own phone and others that have an assistant to field calls and answer basic questions.

4. Are you into gadgets?

If you are listening to your Ipod while you surf the net on your wireless tablet, you might prefer working with an agent who presents your market analysis in a Powerpoint presentation or emails it to you in a pdf file. If you prefer a paper document to refer back to and make notes on, a REALTOR® with more a more traditional style might be what you need.

5. Do you have expensive tastes and exclusive brands or do you live more modestly?

If you like the finer things in life, you might have more in common with a REALTOR® who drives a BMW and signs contracts with a Mont Blanc pen. If you have a more relaxed style, a REALTOR® in a Ford or Toyota Sedan that uses personalized ballpoints might be more your style.

Step TWO

Even if you have just made mental notes on your preferences as you read the above questions, you now have a good idea of what type of person you prefer working with. Armed with this information, it is time for the second step. RESEARCH Check out websites of potential agents BEFORE you meet them. Read their blogs and review their profiles to determine what their style is. If you cannot ascertain their style from their site, move to the next agent. There are hundreds of good agents out there. But if they cannot market themselves, how will they be able to market your home? Come up with a list of 4 or 5 potential agents and visit your state’s department of commerce website to check for violations on each potential agent’s record.

Now you are ready to interview potential agents. Get some great questions ready so that you can find the best REALTOR® for you. Having trouble coming up with great questions? REALTOR® Selection 101—How to Choose the BEST REALTOR® for YOU! (Part Two of Two) will provide you with some tools to help with the interview process.


It's No Trick--Here's a Halloween Real Estate Treat!

Real estate closings can be fun this time of year and not just because there is a big bowl of candy on the closing table. In Minnesota, when a home is sold by a traditional seller to a new home buyer, all parties sit down in the same room during closings as all the paperwork is done at the same time. After all the signing is done, the closers leave the room to make copies of the documents and to prepare the checks from the final settlement. During this time, sellers often pass over the keys and explain some idiosyncrasies of the home, Often these expected concerns like how to change the code for the electronic door opener or where the water shut off is located. Buyers will question what day the trash is picked up and what the schools are like.

But just before Halloween, the questions and necessary information traded between the seller and the new homeowner become a little more festive. New homeowners from neighborhoods big and small often want to know how many kids are in the neighborhood and consequently, how many bags of candy will be needed. One time an Anoka County seller in a very small neighborhood noted that the 6 year old next store had already come over and let it be known that she prefers Reese's Pieces. Since the little girl was missing a front tooth, the seller made sure to add the necessary lisp for effect. It is good to share a light-hearted moment after all the stress of buying/selling is complete!

Have a festive, fun and safe HALLOWEEN!


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Speechless Sunday (Almost)--Jack Skelllington Reminder to Follow Directions!

In October 2009 on a family vacation to DisneyWorld, I had the opportunity to take a quick drawing class at the Animation exhibit in Disney's Hollywood Studios. My son and I were surprised and delighted to be given step-by-step instructions on how to draw the main character in the Tim Burton classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was a unique opportunity because while the 30 minute drawing classes go on year round, they only give instructions on Jack Skellington a few times a year, just before Halloween.

The fun part about taking this class which is designed for all ages, is that everyone that follows the very simple directions, will leave with a drawing that resembles the instructors.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Time Homebuyer’s Real Estate Word for Today is Appraisal

First Time Homebuyer Real Estate Word is Appraisal

In a past episode of Cash Cab, an Emmy award winning television game show that takes place in a NYC taxicab, a carload of contestants were struggled to define 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 look of confusion came over a buyer’s eyes when I mentioned escrow or earnest money. These terms sound so much alike when being bombarded with new terminology like, mortgage, deed, easement, appraisal, and association dues, etc. It is understandable that a buyer who is more interested in room sizes and kitchen counters to be confused with the everyday real estate jargon like down payment or cash to close. Buyer confusion is totally understandable because afterall for most people, buying a home is a once or twice in a lifetime experience.

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 have 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:

Appraisal An appraisal is the process of determining the value of a parcel of real estate at a particular point in time. A real estate appraiser is an independent 3rd party who will assess the property and prepare a valuation report. This is most often ordered by the buyer’s lender and paid for by the home buyer to verify the amount the buyer is requesting for the mortgage is not more than the current value of the home. The appraiser will try to find three to six comparable homes that have been sold in the last few months to compare to the subject home. The process involves comparing the size, structure, age and features of the subject home/land to the comparable sold homes to determine an appraised value.

An appraisal is similar to a market analysis performed by a real estate agent but it does differ in several key ways. A real estate agent does a market analysis at the request of a seller to determine the best price to list a home. It will take into account homes that are currently listed for sale but an appraisal will not. Appraisers are often licensed and trained to do a precise, detailed value analysis while the market comparison done by a real estate agent is used to determine a price. While an appraiser will charge a fee of several hundred dollars to appraise a property, most real estate agents do not charge a fee to provide a market analysis of a home. A market analysis can be a cost effective way for a homeowner to get value of their home if offered for sale but this document is not acceptable to verify value for a mortgage.