Trust and verify – home buyer due diligence

home for saleIf you’re a home buyer who’s ready to jump into the housing market this spring, you’ve probably begun searching to see what’s on the market. You may have already met a real estate agent or two; and if you’ve haven’t yet talked with a mortgage lender for a prequalification, it’s probably high on your priority list.

Before you know it, you’ve selected an agent, mortgage lender, and title attorney to assist you; and you find yourself increasingly perceptive and selective about the homes you view. Guess what? You’re in the process of buying a home! But before you put the buying process on cruise control, how much trust should you put into the professionals helping you?

It’s not to say that real estate agents, loan officers, home inspectors, and anyone else assisting your home purchase are not qualified – but no one is perfect. Buying a home is probably one of the biggest purchases you’ll make during your life. The idiom “trust but verify” should be your mantra throughout the home buying process to ensure due diligence.

Have you verified the credentials of those you’ve hired? Believe it or not, there are some who are doing business without the authorization of the corresponding licensing agency. And yet, some reasons given for not having a license may sound innocuous, such as forgetting about a license renewal deadline; other reasons may not seem as innocent (for example, licensed professionals from neighboring jurisdictions, DC or VA, attempt to do business locally where they are not licensed).

Professional licensure is a regulatory safeguard that provides consumers a pool of professionals that meet or exceed a minimum professional competency. Agencies such as the Maryland Real Estate Commission; Maryland Home Improvement Commission; Maryland Commission of Real Estate Appraisers, Appraisal Management Companies, and Home Inspectors; Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation; and the Maryland Insurance Administration offers an internet portal to verify a licensee’s status, check for disciplinary actions, and also explains how to file a complaint.

Information is believed to be accurate, but should not be relied upon without verification. Accuracy of square footage, lot size, schools and other information is not guaranteed…” is a disclaimer used by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc (MRIS) prompting you to verify MLS listing information. Although MRIS strives for accuracy in MLS listings, providing guidelines and standards for MLS data; exactness and truthfulness can vary because data input is performed by many agents and/or their staff. You can verify schools by checking the Montgomery County Public Schools “School Assignment Tool” (; zoning, development and other information can be verified through the Montgomery County Planning Department (

Was the home seller into the DYI (do-it-yourself) trend? Is it possible the seller hired unlicensed contractors to repair or renovate the home prior to listing? Make sure any improvements and recent repairs have had the proper permitting! The permitting process certifies that repairs/renovations comply with building and zoning codes, which are in place to ensure that houses are safe, structurally sound, and meet health standards. Most permits can be checked online via Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services ( “eServices” data search portal.

Most home buyers are familiar with basics of the home buying process. However, “trust and verify” can help identify and reduce hidden and obscure risks; conducting due diligence can make your home buying experience increasingly trouble free and more enjoyable.

© Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Preparations before you buy a home

House - Chevy Chase MDSo, you’ve been checking out homes online and have been bitten by the “bug.” You’ve patiently waited out the market and feel it’s time to jump in but not sure where to start. Whether you’re a seasoned or first time home buyer; don’t make the common mistake of overlooking the essential preliminary activities of the home buying process.

Experts agree that checking your credit report prior to starting the home buying process is essential. Your credit report is the basis for the credit score that is often used by mortgage lenders to decide if you qualify for a loan, and it may also be used as a means to decide your interest rate. If your credit report is inaccurate, it can cost you time and money.

Believe it or not, mistakes on credit reports are more common than you might think. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), you’re entitled to a free annual credit report, which can be obtained for free from the “official” credit report website ( The free report does not include a credit score, however, you can get it from the credit repositories for a fee; the CFPB cautions that the scores you receive may not be the same scores that lenders use for decisions on extending credit.

I often talk about doing due diligence, and many home buyers are attentive and thorough in negotiation, and home inspections; but many are not as careful when choosing their real estate agent and lender. Although buyers tend to work with the first or second agent they meet; there is a consensus that you should interview several real estate agents so as to know what to expect and to ensure you receive the service and attention you require. The same goes for any service provider you may use in the process, including the mortgage lender. And even though it has become more common for buyers to talk with several loan officers about mortgage programs and interest rates; however, it is recommended that you ask about lender fees as well.

Don’t be shy in choosing in choosing other service providers either – it’s going to be your home after all. Choosing a home inspector, pest inspector, and title company can take a little time, and it may seem easier to go with whomever your agent recommends; but sometimes price or proficiency is sacrificed for convenience. For example, a few moments of time to interview home inspectors can be the difference between having an adequate home inspection or a very thorough one.

Before you spend time visiting homes, it is highly recommended that you get qualified for a mortgage by a lender. An approval indicating that your income and asset documents and credit report were reviewed by the loan officer gives added credence to any purchase offer.

Don’t forget to make a housing budget. In addition to your mortgage payment, insurance, and property taxes, the budget should include utilities, maintenance and other expected expenses. The budget should also project increases in these payments as well. Rather than keeping to the maximum loan qualification, a realistic budget can reveal your comfort level on the price you’re willing to pay for a home.

Besides your real estate agent, more information about credit reports, mortgages and the home buying process is available from the CFPB ( and HUD ( With preparation, your home buying journey will be more enjoyable!

by Dan Krell ©
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of April 21, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Coping with buyer’s remorse

by Dan Krell
© 2012

Coping with buyer’s remorse: regretting your home purchase

homeDid you ever have the nagging feeling, after buying something like an expensive piece of clothing, that maybe you should’ve saved your money or waited for the sale? If you’ve experienced buyer’s remorse, then you know that doubting feeling. Did you know that the likelihood of experiencing buyer’s remorse increases as the expense of the item purchased increases? Buyer’s remorse from buying a home can sometimes leave you feeling uncertain and hesitant.

Buyer’s remorse is sometimes referred to by consumer experts as post purchase dissonance, and is often caused by a discrepancy between a home buyer’s experiences and their beliefs. Simply stated, buyer’s remorse is when the home buyer feels regret about their home purchase. Although many home buyers may experience buyer’s remorse to varying degrees; not all home buyers experience buyer’s remorse.

Consumer behavior experts concur that the probability of experiencing buyer’s remorse is more likely to occur when the decision is binding and/or has a long term commitment, while there are other viable options available, along with a concerted effort in choosing the perfect home, placing a high level of emotional significance on the purchase, and the buyer’s propensity to experience anxiety.

As a home buyer, you might think that the home buying process is ripe for buyer’s remorse because: a real estate contract is not easy to back out of; you might feel that there is a considerable financial commitment; after making a thoughtful choice of home, you fantasize of the home with the features your home does not have, and with a lower price tag; you have placed an emotional investment on buying the home; and you’re feeling the pressure of the home buying process.

If you’re planning a home purchase, be aware that most people may feel some amount of buyer’s remorse sometime during the home buying process. However you can reduce the negative impact of the experience if you:

Respect the buying process: You should recognize that buying a home can be stressful, and can create feelings of anxiety when the unexpected occurs. Do what you can to minimize any additional stress and pressure created by the demands of buying a home.

Choose the right real estate agent for you: The interaction you have with your agent is subjective. The worst feeling you could have is when your agent is MIA when you need them. Working with a responsive agent, who makes themselves available when you need them, can reduce any additional anxiety that is created from ambiguous situations that can pop up during the process.

Don’t continue searching for homes: Once your offer is accepted, you should stop looking at available homes. You are more likely to increase doubts about your purchase if you compare how homes on the market differ from yours. However, consumer research indicates that your confidence about your purchase increases if you recognize how those homes are similar to yours.

Take what others say with a grain of salt: It’s difficult to be discreet about your home purchase, especially with your family and close friends; and, of course they won’t withhold their opinions about it either. Having the opportunity to listen to another’s view point about the home and the process could solidify your confidence about your home purchase- when you put their input in perspective and recognize that their advice may not apply to your situation.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of October 29, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Should you buy a home?

by Dan Krell
© 2011

Last year I attempted to answer the question everyone was asking, “Should I buy a home in today’s economy?” (see: Is now the time to buy a home? The question continues to be as legitimate (or more so) today than it was a year ago.

The recent big surprise (or not) is the increased chatter about a double dip recession. Unlike last year’s mixed economic data and discussion of a sluggish economy, recent economic data suggest continued angst on many fronts, including housing. Unlike previous years’ economic hardships, when stimulus plans and tax cuts encouraged optimism; recent housing data may not only fail to illicit optimism, but has many experts talking about a deeper recession- or even a depression.

But there are bright spots as well!

Although we have not yet reached the levels to declare an economic depression, consider that Zillow ( reported in January of this year that the decrease in national home values from November 2010 further pushed the fifty-three month decline of the Zillow Home Value Index to 26% from the all time high in 2006. Zillow pointed out that the 26% decrease from the all time high in home values exceeds the 25.9% decline of home values between the “depression-era years” of 1928 and 1933.

Further adding to the buzz in the housing industry is the most recent S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices (, released May 31st. Analyzing housing data through March 2011, the conclusion was that nationwide home prices are now where they were in 2002. Data indicated that the U.S. National Home Price Index fell 4.2% during the first quarter of this year; compared to the first quarter of 2010, the index revealed an annual decrease of home prices of 5.1%. The Washington DC region was the only city in this press release where there was a quarterly and annual increase in home prices.

Unemployment continues to be a drag on the economy. Solving this issue might very well be the key to solving the continued housing doldrums. A study conducted by the Florida Realors® (“The Face of Foreclosure”; points out the correlation between unemployment and foreclosure. The April 6th 2010 press release quoted, Florida Realtors® vice president of public policy, John Sebree, as saying “”…In most cases, it was a combination of rising living costs, unemployment or decreased pay, health issues and other factors that caused homeowners to get into trouble. Simple answers and trite political responses just don’t tell the whole story.”

Renting is the other side of the housing equation. Although renting is becoming trendy, it is also becoming more expensive. Trulia’s ( most recent rent vs. buy index of second quarter data, released April 28th, indicated that buying a home is more affordable than renting in 80% of the major cities polled! It was more expensive to buy a home compared to renting in the Kansas City, Fort Worth, and New York City regions of the country; the Washington DC region was rated as one of the areas where it was “Much Less Expensive To Buy Than To Rent.”

Home ownership is not for everyone. If you’re thinking of buying a home, consider that timing the market typically yields mixed results. A better approach to home buying is reviewing your long term plans and goals with your financial planner; as well as a keeping tabs on the local market with your Realtor®.

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Comments are welcome. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 6, 2011. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2011 Dan Krell.

People need a place to live: Rental properties are surging

by Dan Krell

People need a place to live. This is the mantra of many savvy real estate investors who are looking for fantastic buys on homes to use as rental properties. Real estate investors know that rental properties are looking better because markets are cyclical. Investors following the real estate market know that many people wanting to purchase a home prefer to rent during uncertain financial times.

The “MRIS Trends in Housing; Mid-Year 2008” (Metro Regional Information Systems Inc, appears to confirm what real estate investors know. The report states that potential home buyers prefer to rent while timing “their entry into the market.” Interestingly, vacancies for traditional apartment complexes rose to 3.6% (from 2.9%) in the last year, indicating that renters are choosing to rent single family homes and condos rather than a traditional apartment. The report points to home sellers converting their “homes for sale” to “homes for rent” for the increase in apartment vacancies.

The MRIS report also states that rents increased 3.1% in the last year. Unlike the rental market of several years ago, where renters were negotiating leases way below list price, real estate investors are expecting to rent housing at a premium.

How much should you pay for a rental property? Savvy real estate investors typically do not want to pay any more than 70% of retail value for their rental properties; however many set their price tolerance lower. Consulting with a Realtor can assist your analysis in how much to offer for any home.

Let’s face it, if you intend to buy at bargain prices, you will probably be purchasing the home “as-is.” Seasoned investors will account for the cost repairs to bring the home up to code in their purchase price. Consulting with a licensed contractor can assist you in determining what repairs and updates are necessary.

Buying a home at the right price is only part of the equation. When considering a rental property, investors look for a home in a prime location. For example, having a rental near a metro stop can sometimes rent faster and for more money than an equivalent rental in a secluded neighborhood.

Some investors might say that the goal of buying a rental property is to have the home “pay for itself.” This means that the rent you collect should cover the home’s mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance and other expenses. Consulting with a Realtor and a rental management company can assist your neighborhood rent analysis.

Make no mistake, real estate investing is risky. Success as a real estate investor is not assured. From dealing with bad tenants to carrying a vacant rental property, every investor has a horror story.

Whether you are a seasoned or novice investor, you should always do your home work and consult professionals (such as your attorney, accountant, Realtor, financial advisor) to assist you in deciding if buying a rental property is right for you. Additionally your professional network can assist in determining your risk level as well as assisting you in creating your real estate investment plan. If you decide to become a real estate investor, maintaining communication with your professional network can help you anticipate and possibly overcome any bumps in the road toward your goals.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of October 6, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.