Hire a real estate agent

hore a real estate agentWhy should you hire a real estate agent? Home buying and selling without an agent is not for everyone.

A somewhat prophetic Howard Schneider proclaimed in a 1995 article “For Better or for Worse” (published in Mortgage Banking; 56(1), 110) that a combination of technology and industry consolidation would drastically change the real estate landscape by the end of the 1990’s.

Schneider discussed technology changing the relationship between Realtors® and consumers such that through the development of technology, home sellers and buyers would be able to interact without the use of a real estate agent. He quoted John Moore, then president and CEO of Genesis Relocation Services, “If you can get the word out about your property efficiently to the mass market, you can avoid paying the full brokerage commission…” and “…within five years, most homes will be able to see listings around the country on interactive T.V.”

What Schneider described actually happened,  and is now called “the internet.” The growth of the internet during the first decade of the 21st century allowed home buyers and sellers to interact with each other like no other time. The technology was a boon for those who decided to go it alone, and not hire a real estate agent.

Of course the internet was only a piece to the larger puzzle of the early 2000’s. It seems that for a very brief time, just placing a sign in the yard was enough to spread the word of your home sale.  Deciding price, financing, and closing all seemed to be a “no-brainer.” But five years after the housing boom, it’s evident that not everyone can sell real estate “by owner.” Many moved back to hire a real estate agent.

One of the top reasons for selling or buying a home without a real estate agent is the perception of saving money. People who decide to sell without an agent don’t see the value of hiring an agent; while some buyers who decide to buy without an agent believe they can reduce their sale price by the commission amount.

Although hiring an agent may not be a god fit for some, many value what an agent can bring to the transaction. Real estate agents are housing-market experts; besides knowing neighborhood trends, they can provide detailed market analyses to assist in formulating a listing or sale price for home sellers or buyers. Agents facilitate offers, transactions, and negotiation. They are up to date on legislation affecting home buyers and sellers; agents know the seller’s/buyer’s obligations, including compulsory disclosures and forms. And of course, there is the time aspect (how much is your time worth?).

Reasons to hire a real estate agent

Talented real estate agents are sales and marketing specialists. These agents know how to interpret home sale data to determine a price, and the best times to list/buy your home. Additionally, they know how to prepare and present your home to prospective home buyers and promote it to grab home buyers’ attention.

Getting back to Schneider’s article, he concluded that regardless of technological advances and the inclination toward mergers to an increasingly centralized industry with few big players. It’s ultimately about nearby professionals who have the knowledge of the local market. It’s basically who can personally assist you through your transaction. Personal attention cannot be under-emphasized, especially when the transaction is demanding or emotionally charged.

Are you better off without a real estate agent? You might think that technology has made it easier for you to go it alone; but, if you want a relatively smooth transaction with little drama – hire a professional.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2013/01/24/thinking-of-buying-or-selling-a-home-without-an-agent-hire-a-professsional/

by Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

Buying a home when you’re short on cash

by Dan Krell ©2012

Buying a homeGiven how the lending industry has changed, it’s easy to understand that you might think you need perfect credit and a 20% down payment to buy a home. Although credit requirements have been tightened, buying a home with little or no money is still possible.

Yes, it’s true that the financial and housing crisis forced banks and mortgage lenders to re-think the idea of easy money. Sure minimum credit scores have been raised to qualify for a mortgage, and you better believe that increased underwriting scrutiny and due diligence is the rule (rather than the exception). But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a mortgage if you don’t have a lot of cash. Depending on your situation, you may find yourself comparing conventional loans to FHA and VA.

Conventional mortgages have been traditionally thought of as requiring a 20% down payment; however, you may obtain a conventional loan with as little as a 5% down payment. The misconception that a conventional mortgage requires such a high down payment may have stemmed from the fact that you need a 20% down payment to circumvent private mortgage insurance. Additional confusion about conventional mortgages arises from the distinct programs that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer for specific home buyers. For example, Fannie Mae offers a mortgage for as little as a 3% down payment through their “HomePath” financing– but this is only available to purchase Fannie Mae owned foreclosures.

Conventional financing typically allows you to receive financial assistance in the form of a gift and/or seller closing cost assistance. The documented gift must be from a relative. Although gift guidelines for some conventional programs have recently become more lenient; generally, you may be required to have a “minimum borrower contribution” (from your own funds) as your down payment decreases. However, a minimum borrower contribution may not be required if your down payment is 20% or more. Seller closing cost assistance may be limited depending on your down payment.

Buy a homeAs conventional mortgage credit requirements became increasingly strict, more home buyers found that the FHA mortgage remained somewhat flexible. Certainly, buyers with credit dings found that FHA underwriting is more forgiving (provided borrowers provide substantiating documentation) than conventional; but another attraction to FHA financing is the low down payment. Although FHA increased the required minimum down payment- you may find that the current 3.5% down payment is still relatively low. Not having the 3.5% down payment does not have to deter you either; your down payment can be from a documented gift of funds. If you’re still short of funds, FHA allows the seller to assist with your closing costs (not to 6% of the sale price).

If you’re an eligible veteran or active duty service personnel, you may find that the VA offers a very good mortgage. As a benefit to your service, you could buy a home with no down payment (provided the purchase price does not exceed the VA appraisal of reasonable value and loan limits). Additionally, the VA allows the seller to pay your lender’s fees. Eligibility and other information can be checked on the VA website (www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/veteran.asp).

Even though mortgage options exist, program guidelines change frequently- so check with your lender about qualifying. One final word: be prepared to document everything and follow your lender’s instructions.

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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 March 5, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

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Should you buy a home?

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 (Zillow.com) 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 (standardandpoors.com), 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”; floridarealtors.org) 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 (Trulia.com) 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®.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2011

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

What are the risks of owning a home?

cloud over home
Accepting the Risks of Home Ownership
by Dan Krell © 2009

For many, owning a home is part of their long term financial and personal plan. Unfortunately for some, the responsibilities and risks of home ownership are not well thought out; many first time home owners are unprepared. The benefits of home ownership are often presented to first time home buyers, how about the risks?

During the recent real estate market boon, it seemed as if there were no risks to home ownership. Homeowners, who felt that their home was too much of a financial burden, were able to sell their home quickly and sometimes made a profit. However, when home values began to depreciate, it become all too clear that there are inherent risks to being a home owner, which include decreasing property values, increasing home related expenses, and poor home maintenance.

The real estate market, like other financial markets, is cyclical. There have been escalating market cycles, like the recent “seller’s” market; and there have been depreciating market cycles, some down cycles being much like what we are currently experiencing. Many first time home buyers, who bought homes as a commodity often analyzing their purchases as if it were a mutual fund, are now finding that (unlike mutual funds) selling a home may not be as easy as previously thought. Selling a home in a down market has many considerations, such as an increased marketing time and the possibility of owing more on a mortgage than the value of the home.

During an escalating market, it is easy for people to talk about home value appreciation as one of the benefits of home ownership. Unfortunately, in the recent boon market, many home buyers were caught up in the exuberance of rapid appreciation such that they believed that home value appreciation is guaranteed- no matter the type or condition of the home. Some home buyers are now lamenting their purchases because they bought homes they did not much care to live in but rather for the perceived “investment” value.

Many first time home buyers are also not prepared for increasing monthly housing expenses. Keep in mind that a first time home buyer’s monthly mortgage payment is already more than their monthly rent. Because of rising property tax and increasing utility costs, home buyers need to consider that the associated cost of home ownership will most likely increase over time. Although some of the initial increase may be offset by an interest tax deduction, the increases often add more to monthly expenses than the savings of the deduction.

Maintenance is an ongoing expense that is often overlooked by home buyers; all homes, including new homes need regular maintenance. Lack of home maintenance becomes a threat to anyone’s home leaving the home’s systems, walls, and foundation vulnerable to the elements, which can erode the home’s value.

Be prepared to take on the risks of home ownership. Take into account the reasons for owning a home as well as the financial responsibility you place upon yourself. Although long term home ownership has proved to be a good investment for many, value appreciation is not guaranteed. Additionally, the cost of home ownership along with future increases should be anticipated. You can get more information about the benefits and risks of home ownership by visiting HUD (HUD.gov), Fannie Mae (FannieMae.com) and Freddie Mac (FreddieMac.com).

This column 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 15, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell.

Being Organized Will Facilitate the Mortgage Process

by Dan Krell

Are you ready to jump into the real estate market? Maybe you already own a home but need a larger home; or are you thinking of downsizing to a condo near the town center. If you’re like the average home buyer, you’re planning to finance most of your purchase. Although the mortgage landscape has changed, many things remain the same. Whether you are a first time home buyer or a seasoned home owner, getting organized and being prepared will make the process more enjoyable.

Some home buyers have an idea of how much home they can afford, while others are unaware. Talking to a loan officer can give you an idea of mortgage rates and trends as well as how much you can afford. Putting things in perspective at this stage will shape your home search as you decide the type of home you want as well as where you want to live.

Although many things about mortgages have recently changed, qualifying is still based on your income, credit and assets. Before you talk to a loan officer, get your financial information organized so you can provide accurate information. Providing accurate information to the loan officer will allow them to provide you with an accurate price range; this will save you the time and heartache of looking at homes you cannot afford. Although mortgage rates change daily, the loan officer can guide you with any necessary corrections.

Maryland mortgage applications now require you to provide proof of your income to support your mortgage payment, so getting organized prior to talking to a loan officer is a good idea. Start your own mortgage file; your file should have your recent paystubs, W-2 statements, bank statements, 401k statement, and any other financial information you think you may need (which may include child support or disability income). Self employed individuals will need whatever documentation they can muster (including tax returns) to support their declared income.

Checking your credit report should be considered a sensitive issue as having too many credit checks within a short period of time will lower your credit score, and in some cases alter your ability to obtain a loan. Rather than having your credit checked by every loan officer you talk with, it is a good idea to request your own credit report from three credit bureaus (and place it in your mortgage file).

You are entitled to a free annual credit report from the three credit bureaus. Although many credit companies advertise “free” reports with snappy jingles, you can request your credit report directly from the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union). Be careful, however, many web sites (even the credit bureau websites) will bombard you with offers to watch your credit as well as other credit products for a fee.

Loan officers will request your recent paystubs, bank statements, W-2’s, and your permission to check your credit. However, until you choose a mortgage lender, you may decide to protect your personal information by providing verbal information derived from your documents.

The lender you ultimately choose will require original documents as well as your authorization to check your credit. Your up-to-date file should assist the loan officer in making the mortgage process easy and enjoyable.

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 August 18, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.