Why Should I use a Real Estate SalesPerson?

A real estate salesperson is more than just a "sales person." They act on your behalf as your agent, providing you with advice and guidance and doing a job - helping you buy or sell a home. While it is true they get paid for what they do, so do other professions that provide advice, guidance, and have a service to sell --such as Certified Public Accountants and Attorneys

The Internet has opened up a world of information that wasn't previously available to homebuyers and seller. The data on listings available for sale is almost current - but not quite. There are times when you need the most current information about what has sold or is for sale, and the only way to get that is with an agent.

If you're selling a home, you gain access to the most buyers by being listed in the Multiple Listing Service. Only a licensed real estate agent who is a member of your local MLS can get you listed there - which then gets you automatically listed on some of the major real estate web sites. If you're buying or selling a home, the MLS is your agent's best tool.

However, the role of an agent has changed in the last couple of years. In the past, agents were the only way home buyers and sellers could access information. Now agents are evolving. Because today's home buyers and sellers are so much better informed than in the past, expertise and ability are becoming more important.

The real estate agent is becoming more of a "guide" than a "salesperson" -- your personal representative in buying or selling a home.

Just listed with a realtor for 3 months but decided I would like to change to another. Is that allowed or legal?

Since you have a contract for 90 days, you would have to get your agent's permission to be released from the contract so you can go with the other agent.

Most of the time they will attempt to dissuade you from making the change, but will release you because they don't want to engender any bad will. The agent will be reluctant of course, especially since you just "changed your mind," and cannot point to any lack of performance problems with your present agent.

The agent can refuse to release you from the listing agreement and there are various reasons they may do so.  In that case, you're either stuck or you have to simply take your home off the market for the rest of the listing period.

When buying a new home, what upgrades should we go for? What holds the most value? Do we upgrade the lot? Pick more square footage in the house? Add an extra bedroom?, etc.

A lot depends on why you are buying the house. Are you buying it mostly as a home or mostly as an investment? There is a difference.

For the most part, upgrades are high-profit items for builders. They aren't designed to enhance the value of the house, but make you happier with the house you do buy.

If you are looking at your home as an investment, then you buy from the smaller to medium size in the tract and spend only a minimal amount on upgrades. If you are looking at your purchase as a home, then you select upgrades that will enhance your quality of living.

One rule of thumb is to always upgrade the carpet and padding.

We were set to close and the seller now wants to set up new closing date. Can I get them to come down off the price of the house and anything else you think that would help me?

The seller may have had legitimate reasons or perhaps not. You can attempt to renegotiate the price if you choose to, and this can be looked at several ways. Once you make your offer to purchase the house at a lower price, this can be looked at as a new offer, which can nullify your original offer.

Most likely, you are going to just have to decide whether you like the house enough to go ahead with the purchase.

My husband and I have already signed a contract to sell our home. However, we have since changed our minds and no longer want to sell. Can we get out of selling our home?

First, look at the contract and see if there are any contingencies that allow you out of the contract.

You can always decide not to sell.

You just don't know exactly what the buyer's reactions are going to be. You don’t know if they will attempt to enforce the contract. You don’t know if there will be legal repercussions. You might want to get an attorney's opinion at some point, since we do not provide legal advice.

If you do cancel, think about ways to soften the blow to the potential buyer who has put up an earnest money deposit, may have already paid for a credit report and appraisal, and may be charged a cancellation fee by the settlement agent. They may have already given notice (if they rent) or sold their own house, too.

If you reimburse them for some of their hard costs, maybe they will not try to enforce the contract

I have a contract to purchase a house, but the three owners are having a "family feud" and cannot agree on anything. The sale of my own house closes soon and the lock-in on my loan is up in a few days. What can I do?

You may have to rent a motel or move in with friends or family until the issue is resolved. There is risk in buying real estate, especially when you make your own moving plans very firm. No one can guarantee a sale will close on an exact day because situations can come up unexpectedly, just as it happened to you.

Fortunately (June 2000) rates have declined since you locked in your interest rate. Most lenders will extend a lock (once it expires) at the higher of the current market rate or the rate you originally locked the loan. So most likely, you will not be hurting any on your interest rate because of the delay.

In short, you're pretty much stuck and you have to hope the sellers can work out their problems.

I am interested in buying a home which the seller is listed "as is." Will a bank require a home inspection before approving a loan? Will a bank approve a loan on a home needing repairs?

A bank doesn't require you to get a home inspection in order to obtain a mortgage. If there are obvious major problems that affect value, the appraiser may note it in the appraisal report. However, their job is not to inspect the home, just to determine value.

Although the bank doesn't require a home inspection, if your purchase contract mentions a termite report, the lender will require that to be performed and pass before you close.

A termite report lists more than pest infestations. It also mentions obvious structural defects, such as wood rot, etc. These are classified into two groups - category 1 and 2. All items in category 1 must be repaired prior to closing. However, the lender does not stipulate who must pay for those repairs.

What, precisely, can be claimed as a tax deduction when you buy a home?

This is really a question you should ask a local CPA or whoever does your taxes. We encourage you to follow up with a professional tax advisor as we are not qualified or authorized to give advice in two areas - legal matters and tax matters.

Briefly put, providing you itemize deductions, own and occupy the home, you can deduct both property taxes paid on the home and interest paid on your mortgage. You can deduct the points and prepaid interest you make during the actual purchase, whether you pay them or the seller pays them on your behalf.

There are certain limits and restrictions which do not affect most people, but this is another reason you should contact a tax professional regarding your question.

We put our home up for sale and the square footage is way off! Is a garage usually considered in the square footage in a home? It is attached to the home.

Although a garage is attached to the home, it is not considered part of the home's square footage. That is because only livable space is considered in the square footage calculation.

Calculating the square footage of a home is not as easy as it sounds. Neither real estate agents nor homeowners should attempt the calculation (at least not if you want a reliable figure). Rarely are houses perfectly square, which is one reason for the difficulty. Appraisers map out the house on a piece of graph paper, calculate all the edges, come up with "mini-areas" for each rectangle - then add them all together.

Plus, there are other intricate rules. If there has been an addition to the house and the owner did not receive a building permit, then that section of the house may not be allowable as part of the square footage. The same with attic and basement conversions, lofts, and so on.

It is best to rely on a licensed appraiser to recalculate the square footage of a house.

When a home's square footage is advertised, the figure usually comes from previous sales, perhaps as far back as the builder. Homeowners and real estate agents don't usually recalculate the square footage. Like we said, it is very very difficult to calculate the square footage of a home.

How can I find out how much my house is worth? There are no comparable homes in my area.

This may be a bad sign for you, especially if you think your house is worth more than other houses in your neighborhood. Homes maintain their value better if the neighboring properties are fairly similar.

In your situation, you may actually have to talk to several Realtors, get their opinions, and come up with some sort of consensus. Without knowing why there are no comparable properties in your area it is difficult to give another suggestion. If your lot or home is over-improved for the area, that means the value will most not likely be what you think it is. If your home is much larger, you might not get the same cost per square foot as other homes in the area.

So I would talk to a bunch of Realtors and get their opinions. I would not recommend hiring an appraiser, however, even though a lot of books recommend this. Appraisers are better at "justifying" a price than in determining market value.

How do you know whether the price of a home per square foot is reasonable or if you are about to make a bad decision?

Though this seems like an easy question, it is not as simple as it sounds.

Keep in mind that much more goes into the market value of a house than it’s square footage. For example, two houses next door to each other can have the same square footage, but if one has two bathrooms and the other has only one, guess which one will probably be worth more? It will also cost more per square foot.

However, if you compare recent sales of similar homes, the cost per square foot should be similar to those properties. You can ask your agent to provide you with comparable sales data.