Eric Slifkin Keller Williams Realty
819 SW Fdl Hwy
Stuart, FL 34994 Phone: 772-288-1765 Email Eric

Frequently Asked Questions in Real Estate


Selling Your Home - general

How much is the commission?

In the Real Estate business, this is one of the most asked questions. The answer is as important to the home seller as it is to the listing agent. An important consideration when establishing commission is to find out what level of marketing your agent is willing to provide. Will it be on MLS, or will it be exclusive? It is imperative that your home be listed at a competitive rate of commission so that it is attractive to the agents that may bring in the buyer. Instead of asking what the rate of commission will be, ask yourself "How much do I want to 'net' from the sale of my home?" If you receive the money that you need from the sale of your home at a competitive rate of commission, everyone will be happy.  

What is MLS?

MLS, or Multiple Listing Service, is a service provided to Real Estate Professional whereby they can market your home to agents everywhere. The information on your home will be available on the MLS website, as well as in the MLS books. A good example of the benefits of this is to suppose that there is an agent in another state that has a client moving to South Florida. The other agent can easily access the list of homes available either via the Internet. If your home is not listed on MLS, then that buyer may not find out about your home until after they've made an offer on another home.  

How long will it take for our house to sell?

This is a question that your agent can never answer. There are many factors involved in the length of time it will take for a home to sell. The most important being price. Most people have an idea as to what their home is worth to them, and it can be tough to decide on the right price. Often people look at what they paid for their home, or what they have spent on the house while they've lived there. Your home must be priced according to what other homes comparable to yours have sold for. This is where the comparative market analysis becomes the most accurate way to determine the value. Your Real Estate agent will provide you with the information necessary to price your home according to the current market place. The best way to see that sold sign go up quickly is to make sure that your home can compete with the other homes on the market as far as appearance and price.

Can other Realtors show people our home?

Surprisingly, many people don't know that usually, any agent can show any home that is currently on the market. Often times people will jump from one agent to the next during their home search, not realizing that they can look at all of those homes with only one agent. Once you have your home listed on the MLS, you are allowing every agent the opportunity to bring clients in. When people choose to have their home listed on an exclusive listing agreement, their agent is able to co-operate with the other agents in the area so that they may bring their homebuyers to see your home as well. There are cases where a seller wishes to deal with only one agent during the sale of their home, but more often all agents can show all homes. Realtors have a moral obligation to their purchasers to show them every home currently on the market that may suit their needs, including the listings of other agents.

It is important to remember that the seller, the buyer, and both the listing and selling agents all have one common goal, and that is to have the sales transaction proceed as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

Selling your home - Appraisals & market value

How is a home's value determined?

You have several ways to determine the value of a home.

An appraisal is a professional estimate of a property's market value, based on recent sales of comparable properties, location, square footage and construction quality. This service varies in cost depending on the price of the home. On average, an appraisal costs about $300 for a $250,000 house.

A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value performed by a real estate agent based on similar sales and property attributes. Most agents offer free analyses in the hopes of winning your business.

You also can get a comparable sales report for a fee from private companies that specialize in real estate data or find comparable sales information available on various real estate Internet sites.

What is the difference between market value and appraised value?

The appraised value of a house is a certified appraiser's opinion of the worth of a home at a given point in time. Lenders require appraisals as part of the loan application process; fees range from $200 to $300.

Market value is what price the house will bring at a given point in time. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value, based on sales of comparable properties, performed by a real estate agent or broker. Either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis is the most accurate way to determine what your home is worth.

What standards do appraisers use to estimate value?

Appraisers use several factors when estimating a home's value, including the home's size and square footage, the condition of the home and neighborhood, comparable local sales, any pertinent historical information, sales performance and indices that forecast future value.

What's a house worth?

A home ultimately is worth what someone will pay for it. Everything else is an estimate of value. To determine a property's value, most people turn to either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis.

An appraisal is a certified appraiser's estimate of the value of a home at a given point in time. Appraisers consider square footage, construction quality, design, floor plan, neighborhood and availability of transportation, shopping and schools. Appraisers also take lot size, topography, view and landscaping into account. Most appraisals cost about $300.

A comparative market analysis is a real estate broker's or agent's informal estimate of a home's market value, based on sales of comparable homes in a neighborhood. Most agents will give you a comparative market analysis for free.

You can do your own cost comparison by looking up recent sales of comparable properties in public records. These records are available at local recorder or assessor offices, through private real estate information companies or on the Internet.

Buying a home - general

How do I get the real scoop on homes I am looking at?

Home inspections, seller disclosure requirements and the agent's experience will help. Disclosure laws vary by state, but in some states, the law requires the seller to complete a real estate transfer disclosure statement.

Sellers also are required to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home's major systems. A checklist specifies interior and exterior walls, ceilings, roof, insulation, windows, fences, driveway, sidewalks, floors, doors, foundation, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems.

The form also asks sellers to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachments or easements, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property.

Also look for, or ask about, settling, sliding or soil problems, flooding or drainage problems and any major damage resulting from earthquakes, floods or landslides.

People buying a condominium must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions.

It's important to note that the simple idea of disclosing defects has broadened significantly in recent years. Many jurisdictions have their own mandated disclosure forms as do many brokers and agents. Also, the home inspection and home warranty industries have grown significantly to accommodate increased demand from cautious buyers. Be sure to ask questions about anything that remains unclear or does not seem to be properly addressed by the forms provided to you.

What are some tips on negotiation?

The more you know about a seller's motivation, the stronger a negotiating position you are in. For example, seller who must move quickly due to a job transfer may be amenable to a lower price with a speedy escrow. Other so-called "motivated sellers" include people going through a divorce or who have already purchased another home.

Remember, that the listing price is what the seller would like to receive but is not necessarily what they will settle for. Before making an offer, check the recent sales prices of comparable homes in the neighborhood to see how the seller's asking price stacks up.

Some experts discourage making deliberate low-ball offers. While such an offer can be presented, it can also sour the sale and discourage the seller from negotiating at all.

What contingencies should be put in an offer?

Most offers include two standard contingencies: a financing contingency, which makes the sale dependent on the buyers' ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender, and an inspection contingency, which allows buyers to have professionals inspect the property to their satisfaction.

A buyer could forfeit his or her deposit under certain circumstances, such as backing out of the deal for a reason not stipulated in the contract.

The purchase contract must include the seller's responsibilities, such things as passing clear title, maintaining the property in its present condition until closing and making any agreed-upon repairs to the property.

Can you buy homes below market?

While a typical buyer may look at five to 10 homes before making an offer, an investor who makes bargain buys usually goes through many more. Most experts agree it takes a lot of determination to find a real "bargain." There are a number of ways to buy a bargain property:

* Buy a fixer-upper in a transitional neighborhood, improve it and keep it or resell at a higher price.
* Buy a foreclosure property (after doing your research carefully).
* Buy a house due to be torn down and move it to a new lot.
* Buy a partial interest in a piece of real estate, such as part of a tenants-in-common partnership.
* Buy a leftover house in a new-home development.

Buying a home - financing

How do you choose between fixed and adjustable rates?

There is risk involved in selecting an adjustable rate mortgage, or ARMs, because rates may go up. On the other hand, a fixed-rate loan offers good protection against rising interest rates but the borrower is stuck with the initial rate if interest rates drop.

Statistics show that home buyers who have chosen ARMs since 1981 have saved thousands of dollars. For a period, the percentage of home buyers applying for ARMs rose substantially, then buyers and homeowners began flocking to fixed-rate loans.

Whether to opt for a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage is a matter of personal choice. The first route offers stable payments; the second offers lower initial payments.

Another consideration is the length of time a buyer plans to own the home. If you're planning on moving within three or four years, an ARM makes sense even if rates do nothing but rise during that period of time.

How do you qualify as a first-time buyer?

In general, lenders define a first-time home buyer as someone who has not owned any real estate -- whether a personal residence, vacation home or investment property -- during the past three years.

Lenders verify an applicant's status by examining their income tax returns, checking to see that the individual did not take any deductions for mortgage interest or property taxes.

When is the best time to refinance?

It depends on how long you plan to hold on to your house and if you have to pay anything to refinance. In addition, it also depends on how far along you are in paying off your current mortgage.

If you are going to be selling your house shortly, you probably will not recoup any costs you incur to refinance your mortgage. If you are more than halfway through paying your current mortgage, you probably will gain little by refinancing. However, if you are going to own your home for at least five years, that's probably long enough to recoup any refinancing costs you incur and to realize real savings on lowering your monthly payment. If it is going to cost you nothing to refinance, you can gain even more.

Many lenders will allow you to roll the costs of the refinancing into the new note and still reduce the amount of the monthly payment. Also, there are no-cost refinancing deals available. In any case, it pays to consult your lender or financial advisor, or run the numbers yourself, before you refinance.

What can I do if I have bad credit?

While some people have rebounded from a foreclosure to buy another home within several years, credit problems stemming from a foreclosure can continue much longer for others.

Real estate experts say you should be candid with your lender in discussing these issues. If your bankruptcy resulted from losing your job due to your employer's financial difficulties, a lender probably will look upon your situation more favorably than if your bankruptcy was caused by overextended credit cards.

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