Buyer’s Heaven: Great Rates, Lower Prices, Great Selection

July 31, 2007

While career renters may call this post self-serving, I am going to give you a few reasons why this may be the best time to be buying a home in the last dozen years or so.

1. Prices have come down, in most local cases.

2. Rates remain great, approximately 6 3/4 % for a 30 yr fixed.

3. There is more inventory to choose from now than in the past 10+ years.  More selection means you don’t have to “settle” for a home you really don’t love. In Hamilton Twp. today, there are over 600 properties for sale, including MLS and private for sale by owners.

4. More inventory also means you’re probably not going to get into the emotional turmoil of being involved in a multiple offer situation.

5. A couple years ago when a buyer had a home inspection and it revealed a couple thousand dollars worth of issues, buyers were saying, “No problem, I don’t want to upset the sellers.”  Now they are saying, “Please fix this before closing.”

If you are a long time renter, I suggest you take a look into the current housing market, consider the tax advantages of homeownership, and the equity you will build up in your long term investment.  Over the long haul, real estate investment never dissapoints.


Get a 15 Year Mortgage Instead of 30

July 30, 2007

While I admit I am no financial whiz, one of the smartest things I ever did was get a 15 year mortgage instead of a 30 year. With my payoff clearly in my sites, I can’t fathom the idea of having an extra 15 years to pay that thing off. Some food for thought…

A $250,000, 15 year mortgage at 6.75% is $2,212 monthly.

A $250,000, 30 year mortgage at 6.75% is $1,622 monthly. Or, $590 less monthly.

The difference (savings!) between these two loans is $185,000+, assuming you had the mortgage for the full term. While $590 per month might be too much for some families to manage, I suggest you cut up your credit cards, pay them off, and go without the new BMW before you take on any mortgage. Take a look at your budget, there is always some place where you can save a couple hundred monthly. Once you figure that out, get the 15 yr. mortgage.  Another idea is to spend less on your purchase. A $20,000 difference in mortgage amount can save you another $177 monthly. (15 yr, 6.75%)  After a few payments, you will realize you can do without the non essentials.

At the end of your 15 year loan, you’ll think you’re a financial genius!

Beware of Hidden Fees at Closing

July 27, 2007

A title clerk recently told me about a large real estate company who, at closing, tried to sneak in a $199 fee to their buyer for “processing” fees.  The buyer’s attorney refused to have it paid, and had the charge removed from the buyer’s expenses. I have been told of other similar stories where buyers get surprised at closing with a similar nominal processing fee, and it goes rather unnoticed, especially when compared to the size of other closing fees. Why would a real estate company do this?  Heck, $199 doesn’t seem like alot. But when you multiply 5,000 annual buyer closings x $199, it’s a million dollars to their bottom line, potentially all “new found” profit. Wow. That’s why they do it.

My suggestion for all buyers and sellers is:

1. Ask your agent to disclose all fees, in writing. Email is great for this!

2. Get a copy of the settlement statement the day before closing. This statement outlines all charges.

3. Re-examine the statement at closing, as sometimes adjustments are made just before closing. This statement is also referred to as the HUD-1 Statement.

Other fees to look for are mortgage company fees. I have personally witnessed unscrupulous mortgage companies sneak in extra fees. Question everything you do not understand. Closing day can be overwhelming on many levels, but watch your expense ledger!

Emails and Real Estate

July 26, 2007


I love email. It’s fast, free, and simple and can be very informative. Even my Mom can do it. But I hate it in dealing with problems. I have never seen email fix a real estate problem. Never.  When there is a problem, nothing beats face to face. People who insist on using email when dealing with problems usually want to have a casual fight. They would rather be angry than take 20 minutes to meet and fix the issue. In person, people are more respectful, they understand your body language and it’s intent, and there is a higher level of trust and understanding. It’s also easier to explain things visually, and as we know, a picture is worth lots of words.  If you have lost trust in the other person, it’ s easier to detect their b.s. in person.

When buying or selling an item of hundreds of thousands of dollars in value, take the time to meet with your agent, attorney or lender face to face.  Dozens of hurdles must be overcome in every transaction in order to get to the settlement table happily, which means dozens of opportunities for miscommunication or misunderstandings. Almost every transaction has 1 moment where people get flustered or upset or confused. When that moment comes, get face to face.

Overheard at Seller’s Kitchen Table

July 25, 2007

Agent:  How much do you want for your home?

Seller: You tell me, that’s why I have you here.

Agent: But you must have some idea what you want, all sellers do.

Seller: You first.

Agent: $350,000.

Seller: Ha! It’s worth much more than that!

Why Agents and Sellers Fail at Real Estate

July 25, 2007

After reading Greg’s post at Blueroof yesterday, I got to thinking that agents and sellers who fail share many common traits. Here are some.

1. They enter the market with unrealistic expectations. Most have no idea as to what is actually involved, or how long it will take to achieve success.

2. They are not mentally prepared to hang in there for the long haul. They quit.

3. They give up too easily.

4. They don’t follow expert’s advice. And if they do, it’s for too brief a sampling.

5. They develop a bad attitude as their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers constantly ask them, “How’s it going in real estate / selling your home.”  Then they listen to too many people giving advice.

My advice is to watch what successful people do, agents and sellers alike, and copy them. As for the guy down the street on the market for 9 mos., or the agent with the bad attitude who likes to gossip about how bad the company is, avoid them, and do not mimic them. Success leaves clues.

How is Help-U-Sell Different?

July 24, 2007

Thankfully, every day someone asks me that question, and I always welcome the opportunity to answer it. 

1. Savings.  At Help-U-Sell Harbinger Realty, we charge a set fee instead of a percentage commission. For example, for a $280,000 home, our fee would be about $6,495. Compared to a 6% fee (commissions are negotiable and not set by law) this would save the seller $10,305.  To date, my office has saved sellers over $2,600,000 (compared to 6%).

2. Owners can be as involved as they choose, and have more control over the process  if they choose. Owners can show their own home, interact with the buyer, and some owners even like to negotiate their own sales price.  However, some sellers don’t do anything except sign contracts and show up at closing, and that is ok too. It’s your choice. Any way, you save.

3. Most Help-U-Sell agents have more experience than traditional agents. Our business model allows us to sell more homes, giving us more experience and know-how.  This cannot be overlooked, especially in this market when a great agent is needed.

4. When our owners do open houses, they increase their chances of selling. Instead of waiting for the agent to make time to service your property, you can take the bull by the horns and hold your own house open. It’s not rocket science, and chances are about 100% that you know your house better than any agent.

5. Information without Obligation. We provide buyers with the address of the property, unlike most companies who force the buyer to call in. We tell you what all fees are, upfront, unlike most who hide that until you give them an appointment.  It’s more upfront.

6. How are we the same?  We are locally owned and operated, we have MLS, virtual tours, gorgeous property flyers, fabulous internet exposure and full service. There is nothing a traditional agent does which I cannot. In most cases, we do much more.