How the Homes.com App Makes Homebuying Simply Smarter

While some homebuyers exhaust their search efforts online, scouring through page after page of listings in their area, others opt for an easier approach to finding their dream home. As mobile apps have continued to become more advanced, many buyers and renters are taking the start of their home searching journey from desktop to mobile. The Homes.com app helps make that transition easier and safer. A long list of user-friendly features and smart capabilities are what make the Homes.com app one of the most sought after tools while searching for a home. From saving your favorite listings without the need of creating an account (because who needs more emails, right?) to mobile video tours and virtual open houses, there’s not much this app can’t do.

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Your Privacy, Protected

While other mobile home search apps may ask for your phone number, email, name, and an agreement to a long list of terms and conditions regarding your privacy, Homes.com does things differently. The accountless approach that is offered to users makes it so you can enjoy the features of saving your favorite searches and homes without sacrificing your privacy. No email address, password, or any type of login will be required from those who wish to browse and save on their own terms. The best part? If you prefer the accountless approach, you’ll be excited to hear about a new feature rolling out very soon for our mobile users. Whether you create an account or not, you’ll be able to opt-in to receive push notifications that will alert you of price changes in your saved homes.

homes.com apphomes.com app

View More Than Listing Photos

Every listing available on Homes.com’s Android app includes the option for you to look at it through Google Street View. You can use this feature to not only look at the home you’re interested in, but you can see your potential neighborhood as well. Are the houses too close or too far apart for your liking? Is your home off of a busy road or in a quiet area? You can also get these questions answered through virtual and video tours as well. These scheduled tours will upload to your phone’s calendar so you’ll have it front-of-mind when the time comes. If you have a question before the tour, communicate directly with your agent at the touch of a button!

Find Your Dream Home Faster Than Ever Before

As you start your home search journey, you’ll need a search engine that’s reliable, easy-to-use, and fast. The Homes.com mobile app is up to three times faster than our competitors’ apps on Android devices and we continuously strive to have the fastest home search app across all mobile operating systems. So, when you start finding and saving those homes you love, our app won’t slow you down. As our mobile app continuously improves, gesture-based navigation will help you browse even faster without having to find and click buttons to search through each page. A simple swipe forward or backward can get you where you want to go quicker than before (and it will be here before you know it!).

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Made for Future Home Buyers and Renters, Just Like You

From the beautiful design released with the native version of the app, homebuyers now have access to find the homes they love, in a way they love. “By offering a family of products and giving the user the ability to choose how they want to digest the information, we are reaching more home searchers. It’s kind of like reading a book, some people prefer paper books while others prefer Kindles. Both will give you what you are looking for, just in different substrates,” says Tabatha Anger, Homes.com’s Mobile Product Analyst.

Click here to download the Homes.com Mobile App for Android devices.

Click here to download the Homes.com Mobile App for Apple devices.


Content Marketing Assistant at Homes.com | See more posts by this author

As Homes.com’s content marketing assistant, Sydney gets to combine one of her favorite pastimes with her job– keeping up with pop culture. Outside of work, she enjoys stepping away from her phone and computer and spending time with her friends, whether it’s just hanging out or traveling. Trying new foods, going snowboarding, and long road trips are some of her other favorite things to do, but what does she loves the most? When people read Homes.com’s blog articles, of course!

Source: homes.com

Is the Home You Love Worth It? Home Pre-Inspection Tips to Put to Use

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To hear professional home inspectors tell it, Americans take better care of their automobiles than their homes. Consequently, every homebuyer should plan to spend the $400 to $600 necessary to have the house they like best thoroughly examined by an independent third party before closing.

But wait: Before you’ve made your final choice and order a home inspector to take a look, you should do some preliminary investigating of your own. That way, you can protect yourself from picking the wrong house and allowing a better maintained property to slip away.

Even rookie buyers can get a good idea of just how well kept a house has been. Even when the seller has given the place a fresh coat of paint and trimmed the lawn, there still are often telltale signs that the owner may not have been as diligent as he could have. But keep it mind, it would be counterproductive to put every house under this kind of microscope. Once you narrow your choices down to two or three homes, it’s time to take a harder look. Then, after you make your final decision, call in the experts.

Look at Small Details

For example, a clean furnace filter can be taken as an indication the house has been well cared for. But who’s to say the seller didn’t just replace a filter that hadn’t been changed in years? If the filter hasn’t been changed regularly, the furnace hasn’t been working efficiently and it may not live up to its expected life span.

So how do you now? You don’t for sure. but if you spy a pile of spare filters tucked away in a storage closet, it’s a pretty good sign that the owner is on the ball. Someone who is in the process of selling isn’t buying extra filters he won’t use.

Home Service Log

Another clue that the furnace is in good shape is to look for a service log showing that the machine has been serviced regularly, at least once a year.

Of course, homebuyers, even those who have purchased several houses, shouldn’t substitute this kind of rudimentary investigation for a complete and exhaustive inspection by a trained professional. Even if the furnace has been serviced consistently, it could be on its last legs, and only a pro will be able to determine that.

Go Through the Motions as an Owner

Don’t be afraid to kick the tires and act like you’re already living there. You have every right to open closets, flush toilets, run the dishwasher through a full cycle, turn on all the stove-top burners, check the refrigerator and open the in the windows. The owner shouldn’t object – not if he really wants to sell.

If you are really interested in a property, make an appointment with the owner to return with your agents in tow. Give yourself plenty of time to give the place a good once-over. Then, you can decide if you want to proceed.

Tips from Professionals

Here, in no particular order, are some other suggestions from professional inspectors to help you decide if the choices you are considering are inspection-worthy:

Tips for Inspecting Basements

If the house has a basement, follow your nose. If there is a damp, musty smell, there’s usually an issue. A dehumidifier is another tip-off to a wet basement. They aren’t part of the decor. Also, look for stains or rot where the stringers, or side pieces, on the basement steps touch the floor. If there is a water problem, the moisture will wick into the wood. If there is nothing on the basement floor, that could be a sign of water problems. Inspectors love to see stacks of old magazines in the corner with spider webs. That means they have been there a long time and the there is no water problem.

Water Damage to Look for

Some owners will try to hide water damage in their bathrooms by re-caulking and grouting tiles. But you can beat them at their own game by tapping on the tile where it hits the tub or shower floor. The tile should sound and feel solid. If it sounds hollow, give it a nudge to see if there is any give to the wall. If there is, something’s going on behind there that isn’t good.

Electrical Inspections that are Amateur-friendly

After water issues, improper electrical wiring is the second most common defect found by home inspectors. It is difficult for an amateur to determine if the electrical system is adequate, but there are clues. If you see a lot of fuses lying around, especially burnt-out ones, it’s a dead giveaway that the wiring is probably undersized. Another sure-fire indication that the wiring is insufficient: A bunch of extension cords snaking around, hither and yon.

Always Check the Roof

Roofing problems also are fairly common, so look for shingles that are cupping at the corners. They may have to be replaced. If the roof appears to be sagging between the joists, the entire thing may have to be removed. And if there are already are two layers of shingles, the cost could be 20% higher or more. If the house has been well maintained, the owner will know exactly how many layers are on the roof, the age of the top layer and if new sheathing has been put down between the two layers.

Turning on Faucets is Always a Great Idea

Turn on the faucets on the bathroom sink and tub and flush the toilet, all at the same time. If there is an appreciable drop in water flow, there could be a serious pressure problem, possibly caused by mineral buildup in old pipes.

Keep in Mind…

* Maybe one in 20 houses examined by the pros qualifies as well maintained. But if the seller keeps a maintenance log backed by files of receipts, warranties, instruction manuals and color swatches, it’s probably a safe bet that the house has been a labor of love. Neatness counts, too. There should be access to all space, and nothing should be blocking the furnace or electrical panel.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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Source: homes.com

Best Cities to Buy a Vacation Home for Post-pandemic Retreats

The coronavirus pandemic has made it tough to buy a home, including vacation homes. Homebuyer sentiment is at a ten-year low, and millions of families are struggling with unemployment or small businesses that are in trouble. They are forgoing their traditional week or two at the beach or mountains this year and staying home. Short term rentals built a whole new economy in popular vacation spots and many vacation homeowners count on revenues from short-term rentals to pay their mortgages.

Perhaps the only good thing about these hard times for vacation owners are the bargains that are opening up in vacation destinations nationwide. Home sellers have been in control for years, especially in the hottest short-term rental markets. If you are fortunate enough to be immune from the economic crisis that is sweeping the nation, now is the time to buy that vacation home you’ve been considering.

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Here are five of the nation’s most popular summer vacation destinations where bargains can be found.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida

Sales are 20% lower than last spring, and new listings are growing at a rate of 24 listings per 1000 households in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers market. Plenty of good deals are attracting a wave of buyers from Northern states despite the pandemic.

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers real estate market is rapidly growing, yet it still retains its small-town charm. Its quality of life, miles of Gulf Coast beaches, islands, and the economy continues to attract people. Homes.com lists more than 80,000 homes for sale in the Cape Coral area and about 9,000 in and around Fort Myers.

Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida

Through April, sales were down 20% from April 2019, creating buyers’ market conditions in Lakeland-Winter Haven offer a dense suburban feel, and most residents own their homes. Located 25 miles inland from the Tampa Bay area. November, April, and March are the most pleasant months in the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area. Click here to see available listings in Lakeland and in Winter Haven.

Santa Barbara, California

The California coast forms a crescent north of Los Angeles that connects breathtaking beaches, mountains, and vineyards. The Channel Islands National Park offers scuba diving, hiking, and whale watching. Santa Barbara’s downtown offers world-class shopping and dining.

Its real estate offerings feature a sizeable luxury home market and affordable houses as well. The pandemic is taking its toll. According to the local MLS, closings have declined from 142 closings between March 15, 2019, and April 15, 2019, but only 95 closings during the period this year. The drop in sales gives buyers an advantage in a market that features “Access Hollywood” quality listings. To see for yourself, check out Santa Barbara’s available local listings on Homes.com.

Saugatuck, Michigan

Not all excellent beach resorts are on an ocean. If you live in the Midwest, there’s a great one on the east coast of Lake Michigan. With sun, sand, and freshwater to offer, try Saugatuck. Saugatuck is a 150-old former logging town that became a local resort a century ago. Now Southwest Michigan ranks as one of Conde Nast’s 25 best places to go in 2020. Oval Beach on Lake Michigan, sand dune rides, a beach that is litter-less, a chain ferry across the Kalamazoo River, and hammocks on every porch make Saugatuck a great place for families to relax. Homes.com lists some beachfront properties that are more affordable than either coast. Best of all, it is an easy drive from Chicago and Detroit.

Ocean City, Maryland

This Mid-Atlantic shore town is straight from the 1980s with boardwalk, putt-putt golf, beach parties, and famous french fries. In fact, it’s one of the best boardwalk beaches in the US, according to National Geographic’s Traveler. Its real estate market is also more proletarian, featuring high rise condos and bungalows. The pandemic drove away sellers this year, and new listings fell 27% in April, a multi-year low, leaving fewer than 800 listings as the summer season opens. The pandemic also drove down asking prices, and the median new listing price is only $290,000, far below the median for the year, $352,000. Looking to buy? Browse available listings in Ocean City on Homes.com.

America is starting to open up just as the summer begins. As restrictions relax and more beaches open, 2020 might become a great year to get a deal on a beach property.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

How to Make an Offer Stand Out in a Seller’s Market

With a rapidly changing market and low inventory, homes are selling faster than ever. New listings can have several offers before you have even had the chance to see it. With this being the case, not only do you have to spring into rapid action, you have to come prepared with an offer that will stand out above the other buyers out there. 

Read: How is COVID-19 Impacting Homebuyer Preferences?

While it can be difficult to be the first of multiple offers coming in, you can make your offer the one that will get you the home that you have fallen in love with. The tips could be exactly what you need to get into your next home. 

Get The Inside Scoop

Say you have decided to purchase a home that you have fallen in love with and you’re prepared to put in an offer on that home. Before you meet with your real estate agent to write the offer, you should ask your agent to get the inside scoop of what the seller may want by asking the listing agent. 

When your agent contacts the listing agent, make sure that they ask questions about the home’s availability and if there are multiple offers for that home. If there are other offers, you will have to evaluate just what you are willing to do to get the home. Keep in mind that the listing agent may not be able to disclose anything to your agent at the request of the seller. 

You should also ask your agent to inquire about the seller’s preferences and what they may want. Some sellers prefer you use a specific title company or have a specific possession date that would align with a date that is convenient for them. The more your offer aligns with the seller’s goal, the better a chance of getting your dream home. 

Read: Is the Home You Love Worth it? Home Pre-inspection Tips to Put to Use

Make a Simple Offer

While making an offer on a home can be complex, you should aim to make your offer as simple as possible. The fewer contingencies that you have put in place, the better. 

Some contingencies you might put in place range from a financing contingency to a home inspection contingency. 

Realtor showing terms of contract on tablet to couple. Real estate agent sharing property details with clients.Realtor showing terms of contract on tablet to couple. Real estate agent sharing property details with clients.

Also, when you put in an offer, keep in mind that it’s not all about price. You may be prepared to go well over asking, but remember that the best offer will be the sum of the terms that work best for the home’s seller. While you want to get this home, you do not want to overextend yourself financially. 

Things Will Move Quickly

As you embark on your home search, you will want to see as many homes as possible. If you work with an agent that has a busy schedule, ask to utilize one of their team members to see the homes on your list.Remember, you will want to move quickly especially when the market is hot and your agent will do the best they can to work with you to get you the house you want. 

One Last Tip

Writing an offer can be cumbersome and can take more time than you may be willing to wait. The key tip: be patient. Let your agent provide the seller and the listing agent with your offer and wait a few days to find out if they accept or not. This is completely normal so do your best to be patient in hopes that you are able to get your next home. 

One thing that you may be able to do to get your offer accepted is to suggest to your real estate agent that they outline the terms and contingencies of your offer in a pager on the front pack of the offer package. This will give the seller and listing agent the opportunity to see what the offer entails from the beginning. 

During a hot market where homes are selling as fast, you have to be diligent in writing your offer so that they will stand out from the rest. For more tips and tricks on the homeowner journey, read through our free How To guides on buying, selling, and financing your home.


Dru Peters

As a Sr. Marketing Coordinator for Homes.com, Dru provides information and resources for agents and Realtors spanning from market reports to technology advances in the industry. With the knowledge gained from working closely with real estate professionals, Dru also shares advice for consumers on how to best navigate the homebuying and selling waters.

Source: homes.com

Acronyms of Real Estate: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Real estate is a regular smorgasbord of acronyms – everything from APR to REO. Here’s a list of the ones you’re likely to run into and what they mean when you’re buying or selling a house:

Acronyms You’ll Hear Associated with Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents, builders and most other realty-related professions have numerous professional designations, all designed to set them apart from those who haven’t taken advanced courses in their fields. These designations don’t mean that professionals without letters after their names are not as experienced or skilled, but rather only that they haven’t taken the time to further their educations.

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

Let’s start with the letter “R,” which stands for Realtor. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade group. NAR says it speaks for homeowners, and it usually does. But in that rare occasion when the interests of its members and owners don’t align, it sides with those who pay their dues.

Read: A Timeline of the History of Real Estate

NAR embraces a strict code of ethics. There are about 2 million active and licensed real estate agents nationwide, and 1.34 million can call themselves Realtors.

NAR members sometimes have the letters GRI or CRS after their names. The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation signifies the successful completion of 90 hours of classroom instruction beyond the continuing education courses required by many states for agents to maintain their licenses. After the GRI, an agent may become a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) by advancing his or her education even further.

black family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discriminationblack family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discrimination

Builders can obtain the GBI – Graduate Builder Institute – designation by completing nine one-day classes sponsored by the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders. Those who pass more advanced courses become Graduate Master Builders, or GMBs. Remodeling specialists with at least five years of experience can be Certified Graduate Remodelers, or CGRs. And, salespeople can be CSPs, or Certified New Home Sales Professionals.

In the mortgage profession, the Mortgage Bankers Association awards the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) and Accredited Residential Originator (ARO) designations, but only after completing a training program that may take up to five years to finish. To start the process, CMB and ARO candidates must have at least three years’ experience and be recommended by a senior officer in their companies.

Acronyms Associated with Mortgage Lending

When obtaining a mortgage, you will be quoted an interest rate; however, perhaps the more important rate is the annual percentage rate, or APR, which is the total cost of the loan per year over the loan’s term. It measures the interest rate plus other fees and charges.

An FRM is a fixed-rate mortgage, the terms of which never change. Conversely, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) allows rates to increase or decrease at certain intervals over the life of the loan, depending on rates at the time of the adjustment.

Female client consulting with a agent in the officeFemale client consulting with a agent in the office

A conventional loan is one with an amount at or less than the conforming loan limit set by federal regulators on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major suppliers of funds for home loans. These two quasi-government outfits replenish the coffers of main street lenders by buying their loans and packing them into securities for sale to investors worldwide.

Other key agencies you should be familiar with are the FHA and the VA. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages up to an amount which changes annually, as does the conforming loan ceiling. The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees loans made to veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

LTV stands for loan-to-value. This important ratio measures what your are borrowing against the value of the home. Some lenders want as much as 20% down, meaning the LTV would be 80%. But in many cases, the LTV can be as great as 97%.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), is a fee you’ll have to pay if you make less than a 20% down payment. PMI covers the lender should you default, but you have to pay the freight. Fortunately, you can cancel coverage once your LTV dips below 80%.

Your monthly payment likely will include more than just principal and interest. Many lenders also want borrowers to include one-twelfth of their property tax and insurance bills every month, as well. That way, lenders will have enough money on hand to pay these annual bills when they come due. Thus, the acronym PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Real-estate owned (REO) properties are foreclosed upon by lenders when borrowers fail to make their payments. When you buy a foreclosure, you buy REO. Short sales are not REO because, while they are in danger of being repossessed, they are still owned by the borrower.

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Acronyms You’ll Hear During an Appraisal

There is no acronym for an appraisal, which is an opinion of value prepared by a certified or licensed appraiser (though sometimes other types of valuation methods are used in the buying and selling process).

A Certified Market Analysis (CMA) is prepared by a real estate agent or broker to help determine a home’s listing price. A Broker Price Opinion (BPO) is a more advanced estimate of the probable future selling price of a property, and an automated valuation model (AVM) is a software program that provides valuations based on mathematical modeling.

AVMs are currently used by some lenders and investors to confirm an appraiser’s valuation, but they are becoming increasingly popular as replacements of appraisals, especially in lower price ranges.

Other Terms to Know

If you hear the term MLS, you should know it stands for multiple listing service. An MLS is a database that allows real estate brokers to share data on properties for sale, making the buying and selling process more efficient. There are many benefits to both homebuyers and sellers utilizing an MLS, for more information on how to get your home available through an MLS, work with a real estate professional when selling.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Did you know? Homes.com has some serious MLS partnerships, no joke! When you start your home search on Homes.com, you’ll see accurate property information quickly so you’ll never have to wonder if a home is actually available.

House tourHouse tour

However, not all properties for sale are listed on the MLS. A home may be a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO), if the owner is selling his or her property without an agent and bypassing an MLS listing. In addition, some agents fail to enter their listings in the MLS for days or weeks at a time in hopes of selling to a list of preferred clients.

Read: Advantages of Buying With or Without an Agent

Finally, you may find yourself buying into a homeowners association (HOA) when you purchase a house or condominium apartment. HOAs are legal governing bodies that establish requirements everyone must adhere to in order to keep the community it oversees running smoothly and ensure property values are maintained.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

How New Construction Homes Are Helping Ease the Housing Shortage

Across all 50 states, in every county—there is one universal real estate truth right now: there is an extreme housing inventory shortage. In fact, according to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors says “Realtors across the country are saying there are not enough homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the marketplace.” Due to low interest rates and continued demand, the market has become a brutal place for first time homebuyers, but buyers across all price points are experiencing the same thing—there aren’t enough homes to choose from.

Read: How the Homes.com App Makes Homebuying Simply Smarter

And this news may sound discouraging, especially for homebuyers; however, there is one sector of real estate rising to the top to ease the chaos: new construction. Mr. Yun credits new construction with being the saving factor for the shortage: “New construction for both single-family and multi-family units ramped up sizably in July. Such growth is needed to steadily relieve the housing shortage.”

Gray Bungalow House Under Blue and White Cloudy Sky new construction spec home housing shortageGray Bungalow House Under Blue and White Cloudy Sky new construction spec home housing shortage

How New Construction Homes Are Helping Ease the Housing Shortage

What Is A Spec Home?

There is a specific type of new construction that is meeting the needs of the masses: spec home construction. Unlike custom construction, a spec home is designed for any buyer—not a specific buyer. The finishes are chosen to appeal to most buyers, the builder owns the property and carries the construction loan, and they’re typically built several at a time in subdivisions or neighborhoods. The appeal of spec homes to buyers is that they receive a brand-new home that is turn-key and move-in ready, and most come with extended builder’s warranties, as well as manufacturer warranties.

Read: From Living in Older Homes to Buying a New Build: The Homebuying Journey with Love and Renovations

Why Is Spec Construction Helping The Shortage?

The demand by buyers for houses necessitates several homes hitting the market for them to choose from. Existing construction homes become available one at a time, and frequently as homeowners buy another home that is on the market. It’s essentially negates the available homes at that point. With spec construction, several homes become available at once, This is beneficial because it frees up numerous houses to be purchases by buyers, and for buyers that are selling a home to buy new construction, it also frees up that existing construction home.

Why Are Spec Homes Appealing To Buyers?

As the shortage continues, homeowners are capitalizing by listing their homes over market value and, frequently, receive multiple offers. This type of seller’s market is never beneficial to buyers. Buyers are looking for a method that provides less chaos than bidding wars, and new construction can offer that. While still in the construction process, buyers can pay deposits to secure their new construction home. This often allows them to pick their lot, pick their finishes, while also receiving a brand-new home.

Read: The New Must-Haves of Homebuying: What Buyers are Looking for

Man in Blue Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Woman in White Long Sleeve Shirt moving houseMan in Blue Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Woman in White Long Sleeve Shirt moving house

What To Consider When Purchasing A New Spec Home

One of the important things to remember as a home buyer: Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s problem-free. Not all builders have the same quality, same warranty, or same reputation. While it’s tempting to see a new construction home and jump to make an offer, not every new home is worth it. If you’re tired of the bidding war insanity and considering the spec home route, there are a few things to consider and questions to ask:

  • Does the builder offer a warranty? If so, request to see a copy of it prior to making an offer.
  • Don’t buy sight unseen! Buyers should request to tour a model home or existing home previously built by the builder to see their quality before making an offer.
  • Does the builder upcharge? Many builders have builder-grade packages for finishes, but if buyers choose different finishes, it can come with an additional cost. It’s important to know before choosing upgrades if there is an additional price and how much.
  • Get a home inspection. Many buyers naively assume that a new construction home does not need an inspection by a licensed home inspector; however, no home is perfect. It’s critical for any mistakes to be caught prior to purchasing the home.
  • Use a real estate agent as a buyer. While many builders employ their listing agents that work exclusively for them, it’s important to remember those agents work for the benefit of the builder. Using a buyer’s agent Realtor is typically a free resource for professional representation in the transaction, and each home buyer should have someone advocating solely for their benefit! You can begin your search for a Buyer’s Agent on Homes.com.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

Making an Offer? Here’s How to Win in a Bidding War

Many homebuyers in recent months had to beat some heavy competition to nail the house they wanted. And bidding wars are likely to continue as more and more buyers descend upon the shrinking number of properties for sale to take advantage of record low mortgage rates.

Read: 5 Reasons Why Fall Will Be a Good Time to Sell

Consequently, the question for buyers is not just how much to offer on a house they like, it’s how can they make the offer stand out from that of anyone else who has an eye on the same place. Here’s a some tips:

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

  • Secure a lender’s pre-approval for the maximum amount you can borrow, which, when adding in the cash you have for a downpayment, will give you an idea how high you can bid. This is not the same as being prequalified, which tells you only that you can qualify for financing. A preapproval means that as long as the house appraises for the amount you want to finance, you are good to go.

Read: The Advantages of Securing a Mortgage Pre-Approval

  • Agree to pay all cash if you can. Even though sellers get all their money at closing whether you pay cash or secure financing, cash offers are like gold because they mean nothing can or will go wrong with your financing. There are loan programs that allow cash buyers to refinance their deals within six months of closing, so you can replenish, at least in part, whatever source you used for the money at little expense.
  • The cleanest offer often wins the day. That means no contingencies, or at least as few as possible. So don’t make your offer subject to selling your current house or breaking your lease. And don’t make it subject to securing financing. That should have been taken care of in advance.

Sellers will “usually take a little less if it means peace of mind,” says Aaron Hofmann of Atlanta Communities in Smyrna, Georgia. Offers are usually contingent on the house appraising for a certain amount. You can pass on this as well. But without that protection, you will be required to come up with extra cash if the valuation comes in too low. So agree in writing that you will make up the difference in any shortfall between the appraised value of the property and what you agreed to pay.

What You Can and Can’t Waive

You can’t waive the appraisal. Lenders require one to make sure they are not lending more than the place is worth, but you can pick up any difference with a larger down payment. For example, if you offer $500,000 and the place is appraised at $490,000, your down payment will be $10,000 larger. But as a protection, make sure you put a limit on the extra amount. Otherwise, this idea can get very expensive.

Some people will waive the home inspection contingency, but think twice about doing that. Some sellers don’t like the idea of taking their homes off the market until the inspection takes place and you are satisfied with it. But if you forego this important protection, you are taking the chance that the roof is not on its last legs or the HVAC system is about to crap out.

how to win a bidding war: gay couple standing outside of home they just purchased togetherhow to win a bidding war: gay couple standing outside of home they just purchased together

One compromise is to promise to have the inspector examine the house and file his report with seven days. Here, you can stipulate that if you miss the deadline, you’re all in, no ifs, ands or buts. You also might want to agree that only major issues costing more than X amount – say $5,000 – will be deal breakers. Otherwise, you’ll take care of the little things after you move in.

  • Consider an “escalation clause” which says you’ll go X-amount higher than any offer that beats yours. In another words, if you offer $500,000 and someone else offers $550,000, you have promised to best that amount by, say, $500 or $1,000, but make sure you set a limit.

Read: What to Know Before Considering an Escalation Clause in Real Estate

Other Ways to Differentiate Your Offer

You also can offer to help pay for the seller’s move. Perhaps you can hire the mover or pay some of his traveling expenses – hotel, meals, etc. – if he’s leaving the area. Here, set a maximum amount you’re willing to pay.

  • Attach a large earnest money check to your offer. The larger, the better because it again shows the seller just how serious you are and that you have the financial wherewithal to follow through. Your money should be safe because the seller’s agent is obligated by law to place it into a separate escrow account to be applied as part of your down payment at closing. Realize, though, that if the deal falls through and you are at fault, the seller could claim your deposit.

Speaking of attachments, consider writing a heartfelt letter about how wonderful you find the house and how you and your children plan to cherish and take care of it just like the seller obviously has. Corny? Sure. But more than a few deals have been sealed because a sentimental seller failed to see the sale as a business deal and nothing else. So write it by hand, and attach a sweet photo of your darling little ones.

woman writing letterwoman writing letter

Read: The Risk of Personal Offer Letters in Real Estate

To bolster this, ask your agent for a face-to-face sit-down with the seller and his family. Bring along your moppets, dress them up to the nines and make sure they are on their best behavior. “It’s my job to make the seller fall in love with my buyer,” an agent confided some years ago.

If you should be beaten out by someone else, don’t despair. Ask that your contract be held as a backup just in case the offer that was accepted falls through. More than one in four contracts never make it to the closing table, so you could be next in line.

Looking to Buy?

If you’re interested in buying a home or the idea has crossed your mind and you’re looking for next steps, visit Homes.com’s How To section where you can find free, step-by-step guides that will walk you through the entire journey, from home search to closing day.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

Here’s What You Need To Know About Becoming A Cosigner

Are you thinking about becoming a cosigner for someone? Have you ever been asked to cosign on a loan before? 

becoming a cosigner

becoming a cosignerMany people have been asked to cosign loans for family members and even friends. However, many people do not understand the full cosigner meaning, and becoming a cosigner is never something you should do unless you completely understand what it means.

If someone asks you to cosign a loan for them, you might be hesitant to say yes at first. You also might not want to offend the person or make them mad.

Whatever you may be thinking, I want you to fully understand what you are getting yourself into.

Becoming a cosigner can actually turn into a big financial mistake if you do it without really thinking it through.

Okay, now some of you may think that I’m a mean person for saying that, but I’ve heard many stories from people who’ve had their credit wrecked, have been stuck paying a loan for someone else, and even had their relationships ruined.

All of that from cosigning a loan.

Perhaps you have cosigned before and it went fine, or you know a friend of a friend who has done it. Perhaps you think that things won’t go bad for you or that you are hurting the person by not cosigning for them.

But, I want you to be careful before becoming a cosigner. I’m saying this to help you!

No matter how well you think you know someone, mixing money and relationships can change things. What you may have thought was a wonderful friendship or family relationship can turn into a nightmare.

It may seem very innocent – you’re just helping a good friend or relative get a loan. 

Really, if it was that simple, I’d tell everyone to do it. But, becoming a cosigner is a major financial decision that you need to seriously think about before agreeing to.

Before you cosign a mortgage or another type of loan for someone, it is always wise to be 100% positive of what cosigning a loan actually means and how it may affect your relationship with the person getting the loan.

Surprisingly, many people don’t know exactly what happens when they agree to being a cosigner. Many people just think that all you’re doing is helping a person get approved, but that’s not just it.

Sorry to break it to you, but the bank, landlord, etc., does not care if the applicant has a friend with a good credit history. 

There’s more that comes with being a cosigner.

As the cosigner, what’s actually happening is that you are taking on the full responsibility of the debt if the original applicant is unable to pay.

And, that happens more often than you might think.

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According to a survey I found on CreditCards.com, 38% of cosigners had to pay some or all of a loan that they cosigned for because the primary borrower failed to pay. This is a HUGE percentage of cosigners, so please keep that in mind.

Other statistics I found about becoming a cosigner include:

  • 28% of cosigners saw a drop in their credit score because the person that they cosigned on a loan for paid their loan late or skipped a payment.
  • 26% of cosigners said that cosigning damaged the relationship with the person that they cosigned a loan for.
  • 90% of private student loan borrowers who applied for cosigner release were rejected. So, if you think that you are going to cosign for a loan and then remove yourself from the loan later, that is much more difficult than you probably think. Stat from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

So, who is finding cosigners for loans?

According to the survey mentioned above, 45% of cosigners are cosigning for their child or stepchild. And 21% of cosigners are cosigning for a friend.

The rest is a mixture of cosigning for spouses/partners and parents.

Today, I am going to answer common questions about becoming a cosigner for a loan.

What to know about becoming a cosigner.

 

What is a cosigner?

If you’ve been asked to become a cosigner on a loan, you may not know what that fully entails.

A cosigner is someone who agrees to be on a loan with another person so that they are more likely to be approved. 

A cosigner may be needed for different things such as a:

  • Car loan
  • Student loan
  • Mortgage
  • Apartment or other type of rental home

And more.

Here’s an example of when someone may want a cosigner: if your child wants to buy a car but doesn’t have a long enough credit history to be approved for the car loan. Your child may ask you to cosign their loan so the lender takes your credit score and financial information into account. This improves your child’s chances of being approved.

Other reasons you might be asked to be a cosigner is if the borrower doesn’t have a high enough credit score or doesn’t make enough money to pay the loan (that is a red flag right there).

However, as a cosigner, you are agreeing to pay off the debt if the original borrower is unable to pay it in the future. So, even if the original borrower doesn’t pay a penny, the cosigner would have to make all of the payments or risk being sued, having credit report damage, and more.

In that example I gave, the parent would be responsible for the car loan if their child could no longer make their payments. Not only that, if the child for some reason refused to make payments (I’ve heard of situations like this), the parent would be responsible.

Remember, like I stated above, 38% of cosigners had to pay some or all of a loan that they cosigned for because the primary borrower failed to pay. 

And in some circumstances, even if the borrower files bankruptcy, while their other loans might be discharged, the cosigner may still be responsible for paying the cosigned loan.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Your Credit Score

 

How does a co signer work?

Here’s what happens when you agree to become a cosigner for a friend or family member. 

You will start by giving your personal information to the bank or lender. This is information like bank statements, tax returns, paycheck stubs, and so on.

You will also have to complete the loan application, and once you agree with all of the loan terms, then you sign it.

But, becoming a cosigner doesn’t mean that you will own or have partial ownership of the vehicle, house, or whatever else you are cosigning for. It does mean that you are taking full financial responsibility and promising to pay the loan yourself if the borrower does not pay.

Becoming a cosigner is nothing to take lightly.

Does cosigning hurt your credit? Is it bad to be a cosigner?

Becoming a cosigner can hurt your credit score and prevent you from future loans in some circumstances.

Here’s why:

  • If the person doesn’t pay the monthly payments on time, then you may be rejected for a loan in the future. Missed payments can damage your credit score and your credit report.
  • As a cosigner, you are increasing your debt-to-income ratio. So, even if your friend/family member pays every single bill on time, a lender will still see this as YOUR debt. Unfortunately, this may prevent them from approving your loan because they will think you have too much debt on your plate.

If you might be buying something soon that will need financing (house, car, etc.), you should think long and hard before you decide to be a cosigner on someone else’s loan.

Can cosigning a loan hurt a relationship?

Unfortunately, many cosigning relationships go sour. 

I have heard many stories where someone cosigned a loan for someone else and then didn’t talk to them for years or even decades because of a falling out of some sort.

I have always been a firm believer that money and relationships do not mix well. 

If you are going to cosign or lend money to someone, then you should consider it a gift because there is a chance that you will never see that money again.

 

Can you remove yourself from a loan as a cosigner?

Remember the statistic above – 90% of private student loan borrowers who applied for cosigner release were rejected. 

There’s not much you can do to remove yourself from a loan that you cosigned on. If the person isn’t making payments, you are stuck with it for the most part.

The loan would have to be refinanced to take yourself off the loan, and there are many horror stories out there where the original borrower refused to refinance because then they wouldn’t be able to force the cosigner to continue to pay the monthly bill.

Plus, there are instances in which refinancing is impossible because of the value decreasing, the economy changing, a person’s financial situation getting worse, and so on. 

So, while the original borrower may be okay with getting you off of the loan and refinancing, it’s still up to the lender whether or not they will refinance the loan.

How do I protect myself as a cosigner?

There is no guarantee that becoming a cosigner is going to work out, but if you’re determined to do it, you will want to know both of these two things for sure:

  1. That you can trust the person you are cosigning for.
  2. That YOU can make the payment.

Many people who are thinking about becoming a cosigner may not think about that last one, but it is just as important as the first one. Being stuck with the loan payment would be awful, but not being able to make the payment could cause you to go into serious debt and destroy your credit.

You may be certain you won’t be stuck making the payment, but you don’t want to be stuck in a bad financial situation.

Should I cosign a loan?

Even though those cosigning horror stories are real cautionary tales, most people don’t believe they would ever happen to them. 

However, don’t you think most (if not all) cosigners felt the same way in the beginning?

It’s up to each person to decide if they will cosign, and you should never feel forced to do it. However, I want you to remember that if you cosign, then you should make sure that you can afford to make the monthly payment.

You never know, one day those payments are being made and everything is going well. The original borrower may be a great person, but then they may lose their job, have an unexpected expense come up, or something else that prevents them from paying their bills.

Then, what if something happens to you and you can’t make those payments either? Unfortunately, being unprepared and not really knowing what you are getting into can turn into a disastrous situation.

Cosigning a loan may not always be bad. However, I believe it’s better to realize what the consequences are before going into something that can negatively impact your life. It’s always better to be prepared!

 

Is it a bad idea to cosign for someone?

Cosigning a loan doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

However, I want you to remember that there is a chance that you will be on the hook for the loan.

So, if you cosign, whether that be for a car, mortgage, apartment, student loan, or something else, you should make sure that you can afford the payment as well. Because, there is a chance that you may have to pay it one day.

Everyone has a different situation, and ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you. 

What do you think of becoming a cosigner for a mortgage or other type of loan? Would you ever do it?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com