May 1, 2018

Are Sellers Watching You in Their Homes?

Selling a home can bring out some interesting emotions in people.  Some homeowners are concerned that their valuables will be safe while people are viewing their home.  Others wonder what buyers and their agents are thinking about their home while touring it.

In the past, a homeowner might stay in their home during showings, to keep an eye on their things, and to see if they might be able to overhear anything from the buyers who are previewing it.  Nowadays, things have gone a little more high tech - some homeowners are using security cameras to watch and listen to the people in their homes.

More than just nanny cams

In the past, homeowners might have nanny cams set up in their homes - discreet cameras set up to record what was happening that they could then review when they got home.  By today's standards, this is a quaint relic of the past.

With the technology available today, homeowners can watch in real time what's happening in their homes.  With wifi-enabled cameras, they can watch live feeds right from their homes to their phones.

Is it legal?

The legality of using security cameras in a private residence to record people depends on the state in which you live.  Many states have what is known as "one-party consent" laws, where it is lawful to record a conversation to which you are a party.  This may not work for recording guests in your home if you're not there with them.  Several other states prohibit recording, observing, or overhearing people in a private area where they would expect a certain level of privacy.  That would make recording people in your home against the law.*

As a buyer, what can you do?

I recently showed a home to a client, and there were obvious cameras in the home.  I softly said to my client, "There are security cameras here, and we may or may not be being monitored.  Just watch what you say while we're here."

The reason I wanted my client to watch what she said was twofold.  First, I didn't want her to say anything that would potentially upset the seller (I may not be crazy about a homeowner monitoring showings, but I still don't want to be rude).  Second, and more importantly, if she liked the house, I didn't want her to say anything that would hurt her negotiating position.  For example, if she wanted to make an offer and come in on the low side, but the seller had already heard her say that she loves the house and can't live without it, her ability to negotiate would be ruined.

The hidden Pandora's Box

There's a downside for sellers who insist on using cameras in their homes.  Knowing you have a camera in your home may get you to monitor it, and may cause you more harm than good.  Hearing what people REALLY think about your home may not always be in your best interest (you won't please everyone with your decor and whatnot).  Hearing someone say that your artwork is tacky or your couch looks like it came from the 80's can be stressful, and let's face it - it's stressful enough selling your home without being privy to what people are saying behind closed doors.

The bottom line

If you're selling your home, you might want to reconsider using cameras.  Besides not wanting to hear unvarnished opinions from buyers, you could also be opening yourself up to legal action if someone discovers they're being watched, especially if you're involved in a transaction with them and they find out you've been watching their home inspection, appraisal, etc.

If you're buying a home, and you see cameras in a home you're previewing, or you suspect there may be cameras, act in the house as you would if the seller were following you around.  Because, in a way, they are.

 

* For legal advice, you should always consult an attorney.  This article is to illustrate what happens in different areas, and how common sense should be used when buying or selling a home with cameras in it.

 

Posted in Blog
April 5, 2018

Is This Man Buying a Haunted House?

A home buyer in Illinois reached out to me recently.  He saw a video of mine on YouTube about what to do if the home you're buying is haunted.  He had put an offer on a vacant bank-owned property, but after taking pictures of the front of the home, noticed something interesting in the windows that gave him pause.  Check out what happened when he reached out to me, and take a look at the picture of the home he sent me!  What do you think?  Is the home haunted? 

 

 Here is the picture the buyer sent me!  Let me know your thoughts! 

Posted in Blog
March 5, 2018

How Can You Show Your Home Safely While It's On The Market?

Check out this episode of Mark Madness!  Mark Madness happens every day in the month of March, and it's where I give you great information on buying and selling homes so you can have the best move possible!  This episode is especially important, because I discuss how to keep you and your home safe while your home is on the market.  Watch the episode, and tune in every day on my Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/MoveMeMark!

 

Have a question?

Call me at 908-705-5110 and let's talk about it!  Thanks for watching!

Posted in Blog
Feb. 26, 2018

5 AWESOME Things You Should Be Doing With Your Tax Refund

Recently, I saw a commercial on TV for a popular car painting place.  The commercial mentioned that they had "tax season specials".  I looked online and saw an ad on YouTube for the same company which asked, "Looking for a responsible way to spend your tax return?"  Now, I'm all for spending your money the way you see fit, but is getting a paint job for your car really the most responsible thing to do with your tax refund?

All this got me thinking.  What really IS the most responsible thing to do with your tax refund?  And here is your answer.  I have here 5 AWESOME things you should be doing with your tax refund!  Doing any one of these five suggestions will put you on a road to increased wealth and stability, and will do so much more than getting a paint job on your car.  Let's get started!

Tax Refund Idea #1 - Put it towards a down payment on a new home!

Home ownership is a major part of how people build wealth in our country.  Typically, home values rise over time, so the home you buy can be worth more when you sell.  Also, as you pay down your mortgage, you build more and more equity in the home.  That can mean a great deal when it comes time to sell!

Are you currently renting?  Wouldn't it be great to be paying off your OWN home rather than someone else's?  With certain loan programs allowing borrowers to put down as little as 3% to 3.5% on their new home, you can't go wrong!

Tax Refund Idea #2 - Put it towards a down payment on an investment property!

If paying down the mortgage on the home in which you reside is a good idea, having other people pay the mortgage for you is even better!  Putting your tax refund towards an investment property is a great way to build passive income and future wealth, all at the same time.

Tax Refund Idea #3 - Save it for closing costs on your new home!

When you buy a home, there will be costs associated with the closing that you will have to pay.  Costs include prepaying property taxes, title search fees, attorney fees, and more.  Having money set aside to take care of those costs will go a long way.

Tax Refund Idea #4 - Pay down your debt!

Paying down your debt is certainly not one of the more exciting sounding things to do with your tax return, but it can be really important.  Why?  Because, if you are carrying large balances on your credit cards, or if you have other revolving debt that is outstanding, you may still be able to qualify for a mortgage, but you might not be able to qualify for as MUCH of a mortgage as you would like.  This could mean that your dream home could be just out of reach.

Paying these debts down will help you qualify for a larger mortgage, plus will put you on better footing when it comes to being approved for the loan.  It's a win-win!

Tax Refund Idea #5 - Fix up your current home before you sell!

Do you have a home you would need to sell in order to buy your next home?  Using your tax refund to spruce things up could help you get more money on the sale of your home, and help you sell more quickly!  There are plenty of low-cost renovations you can undertake that can make a huge difference.  Painting, having carpets cleaned, and fixing up your landscaping are just a few of the things you can use your tax refund on that will pay off when selling.

Let's get going!

Once you've decided what to do with your tax refund, you're going to need a plan!  Call me at 908-705-5110, and we can put a plan together that will get you into a new home you'll LOVE in the time frame you want.  Just imagine - getting the keys to your new home and having a place that's all your own!  Or selling your current home and finding the new home you've been dreaming about!  You're on your way!

P.S. - Don't forget, you can start your search for a new home right here on MoveMeMark.com.  Have homes matching what you're looking for emailed to you as they become available!  Get started by clicking here.

Posted in Blog
Jan. 31, 2018

Wondering How the Real Estate Market Did in 2017? Let's Find Out!

The numbers are in! How did the housing market do in New Jersey in 2017?  Let's take a look at North Brunswick!  Is it a good time to sell?  You will definitely be surprised! 

Interested to know how your home compares to the rest of the market?  Call me at 908-705-5110 and let's talk about it!

Posted in Blog
Nov. 29, 2017

5 Reasons Selling Your Home During the Holidays Can Pay Off

When this time of year rolls around, people start thinking about the holidays, getting together with loved ones, and wrapping up the year.  But what if you've been pondering a new home?  Is this a good time?  Absolutely!  Here are 5 great reasons that selling your home during the holidays can pay off!

Your new home!

1) Buyers are more serious during the holidays!

Let's face it, it's getting cold out, the days are shorter, and people have a ton of things on their plates.  If a buyer is out looking at homes, they are motivated to move!  Wouldn't you rather have the most motivated buyers looking at your home?  Of course you would!

2) There's less competition!

That's right, there are fewer homes available during the holidays for buyers to choose from.  That means less competition for you to get your home sold!  And the fact that there's less competition brings us to our next point...

3) You could sell your home for more!

Less competition, combined with motivated buyers, means you could get more for your home than if you wait for the market to get saturated with more inventory!  This is classic supply and demand, and you can make it work in your favor!

Holiday warmth

4) You can use the holidays to your advantage!

Homes look great during the holidays, and buyers can be more emotional as a result.  Let's use all those good feelings to find you the right buyer for your home!

5) Your celebrating doesn't have to be interrupted!

One thing I do for my clients is to give them the ability to pause showings on their homes.  That means that, if you are getting ready for a big celebration at your house, we can hold off on any showings until after your party is over and you've had a chance to clean up!  This means you can get the best part of the market, without having to sacrifice the best part of the holidays!

Time to celebrate!

And there you have it!

And there you have it!  Put some holiday spirit into your move, and you're sure to come out on top!  If you're thinking of making a move, give me a call at 908-705-5110, and we can talk about putting a plan together and making it happen!  Happy holidays to you and yours!

P.S. - Don't forget!

You can get a detailed Market Snapshot for your home, showing current inventory levels and a pricing analysis, by visiting www.MarkWhatsMyHomeWorth.com!

Posted in Blog
Oct. 11, 2017

Three Things That Made a HUGE Difference in Selling My Own Home

Last year, my wife and I decided it was time for a bigger house!  I used to use our dining room table as my home office, and she hated that I always had a laptop and papers all over the table.  She turned to me one day and said, "Listen we need a new home.  One where you can have your own office.  Where you can spread out, make calls, and I can SHUT THE DOOR."  I could tell it was time to move!

Being a real estate professional for the past 15 years has taught me a great deal about what it takes to get a home sold.  However, now I felt the like the doctor who's become a patient!  Here is what I confirmed WORKS to get your home sold in the quickest time with the least amount of stress.

1) Being as open as possible to showings is key

This is what I call Sales 101 - the easier you make it for someone to buy from you, the more likely they will.  Since the product you're selling is your home, it's important that you be as accommodating as possible with the people who would like to see it.

Here's a quick story.  I had a client years ago who wanted to see a two-family home.  I called the listing office to make the appointment, and they said, "That home is shown on the first Sunday of the month between one and two o'clock."  They had ONE hour of showings a month!  Do you think the home sold?  You're right, it did not!  Letting people see your home is key to selling it!

2) Keeping your home clean all the time is a pain, but 100% necessary

Do you remember when you were a kid, and you had relatives coming over?  And your parents made you clean like it was the president of the United States coming for a visit?  And you couldn't touch anything or sit anywhere or walk on any vacuumed rugs?  While it's not exactly the same, getting your home ready for buyers to see it is similar.

Every day, you have to wake up, make your bed, make sure there are no dishes in the sink, clean up the bathrooms, and address a whole other host of items before you can leave for the day.  And yes, it's a giant pain.  However, if a buyer wants to see your home and it's a last-minute appointment, you want to know that they can go in your home and be impressed with what they see.  As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.  Keeping your home clean is how you do it!

3) The better you price your home, the less you'll have to clean it because you'll get an offer

This is one of those cause and effect things that many people don't always consider.  How do people buy homes?  By comparison shopping.  They look at the price of your home and everything you have to offer, and compare it with similar homes that are currently on the market.  If they feel that one home is a better value than another, they're going to make an offer on that home!  Simple!

When I meet with a homeowner, I bring a market analysis with me.  This shows what has recently sold in the area, and gives me an opportunity to show them how their home compares.  Pricing their home with the market means they will get an offer on their home sooner, which means they won't have to keep cleaning their home every day like the president is coming over!  It's a win-win, because not only will you get an offer more quickly, but you'll also have no problems when it comes time for an appraisal on your home (but we'll save that topic for another day).

How we made it work

When we were selling our home, our dream home hit the market.  We did NOT want to lose out.  I thought to myself, what can we do to make sure we can find the RIGHT buyer who can get to the closing table?  Losing our dream home was NOT an option!

Here is what we did.  We had already fixed up our home in the year prior to selling, so we knew the condition of our home wouldn't be a problem.  I made sure we had great pictures for the listing, and I wrote up the listing to get people EXCITED to come see our home versus the competition!  And we priced it RIGHT!  Our price was compelling, and that's why we got FIVE offers on our home, going over asking price!  This gave us the ability to choose the buyer we thought was the right fit for us, and the rest is history!  We were able to close when we wanted, and are now in our dream home.

If you're thinking of making a move

If you're thinking of making a move, and you need some help getting started, give me a call at 908-705-5110!  We can talk about what you should to do get your home ready to sell, and I can show you how your home compares to homes that have recently sold in your neighborhood.  Plus, we can put a plan together so you can make your next home a reality!  I'm looking forward to talking with you!

Posted in Blog
Sept. 26, 2017

You've Found Your New Home! What Happens Next?

You've taken my advice!  You've been prequalified by a lender to buy a home, you've researched communities and figured out where you want to live, and we've found you your dream home!  So now that you've found your new home, what happens next?  Let's take a look at how you go from finding your home to owning it!

Step Two: Make an offer

Making an offer on a home can be tricky.  You don't want to pay too much, but also don't want to lose your dream home.  What do you do?  There are three ways you can make sure you're not paying too much for your new home, and you can find out what they are here.

You've looked at comparable sales I've shown you, and now you've arrived at a price you'd like to offer.  We've also talked about when you would like to close on your new home, how much money you are putting down (and when the deposit money would be due), and any other considerations that need to go into the offer.  I will write the offer up based on what we discussed, and we can either get together to sign it in person, or I can send it to you electronically for you to sign.

Once you have signed the offer, I will present it to the listing agent.  The sellers may accept your offer, reject your offer, or make a counter offer.  Most times, you can expect a counter offer, unless you've come in really strong.  If we are able to come to terms everyone can agree on, I will revise the contract and send it to all parties to be signed.

Step Three: Attorney review

Once we have a signed contract, you have the right to have that contract reviewed by an attorney.  Since this is most likely the largest financial transaction of your lifetime, you want to have an attorney who can make sure your legal rights are protected.  While we have three days to get the contract into an attorney's hands to begin the review process, attorney review can last as long as it takes to work out the terms.  While some can go weeks or even months, most attorney reviews last three to five days.

Attorney review is one of the three hurdles to buying a home.  During attorney review, either party may cancel the contract for any reason.  If you find a home you like better during attorney review, you can cancel the contract.  If the seller finds another buyer with more money or better terms, they can kill the deal and take the other offer.

Once attorney review is completed, you are considered "under contract" - you have a binding contract of sale.  If the sellers get another offer for more money and better terms, they can't take it, because you now have a firm contract with them.

Step Four: You're under contract!

Now that you're under contract, a number of different things start happening.  Second deposits are due (and first deposits, if that's how the offer was written up), and you will meet with your lender to begin the mortgage application process.  Your attorney will be taking care of things behind the scenes, such as ordering a title search.

You will also have an opportunity to have a home inspection.  The home inspector will inspect the interior and exterior of the home, and will be able to give you a better idea of what shape the home is in.  They will also conduct a wood destroying insect inspection (for termites, carpenter ants, etc.) and can test for radon (radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced by depleting uranium in the ground.  It is believed to be a carcinogen.).  A typical home inspection will take two to three hours, depending on the size of the home.

Your home inspector will give you a written report of their findings.  You can review it with me and with your attorney, and then decide if there are items you would like addressed by the seller.  Your attorney will write a letter to the sellers' attorney with your request.  You can ask for things to be repaired, or you can ask for a credit at the closing so you can take care of the items yourself.

The home inspection phase is the second hurdle to buying a home.  Since the seller is under no obligation to make any repairs, and you are under no obligation to proceed with the sale if you are not satisfied with the home or with their response to your request, the deal can fall apart.  Typically, we are able to work things out, but contracts do get canceled.

Step Five: Your mortgage commitment

The third and final hurdle to buying a home is a part of the contract called the mortgage contingency clause.  This is the date by which you have to have your mortgage commitment from your lender, typically a month after you are officially under contract.  If you do not have your mortgage commitment by this date, either party can cancel the contract.  This is why it is so important for me, as your agent, to keep track of these dates and make sure everything comes in on time.  If there is a delay, your attorney can send a letter to the attorney for the sellers requesting an extension.  In most cases, though, the lender is able to get everything together on time.

Step Six: Clear to close!

Once the bank has everything it needs, and they've put your loan through underwriting (these are the people that check everything and make sure the bank is prepared to give you a mortgage), you will be clear to close.  This means that you are ready to head to the closing table and buy that house!

Before the closing, you have the right to a final walk through, either the day before or the day of the closing.  This is an opportunity for you to make sure the home is in the same condition as when you first toured it, that nothing was damaged while the sellers were moving out, and that nothing else has happened to the house since you were last in it (like the basement flooding).  Some buyers take a quick look through the house to make sure it's still standing, while others turn on appliances to make sure they're still working.  The choice is yours.

If everything is to your satisfaction, you head to your attorney's office at the scheduled time, sign a ton of papers, give your attorney the remainder of your deposit money, and the house is yours!  You're officially a homeowner!

Step One: Let's talk!

You may have noticed that the list of steps began with step two.  That's because the first step in buying a home is putting a plan together so you can get exactly what you want without a lot of stress along the way.  Call me at 908-705-5110, or email me at mark@MoveMeMark.com, and we can set up a time to speak about what you're looking for, and how we can get you there!  And don't forget, you can start your search for a home by registering on my website.  Home listings are updated every five minutes, and homes matching your criteria will be emailed to you automatically.  You can get started by clicking here.  Best of luck with your move!

 

Posted in Blog
Sept. 7, 2017

Can You Sell Your Home "As-Is"?

There are times when a homeowner who is selling their home might want to try to sell "as-is".  When a homeowner sells as-is, they expect the buyer to take the home in the condition that they found it, and be responsible to repair any issues that might be uncovered during a home inspection.  Is it a good idea to sell your home this way?  And what are the pros and cons of doing so?

When is it a good idea to sell your home "as-is"?

If you know the home you're selling needs a lot of work, and you neither have the time nor the resources to address what needs to be fixed, then you might want to sell as-is.  This works well if you are reasonable about your price.  For example, if homes similar to yours in your area are selling for $350,000, and your home needs approximately $50,000 worth of repairs to it, then it would be reasonable to price your home at $300,000, as is.

When is it NOT a good idea to sell "as-is"?

Many sellers want to sell their homes as-is because a) they don't feel like going through the hassle of making repairs, and b) they don't want to give up any more money in the home inspection phase of the sale.  However, if there is really nothing outrageously wrong with the home, this strategy can backfire on a seller.  Unless the home is priced substantially below the market already, a seller offering an as-is sale can expect to get lowball offers from buyers.  Many buyers assume that, since you're looking to sell as-is, there might be something wrong with your home, and they want to leave themselves room in their budget to make repairs.  Thus, you may get even less than you would have if you had priced your home with the market and agreed to be open to repair requests.

A hidden pitfall

There is a hidden pitfall with selling as-is that many people are not aware of.  Unless there is some pretty strict language in the contract, a buyer will have the right to have a home inspection, and they will be able to back out of the contract if the home is in worse shape than they thought.  But that itself isn't the problem.

Let's say a buyer has a contract on a home, and during the home inspection, it comes out that there is an issue with the foundation.  They don't feel the home is worth what they're paying for it with a foundation problem, so they cancel the contract.  Now, since the seller knows they have a problem with the foundation, they have a duty to disclose it to future buyers.  You can't sell a home with a latent (or hidden) defect and not inform buyers of it.  This will not help that seller get a strong offer from the next buyer, because buyers don't typically put big offers on homes with big problems.

So how do you sell your home and not lose during the home inspection phase?

When my clients want to sell as-is, and my professional experience is telling me this will result in them taking less money for their home than they could, I tell them that we shouldn't market it is an as-is sale, but we should address it when negotiating offers.  As part of the negotiating process, I let the agent for the buyers know that we will agree to a price, but when it comes to home inspection issues, my clients will address safety or health-related issues, but that we expect them not to nitpick over minor issues that might come up, like a leaky faucet.  Most times, this does the trick.

Questions?

If you're thinking of selling your home and you're not sure the best way to position your home to get the most money possible, give me a call at 908-705-5110, and we can talk about your options.  And find more great information on home buying and home selling here at MoveMeMark.com!

Posted in Blog
Aug. 24, 2017

Questions from Clients: "Do You Stage Homes to Sell?"

Last night, a friend reached out to me on Facebook.  She is planning on selling her home (more on that later), and likes to reach out to me with questions from time to time.  Here's what she wrote to me last night:

I wrote her back and said absolutely!  I want every home I bring to the market to be in the best shape possible, so that buyers will be WOWED when they walk in.  Home staging is key!

She asked if that meant the whole works - buying new furniture, etc?  I told her no, it doesn't mean new furniture.  I like to offer my clients low- and no-cost ways to stage their homes, which means making sure what you have looks its best and is presented in the best possible way.  This includes decluttering, repositioning furniture, painting, setting the dining room table, and anything else that will make your home shine.

Have you considered this?

You want to get started as early as possible with getting your home ready to sell.  My friend who reached out to me on Facebook said she is selling her home in 2021!  She's getting a head start on things!  Now, you may not have your life as mapped out as she does, and that's okay!  The earlier you can get started, the better.

There are a few reasons why getting started early is so important.  First, if there are any big projects you need to take on, you'll have more time.  Second, if you need to get your home on the market more quickly than you had anticipated, you'll be able to do so.  And third, if you're going to fix up your home to sell, you should be able to enjoy some of the upgrades you're making to your home before you put it on the market!

Getting started

If you're thinking of making a move and selling your home, and you need some help getting started, call me at 908-705-5110.  We can schedule a time when I can look at your home, give you a professional opinion about how to get it ready for the market, and help you put a plan together to get you where you want to go.  Having a plan is key, so call today!

Posted in Blog