The Eric Stewart Group Blog
Trusted resource for local and national real estate news and trending topics, and everything you need to know about the buying and selling process.
One question that is often presented to our team is, "When does the spring market begin?" To answer that question, we should first explain why people are curious about the spring market vs. the summer or fall. Typically, the spring market produces the highest sales prices of the year and the greatest level of buyer activity compared to summer and fall. As warm weather approaches, the local inventory of homes is coming off its annual lows from December and January. Many sellers prefer to not have their homes on the market over the holidays and while winter weather can be less cooperative. At the same time, the coming warmer months bring the buyer community out in full force. Buyers are eager to secure their new home before they have to compete with the mass of other hungry buyers. Making an offer on a home in early spring allows for many families to close towards the end of the school year and spend the summer getting settled before the following school year begins. This makes the perfect scenario for sellers: low inventory, which means less competition and high demand for homes. Selling a home is no different than selling something else; when demand is high and supply is low, prices rise.
As a first-time homebuyer, I've had many questions. And by "many," I mean A LOT of questions. The homebuying process involves a lot of steps and a lot of terms that you might not be aware of, so questions are inevitable. I interviewed one of our experienced buyers' agents and our Director of Operations, Robert Garcia, to get his input on several of the questions I've had throughout my own homebuying process. Check out all of Robert's advice below! FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER: How early should I get pre-approved? ROBERT GARCIA, REALTOR®: A pre-approval letter should be obtained prior to starting to look for a home. We normally suggest that you obtain your pre-approval the moment you have decided to purchase a house so in this way you’ll know how much you qualify for, how much money you’re going to need to put down and put towards closing costs, and what your monthly payment is going to be. FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER: Where do I find a lender? And how do I choose which one is best for me? ROBERT GARCIA, REALTOR®: There are many ways to find a lender. We suggest you start a casual search online but definitely always get referrals from friends, family members, or the Realtor you choose to work with. Be aware that there are some lenders online that will probably want to charge you several points upfront and this can make the cost of the house more expensive. FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER: I was pre-approved for a certain amount. Should that be my budget? Or should my budget come in under that? ROBERT GARCIA, REALTOR®: Most lenders will give you a pre-approval to the highest point you can afford every month. This does not mean that you have to buy a house with a monthly payment that makes you feel uncomfortable. Depending on the type of market we are in sometimes you may have to increase your pre-approval so that you can be more competitive, and in other cases you can stay under your budget. We always tell our purchasers that the most important thing is your comfort level. FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER: What questions should I ask while touring a house? ROBERT GARCIA, REALTOR®: Definitely this is one of the most asked questions from a lot of our purchasers. In our opinion, here are the top three you should always ask no matter what. You need to find out how old the big mechanical items and the roof are. Another good question is are there any other additional fees that you need to be responsible for on top of the mortgage payment. And the last question is if the price of this particular property supports what other homes have sold in the neighborhood for in the last three months. FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER: When I’m ready to put an offer in, how do I decide on an offer price? In a competitive market, should I automatically put in a competitive offer? ROBERT GARCIA, REALTOR®: Assuming that you already are working with a real estate professional, your Realtor should be able to guide you on this step. Your Realtor should produce something that is called a comparative market analysis. This is research that has been done in a neighborhood for the last six months and compares properties that have sold, are under contract, and are active (if any) so that you can either match the current price or you come under or above the current price. This can be a very tricky step because if you are working with a real estate professional who is not familiar with the area or does not have the experience necessary to identify comparables in the neighborhood, than you most likely will not get the ideal price. In a very competitive market you have two options. The first option is to offer the asking price or even go higher immediately so you can be seen as a competitive offer. The second option is to use an instrument called an escalation clause form. This is an instrument that allows you to compete with other offers in a given amount of increments and to also establish a maximum price, also called a cap. You need to check with your Realtor if this escalation clause form is allowed in the area in which you are buying the property or if the seller will consider offers with this document. There are some sellers that would only work with the highest and best offers up front so the first step will work in this case.
Our Market Ready Guide provides strategic advice and useful tips to get top dollar for your house when the time comes to sell.
Congrats! You’ve made the decision to buy your first home. Now what? The homebuying process can be very overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. There’s a ton of jargon, decision-making, and steps in the process to figure out as you go. It can be scary to think of all the pieces that go into buying a home. I am currently going through the process of my first home purchase, so I am right there with you! To help you get started, I am going to share eight questions I learned to ask throughout the process. You are more than likely going to have many more questions come up throughout your own experience, but use this list as a starting point. Some of these questions have straightforward answers, such as what is an EMD (Earnest Money Deposit)? Others will have answers that vary based on your own situation and your own preferences. We’ll go into some of these answers in the coming weeks as our blog posts dive further into the homebuying process for first-time buyers. Don’t forget to download our free checklist and note pages so you can track these questions and more as you buy your home! You can download this free resource here! 1. How much house can I afford? First, get pre-approved! This is a great first step that will save you time and stress later on. With this as your first step, you can go into the process knowing your affordability and setting realistic expectations for what type of house you can get. The mortgage pre-approval process involves providing your lender with various documents that show your income, credit score, and more. Some documents you should have ready to go include your social security number, valid ID, proof of employment and proof of income, tax documents, and credit information. You can get this process started as soon as you like. For example, I got pre-approved in October 2020 even though I didn’t plan to buy a house until 2021. Just know that your pre-approval letter typically expires within 60-90 days, so you will have to provide your lender with updated information if you go beyond that initial time period. Don’t feel stressed to make a decision within that 60-90 day period though; updating your pre-approval letter is quick and easy since your lender already has all your information! Once you have your pre-approval and know your affordability, set your budget based on that. I suggest setting your budget below the amount you were approved for to account for additional costs such as closing costs, the home inspection, the appraisal, any home repairs, and insurance. 2. What am I looking for in a neighborhood/community? This will, of course, depend on your personal preferences and needs. Some important things to consider are HOA fees, amenities, lifestyle of the neighbors (do a lot of them have young children? Are they mostly older couples or younger couples?), school district, safety, and walkability. Whatever your preferences are, you’ll want to make sure your new community aligns with what you’re looking for. You might find the perfect home in a neighborhood that's completely wrong for you. Will you be willing to sacrifice the location for the house itself? This is important to discuss beforehand! 3. How long do I plan to stay in this home? Will it fit my needs 3-5 years from now? This is a very important question to not overlook. You probably plan to stay in your first house for at least a few years, maybe more. You want your house to meet your needs until you’re financially ready to move up to a different house. Do you plan on growing your family within the next few years? If so, does your house have room to grow? Do you anticipate making a job change soon that will affect your commute needs? Is the house practical for a baby or toddler? Your first house does not have to be perfect by any means! But make sure it will work for you and your family for at least a few years. 4. What’s included with the home purchase? The listing description usually states which appliances are included in the sale, but check with your Realtor® as well! You’ll want to make sure you know which appliances you’ll have and which ones you can expect to buy yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask about things that may seem obvious. I had to ask my Realtor® if the ceiling fans were included (they were!). Built-in appliances are considered fixtures, so you can expect those to be included in the sale. Other appliances, however, are considered personal property of the seller, such as a free-standing refrigerator, washer, and dryer. While unlikely, the seller is entitled to bring these appliances with them to their new home, so make sure you’re aware of what’s staying and what’s going.
How did a 4-year-old girl inspire the creation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? How did a classic Christmas song, “Oh, Holy Night,” cause a stop in fighting during the Franco-Prussian War? Why was “White Christmas” so significant to American heroes fighting overseas? What in the world is the true meaning behind the Twelve Days of Christmas?! Find out the answers to these questions and much more when you hear Eric Stewart’s classic Christmas show. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or eggnog, wrap presents or sit back, and enjoy these stories filled with love, hope, and the true meaning of Christmas!
When buying and selling real estate, you can choose between traditional brokers and discount brokers. There are several key differences between these two options that you should consider before deciding which way to go. Here are 4 main differences between traditional and discount brokers: 1. Discount brokers give you a discounted price on either the purchase side or the listing side. Discount brokers typically work off of a flat fee, while the traditional broker's commission is typically 6% of the sale (split between the listing agent and the buyer's agent). This may be a huge pro for you, but discount brokers usually make up what they lack in per-sale commission with volume. We'll discuss how that business model affects you in main difference #2. 2. Their tasks go from A to B: they get you under contract then hand you off to someone else. A discount broker's services typically don't extend past the contract stage. This is how discount brokers get more volume in sales. While there are full service discount brokers, many offer minimal services, meaning they get you from A to B during the home sale. Traditional brokers, on the other hand, get you from A to Z. If you go with a traditional agent, you will be their client from the very start of the process to the very end. This means your agent will help you with not only listing your home on the MLS, but also with fielding buyer questions, scheduling showings, marketing your home, navigating the closing process, and more. 3. A discount broker's services do not typically include help with the contract, negotiations, closing, or any other aspect of the deal. As mentioned above, a discount broker's services don't typically extend into these other aspects of a real estate sale. A traditional agent will, however, consistently stay your point of contact throughout each step of the home sale process. 4. If you're not comfortable selling your house yourself, a discount broker is not the way to go. Selling a home consists of 119 different tasks, from scheduling showings to navigating home inspections to marketing the property, and much more. All of the tasks that a discount broker doesn't cover will then fall on you. If you aren't prepared or comfortable to take on all of that legwork, a traditional agent is most likely a better option for you. Realtor® and Director of Operations Robert Garcia discusses the discount broker more in his video below. Check it out for his thoughts on the topic and for help on deciding which way you should go.
If you've ever bought or sold a house, you may have experienced confusion over all of the terminology involved in the process. Real estate contracts are full of legal jargon that can be hard to understand, especially if it's your first time buying or selling. One important term to know? Contingencies. Robert Garcia, Realtor® and our Director of Operations, explains this term and why it's important when it comes to real estate transactions. In general, the word contingent means "occurring or existing only if (certain circumstances) are the case" (Oxford). Investopedia explains it in regards to real estate: it's “a condition or action that must be met for a real estate contract to become binding." Essentially, contingencies are a sort of safeguard that protect you against unforeseen events. Let's say you're in the process of buying a home. In the contract, you include a contingency for a home inspection. If the home inspection report comes back with undesirable results, the contingency allows you to have several options. Instead of being stuck in a binding agreement, you can now renegotiate some of the items found in the inspection report or back out of the contract altogether. Contingencies essentially allow you an exit out of a binding legal agreement, so you can move on to a different home purchase that is better for you. Homebuyers should know how to use contingencies to their advantage. However, with homes selling quickly in the current market, including contingencies in your contract may be a little more complicated than usual because some buyers may be willing to waive contingencies. So then how do you write a competitive offer while incorporating contingencies? The agents of the Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster can help. Our agents will coach you through the process of writing the strongest offers in the midst of a very competitive market. If you’re ready to beat the competition with an incredible offer, head to our Listing Page to find available homes and get into contact with one of our experienced agents!
Do you know what an egress window is? Do you know what the requirements are for an egress window? It sounds like it should be complicated, but there are only 4 requirements your basement window must meet in order to be up to code.