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Not Using A Buyer's Agent Is A Bad Idea

by The Schuman Team

When buying a home, a real estate agent’s role is critical to your success. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or  first time buyer, not using an agent to buy a home will cost you more money.

Today, I’m going to shed some light on the important things a buyer’s agent does and why you’d be making a mistake if you didn’t use one to buy. ( and note, using a buyer’s agent is FREE ).

REPRESENTATION

There are rules regarding who represents whom during a real estate transaction. Here in Ohio, an agent can represent a seller, a buyer, or in theory, both, although to that I say neither.

I’m not going to get into the legalities here, but whether you are going it alone or not, it is critical that you understand state agency laws before you enter into any agreements.

BUT I DON’T NEED AN AGENT?

A real estate transaction can be very complicated.  An experienced agent has seen it all and has the knowledge and resources to navigate a buyer through the myriad of problems that can arise.

While some transactions go smoothly, most do not. There are problems that come up on every transaction that you cannot always prepare for. With negotiations, inspections, financing, and the tremendous amount of paperwork, something always seems to come up during every transaction that can cause it to fall apart.

When you use an agent, you also get the backing of their company, which includes a seasoned manager and legal department. When problems occur, even minor ones, having a team behind you every step of the way makes a world of difference.

I WILL GET A BETTER DEAL WITHOUT MY OWN AGENT

Anyone who thinks that working directly though the listing agent will get you a better deal is kidding themselves.  Are you really naïve enough to think the seller will provide you, some stranger off the street, a discount of thousands of dollars out of the kindness of their heart simply because you don’t have your own agent?  I’ll dispel that myth with the following example:

Let’s say I am selling my personal house ( and pretend that I am not a licensed agent )and have hired an experienced listing agent to help me sell it. The real estate commission has already been agreed to in advance before the sign ever goes into the ground. That is a fixed cost of doing business.

So, you come to the picture without an agent and want to buy my home. I couldn’t think of a better scenario because my agent will take you to school. Instead of getting some perceived discount, they will likely get you to overpay, or at least pay more than a buyer who has an agent representing their best interest.

This is nothing against you, but my skilled experienced agent knows a heck of a lot more about negotiating a home than you do. Advantage me!

Remember, my agent represents me, the seller, and their job is to me the highest price possible. That is their fiduciary responsibility. Your goals and needs simply don’t matter.

I’LL JUST WORK WITH THE LISTING AGENT

Many buyers end up doing this, and again, pay the price. I’ve heard things like “I met the agent at the open house and she was so nice and helpful…..”

Of course she was. If you don’t have an agent, the listing agent makes twice as much money. Many listing agents will actually tell an unrepresented buyer that they’ll get a better deal working directly with them just so they’ll forego using an agent. A better deal? For whom? The listing agent, yes, but you, I think not.

EMOTIONS WILL GET THE BEST OF YOU

One of the best things an agent does for a buyer is to help them with the emotional aspect of the buying process. Don’t discount this skill because many of my clients have referred to me as their personal therapist.

Buying a home means packing, moving, spending a lot of money, one of the most emotional times in a person’s life.  Add to that having to deal with different personalities on the other end ( the seller ) that you cannot control and you get a recipe for an emotional cocktail that will explode if not managed properly. Even the most mild mannered people tend to get highly emotional during a purchase transaction.

Here are things that some of my clients, the nicest people in the world, have said while negotiating their home:

“These sellers are jerks, I can’t believe they won’t accept our price.”

“They are being ridiculous , what a bunch of a—holes. I don’t even want to buy their home now.”

“If they don’t accept our latest counter, they can take their home and shove it up their ….”

Ok, you get the point. In reality, most buyers and sellers are perfectly good people. During a transaction however, emotions will overpower logic and reasoning and get the best of everyone if you let it.

That’s why having an agent, someone who is not emotionally attached to the transaction, to guide you is invaluable.

I’M STILL NOT CONVINCED

Ok, here’s one last try. Ask yourself this question: If you had to go to court, would you hire your own attorney?

That’s an analogy we use a lot because a successful real estate transaction occurs with two different agents, each representing their own client.

Would you want the other person’s attorney representing you as well, knowing their loyalty and fidiciuary duty lies with the other party?

Or would you prefer to represent yourself, thinking that you can possibly out duel someone who has more experience and knowledge that you do?

How about if you could get a great attorney to represent you and the other party had to pay for it? If that sounds like the best option, then you should hire your own buyer’s agent. If not…

I get it, some folks are narrow minded and simply need to do things on their own. To those people I say “good luck”, as a fool and their money are soon parted.

Buying A Home In Cleveland - Step 6 Post Inspection

by The Schuman Team

 

You are now at the point where inspections have been completed and any items of concern have been agreed upon by both parties.

This is the part of the process where you can take a deep breath and relax a little. While it's not over yet, it should be smooth sailing as only a few things have to be completed.

1. Financing

2. Moving Preparations

3. Walk Through

Let's discuss each item.

 

FINANCING

Since a loan takes between 30-60 days to complete, it will be in process by the time you are at this stage. Hopefully the appraisal has been done and approved by this point, otherwise, that would be the next step. A loan cannot be approved if the appraisal does not come it at least equal to the purchase price.

Make sure your lender has everything they need from you. It is a good idea to stay in constant communication with your loan officer at all times.

MOVING PREPARATIONS

We recommend making a checklist of any other things that need to be done prior to closing so you are prepared.  If you plan on having improvements done to the home prior to moving in, you may want to contact contractors and plan dates for them to begin the work.

You may also want to schedule a locksmith to come to the home once you close so you can have the locks changed.

Most important, you need to handle the transfer of utilities so that you have service upon moving in. Your agent will provide you a list of the utility companies that service the area in which you plan to live.

WALK THROUGH

We discussed the walk through briefly during the "negotiation phase" but will cover the process in more detail here.

In most contracts, you as the buyer will have a chance to walk through the home one last time prior to closing. The main purpose is to verify that the property is in the same or similar condition that it was at the time you entered into an agreement.

It is during the walk through that you will verify that any items sellers agreed to fix are indeed operable to your satisfaction.

Also, you will make sure that any items that were to remain in the property after closing, such as a refrigerator or washer and dryer, are indeed still there.

A walk through is not to be used as a means to enter into price negotiations with the seller, yet again. That time has passed.

If legitimate items present themselves during the walk through, your agent will address them with the sellers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

We advise buyers to be proactive and organized during this stage of the process.

Make sure you solidify plans with movers, contractors, and anyone else who needs to get into your home once you get the keys.

Write down a list of things you need to do prior to closing and stay on top of it.

Communicate with your agent and lender. Staying on top of things will lead to a smooth closing.

Buying A Home In Cleveland - Step 5 Negotiating

by The Schuman Team

Negotiations is one of the most important steps of the home buying process and also the most emotional. Today we will go over the basics.

TIME TO NEGOTIATE

There are 3 main instances when you negotiate during the buying process:

1.  The Initial Offer

2.  After Inspections

3.  At Walk Through

Let's go over these in detail.

THE INITIAL OFFER

Most people are aware of this main negotiating phase and it was explained briefly in step 4 - "Writing An Offer".  We discussed the need to look at market statistics and figure out a fair price for a home. That was the easy part. Now comes the hard part ----getting the seller to accept.

Every seller thinks their home is the greatest thing in the world. They likely have a flood of memories in the home and spent a lot of money on maintenance or upgrades. They want as much as possible for it. A buyer on the other hand always wants to pay as little as possible,  so the process begins on uncommon ground.

Sometimes agreeing on terms is easy but most of the time there is a lot of back and forth with emotions getting magnified. This is why having an agent is so important, having a steady partner to guide you through the process.

Let's assume you and the seller have come to terms and the contract is signed by all parties. Now comes phase 2 of negotiations.

AFTER INSPECTIONS

Once the home inspection process is completed, there will likely be items that appear on the inspection report that you will want addressed.  Thus begins round 2 of negotiations.

A buyer should concentrate on health, safety and structural issues that are discovered by the inspector. These are items that will typically be fixed by a seller without much fuss. It is the extraneous items that many buyers often ask for that causes this phase to become contentious.

What is extraneous is up for debate, which is where the problems begin. Buyers often feel like this process gives them a reason to re-negotiate on price, which is not the purpose of the inspection. Then, they ask for all sorts of items or a reduction in price and the fireworks go off.

Focusing on items specifically highlighted by your inspector is a good way to come across as genuine to a seller, and will likely get you what you want.

Now, if you're the type of person who likes to push the envelope and see what you can get away with, feel free to ask the seller for the sun, moon and stars. Just don't be surprised if this strategy ends up hurting you.

 

THE WALK THROUGH

Within 3 days of closing, a buyer will have a chance to walk through a home to make sure it is in the same or similar condition that it was at the time of the execution of the purchase agreement.

Typically, this takes 10-15 minutes and goes smoothly. In rare cases, a problem may arise where buyers and sellers need to negotiate prior to closing.

For example, as terms of the agreement, a seller could have promised to fix an oven that was not secured ( a possible safety hazard ). Then, during the walk through, it is noticed that the sellers didn't do it.

To alleviate problems during the walk through it is recommended to get paid receipts of any work that was done prior to the walk through.

Buying A Home In Cleveland - Step 3 Finding A Home

by The Schuman Team

 

At this point, you will have gone over your parameters with your agent and secured your financing. Now comes the fun part, Step 3 ---finding your dream home.

Here are the best places to find homes for sale in Cleveland:

1. YOUR AGENT

2. The Internet

A real estate agent has access to real time data from the multiple listing service ( MLS ) and will be able to set you up on a home search based on your criteria. It is a proactive process as homes will get automatically emailed to you as they come on the market.

Some buyers also like to search popular national sites such as Realtor.com and Zillow. These sites are good as well, but just keep in mind that information found here is not as accurate as the MLS.

WHAT ABOUT BANK OWNED AND PRE-FORECLOSURES

Bank owned homes are always listed in the MLS and would be included in your search.

You may not know a certain listing is bank owned unless specifically stated in the property description. However, banks list their inventories with agents so you will not miss out on these types of homes.

Pre-foreclosures are a popular search item on some companies' sites. The reality though is that a pre-foreclosure simply means the owners are behind on their mortgage. In most cases the owners will take the necessary steps and the homes never get to the market.

If a home gets foreclosed on, it could take well over a year for the process to play out. In simplistic terms, these are not viable homes to consider.

I do know of people who knock on doors of people whose homes are in pre-foreclosure but wouldn't recommend it.

How would you like it if you were in financial distress and someone knocked on your door?  Let's just say you won't get greeted with a friendly smile.

 

HOW TO VIEW HOMES ON LINE

There is an art to efficiently screening the numerous homes that you will see.

1. Look at the Pictures

2. Skim Property Descriptions

3. Note Homes That Contain Your "Must Haves"

It shouldn't take too long to go through a list of homes and determine which ones are possibilities. A few words of advice:

If a home has few or no pictures, there may be a reason. Also, some homes look way better on line than they do in person. A listing agent's job is to make a home look as appealing as possible so be careful.

On the flip side, some homes look better in person. A good buyer's agent should be previewing homes on your behalf and would be able to bring these homes to your attention.

SCHEDULE SHOWINGS

Make an appointment with your agent to see homes. We recommend not seeing more than 6-8 homes at one time as they tend to all look alike after that.

Sometimes it takes 24-48 hours to schedule, so give your agent advance notice if possible.

When viewing the homes, your agent will point out special features of each home. We recommend that you take notes or pictures/video of the homes you like so you can remember them after your tour.

Don't be afraid to ask questions and get specific information that is important such as age of mechanicals, a list of updates, and a copy of the property disclosures.

You may also want to bring a tape measure with you to make sure specific pieces of furniture will fit in certain rooms.

The process of going out and looking at homes will continue until you find the right home.  A motivated buyer should be able to find a home in 60-90 days.

How To Determine A Home's Value

by The Schuman Team
Price For A Home
How Much To Pay For That Home?

Determining the value of a home is a big challenge to both buyers and sellers.

Since the seller, by virtue of their list price, has already determined the price they feel their home is worth, we will focus on helping a buyer determine value.

 

WHO DETERMINES VALUE?

In simplest terms, a home is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. In a perfect world, a buyer would find a home, tell the seller how much they want to pay for it, the seller would easily agree, and everyone would then hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

We all now this isn't how things work. Every buyer wants to pay as little as possible, and every seller wants as much as they can get. There is typically disagreement before an offer is even made.

For this reason, negotiating the price on a home is one of the more difficult transactions you will encounter. If you follow our tips below, this part of the process will be easier.

 

START WITH THE FACTS

There are 3 statistics that can be used to help determine value:

1. Price of Recent Sales ( Comps )

2. Average Price Per Square Foot

3. Percentage of List Price

Let's go over each one of these starting with comparable sales.  The best way to get value is to find recent similar sales ( same neighborhood, price point, sold within 6 months ) and compare them to the home you are buying. While it certainly helps if you have personally seen these homes when they were for sale, it isn't a must.

Start with the best recent sale and compare it to the home you want to buy. You should consider what the recent sale has/doesn't have and make appropriate adjustments.

For example, if you are looking at a home listed for $400,000 that has a 3 car garage, and the best recent sale was $375,000 but had only a 2 car garage, an adjustment would be appropriate of $10,000-$15,000. You can do the same thing with number of bedrooms, baths, and amenities such as finished basement.

While price per square foot is not the preferred method of determining value for an appraiser, it is sometimes helpful as a secondary method just to make sure you are in the ballpark.

For example, if homes are selling for an average of $150 / sq. ft. , with the range being $125-175, paying $185 may be excessive, unless there are compensating factors. Remember, we are talking about AVERAGE price/sq. foot, so if the home you are buying is above average in your opinion ( updates, superior finishes, etc...) than paying higher in the range would be acceptable.

Finally, seeing what homes sell for in terms of sale price/final list price ( it is typically 94-96% in most areas here in Cleveland ) will give you an idea of a range in which you could expect to pay for a home that you feel is priced fairly.

If homes are selling for 95% of the value, than in the example above, paying $380,000 for a $400,000 home would be realistic. That doesn't mean you couldn't buy it for less, or you wouldn't have to pay more, these figures are just used to help guide you.

 

GET RID OF THE NOISE

It is very easy for a buyer to get distracted and lose sight of the big picture.

There are many different personalities at play; buyers, sellers, agents, and often parents and friends who always want to put their two cents into the equation. Therefore, we recommend focusing on the numbers and following your instincts.

Having a knowledgeable agent to guide you is a major plus. However, at the end of the day, you are the one who ultimately makes the decisions, so you need to be comfortable with the process of determining value.

By following our advice, you will be on your way to figuring out a fair price for any home.

Do Open Houses Work?

by The Schuman Team

 

 

Despite what consumers may think, open houses are less effective at selling homes than in the past. In fact, less than 1% of home buyers actually found their home through an open house. (*statistics provided by NAR, 20112 profile of buyers and sellers. ) However, there are still benefits of having them that could make it well worth the effort.

TIMES ARE A CHANGING

Buyers today see less value of an open house. Before the "net", the easiest way for a buyer to see the inside of a home was to actually go in person. Therefore, attending a Sunday open house was critical.  In fact, this is how we bought our current home. We looked in the Sunday newspaper, saw which homes were open, and went to see them.

Now, with so much information available on line, potential buyers are doing a ton of research on homes using their laptops or even smart phones. They are basically eliminating homes they see on line that in the past, they would have likely seen by attending an open house.

The role of the listing agent acting as the sole "gatekeeper" of getting into a home has also changed. The evolution of buyer's agency, where a buyer can have their own representation, makes buyers less dependent on going to a Sunday open house.

Also, the lifestyle of today's buyer is very hectic and many don't want to spend their time driving around seeing homes. Therefore,  the buyer's agent ends up doing a lot of the leg work and screening of homes in advance. When a home is deemed worth a look, the buyer's agent schedules the showing for a day/time that is convenient to the buyers, not necessarily on a Sunday.

WHY HAVE AN OPEN HOUSE?

Open houses still have their place. From a listing agent's perspective, they owe it to their sellers to make sure they are doing everything possible to market their home. Even if only a few people show up, it's still better exposure for the home then doing nothing.

A listing agent can also grow their business by having open houses.  Many buyers who actually attend a Sunday open house are not quite ready to buy.  They are more casual lookers, typically 6-18 months away from making a buying decision. However, they will buy at some point and this is a great opportunity for the agent holding the home open to earn new business. Basically, the open house is like bait on a hook to reel in buyer leads.

It's also good for a busy buyer's agent. If an agent is with one set of buyers on a Sunday, and another buyer wants to see a particular home, sending them to a home that is open makes things convenient.

Also, although it's hard for me to believe, some people simply don't like real estate agents. There are a small percentage of buyers who will refuse to work with a buyer's agent, but they still want to see homes. These buyers end up utilizing the Sunday open house to find a home and work directly with the listing agent.

For the most part, an open house won't likely sell that particular home. However, they still serve a purpose for acting as a catalyst to bring buyers and sellers together.

The Perfect Home Doesn't Exist

by The Schuman Team

 

If you are buying a home, it is important to have realistic expectations because in the words of The Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want.” 

We’re not saying that you won’t get a lot of things on your wish list and end up thrilled with your new home.  Just understand that the perfect house simply doesn’t exist at any price point.  We have seen people spend a lot of time looking at every home in their price point and not like anything.  These folks end up getting very frustrated and blame “the market” for not offering them the perfect house at the perfect price. The problem may really be unrealistic expectations.

If you can’t find a home you like, you may have to re-adjust your game plan.  You should prioritize the things that you absolutely need in a home versus the things that you want. There are likely things that you positively must have, like a certain number of bedrooms and baths. Then, there are other things that would be nice, but not a necessity, like a 3 car garage. We are not saying that you should have to settle on a home that doesn’t make you happy.  However, there does come a point during the buying process where you may have to be flexible.

Opening your mind to alternative locations may also be helpful.  We see a lot of buyers start their search in one community or subdivision, but find that they can get more for the money elsewhere. Unless you have your heart set on a specific area, it can be helpful to keep your options open as you may be pleasantly surprised with what you find.

 

START WITH A PLAN

The first thing to do is get pre-approved for a loan and know specifically how much you would like to spend. Then, make a list of the “must haves” and “would like to haves” for your next home.  It is imperative that all decision makers have input here so that everyone is on the same page.

Another critical part of the process is communicating with your agent. We get a chance to tour homes on a regular basis and can often pick homes out for you once we know what you like. Sometimes we end up finding homes for our clients just by talking to other agents in the market, homes that may be coming on the market soon, yet are not currently listed. Many of our clients also end up buying a home that did not meet their original specifications, so keeping an open mind here is helpful.

The most important thing is to be honest with yourself.  Trying to fit a square peg in a round hole is a daunting task and will lead to frustration.  Be realistic and understand that life is often about compromise, especially when buying a home.

So You Want To See That Home?

by The Schuman Team

 

 

We understand that we live in a world of immediate gratification and that home buyers who see a great home on line want to see it right away. However, there are things that must happen behind the scenes in order for us to arrange for that to happen.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I get a call from a prospective buyer who says, “we’re sitting in front of a home at 123 Main Street and want to get in.”  Most times this simply cannot happen for many reasons so we wanted to take this opportunity to spell out exactly how the protocol works in scheduling to show homes to buyers.

In order for any agent to show a home, the seller must grant permission. This is typically done through their listing agent. Sometimes the sellers can accommodate people on short notice but most times they cannot. They typically prefer some time to clean up and get their home ready to show its best to a potential buyer.  It is not uncommon for sellers to ask for 24 hours notice before allowing a showing.

Also, many sellers have pets and prefer to remove them during showings. This is another reason why sellers prefer advanced notice. It can be a huge liability to allow a buyer to walk through a home with the family pet still in the house. Even if the pet is friendly, they can be quite protective, especially when strangers are walking through their home. With advanced notice, a seller can plan to make arrangements to make sure pets are not in the home during showings.

In addition to giving the sellers notice, believe it or not, we agents are fairly busy as the market has been very kind to us this year. We need time too. We are not taxi cabs just sitting by our cars waiting for you to call. Please give us the courtesy of some notice as well.

We do appreciate that we live in a world of immediate gratification and we agents are in the service business. However, please be aware of what must happen for us to show you a home so we can all be on the same page.

Are We Headed To A Seller's Market?

by The Schuman Team

 

Are The Tides Changing To A Seller's Market?

The local real estate market seems to be picking up. Inventories are low, the weather has been unseasonably warm, and buyers are not just looking, but actually writing offers.  It may be too early to declare a seller's market, but it seems to be at least more balanced.  The busy market is causing buyers and agents alike to start changing the way in which they approach offers. 

SLOW MARKET = NO URGENCY

Over the past few years when things were slower, the buying and selling process often took a long time. Buyers were afraid of overpaying and sellers were unwilling to accept what the market was willing to bear for their home. Basically, there was gridlock and an overall lack of urgency on all parties to get anything done.

Buyers, until recently, had been in control. The general attitude of most was that a seller would be lucky to get an offer from them. Plus, if things didn't work out, they would just buy another home. Their level of commitment was suspect as well with some buyers preferring to just make a verbal offer instead of putting it in writing.

Negotiations also dragged out over days and sometimes even weeks.   Now,  a shift in the market has taken place and those not ready to adapt will end up losing out on the home of their dreams.

TAKE QUICK ACTION OR LOSE OUT

Today's increased activity is causing things to happen at a much faster pace than many are used to, including some agents. Anyone approaching the process in a lackadaisical manner will end up learning the hard way, when the home they want is taken by someone else.

We are not saying that buyers should make hasty decisions. We are simply recommending  that once you know what you want to do, do it quickly. Make an offer, work out the details, and get all parties to sign and date the documents as soon as possibly. This is even more critical if there is heated competition for a particular home.

NO SIGNATURE, NO DEAL

A last bit of advice. Understand that until all required paperwork is signed, dated, and/or initialed by all parties, there is no deal. 

In the end, you need to be prepared for today's changing market and having a great agent by your side will certainly make a difference.  Otherwise, the American dream could turn into a nightmare for you.

 

How Much Will The Sellers Sell Their Home For?

by The Schuman Team

how much is that home worth?

For those of you who are looking for a quick answer to this question, I'm afraid it's not quite so simple.

The real answer is "we won't know unless we try", but is is much more complicated than that.

In general, homes in the Cleveland area will sell for between 92-95% of their final list price. But this is just an average and every situation is unique and depends on several variables, the most important being seller motivation.

I realize that buyers would love to know how much a seller will take for their home up front, but it just doesn't work that way. If it did, there would be no negotiations, and what fun would that be?

The bottom line is that until a seller is staring at a written offer, even they don't know what they'll take. Sure, they usually have an idea, but they rarely ever really know until they get an offer and start to crunch their numbers.

While we don't have a specific answer to the original question posed in this post, we do have some helpful tips in general:

LEARN THE MARKET  - Once you see a lot of homes, you will be able to learn more about value and the nicest home in the price point will stand out.

DON'T HESITATE - If a specific home stands out to you as being heads and shoulders nicer than the rest, other buyers will likely feel the same way. Don't lose out on a great home.

GO AHEAD AND WRITE AN OFFER - Some sellers know their home is overpriced but just don't want to lower it. They may be open and expecting to negotiate, so don't let a price keep you from trying to buy a home that you really love.

STATISTICS ARE ONLY A GUIDE - Sure, market statistics are important to help you figure out how much to offer on a home but don't be afraid to trust your gut instinct as well.

When all is said and done, learning the market is important and having a knowledgeable agent to guide you through the process is critical to your home buying success.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 10

Contact Information

The Schuman Team
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES
3550 Lander Road
Pepper Pike OH 44122
Dan: 216-346-3235
Amy: 216-403-9189
Fax: 216-456-2333