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The Ugly Truth About Bidding Wars In Ohio

by The Schuman Team

Yes, it’s true – we are seeing multiple offer situations in Northeast Ohio.  Inventory has been low and when a sweet home comes on the market, buyers will jump to snatch it up before someone else does.

Bidding wars can get ugly fast but if you know what you're doing, you can end up getting the home of your dreams.

THE RULES ARE UNFAIR

Many buyers initially think there are certain rules that sellers must abide by in a multiple offer situation to make things fair for everyone.  Unfortunately, this is not true. They can do whatever they want. Here are some “ugly truths” you may not know:

  • Sellers do not need to follow any order in responding to an offer.  First offer in doesn’t win you first place in line for negotiations. 
  • Seller can respond to any and all (or none) of the offers in any way they see fit.
  • The listing agent does NOT need to disclose that there is more than one offer.  That means they can tell none, all, or even only some of the parties what is going on.
  • The highest purchase price doesn’t always win you the home. 

In a nutshell, the Listing Agent is bound to do WHATEVER the SELLER wants them to do.

Sound like fun yet? Wait, there's more.

  • Rejecting a sellers counter offer negates that offer. If you change your mind after and want to accept the sellers' counter, the seller must agree again to those terms.
  • Get it in writing!  A verbal acceptance of an offer from a seller is not binding in the State of Ohio.  If buyer and seller are in agreement, have your agent get it in writing ASAP.  You never know when someone may tempt the seller with a sweeter deal ( we've seen this happen ) .

Many buyers shy away from these transactions out of fear or ego. However, if you really love a home, don't be discouraged.

Most of our buyers end up winning in these situations because we are able to help them stand out from the competition.

HOW TO WIN A BIDDING WAR

Here are some things you can do to win out:

  1. Have a top notch agent by your side, one with experience working in these situations.
  2. Make sure your pre-approval is solid and from a recognizable lender. Giving the sellers an approval from an unknown internet lender may keep the sellers from wanting to work with you.
  3. Have your agent present your offer in person if possible.  He or she will be able to personalize the transaction and differentiate you from other buyers.
  4. Give the seller what they want, such as their preferred closing date and earnest money amount.
  5. Go in strong. If you go in with a weak offer, you probably won’t get another chance.

During a bidding war, someone is going to lose the home of their dreams. Don't let it be you.

 

Why Cleveland Real Estate Transactions Don't Close

by The Schuman Team

 

While bringing buyer and seller together is a challenge, keeping things together is even more difficult.

Today, we will discuss why real estate transactions fail to close and what can be done to avoid these problems.

MAIN REASONS FOR FAILURE

1. FINANCING

While all buyers get pre-approved prior to submitting an offer, things can still go wrong. Buyers lose their jobs, incur extra debt, or have unforeseen challenges when getting loan approval.

For example, we had a buyer who got paid salary and a bonus and used his total income to qualify for a loan. The underwriter would not allow the bonus to be included as it was not guaranteed and inconsistent from year to year. Therefore, the buyer could no longer qualify. 

The best way to avoid financing problems is to first hire a great loan officer, and then make sure nothing is left to chance. Communicate to your loan officer up front about everything to make sure you don’t run into last minute problems.

2. APPRAISALS

Regardless of what price buyer and seller agree to, the lender has final say. If their appraisal comes in below the purchase price, you could have a problem.

While a low appraisal doesn’t always kill a transaction, it does require either re-negotiation on price or willingness of the buyer to bring in the difference between purchase price and appraised value.

We always recommend our clients try to work something out with the other party. However, there are cases where the gap is just too big to overcome.

3. HOME INSPECTIONS

One of the biggest reasons that a transaction dies is due to the general home inspection. It’s not necessarily what’s on the report that quashes the deal, but how a buyer reacts to the information.

For example, while mold is fairly common, especially in attics, some buyers run for the hills at the mere mention of the word. 

The reality is that mold can be found in a large percentage of homes here in Cleveland and is easily treated. If a buyer is thoroughly informed up front what to expect during the inspection,  perhaps their expectations can be better managed. This entails thorough communication and education from their agent, which leads us to the next item.

4. COMMUNICATION

Lack of communication between client and their real estate agent can create huge problems.  There are issues that arise during every step of the transaction that , if not prepared, can cause a buyer or seller to react irrationally.

Nobody likes surprises, so a good communicator will prepare their client for potential problems and be able to effectively navigate them through the many obstacles they will surely encounter.

A real estate transaction is very complicated and it doesn’t take much for things to fall apart. Being aware of the main pitfalls and hiring a great agent will help keep things together and get you to the closing table.

Buying A Home In Cleveland - Step 7 Closing And Possession

by The Schuman Team

 

By this point you should have a firm loan commitment and be just weeks or even days away from getting the keys to your new home. A few things still need to be done to ensure a smooth closing.

TO DO BEFORE CLOSING

1. Communicate With The Title Company

2. Talk To Your Lender

3. Coordinate Getting Keys

Let's go over these briefly.

Here in Ohio, a title company, not attorney's office, will be coordinating your closing. They will communicate with your lender to get closing documents and schedule the day and time for you to sign them. They will also be the ones telling you how much money ( certified funds---NO personal check ) you need to bring to closing.

Please keep in mind that title companies are very busy, especially during the summer months. They also don't typically work on files too far in advance, maybe a day or two out at best.

For this reason we advise our buyers to be proactive with the title company. Make sure you have all pertinent contact information and that they have yours as well.

Don't be surprised if a lot of things regarding your closing happen at the last minute as title companies typically don't get documents from lenders until the day before closing, if they're lucky.

In regards to your loan, make sure your lender has everything they need from you. As standard protocol, they may re-pull credit and contact your employer to verify employment so you may want to give your personal department a heads up to ensure there are no delays. Also, make sure you don't make any major purchases prior to closing on your loan.

Talk to your loan officer to make sure they have contact information for your title company and that they have been in communication with the specific person handling your account.

The last thing you need to do is verify with your agent when you can get your keys. A transaction doesn't become official until the deed in recorded at the courthouse, which typically occurs after 4:30PM.  Keys are given out once title has officially transferred.

A FEW THINGS TO NOTE

In Ohio, buyers and sellers don't typically meet. Each party signs their documents separately, so you may in fact never come face to face with the sellers of the home.

As mentioned above, the transaction isn't official until the deed is recorded. Some buyers, especially those coming from out of state, are expecting to get the keys immediately after signing loan documents. It doesn't work that way here. Signing of documents may occur a day or two before the actual filing of the deed.

It is wise to keep a copy of all documents relating to the buying process, such as the purchase agreement, disclosures, and inspection reports. You never know if or when you may need them, so please keep a copy in a safe place.

The home buying process can be stressful and complicated, but when the boxes are unpacked and you are settled in, your home will bring you more joy and happiness than you can ever imagine.

Buying A Home In Cleveland - Step 1 - Hire An Agent

by The Schuman Team

Buying a home in cleveland

Buying a home is an exciting yet complex transaction. The following is part 1 of a 7 part series on buying a home in the Cleveland area.

The first step to buying a home is finding an agent.

 

HIRE A BUYER'S AGENT

While I may appear to be a little biased here, this is advice I would give to my own family members. The following are just a few of the things that a buyer's agent will do for you:

1. Represent Your Best Interests - A listing Agent Cannot Represent You

2. Educate You On Market Conditions

3. Identify Cities / Specific Neighborhoods That Meet Your Needs

4. Give School Information

5. Schedule and Show Homes

6. Point Out Potential Issues With Various Homes That You See

7. Provide "Off Market" Opportunities

8. Provide Resources to Lenders, Inspectors, Contractors

9. Prepare/Explain Purchase Agreement and Corresponding Documentation

10. Handle All Aspects Of Negotiating

11. Provide Oversight Of Inspection Process

12. Manage Deadlines

13. Coordinate Closing

14. Ensure Smooth Title Transfer

15. Represent You In Case Issues Arise After Closing

Keep in mind that this is not an exclusive list, just a starting point of many things a buyer's agent does for you.

 

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN AGENT?

First, you need to define what type of qualities you want in a real estate professional. Do you want someone who is older and experienced? Young and aggressive? A specialist in the area in which you plan to buy?

You will be entering into a fairly intense relationship for several months. There will be hundreds of emails, phone calls and face to face conversations,  so be sure to choose an agent that you feel will have your back at all times and that you will enjoy working with.

 

HOW TO FIND AN AGENT?

There are many ways to find a quality real estate agent. Here are a few quick ways to get you started:

1. Get A Referral From Friends or Family

2. Ask A Co-Worker

3. Search The Internet

Do your homework and use your instincts. Just because your friend had a good experience doesn't ensure you will. His west side agent may not be ideal if you are buying on the east side.

If your co-worker was a first time buyer, their agent may not be the perfect fit if you are buying a luxury home. While not foolproof, the above ways to find an agent are certainly a good starting point.

Once you have an agent (s), contact them in the manner in which you prefer to communicate. If you do business primarily via text or email, contact the agent in the same way and gauge their response time. If they don't respond in a timely manner, what does that say about the level of service you can expect from them?

We also suggest having a face to face consultation with any agent you are considering. There is no substitute for meeting face to face with someone who will be guiding you through a very important transaction.

 

WHAT TO AVOID

1. Hiring A Big Listing Agent - An agent who primarily lists a lot of homes doesn't necessarily work with buyers. They are different skill sets and often times, a busy listing agent will pawn you off on their less experienced assistant. This is not always the case, but something to keep in mind.

2. Hiring A Part-Time Agent

3. Hiring An Agent Who Covers A Large Area

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

In order to have a successful real estate transaction, you need to surround yourself with a good real estate professional. Do your research, ask a lot of questions, and let your instincts guide you.

Why You Need A Buyer's Agent

by The Schuman Team

 

 

Many home buyers view a real estate agent as someone who just opens up a home for them, providing little other value. While this may be true in some cases, many agents wear a lot of different hats and actually bring a lot of skills to the table.

Today's post will shed some light on things a good buyer's agent does and why you should use one if buying a home.

MY LAST AGENT DIDN'T DO ANYTHING

My motivation for writing this post was that too often, we have heard some less than flattering comments from consumers about their past experiences with a real estate agent. Here are just a few comments made to us:

"We were the ones who picked out the homes and did most of the work."

"She really didn't educate us too much about the market or the different areas."

"He was nice but didn't do a whole lot."

"Our last agent wasn't always available."

In many of these transactions, the agents probably spent a lot of time with these buyers and had good intentions, yet things just didn't work out for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they were inexperienced or only worked part-time. Maybe they did a lot of things for their clients behind the scenes, but never let their buyers know about them. It is also possible that the buyers had unrealistic expectations.

In any event, we take great pride in our industry and don't like to hear about negative experiences. We want to dispel the myth that an agent is nothing more than a door opener.

 

THE VALUE OF AN AGENT

The popularity of the internet has made information more readily available to buyers than ever before. Therefore, they have a perception that they don't need an agent for anything other them to simply open up the home for them.

I'm here to say that a skilled buyer's agent actually brings a lot of value to the table. Many are things that buyers may not think about yet are still critical to having a successful transaction.

WHAT DOES A BUYER'S AGENT DO?

1. Preview homes in advance - No reason to pull up to a home that is located next to a commercial building ( that was conveniently not mentioned in the on-line description ). Previewing in advance saves your time.

2. Has knowledge of the local inventory.

3. Provides "insider information" - knowledge of homes that will soon be coming on the market or ones whose sellers are extremely motivated.

4. Educates their clients on the different areas.

5. Is proactive to find you a home. A good agent will call their buyers about a new home on the market or coming on the market BEFORE the buyer has a chance to call them.

6. Will refer you to another quality agent if they don't service the area in which you want to buy.

7. Thoroughly explains the buying process.

8. Will take additional photos or video of a home or neighborhood and email them to you. Especially important to out of town buyers.

9.Gets you information not readily available on-line.

10. Refers you to trusted lenders, inspectors, and contractors.

 

Remember, this is just a small sampling of things a good buyer's agent will do for you. This list doesn't even get into some of the more complicated parts of the process such as negotiating and inspections, things that can be very stressful and emotionally intense.

Many of us are more than merely door openers. We bring experience and knowledge to the real estate transaction. The best part is that we represent your best interests only and the seller pays our fee.

The Importance Of A Home Warranty

by The Schuman Team

Having a home warranty is important not only for buyers, but for sellers as well. If you are buying or selling a home, you may regret not investing a relatively small amount of money to have one. In this post, we will explain what home warranties do and why you should get one.

THE PURPOSE OF A HOME WARRANTY

A home warranty covers you in the event appliances or major systems break down. In most cases, a warranty will cover things that your typical home owners insurance policy does not. Having both a comprehensive home owner's insurance policy and a home warranty will provide you will excellent coverage.

Most homes experience issues pertaining to mechanical systems and appliances on a regular basis. It could be once a year or every few years, you just never know when something will happen. That is why having the protection of a home warranty is a smart thing to do for both buyers and sellers.

FOR BUYERS

1. CONVENIENCE  - When covered by a warranty, you will have access to qualified contractors simply by calling an 800 #. This is especially nice if you are new to the area.

2. LONG-TERM PROTECTION - While a seller will typically pay for the first year of a buyer's home warranty, the buyer has the option of renewing every year. As your home ages, the likelihood of a problem increases. So for the long term, having a warranty can be a huge help.

3. PEACE OF MIND - There is a tremendous feeling of knowing you will be covered if certain problems arise.

FOR SELLERS

1. COVERAGE WHILE ON THE MARKET - You will get covered during the listing period and NOT have to pay for the policy until closing.

2. STAND OUT FROM COMPETITION - Offering a home warranty may entice a buyer to purchase your home over another that is not offering one.

3. ELIMINATES PROBLEMS AFTER CLOSING - If a problem arises after title transfer, it is better for the buyer to contact the warranty company instead of you.

DO I REALLY NEED ONE?

We are not here to tell you what to do. But based on the chart above, claims are certainly a common occurrence. In fact, we get emailed every time one of our clients has a claim paid by the warranty company, and it seems like it happens all the time. From an agent's perspective, I do feel it provides tremendous value to both buyers and sellers.

When it comes to buying or selling a home that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, spending $400-500 on a home warranty seems pretty minimal. If you think of a warranty as more of an investment than an expense, it will hopefully make  more sense.

 

The Most Important Step Of The Buying Process

by The Schuman Team

 

 

Buyers are starting to get aggressive on making offers once they find a home they love, but many are not getting a firm pre-approval letter up front.  Forgetting this important step in the home buying process could end up preventing you from getting the home of your dreams.

 

GET PRE-APPROVED NOT PRE-QUALIFIED

When local real estate was in a downturn, the sense of urgency to get financing was not very high. Buyers figured they could take their time to find a home, and then they'd firm things up with their lender.  However, with the market starting to really heat up and inventories still low, buyers must change this lackadaisical mindset.

The problem isn't that buyers are totally forgetting to speak to a lender. They are simply getting pre-qualified instead of pre-approved. A simple conversation over the phone usually is not sufficient to grant a real "approval letter".   A lender will need to pull credit and collect specific documentation from you such as pay stubs, W-2's, or tax returns. It may not seem like a big deal but this extra step makes all the difference in the world.

I have seen cases when a buyer gets pre-qualified over the phone, and then ends up not qualifying once the lender verifies all pertinent information.

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR

In an active market, you never know when that special home will come on the market, and when it does, you will need to act quick. Waiting until after you find your home to get your financing in order may be too late.

Getting a solid pre-approval letter will allow you to move forward with confidence and may also help you stand out over another buyer should you get into a bidding war.

The difference between getting pre-approved and pre-qualified is merely time and a little effort on your part but is well worth it. In fact, it could ultimately determine whether or not you get the home.

What Consumers Want In A Real Estate Agent

by The Schuman Team

During the course of our career, we have received a lot of feedback from our clients about their past experiences with a real estate agent. It seems like everyone has a different story but the conclusion is the same: not all agent are alike, even those that work for the same company.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN AGENT?

Here is a list of qualities that consumers find important in an agent.*

1.     Knowledgeable - An agent should be able to share with you a wealth of information not only about the buying or selling process but also of the specific areas in which you plan to buy or sell. Remember, knowledge is power and your agent needs to be a huge asset here.

2.     Honesty - So how can you tell if an agent is honest? You can begin by talking to people who have used a particular agent. You can also usually get a gut feeling if an agent you are speaking with is genuine.  Asking good questions will reveal a lot about how an agent conducts their business and if they will be looking out for your best interests.

3.     Communicative - This is a big one if you want to have a smooth and pleasant experience. A good agent should have specific systems in place to make sure they are efficiently communicating with you during the entire process. Ask an agent about their communication plan for their clients. If they don't have one then you may have to question the level of customer service you plan to receive.

4.      A Good Negotiator - If you ask 10 real estate agents if they are good negotiators, I guarantee all will say "yes". So, you may just want to ask an agent about their negotiation skills and what it means to you as their prospective client. What they say here will tell you a lot about their style and if they will be a good fit for you.

5.     Good People Skills - This one kind of helps bring all of the above mentioned characteristics together. Not everyone is blessed with good people skills but an agent who has them is worth their weight in gold.

Keep in mind that this certainly isn't an exhaustive list. You may personally want your agent to possess certain qualities that we didn't cover here, and that's ok. At the end of the day, you as the consumer need to define what qualities are important to you,  and don't be afraid to be very particular.

Remember, shopping for an agent is similar to looking for a home. There are a lot of them out there so you need to take your time to find the right one.

* Per National Association Of Realtors® Home Buyer/Seller Profile

Are On Line Home Searches Misleading?

by The Schuman Team

 

We understand that most buyers search for homes on line. With that in mind, here is a list of helpful things to be aware of when looking for a home on the internet.

1.     CONDITION - Photoshop is a powerful tool that is often abused by listing agents and homes rarely look as nice in person.

2.    LOCATION - When a home states "great location", understand that "great" is a relative term. We suggest learning the specific neighborhoods so you know where you want to be located and use a tool like googlemaps to get a more accurate idea of the location of a home.

3.    ADVERSE CONDITIONS - Since a listing agent is trying to sell the home, they will never come right out and tell you that there are power lines or a highway located  directly behind the home. There may also be a commercial building right next door, conveniently cropped out of the front photo. Be weary of adverse factors that could greatly affect marketability of a home.

4.     STATUS - Don't assume the home you love on line is still available. Some sites show outdated information and don't clean up their site very often. To make sure a home is still an active listing, we recommend using a site that gets information directly from the local MLS ( Multiple Lisitng Service ).

5.     INACCURATE FEATURES - There is nothing worse than walking into what you thought was a 4 bedroom home only to find out it only has 3 real usable bedrooms.  A good agent will know these types of things so you don't waste your time.

6.     READ BETWEEN THE LINES - The copy and description written on a home is like that on a resume, often embellished. The listing agents job is to get buyers in the door so just be mindful.

7.     TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE - Remember, if a home looks too good to be true on line, there may be a reason.  While there are some great deals out there, if a home seems priced abnormally low compared to other similar homes, find out why.

8.     EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE - Believe it or not, some homes actually look better in person. Some agents don't take great pictures or put much effort into their listings and fantastic homes can get overlooked. A good agent will be able to point out some hidden gems.

9.     PUBLIC RECORDS ARE SOMETIMES WRONG - Information that appears on a listing sometimes gets imported directly from public records---and is inaccurate. Do yourself a favor and double check things on your own.

10.   THE LISTING AGENT DOES NOT REPRESENT YOU -  While many on line listings encourage you to contact the listing agent directly with questions, that agent does not represent you. If you have any questions about a home you see on line, call your buyer's agent.

When all is said and done, viewing homes on line is a great way to start. However, a good buyers agent will preview homes on your behalf up front to save you valuable time and effort.

If you are serious about buying a home, hire a buyer's agent. It won't cost you money ( the seller pays real estate commissions ) and will be extremely helpful.

Challenges Of The Inspection Process

by The Schuman Team

The home inspection process will make or break a transaction. It is by far the most important  step for both buyers and sellers. The following post will explain the process and offer some advice to make it easier for you.

The home inspection process

Here are some basics about inspections. They are done to protect the buyer by informing them about the condition of the home and to uncover any defects. A thorough inspector will also take the time to educate the buyer about the home and how to properly care for it. We highly recommend a home inspection to anyone buying a home.

Historically, inspections were meant to put heavy focus on uncovering very specific things relating to structural defects or health and safety issues. These include things like mold in an attic, radon gas, or large cracks in a basement wall. Sellers typically offered to address these items as standard protocol.  It was a more simple process in the past.

Today, buyers seem to be asking for everything under the sun, even things they were aware of when they walked through the home ( broken outlet cover, rip in screen door, etc..). Now, the inspection typically results in a second round of negotiations.

Usually, it is not what comes on the report that causes problems, but how the buyer deals with the information. Some buyers are more alarmist than others. Which brings us to our next point: emotions!

The inspection period occurs when buyers' emotions are at a heightened state.  Buyers are initially very exited about their new home. After a few days pass however, additional feelings creep in such as nervousness, anxiety, and sometimes even buyer's remorse ( did we pay too much, is this really the right house...). These are natural and every buyer feels them, some just handle the emotional aspect better than others.

Buyers can become more emotional and less rational when dealing with items that appear on an inspection report. The sellers in turn become defensive upon seeing a laundry list of petty items. It then becomes a long drawn out process, sometimes even worse than the original negotiations.

THE SOLUTION

We communicate to our buyers to offer a price based upon what they see when they walk through the home and what has been disclosed by the seller. If you are aware that there is a cracked window or a broken screen door, either address it up front or factor it into the price.  If you know the roof is 24 years old, factor a new one into the price. Don't wait until it shows up on the inspection report and then use it as a way to re-negotiate a better price. This is a little disingenuous to the negotiation process.

When it comes to addressing inspection issues, try to focus on health and safety issues or structural defects that were not previously disclosed.

Also, we believe it is best to respond to the seller as quickly as possible. Although the standard contract will typically give you a certain number of days to respond to the seller ( in Ohio it is 3 days ), waiting until the last minute and dragging the process out may do more harm than good. If you really want the sellers to do something, making them wait on pins and needles for three days is not always the best way to get their cooperation.

The inspection process has become the most important phase of the buying and selling process. What happens here will often determine whether or not a transaction  ends up closing. Remaining calm and focusing on the big picture will often get you through it. That, and of course the help of a good agent.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 14

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