Spring is almost here! For many, spring is synonymous with spring cleaning, gardening, or catching a baseball game or two. But for those of us with real estate on the mind, spring’s imminent arrival means it’s house hunting season!And no doubt about it, it’s a great time to buy, whether you are a first-time buyer or looking to “trade up” to a larger home. Housing affordability conditions remain high, as interest rates are still at record lows and prices remain relatively stable. According to the Long Island Board of Realtors, Nassau County reported a 2011 closed median home price of $400,000, which represented a 2.4% decline from 2010. In Suffolk, the 2011 closed median home price was $310,000, which is a 4.6% decrease from the prior year.I know that there are many people out there who would love to take advantage of these favorable home buying conditions, but they don’t know where to start. That’s why I offer one-on-one home buying consultations to potential home buyers, during which:1. I explain the home buying process, from “soup to nuts,” so to speak, and answer all of your questions. I find that if buyers know what to expect, and if they are prepared for each step of the process, it makes for a smoother transaction and alleviates a lot of unnecessary stress. And if you need recommendations on other real estate experts, such as mortgage lenders, attorneys, inspectors, I am happy to point you in the right direction!2. I educate you on the realities of the current, local market. I find that many buyers come in with a lot of misinformation about the current real estate market and how they should approach home buying. A lot of media coverage is aimed at the national real estate market, which has little to do with Long Island! And many well-meaning friends and relatives dispense advice that may not be relevant to today’s home buyer and the current market conditions. You want to be making informed decisions based on the advice of a professional agent, like me! Knowledge is power, and an educated buyer is going to be a more successful buyer.3. I ask you questions to ascertain (i) why you want to buy, (ii) if you are ready and able to buy now, and (iii) what your home buying needs and criteria are. The more I know about you and your situation, the better I will be able to help you achieve your real estate goals, whether it be now or sometime in the future.4. You have the opportunity to interview me to see if I am someone with whom you feel comfortable. Buying a home is a huge step and a financial investment. It’s to your benefit to find a real estate agent who will work with you and serve your interests in this important transaction (versus going it alone or running around to meet different agents at different homes). I believe I have a different approach than many realtors. In my view, my job isn’t to sell you a home, but to help you buy the home you want to buy. I am not only a realtor, but an experienced attorney, so I offer a unique perspective on the legal aspects of your real estate purchase. Given my litigation background, I have negotiating expertise and client counseling skills that set me apart. The bottom line is, I don’t see myself as a salesperson, but as a trusted advisor to the with whom I have the privilege of working. And I make the process fun!Call me today to schedule your private consultation, which can take place at my North Bellmore office, or at your home, whichever is more convenient. Even if you are just thinking about buying sometime in the future, a home buying consultation with me will provide you with valuable information! There is no obligation and no commitment, and at the very least, you get some useful house hunting tips!AS A BONUS INCENTIVE - IF YOU SCHEDULE YOUR CONSULTATION BETWEEN NOW AND MARCH 31, YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO A DRAWING TO WIN A $200 LOWE’S GIFT CARD! DON’T MISS OUT ON THIS SPECIAL PROMOTION! Contact:Christine Braun, Associate Broker, Century 21 Dallow, 2473 Jerusalem Ave., N. Bellmore, NY 11710. Cell: (516) 587-7618; Email: [email protected]
REASON # 4: Maybe the Internet Can Provide Data, But It Can’t Provide Service. Even if a buyer is lucky enough to find his or her dream home using the internet alone, there’s much more involved with buying a home than just finding the home. How many buyers are truly comfortable and confident presenting an offer on their own, negotiating with the seller, dealing with the home inspection, the appraisal, and navigating everything else that arises from the time the offer is made until the deal closes? The average person may buy or sell real estate a few times in their life, but an experienced realtor has handled countless transactions, both routine and unusual. Realtors know the answers to your questions, or at least they know where to find the answers. And a good realtor also knows that the process of buying a home can be emotionally charged; he or she will be by your side throughout the entire process to calm your anxieties and quell your fears. While it’s true that a buyer will be represented by an attorney, the attorney may not be as accessible to the buyer as an agent would be, and the attorney is charging the buyer for his or her time. (And I mean no disrespect to attorneys – in fact, I am an attorney, too!) In addition, the realtors are the only players in a transaction to communicate with everyone involved in the deal, including the home inspector, the bank, and the attorneys. For that reason alone, they can provide valuable insight. Recent statistics show that the vast majority of buyers (86%, nationally) purchase their homes through a real estate agent. There’s a good reason for that! For most people, buying a home is the biggest financial investment they’ll make in their lifetime. Why take that leap and go it alone when there are experts ready and willing to help with the process? Don’t be that unfortunate buyer stuck posing emergency chat board questions or frantically Googling for answers at the eleventh hour! It’s far better to seek assistance than find yourself in over your head in a complex transaction, full of frustration and regrets.
REASON #3: Get the Inside Scoop!There is undeniably a lot of information on the internet about homes for sale, but quantity doesn't always equal quality. The information available to a licensed realtor far exceeds what is available to the consumer, and there is no guarantee that information on the internet is accurate or reliable.First, the broker's version of an MLS listing (to which all agents have access) includes many categories of information, as well as comments from the listing agent, that consumers never see. Want to know if the dining room chandelier stays or goes? Want to know if the listed taxes include any exemptions? Chances are, you are going to need to talk to a realtor to find out the answers to these questions, and many others.Also, information online may not be up-to-date. The listing that you fall in love with online may not even be available anymore. It may already have a first accepted offer on it, or maybe contracts are half signed, but the house will still show as available online.Finally, agents generally know more about a house than what is conveyed online because (i) active agents preview houses all the time and have often seen the house at issue in person, and (ii) agents know other agents, talk to other agents, and hear real estate "scuttlebutt" all the time. They have access to a network of professionals, and the information that flows from that network, that the typical buyer does not. So chances are, a realtor will know about a new listing coming on the market, or a big price drop on a particular house, or any number of useful pieces of "inside information" long before that information is made widely available.
REASON #2: WARNING: Information Overload May Cause Home Buying Paralysis. Is there such a thing as too much information? When it comes to house hunting, I say YES! I’ve encountered more than a few buyers who have logged endless hours blearily clicking on property after property, but they are still no closer to finding their dream home. These buyers become too bogged down with online searching to actually take the next step of actively searching for a home. At the root of it, I think these buyers are so overwhelmed by the vast array of options available to them that they can’t make any decisions, for fear of eliminating a good option. This form of home buying paralysis is more common than you would think, especially among buyers who have broad search criteria (e.g., they will consider several towns, they are not set on a specific style of home, they are unhindered by price restrictions). So what’s the cure? A knowledgeable realtor who has actually seen the local inventory in person (as opposed to just online) and who understands your home buying needs! The right agent can use their professional judgment to select the best listings for a particular buyer to see in person, and based on the feedback from those showings, find other listings that will work for that buyer. Realtors have a knack for matching people with houses. It’s their job! I know so many people who bought the house that they didn’t want to consider, but their realtor convinced them to see in person. In fact, I am one of them! My husband and I bought our house in my pre-real estate days. When we were looking, we did not want a corner property or a split level, and we preferred to stay under a certain price point. Well, our realtor talked us into looking at a split on a corner that was listed for slightly more than we were looking to pay. Guess what? It was the perfect house for us and, of course, we bought it! I had been thoroughly searching online daily for months and had never considered the particular house we ultimately bought. It just didn’t jump out at me online, for various reasons. But our realtor had been working with us for some time, and by then, she knew what we truly needed and wanted (even if we didn’t). Working with that realtor proved to be far more valuable than spending hours upon hours looking at online listings.Don’t become lost in a sea of internet listings. Realtors can make the house hunting process quicker, more efficient, and all around easier, but only if you let them!
There is an enormous amount of real estate information on the internet available to today’s house hunters. Potential home buyers with even the most rudimentary computer skills can peruse a seemingly endless number of real estate sites for listings, view high quality photographs of homes on the market, take virtual tours, ask questions on home buying chat boards, and more – all with a few clicks of a mouse from the comfort of their own homes. Given that they have all of this information at their fingertips, many buyers are wondering why they need a professional real estate agent at all. But make no mistake about it -- while the internet is a great resource, it’s a tool best used in conjunction with, not instead of, the guidance and expertise of a realtor. Using a realtor costs a buyer nothing, but yields tremendous benefits. Here are four reasons why:REASON #1: A Picture May Be Worth A Thousand Words. But Seeing It In Person? Priceless. OK – so you can find lots of photos and fancy virtual tours of available homes on the market. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, except for the fact that all of those wonderful photos and videos can be deceiving. First and foremost, those photos and videos are marketing tools, and a savvy real estate agent is going to highlight and feature the best aspects of the listed property, not the fact that the third “bedroom” is a closet or that the backyard is adjacent to a sump. On the other hand, some agents are just not talented (or even adequate) photographers and their photos may not really do the house justice. And let’s face it, there are lazy agents out there who won’t bother to make a bed or clear off the kitchen counters before taking a photo. But that unmade bed may be situated in a beautiful master bedroom retreat, and that kitchen clutter may be hiding gorgeous granite counters. A buyer who makes snap judgments based on online photos risks dismissing the perfect home for his or her needs. Also, regardless of the quality of the photos, they provide incomplete information at best. It’s hard to get a true sense of the size of the rooms, or the flow of the layout from photos. Photos are also limited in that they are visual only; you can’t hear the traffic noise in the house or smell the fried onions and stale cigarette smoke that may turn you off in person. The bottom line is, there is no substitute for seeing a home in person, and you are going to have to deal with an agent in order to do that. The question is, do you want to continuously be calling up different listing agents (who don’t have any clue about you or your buying needs) every time you want to see a listing? Or are you better served by working with one agent who can do the legwork for you, schedule multiple appointments, and who understands your situation and your home buying criteria?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get your home ready to put on the market. Updates and high-end finishes are always a plus, but it is not necessary – or even wise – to spend a lot of money on large-scale renovation projects if you are planning to sell. If you follow the surprisingly simple recommendations below, which don’t require much more than some time and good old-fashioned elbow grease, buyers will be able to appreciate the true value of your home:1. Clean. Your house will only show to its best advantage if it is clean, so make your house sparkle before it goes on the market! Buyers can’t appreciate the natural light that floods your house if the windows are filthy; similarly, they can’t appreciate the size of your master bedroom if the bed is unmade and the floor covered by piles of laundry. Furthermore, a clean house is a sign of a well-maintained house. Buyers may assume that dirt and grime are evidence of neglect, and therefore larger problems (such as plumbing or electrical issues) may be lurking. Finally, make sure your house smells as good as it looks. Strong odors, such as cooking smells, pet odors, cigarette smoke, and even overpowering scented candles or potpourri, can be an immediate turn-off to buyers.2. De-Clutter. Too much clutter makes a space appear cramped and small, which is not what most buyers are looking for. Purge that clutter! Have a yard sale, make some donations, or just start packing your belongings (you’re going to have to do it eventually, right?). Even useful items, such as kitchen appliances, can be clutter. Try to keep only two essential small appliances out on display, and put less frequently used items in a cabinet or storage area. Evaluate your closets as well. If they are overstuffed and jumbled, remove some things and organize what remains. Buyers want to see ample storage space, not your fabulous shoe collection!3. Neutralize. The décor of your house reflects who you are, as it should. However, when you are selling your house, it’s not about you and your personal preferences anymore. Your goal now is to make your house an inviting, but neutral, space that will appeal to as many buyers as possible. Potential buyers should be able to envision themselves living there, not feel as if they are a guest in your home. Put away family photos and personalized keepsakes (such as trophies and diplomas), and remove taste-specific or controversial artwork and collectibles. You want buyers to be admiring your house, not your ceramic cow collection or Little Jimmy’s kindergarten class photo. If you’ve chosen particularly bold and unusual colors for your walls, paint walls a neutral shade. De-personalizing your house can be an emotional process, but remember, all of your precious treasures (and vibrant color schemes) will have a place in your new home!4. Repair. It’s best if everything in your house is in good working order before you try to sell it. Assess your house with a critical eye to find any visible defects. Even the most minor item, such as a loose handrail or a door off its hinge, can cause a buyer to make a lower offer, if they make an offer at all. If there are items in need of repair that they can see, buyers may fear there are big-ticket problems that they can’t see, and that could scare them off. Do you agree with these recommendations? What are other big turn-offs for potential buyers that sellers should avoid or remedy prior to showings?