Here are some tips for those of you who are thinking about or preparing to buy a home. Click on a section title to reveal the information inside.

Avoiding Home Buying Headaches

1. Remember, there's no "right" time to buy, any more than there's a right time to sell. If you find a home now, don't try to second-guess the interest rates or the housing market by waiting. Changes don't usually occur fast enough to make that much difference in price, and a good home won't stay on the market long.
2. Don't ask for too many opinions. It's natural to want reassurance for such a big decision, but too many ideas will make it much harder to make a decision.
3. Accept that no house is ever perfect. Focus in on the things that are most important to you and let the minor ones go.
4. Don't try to be a killer negotiator. Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to "win" by getting an extra-low price may lose you the home you love.
5. Factor in maintenance and repair costs in your post-home buying budget. Even if you buy a new home, there will be some costs. Don't leave yourself short and let your home deteriorate.
6. Accept that a little buyer's remorse is inevitable and will probably pass. Buying a home, especially for the first time, is a big commitment, but it also yields big benefits.
7. Choose a home first because you love it; then think about appreciation. While home appreciation has increased immensely in the past decade, a home's most important role is as a comfortable, safe place to live.

Get Financing First

Once upon a time, buyers found their dream home and then they went to a lender for financing. Today things have changed. The market is more competitive and buyers who arrange their financing first have a distinct advantage.

1. Talk to several reputable lenders. If you don’t know where to start then I can hook you up with some people I know. Otherwise, open a local magazine (City Pages, newspaper, phone book, etc.) and see who is in there under mortgage. Keep in mind that there are all kinds of loans available with different rates and features. A mortgage broker or loan officer will help you navigate through the options. It’s free to check it out!

2. Get pre-approved for a loan. Unlike pre-qualification, which is simply a quick estimate of your borrowing potential, pre-approval is a formal approval of a specific loan amount - typically the maximum you can borrow. And you will receive a Good Faith Estimate of your closing expenses. By initiating the loan process early, you will be in a better position for when I look for your new home. While you are securing your financing, I can sit down and figure out what type of home you are looking for, and in what area you would like to live.

3. Let me know that you are “ready to go.” Now I can start looking! Shop with Confidence. Once you are pre-approved, you will know exactly how much house you can afford and you will have an edge over other buyers in multiple-offer or negotiating situations.

Getting "In Shape" To Purchase Your Home

The following items are the keys to being ready, willing and able to purchase when you find the right home. Doing the homework and getting your papers in order will make the home buying process much easier. Consider the following times:
• Be pre-approved for your loan
• Have the necessary funds in your checking account to write an initial earnest money check.
• Have the remaining money for your down payment easily accessible.
• If you are receiving a “gift letter” for a portion of your down payment, be sure to have the money transferred into your savings account.
• Keep all credit accounts current (keep making those payments on time!).
• Do not make any big purchases (such as a car or furniture) prior to getting loan approval or prior to closing on your new home.
• Have a credit report run so that you can see what might be on the report and clear up any credit problems. your mortgage broker or loan officer may be able to assist you with this matter.
• Be aware of the dates you can move. FYI, most of the time your very first house payment isn’t due until the following month, not the immediate first of the month after your close.
• Do you have a current lease? If so, how important is it to remain in your current residence until the lease expires? Sometimes the tax benefits alone are worth paying a little money to break your current lease. Ask either me or a lender and I can help you figure it out.

Home Buying Myths

I had some debt when I was young and I ruined my credit. I will never get a loan. Reality: You don’t know what your credit history shows until you look. And if you do have blemishes from the past — even a bankruptcy — many lenders will overlook problems if the past two years show good credit practice on your part. There are some lenders that can approve you even right after a bankruptcy or foreclosure situation.
Myth: I heard you need to put 25% down to buy a house. But my friend says that you can get a loan with no money at all! Reality: Both scenarios are uncommon. There are many financing programs out there. Very rarely would you ever have to put 25% down. Nowadays there are more programs that don’t require any money down, but they can be a little more strict on their terms. Ask your loan originator what is best for you. On average most people put down between 5% and 10%.

I will find a home more quickly if I have more than one agent helping me. Reality: Like most relationships, this one thrives on communication, loyalty and trust. By working exclusively with me you will improve both the process and the results. In general, most agents will not work with you if you are being helped by another agent. If you find that I am not the right agent for you than do some searching. Talk to a few agents to get a feel for how your interaction will be, then pick one and stick with ‘em :)
Myth: Hiring an agent to help me find a home is going to be expensive. Reality: Not true. As your agent I get paid by the person selling their house. You have no out of pocket expense for me, even if you change your mind and never buy a thing. I am free. Keep in mind that I’m happy to help you out with any of your questions. If you aren’t ready to buy, but you want to look at a house - call me, let’s look at it. It costs you nothing.

I just made on offer on a house I love. But so did several other people. I am worried that someone else will outbid me and get it. Reality: Different sellers are motivated by different things. In addition to price, a seller will look at the other terms of the offer — contingencies, closing date, and required repairs. Many times a “clean” offer from a pre-approved buyer will be more attractive, even if the price is slightly lower.

Viewing Properties

One of the most exciting aspects of buying a home is looking at different properties in your price range and seeing houses in all sizes, conditions and styles. It is the best real estate education of all.

How Many to See How many homes should you plan to view before you make a decision? That is up to you and will depend on the neighborhood, the market and your specific requirements. With all the homes on the market at any given time, the key is to focus your efforts on suitable properties. I will help by eliminating homes that don’t meet your criteria — and tracking down those that do.

What To Expect I am happy to show you any house that is on the market. Once you are ready to view a property, here is what you can expect:

• Let me know when you are available and I will schedule the showings. The seller typically needs at least two hours notice.
• Plan to spend up to 30 minutes seeing each property. Allow for travel time.
• Wear shoes that slip off easily as most sellers will request that you remove your shoes.
• If we are “spending the day” then try not to bring your small children. Not that I mind :) but they will probably become tired and bored and, without them, you will be better able to focus on the homes we are looking at. If we are looking at only a few homes then bring ‘em along, just tell them not to leave Barbies in the back of my car. :)

***true story- I took a woman with her 3 kids out one day to look at houses over in NE. They were CUTE as could be, but they got soooo bored. I did find these monster thingies stuck in between the back seats even two weeks after the showings :)

• Pay attention to the home’s curb appeal, floor plan and overall amenities.
• Take notes, ask questions and make comments that will help me understand your needs and what you like and don’t like about the home.
• Be considerate of the owners, who may or may not be present during the tour.
• Most importantly, relax and have fun!

The Final Walkthrough

OK, you’ve bought your home and it is the day before you close on it. Now it is time to do your final walkthrough. This is the final opportunity for you to be certain that the home you purchased is in similar condition as it was on the date of the initial contract. The final walkthrough is not to be used as another home inspection or a tool to re-negotiate items at the closing table. Following are suggestions of things to look for during the final walkthrough.

• Are all of the same inclusions outlined in the Seller’s Disclosure Form present as during your tour and inspection?
• If you requested for any items to be repaired or replaced, are they?
• Are all the same fixtures (attached mirrors, light fixtures, etc) present as during your tour and inspection?
• Are any personal property items that were negotiated to remain on the property per contract present?
• Are any window treatments that were negotiated to remain on the property per contract present?
• Is the property in the same general condition as during your tour and inspection?

***true story- I was doing a final walkthrough with one of my clients back in December ‘04 where the sellers had taken the kitchen sink faucet out and replaced it with a less expensive one. No Joke! Mind you, it rarely happens, but can, so be attentive when looking through your new home for the last time before you close on it.

Closing on your New Home

You are finally in the home stretch. Closing — also known as settlement or escrow — is the last step, the official transfer of the property from the seller to you. Once it is completed, you will be the proud owner of your new home. In the meantime, here is what you need to know to prepare for your closing. If you have additional questions, let me know!

What To Bring
• A certified check (payable to yourself) for the amount specified in your most recent Good Faith Estimate received from your lender or loan officer
• Your personal checkbook to cover any extra charges, if necessary
• Your new homeowner’s insurance binder with proof of one year’s payment
• A photo ID
• A list of your addresses for the past 10 years (if you moved a lot, write them all down before closing. If it is 1 or 2, then just write them on the closing papers as required)

***true story- I lived in over 10 places in the 10 years prior to my first home, it took me quite a while to remember the actual dates that I moved)

What To Expect

Contrary to stories you may have heard, the typical closing proceeds without complications and only lasts an hour or so. It usually takes place at the office of the title company. Primarily, you will sign numerous papers and documents, all of which will be explained to you along the way. You will finalize your mortgage, pay what is due and get the keys to your new home!

What You Will Pay

Your Good Faith Estimate outlines the various expenses you will incur at the closing.

Basically, you will need a certified or cashier’s check that covers the following:
• the balance of your down payment (subtract the earnest money you paid when your offer was accepted on the home)
• fees for other services including loan origination fees, tax and insurance escrows, recording fees, transfer taxes and possibly your owner’s title policy

At the closing, you will receive a formal Settlement Statement that details and documents the actual charges.

Contracts and Disclosures

There are some contracts and disclosures that you will be required to sign in conjunction with the purchase of your home. They are standard forms regulated by the Board of Realtors and the State of Minnesota. I can explain them all to you in detail when it comes time to use them.

Forms to be completed by the Buyer(s):
• Agency Relationship Form
• Contract for Exclusive Right to Represent Buyer
• Purchase Agreement
• Financing Addendum
• Inspection Contingency Addendum
• Arbitration Disclosure

Forms to be completed by the Seller(s):
• Sellers Property Disclosure
• Well Disclosure
• Lead Paint Disclosure

Explaination of Compensation

As your real estate agent, I get paid by the homeowner of the home you choose to buy, so my services to you are FREE!

As a consumer in the real estate market, you will benefit from the services of an experienced Realtor throughout the home buying or selling process. But even though you may not be footing the bill, it is important that you are aware how I get paid.

Basically, the people selling the house pay a commission to their listing broker based on a percentage of the selling price. The listing broker then splits this commission with me.

Seller Pays Commission
55% Retained by Listing Broker
45% Paid to Selling Broker
Listing Agent Paid by Broker
Selling Agent Paid by Broker

Did You Know...
• real estate agents are self-employed and receive no salary or benefits. They get no paid vacation time, insurance, company cars or expense accounts from the firm they work with
• real estate agents are only paid for results — if and when they successfully complete a property transaction
• as independent contractors, I have ongoing out-of-pocket expenses similar to those of any small business

Business Expenses:
• all property advertising
• advertising and marketing of their services
• marketing materials and direct mail
• for sale signs and installation
• lock boxes and open house signs
• MLS access fees
• computer hardware and software
• long distance, cellular and/or paging service
• postage and courier fees
• business cards, stationery, office supplies
• business insurance, self-employment tax
• continuing education courses
• personal assistant (salary, taxes)
• monthly office rent

Things to do ASAP after Deciding to Move

• Contact a moving company and tell them the dates you plan to move. Set up a date for them to come over and survey your belongings. Unless you’re given a binding estimate, the cost can vary, depending on the actual weight of items and any extra services.
• Decide if you are going to pack for yourself or have the movers pack for you.
• Transfer or resign from organizations and associations.
• Collect suitable containers & packing materials if you plan to do the packing yourself.
• Start to use up things that can’t be moved, such as frozen foods, canned goods and flammable household aerosol cleaners.
• Prepare a list of friends, relatives, business firms and others who need to be notified of your move.
• Consider having a garage sale to dispose of unwanted clothes or furniture.
• Assemble packing materials: boxes, felt-tip markers, large self-stick labels, newspapers, utility knife, packing peanuts or bubble wrap, packing tape, furniture pads, dolly, scissors
• Pack an “instant aid” box containing things you’ll need upon arrival: sponges, paper towels, powdered detergent, paper plates, toothpaste, light bulbs, hammer, trash bags, hand soap, toilet paper, scissors, utility knife, coffee cups, tea kettle, first-aid kit, pencils and paper, masking tape, bath towels and shelf liner.
***The above checklist is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal, tax or other professional assistance.

Things to do 30-60 Days Before the Move

• Establish credit in your new city. Arrange for a transfer of bank account funds and the contents of your safety deposit box.
• Check personal insurance policies to see whether moving is covered. Transfer fire, theft and other personal property insurance to ensure coverage at your new home.
• Gather information on prescriptions. Get current phone numbers and addresses of your doctor and dentist.
• Arrange to transfer school records and secure transcripts from the local school district you are leaving. Get copies of your records from doctors, dentists, accountants, etc.
• Plan to cancel all utilities.
• Pick up all dry cleaning and anything left at the tailor.
• Set a date to cancel the newspaper.
• Alert the post office that you will be moving. If you don’t yet know your permanent address, the post office can hold your mail for you. Send out change-of-address cards. First-class mail is forwarded free of charge for one year; newspapers and magazines — 60 days.
• Transfer all prescriptions to your new pharmacy.
• Have rugs and draperies cleaned and keep them in bags until the movers arrive.
• Collect all items being repaired, cleaned or stored.
• Return library books and anything else you may have borrowed.
***The above checklist is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal, tax or other professional assistance.

Who Should I Send Change of Address To?

• Post Office — give forwarding address
• Charge accounts, credit cards
• Subscriptions — notice requires several months
• Friends and relatives
• Bank — transfer funds, arrange check-cashing in new city
• Insurance — life, health, fire and auto
• Automobile — transfer of car title registration, driver’s license, city windshield sticker, motor club membership
• Utility companies (gas, light, water, telephone, fuel) — arrange for refunds of any deposits and service in new town
• Cancel/change newspaper delivery
• School records — ask for copies or transfer of children’s records
• Health — medical, dental, prescription histories. Ask doctor and dentist for referrals, transfer needed prescriptions, x-rays
• Church, clubs, civic organizations — transfer memberships, get letters of introduction
• Pets - ask about regulations for licenses, vaccinations, tags, etc.
***The above checklist is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal, tax or other professional assistance.