When It Comes To Mortgages, Stick With the People You Know

If you’re buying a home, your Realtor will help find a mortgage. A friend of mine, Attorney Larry Fox of Chester, gives his clients a warning that’s worth repeating: Stick with mortgage lenders who are local and who you know.

There's more to a mortgage than the rate. Pick a broker or bank with a good reputation and people you can actually talk with.

There's more to a mortgage than the rate. Pick a broker or bank with a good reputation and people you can actually talk with.

Larry’s been doing real estate law and managing property closing for 40 years, so he’s experienced in this area. He’s not talking about the on-line presence of well-known and respected banks or mortgage brokers. He’s talking about the fly-by-night brokers who promise you big savings. In the end, he says, they can’t deliver.

“You wind up dealing with two sets of people: broker and the lender,” he told me. “You have no control over the process. They don’t understand the process and you can’t find a real person, it’s all done online. It’s very difficult to negotiate with them and get them closed. In the end, you find they’re no cheaper.”

Every state is different, and Larry points out that these online brokers usually are in another state and don’t understand New Jersey’s laws and rules. For instance, one broker wanted certain forms signed before they’d arrange for the delivery of the check. But in New Jersey, those forms are signed at the closing.

Homebuyers pay for their attorneys or Realtors make the arrangements for the closing, including getting the check there. Using these out-of-state brokers requires more time and aggravation on the attorney’s part.

“The rate’s the rate,” Larry said. “It’s the fees you’ll save on, they say. But the few bucks you save, you’ll lose in time and aggravation.”

 Larry’s advice is the pretty much the same that we give to all of our buyers.

“Do what you can to negotiate with local banks, local brokers…people who have a good relationship with local borrowers,” he suggests. “Don’t be fooled by advertisements of lower fees because it doesn’t work that way.”

Your Realtor can help you find a mortgage with a reputable local bank or broker. In fact, we recommend you prequalify for a mortgage because it lets you know what you can afford and gives you added negotiating strength when you find something you like.

Shopping around for a mortgage is a wise thing to do. But make sure you’re dealing with a bank or a broker with a good reputation for getting you to the closing table with a check in your hand.

If you have questions, or need help finding someone to prequalify you, please give us a call.

In Real Estate, the Game is Offer, Counteroffer and Your Realtor Is Your Best Coach

Spring is here and for-sale signs are sprouting everywhere. What’s really exciting about this spring is that we’re seeing sold signs are popping up on many of those for-sale signs.

With a strong spring real estate market, it’s important to make sure you’re ready get what you can for your home. That

Flowers and for sale signs are popping up

It's spring and flowers and for sale signs are popping up everywhere.

means pricing your home correctly and being ready to counter whatever offers you get.

It’s up to you to put a price tag on your home, but your Realtor should help you by showing you recent similar sales in your neighborhood, looking at the condition of your home compared to its competition and counseling you about preparing your home for the market. In addition, your Realtor is an objective third party who isn’t emotionally attached to your home. And when those offers come in, your Realtor will be able to help you decide what to do with them

You have three choices with any offer: you can accept the offer, make a counteroffer or reject the offer.

You and your agent can discuss whether it’s a good idea to simply accept the offer or counter it, but you should never reject an offer. An offer from a potential buyer is an opening gambit. As in any gambit, you should respond.

You and your Realtor can look at the offer, compare it to what you asked for and decide how to respond. An offer may contain more than just a price. It may call for you to make certain repairs, leave some things behind, call for a contingency (the deal ends if the buyer can’t sell their home) or have other conditions. The offer puts you as the seller at an advantage because you now know what the buyer wants.

Even if the offer seems ridiculously low or has terms you wouldn’t even consider, you and your Realtor should respond. Responding, or countering, keeps the conversation going and starts the negotiation process.

Your counter can contain a higher price, but something lower than your original asking price. You also can change the terms, such as increasing the deposit, offering to pay for certain reports or fees, or leaving behind appliances or other articles the buyer liked.

The hope here is that the potential buyer will remain interested and will counter your counter. This “conversation” requires patience and an experienced Realtor to guide you on what’s realistic, legal and productive. Potentially, you could have more than one negotiation going on.

The offer-counteroffer nature of real estate sales is one more reason why you need an experienced Realtor who will be candid with you and help you through the challenges of selling your home.

Make Sure Your Real Estate Agent Is Working For You

We’re enjoying a robust spring real estate market even though it’s just March. Many attribute that to the nice weather and improving consumer confidence, but whatever the reason, people are getting out and looking at homes. If you’re among them, you need a real estate agent who’s working for you.

Holmquist Team sold sign in spring market in Mount Olive, Long Valley and Chester.

It's proving to be a strong spring real estate market. With the right Realtor, this could be the time to sell your home or buy a new one.

Almost as a rule, real estate agents are nice, personable people. After all, selling a home is about as intensely personal as you can get, so it attracts “people people.” But don’t let their friendly manners fool you: Real estate agents are business people.

What does that mean for you?

It means you want to have a real estate agent who is on your side. If you’re selling your home, you want a listing or seller’s agent. If you’re buying a home, you want a buyer’s or selling agent. They can be the same person, but make sure you understand the relationship.

There are, of course legal definitions for all this. In fact, you’ll be asked to sign a “Consumer Information Statement on New Jersey Real Estate Relationships” and an agreement with your agent, outlining your relationship. Outside ofNew Jersey, the relationships are the same, although disclosure rules may differ.A seller’s agent works only for the person selling a home. He or she has legal obligations including loyalty, confidentiality and full disclosure. On the other hand, your seller’s agent must be honest about matters about the transaction or the property.

If your Great Aunt Tillie promised you $10 million if you’d just sell your house and move toTimbuktuwith her, confidentiality means your agent can’t tell a potential buyer how desperate you are to sell.

A buyer’s agent works only for the buyer and has similar “fiduciary duties.” The buyer’s agent has to be honest in representing you and in counseling you. For instance, if you can’t qualify for a mortgage, the agent can’t tell a seller that you can easily afford the home, no matter how much you want it and expect Great Aunt Tillie to help you out.

It gets tricky when an agent represents both sides of the transaction. It’s legal and ethical. It’s called a disclosed dual agent. If you walk into an open house, for instance, and fall in love with the home, you can ask the seller’s agent to work with you. That agent must disclose his or her role and you’ll be asked to sign an acknowledgement of that status. It means that although the agent knows how much the buyer wants to sell, he or she can’t tell you. On the other hand, if you’re about to come into a small fortune from your Great Aunt Tillie, the agent can’t tell the seller to ask for more.

In some agencies like the Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, the agents work together to take care of the customers without getting into the sensitive challenges of disclosed dual agent. They work within the same agency, so there’s excellent communication, but the buyer would be assigned a different agent than the seller to avoid the potential or appearance of a conflict. Some of our agents specialize in listing, some in selling and some in dealing with special challenges, and that brings additional skills to the table.

Finding an agent is one of the most important parts of buying or selling a home. First, ask around, visit a few Web sites and visit with a real estate agent you think you might like. If things feel right, select that agent as your buyer’s agent. He or she will counsel you about what you can afford, help you prequalify for a mortgage, and take you to see some homes. Your agent will fight on your behalf to get you the best deal possible.

If you’re listing a home, you want to do the same thing and select a listing agent. That agent will do the best he or she can to get you the most for your home. He or she will counsel you about what to fix up, how to stage and what you might realistically expect to get.

And, yes, the same agent can help you sell your home while helping you find a new home.

Finding the right agent or agents, and understanding your relationship with him, her or them will assure that your home-buying and –selling experience is profitable and comfortable. If you have questions about buying or selling a home, talk with a Realtor or call us. We’ll be happy to help.