Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What should I do to get my property ready to list for sale?
A: The first thing that you should do is meet with a Realtor and ask them to help you determine what will make your house show well. Common things to do are to freshen up your yard, clean and organize cupboards and closets, and DOWNSIZE items so you give the appearance of neat and tidy.
Q: What do I do before a showing?
A: To have your property ready for a showing you should make sure everything is tidy, beds are made, clothes picked up, etc. You should also plan to not be at the property while it is being shown and to not have your pets there as well if possible. If the showing is an evening showing, it is nice to have the lights on. Some people turn the interior lights on for any showing. If you do this, just leave instructions for the agent showing the property to turn them off if you want them off when the showing is done.
Q: I heard of the term staging a property; what does that mean, and do I need to stage my property?
A: The act of “Staging” a property is having someone decorate your property with things like furniture, appliances, knick-knacks, flowers, etc. This is a popular practice in some areas, especially with non-occupied homes. Again, talk to a Realtor about this if this is something you think you want to do.
Q: Should I ask my Realtor for an open house on my property?
A: Open houses rarely work in our area and while uncommon for us, it is not unheard of by any means. The thing to remember with open houses is that the Realtor does not have ANY control over who comes into the property, so there is a risk that a person could come into your property for the sole purpose of stealing from you. If you do decide to have an open house, you need to remove ALL jewelry, guns, and medications. Basically, anything that someone could easily take that is valuable needs to be removed by you during the open house.
Q: I am looking at online sites to try and figure out what my house is worth, are these prices accurate?
A: In most cases, the online prices are not accurate. Online services cannot take into account your home’s condition or your home location. In addition, online sites cannot factor in things such as the quality of appliances, the age of a furnace, and the roof. The figure from online sites are based on averages sale prices of a large area and not all areas are the same. The best thing that you can do is meet with a Realtor and get a price opinion. This is a free service with no obligations.
Q: I have decided to sell my house but I can’t find my original deed, where do I get another?
A: You do not need your deed as long as it was recorded when you purchased your property, it will be on file at the County Register of Deeds office. You do not need the original, however, if you need a copy of your deed for any other reason, you can get a copy of it at your County’s Register of Deeds Office.
Q: My house is still in my and my spouse’s name but my spouse has passed away, what do I need to do.
A: You will need a certified copy of your spouse’s death certificate. If you don’t have a certified copy of the death certificate, you will need to contact the County Clerk’s office in the County where your spouse passed. These are usually around $35.00 on up.
Q: I have owned my house for many years and I have the original abstract, is that what I need to give the buyer when I sell?
A: Abstracts are an outdated way of passing the clear title of a property. Now we use Title Insurance in place of an Abstract. It is rare to find anyone with the original abstract anymore, so if you do happen to have the Abstract, while it has no monetary value anymore, it does hold the entire history of your property and is very interesting to read. It is a nice item to pass on to your buyers.
Q: Do I need to get my house appraised before I list it for sale?
A: No, you do not. This is a very common question asked by sellers and unless you want an appraisal for your peace of mind that you are asking the right price for your home, the appraisal cannot be used by your buyer. Most appraisals are only good for 30 days and lenders MUST order their own appraisals when a buyer applies for a loan.
Q: I have an offer on my house and the buyer’s appraiser appraised it for less than the amount agreed on in the purchase agreement. What can I do?
A: This is a common problem and a common question. The first thing you need to do is have your real estate agent review the appraisal for mistakes. Everyone is human and if something gets keyed in wrong or the wrong comparable is used, you can have values come in less than you expected. Your real estate agent will look at the comparable properties that were used to make sure that they are similar neighborhoods. Your agent will also check to make sure the square footage is correct and that all outbuildings and approvements are accounted for. Your agent will then find additional or better comparable properties to use that will help get that value up and share those with the lender. The lender will then share those with the appraiser and see if any adjustments can be made to help with the value. Sometimes an appraiser will stick by their original appraisal regardless of mistakes or better comparable properties. If this happens and your agent is sure that the value is there, you can pay for a second appraisal to be done. Another way to cure the issue is to go back into negotiations. You can offer to reduce the price to the appraised value, offer to split the difference with the buyer, or simply refuse to reduce your price. In most cases, the matter is settled and you do move forward with the sale.
Q: I have changed my mind about selling so I want to cancel my listing, can I tell my agent I am canceling?
A: A contract, including a listing contract, is a legal and binding agreement when in writing and signed by all parties. You need to speak with your agent and explain why you want to cancel but at the end of the day, the broker has the final say as to whether the listing can be canceled or not. Most of the time the broker and agent will agree to withdraw the listing until it expires. This removes the listing from the MLS as active but does not allow you to go and list with another company until the contract actually expires. Some real estate firms have a charge to withdraw or cancel a listing. If there is a charge it would have been discussed with you when you were signing the listing contract.
Q: I accepted an offer on my property but since then I haven’t been able to find another property to buy, can I terminate the purchase?
A: Usually, not. Once a contract is signed it is a legal and binding contract, and depending on how far into the process the buyer is they may have already spent thousands of dollars. In most cases, a buyer has paid the loan application fee, paid for the appraisal to be ordered, paid for a home inspection, etc. The best thing you can do is explain to the buyer your situation and see if the buyer is receptive to letting you out of the contract. Again, they do not have to but if they do, they may do so only if you reimburse them the money out of pocket that they already spent.
Q: How do I get pre-qualified to purchase a home?
A: We encourage you to be pre-qualified before looking at property to purchase. You can do this by contacting any lender and you can see our list of affiliated lenders at www.bcarealtors.com
Q: My buyer’s agent just told me that I must have proof of funds when I write an offer, what is proof of funds?
A: Proof of funds is a letter from a lender showing that based on information provided, you qualify to purchase a property up to a certain dollar amount. If you are buying a property with cash, it would be a bank statement showing that you have at least the amount of the purchase price in an account.
Q: I am really getting discouraged because my offers aren’t getting accepted. Is there anything more I can do?
A: Buying a home in a market that has a shortage of homes is difficult but not impossible. If you are pre-approved for financing, you have made the first right step. Talk to your agent and ask what he/she thinks you could do to make your offers look better to a seller. If you are offering less than the purchase price, that can be the issue. Sellers are receiving multiple offers on properties so writing an offer below the list price can knock you out of the game. If you really want a particular property, you need to make an offer that will get the seller’s attention. Try not to ask for any seller concessions or guarantee the purchase price even if the property doesn’t appraise at the purchase price. You might also want to try using an acceleration clause in your offer.
Q: What is an acceleration clause?
A: This is a clause that a buyer can add in their offer to purchase that raises the offer by a certain dollar amount over any other offer up to a specified limit. EXAMPLE: A house is listed for $100,000.00 You really want the house, so you offer $110,000.00 and agree to pay $1,000.00 over any other offer up to $120,000.00. So, if the seller receives your offer of $110,000.00 with an acceleration clause and another offer at $115.000.00, your offer will accelerate to $116,000.00. (the other offer price plus $1,000.00)
Q: What are seller concessions?
A: Seller concessions are a request from a buyer in an offer to purchase to ask the seller to pay a specified dollar amount or a specified percentage of the purchase price towards the buyers closing costs and pre-paid expenses. It is another way to offset some of the buyer’s expenses and is very common in FHA and Rural Development loans. From a seller’s standpoint, if they receive an offer for $115,000.00 on a property and you submit an offer of $117,500.00 but are asking for 6% back towards the buyer’s closing costs and pre-paid fees, that is like the seller getting an offer 0f $110,450.00. This would make your offer LESS than the $115,000.00 offer that you are competing against will most likely knock you out of the running.
Q: What is a “LOVE LETTER” to the seller that I am hearing about buyers including with their offers?
A: A “Love Letter” Is a heartfelt letter that a buyer writes to a seller to hopefully influence the seller into accepting the buyer’s offer over all other offers. You should talk to your agent before attempting a “Love Letter” It should also be noted that this practice is not favorable in many areas and could put the seller in hot water.
Q: What is EMD and how much should I include in my offer?
A: EMD stands for Earnest Money Deposit also known as good faith money. This is money that you pay when the offer is written or accepted (depending on the norm in your area). This money is held in an escrow account and applied towards your purchase price at your closing. Many sellers look at the amount of EMD that the buyer is willing to put in escrow. If you are buying a $250,000.00 house and offering $100.00 for EMD, the seller might think you are not 100% serious but if you put $1,000.00 in escrow or more, the seller is more likely to think that you are serious. It should be noted that an EMD is NOT required on an offer and that there is no SET amount. Again. Talk with your agents and see what is common in your area.
Q: Do I Need an inspection on my purchase?
A: Realtors always recommend an inspection even if it is just for the buyer’s personal information. The cost of an inspection is based on how extensive of an inspection you want to buy. The basic things include the roof, the furnace, the electrical, and the foundation.
Q: Do I need a survey?
A: If you are buying a property that nobody is sure of where the lot lines are, then you really should consider having the property surveyed before you buy. Surveys can be very expensive and that is why buyers don’t get them but NOT knowing where your property begins, or ends can be very expensive in the future if you get into a dispute with another property owner. Again, discuss this with your agent and your lender.
Q: I have an accepted offer on a property and my appraisal just came back with a lower value than my offer. What are my options?
1. Depending on how your offer is written, you can just walk away.
2. You could ask the seller to reduce the price to the appraised value, but you need to understand the seller is under no obligation to reduce the price.
3. You can ask the seller to split the difference between the offered price and the appraised price. This does mean that you will have to have more money out of pocket to close on the sale.
4. You can talk with your lender to see if you can pay for a second appraisal in hopes that the appraiser will use different comparable properties to get a higher value.