We know buying and selling a home is both exciting and a little scary. We’ve guided buyers just like you through hundreds of real estate transactions all around Colorado Springs. Believe us when we say we’ve heard all the questions! That’s why we put together this buyer’s and seller’s guide to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
Homeownership is a lot of responsibility. Will I see a return on my investment?
No one can predict the future, but real estate is almost always a good investment. Over the last 25 years the average price of a home has risen substantially. Plus, the money you pay into your mortgage turns into equity that can be used to finance other opportunities.
Remember, too, when you outgrow your home or need to relocate, it’s not always necessary to sell your home. Depending on the equity you’ve built, it might make more sense to offset the remaining mortgage by renting out the property.
What should I expect from a real estate agent?
It is important to work with a real estate agent who is not only committed to working with you, but who is also dedicated to finding you the right home. Your real estate agent should have the knowledge, experience and expertise to guide you through your search. Don’t hesitate to check their track record with other buyers to find the best fit for you and your buying needs.
Here’s what you can expect from a trusted real estate partner:
- Taking the time to understand your home requirements and priorities, including the location, property type, size and local amenities.
- Researching the market. Your agent should conduct a sophisticated home search process that allows you to preview homes and see new homes as they come on the market. Buying is all about having the right knowledge and access at your fingertips.
- Viewing and assessing homes. Your agent should tour potential homes with you and provide a comparative analysis. They also should be able to refer you to expert home inspectors for in-depth advice on the condition of any home you want to purchase.
- Consulting on offers and negotiations. Expect your agent to negotiate the best possible price and terms for you and take care of all the documentation details.
- Connecting you to service providers. You’ll need mortgage professionals and other home-related services. A well-connected real estate agent can get you to the right people.
- Organizing closing details. Your agent should keep you fully informed about all activities that lead to the transaction closing.
When is the best time to buy?
When you have found the right home. Don’t wait for perfect conditions to buy – they don’t exist.
There are so many choices? Where should we start?
First, consider two key questions:
- What can you afford?
- Where do you want to live?
The first step in your home search is the location. Narrow down areas of town or neighborhoods where you’d like to live. Then, determine the type of home you want (size, style, etc.). Lastly, you’ll need to calculate exactly what you can afford to buy.
Only you can determine the importance of each. Once you start to research your options, you will soon know if your expectations are realistic.
How can we determine if a home is in a good location?
Location is king when it comes to real estate. You can’t move a home – at least not easily – to another neighborhood, so you want to live in an area you love.
Also, when you buy a home in a good location, it is usually a solid long-term investment. Perhaps more than ever, location is the key factor to driving price increases. In a strong housing market, homes in particularly desirable areas are more likely to see above average price increases. In weak housing markets, these homes tend to retain their value better.
As you’re assessing different locations, here are five characteristics to consider:
- A safe neighborhood. Look for a home located in a community with little crime, where neighbors interact, and it’s safe to walk.
- Good schools. Being in a good school district, even if you don’t have children, is where young families will always buy. The better the school district, the higher the values of the surrounding homes.
- Convenience. The easier it is to access the main features of a community, the more valuable the home.
- Water access and views. Someone will always pay more for a great view or to have access to lakes or oceans. Put a home right on a waterway or on a hill with panoramic views, and you have a great selling point.
- No intermittent noise. Being located near a busy street, close to a fire station or hospital, an airport or a local school, is generally considered a negative. These intermittent noise factors can be missed when looking at a home and not reviewing your location fully.
What types of houses should I consider?
Each property type has advantages and disadvantages, so take your time to assess which one makes the most sense for you and your living needs.
The most popular style – and the most solid investment – is a free-standing and detached home. With its own lot, a single-family home offers the most privacy. Typically homes and the land are owned completely by the homeowner and, therefore, completely their responsibility to manage and maintain.
Semi-Detached / Duplex
This is a single-family home that is joined to another one by a common wall. It can offer many of the advantages of a single-family detached home and is usually less expensive to buy and maintain.
Townhouse / Rowhome
This is one of several types of single-family homes joined by common walls. It offers less privacy than a single-family detached home but still provides a separate outdoor space. These homes can cost less to buy and maintain, but are typically subject to homeowner associations that are responsible for maintenance and management, which can cost an additional fee per month.
Condominium / Apartment
This refers to a form of legal ownership as opposed to a style of construction. Condominiums can be high-rise residential buildings, townhouse complexes, individual houses, and low rise residential buildings. Owners do not have complete control over their property, being subject to homeowner’s association rules; however, the maintenance and management of the building are taken care of and in many cases there is an increased level of security.
Home prices can vary so much - why is that?
The current selling price of a home does not mean that a property is “worth” that amount to you. Market conditions and what a buyer is willing to pay for a property affect the true value of the home at any moment in time.
When deciding the value of any property the following criteria should be considered:
- Location of the property
- Condition of the property
- Buyer demand
- Current prices of similar properties
- Recent sales of competitive properties
- Availability of financing
Ultimately, the value of any property is dependent on what is important to you and whether this is the home that you wish to buy.
Where should I start with my research?
Reviewing this list of questions will allow you to set your priorities. Then, you can move forward with researching housing and mortgage options.
- What do you want from a home?
- What does your family want from a home?
- Do you want a turnkey home or would you prefer to renovate?
- Choose the top five “must-haves”
- Choose the top five “would-likes”
- Are you pre-approved for a mortgage?
- What can you afford on a monthly basis?
- When is the ideal time to move?
How do I start the funding process? What does it mean to be “pre-approved?”
No matter your prior experience, circumstance, or reason for buying, it is always in your best interest to be pre-qualified for a loan before starting to search for a home. The current rates, approval, and unexpected challenges should be addressed before you have a serious intention of buying.
The pre-approval process involves meeting with a lender and authorizing them to examine your current financial situation and credit history to determine the interest rate and amount of money you can borrow.
Benefits of pre-qualification
- Knowing what you can afford enables you to plan accordingly.
- As a qualified buyer, you will be taken more seriously when you make an offer on a home.
- You are able to take the time to understand the short- and long-term implications, allowing you to make informed decisions and research your options.
What’s involved in the pre-approval process?
APPLICATION AND INTERVIEW
- Types of mortgages are reviewed in line with your requirements.
- Interest rates and terms are discussed.
- Credit report is requested.
- Personal information is verified.
- The mortgage package is submitted to an underwriter for approval.
- Title is examined.
- Title insurance and survey are conducted.
- Borrowers to sign documentation.
- Parties are notified of the approval.
- Loan documents are completed and sent to the title company.
- Lender reviews the loan package.
- Funds are transferred.
Where should I look for available homes?
Search the internet: Some 95% of all buyers use the internet to start their search for homes.
Your real estate agent: Your agent will help you narrow down your search based on your preferences and priorities.
Your Realtor also has access to:
- New property previews through Realtor open houses.
- Technology that automatically sends you new home matches immediately – so you never miss a new listing.
- A network for fellow agents who can alert them to properties not even listed yet.
- Every home in your preferred community, including “for sale by owner,” discounted brokerages, expired listings, or homes not actually on the market but would suit your requirements.
Print media: Newspapers and real estate magazines still provide a platform that features homes. Not every home is listed on the internet and sometimes your search can miss that hidden gem because it is not online.
Property visits: You can learn a lot about what’s on the market by visiting open houses and new home developments.
I’m visiting so many homes. How can I keep them all straight so I choose the best one?
Use this checklist to help you stay organized and focused on the important criteria during your search:
Make a comparison chart for when you start viewing:
Positioning of the living spaces
General size of rooms
Kitchen style and appliances
Condition of roof, exterior
Do you feel an emotional connection to the home?
Take a tour of the home and do a second walkthrough without emotion.
Become the inspector and look beyond the surface:
Will your furniture fit?
Floor plans are a great way to see the flow and how changes can be made. Not available? Measure and draw your own.
Check out the true storage space – open cupboards, doors, attics, basements, and storage cabinets.
Lift up rugs and investigate for damage on the floor, under furniture, in the back of cupboards, etc. Look at every detail from floor to ceiling, including window trims, under sinks, bathroom tiles, etc.
Look outside – understand the landscaping and the layout of other homes around the home, traffic, parking, noise, etc.
View the property at different times of the day.
Take a moment to envision how you would use the space – does it fit your everyday needs?
Who are your neighbors?
How long has the house been on the market?
Is it priced to sell?
Compare its price to others sold on the market
What is the resale potential?
How can I best negotiate an offer on the house I want to buy?
When you have found the right home, it is time to prepare and draft an offer of purchase. This offer protects and represents your interests, while remaining legally binding on final acceptance. There are many components to an offer, and your real estate agent will explain the entire process so you are comfortable with the steps involved.
An offer can be drafted with or without conditions. An offer without conditions is known as a firm or subject-free offer, and one with conditions is known as a conditional offer and in effect, protects one party with the placement of certain conditions on the purchase.*
In your negotiation, consider:
- The condition of the home.
- Length of time it’s been on the market.
- Buyer activity.
- Urgency of the seller.
The seller may accept your initial offer, reject your offer, or present a counter offer. The counter offer may differ from your original offer in respect to price, conditions, the closing date, or any other items. Offers can be countered back and forth between the parties until one of you accepts or rejects, ending the negotiations all together.
Can I get out of a deal if I decide the property or deal isn’t right for me?
Don’t be afraid to back out of the deal; you have not gone too far until the contingencies have been removed.
What’s involved in the home closing process?
Closing day marks the end of your home buying process and the following items should be brought to the closing:
- A certified check for closing costs and down payment. Make the check payable to yourself; you will then endorse it to the title company at closing.
- An insurance binder and paid receipt.
- Photo IDs.
- Social Security numbers.
- Addresses for the past 10 years.
At closing, you will sign all your legal documents, including paperwork relating to your mortgage and the transfer of ownership of the property. There are usually representatives from the escrow company or a lawyer to facilitate the exchange.
When closing is finished, you should not only have the keys to the property but a copy of the documentation that relates to the property, including a statement of costs, a statement outlining your mortgage terms, your mortgage note and a copy of your deed of trust. At the end of closing, the deed will be taken and recorded at the county clerk’s office. It will be sent to you after processing.
TIP: Make arrangements to see the new home the day before you close to ensure the home is in the condition per the contract agreement.
What fees should I expect to pay as part of the closing?
MORTGAGE INSURANCE AND FEES
- A fee for running your credit report.
- A loan origination fee – lenders charge for processing the loan paperwork.
- Appraisal fee.
- Underwriting fee – cost of evaluating a mortgage.
- loan application.
- Survey fee – covers the cost of verifying property lines.
PROPERTY TRANSFER TAX
- Recording fee or property transfer tax, which is paid to a city or county in exchange for recording the new land records.
- Escrow deposit, which may pay for a couple months’ property taxes and private mortgage insurance.
- Attorney or escrow fees.
- Notary fees.
- Title insurance, which protects the lender in case the title isn’t clean.
- Title search fees, which pay for a background check on the title to ensure there aren’t things such as unpaid mortgages or tax liens on the property.
- Home inspection fee.
- Pest inspection fee.
- Home warranty.
What are the most common mistakes homebuyers make?
- Going over budget – just because you qualify doesn’t mean you can afford the monthly payments plus all your other ongoing costs.
- Overlooking the importance of location – loving the house will not be enough.
- Not pre-qualifying for a mortgage.
- Not shopping for the most suitable mortgage to match your requirements.
- Not understanding all the terms and conditions: interest rates, length of contracts, mortgage types and rates, etc. before selecting your mortgage.
- Buying a new home before you sold your old home.
- Not understanding the true costs associated with buying your home.
- Not using professionals to assist in all aspects of your home purchase including a mortgage advisor, home inspector, lawyer, notary, or a moving company.
I’m thinking about selling my house. What do I need to know first?
Before selling your house, ask yourself these six questions:
- Is there a timeline?
- Are you relocating?
- Are you looking for a bigger home or to downsize?
- Are you looking for a different neighborhood? More urban? More suburban?
- Are you looking for different amenities?
- Are financial considerations relevant?
Then, think about these six important considerations:
- Do you understand the associated costs?
- Is this the right time for you to sell?
- What are the present market conditions and the implications to your sale?
- Does your home’s equity give you an advantage?
- What are the current mortgage interest rates options compared to your rate and commitment?
- Consider getting your property inspected before placing it on the market. This will help you to know if there are any issues with the home beforehand.
Recognize that every market is different and the selling process can be a sprint or a marathon – be prepared for both.
When is the best time to sell?
When you are ready. Every real estate market is different, therefore, the best time to sell a home will be different from community to community. Don’t wait for perfect conditions to sell – they don’t exist.
What should I expect from the real estate agent I hire?
First and foremost, you should expect commitment and dedication. It’s important to work with a Realtor who is not only committed to working with you, but who is also dedicated to getting your home sold in the shortest time for the most amount of money.
Find an agent who will guide you through the entire process. Check their track record of working with sellers, their knowledge and expertise.
Your real estate agent should:
- Educate you about the listing agency and professional responsibilities, including complete disclosure, loyalty, confidentiality, compliance, and accountability.
- Take the time to understand your requirements and priorities – price, timeline, relocating, etc.
- Provide a sophisticated marketing strategy that ensures the maximum exposure of your home to the right buyers. Keeping you updated with current market trends, neighborhood fluctuations, and new sales and listings.
- Prepare your home to match buyer’s expectations, arranging the right showings, and recommending relevant experts.
- Provide consultation when offers come to purchase your home. Negotiating the best possible price and terms for you, finding home-related service providers, and taking care of all the documentation details.
- Keep you fully informed about all activities that lead to the transaction closing.
What is a listing agreement I sign with the real estate agent?
A listing agreement is a contract between you and your Realtor. It is an agreement that says the agent has the right to list, advertise, and handle the sale of your house. It’s important to understand the terms of this agreement because you will be bound to them – forming an obligation of time and commitment of responsibilities.
How long does the listing agreement last?
Every real estate agent will have a preferred length. One thing to keep in mind when asking about the length of a listing agreement is the average days on the market. If the average days on the market in your local real estate are 75, a 90-day listing agreement may not be enough.
How much commission should I pay the real estate agent?
Commission is negotiable, period. The phrase “you get what you pay for,” is true when it comes to real estate too. Choosing a Realtor based solely on the fact they offer the lowest commission amount is a mistake frequently made by home sellers.
How do I determine the best price for my house?
Price sets “the opinion of value” when selling your home. Price it too high against comparable properties and your home may not sell. Price it too low and you may not receive the true value of your home.
The fair market value is influenced by:
- Buyer demand
- Prices of properties on the market
- Recent sales
- Availability for financing
Don’t overlook the hidden influence. Make sure you highlight the positives and negatives of your home to your real estate agent. These nuances can be turned into an advantage if you share them in advance. Remember, no one knows your home and its location like you do.
What’s the best way to prepare my home for selling?
Every seller wants to sell their home quickly, and every buyer wants to believe that the home they are looking at is the “right one.” As you begin to prepare your home for sale, keep this in mind: “This is not my home; it is a house.”
Here are three levels for preparing your house for sale. Discuss with your Realtor what level is required to get the most value for your home.
LEVEL 1: THE BASICS
- Declutter: If it is not needed, remove it and put it in storage. Pack up the knick-knacks. Keep the counters clean.
- De-personalize: Remove photographs and memorabilia. Remember this is going to be a fresh start for someone else’s dream and you want them to be able to visualize making their own memories here.
- Deep cleaning: Clean the home inside and out. Clean inside the cupboards. Clean the grout in your bathroom(s). Remove spider webs, dust bunnies, wash the windows, dust the furniture, clean the carpets, vacuum, etc. Don’t forget about the outside!
LEVEL 2: BEYOND THE BASICS
- Painting walls: Think neutral colors. If you have off-beat colors, bring them back to a more neutral hue – it can help the buyer visualize a clean slate.
- Change room decorations and themes: Got a jungle-themed room? How about an all pink or blue kid’s room? For now, redecorate, repaint, and turn it into a study. Think simple.
- Minor repairs: These repairs are not supposed to break the bank. If it’s a cheap and easy fix; fix it. Repair squeaky doors, holes in walls, leaking faucets, broken cabinet doors, and anything else that could deter buyers.
LEVEL 3: WAY BEYOND THE BASICS
- Major renovations: Haven’t replaced that roof in 20+ years? Need to replace the carpet? Add better flooring? Remodel the bathroom? These more expensive repairs will add value to your home and are projects worth considering.
- Finishing the basement: Never got around to finishing the basement? Now is the time you may want to consider it. A finished, yet blank canvas, can add extra value to your home, and the buyer may be willing to pay more for something they do not have to do.
- Other repairs: With larger repairs, it is important to understand that any work you put into the home should add value to the final sale price; if not, it’s not worth it.
A few extra helpful tips:
- Think of this process as a head start to packing.
- Even though some repairs may seem minor, they can become a major factor in determining whether a buyer will actually buy.
- Pay particular attention to rooms that smell; odors are a complete turn-off.
- Do not forget about the outside, this is your first impression.
- Scrutinize the home. If you were a buyer would you want to buy this home? You have lived here and you know all the pros and cons. Highlight the pros and help eliminate the cons.
How can I effectively market my home?
Each home has its own story to tell, and the marketing should reflect that. Take some time to sit down with your real estate agent to discuss the correct marketing plan.
Photography: A key element to all marketing is the right photography. Your home has 5 seconds to impress and grab someone’s attention. Skilled professionals know how to use composition, color, and lighting to enhance the subject. The right photography can give you an extra 20 seconds and a great photo can evoke a potential buyer’s emotion. This is where they fall in love first.
Print media: Tangible resources that draw buyers to the home such as yard signs, directionals, property brochures, and more.
Digital exposure: Your online footprint gives you access to social media and 24/7 web exposure. It is the quickest way to get your home exposed locally, nationally, and globally.
Networking and referrals: Realtors will use their network and referral systems to create additional sources of potential buyers. Networking with other local, national, and international agents, as well as relocation experts creates a large database. Local advertising, word of mouth, and open houses create referrals from local homeowners – who are often the biggest advocates for having their friends and family move into their neighborhood.
Showings are booked. How can I set my home up for a great first impression?
Here are a few things to keep in mind to generate the best first impression and increase your chances of receiving those all-important offers.
Let Your Agent Handle It
A potential buyer is less likely to voice any concerns in front of the current owner. Give them the space to explore and scrutinize. Your real estate agent is your ally; let them handle any concerns a buyer might have.
Many homebuyers are on a tight schedule, just like the rest of us. Time is tough to come by, so be flexible, especially if you are living in the home.
During the selling process, it is imperative to always keep the home clean. Wipe down counters, vacuum daily, and make sure all clutter is cleaned up. [Tip: Keep a box for personal items; when not in use, keep them in a closet or drawer.]
Make sure the inside temperature of the home is comfortable. You want buyers to feel comfortable and to not rush the viewing process because they are too hot or too cold.
A pet-friendly home is a great selling point. However, if potential buyers are not animal friendly, you do not want your pet(s) to be a distraction. If you can, remove them from the home temporarily, or place them in a contained space.
Light the Way
The home should feel open, bright, and welcoming. Turn on the lights and open the curtains, this will allow the buyers to see the true value of the home.
Communicate with Your Realtor
If there are special aspects to the home that you want to be featured and recognized during the viewing of the home, make sure to communicate that clearly to your real estate agent.
What if showings are slow? How do we entice buyers?
It is never easy hearing negative remarks about your home, but knowing is half the battle, and the information provided could be helpful in the next showing. It will also show the buyer that you value their opinion. Following an open house or buyer showing, talk with your Realtor to measure your home’s reception and consider recommendations.
Review with your agent:
- Are you getting a steady stream of people to open houses and agent caravans? What is the typical number for comparable homes?
- Find out what feedback was given to your real estate agent. Use this feedback to enhance your home’s presentation for future showings. Your agent may have some ideas on how to spruce up your home’s presentation factor.
- Could your home use an incentive to entice more buyers to come for a look?
- What other marketing strategies does your agent suggest to attract more buyers?
It is important to keep things in perspective following an open house or a buyer showing. Remember that home shoppers need time to process what they have seen and maybe time to look around at other homes before making such a big decision. So, be patient. Be open to feedback and continue to maintain an open dialogue with your Realtor.
What happens when I get an offer? How do I handle the negotiation?
Perhaps the most complex moment of the sales process comes when you get an offer on the home. There are many components to an offer, and your real estate agent can explain the entire process so you’re comfortable with all the steps involved.
An offer can be drafted with or without conditions: an offer without conditions is known as a firm or contingent-free offer; an offer with conditions is known as a conditional offer and protects one party with the placement of certain conditions on the purchase.
You can reject or accept the initial offer. If you agree to some points of the offer but not others, you will submit a counter offer. The counter offer may differ from the original offer in respect to price, conditions, closing date, or any other items. Offers can be countered back and forth between the parties until one of you accepts or rejects it, ending the negotiations all together.
How a counter offer works
Counter offers are generated by the seller after a buyer has submitted an offer to purchase. Typically, counter offers will state that the seller has accepted the buyer’s offer, subject to the particulars such as:
- Higher price (if buyer’s offer doesn’t match sale price)
- Increase the amount of the deposit
- Refusal to pay for certain reports or fees
- Altering closing and/or possession dates
- Modifying the contingency time frames
- Excluding personal property
One party can simply accept the counter and deliver it back to the other party, or counter with another offer. This can go back and forth several times. Just remember, time is always of the essence. Counter offers contain expirations, just like purchase offers, which means the you can accept another offer while the buyer decides if they will sign the counter offer.
What does it mean when an offer has contingencies?
Once both parties accept the sales contract and its contingencies, they will start to work toward removing these conditions and set a specific timeframe to do so (varies by state).
Your real estate agent will advise you on what contingencies you can remove, based on the results, once the appropriate due diligence has been completed. Ideally, both parties should have been able to negotiate a reasonable time to remove these conditions.
It is important to understand the options available to you should one of the conditions you are responsible for not be removable prior to the contract date. This does not automatically mean that the “deal is dead.” Having a Realtor who is a good negotiator and will work with the buyer’s agent to find a solution is key.
Equally, conditions that the buyer needs to address can also be provided with extensions – this is the seller’s choice.
An experienced Realtor will advise you on the right course of action based on their knowledge and experience. Once both parties are satisfied and wish to commit to the purchase and sale of your home, a contingency removal document will be prepared for both parties to sign.
What are the final steps to closing the deal?
After all the contingencies have been removed, it becomes the responsibility of the legal and financial institutions to prepare all the necessary paperwork. Should there be any issues, your Realtor will contact you directly.
Contact your escrow company and provide them with instructions on how you would like the funds deposited from the sale.
At closing, you will sign all of your legal documents, including paperwork related to the transfer of ownership. There is usually a representative from the escrow company to facilitate the exchange.
When closing is finished, you should not only be prepared to hand over the keys, but any copies of documentation that relate to the property and its amenities. You will receive a copy of the documentation you signed together with a statement of costs.
At the end of closing, the deed will be taken and recorded at the county clerk’s office.
What are the most common mistakes people make when selling their home?
Not hiring a professional. You need the expertise of a Realtor. Sellers who try to sell their house themselves end up taking longer to sell and sell for far less than those who work with an agent.
Not pricing your home correctly. Overpricing or underpricing your home can be a costly mistake. It is critical to know the market and review comparables to know at what price your home needs to be set to sell.
Neglecting necessary repairs. It will always cost you less out of pocket to fix things ahead of time, rather than having buyers request that you fix it through their vendor of choice, which can get costly.
Not decluttering. Clutter eats equity and kills deals. One of the least expensive improvements you can make to your home is to declutter and create a sense of spaciousness throughout the home.
Getting in the way of negotiating. Too many sellers take negotiating personally and lose out on creating a win-win deal. Remember, this is a business transaction.
Failing to complete a full set of disclosures prior to closing. Be upfront about any of your home’s issues. This will save you money and time, especially if the buyers discover the problem themselves.
Overlooking fees and extra expenses at closing. Request a list of fees and expenses before closing. Review these with your real estate agent and discuss these ahead of time.
Not hiring a professional photographer. More than 94% of all buyers start their home search online; make sure you and your Realtor make your home dazzle with great photographs.
Not trusting and communicating with your Realtor. They are your biggest ally. Trust them to be the expert and guide you through this process. Be open and honest and allow them to do their job; they are here for you.