Consumer’s Guide to Hiring an Amazing Real Estate Agent

 When you’re buying or selling a home, it’s crucial to work with a qualified real estate agent. Not just a professional, but an amazing agent and a market expert. So how do you ensure you’re hiring an amazing real estate agent?

There are currently more than two million real estate professionals in North America.1,2 With so many options to choose from, how does a prospective home buyer or seller choose the right agent or broker? According to the National Association of Realtors®, trust and reputation are the top deciding factors consumers use when hiring an agent.3

But how do you measure trust and reputation … and what criteria can be used to help you make your decision?

In this guide, we’ve outlined the top attributes that amazing agents possess, as well as the questions you can ask to make sure you’re working with the right market expert to achieve your real estate goals.

5 ATTRIBUTES OF AN AMAZING AGENT

As we mentioned above, not all real estate professionals are the same. And it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options and information about working with real estate professionals to buy or sell your home. In fact, many real estate markets are oversaturated with agents.

To help you understand what makes top agents and market experts stand apart from the competition, following are five key attributes of an amazing agent:

  1. A Pricing Specialist

If an agent has their real estate license, they know the basics of the transaction process. They know what goes into buying and selling a home. However, there’s a difference between knowing the process and navigating it for an ideal result. This ideal result often means buying or selling a home for the best price.

For buyers, amazing agents have a strong understanding of market trends, competition, and how to make your offer attractive to sellers. They can help you identify and secure a deal to ensure you get the home you want, within your desired budget.

If you’re selling a home, market experts have experience pricing homes optimally for the market, and creating pricing plans to minimize the time spent selling the home. This will help you sell for your desired price, and avoid costs like additional mortgage and utility payments.

Takeaway: Whether buying or selling a home, pricing can be tricky. Market experts can help navigate best-possible pricing strategies, and also secure the home you want within your budget.
  1. An Effective Time Manager

It’s common to underestimate the amount of time it takes to buy or sell your home. The average real estate agent may not be utilizing the latest tools and technology to make the transaction easier and more cost effective for their clients. Market experts have tools and strategies at their disposal to minimize the amount of time you spend on the process.

For sellers, market experts can make sure you only deal with qualified buyers, not the “window shoppers” who can waste your time. We also utilize the latest marketing practices to advertise and price your home effectively, ensuring it gets sold quickly.

When looking to buy a home, inexperienced agents may waste your time by showing you homes that are not a good fit for you. A market expert knows how to prioritize your needs and wants to find you the ideal home within your budget. They also know how to spot “red flags” and can steer you away from homes that are likely to turn up major issues in a real estate inspection, saving you time and money.

In addition, well-networked Realtors can gain access to the hottest listings before many websites do. Their extensive professional networks can help identify “pre-list” homes before they’re officially on the market. This can be invaluable in a highly-competitive real estate market.

Takeaway: Even a well-intentioned agent may not have the skills, tools or technology to make the experience easy for you. There are lots of hidden activities that may take up unexpected time, and a market expert will save you time and energy.
  1. A Market Insider

While most agents can pull market stats about a neighborhood, community or city, they may not understand important trends or developments that would affect your transaction. These can include the state of the school district, issues with a homeowner association, new businesses in the area, zoning rules or trends in home prices.

Market experts live and breathe local real estate and know the trigger points for buying and selling in this market. We also stay current on effective marketing and negotiation practices, resulting in our track record of success.

For sellers, we understand what features of your home and neighborhood are assets in the selling process. And for buyers, we share a deep understanding of market factors, including school and neighborhood quality, crime statistics, speed of sales and more.

Takeaway: Getting relevant and specific market knowledge can be difficult and time consuming, which is why many real estate agents don’t have it. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, an experienced real estate agent is often the best source of information about a city, neighborhood, or even street … we’re literally conducting market research every day.
  1. A Strong Negotiator

Amazing agents truly set themselves apart in their ability to negotiate. Unfortunately, a large portion of agents don’t commit their full time to increasing this key skill.

Real estate negotiations can be challenging, even for seasoned professionals. It takes skill, experience and a knowledge of how to fight for your client’s best interests. While any agent can enter negotiations to buy or sell a home, they may not know the effective strategies to exit those negotiations with the result you want.

Experienced Realtors focus on negotiation as a key skill. We understand what to do before entering negotiations (establishing the upper hand to set up the best outcome), as well as during the process (when to offer or accept concessions).

Takeaway: Many agents can feel the stress of the negotiation process, and may agree to terms of the buyer/seller. Working with a market expert will help ensure you get the best deal, not just the fastest deal.
  1. An Effective Closer

Closing a deal fast is often a good thing. For buyers, it means you found the home you wanted quickly. For sellers, it often means you can avoid the added expenses of mortgage and utility payments, and maximize the value of your home sale.

However, an agent solely focused on speed can make decisions that aren’t in your best interests. Top real estate professionals know how to not only achieve your real estate goals quickly, but in the right way to avoid potential pitfalls.

Just like negotiations, the paperwork and process of closing a real estate transaction are complicated. And they can be overwhelming for the average agent who hasn’t handled a lot of transactions. Sales contracts, property disclosures, occupancy agreements and even lead paint records need to be executed with precision. Your agent not only needs to be familiar with these, but also stay current on any changes in requirements or regulations.

Market experts have a strong understanding of real estate contracts, timelines, clauses and contingencies within the closing process. In fact, avoiding pitfalls during the closing process is where many sellers find an experienced Realtor is a huge asset.

Takeaway: Many agents don’t have a firm understanding of contracts. Because a real estate transaction often involves a significant investment, even a small mistake can mean serious trouble. With that in mind, it’s often best, and most responsible, to work with a true market expert.

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT

So how do you know if you’re working with an amazing agent?

The first step would be to “shop around.” Many people work with the first agent they come across without a firm understanding of their level of experience. It’s always a good idea to interview a number of agents before selecting one. If you’ve gotten referrals from people you trust, then you may only need to interview 2-3 agents.

However, it can be tough to know what to ask in the interview process. Here are some questions that can help you qualify the best agent to help you achieve your real estate goals:

  1. Can you send me some information about yourself?

Look for professionalism and consistency. What are their professional accomplishments? Also, try to identify how they approach their work. Look for a business person who has a strategy and solid support system. If they’re a newer agent, ask about their team’s dynamic and accomplishments.

  1. How long have you been in real estate?

The average Realtor has 10 years of experience4. But while longevity is important, even more telling are the number of transactions they have closed or been involved in. So feel free to also ask: “How many homes have you sold in this area?”

  1. What will you do to keep me informed?

Do you want daily or weekly reports from your agent? Will the agent be able to meet these expectations? Determine how much communication you want, and then find an agent who will give you the attention and time you want and deserve.

  1. Can you provide me with further resources I may need?

From market reports and pricing trends to school performance and crime statistics, top agents have resources at their disposal. In addition, market experts have built strong relationships with their extended team of professionals, and can often get expedient service or be able to “cash in a favor” for you should a need arise.

  1. Seller only: Can you share with me your plan to market my property?

Many agents will simply put your home in the MLS and wait for it to sell. An amazing agent should have a detailed plan of how to get your home exposure on social media, to their local networks, and more.

GET STARTED

Now that you’re armed with the 5 Attributes of Amazing Agents and the Top Questions to ensure you work with the best possible real estate agent, you’re ready to start interviewing agents.

We’d love an opportunity to win your business. Schedule a free consultation with us to find out how true market experts can help you achieve your real estate goals!

Sources:

  1. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/field-guides/field-guide-to-quick-real-estate-statistics
  2. Financial Post – http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/canada-housing-bubble-agents/wcm/b49d4e3a-bd8d-4d1c-9566-bd3d80c8e23a
  3. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers
  4. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/field-guides/field-guide-to-quick-real-estate-statistics

Top 12 Apps for Homeowners and Renters

 

More than 77 percent of people own a smartphone.1 The average person checks their smartphone 46 times a day, with people under the age of 24 checking it an average of 74 times a day.1 We check it while we’re waiting in line and during our leisure time, whether we’re scrolling through social media, reading emails or getting up-to-date on the latest news.

Smartphones are not only a useful tool for communication. With the following apps, you can get organized (whether you plan to buy or sell), save money, learn about the homes in your neighborhood and get inspired for your next renovation project. If you’re like 81 percent of people, you have your smartphone with you during most of your waking hours; let it help you stay organized and make your life easier.3

Apps For Homeowners: Get Renovation Inspiration

These apps not only offer ideas for your next remodel or home décor project, some of them even give you a preview of what your home may look like once it’s finished.

1.) Houzz (Free)

The Houzz app is the number one app for home design and it’s no wonder; the app gives you access to all the inspiration, blogs and design ideas from the Houzz site on your phone or tablet. The app features View in My Room 3D, which allows you to view products in your home before you buy. Just take a photo of the space and a 3D version of the product will appear. Browse products, save photos of designs you’d like to view later and connect with local professionals in your area. Whether you’re gathering ideas for your next renovation and décor project or you’re just browsing, the Houzz app will satisfy all your design needs.

(Android, iOS)

2.) iHandy Carpenter ($1.99)

Make sure the photos, shelves, mirrors and other artwork you hang are even and aligned with this helpful app. It’s an all-in-one tool kit that features a plumb bob, surface level, bubble level bar, ruler and protractor. No need to purchase these tools separately; just hold your smartphone up to the wall and the app will take care of the rest.

(iOS, Android)

3.) Color911 ($3.99)

If you’re thinking of changing the color scheme of your home or want to find the right shades for lamp shades, rugs or throw pillows to match your vintage sofa, the Color911 app provides pre-selected color palettes to match any color scheme. Take a photo of the room or the furniture and the app will create a custom palette full of complementary colors. Write notes about your palette and organize it all into folders to share with family, friends or your design professional.

(iOS)

Bonus Apps for Homeowners:

AroundMe (Free)

Hungry and looking for a local hotspot? Meeting friends at a coffee shop nearby? Or just need to find the closest ATM? AroundMe allows you to search for the nearest restaurants, banks, gas stations, book a hotel or find a movie schedule close to where you live. Open the app and start learning more about your neighborhood. (iOS, Android, Windows)

BrightNest (Free)

From keeping things clean to making them colorful, Brightnest, developed by Angie’s List, is loaded with suggestions on how to make your home a better place to live. With categories of customized tips (money-saving, cleaning, eco-friendly, healthy, cooking, and creative) there are plenty of great ways to pull inspiration from the app. BrightNest will help you tackle important home tasks with easy-to-follow instructions, a personal schedule and helpful reminders. (iOS, Android, Web)

Apps For Sellers: List & Sell Your Home Quickly

Are you a homeowner who is thinking of selling? If you’re preparing to sell, you know there are a lot of tasks to complete before putting your home on the market. These apps help you manage your to-dos so you can list and sell your home more efficiently with fewer distractions.

4.) Homesnap (Free)

Using the Homesnap app, you can snap a photo of any home, nationwide, to learn more about it. When you’re ready to sell, snap a few of the homes in your neighborhood to find out their valuation. This app isn’t perfect, which is why you should always consult with a local real estate agent. However, it can give you a general idea of the value of your home compared to others in the neighborhood. (iOS and Android devices)

5.) Docusign (Free)

Use the DocuSign app to complete approvals and agreements in hours—not days—from anywhere and on any device. Quickly and securely access and sign any documents. The benefit to using the app (over your desktop computer) is you will receive push notifications when a document is waiting for your signature and you can view and organize all your docs on-the-go. Using the easily downloadable app, receive and sign documents for free. You can receive and sign documents for free, but will need a paid account to send documents; pricing starts at $10 a month. (iOS, Android, Windows, Web).

6.) Wunderlist (Free)

Designed for use on the Web and mobile devices, Wunderlist is a well-designed to-do list and task management program that makes it easy to create a list and add tasks, due dates and reminders. Organize your ideas or focus into separate lists or create tasks within one list. You can also email them with whomever you collaborate, such as a spouse or your real estate agent. (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Web)

Bonus App for Sellers:

Real Estate Dictionary (Free)

Not sure what all those industry specific terms mean? Search thousands of words and phrases from real estate, mortgage, and financial dictionaries for clear, in-depth definitions. This is a handy app for anyone who’s buying or selling and wants to learn more about the process. (iOS, Android)

Apps For Renters: Get Ready to Buy

Not ready to buy a home just yet? These apps will help you get into the perfect rental while you save money, build a budget and get on track for homeownership.

7.) Mint (Free)

Do you know where your money goes each month? Manage your bills, budget and credit score all in one place. Mint is a free app that helps you view your complete financial picture and track your spending. We recommend this app to anyone, but it’s especially useful for renters who need to crack down on their spending in order to save for a down payment. Use Mint to look for areas you can cut spending in order to save a little extra each month. (iOS, Android)

8.) Acorns ($1 a month to start)

Acorns is modernizing the practice of saving loose change with their automated savings tool. The app rounds up your purchases on linked credit or debit cards, then sweeps the change into a computer-managed investment portfolio. Acorns is free for four years for college students and everyone else pays $1 a month until their account balance hits $5,000, then 0.25% of their account balance per year. This is a useful tool for those who have a hard time saving. (iOS, Android)

9.) Neighborhoods & Apartments

Built for the on-the-go apartment hunter, this app from Walk Score takes the hassle out of finding your next home or apartment and helps you live near the people and places you love. They collect listings from top rental listing sites and we like them because they share how walkable each address is, determined by access to public transit, things to do, bike trails, shorter commutes, etc. (iOS, Android)

Bonus Apps for Renters:

Wally (Free)

Wally is a personal finance app that helps you compare your income to expenses, so you can understand where your money goes each month, and set and achieve goals. Wally lets you keep track of the details as you spend money: where, when, what, why, & how much. We love how simple it is to set a personalized savings target and scan receipts. (iOS, Android)

Credit Karma (Free)
If you’re preparing to buy, boosting your credit score is likely a goal you’ve set. Credit Karma is a free app that allows you to safely monitor your score and receive updates on ways you can improve it over time. They provide financial calculators and educational articles to help you better understand what credit is all about. Check as often as you want, and it doesn’t hurt your score.  (iOS, Android, Web)

Apps for Buyers: Find the Perfect Home

When you’re ready to buy, there are several apps that can help you stay on top of the process. Whether you’re browsing online at different neighborhoods and homes and can’t seem to remember where all your saved data and information went or you want to save an important task or a neighborhood or listing clipped from the Web, these apps help you keep it all straight.

10.) Dwellr (Free)

Dwellr is run by the U.S Census Bureau and provides demographic information about the neighborhoods you are considering moving to. You get a variety of education/school, real estate, transportation, and population statistics to give you an idea of what it would be like living there. If you want to get the feel of a potential neighborhood, then Dwellr may just be the app to help you find the best home.  (iOS, Android)

11.) Evernote (Free for the Basic version, $34.99 per year for Plus and $69.99 per year for Premium)

Collect ideas, notes and images in one place to access later on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Categorize your notes so you can find them quickly and easily and share them with others in a group notebook. Add the Web Clipper feature to your browser and clip and save articles, blogs and images from the Web. Whether you’re collecting research on a business idea or you’re looking for inspiration for a home renovation, Evernote can help you keep it all together. (Web, iOS, Android)

12.) Mortgage Calculator (Free)

There are a lot of free mortgage calculators available for download that will help you quickly determine what your monthly payment will be while you’re house hunting. We recommend picking your favorite and using it to help you shop in your price range. These numbers should be used as a guide, work with your agent and mortgage professional to learn exactly what type of loan you’ll qualify for. (Web, iOS, Android)

Bonus App for Buyers:

Google Maps (Free)

Google Maps is a must-have for anyone who’s house hunting. When you’re ready to visit a property or check out a neighborhood, you can use Google Maps to give you turn by turn directions to the house. You can use their satellite view to get a good idea how far important things like schools, parks, shopping, bus stops, and restaurants are to a home you are interested in and check out the other houses on the street. (Web, Android, iOS,)

Ready to move beyond the app?

If you’re thinking of buying or selling your home, or know someone who is, keep us in mind because we’re happy to help!

Source:

  1. Pew Research Center, January 12, 2017 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/
  2. Deloitte, 2016 global mobile consumer survey: US edition https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/global-mobile-consumer-survey-us-edition.html
  3. Gallup, July 9, 2015 http://www.gallup.com/poll/184046/smartphone-owners-check-phone-least-hourly.aspx

 

10 Questions With Karen Cannon

Karen Cannon is the pioneer of her own path.

From working in the technology field with CIOs from Fortune 500 companies to working in the residential market by renovating and selling homes, Karen has carved a niche for herself in the real-estate market. By combining her expertise with that of her husband, together they formed Karen Cannon Realtors, a company Karen describes as more than one’s average real-estate business.

The Karen Cannon Realtors vision is rooted in the communities it serves. Ask and Karen will tell: she sells homes because she loves where she lives.

Patch: When did you first know that selling homes was the path for you?

Cannon: I began my professional sales and marketing career working in the technology field with CIOs from Fortune 500 companies, such as Coke, Delta and many others. I learned early on how to communicate in this fast-paced and evolving field and to provide value to clients who expect excellence. At the same time, my husband, Anderson, was working in the residential real estate market by renovating and selling houses.

We decided to combine our collective expertise in order to form Karen Cannon Realtors — a company we believed from the beginning would be more than your average real-estate business. From the start, our vision was to be firmly rooted in the communities we serve. We sell homes because we love where we live.

Patch: How do you maintain your competitive edge in the real-estate industry?

Cannon: Plain and simple, we maintain our competitive edge by knowing our market inside and out. We live, work and play in the communities we serve, so when a client is looking to move to North Atlanta, we are well versed in the areas and neighborhoods that will meet and exceed their expectations. We take pride in forming relationships with our clients, and we know we’ve done our job when they refer friends or come back when they’re ready to purchase another home.

Anyone who works with us knows that KCR is always changing, adapting and reinvesting in technology to give our clients the cutting-edge marketing they deserve. From start to finish, we are invested and dedicated to making this a positive and rewarding experience.

Patch: What is the most unusual or most extraordinary thing to ever happen to you while showing a house?

Cannon: In our business, we take the time to discover our client’s priorities and desires for their dream home. I’m able to show them properties and some they may not have considered before. A wonderful client once told me that she would never want to live in a ranch-style house.

After visiting many properties that fit her original ideal, I decided to take her to a ranch-style that I believed would suit her perfectly. After seeing it, she sat down at the kitchen table and cried because she loved it so much. It is so rewarding to make a client’s dream come true and sometimes it happens in the most unexpected ways.

Patch: What is your outlook for the future of Karen Cannon Realtors?

Cannon: Karen Cannon Realtors is the strongest we’ve ever been! Our team is growing and well positioned throughout North Atlanta as local experts in the areas our clients are seeking to make home. Throughout the year we proudly participate in activities that make a difference, such as supporting local schools, teams and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

We love being invested in our communities and are thankful to work alongside clients, friends and neighbors. We are excited as we live, work and grow throughout Atlanta!

Patch: What’s your definition of success? How do you define success?

Cannon: Success to us is helping clients find their dream home. It’s helping sellers find the best buyer for their property. It’s helping make the home buying and selling process as smooth as possible. Success is the KCR team coming together to make a difference in the lives of our clients and communities.

We love when previous clients refer a friend or family member or come back when they want to move again. We love staying in contact and hearing how people are doing in their homes. We love the relationships formed in the work we do. We’re dedicated to the people we serve from start to finish and beyond because we are also neighbors.

Patch: What sets one realtor or broker apart from another? How are you personally unique?

Cannon: Since we are independent and not a part of a franchise, we are able handpick a team of people to work for each client. We have experts throughout the process to help our clients while the agent focuses on selling the home.

Instead of our agents competing with each other, they help each other, which allows us to allocate our resources where they are needed most. We also offer a higher level of marketing, starting with a custom, five-foot-tall, estate yard sign, a 3D virtual tour, and social media postings for each listing.

Our local connections also allow us to connect buyers and sellers better than anyone else – in fact, we sold over 10percent of sales prior to listing.

Patch: What is your advice to someone who is looking to a buy a new home?

Cannon: When clients decide they would like to buy a home, we perform a needs analysis in order to understand their goals, needs and timeline. We know that moving is a very personal and important event so we strive to understand how we can best serve them.

Finding the right home is something KCR takes great pride in and because of our connections in the community and with past clients and contacts, we often know of homes that become available before they even go on the market.

Patch: Tell us about your 3D Open House feature.

Cannon: We make technology a priority at KCR and have invested in a 3D camera. This allows us to be the only local broker to offer 3D virtual tours for every listing. Potential buyers are able to “tour” all of our homes online with amazing accuracy.

Reporting indicates the 3D imagery secures far more online traffic than the typical virtual tours, which translates into greater and faster home sales.

Patch: What advice would you give to someone interested in selling his or her house?

Cannon: Although it is a seller’s market, you still need to set your home apart by making it look its best. Whether you’ve bought and sold many homes, or if you haven’t sold in 30 years, we guide you every step of the way. We do all we can to help our clients maximize the sale of their home.

Our experience in home renovation and inspection enables us to spot any issues that might slow a sale. Our staging and 3D virtual tours provide the highest level of marketing of any real estate agent in our area. We prep your home for sale, price it correctly, market it thoroughly and have the best team as your advocate.

We provide strategy, professional photography, and unique marketing to attract buyers looking in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. That’s why we’ve sold more than 100 homes in 2016 in an average of 21 days and at 98 percent of the list price.

Find Karen on her website or contact her via (770) 352-9658

Dunwoody Patch 10 Questions With Karen Cannon From Karen Cannon Realtors –   by Chloe Morales

Real Home Value Calculator: Assessed Value vs Market Value

Understanding a home’s true market value is about more than pictures, software assessments and price-per-square-foot. Whether you’re a current homeowner thinking of selling or are house-hunting, it’s crucial you understand what factors affect home valuation. By partnering with a local market expert, sellers will avoid pricing their house out of the market (the kiss of death in real estate) and buyers will ensure they get a good deal on their next home.

So, how do you accurately calculate a home’s value? After all, the value a home is assigned by its town or county and the one it’s given when it’s listed are often dramatically different from one another. Which one is accurate and what does it all mean? Read on to learn more.

Assessed Value vs Market Value: What’s the difference?

When it comes to home value, you’ll often hear two terms, assessed value and market value.

A home’s assessed value is often the lower number of the two, and is the value given by your municipality or county. Investopedia defines assessed value as “the dollar value assigned to a property to measure applicable taxes.”1 Although property tax laws vary, assessors commonly arrive at this number by taking into account the following:

  • What comparable/similar homes are selling for in your area.
  • The value of recent improvements.
  • Income from renting out a room or space on the property.
  • How much it would cost to rebuild on the property.

A home’s market value, or Fair Market Value, is the price a buyer is willing to pay or a seller is willing to accept for a property. A skilled real estate professional will arrive at the value using a variety of metrics, including:

  • External characteristics, such as lot size, home style, the condition of the home and curb appeal.
  • Internal characteristics, such as the number of rooms and their size, the type and condition of the heating or HVAC system, the quality and condition of construction, the flow of the home, etc.
  • The sales price of comparable homes that have sold in your area.
  • Supply and demand; that is, how many buyers and sellers are in the area.
  • Location; that is, the quality and desirability of your neighborhood and other community amenities.

Why are these values often so different? An assessor usually estimates your property’s market value during a reassessment or if you make a physical change or improvement to it.2 As a result, a property may not be reassessed for many years. While your home’s market value may fluctuate with the market, your home’s assessed value is more likely to remain steady.3

What Determines a Home’s Value?

You’ve likely heard the motto of real estate: “Location, location, location.” This means a home’s value relies on its location. While the home and structures on the property will likely depreciate over time, the land beneath it tends to appreciate. Why? Land is in limited supply and a growing population puts increased demand on the housing supply. As a result, values increase.4

Other factors that affect your home’s value include the function and appearance of the property, how well the home and other structures are maintained and whether the home is a lifestyle property, such as a ranch style with mountain views or beach bungalow.

Ultimately, the best indication of a home’s value is the overall supply and demand of the market. This is why we recommend you partner with a real estate professional who takes all of these factors—the assessed value, local market conditions, home features and has physically walked through and experienced your home— into consideration to determine the most accurate market value.

How to determine if a property is comparable to yours.

Both assessed value and market value are partially determined by the sales price of similar, or comparable, homes in the area. To determine if a home is comparable to yours, look for the following characteristics:

  • Lot size
  • Square footage
  • Home style or similar architecture
  • Age
  • Location

While you may not find a home with the same exact characteristics as yours, you’ll likely find a few that are close. To account for any disparity, adjust the sales prices of the comparable properties. Look at the differences between your property and the one in question and determine if the differences increased or decreased the sales price and by how much. For example, if your home has two bathrooms and a similar home only has three, estimate how much that extra bathroom increased the sale price of the similar home. The adjusted sale price is the estimation of what the property would sell for if the properties were exactly the same.2

Where can you find comparable sales?

Fortunately, you can find comparable home sales in a variety of places.2

  • Your local assessor’s office is able to provide a list of recent sales you can browse and compare or a sales history of a particular house, home style or neighborhood.
  • Your municipality. Many cities keep local sales information in their offices or post it online.
  • Online databases, such as a real estate database
  • Your local newspapers may offer some real estate information in the form of quarterly sales reports in the business or real estate sections of the newspaper.
  • Our office. We regularly do Comparable Market Analysis of homes in our local area.

How to calculate your home’s value.

By answering a few questions about your home, property and the local market, you can begin to estimate your property’s value. We’ve also included a worksheet for you below…

Home Value Questions:

When was your home last assessed?

What was its CMA assessment value?

What is your area’s average sales price?

What is your area’s average price/square foot?

Structure:

  • Is the architecture and exterior structure of the home consistent, superior or inferior to other homes in the area?
  • Does the era or genre (Modern, Victorian, Ranch, Cottage, etc.) add a premium based on current design trends?
  • How does the floor plan and room size proportions of the home compare to other homes on the market?

Interior Structure:

  • How does the kitchen compare to others on the market?
    • Updated or outdated
    • Floor plan
    • Appliance packages
  • How does the Master Suite compare to others on the market?
    • Size
    • First/second floor
    • Updated or outdated
    • Access to Master Bath
  • How does the Master Bath compare to others on the market?
    • Updated or outdated
    • Shower and bath
    • Flooring

Outside Areas:

  • Are there views, outdoor living areas or recreational areas?
    • Pools
    • Ponds
    • Patios
  • How does the landscaping and hard-scaping compare to the market? (e.g., built elements such as walkways, patios, decks, etc.)

Overall Condition of Home

  • What is the level of repair needed to compete with other homes?
  • Does the home need to be staged? How does it show?
  • What curb appeal projects are necessary to be consistent with others on the market?

Home Assessment Worksheet

If you want to accurately assess a home’s value, it’s crucial to know about the market activity of our local area. We can help! Give us a call to get the scoop on the local market.

Sources:

  1. Investopedia http://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/assessedvalue.asp
  2. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance https://www.tax.ny.gov/pubs_and_bulls/orpts/mv_estimates.htm
  3. Realtor.com http://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/assessed-value-vs-market-value-difference/
  4. Investopedia, http://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/housing-appreciation.asp?lgl=myfinance-layout

What’s Your Home Buying Power?

If you’re in the market for a new home or investment property, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is, “What can we afford?” Many buyers become so caught up in how much they can afford that they don’t realize their total buying power—that is, the total amount of purchasing potential they actually have.

Buying Power Defined

Your buying power is comprised of the total amount of money you have available each month for a mortgage payment. This means the money you have each month after fixed bills and expenses. Any money you’ve saved for a down payment, the proceeds from the sale of your current home, if applicable, and the amount of money you’re qualified to borrow all impact your buying power as well. When you take all of this into account, you may find you are able to purchase a larger home or a home in a more desirable neighborhood, or you might realize you should be looking for homes in a lower price range.

What About Housing Affordability?

Housing affordability is a metric used by real estate experts to assess whether or not the average family earning an average wage could qualify for a mortgage on the average home.1 Although this figure is essential to creating a comprehensive overview of the real estate market, it’s not a factor you should consider in your home search. What may be considered affordable to you based on your income and other factors may be different than what’s affordable to the average buyer.

Why Buying Power Matters

A common misunderstanding is that a home’s list price determines whether or not you can purchase it. Although it’s important to look at the price tag, it’s essential to consider what your monthly payment will be if you own the home. After all, the purchase price doesn’t include the housing-related expenses, such as annual property taxes, homeowner insurance, associated monthly fees and any maintenance or repairs. Figuring out the payment will prevent you from overestimating or underestimating your buying power. After all, you’ll live with your monthly payment, not the sales price.

Once you have clarity on your buying power, you’ll be able to buy the home you want, instead of settling for a home because you feel it’s the only one you can afford. It will also prevent you from becoming “house poor,” a common term for someone who’s put all their money toward the down payment, leaving them nothing left over for fees outside of their monthly house payment. Both scenarios can negatively impact the lifestyle you want to live. Understanding your buying power can help you get the home you want without sacrificing the lifestyle you desire.

If you haven’t sold your current home yet, a Comparative Market Assessment (CMA) will give you a general idea of how much you may get for your home based on what other homes have sold for in your area. Contact our team for a FREE CMA!

Calculating Your Buying Power

You might be wondering, “How do I know what my buying power is?” Buying power is calculated by adding the money you’ve saved for a down payment and/or the money you made from selling your home (minus fees and mortgage payoff) to all of your sources of income and investments that could be used to make your monthly payment. Make sure to include your monthly pay, commissions or tips, dividends from investments, payments from rental properties or other monthly income you receive as well as the loan amount you’re willing to finance and qualify for.

Most lenders advised buyers to spend no more than 35 to 45 percent of their pretax income on housing, meaning all your income and sources of revenue prior to paying taxes. Make sure you factor in not only your mortgage payment, but also property tax and home insurance to the cost of housing.2 However, other financial experts advise spending no more than a very conservative 25 percent of your after-tax income on your housing expenses.2  Whether you plan to spend the average, play it conservative or split the difference is up to you.

Traditionally, mortgage lenders have targeted the ideal housing expense amount to be a ratio of 28 percent or less.3

However, these figures bring up an important point: you don’t have to spend all of your savings and available monthly income on a mortgage payment. It’s important to set money aside for regular home maintenance, unexpected repairs and monthly fees, such as a condominium or homeowners association fee. While the above ratios are commonly accepted, a lender will look at your total financial picture when they decide how much they’re willing to lend. It may be tempting to take out a large loan in order to purchase the home of your dreams, but keep in mind the less money you have to borrow, the stronger your buying power may be.

4 Things That Impact Buying Power

  • Credit score. A great score can help you lock into a lower interest rate.
  • Debt-to-income ratio. The lower the ratio, the better risk you may be to lenders as long as you have an established credit history.
  • Assets, including the documentation of where the money for the purchase is coming from and the mix of your investments.
  • Down payment. The more you’re able to put down, the less you will have to borrow. With a down payment of 20 percent or more, you won’t have to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) and you may also be able to negotiate a lower interest rate.

How to Save for a Down Payment

If you’re thinking of buying a home one day, one of the first steps to take is to start saving for a down payment. Here are some tips to make saving easier.

First-time buyers:

  • Set a savings goal. One way to figure out how much to save is to use the average sales price for homes that are similar to what you want and figure out your target down payment percentage. For example, if homes are selling for $200,000 in your area and you want to put 20 percent down, you’ll have to save $40,000. Set a goal to save that amount within a specific time frame; just keep in mind the longer you save, the more the average selling price will change. Although the majority of buyers saved for six months or less, 29 percent of all buyers (and 31 percent of first-time buyers) saved for more than two years for a down payment.4 
  • Cut back on expenses. Review your monthly expenses and look for ways to save. Twenty-nine percent of buyers cut spending on non-essentials items and 22 percent cut spending on entertainment while they were saving for a home.4 Think about items you can live without or cut back on temporarily while you’re saving. 
  • Look for ways to boost your income. Get a side job or sell items online or at a garage sale to increase your income in a short amount of time. Be sure to save any windfalls you get, including your annual income tax refund or work bonuses. 
  • Check out home-buying programs. Your state, county or local government may offer special programs, such as grants, for first-time buyers to use. 
  • Ask your family. Thirteen percent of all buyers, and 24 percent of first-time buyers, were given money from family or friends to use toward the down payment of their home.4

Repeat buyers:

More than 52 percent of repeat buyers used the proceeds from the sale of their primary residence toward the down payment on their next home.4 Similarly, 76 percent tapped into their savings accounts.4 If you’re thinking of buying another home, here are more ways to save more money, in addition to the tips listed above:

  • Rent a room. If you have an income flat (or mother-in-law unit) attached to your home, rent it out and channel the income into a high-interest savings account. 
  • Make your money work for you. If you don’t plan to buy for at least five years, invest it and let the compound interest work for you. Discuss this option with your financial planner or broker to see if this is ideal for you and your goals. 
  • Tap into your 401(k). If you have a 401(k) plan, you may be allowed to borrow a portion of it, the lessor of up to $50,000 or half of its value, for your down payment. Remember, it’s a loan so you’ll have to pay it back. If you leave or lose your job before you’ve repaid the loan, you’ll have between 60 to 90 days to repay the balance or face stiff taxes and penalties. 

If you want to buy an investment property

Whether you’re buying a second home or a rental property, here are a couple tips to save for a down payment.

  • Tap into your equity. If you’ve paid off or paid down your mortgage on your primary home, you may be able to tap into your equity to purchase another property. Contact your lender to learn more about a HELOC or home equity loan.
  • Get a partner. Find a friend or relative who’s willing to purchase property with you. Typically, you’ll split the costs and profits equally. Just make sure to work with an attorney to create a partnership agreement to fit your situation.

Work Out Your Buying Potential

What’s your buying potential? Fill out this worksheet to get an estimate.

Housing Expense Ratio:
1. Monthly income before taxes
2. Multiply line 1 by 0.28 X 0.28
3. Monthly mortgage payment (PITI) should not exceed this amount = $
4. Monthly income before taxes $
5. Multiply line 4 by 0.36 X 0.36
6. Total monthly payments on all debts (including mortgage) should not exceed this amount = $
7.  Subtract the total monthly payments on all outstanding debts (e.g., car loans, credit cards, student loans, etc.) – $
8. The monthly mortgage payment should not exceed this amount $
9. Look at line 3 and line 8. The lower figure is an estimate of the maximum mortgage payment in consideration of your income and debts. $
10. Multiply line 9 by 0.80 X 0.80
11. This equals portion of your mortgage payment that is the principal and interest only $
12. Use the table below to see the size of the loan you may be able to obtain with this monthly mortgage payment.

Source: Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power? 

Monthly Payment on 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

Loan amount 3% 3.5% 4% 4.5% 5% 5.5% 6%
$50,000 211 225 239 253 268 284 300
$75,000 316 337 358 380 402 426 450
$100,000 421 449 477 506 536 568 600
$150,000 632 674 716 759 804 852 900
$200,000 842 898 954 1012 1072 1136 1200
$250,000 1052 1123 1193 1265 1340 1420 1500
$300,000 1263 1347 1431 1518 1608 1704 1800

Didn’t see your desired loan amount? Use the table below to estimate your monthly payment (principal and interest) per $1,000 of your loan. To figure out an estimated loan payment, multiply the factor by the number of thousands in the amount of your mortgage.

For example, if you intend to borrow $400,000, with a loan term of 30 years at 4% interest, multiply 4.77x 400 = $1908 per month.

Interest Rate 15-Year Term 30-Year Term
Monthly Payment Monthly Payment
3% 6.90 4.21
3.5% 7.14 4.49
4% 7.39 4.77
4.5% 7.64 5.06
5% 7.90 5.36
5.5% 8.18 5.68
6% 8.44 6.00

Source: HSH.com http://www.hsh.com/mopaytable-print.html)

 Don’t forget to factor in property taxes and insurance. These are often added to your principal and interest of your mortgage payment—the money used to pay down the balance of your loan and the charge for borrowing the money. Since these numbers vary, contact your county assessor’s office for the current property tax rate and your insurer for a home insurance quote. Once you have these figures, divide each by 12 to estimate how much they’ll add to the above payment amounts.

Do you want a clearer picture of your buying power? Would you like to see what kind of homes you can get with your buying power? Give us a call!

 

Sources:

  1. National Association of REALTORS https://www.nar.realtor/topics/housing-affordability-index/methodology
  2. Moneyunder30.com https://www.moneyunder30.com/percentage-income-mortgage-payments
  3. Credit.com https://www.credit.com/loans/mortgage-questions/how-to-determine-your-monthly-housing-budget/
  4. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
  5. Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power? https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/pm1460-pdf
  6. HSH.com http://www.hsh.com/mopaytable-print.html