Questions to Ask When Attending Open Houses

If you’re a potential homebuyer, there are a number of questions you should ask the listing agent about each home. Here are seven questions to ask when attending Open houses that will help you get a better feel for the space while learning more about it in the process. When you’re ready to shop for a new home, here are seven questions to ask when attending open houses.

open house - house for sale

  1. Why is the house for sale? Ask why the sellers are moving to find out the reason why the home is on the market. That may give you some insights into the timing and motivations of the sellers.
  2. Has the home’s price been stable? By finding out how much the price has fluctuated since the house was put on the market, you’ll find out whether the price is flexible when it comes time to make an offer.
  3. How many offers have been made on the house? Ask whether there’s an offer on the table when you walk in the door. If you mention the pending offers on the place, the listing agent might be pleased to tell you about them, because your bid could drive up the price.
  4. How long has the home been on the market? If you ask when the home was listed, you’ll gain insight into the house and the real estate market as a whole. The agent can put the number in context for you while disclosing information about the level of interest in the place.
  5. Does the house come with any problems? Inquire about issues to get an idea about the last time the house was updated. Given that home renovations can be costly, learn about problem areas ahead of time, and then check them out while you’re at the house.
  6. What’s the home’s average cost for utilities? When you inquire about the estimated cost of utilities, make sure you have room in your budget. Get the agent to show you the most recent bills to get a better idea of monthly and yearly expenses.
  7. When are the sellers looking to close on this house? Learn the timeline for closing on the home to find out what the sellers want. If you know an offer could be chosen based on its time frame, you could gain an advantage if the owners want to sell quickly.

With these seven questions in mind, you’ll be ready to make a better assessment of each home. An open house is your chance to ask as many questions as you can about the property. When you’re ready to make the most of the home-buying process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

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15 Easy Steps for Buying a Home in New Jersey

So, you’re ready to buy your dream NJ home. Congratulations! You have the taken the all-important first step. The rest is not difficult and is outlined below.
Whether you are a first-time buyer, or a repeat home buyer, this is helpful because not only do things change, but the laws and some of the processes and protocols change.

Step 1: Decide where you want to live

Most people already know where they want to live. Others will use various means to determine the area best for them, depending on work, schools, commuting, etc.
Some of the best means for helping find the perfect community for you to call home are:
buying a home

  • Ask friends, colleagues, family. Ask many, not just a few. Remember that everyone has an opinion and it their opinion based on their outlook and experiences which may differ from yours (some people even like liver!), but if you ask enough people you will get some excellent recommendations and notice trends.
  • Search the web. My website has access to home listings, demographics, photos and more. Of course there are many possible resources for information on the web – practically limitless!
  • Drive around. Go ahead, get lost in the side streets, visit the downtown, shop in the supermarkets and shops, have lunch, talk to people, walk about, get a sense of the community.
  • Ask me. I have lived and worked here for nearly all my life. Use me. I promise to give you the straight scoop or to tell you where to get it.

Step 2: Determine what you can afford

Do this early in the process. Online calculators can help or contact me for a list of qualified, competitive mortgage professionals for a no-obligation consult about mortgage financing.

Step 3: Obtain a mortgage pre-approval

Yes, up front. Even if you’re not sure you’re going to find your house immediately. This benefits you:

  • By giving you the leverage of a qualified buyer when negotiating price and terms on the house you want
  • By getting this important but time-consuming step out of the way early on
  • By giving you the opportunity to resolve any financing issues early in the process, thereby reducing stress

Contact me for a list of qualified, competitive and professional loan officers to get this process underway smoothly.

Step 4: Choose your Realtor – Buyer’s Broker

Choosing your Realtor can make a big difference on the outcome of your purchase, sometimes in the thousands of dollars kind-of-difference. Buing a home in NJ is a very large purchase and it is critical that you are represented by a Realtor you can trust to act in your best interests and has the skills necessary to execute your wishes and best interests adequately. Some of the things to look for:

  • Experience – not all real estate agents have it and it makes a huge difference. We all have to start somewhere, but do you really want someone without experience learning via your home purchase? Would you choose a surgeon right out of medical school to operate on you?
  • Buyer Representation – this is critical. You want your Broker to represent you, to guide you and advocate for you. Then in case of dual agency, treat you fairly and per the law. Get a clear explanation on how this works. An agent that can’t explain it clearly cannot handle it properly.
  • Education – experience is a great teacher, and education gives any profession superior understanding. There are many legal, environmental and technological issues that need to be known and understood to help guide you smoothly through the home buying process. Make sure your Realtor is keeping up with the changes.
  • Does your Realtor abide by the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics? This document provides clear guidelines for a business that can be sometimes confusing. Adherence to the Code ensures you and others are treated fairly.
  • Does your Realtor sell real estate full time? You have too much at stake to hire someone who does this “on the side” and “dabbles” in real estate, even if they are your cousin.

Step 5: Decide on your time-table

Most people find their new home within a 2 week period, depending on area and supply, of course. The average length of time from finding your home in NJ to closing is 60 days. Sometimes 30 or 90 days can be accommodated. It depends on the buyers’ and sellers’ needs and schedule. When do you want to move?

Step 6: Look for your New Jersey home

This is the most fun part of the process. Be guided by your instincts and remember that there is no perfect home, but there is a perfect home in NJ for you at this time, within your budget.
15 Easy Steps for Buying a Home in New Jersey

Step 7: Make your offer

Once you’ve seen all the contenders and you’ve found the perfect house for you, the offer must be made in writing. There is a form contract to be filled out by your Realtor and it includes all the details of your offer: price, of course, but also mortgage terms, deposit amounts, closing date, inclusions, exclusions, inspection contingency and details, etc.

Step 8: Contract negotiations and acceptance

Frequently your initial offer is countered by the seller. At that point, the price and terms are negotiated verbally and communicated through the Realtors from the seller to you and back and forth. Once the terms and price have been agreed to, both buyer and seller then sign and initial the revised contract.

Step 9: Attorney Review

After the executed contract is delivered to buyer and seller, via fax or email or mail, the contract is then forwarded to both parties’ attorneys for their review. The review can take 3 business days, as the contract allows, or 3 hours or 30 days. The two latter options being most unusual. During this period, either party may cancel the contract without penalty or consequence. If you really want the home (and if you’ve gotten this far, you should be excited and happy), then you will want to promote a speedy attorney review and it is up to you, the buyer (as well as the seller) to help facilitate this process. A couple of important points when selecting an attorney to represent you: First, don’t go for the lowest price; 2nd, work with someone who specializes in real estate transactions (would you have the GP do your open heart surgery?); thirdly, select a local attorney who is knowledgeable of the area and any issues that may be local.

Step 10: The contract phase

Once attorney review is completed, you are officially under contract to buy your NJ home. This is when you complete the mortgage processing, including appraisal, scheduling and conducting all your inspections. A note about inspections: you must use a licensed NJ inspector and you have a very short time to schedule, perform inspections and receive your reports, so it would behoove you to schedule inspections very early, usually while still in attorney review. Generally one inspector will inspect the home structural, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and other defects, also arranging for radon testing, inspecting for termites and other pests, and other environmental concerns. Other inspections may be warranted, such as lead paint hazard testing or searching for oil tanks. Since each property is unique, ask me and your attorney and inspector for guidance. Ask me for a short list of inspectors – I attend many inspections and I have the opportunity to see first-hand how each works. I also rely on clients’ feedback in making further recommendations.

Step 11: Negotiate for defects

No NJ house is perfect. While on the inspection, the inspector may tell you the good parts as well as the bad but you should expect the report to lengthy and full of to-do’s. Many are simply suggestions for continued maintenance, appropriate upgrades. Minor issues are to be expected. However, you should generally expect to have a leak-free roof, major systems in working order, and a structurally sound home. If there are major issues such as those mentioned, your attorney and I will work with you and the seller to negotiate repairs or credits.

Step 12: The other details

At this point, your mortgage appraisal has been done and your final commitment should be available (there is a date in the contract by which you must comply and provide the mortgage commitment). Your attorney will then order the survey, title search and flood certification. Call your insurance agent and get the homeowner’s policy in place to begin the day of closing. You will need to have a paid receipt for the first year’s insurance at the closing. Give this at least 2-3 weeks.
making your offer

Step 13: Call the movers and start packing

At this point, I will provide a list of the utility companies so you can be ready to open accounts for gas, electric, phone, cable, water, etc. as of the day of closing.

Step 14: Walk through inspection

You should plan on inspecting the house sometime in the 48 hour period prior to closing. It is important to wait for the sellers to have moved out. Generally, this walk through is conducted just prior to the closing.

Step 15: Closing celebration

Coordinate with your attorney as to how much money you will need at closing. It will have to be in certified funds or bank check or wire, so allow time for this that day. Get ready for writer’s cramp and to finally receive the keys to your new home!

Enjoy your new home!

Congratulations and good luck on your search for your dream home!

4 Reasons to Consider Investing in Real Estate

Many serious investors are looking for ways to diversify their investments. Once you have maxed out your IRA or 401(k), you might look into investment strategies that do not involve more stocks and bonds. One popular way to diversify an investment portfolio is to purchase real estate. Investment properties can help increase your net worth over the long term, but they also have the added benefit of increasing your monthly cash flow.

Parents may also be considering buying a home for their young adult children, who can pay rent to their parents, perhaps splitting it with a roommate. Read on to learn about some of the reasons that investing in real estate is a great idea.
real estate investment
Reason #1: Real estate can boost your monthly cash flow

A real estate investment can increase your monthly cash flow in the form of rent. This is a major selling point for many investors, since they may not reap the benefits of traditional investments until much later in life.

That being said, do not underestimate the cost of owning and managing a property. In addition to your mortgage payment, you will be responsible for property taxes as well as ongoing maintenance on the property. Some years, this might be a very small amount, but you should make sure that you are prepared for inevitable, pricey repairs as well. A good rule of thumb is to save between 10 and 20 percent of your rental income for future maintenance issues. In the long term, you will want to ensure that the rent payments you collect are enough for you to cover all of these costs and have a little extra left over as profit.

Reason #2: Real estate is an appreciating investment

While some markets can become stagnant or temporarily decrease in value, the long-term real estate market trend usually follows an upward trajectory. Over time, your property is likely to increase in value, allowing you to make more money if or when you eventually sell the property. As with most investments, there are no guarantees; but real estate can be an important part of a long-term investing plan.

Reason #3: The longer you own an investment property, the more profitable it becomes

Every investor’s goal is to increase his or her monthly cash flow and, in the long term, increase his or her net worth. Achieving this through investment properties becomes easier the longer you own a property. This is because rent prices and home values typically rise over the long term, but a fixed-rate mortgage remains the same.

Reason #4: Investing in real estate can provide immediate gratification

Some people prefer to own something concrete rather than relying on the volatility of the stock market. As long as you have a well-planned strategy for how you will pay the costs associated with your investment property, real estate is a relatively safe and stable investment.

If you have extra money that you would like to invest outside of your more traditional investments, and have carefully considered your long-term investment strategies and the risks involved, give us a call about properties you can buy to improve both your long-term investing prospects and immediate cash flow.