• 5 Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Broker Up Front

    Hiring a real estate broker to assist you in one of the most important sales/purchases of your life may seem like a daunting task.  Today we'll make it easier for you by highlighting the 5 questions you need to ask your real estate broker upfront, according to real estate pro Bennie Waller.  Mr. Waller has held a long and distinguished career in real estate investment and real estate sales, and is currently the department chair of finance and real estate at Longwood University. 

    1.  How long has a property been on the market?

    The longer a property has been on the market, the more willing the seller is to negotiate.  For a buyer, this means that your broker should advocate for aggressive negotiation in this instance.  If you are the seller whose property has been on the market for an extended amount of time, then your broker should prepare you for these aggressive negotiation tactics by potential buyers - and provide supporting market data to maintain your list price.

    2.  Is the owner a licensed real estate professional?

    If the answer is "yes," then as a buyer, your broker should warn you that you may have less negotiating power since the owner has a deeper understanding of the real estate market and is less likely to negotiate.  As the seller (and real estate professional in this case), you should do your own research on the market, or call local appraisers or bankers, in addition to seeking advice from your own broker.

    3. Is the property vacant?

    For a buyer, your broker should tell you that a vacant property offers him/her more negotiating power.  Because the owner/seller isn't getting any income or use out of the property (and it is in fact draining his/her wallet with monthly payments/interest), the seller is more likely to want to unload the property and more willing to negotiate.

    4. What is the original listing price?  How many times has the price changed since the property was originally listed?

    If a property has been repeatedly reduced in price, then for a prospective buyer, this signifies a seller may negotiate even further.  Your broker should tell you this and advocate for a more aggressive approach to negotiation.  For a seller, your broker should warn you of these tactics and assist you maintaining the listing price rather than giving in to bargaining tactics.

    5.  What should you watch for in terms of dual agency representation?

    Dual agency representation is the situation that arises when a broker represents both the seller and the buyer in the same transaction.  Since the broker will most likely receive a commission from the seller, the buyer here must be careful and is encouraged to obtain outside legal assistance or consultation that would ensure that the buyer is informed that his/her broker is not exclusively representing the buyer's interests alone.  In this situation, with informed written consent, the broker is lawfully representing both the seller's and buyer's interests in the sale of a property.  The broker still has many of the same duties to uphold as a real estate professional (duty of care, accounting, and obedience for example), but his/her loyalty is not exclusive to either party.

    To read the full article, click here

  • Should Real Estate News Influence a Home Buyer's Decision?

    Zillow's blog recently examined whether a home buyer should take current real estate news into account when considering a home purchase.

    Here are 3 strategies they recommend (and we do to!) in approaching a real estate transaction in this "information overload" era:

    1.  Be Smart about Mortgage Rates: Don't be simply motivated to act on a purchase because of rising mortgage rates or feeling the pressure to "act now!" in closing on a home.  Shop around for a better rate or consult a mortgage broker to assist you in finding a rate at another bank, or even wait a few days to see if rates change.  But by the same token, don't not buy a home merely because you think rates will drop slightly in a month.  It's all about being smart and maintaining perspective.  After all, rates overall are still low, especially when you look back on the mid-teen rates of the 1980s!

    2.  Ok, Sign on the Dotted Line Right Now: Don't try to time a real estate transaction.  If you are buying a home, you should be fully invested and committed.  There's no way to predict what circumstances and news will change each week.  If you're buying a property to live in and spend years of your life in, you don't to regret a decision made solely based on rates that week or getting the deal of the century.

    3. Be Patient:  We tell our customers and clients this all the time.  The time to buy is different for everyone and shouldn't be determined by mortgage rates and prices.  Finding a home that you love in the right location and within your budget will ultimately make you a lot happier and less likely to experience buyer's remorse.  

    While keeping informed about the current real estate market is important, don't let it dictate your buying strategy.  Instead, rely on your own smarts, financials and patience...and as always contact us if you have any questions about buying a home!

  • What To Expect: During the First Year of Homeownership

    Once you sign the "X" on the dotted line during settlement, your journey toward home ownership may have ended, but the journey to making it feel like your home has just begun!  

    Here are a few items you should expect to examine and/or repair during the first year of homeownership, as released by CBS MoneyWatch recently.

    During move-in week: 

    Turn on all major appliances and run them for a complete cycle. Even if the buyer already completed a home inspection, they should test them again, according to experts.  "If you have a minor leak under the dishwasher, that water leaks into the subfloor and you can't see it," says Daniel Cipriani with Kade Homes & Renovations in the Atlanta area. "But you'll start to notice the hardwood floor buckling."

    45 days after move-in: 

    Change the HVAC system filter and vacuum out the air intake vents. “Capturing dirt and dust with the right filter can go a long way toward preserving the new home appeal for a few years,” CBS MoneyWatch notes.

    Six months after move-in: 

    Inspect the exterior of your home in both the summer and fall to ensure rainwater is draining away from the home properly. Also, clean out clogged gutters and downspouts. "Landscaping should be negatively graded away from the house," Cipriani says. "People don't think it's a big problem, but otherwise water pools against the foundation and doesn't have anywhere to go."

    Every year: 

    Inspect the home’s roof for any missing shingles and gaps around the chimneys. Also, check the ceilings inside the home for any water spots and indications of potential leaks.

    Experts also note that every two years, home owners would be wise to hire a professional HVAC contractor to inspect their furnace, air conditioner, and hot water heater. A ruptured reservoir could potentially spill 40 gallons of water in a mere few hours so experts recommend home owners install a water alarm with sensors in the collection pan underneath the hot water heater. The sensors cost about $25 and can help save home owners from costly water damage.

  • Unique Homes Around the World

    In case you missed it, here is a link to all the homes we have featured on our Facebook page over the last few months. Follow our Pinterest board for Unique Homes Around the World!

    Click on the link to see our weekly picks for Unique Homes Around the World: Aland Realty on Pinterest


    Photographer Cristobal Palma.  Casa 11 Mujeres, a cliff-top house near Santiago,Chile by architect Mathias Klotz.

  • Zillow's Tips for Buying a Home in the Fall

    Now that Fall is in full swing, you may be ready to buy a home after watching the market over the summer and determining that prices and mortgage rates are on the rise.  Here are a few tips featured on Zillow for buying a home in the Fall.

    1.  Know your market

    Different markets will behave differently in the Fall season.  While overall national home values rose 0.4 in August as compared to July, do your research on your local market instead of relying on national or regional market data.  

    2.  Selection is limited

    Many frustrated sellers, who were not able to unload their properties in the Spring and Summer, may take their homes off the market.  Inventories have been low in some areas over the Summer months and these subsequent withdrawals from the market will limit selection even further. Be aware of this as you search for housing and be prepared in case multiple offers are placed on a property due to low inventory.

    3.  There's room to negotiate

    Generally, Fall is a great time to be a buyer.  Sellers whose properties are still sitting on the market after one of the hottest real estate summers since prior to the economic downtown will be more inclined to negotiate lower offers from buyers.  And if sellers did not withdrawal their properties from the market after the summer, then they are more likely looking to unload their properties rather than sticking to a set a sale price.

    4.  Check maintenance areas

    While some may see cooler temperatures and rainy Fall days as a negative, for buyers, the change in weather is a great opportunity to expose vulnerable aspects of a home.  Check the heating system, gutters, landscaping, yard upkeep, possible leakage, and any other structural/maintenance aspects of a home. Then, determine how much any of these repairs/upkeep will cost and adjust your offer price to compensate for these expenses.

    Read Zillow's blog here and as always feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding buying or selling a property!  Happy Fall House Hunting!

  • 2013's Best Mobile and Web Apps and Tools for Real Estate

    Realtor Magazine* just featured this year's top web and mobile apps and tools for real estate. These recommendations were selected by their editors with input from their readers.  These apps and tools come in handy for customers, clients and realtors.  

    We've included our top 5 picks from the list, highlighting apps and tools for customers and clients. To read the full article, go here Best of the Web 2013: Apps

    So whether you're just a casual real estate "window shopper" or a determined buyer or seller, read below to accomplish your real estate goals more efficiently. 

    1.  Homesnap.com - named Best Mobile Tool and called the "Shazam for homes."  It allows users to have access to public information about a home by simply taking a picture of the home.  This is a great tool for customers and clients to use while they are out driving around looking for potential homes or scouting to see what the market is like in their area.  Simply snap a photo on your phone and use the Homesnap app to find the property on the go!

    2.  HouseLogic.com - named Best All-Around Home Improvement Resource.  This is THE go-to website if you're looking to do any home improvements before putting your house on the market or after buying a "fixer upper."  It also offers tips for managing home taxes and financing.  HouseLogic.com features secrets to hiding clutter or valuables, home insurance advice, landscaping tips, and overall covers the gamut of all things home-related.

    3.  ApartmentTherapy.com - named Best Eye Candy.  This website is useful for more than just apartment dwellers.  It includes interior decorating ideas and organization tips for your apartment or home.

    4. Curbed.com - named Best Niche Zine.  We love Curbed!  It reports neighborhood news, local development project updates, and celebrity homes in 13 U.S. cities.  A fun website to add to your RSS feed!

    5. Dropbox.com - named Best App for Cloud Storage and File Sharing.  Worried about your computer/device crashing and losing important documents?  Here's the solution.  Store all your important files, photos and other information on a virtual drive.  There is no fee, up to 18 GB storage.  

    *The content of this blog is based on Realtor Magazine's featured article.  It is not an endorsement by NAR or The Aland Realty Group.

  • Caring for a Seasonal Home in the Winter

    Winters in New England can be harsh. Winter Storm “Nemo” & “Saturn” were our most recent examples, which dumped feet of snow over a vast portion of the region. Whether we have snow, ice, rain, wind or all of the above… winter weather can really take its toll on a property. That is why proper maintenance of a home throughout the winter months can go a long way in preventing smaller problems from growing into bigger, more expensive ones.

    It can be extremely difficult for many seasonal home owners to personally check up on their property during the winter, especially those who don’t reside permanently in the region. This is where a property management company can provide an invaluable service. No matter how well prepared a home may be for winter conditions it is always wise to have someone checking up on it. Heavy snow buildup, fallen trees/limbs, and prolonged power outages are just a few conditions that can lead to problems. A property management company can identify potential setbacks and find a resolution before the problem occurs or be in the position to act before it gets worse. The little money you spend for preventative maintenance can ultimately save you in the long run.

    Another way to ensure your seasonal home is maintained during the winter is to lease the property. Winter rentals are usually done at heavily discounted rates, and there are always seasonal tenants looking for a home. Having a tenant is the best way to keep tabs on your property and….you are making money to do it! 

    How do you manage your seasonal property? Please leave your comments below!

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