Questions to ask when choosing a mortgage lender to buy a home.

When deciding to buy a home, the first step is getting preapproved. With so many mortgage lenders out there, how do you choose? Many home buyers who come to me say the same thing. I just called my bank to get preapproved…they have all my information and my car loan…

Banks who are good for checking accounts or even car loans are not always stellar at mortgages, which are riskier and more complicated transactions. The right mortgage lender can be the difference between getting or not getting a home. In a competitive market where the right homes are going into multiple offers, listing real estate brokers and there sellers may evaluate offers, including which lender will get the job done. If lenders have a bad reputation, it can hurt your offer. And the wrong mortgage lender can definitely cost you a lot of time, heartache and money if they do not get the job done.

Beware – rates are not everything. Mortgage companies that cloak themselves in the best rates are not often the best to deal with. If they can’t get the job done, it won’t matter what their rate is.

So here are 6 questions to ask a mortgage lender to see who will get you into your new home.

1. What do I need for a preapproval letter? If they don’t ask you for tax returns, w2, bank statements and proof of employment income right from the start….and pull your credit report…your preapproval is not worth anything and will be worthless to a listing broker with an offer. Sellers want to know the loan will go through and so do you. They need all this information to ensure you will have a successful loan.

2. Do you do your own underwriting locally or in your office? Underwriting is the key to all loans. Underwriting is where they look at all the documentation and ensure the company/investor is satisfied with a minimal risk of default on the loan. This is very complex and involves a lot of precision but also a lot of subjectivity. If the underwriters are with another company or in another state or even another office, the loan officer will be powerless if anything is tricky with you or the house to ensure the loan gets done.

3. Who do I deal with during the loan process? Service counts for a lot. Companies where you deal with multiple people in multiple locations, states, etc. usually will delay your loan and cause you more hassles. You want a team where the loan officer, the person you start with is still involved and still your point of contact for you, your Realtor and your attorney. Companies who have you talking to a different person every time will just give you a headache and waste a lot of your time. Internet companies are famous for this, you often are pushed from person to person.

4. What are your loan fees? Of course you want to know what the loan will cost you. But just like rate, you should ask the question (and get it in writing) but that should not be the only factor considered.

5. What loans can you do? Not all banks, mortgage companies and credit unions can perform all mortgages. Renovation loans, FHA loans, various grants and programs loans with home buyer assistance at local or state level…if you are looking for a particular loan product or a few, you want to know they can do the job in house and not send out for underwriting and processing.

6. How many of your deals go through? This is a very important question. Some loan officers are salaried (many banks) while mortgage companies typically are strictly commission…they don’t eat if they don’t close loans. If they could care less if you close or not and merely are fulfilling a quota of preapprovals or applications…they are likely not the lender for you. And lenders who don’t close at least 90% or more of all loans they submit preapprovals for…that is a red flag.

Homesellers, It’s not personal…It’s Real Estate

In every aspect of life, some people are apt to get their feelings hurt easily. If someone doesn’t like your outfit or says your kid doesn’t play soccer well, etc. But in business, people try to get a thicker skin by saying, it’s not personal…it’s business. When selling your home, you need to remember the same thing when under critique. It’s not personal…. it’s real estate. Homesellers need to keep in mind that homebuyers have to find what is best for their needs and wants and if it is not this house, it will be the next. What the seller likes or wants in the home or its decor or use is not relevant to what the buyer will want. Different strokes for different folks. The goal is selling the home at the best price in the fastest time.

Here’s what I have heard sellers say….If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for them. They can take me as I am and the house as it is. They are nit picky. They don’t understand that this cost me $$. They are too young and don’t know any better. They should appreciate… They don’t know…. or IF THEY DON’T LIKE IT, THAT’S THEIR PROBLEM.

If you want your home to stay on the market forever or sell for less money, keep thinking that way. But if you change your thinking, this is what you need to do to prepare for the mindset of selling a home successfully.

1. THINK “It’s no longer your home…it’s a means to an end – a product.” You want to get where you are going and selling your home is the means. You need to think of it as a retail product and “stage” it to appeal to your target market home buyer. Homes sell faster and for a better price if they appeal right away to the target homebuyer…with as little work possible. Sometimes your target homebuyer will be about as far away from your taste as possible. To sell, you need to appeal to them and make changes, even if it doesn’t appeal to you.

2. BE REALISTIC…REALLY understand the good and bad points of your house. Sometimes you can fix the bad points, sometimes you can’t. Upgrading or not, staging or not and pricing must be based on the market and your home. What you think your home is worth isn’t always what the market thinks. Homebuyers look at the market. The market wins. Listen to your expert Realtor advice, which they should be able to substantiate with comps. They are the market, don’t ignore them.

3. FEEDBACK….Feedback from home buyers and other Realtors is important and hard to get…so when you get it, don’t dismiss or ignore it. This is what people are thinking who could have bought your home….but instead there was a reason they bought another home. They may not like the decor or the layout, etc. You have to figure out if it is cost effective to fix or change it or you may need to adjust your price….or you can ignore it, make excuses and sit on the market forever.

And if they don’t like your wall-to-wall mirrors or southwestern decor…don’t take it personal. That is why you should not be in the house when they are there. They don’t want to hurt their feelings, so they will not say what they need to say and their Realtor can’t do his or her job explaining the home and countering objections. Once they have it in their heads they don’t like something, it is tough to reverse or change.

4. FINANCING…Whether you agree or not, times are different now than when you were starting out and buying a home. Many first-time homebuyers these days have very little down payment and no extra for closing costs. Often they will ask you for closing costs, but what you are really doing is allowing them to finance the costs into the mortgage. Negotiate your bottom line like a business….don’t get caught up in how much they are putting down or whether or not they want to finance closing costs. It should only matter if they are capable and likely to get the loan and you are getting a net price that works for you.

5. INSPECTION…It is wise to have an inspection done on a home or a used car, or anything before you make a major purchase. The inspector’s job is just like a doctor doing a physical. They will tell these homebuyers everything that is wrong with the home. That is their job, some are better and putting things in the right perspective and some are not. The key is again, don’t take it personally. You may not agree with what is said is wrong with the house, you may think it is nit picky, but the point is the home buyers do care and if you want to complete the sale, you need to decide if the price is worth making some repairs or negotiate what is or is not important to them. Also remember, once you know there is a problem, if there is, you have to disclose it for the next buyer.

REMEMBER – home buyers are your customer. They have the money.

The Best Homes for Super Bowl Entertaining

Super bowl is said to be one of the biggest entertainment and gathering events of the year. No other event pits the challenges of food and television more to a host. So, when I am showing a house, I often look at the spaces in the “how can I entertain in this house.” Because even if you don’t entertain, the same principals often apply to everyday use. So here is my criteria for the perfect Super Bowl entertaining house.

1. Space. Space is a given for most entertaining. The more space you have in a kitchen, the more food you can put out and the easier it is for people to “graze” for several hours. This is true of any entertaining and gathering event like holidays and special occasions where you host family and friends.

But coupled with a television event, you also need seating and gathering space for a lot of people to hover around the biggest screen. Space is important and in this case, bigger is better.

2. Open areas. When hosting, it is extremely helpful to have open gathering spaces where people can move and mingle between food and conversation easily. Open floor plans between the kitchen and family room help facilitate ease of not missing out on either snacks or the TV main event. And when even the commercials are important, an open floor plan can mean you don’t miss a minute.

3. Kitchen Island. Kitchen islands are a great invention. They add counter and storage space, can double as a table or snack counter, can elevate small hands and eyes when baking, can be a table for homework. The benefits are endless. But when hosting a food gathering, they can be the main event. The kitchen island can be the place where the food goes. With four accessible sides, it is easy to move around and create your plate or just pop in to snitch something. It also frees your other counterspace for preparation and isolates more of the mess to certain areas.

Sometimes basements are a great space for all this, but family room kitchen combo seem to be the preference. It has everything, your main cooking space, natural light and access to the door for guest coming and going. This house for sale pictured at 648 Larkspur in Matteson, Illinois shows the perfect set up for a great Super Bowl party.

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How to Avoid Rental Scams and Pitfalls

A recently publicized rental scam on Craigslist put unsuspecting renters in a home the “landlord” did not own and put the unsuspecting owner in a position where he had squatters to get rid of. The renters thought they had a legitimate lease and paid money only to lose their money and the place of residence. The scam artist came away the richer. These type of rental scams purveyed on even legitimate website rentals are rampant. Vacant homes are usually the target of these con artists. When you are renting, how can you avoid getting left in the cold with these scams?

Another big problem are landlords who owe money on the property and are not paying. Foreclosures do not have to honor leases and you can get kicked out of the property with very little notice, usually without your security deposit.

1. Seek help from a professional Realtor. The services of a professional Realtor do not cost you any money as a renter and can save you from these schemes. Professional Realtors have access to the MLS where the rentals are legitimate. Plus, they know the best way to apply and can help you save you time and hassle calling and arranging a bunch of appointments – one stop shop. Also realtor’s have access to lien, tax and property information to double check the landlord and if they have foreclosure judgments. A professional Realtor is the best possible chance for success finding and getting a rental property.

BUT if you choose to go it alone, this is what to look out for.

2. Check property records to ensure the person you are talking to is the actual owner. This can be tough, but if you can get the PIN number or look up the tax records on the county website, you can get an idea of who the tax bill is mailed to. Call the county clerk office to see what you can find out the owner of the property. You always can complete a freedom of information act to get some information.

3. The county recorder of deeds knows liens filed on any property and you can find out if the property is in foreclosure and maybe even find the property owner there. Sometimes this information is right on their website.

4. Beware of obscure websites or sites that allow anyone to market rentals for FREE. This is the harbor of scammers because they don’t have to pay and there is less paper trail. That is why Realtors and the MLS are the best source of legitimate rentals. Even popular real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Postlets, etc. can have fraudulent, as well as real listings. And Craigslist seems to be a favorite hot spot for these scammers.

5. If you are rental challenged, you will be a good target for these cons. People who have low credit, evictions, criminal records, etc. will have a harder time being accepted for rental. If you have been turned down by everyone else and this person takes you, be a little more skeptical and do some homework.

6. Ask neighbors. This is awkward for a potential renter to knock on the next doors and don’t expect a great reception as neighbors don’t typically like renters, but you will find out for sure then who really owns the home.

7. Ask questions of the landlord. I know this is usually the reverse, but ask about how long they have had the property, did they live there? Do they own a lot of properties? Is a corporate or personal landlord? You can ask things in conversation and watch for the answers. A scam artist will be pretty good at lying, but you can sometimes tell.

8. Ask the village or police. Some villages have to have landlord’s licensed. They would know who owns the property.

9. Do your internet research. Google the address of the home to see it if is really for sale. Drive by to see if there is a sign. Google the phone number, email and name of the prospective landlord. And check the scam sites for any similarities. There is a lot of information out there at your fingertips.

10. Look for signs. In most cases, hindsight is 20/20, but people usually say they should have known it was a scam due to one reason or another. If they are not easy to contact to see the property. If they don’t have easy access to the property. If they don’t know a lot about the property or the area. If they are not easily available to give rent to or contact for repairs, etc. Sometimes where they want to send the rental check or how you get the keys can be a big sign. Scammers very often say they are out of town or abroad and you can send security and rent to them via wire or money order, etc.

11. If it is too good to be true – it usually is…If the rental price is so much less than others in the market, there is usually a reason.

Can you Handle the Truth in Selling Your Home

There are many euphemisms about the benefits of the truth. The truth shall set you free as a homeseller, as you need to be ready, willing and able to handle the truth from your expert team. But many homesellers prefer to listen to what they want to hear instead of the hard truth, which can end up costing them time and money to sell their home.

When considering selling their home and interviewing Realtors for advice on selling, most homesellers ask these two questions “Tell me what I can sell my home for? and Tell me what should we do to get our home ready to sell?” Unfortunately, it is really like asking someone “does this outfit look good on me.” You think you want the answer, but you don’t really want the answer.

Some Realtors will tell sellers what they want to hear just to get the listing. They ask you – what do you want to sell the home for? Then they tell you – Sure – that is what the home will sell for. But do they have any statistics to back that up? No, because sometimes what the seller would like to sell the home for is not consistent with the market value of the home.

That same Realtor will tell you, nothing needs to be done to the home to market it, for fear that if they tell the seller the home is dated, untidy, unclean or the home needs to be staged, the homeseller will give the listing and another Realtor who lies to them. But then what is the point of getting expert advice, if you have no intention to listen to it?

Some Realtors actually rely on the feedback from other Realtors who show the home to push the blame away from them and tell the seller what really needs to be said to sell the home.

Lying to a seller about price especially is illegal and unethical for a licensed Realtor and will definitely end up costing the seller precious listing time. And in the end, that same Realtor will ask them for price reductions, staging and changes or upgrades to the home to get the home sold.

So, sellers, would you rather waste time with a Realtor who tells you what you want to hear and doesn’t give the expert advice they should or let your market time increase and then eventually change things, which will cost you time and money?

Remember the story, “The Emperors New Clothes.” Everyone was afraid to tell the emperor the truth and he would up walking around his kingdom with no clothing. Home sellers, are you ready to handle the truth and benefit from a better sales price and shorter listing time?

What you need to know about using an Attorney in a Real Estate Closing

Many of my clients ask if they have to use an attorney when buying or selling a home. While the answer is no you don’t have to but you need to use an attorney when buying or selling a home and here is why.
1. Who is going to explain all the paperwork to you at the closing? By law in Illinois, only an attorney can explain the mountain of paperwork from the mortgage note to the deed to the closing charges to ensure that you are getting what you paid for and that you understand everything you are signing. So unless you want to just sign a bunch of papers you don’t understand, you need a real estate attorney there with you when signing.
2. If you are selling property…there are a myriad of paperwork that needs to be completed for transfer taxes and there are documents to be reviewed like the title, survey, deed. If you don’t understand every word and paragraph, how do you know it is completed properly? How do you know that your error will not put you in future litigation?
3. Dealing with the other attorney…In Illinois, most sellers use an attorney, so if you are a buyer, you would have to deal directly with the attorney on everything, inspection repairs, extensions, title problems and review? While these things are not rocket science they do require a level of knowledge and experience to be successfully achieved. If the other side has it and you don’t…you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
4. Are you sure you are protected and getting what you are entitled to? Buying and selling a home is complicated. The deed and title need to be reviewed to ensure there are no liens. The survey needs to be reviewed. Real estate taxes and exemptions can expose you to paying more taxes out of pocket than necessary. A real estate attorney will review all these items and protect your interests now and in the future.
5. Make sure it is a real estate attorney who has experience in real estate. You would not have a cardiologist perform brain surgery. Both doctors, but specific knowledge and experience are required. Same with attorneys, there are nuances that only attorneys who practice in real estate will know and recognize. This could be the difference between preventing or solving a problem or something you will have in the future.
6. Where do you look for a real estate attorney? Your Realtor and/or lender are great resources. They work with attorneys every day and can give you a personal recommendation. Then you should talk to them and ensure you feel comfortable with them. It is important that you feel comfortable asking questions and ensure they have time to help you and will communicate with you.
7. What should I expect from my attorney? Some attorneys are the “just see you at closing types.” You are better off with someone who is with you every step of the way, not just on the day of closing. They should review all the paperwork, communicate with the Realtors, lender, title company and other attorney. They should answer all your questions and keep you up to date. They need to protect your interests and do what is best for you. And they should work well with all the parties involved to make a smooth transaction. If they seem difficult to work with, they are likely not the right choice. Real estate transactions have a lot of moving parts, all parties need to work together to ensure a smooth and successful experience. And keep in mind, while an assistant or paralegal can do a lot of the paperwork, they should not be the one answering your questions and explaining paperwork. That is what your attorney is for.

8. What should you pay for a real estate attorney? You usually pay a flat fee, not by the hour, phone call or retainer for a real estate transaction. It is paid at closing. You can negotiate the fee, especially as the seller of the property, but again it is more important to get a good attorney than save a few bucks.

Simply said. You don’t know what you don’t know. In every industry there are experts that people rely on to protect, educate and inform them. Doing it yourself you could miss something that will cost you money, hassle and more in later years. Unless you understand all the paperwork and laws…get an expert. After all, this is not only your home, but your largest investment.

Creepy Distractions that Turn Off Home Buyers when Selling a Home

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As a Realtor, I see a lot of unusual, even crazy things in people’s homes. If these silent idiosyncrasies could be explained by the home seller, I am sure they would make more sense. But in their absence and left to the imaginations of home buyers, these eclectic eccentricities can often creep home buyers out …distracting them from the advantages of the home and maybe completely turning them off.

I once entered a room with a full-sized child doll sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of the room. You could not see it until you entered the room. It surprised each and every person who came into the room and needless to say, no one really saw that room. Or the full-size “butler” statues – yes they scare you because they seem like a real person when you walk in the room. Startling to say in the least, creepy to say in the most. This goes for any personal possessions that may not be appreciated by the general public. Doll collections with eyes seemingly following you all over the room are not much lower on the creep-o-meter. Realistic stuffed toy animals of cats sitting on beds or a large tiger in the corner, are another eerie distraction.

And Taxidermy…I have seen heads of nearly every animal on the wall, as well as various skin rugs on walls and floors, horns on walls and full-on stuffed formerly live animals. While these trophies are treasured by the home sellers, to a homebuyer who may not share this hobby, they are unsettling and unpleasant. When you are blindly entering a home, it can cause children to be afraid and many times scare even adults who are not expecting a “jungle room.” Home sellers, let’s put it this way, do you want the home buyers referring to your home as the “dead animal” or even the “jungle” house after their visit. No, that will not sell your home. Put them away in storage, boxes, etc.

Marked graves in the yards for pets or urns of grandma on the mantel are another turn off. While the urn will move with you, home buyers only can wonder how many fluffy and spot bones they will inherit if they buy the home. What is unseen….is the best answer for this.

Weapons in the homes, from samurai swords and cross bows to maces and guns are more common than you would believe. Best to keep the armory put away in a closet in a box, etc. Not only are they dangerous, especially for children viewing the home, but also could be a theft temptation you don’t want to deal with and a potential insurance nightmare you definitely don’t want to deal with.

And while the Nazi flag may be reminiscent of an inside joke or historical memorabilia or something to the home seller, home buyers could easily be offended enough to ignore the home’s attributes and head for the door. Or better yet, they may never come to see the house as they see the photography on the internet and in listings.

Snakes, tarantulas, hamsters, gerbils and lizards may be in cages, but do you want to take the risk that recoiled home buyers will not enter those rooms with their slimy occupants present. If they have to stay in the room, best to cover them …. out of sight, never in mind.

And “Friendly” cats and dogs may be fine for your guests while you are around, but home sellers need to cage or remove these residents and not leave for unsuspecting home buyers…and agents for that matter. You don’t want agents and homebuyers skipping your house when they go to the door and “spot” is barking his head off at the front door awaiting them.

Real life encounters are not limited to pets. Believe it or not, more than once, I have opened a bedroom door to see a lump in the bed that was not laundry, but a real person sleeping in the bed. Both the buyers and I couldn’t get out that room or that home faster.

Again, while it is your home, it also is a product. If you wouldn’t like it in a department store, don’t put it in a home you want to sell. Remember, first impressions last forever and are not easily erased.

Is your condo association property manager working for you or for themselves?

If you want to live in a condo or townhome, an association and usually a condo association property manager is a necessity. But it is adding another layer of control over your life and your home, so you need to be sure you have the best possible representation working in the best interest of all the condo residents.

Most people have little involvement in their condo association until something happens. It is often hard to get attendance of the residents and even harder to get people to participate in the condo board. What you want in an condo association property manager is someone who is going to help all the residents with building maintenance and repair planning, proper budgeting and general management. But often what you end up with is varying levels of bureaucracy with managers who are difficult to deal with and even harder to communicate with. Here are a questions to ask when you are considering management of your condo or townhome association property manager.

Do you have the property license, insurance? Make sure they have the proper credentials. In Illinois, people who manage properties must have a Community Association Manager license with the State of Illinois. Per Illinois regulation, the person who deals with the association’s money, contracting, etc. needs to have this license. So, if the person you deal with on a regular basis for everything does not have this license, this is illegal, sometiemes even if they are working for the person with the license. Administrative staff have specific tasks they can and can not do. Anyone can verify this license on the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation websitehttp://idfpr.com/licenselookup/ Also, make sure the company and/or the person has proper liability insurance, like general liability or errors or omissions insurance and some kind of bond if they hold your money. This protects the association and all the residents.

What is their experience/reputation? Even properly licensed individuals can vary in experience. Let’s face it, some people are good at their job and some are just not. Before you hire a condo association property manager, talk to people on their other associations. Yes, references are often like calling someone’s mother – you are not going to get a bad reference or they will not give the person to you. I recommend asking for the board member names and numbers of ALL the associations they represent and maybe even ask for a couple non-board resident names. Check them out.

What are ALL the fees they charge? Not only the fees they charge monthly, but what other fees are involved. Do they charge extra for accounting fees? If legal and accounting fees are outside, do they markup those professional fees? What fees do they charge for resident sale transactions? Managers often charge fees during sale transactions to cooperate. This is something no one usually knows or asks. They charge to give the buyer a copy of the bylaws, budget and/or declarations. This can be $100-200 charge to the seller. Sometimes they also charge the buyer and/or seller a fee to transfer their records from the seller to the buyer. I have seen anywhere from $250 to $350 for this charge. These fees are usually a surprise to the seller, but are not an option.
Any condo association property management agreement should disclose and negotiate ALL FEES they can ever charge to residents or potential buyers. Also, should have an agreed timetable for responding to inquiries from residents and requests for documents.

Realtors and residents often see the real truth of the deal with condo association property managers when selling their home. Property managers are an important component to ensure a smooth sale transaction. Contracts require buyers get a copy of the budget, bylaws, and declarations and require the association complete a form indicating the health of the association, if there are any pending assessments or law suits. The association and their cooperation or lack thereof can jeopardize your sale. This is about the time many residents find out just who their association property manager is working for…you or themselves. And if you have an uncooperative condo association property manager during the sale transaction, your buyer may decide that they don’t want to live in a condo or townhome that has this difficult a manager – too much hassle.

For example, it is often a problem to have condo association property managers take forever to get the documents to the buyer and lender and not respond to emails and calls from the buyer and seller’s agents and attorneys and lender.

In one case, I had a deal cancel because the condo association property manager did not disclose that there was a lawsuit against the association. Lenders will not lend money for that deal. So, the seller could only have a cash buyer, which is a very low percentage and will affect the amount of the sales price. In another situation, the association manager failed to advise that there was a special assessment pending until the last minute, forcing the seller to pay additional money they did not anticipate to finalize the deal.

Condo association property management is not an easy job. You have to answer to a lot of residents who all have differing opinions on everything, but I am often surprised when a seller says the condo association property manager is horrible and very difficult to deal with. Then why have them?

How to Win or Lose Multiple Offers when Buying a Home

I hear this all the time from home buyers, especially first-time homebuyers. I am tired of losing a home in multiple offers. With buyer demand, low interest rates and inventory shortages, multiple offers have been a standard in the home buying game, especially in competitive marketplaces and in the first-time buyer more affordable homes category of the market.

Home buyers never win in a multiple offer or bidding war. You don’t know what the other buyers are doing, what their financing is, how many of them are there. It can get very discouraging for home buyers. But, if you want a home and are in it to win it, you can’t be discouraged. You just need a strategy.

Timing is everything. Home buying in a competitive environment is no exception. The cream of the crop homes don’t last long. Beating other offers to the punch could make the difference between a sole negotiation with you and the seller and a multiple offer, so you need to know what is out there and go see it right away. Get into the home right away, even if it is inconvenient, do it. Keep abreast of the market by having your Realtor send you updates on the multiple listing service MLS 2x per day, morning and afternoon, that way you have the most accurate and updated listings available.

And you need to be ready to make a quick decision. Be prepared with your preapproval letter ready. Have all the decision makers attend the first showing. Waiting for your parents to come even the next day and you could be behind the eight ball. While it is important to make a wise unhasty and considered decision, you need to know your marketplace, do your homework and consult your Realtor expert so you know when the right thing comes along.

Don’t submit a low ball offer. That is the first way to lose a home to multiple offers. If you are offering on a fast-moving in-demand home, don’t try to negotiate too much and go really low. Home sellers can consider other offers up until you have a signed (not verbal) contract. If you low ball to try to get the price down, you will lose the home – guaranteed. If another offer comes in, you will definitely pay more to get the price. In a multiple offer, the list price usually becomes the rule, so you sometimes need to get right on it, close to it or over it to win the house.

Again, timing is the biggest factor. Homebuyers always need to consider the market, but not over consider. Remember, if you are getting a loan, and most people are, the home’s value will need to appraise. As a homebuyer, you can never overpay for a home. If you think the price is too high, much better to have no competition in negotiating after an appraisal than keep missing out. Yes, homebuyers do need to pay for the appraisal, so there is some chance of loss, but most times sellers will negotiate once they have a buyer. If you are not sure, have your attorney extend the inspection period and do the appraisal right away, then you can reduce potential risks and losses.

Other terms of the purchase can also be a way to win in a multiple offer. Cash maybe king, but the price is the main consideration to most home sellers. The only way to beat a cash offer is to outbid them. But if you are a cash offer or put more money down, that can be appealing to a seller. Conventional financing is usually more appealing than FHA financing.

Home seller concessions like closing costs, surveys, termite inspections, home warranties and percentage of tax proration can be another way you can beat out the competition. Down payment assistance or relative gifts can be one option other than seller paid closing costs. You can get your own termite inspection, survey and home warranty or do without them. Most financing options no longer require termite inspections and survey. Established homes with obvious boundaries do not necessarily need a survey. And unless your inspection reveals an potential issue with termites, you may not need. VA loans still however need a termite inspection, but it can be provided by the buyer.

Tax prorations are usually a small consideration, but combined with others above, it can win. Depending on the current exemptions, assessment and tax increases and since your lender escrows your taxes at closing and each month, you may not ever have a dime out of your pocket for a tax proration at 100% vs. 5 or 10% over the last tax bill.

Offering to buy the home “as is”. You should always still have an inspection and you still have the inspection contingency in place in a contract, so if you say you will purchase as is and there are deal breakers at the inspection, you can always renegotiate. With other buyers moving onto other deals by then, you may be on your own. You shouldn’t go into the deal with this plan to about face on this term, but you still have options.

There are always pitfalls with the appraisal or as is back up plan though. Backup offers could be in place, so the home seller may just go back to that, but other buyers may not wait around and move onto other homes.

Other terms like favorable closing dates or post-closing possession may suit the home sellers needs and favor your offer.

And if you are tired of the multiple offer game and don’t want to play anymore, there are other options. Very few times does a diamond in the rough have multiple offers. Could be the home a little old lady lives in that is in good condition, but is not updated, could be a foreclosure home. You can get a rehab loan to fix up the home the way you want. You still get your dream home and often a better price and less frustration.

Advice for empty nest or senior move down homebuyers

When you find yourself with an empty nest and you have too much house for your needs, a smaller home and maybe a different area or lifestyle may be the best option. Here are some tips for empty nest homebuyers or senior homebuyers when you are considering a home change.

Assess what you want in a home and what you need for the way you live now. As an empty-nester, the way you lived in your family home when you had kids is not the way you live now. You want to look for an area, home style or needs that suits your new empty-nest lifestyle.

Do you want to do yardwork anymore? Are you ok being in an attached home? Maintenance-free homes are popular among empty nest homebuyers because they no longer want to spend time or have the capability to mow lawns and tend yards. Townhomes or condos are the best bet for a maintenance-free home, but cost of assessments and being attached is something that goes a long with the maintenance-free home benefit.

Do you want activities and a lifestyle? For those over 55, active adult communities can offer a maintenance-free home, even in a single-family home, and also offer activities and other benefits for empty nest homebuyers or senior homebuyers.

Where do you want to live now? Area also can play a part in a new lifestyle. Empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers may want to live near friends, relatives or their children. Schools are no longer the main factor in the home buying decision, but affordability and taxes could be the most important aspects for empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers who can be on retirement or moving toward a fixed income. Crime, transportation and proximity to shopping, restuarants, doctors or services also can be relevant looking at current and future needs.

What kind of home do you need – how big and how small? Size and style of a home are a consideration. Empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers no longer need 4 bedrooms, a huge home and a big basement. They may or may not want a basement. They can usually do 2 or 3 bedrooms, and scale down on square footage. Just eliminating one or two bedrooms and redundant family areas like family room and living room spaces can naturally reduce the square footage. Remember, whatever space you have, you will need to clean and pay for the taxes, maintenance and upkeep. Most empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers are moving to reduce that work and cost anyway, so it is a good time to look at what your space needs are.

One big mistake empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers do is try to fit their old lifestyle into a new home. Furniture is the biggest issue. You may not need a big dining room set for your new home. But if you plan to host family gatherings, you may still need the space. If you don’t have kids anymore, why have so many sets of bedroom furniture? Take the best and sell or donate the rest. Don’t make the new house fit your furniture, make it fit your new lifestyle and needs. And make your kids come and get all the stuff they left behind in your home. They have homes of their own and if they wanted the old trophies, posters, games and other memorabilia that bad, it would already be at their homes. You don’t need to keep or get a big home to store their belongings.

Do you want stairs or one level? Stairs may be something you don’t want to deal with. Even if your mobility is perfect now, you need to think down the line to avoid being forced to move again.

Is outdoor space important? A big yard is probably not essential anymore. Empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers mostly don’t want to deal with a lot of outdoor space, but may still want some outdoor options. So even single-family homes can have less outdoor play areas.

Resale is less of a consideration on these homes as empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers are not looking to climb the property ladder anymore. Lifestyle and affordability are more of a factor as empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers usually have more equity in these homes and are not likely to go underwater. However, resale always needs to be in the thought process somewhere, just may not be in the top priorities.

One big caution for empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers is to make these decisions with their needs in mind, not necessarily the opinions of their family. While family and adult children may offer opinions on any of these decisions, as empty nest homebuyers and senior homebuyers, it is important to listen, consider and then make the decisions that suit you the best. Sometimes adult children let sentimentality toward a family home interfere with what is the best for their parents. And their tastes, desires and thoughts are not always yours. Remember, it is your home, you need to live there, not them.