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Boat Accessible Properties – 4 Things to Consider

Imagine strolling down to your private boat dock each morning with your cup of coffee to watch the sun come up. While this might sound like something reserved for the rich and famous, the country is filled with opportunities to buy on a lake, river, ocean, and other waterways. From small streams suitable for canoes or kayaks to larger ocean-ready craft, before you write an offer on your dream home, there are a few considerations to think through.

4 Things to Consider before Buying a Boat-Access Property

  1. Types of Boats Allowed – This is the most important consideration to research. Between local authorities and neighborhood associations, the kind of boat may be limited to length, engine, speed, height, and much more. Make sure the property allows the kind of boat you want.
  2. Water Depth – Just because there is a dock on the property doesn’t mean year-round access. The average depth of the water is critical. Understand the way the seasons can affect water depth and if you’ll need to pull the boat and store it for any part of the year
  3. Environmental Restrictions – Almost all waterways include restrictions. These can include easements and areas inaccessible due to military or power company use. They can also include restrictions to protect wildlife such as fish or bird populations.
  4. Type of Ownership – Waterfront properties generally include some private ownership. This can include shoreline or be limited to the boat dock itself. Before purchasing the property determine if the shoreline is part of your ownership or a public/community-controlled strip of land.

Owning a boat-accessible property is a wonderful lifestyle choice but it can also be an expensive one. Before writing the offer, it’s important to understand exactly what is and is not included in the title.

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Buying in a Flood Zone?

It can be disturbing to realize that the beautiful home you’ve fallen in love with is in a flood zone. While it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, there are some serious considerations to understand before moving forward.

Flood zones are defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and are categorized according to the level of risk. A high-risk area is defined as having a 1+% chance of annual flooding, whereas a low-to-moderate location has a 0.2% or less chance of annual flooding.

FEMA maintains a flood map center where you can research the classification of the location and the level of concern. Zones labeled A and V are the highest risk zones. These are areas that are either coastal or riverside communities. These Special Flood Hazard Areas will have to carry flood insurance and have a 25% chance of serious flooding in a 30-year time frame. Zones labeled B, C, and X are lower risk.

Flood insurance is available to homeowners in any location. It makes sense that homes located in high-risk areas will pay higher premiums than those in lower-risk zones. In addition to normal homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance can range from a few hundred a year to thousands per year. The good news is that proper flood insurance provides excellent coverage in the event of damage, even providing temporary housing if necessary. Coverages vary, so it’s important to discuss the options with your insurance agent.

There is no reason to dismiss a home simply because it’s located in a flood zone. Many beautiful locations are also considered high-risk. But before you write the offer, it’s important to consider all the implications and costs involved.

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Your Listing Expired – Now What?

Listing agreements all have an expiration date. No one wants to think about what happens when the listing expires; both the seller and agent hope the home will sell long before that time. But it does happen. An expired listing means two things; first, the home is now off the market, and second, you as the seller are no longer under contract with your agent.

Now you have some decisions to make. The most important question is to decide if you still want to sell the home. Let’s face it, it’s a challenge to have your home on the market; the home must always be kept show-ready and the last-minute scramble to accommodate a potential buyer is tiring. You should also consider the real estate market and whether current conditions will still allow you to sell in your expected price range.

If you decide to continue with the plan to sell, it’s time to consider whether you want to change agents or stick with the current one. There are many reasons why a home doesn’t sell that have nothing to do with your representation, but if you sense that the agent is not the right fit, this is the time to make a change. If the agent isn’t the problem, then the next step is looking at the home itself and the price. Are you overpriced for the home and its competition?

No one wants to think about an expired listing nor a home that didn’t sell—but this is the time to take stock of the situation, adjust if necessary, and try again; hopefully with the right combination of condition, price, and agent.

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Can an Expensive Home Still be Affordable?

Real estate prices across the country have increased dramatically in the past year. With increases in the 10-12% range, many potential homebuyers have given up and decided that homes are just too expensive to consider. While homes have become more expensive, it does not mean they are unaffordable.

Would you believe that we are experiencing a historically favorable market for buyers when it comes to affordability? Why? This is because affordability involves more than just the purchase price of the home. When considering whether you can afford a home, you must include wage growth and interest rates.

Interest rates are among the lowest we’ve seen in decades. In addition, wages are increasing at a staggering 7% rate year-over-year. For example, a median household income of $68,000/year with a 7% wage growth, will see an extra $400/month.

The median home price is about $325,000. If we add a 10% growth factor to this, that same home would sell for $357,500. At a 3.5% interest rate, the monthly payment would increase from $1313/month to $1444/month, an increase of only $131/month. In terms of affordability, today’s market offers home buyers more for their money.

Many home buyers indeed have sticker shock; homes are getting more expensive. But for many home buyers, other economic factors combine to make homes more affordable than ever before.

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3 Pricing Strategies in a Seller’s Market

Real estate markets across the country are experiencing a strong seller’s market right now. For potential sellers, this may be a golden opportunity to get top value for their property. While it may be tempting to aim for the sky when setting the listing price, that may not be your best option.

Here are 3 pricing strategies to consider before deciding on your asking price.

1. Listing at Market Value

Buyer’s love “realistic sellers.” After considering the market data for your area, choosing to list at the current market value can attract the right buyer and encourage a solid offer or two. Typically, this results in a full-price offer with straightforward terms.

2. Listing High

It is always tempting to list ahead of the market, especially in a seller’s market. This strategy is risky and can mean you waste valuable time by sitting on the market with little interest. Even in a strong sellers’ market, buyers will shy away from overpriced listings. If listing above market value, experts suggest not higher than 5-7% higher.

3. Listing Low

Listing below market value will attract attention. The goal of this strategy is to encourage a bidding war that results in a sales price over market value. This works best for homes in turnkey condition and can backfire if the home is unappealing and you receive low or no offers and must adjust the price again.

A seller’s market presents opportunities. Working with your agent, discuss the options and trends in your local market to get the best offer and terms.

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Should You Accept the Previous Buyer’s Inspection Report?

Sometimes a home falls out of contract. Most buyers assume that it is related to a bad home inspection, but there are many reasons for a home to come back on the market that are unrelated to the condition of the home. During the contingency period, most buyers can cancel for almost any reason – or even no reason.

Of course, the listing agent and seller are motivated to get the home back under contract as quickly as possible and may offer the previous buyer’s home inspection report to the new buyer. Some may even ask that the new buyer remove their right to a home inspection, based on the one they offer.

If you have been offered the previous buyer’s inspection report, you’re probably wondering if you should accept it and remove that contingency. In a fast-moving seller’s market, it might be tempting, but before you accept the report, there are a few considerations:

  • Before accepting the inspection, do your research. Who did the inspection? Is it a reputable, licensed home inspector? Check public review sites for comments and customer satisfaction. Check their license with the issuing board and see if they have had any violations or suspensions.
  • Once you verify the company, give them a call. Make sure they have performed a comprehensive inspection. Many companies offer both a comprehensive and a simpler, cheaper, visual inspection.
  •  Finally, read the report carefully. If there are issues discovered, ask for clarification and consider paying for the inspector to meet you at the home to discuss the report in person with you.

Accepting the home inspection might seem like a good idea – both to make your offer more appealing to the seller and to save a few dollars – but before you remove the home inspection contingency, do your homework. Make sure you understand the real condition of the property before you buy it.

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4 Things Sellers Need to Know about Backup Offers

It’s no secret that most of the country is currently experiencing a strong seller’s market. Yet even in this competitive environment, almost 25% of all escrows fall through before closing. Home inspections, appraisal surprises, and loan approvals are just a few of the issues which can arise, causing the buyer to pull out of the deal.

An essential component of any listing strategy should be a good backup offer, meaning that another buyer is willing to step in and close if escrow falls through. As you consider a backup offer, here are 4 things you need to know:

1. A Backup Offer Is Legally Binding – A backup offer is a fully executed offer, just like the original, so make sure the terms are acceptable. Typically, the buyer will include a contingency in the event they find another home.
2. Multiple Backup Offers – In a strong seller’s market, it is not unusual to accept multiple backup offers. Always clarify the position of each backup offer and whether you will continue to accept backup offers.
3. Leverage – Backup offers provide leverage during the escrow period as well as security for the seller. Use backup offers to discourage unreasonable requests for repairs or concessions during escrow.
4. Earnest Money – Backup offers do require the buyer to submit earnest money, just like the primary offer. This stays in an escrow account. Often this is smaller than a typical deposit with the condition to increase the amount if the offer becomes the primary one.

Backup offers should be an important consideration in any home sale. Not only do they protect the seller if an escrow fails to close, but the buyer can also have another opportunity to close on a home they love.

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What is a Title Search?

It may seem like there are a million steps to the closing process when buying or selling a home. A title search is just one of the many stages and title problems may account for almost 10% of closing delays. As a seller, doing a preliminary title search can help avoid costly delays at the end. So, what is a title search and what does it disclose?

In the simplest form, a title search identifies who owns the property. This may be obvious, but surprisingly, sometimes the party selling the home may not actually have the legal right to do so, at least on paper. For example, in the case of a married couple, the property might be in only one spouse’s name. Another example would be a property held in trust or probate; it could take some paperwork to correct title to allow a sale.

A title search also uncovers any existing liens on the property. This would include any current mortgages and may find old debt or unreleased loans. Items which must be paid off or removed prior to sale. Finally, a title search will list any deed restrictions, such as easements or property restrictions.
If the title search does find any issues, the seller will need to remove them before the closing can occur. Once the sale is closed, title insurance ensures the new owner against any title issues that were not discovered during the search.

No one wants unexpected delays during closing. A seller can help mitigate title issues by running a preliminary title search at the time of listing. This gives them plenty of time to address any outstanding title issues before it costs buyer and seller valuable time in delays.

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Buying a Home with an Easement

If the home you’ve fallen in love with has an easement, you may be wondering how this affects you. An easement gives a person or entity the right to use part of your land, but only for a very specific reason. For example, a utility company may have an easement on your property to maintain an electric pole. Another example is an easement which allows your neighbor to drive through a portion of your land to access their garage.

Easements will be disclosed as part of the sales process and if you’ve discovered that your new purchase is subject to an easement, it’s important to learn the different types and their effect on your use of your land.

Types of Easements

  • Appurtenant vs. Gross – An appurtenant easement benefits the property, by allowing access through another’s land, such as the neighbor’s garage example above. A gross easement benefits an individual or entity, such as the utility company example above.
  • Private vs. Public – A private easement allows a specific person to access your property while a public easement allows any member of the public to use your land.
  • Affirmative vs. Negative – Most easements are affirmative (which is to say they allow something to happen) but some are negative easements, such as preventing a neighbor from building a second story that blocks a view.

Easements are not permanent and can be challenged if the need no longer exists. If your property is subject to an easement. It’s important to understand how it will impact your property before completing the purchase.

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5 Home Buying Acronyms You Need to Know

For many, the idea of buying a new home can seem overwhelming; the reality is the process is rather simple once you understand the steps. Part of that understanding is learning the most common acronyms used in buying a home. Here is a quick reference list of the 5 most often used acronyms and how they pertain to your transaction.

1. APR (Annual Percentage Rate) – APR is the total cost of borrowing money; this includes the interest rate, closing costs and other fees associated with the loan.
2. FRM (Fixed Rate Mortgage) – A fixed rate loan is one where the interest rate remains the same over the life of the loan.
3. DTI (Debt to Income) – DTI is the percentage of your income used to service all your recurring debt; this includes your mortgage, credit cards, car loans and other loans or lines of credit.
4. PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) – Loans for more than 80% of the home’s value are subject to PMI. This is insurance which protects the lender in the event of borrower default and every loan with less than a 20% down payment will include PMI.
5. P&I (Principal and Interest) – P&I is the portion of your loan which goes to pay down the principal of the loan amount. Other monthly costs could include taxes, PMI, association fees and other costs which are included in your payment but separate from P&I.

Real estate has a lot of terms, and understanding the most common can take the mystery out of the home buying process and provide peace of mind as you search for your new home.