Using a Buyer’s Agent is a Smart Move

In the last few years the trend has been for buyers to shop for a property without a buyer’s agent. The belief is that it buys you more time to find exactly the home you want because you don’t have someone paid by commission pressuring you to buy before you are ready.  However, this might be a bit of a fallacy because technically the buying agent is splitting the commission that the seller gets for the property. So when you make this move of trying to buy without an agent, you are not really “cutting the middle man” out of the equation.

In the past people needed anSold-sign agent to see any of postings on the MLS (multiple listing service.) Now anyone can access them on line and view properties on their own. However, this does not mean you should dispense with finding a buyer’s agent who provides buyers with many more services besides looking up what is for sale on the Internet.  For one thing, the buyer’s agent is the person who helps you negotiate with the seller’s agent so you can get the best deal possible. For another, the buyer’s agent also knows the market value prices in the neighborhood and will point out a home that is way over local asking prices, whereas a seller’s agent, who benefits from you paying a bit extra, may not bother to do so.

Many buyers just don’t realize that when they deal with a seller’s agent on their own that they do not have anyone looking out for the best interests. You need a buyer’s agent who negotiates with the seller’s agent to get your best price.

Yet another unhappy trend in the business is the buyer that finds an agent who is presenting himself as a buyer’s agent but is not transparent about the fact that he is actually working on behalf of the seller as well. It is a very good idea to make sure that you are working with an actual buyer’s agent who cares about your best interests instead of a seller’s agent who is navigating between both parties. Many buyers nowadays are finding that seller’s agents actually discourage them from finding a buyer’s agent because if they can sell directly to you through the seller then they can keep the entirety of the commission and not have to split it with your representation.

If you do find out that you are dealing with the seller’s agent you are always entitled to ask the real-estate agency that listed the house if you can deal with an agent who is not associated with the owner of the property. This could result in a fairer deal for you.

A great buyer’s agent is also willing to do, or has already done, the footwork needed to find the place that is right for you. They do not just get their for-sale sources online. Often they know their turf better than you ever could by just researching the area you want to live in on your own and online.

Prequalification for a Home Loan

If you are shopping around for a home and then applying for a home loan it means that you are putting “the cart before the horse.”  Knowing the amount of the mortgage you prequalify for before you shop around for home spares you the heartbreak of choosing a property and then being told by a lender that you cannot afford it. Having this information in-hand also impresses everyone involved in the real-estate transaction and may give you an edge in the bidding process.

bankYour first step to finding a loan is to visit the bank that offers you the lowest interest rate, but you also need to make sure that there are no “catches” to the offer. Sometimes banks advertise lower interest rates as a way of luring you into doing business with them but there can be factors involved that can elevate the cost of your mortgage. For instance, there may be a minimum down payment required on the loan before you qualify for the lower interest rate. You will also definitely be required to have a high credit rating before you will be considered for any mortgages with lower interest rates.

There can also be other hidden costs when applying for a prequalified mortgage that only really become evident once you have successfully acquired the home and it is time to sign an agreement. These hidden costs can include the closing costs, application fees and origination fees.

Before you talk to a lender it is a good idea to acquire a mortgage payment worksheet or use an online mortgage rate calculator to determine what the ballpark figure is that you can spend on a mortgage.

There is also next to no point in visiting a lender to acquired mortgage prequalification unless your debts are paid off or at the very least being paid absolutely on time; you have several active forms of credit in use including major credit cards from a prime company such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express; and ideally an already established credit line or proof that you have paid off a credit line on time and in full in the past.

Finally, if you are planning to apply for a mortgage prequalification do not buy a car, appliances or any other type of large item on credit at the same time as this can cause the lending institution to lower the amount it is willing to lend you.  It is also not a good idea to try and change jobs and buy a home at the same time, as most banks will not prequalify you for a mortgage unless you have been employed at least two years

Prequalification for a mortgage is, in a way, all about timing so make sure that you have all of the paperwork that is required in place. It is also a good idea to make sure that you have copies of everything that relates to your financial standing in place and ready to present to the lender in a meeting.

Financial Discrimination Against LGBT Buyers is Very Real

Are you an LGBT buyer that fears that you may experience financial discrimination when purchasing property or do you feel that you have already experienced the wrong kind of preferential treatment while attempting to buy a home? If so you are not alone, despite the fact that there is a Federal Fair Housing Act in place in the United States. The Fair Housing Act consists of several Housing Laws and Presidential Executive Orders that is supposed to prohibit discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings or other property-related transactions based on race, color, immigration status, sex, whether or not you have children, pregnant women and individuals with foster children.  However, the Fair Housing Act that was enacted in 1968 does not protect people from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

There are many different kinds of discrimination that LGBT couples can experience when buying a home. Same-sex couples have been told that they cannot put both of their names on a homeowner’s insurance policy, thus denying a spouse ownership of a home. Outright discrimination can occur at every level of the buying process for both single individuals and couples including an inflated asking price, a higher mortgage rate and an outright refusal to allow participation in bidding on a home for sale ~ one of the important reasons to have a gay realtor / advocate, representing you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is not a lot you can do about this type of discrimination in some states because so many do not include LGBT people in either their federal or state laws. There are only four states that legislate fair practice towards LGBT dome buyers and those are California, Minnesota, New Mexico and Rhode Island.

However, if you do feel that you have been discriminated against because of your sexual orientation there are some things you can do to protest the situation. First off, contact your local and state housing authority and register a complaint.

If you believe you have experienced (or are about to experience) housing discrimination, you should contact HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for help at (800) 669-9777.

Yet another measure you can take, that may help  prevent other LGBT buyers from suffering the same kind of discrimination is to file a complaint against the mortgage lender or real estate agent with the local real estate commission.

Again, a protective measure is to deal with a gay realtor who knows the city you are buying in, and who has some idea of the predelictions of the local mortgage lenders and who is more apt to treat you fairly when it comes to such matters as insurance, inspections, mortgage and title issues. Try to find someone who can give you good advice about how both married and unmarried couples can co-own or take title to home and be sure that you are aware of the unique legal implications of that kind of transaction in your buying area.

Apps for Testing Out Color Schemes

Have you ever walked into a new home for sale to see its walls all painted that sterile white or neutral cream tint and then wondered, “What would this place look like if I painted the walls a different color?”  It used to be that we had to hold up color chips from the paint store and work our imaginations quite hard before we could picture how a place would look if the walls were redone in a different shade.  Nowadays, however, there is an app for that!


If you own an iPhone, Android or Blackberry you are able to download any of the virtual room painting and color visualizer apps that are available online for absolutely free.  The very best ones enable you to walk into any room in a house, take a photo of a wall or room and then choose a color from an electronic palette.  With the tap of a finger your can deftly obtain a photo of the room that you think might look better painted with a certain hue and then share and upload it on social media or with someone with a similar interest in the personalization of the property.

These apps are not just handy for buyers to have on hand but they also are of great assistance to people trying to choose paint colors for the walls in a staged home as well as real estate agents that might want to show an interested party the possibilities of newly painted walls.

Big paint companies also sponsor many of these apps, so it is easy for you to just order the paint that you want online or at your local seller.   You can also save your color choices in a “favorites” color list on most of these phone programs.

Good examples of smart phone paint apps that will take the picture of the room on the spot and then virtually paint the photograph are Behr Colorsmart and Benjamin Moore Color Capture. An excellent app that is not owned by a paint store company is Paint Harmony and this are available for download on Mac or Android. You can get Mac programs by shopping the Mac store or iTunes and you can get Android apps by shopping the Google Play store.  Blackberry World is the main place online from which to download paint color visualizer programs from the Internet.

If you don’t want to upload a smart phone app you can also find online paint visualizers for your desktop or laptop computer.  Behr Paint Your Place, Benjamin Moore Personal Color Viewer and Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer will all allow you to upload a photo of the room you intend to paint and allow you to “drag and drop” colors where you intend to paint.  The Benjamin Moore program can be used as either an online or offline program but the Sherwin-Williams  and Behr color visualizers might require you to install or update programs such as Java or Flash.

Things to Consider When Buying a Historic Home

Are you considering buying a home that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places? If so, well, congratulations! You are part of an elite group of buyers that more than likely has excellent taste, a concern for preserving older architecture and you are also likely to be a little wealthier than most people. People who buy historic homes also tend to be philanthropic in nature as they can be expensive to maintain. On the other hand, some of these properties are in pristine condition as they have been renovated and maintained by caring owners that wish to preserve the building’s integrity. Historic homes, especially ones officially registered with the National History registry, also tend to have fewer past owners and be in better shape.

historic home in punta gorda
Home on the National Register of Historic Places in Punta Gorda, Florida.

In general, historic homes are a great investment because for the most part they appreciate in value. They not only command a greater asking price than an ordinary home without a National Register citation but they also sell faster if you do decide to put it on the market.  Houses in historic neighborhoods also tend to be in nicer locations with strong community associations and lots of older trees. They are also usually located close to a city or town’s downtown.

A home that is included in the National Register of Historic Places is not usually subjected to any special rules about the maintenance the federal government. However, many municipalities have designated historical districts and if you own one a home in one of these districts you might be subjected to reviews every time you try to make a change to the property. Many cities and neighborhoods also have home preservation ordinances that maintain the architectural integrity of a historic district.  Before buying a historic home it is a very good idea to investigate any organizations and commissions that may have a say in how you repair or renovate the property

In some cities you might have to acquire a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) to approve any work done on the historic home.  Usually, these certificates are an approval of details such as shutters, windows, doorknobs and other details unique to the look of the historical neighborhood. In some historic districts you may be required to replace any damaged parts of the home with the identical material to the original. The expense of finding and paying for these architectural materials is something to consider before you purchase the home.  However, as the owner of a building that has a certificate from the National Register, you might also be eligible for financial subsidies to help you afford the property’s integrity and upkeep in the in the form of loans, grants or tax write-offs.  Some states also give the owners of historic properties exemptions from property-tax assessments.

There are also many local and private organization that help owners of historic properties afford the upkeep and renovations of the property. In order to find out what kind of assistance you are eligible to receive you can check with your State Preservation Office (SHPO) that can supply you with information about planning agencies and community historical societies that may be willing to assist you with the costs of keeping the home.