Q. What are closing costs?
A. Closing costs are the fees for services, taxes or special interest charges that surround the purchase of a home. They include upfront loan points, title insurance, escrow or closing day charges, document fees, prepaid interest and property taxes. Unless, these charges are rolled into the loan, they must be paid when the home is closed.
Q. Who pays the closing costs?
A. Closing costs are either paid by the home seller or home buyer. It often depends on local custom and what the buyer or seller negotiates.
Q. Why do I need a title report?
A. As much as you as a buyer may want to believe that the home you have found is perfect, a clear title report ensures there are no liens placed against the prior owners or any documents that will restrict your use of the property. A preliminary title report provides you with an opportunity to review any impediment that would prevent clear title from passing to you. When reading a preliminary report, it is important to check the extent of your ownership rights or interest. The most common form of interest is “fee simple” or “fee,” which is the highest type of interest an owner can have in land. Liens, restrictions and interests of others excluded from title coverage will be listed numerically as exceptions in the report. You also may have to consider interests of any third parties, such as easements granted by prior owners that limit use of the property. Some buyers attempt to clear these unwanted items prior to purchase. A list of standard exceptions and exclusions not covered by the title insurance policy may be attached. This section includes items the buyer may want to investigate further, such as any laws governing building and zoning.
Q. What is the best time to sell your house?
A. In addition to supply and demand, and other economic factors, the time of year you choose to sell can make a difference both in the amount of time it takes to sell your home and in the ultimate selling price. Weather conditions are less of a consideration in more temperate climates, but most of the time, the real estate market picks up as early as February, with the strongest selling season usually lasting through May and June. With the onset of summer, the market slows. July is often the slowest month for real estate sales due to a strong spring market putting possible upward pressure on interest rates. Also, many prospective home buyers and their agents take vacations during mid-summer. Following the summer slowdown, real estate sales activity tends to pick up for a second, although less vigorous, fall market, which usually lasts into November when the market slows again as buyers and sellers turn their attention to the holidays. Sellers often wonder whether or not they should take their homes off the market for the holidays. Generally speaking, you’ll have the best results if your house is available to show to prospective buyers continuously until it sells.
Q. What is seller financing?
A. Homeowners who are anxious to sell often consider seller financing, which may include taking back a second note or even financing the entire purchase if the seller owns the home free and clear. Seller financing differs from a traditional loan because the seller does not give the buyer cash to complete the purchase. Instead, it involves extending a credit against the purchase price of the home while the buyer executes a promissory note and trust deed in the seller’s favor. These special circumstances must be acceptable to the lender who makes the first mortgage on the property. The necessary paperwork is prepared by the title or escrow company after the terms are worked out between the buyer and seller. It is critical to thoroughly evaluate the creditworthiness of the buyer first. Fear of default makes many sellers reluctant to take back a second. But seller financing can bring a higher price plus complete the sale sooner in some situations.
Q. What are the benefits of seller financing?
A. Seller financing offers benefits to both buyers and sellers including tax breaks for the seller as well as offering an alternative when conventional loans can’t be found. The risks involved are the same risks facing any lender. Is the borrower a good credit risk? Will the property hold enough value over time to allow for the repayment of all loans made against it? Sellers should run a full credit check on the borrower, require hazard insurance on the property and include a due-on-sale clause. There also are financing, disclosure and repayment-term requirements that should be met.
Q. What are the two most important factors when selling a home?
A. Even in a down market, real estate experts say price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home. So, the first step is to lower the price. Also, go through the house and see if there are cosmetic defects that you missed and can be repaired. Home sellers should make sure that the home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage and a listing on the local multiple listing service. If the seller is using a real estate agent and the property isn’t getting proper exposure, find another agent.
Q. What repairs should the seller make?
A. Most sellers like to make all minor repairs before going on the market in order to seek a higher sales price. In addition, nearly all purchase contracts include a buyer contingency “inspection clause,” which allows a buyer to back out if numerous defects are found. Once the problems are noted, buyers can attempt to negotiate repairs or a lower price.
Q. Do I have to consider contingencies?
A. If you are a seller in a seller’s market, in which there is more demand than supply, you probably won’t have to entertain too many contingencies. But if you are selling in a buyer’s market, when buyers are few, prepare to be very flexible. Granting contingencies also depends upon what kind of price you want to get and on the condition of your property, most experts agree. Remember, contingencies are written into the contract and are negotiable during the negotiation phase only.