Whether you're a first-time home buyer or a veteran, buying a home is a complex process. Hopefully the following information will answer some of your questions. If you have other questions or would like more details then please contact us any time. Feel free to call us or you can even send us messages directly from the web on our Contact Us page, and we will will get back with you as soon as possible.

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below cited from: "Why use a Realtor" - Realtor.com

What a REALTOR® Can Do for You

The REALTOR® you work with could be one of your most valuable resources. Unlike many real estate agents who are simply licensed by their state to do business, REALTORS® have taken additional steps to become members of the local board of REALTORS® and have agreed to act under and adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. Plus...

  • A REALTOR® can help you determine how much home you can afford. Often a REALTOR® can suggest ways to accrue the down payment and explain alternative financing methods.
  • A REALTOR®, in addition to knowing the local money market, also can tell you what personal and financial data to bring with you when you apply for a interest rate.
  • A REALTOR® is already familiar with current real estate values, taxes, utility costs, municipal services and facilities, and may be aware of local zoning changes that could affect your decision to buy.
  • A REALTOR® can usually research your housing needs in advance through a Multiple Listing Service--even if you are relocating from another city.
  • A REALTOR® can show you only those homes best suited to your needs--size, style, features, location, accessibility to schools, transportation, shopping and other personal preferences.
  • A REALTOR® often can suggest simple, imaginative changes that make a home more suitable for you and improve its utility and value.
  • A REALTOR® is sensitive to the importance you place on this major commitment you are about to make. Look for a real estate professional to facilitate negotiation of a win-win agreement that will satisfy both you and the seller.

Why Use a REALTOR®

All real estate licensees are not the same. Only real estate licensees who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® are properly called REALTORS®. They proudly display the REALTOR "®" logo on the business card or other marketing and sales literature. REALTORS® are committed to treat all parties to a transaction honestly. REALTORS® subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics and are expected to maintain a higher level of knowledge of the process of buying and selling real estate. An independent survey reports that 84% of home buyers would use the same REALTOR® again.

Real estate transactions involve one of the biggest financial investments most people experience in their lifetime. Transactions today usually exceed $100,000. If you had a $100,000 income tax problem, would you attempt to deal with it without the help of a CPA? If you had a $100,000 legal question, would you deal with it without the help of an attorney? Considering the small upside cost and the large downside risk, it would be foolish to consider a deal in real estate without the professional assistance of a REALTOR®.

But if you're still not convinced of the value of a REALTOR®, here are a dozen more reasons to use one:

1. Your REALTOR® can help you determine your buying power -- that is, your financial reserves plus your borrowing capacity. If you give a REALTOR® some basic information about your available savings, income and current debt, he or she can refer you to lenders best qualified to help you. Most lenders -- banks and mortgage companies -- offer limited choices.

2. Your REALTOR® has many resources to assist you in your home search. Sometimes the property you are seeking is available but not actively advertised in the market, and it will take some investigation by your agent to find all available properties.

3. Your REALTOR® can assist you in the selection process by providing objective information about each property. Agents who are REALTORS® have access to a variety of informational resources. REALTORS® can provide local community information on utilities, zoning. schools, etc. There are two things you'll want to know. First, will the property provide the environment I want for a home or investment? Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell?

4. Your REALTOR® can help you negotiate. There are myriad negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession and often the inclusion or exclusion of repairs and furnishings or equipment. The purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

5. Your REALTOR® provides due diligence during the evaluation of the property. Depending on the area and property, this could include inspections for termites, dry rot, asbestos, faulty structure, roof condition, septic tank and well tests, just to name a few. Your REALTOR® can assist you in finding qualified responsible professionals to do most of these investigations and provide you with written reports. You will also want to see a preliminary report on the title of the property. Title indicates ownership of property and can be mired in confusing status of past owners or rights of access. The title to most properties will have some limitations; for example, easements (access rights) for utilities. Your REALTOR®, title company or attorney can help you resolve issues that might cause problems at a later date.

6.Your REALTOR® can help you in understanding different financing options and in identifying qualified lenders.

7. Your REALTOR® can guide you through the closing process and make sure everything flows together smoothly.

8. When selling your home, your REALTOR® can give you up-to-date information on what is happening in the marketplace and the price, financing, terms and condition of competing properties. These are key factors in getting your property sold at the best price, quickly and with minimum hassle.

9. Your REALTOR® markets your property to other real estate agents and the public. Often, your REALTOR® can recommend repairs or cosmetic work that will significantly enhance the salability of your property. Your REALTOR® markets your property to other real estate agents and the public. In many markets across the country, over 50% of real estate sales are cooperative sales; that is, a real estate agent other than yours brings in the buyer. Your REALTOR® acts as the marketing coordinator, disbursing information about your property to other real estate agents through a Multiple Listing Service or other cooperative marketing networks, open houses for agents, etc. The REALTOR® Code of Ethics requires REALTORS® to utilize these cooperative relationships when they benefit their clients.

10. Your REALTOR® will know when, where and how to advertise your property. There is a misconception that advertising sells real estate. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® studies show that 82% of real estate sales are the result of agent contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, family and personal contacts. When a property is marketed with the help of your REALTOR®, you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Your REALTOR® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

11. Your REALTOR® can help you objectively evaluate every buyer's proposal without compromising your marketing position. This initial agreement is only the beginning of a process of appraisals, inspections and financing -- a lot of possible pitfalls. Your REALTOR® can help you write a legally binding, win-win agreement that will be more likely to make it through the process.

12. Your REALTOR® can help close the sale of your home. Between the initial sales agreement and closing (or settlement), questions may arise. For example, unexpected repairs are required to obtain financing or a cloud in the title is discovered. The required paperwork alone is overwhelming for most sellers. Your REALTOR® is the best person to objectively help you resolve these issues and move the transaction to closing (or settlement).

What Is a REALTOR®?

A real estate agent is a REALTOR® when he or she is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, The Voice for Real Estate® -- the world's largest professional association.

The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

Founded in 1908, NAR has grown from its original nucleus of 120 to today's 720,000 members. NAR is composed of residential and commercial REALTORS®, who are brokers, salespeople, property managers, appraisers, counselors and others engaged in all aspects of the real estate industry. Members belong to one or more of some 1,700 local associations/boards and 54 state and territory associations of REALTORS®. They can join one of our many institutes, societies and councils. Additionally, NAR offers members the opportunity to be active in our appraisal and international real estate specialty sections.

REALTORS® are pledged to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. Working for America's property owners, the National Association provides a facility for professional development, research and exchange of information among its members and to the public and government for the purpose of preserving the free enterprise system and the right to own real property.

Renting vs. Burying: Which is right?

When deciding whether you should be renting or buying a home, there are several factors you should consider.

Renting
The Disadvantages of Renting
As a renter, you have to pay so much every month for rent, but that money never goes toward ownership.

Also, you're making rent payments, not mortgage payments. Therefore, you can't deduct mortgage interest from your taxes.

Renters generally aren't allowed to fashion their living space to their preferences, like putting in different flooring or putting up wallpaper.

Noisy or nosy neighbors can also pose more of a problem since, in most apartments, you share walls with them.

The Advantages of Renting
Renters generally don't have to do the work in maintaining the place. They don't have to fix the water heater or a leaky faucet. Repairs are taken care of by the landlord.

When the lease is up, renters can just move out. You don't have to take care of making sure someone else is going to rent that space.

Lastly, up-front costs can be less when renting than with buying. You generally only have to put up the first and last month's rent plus a security deposit. After you're done renting, you get that money back provided the place is in acceptable condition.

Buying a Home
The Disadvantages of Homeownership
While historically, home values across the country have risen, there's always a possibility that home values in a local area may fall.

If you move, you have to arrange for the sale of your home.

It's also your responsibility to maintain the home and bear any costs for repairs.

The Advantages of Homeownership
When you buy a home, part of the money you pay towards your mortgage every month gets applied toward your principal. This means you build equity every time you make a mortgage payment, until you eventually own your home outright. There are also tax advantages to home ownership-mortgage interest is tax deductible*.

Homeowners also build equity through appreciation. Your home is typically your largest financial asset and the value can be positively affected by factors like home improvements, inflation and the demand for land.

Another advantage to buying a home is that you don't have to have a large amount of out-of-pocket up-front costs. There are loan programs that allow you to buy a home with little or no down payment. There are even interest rate programs, such as interest-only loans, that allow you to buy a more expensive home than you might have thought possible.

And because you own your home, you can design and decorate to your own taste. If you want to add an addition or remodel the kitchen, the only thing limiting you is your imagination. And the more you remodel and upgrade, the more you increase the value of the home.

Ultimately, it's up to you to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of renting and buying. You must assess your individual situation to see which makes more financial sense for you.

Should you buy points or not?

Discount mortgage points seem to confuse a lot of people. Many folks aren't sure what they are, when they should buy them, or if they actually did buy points when they got their mortgage. The truth is, points aren't that complicated. In fact, some simple math can make it really easy to determine if you will benefit from purchasing points.

First things first. Make sure you understand what points are. Points (or discount points) are simply pre-paid interest. One point amounts to 1% of the total mortgage. If you have a $100,000 mortgage, one point costs $1,000. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Now, why would anyone pre-pay interest? Good question!

You pre-pay interest to get a lower interest rate for the life of your loan. And because points are pre-paid interest, you can, in most cases, deduct them from your taxes in the year that you pay the points. That's a nice one-time tax benefit!

So, if you want the lowest interest rate possible on any given day, you'd have to buy points, which is also called "buying down your rate." Every day, when rates are issued, a certain amount of points are tied to certain interest rates. For example, if you've heard the term "zero point rate," that means that rate has no points attached to it. You get that rate without pre-paying any interest. A one point rate would have one point attached to it and a two point rate, two points attached to it, etc.

If you want a rate below the zero point rate, you have to pay points to your lender. If you are willing to accept a rate above the zero point rate, you can actually get money back or a credit on your closing costs. This is often how "no closing cost" options are created - you typically get a loan with the highest interest rate available and a lender will credit back all your normal closing costs.

To find out if buying points will pay off for your situation, here's some simple math you can do (go ahead, whip out the calculator):

OK, let's assume you are considering two options on the day you want to lock your mortgage interest rate:

In this scenario, you would pay 0.75% (3/4 of 1%) less interest on your mortgage each year with the 5.25% option. To get this rate, you have to buy one point upfront.

Now that you have your basic numbers, it's time for some basic math. To figure out if buying points makes sense, divide the total points paid (one, in the example above) by the difference in rate (0.75) which, in this example equals 1.33 (one divided by 0.75). This is the number of years it will take you to break even from your investment in points. In months, this would be 16.

To summarize, it would take you 16 months to recoup your pre-paid interest money (regardless of your mortgage amount - it's the same whether you have a $100,000 or a $500,000 mortgage) and from then on you would enjoy your low 5.25% for the duration of your remaining mortgage. If you think you will be in your home more than 16 months, you're saving money from that point forward. Now that's a good investment!