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Common Home Buyer Questions


Question:
What is the difference between list price, sales price and appraised value?

Answer:

The list price is a seller's advertised price, a figure that usually is only a rough estimate of what the seller wants to get. Sellers can price high, low or close to what they hope to get. To judge whether the list price is a fair one, be sure to consult comparable sales prices in the area.

The sales price is the amount of money you as a buyer would pay for a property.

The appraisal value is a certified appraiser's estimate of the worth of a property, and is based on comparable sales, the condition of the property and numerous other factors.


Copyright © 1995-2001 Inman News Features
All Rights Reserved

Question:
What is the difference between market value and appraised value?

Answer:

The appraised value of a house is a certified appraiser's opinion of the worth of a home at a given point in time. Lenders require appraisals as part of the loan application process; fees range from $200 to $300.

Market value is what price the house will bring at a given point in time. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value, based on sales of comparable properties, performed by a real estate agent or broker. Either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis is the most accurate way to determine what your home is worth.


Copyright © 1995-2001 Inman News Features
All Rights Reserved

Escrow


Question:
What are closing costs?

Answer:

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.

Question:
Who pays the closing costs?

Answer:

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.

Question:
Why do I need a title report?

Answer:

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.

Question:
How do you choose between buying and renting?

Answer:

Home ownership offers tax benefits as well as the freedom to make decisions about your home. An advantage of renting is not worrying about maintenance and other financial obligations associated with owning property.

There also are a number of economic considerations. Unlike renters, home owners who secure a fixed-rate loan can lock in their monthly housing costs and make prudent investment plans knowing these expenses will not increase substantially.

Home ownership is a highly leveraged investment that can yield substantial profit on a nominal front-end investment. However, such returns depend on home-price appreciation.

"For some people, owning a home is a great feeling," writes Mitchell A. Levy in his book, "Home Ownership: The American Myth," Myth Breakers Press, Cupertino, Calif.; 1993.

"It does, however, have a price. Besides the maintenance headache, the amount of after-tax money paid to the lender is usually greater than the amount of money otherwise paid in rent," Levy concludes.

As for evaluating the risk associated with home ownership, David T. Schumacher and Erik Page Bucy write in their book "The Buy & Hold Real Estate Strategy," John Wiley & Sons, New York; 1992, that "good property located in growth areas should be regarded as an investment as opposed to a speculation or gamble."

The authors recommend that prospective buyers spend a few months investigating a community. Many people make the mistake of buying in the wrong area.

"Just because certain properties are high-priced doesn't necessarily mean they have some inherent advantage," the authors write. "One property may cost more than another today, but will it still be worth more down the line?

FindingHome


Question:
What are the pros and cons of adding on or buying new?

Answer:

Before making a choice between adding on to an existing home or buying a larger one, consider these questions:

* How much money is available, either from cash reserves or through a home improvement loan, to remodel your current house?
* How much additional space is required? Would the foundation support a second floor or does the lot have room to expand on the ground level?
* What do local zoning and building ordinances permit?
* How much equity already exists in the property?
* Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?

Ultimately, the decision should be based on individual needs, the extent of work involved and what will add the most value.

For more information, check out "The Do-able Renewable Home," a free booklet available from the American Association of Retired Persons, Fulfillment Department, 601 E St., N.W., Washington, DC 20049; (202) 434-2277.

Question:
What's a home inspection?

Answer:

A home inspection is when a paid professional inspector -- often a contractor or an engineer -- inspects the home, searching for defects or other problems that might plague the owner later on. They usually represent the buyer and or paid by the buyer. The inspection usually takes place after a purchase contract between buyer and seller has been signed.

Question:
What contingencies should be put in an offer?

Answer:

Most offers include two standard contingencies: a financing contingency, which makes the sale dependent on the buyers' ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender, and an inspection contingency, which allows buyers to have professionals inspect the property to their satisfaction.

A buyer could forfeit his or her deposit under certain circumstances, such as backing out of the deal for a reason not stipulated in the contract.

The purchase contract must include the seller’s responsibilities, such things as passing clear title, maintaining the property in its present condition until closing and making any agreed-upon repairs to the property.

Question:
Whose obligation is it to disclose pertinent information about a property?

Answer:

In most states, it is the seller, but obligations to disclose information about a property vary.

Under the strictest laws, you and your agent, if you have one, are required to disclose all facts materially affecting the value or desirability of the property which are known or accessible only to you.

This might include: homeowners association dues; whether or not work done on the house meets local building codes and permits requirements; the presence of any neighborhood nuisances or noises which a prospective buyer might not notice, such as a dog that barks every night or poor TV reception; any death within three years on the property; and any restrictions on the use of the property, such as zoning ordinances or association rules.

It is wise to check your state's disclosure rules prior to a home purchase.

Question:
Do I need an attorney when I buy a house?

Answer:

In some states, you do need an attorney to complete a real estate transaction, but in others you do not.

Most home buyers are capable of handling routine real estate purchase contracts as long as they make certain they read the fine print and understand all the terms of the contract. In particular, you should be clear on the terms of any contingency clauses that will allow them to back out of the contract.

If you have any questions at all, it may be advisable to consult an attorney to avoid future legal hassles. In looking for an attorney, ask friends for recommendations or ask your real estate agent to recommend several. Call to inquire about fees and to check on their experience. In general, more experienced attorneys will cost more, but real estate fees as a rule are small relative to the cost of the property you are buying.

Question:
Can you negotiate the price on new homes?

Answer:

It can be difficult to negotiate the sales price with a developer because they may claim their prices are based on fixed construction costs. But it doesn't hurt to try.

Experts say builders more likely to be flexible on price at the very beginning and the very end of a development project. Early on, most developers want to move people in quickly so the project picks up momentum. Later, developers may be more inclined to accept lower offers when only a few units remain.

If negotiating the price doesn't work, buyers commonly negotiate for better amenities (upgrade carpet, light fixtures, etc.) or lot location. Experts say a developer will rarely pass up a deal over a couple hundred dollars' worth of carpeting, for example.

Question:
What is the best time to buy?

Answer:

Because many buyers prefer to move in the spring or summer, the market starts to heat up as early as February. Families with children are eager to buy so they can move during summer vacation, before the new school year begins.

The market slows down in late summer before picking up again briefly in the fall. November and December have traditionlly been slow months, although some astute buyers look for bargains during this period.

Question:
How much does my real estate agent need to know?

Answer:

Real estate agents would say that the more you tell them, the better they can negotiate on your behalf. However, the degree of trust you have with an agent may depend upon their legal obligation.

Agents working for buyers have three possible choices: They can represent the buyer exclusively, called single agency, or represent the seller exclusively, called sub-agency, or represent both the buyer and seller in a dual-agency situation.

Some states require agents to disclose all possible agency relationships before they enter into a residential real estate transaction. Here is a summary of the three basic types:
* In a traditional relationship, real estate agents and brokers have a fiduciary relationship to the seller. Be aware that the seller pays the commission of both brokers, not just the one who lists and shows the property, but also to the sub-broker, who brings the ready, willing and able buyer to the table.
* Dual agency exists if two agents working for the same broker represent the buyer and seller in a transaction. A potential conflict of interest is created if the listing agent has advance knowledge of another buyer's offer. Therefore, the law states that a dual agent shall not disclose to the buyer that the seller will accept less than the list price, or disclose to the seller that the buyer will pay more than the offer price, without express written permission.
* A buyer also can hire his or her own agent who will represent the buyer's interests exclusively. A buyer's agent usually must be paid out of the buyer's own pocket but the buyer can trust them with financial information, knowing it will not be transmitted to the other broker and ultimately to the seller.

Question:
How do property taxes work?

Answer:

Property taxes are what most homeowners in the United States pay for the privilege of owning a piece of real estate, on average 1.5 percent of the property's current market value. These annual local assessments by county or local authorities help pay for public services and are calculated using a variety of formulas.

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