What to do when you find the right home?

One of the best things about my job is showing homes. I have the pleasure of escorting clients as we tour homes in search for the one that meets their criteria. I’m always amazed at how the interior of a home is another world, hidden from view, and full of surprises. Some are in better shape than others, but everyone is looking for something different, so even a fixer-upper in dire straights can be the One for the right buyer.

I recently showed a new listing in a neighboring town to a couple I’ve been working with for a couple of months. They have specific criteria, and are serious buyers, and this home hit all the right notes for them. I was so happy to have finally found the One for them!  They loved it.  Then, on the drive back home, I got a call from the listing Agent, asking how my showing went, and letting me know that if they were interested, he also had another offer coming in, in case we wanted to also make an offer to be considered by the seller at the same time.  I relayed this information to my Clients, but when it came down to it they weren’t really ready to jump on the opportunity, and lost out to the other buyer.

The Moral of the Story?

I was disappointed in myself for not helping my Client be more prepared. We had discussed things like pre-approval letters, but I hadn’t followed up to be sure they really were ready to rock and roll when the right opportunity presented itself. In the current market of low inventory, when you spot the property you want to buy, you need to be in a position to move quickly!  This means that you need to do some prep work before hand to prepare.

One of the most important first steps is to have that conversation with your banker. Find out what your do-able price range will be, get pre-approved, and get a letter from the bank that certifies that pre-approval status and can be included with any offers you may wish to make. Without that letter, your offer may not be seriously considered. Some banks prefer to issue the letters for specific properties, but a general letter is nice to have on hand, especially if you are house hunting on a weekend and need to be nimble with your offers.  If you will be paying cash for a purchase, you will need a letter certifying that you have the funds to do so.

Before you head out to look, consider the possibility that you may find that great property that day, and decide what you are willing to do about it. Are you prepared to sign your name on an offer?  Have you had those serious talks with your spouse? Have you discussed which locations you would be willing to live in, or what features are deal-breakers or deal-makers? Are you ready, in your own heart, to sign that check or that mortgage?

In other words, are you mentally and emotionally prepared to jump into the real estate game of offers and counter offers? You won’t be alone, your Realtor will be there to interpret, to guide the negotiations, to stay on top of things — but you need to be ready, willing, and able to make a viable offer, or you may lose out on the property you want to call home.

Take your time and prepare yourself before you venture out into the heady world of house-hunting, get that letter from the bank, know how much you are able to spend, and be sure about what you want to do if and when you find the house you want to commit to.  If you are faced with a quick decision, and need to be able to pull together a fast offer, you will not be working in a panic, you won’t be making any spur of the moment choices, you’ll just be taking the next step in a well-planned process that will culminate with you living in that wonderful new place you’ll call home.


What your Realtor can do for you

This is Part 3 of a series about selling your home.

Once you have made the decision to sell your home, and have gotten your financial ‘ducks in a row’, you may be ready to hire a Realtor.

Selling a property is a complex business that extends far beyond listing the home, showing it to prospective buyers, and collecting the money when it’s sold. A good Realtor will shepherd you through the process of pricing the property, readying it for sale, listing it, marketing, processing offers, inspections, and finally all the intricate aspects of closing.

Your Realtor will work to get you the best price for your home, they will know about the new regulations on lending, about local zoning issues, and they will know when to accept an offer and when to turn it down.  More than ever, in these days of changing regulations and for-sale-by-owner homes, you need a professional on your side.

So, how do you find a good Realtor? In our small town environment, word of mouth is a great way to find someone who is leaving happy customers behind. Be sure your agent is licensed and working for a reputable broker, and take the time to interview a couple of folks before you choose the person who will be helping you through such an important process. Marion county has many fine agents, and finding just the right fit for you may come down to whom you feel comfortable with, who has a great reputation, and who has the marketing power to get the word out about your listing.  After all, your agent will guide the way through a labyrinth of emotions, paperwork, personal questions, and stressful wait-times — be sure you trust them and like them.

Below are some links to articles with more good advice on selecting the right Realtor for your needs:

How to Find a Realtor from Realtor.com
184 Tasks Agents Do for You
How to Find and Keep a Real Estate Agent you Love

Selling Your Home: Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row

This is the second in a series of posts about how to sell your home.  This installment is about preparing your finances for selling and moving on from there.

When you sell your home, you’ll probably need to move into a new home, whether you’re upsizing, downsizing, or moving across the country.  Having your finances in order before you list is an important first step in preparing for the big change. These are a few steps you can take to ensure that your financial ducks are in a row before you list:

  • Grow your moneySave, Save, Save: When you move, you will need to make a 20% down payment on your next home, plus pay for expenses like inspections, closing costs, moving, and repairs and updates to the new property. If you have a nest-egg to cover these costs, the whole process will go more smoothly.  Depending on the condition of your home, the status of your existing mortgage, and the housing market, you may end up with a profit on the sale of your current property, but having some latitude before it sells works in your favor.
  • Be careful with your credit!  Your credit score will have a big impact on what kind of financing you can get, so if you will need a loan for a new home to live in when yours sells, do what you can to increase that score! Some steps to make your score the best it can be:
    • Avoid applying for new credit until you have closed on a new home
    • Don’t make large purchases
    • Pay all your bills on time
  • Work with your banker to prepare for the next step: Talk with your banker to find out how much you owe on your current home, whether you will need to sell it before you buy a new place, and how much financing you will be able to qualify for as you search for your next home.
  • Find a Great Realtor:  Not only will you need a great Realtor to sell your home, you’ll need their expertise to prepare before you even get to listing.  Your Realtor will need to be part of the early conversation because they can do the research to help you figure out what price you can expect your existing home to sell for.

Having your finances in order, and being an informed consumer will make you a better decision maker when you get into the housing market.

Here are a couple of great articles with more information on getting your financial ducks in a row:

7 Ways to Maintain a Good Credit Score

How to save a down payment for a home

It’s a Seller’s Market

You’ve probably heard by now that it’s a seller’s market.  But really, it is!  All over Iowa and beyond, the inventory of homes for sale is at historic low levels.

What does that mean for you?

It means that if you have been thinking about selling your home, you should think seriously about getting it on the market, because your chances of selling quickly are quite good.  Winter is often a slower time for home buying and selling, but this winter has been an exception, we’ve been busy!  Interest rates are still great, and home prices are rising, so consumers are flocking to take advantage of the good conditions while they last. Many homes in our market have been selling within the first few weeks, or even days, of being listed.  Your chances of getting a strong price for your home are also good, so if you have been ‘underwater’ you might be pleasantly surprised at how shifts in the market have changed that.

When you decide to sell, you’ll need to formulate a plan to prepare the home for selling and for where you will live after the home sells. A good place to start is with your local Realtor and your banker. They can help guide you through the process of selling your home and buying a new one, from start to finish.  You should also be aware that new laws have changed the home buying process considerably in the last few years, so if you consider yourself an old hand, you may have a few new tricks to learn.

Selling your home is a serious endeavor, but some planning, elbow grease and great advice can make the process go smoothly. So this is the first of a series of posts to help you get those ducks in a row!

Coming Home

Those of us who are in on the secret know that small town and rural life is worth the commute, the lack of some amenities, the mice in the house, the dust on the shelf.  It’s quiet, except for the birds. Traffic is easy, except during planting and harvest season, when getting behind a combine on the highway is an exercise in patience. If you forget to lock your doors, it’s really no big deal.  When you go to the store, you usually run into several folks you know. If your kids are up to something, you hear about it — good or bad.  You are on a first name basis with the police, the superintendent of schools, the banker, the city council, the grocer, and the road grader. Because they’re your neighbors, your kids go to school together, and you see them in church on Sunday.


It’s a good life. It’s a different kind of life from the one you’ll find in the city.  And home ownership in a small town is a different endeavor too.  You may not find all the brand new amenities you desire, options in your price range may e a bit limited, you may need some imagination to find the potential in the best deal. When you decide to buy or sell, you’ll be working with people you know, which can be nice, but can also be a little bit of being up in each other’s private business.  Your realtors, bankers, and inspectors should be masters of discretion.  I know, because I’m a Realtor working for Iowa Realty in Knoxville, Iowa, and this blog is all about helping you find, finance, maintain, and sell your home in this wonderful small town environment.