Free Reports
 
For Buyers...
  • Making the Move Easy on the Kids
  • Six Ways to Beat the Stress of Buying a New Home
  • Different Reasons to Own Your Own Home
  • Things You Should Know about Moving
  • Five Powerful Buying Strategies
  • Four Things to Consider - Buying a Home
  • 8 Steps to Getting Your Finances in Order
  • Budget Basics Work Sheet
  • 8 Ways to Improve Your Credit
  • 5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score
  • Your Property Wish List
  • Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood
  • Tips on Buying in a Tight Market
  • The Pros and Cons of Condos
  • 6 Reasons You Need a REALTOR
  • Questions to Ask When Choosing a REALTOR
  • 10 Steps to Prepare for Homeownership
  • How Big a Mortgage Can I Afford?
  • 7 Reasons to Own Your Own Home
  • 5 Common First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes
  • 10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers
  • 10 Things to Take the Trauma Out of Homebuying
  • How High Tech Is Your Home?
  • Hidden Home Defects to Watch For
  • 10 Questions to Ask a Home Inspector
  • What Your Home Inspection Should Cover
  • How Comprehensive Is Your Home Warranty?
  • 5 Property Tax Questions You Need to Ask
  • 10 Questions to Ask Your Condo Board
  • 10 Questions to Ask Your Lender
  • 10 Things a Lender Needs From You
  • 6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home
  • Choices That Will Affect Your Loan
  • 5 Things to Understand About Homeowners Insurance
  • 10 Ways to Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Costs
  • 5 Things to Understand About Title Insurance
  • What Not to Overlook on a Final Walk-through
  • Common Closing Costs for Buyers
  • What to Keep From Your Closing
  • Tips for Packing Like a Pro
  • For Sellers...
  • 14 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent
  • How To Get Top Dollar In Any Market
  • When Selling Your Home
  • NINE Deadly Mistakes Home Sellers Make
  • Important Considerations About Setting a Price
  • Understanding Agency
  • 5 Things to Do Before You Sell
  • Tips for Holding a Yard Sale
  • 10 Ways to Make Your House More Salable
  • 5 Ways to Speed Up Your Sale
  • 7 Steps to Preparing for an Open House
  • 10 Ways to Make Your Home Irresistible at an Open House
  • 7 Terms to Watch for in a Purchase Contract
  • What You’ll Net at Closing
  • Moving Tips for Sellers
  • 6 Items to Have on Hand for the New Owners
  • 20 Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home
  • What Is Appraised Value?
  • Understanding Capital Gains in Real Estate
  • Does Moving Up Make Sense?
  • Remodeling That Pays
  • 12 Tips for Hiring a Remodeling Contractor
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    Making the Move Easy on the Kids...

    Moving from one house to another is seldom easy and fun for adults and it can be especially troubling for the children. But if parents deal with their children's concerns and needs thoughtfully, much of that distress and discomfort can be avoided. Children see moves differently than their parents do, and they benefit much less from the change in their comfortable routines, or so it seems at the time. Most often, a change in houses or communities heralds an important step forward for the adult members of the family. The family moves because Daddy or Mommy has a great new job or a promotion in reward for years of hard work. They move because financial success has allowed the purchase of a bigger and nicer house in a more costly neighborhood. They move because they can finally afford private bedrooms for each child and perhaps a pool in the back yard. In the 1990's, mobile and hard striving people typically lived in a house for about four years and then moved on as their careers or fortunes allowed. That short time span is only a small percentage of the life-to-date for a 30 or 40 year old. That same four years is half a life-time for an 8 year old, and it includes almost all the years he or she can remember. To a parent, this house may just be the place they have recently lived. They think of it as a way station on the road of life. To kids, however, it may be the only home they have ever really known. This is their house, the place they feel safe, comfortable and thoroughly at home. A house is much more than a roof and walls to a child. It is the center of his or her world. A move threatens to take that sphere away and leave something totally strange in its place. The familiar friends, schools, shops and theaters, the streets, trees and parks - all will no longer exist for them. Everything soon will be strange, and they will live in someone else's world.

    The impact of a move on a typical child starts about the time he or she first hears that Daddy has accepted a promotion, and often continues for about a year, until the new house becomes home, and memories of the previous place fade. It's not usually necessary to announce this big change to children immediately, although they must hear about it from you before someone else breaks the news. Most teenagers see themselves as adult members of the family, and will probably feel they have been left out if they don't hear everything from the first day. But it is probably not a good idea to tell toddlers and preschoolers until they have to know. There is no point in making them worry far in advance.

    Be sure to announce the move in a totally positive way. You might say how proud you are that Daddy's company has chosen him out of many other employees to manage a new office in Cleveland. Talk about what a beautiful city Cleveland is, how good the schools are, and how nice the people are. Tell truthful but very positive stories about how nice the new house will be. Ask them what the favorite things are in their lives now, and then try to make them happen in the new home. If the new home is too far away to allow a visit by the entire family after it has been selected, show the children pictures of it from every angle. Videotape it, if you can. Emphasize the positive views and be sure to include pictures of each child's new room. Try to name the house with some romantic description like "Oak Hill" for the big trees and the sloping lawn.

    Sugar coating will help, but since children can quickly see the negative sides of most situations, every parent must plan to deal with their children's worries, fears and sorrows. The children will lose friends they may have known all their lives. They will leave behind their sports teams, their clubs, and their dancing teachers. They will have to start over in a new place-- making friends, becoming accepted, and fitting into different groups. Younger children need protection from fear of the unknown. Listen carefully to their concerns, and respond quickly to allay their apprehensions. It would be normal, for instance, for a young child to worry that his or her toy box and shelf of stuffed animals might be left behind. Find those anxieties and correct them.

    One of the best tactics is to get the children actively involved in the whole process. Don't just promise to let them decorate their own rooms, for example. Take them to the paint store and let them bring home color swatches. Shop for bed spreads and towels and carpets. They must leave old friends behind, so find ways to make that parting almost pleasant. Plan a going-away party and let them invite their own guests. Take pictures of everyone and make a photo album. If a child is old enough, send him or her out with a roll of film in the camera and the assignment to photograph the views they will want to remember. Some relationships will be extremely difficult to break and these will demand careful, thoughtful, personalized planning by both parents. How, for instance, do you move a 17-year-old 1,000 miles from her steady boyfriend?

    Expect that your children may be even more distressed after the move than they were before it. The new house will not be beautiful the night after the moving van leaves, nor for months after. The furniture won't fit the rooms. The curtains won't be up, and every spot on the floor will be covered with half-unpacked cartons. The children won't know anyone at school and, if you move during the summer, they may have little opportunity to meet anyone their age. You may be faced with many more problems in your new community than they will, but keep in mind that you can handle them more easily than they can.

    They will need your help, and you should plan to give them the support they need. After the move, give each of them a long distance telephone call allowance so they can keep in touch with the people back home who matter the most to them. Buy a stack of picture postcards that show positive views of your new community, and encourage them to write good news messages to the friends and relatives they left behind. To make new friends, make sure the children don't vegetate in front of the television. Get them outside, where neighbors pass by. Have them pass out fliers to do baby-sitting or car washing. Encourage them to participate in as many school activities as they can handle. Get them on sports teams and into clubs.

    If they - and you - aren't making new friends fast enough, throw a housewarming party for yourselves and invite all the adults and children on the block. If serious emotional or attitudinal problems arise, however, help is usually available and probably should be sought. Ask a teacher or youth pastor for help. Consider professional counseling. Don't let a serious problem slide.

    Remember that the newness will wear off. New friends will become old friends and best friends. This new house may become the family homestead your grandchildren will visit every holiday season. There will be discomforts, but in the long run, everything will work out fine.

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    Six Ways to Beat the Stress of Buying a New Home...

    Death, Divorce, and Moving are the three most stressful experiences in life. There are two very different kinds of needs that people have while moving. First there are the transactional needs, like finding the home that is just right for you, finding a seller who is realistic, negotiating the price, filling out the paperwork, handling the escrow, and arranging for the move. But there are also emotional needs that are involved when moving, and this is where the biggest stress comes in. Any competent agent will handle the transactional needs for you, but if your emotional needs are unfulfilled, you'll be frustrated and may not act in your own best interests. The ideal real estate agent is one who is competent with paperwork and numbers, but one who can also guide, direct, and counsel you through the emotional ups and downs of moving.

    Here are the six best ways we've found to beat the stress.

    1. Begin with the end in mind. Have an ultimate scenario of where you're trying to be. What will life be like when you get there? How will it be better than where you are now? Dwell on that picture and write it out, fill up at least a page about how it feels in the new place. This is imperative. Having the goal in front of you at all times energizes you to achieve it, in spite of setbacks and frustrations. Emotions will run high and you need an anchor. In childbirth, the Lamaze method teaches you to focus on one spot when enduring labor pains, all the while anticipating the treasure that is the result of all your efforts. In the same way, you too must focus on that future goal when anxiety threatens to get the better of you.
    2. Be flexible. In your monetary calculations, overestimate by a thousand dollars. In this market, anything can happen between contract acceptance and closing. It could be that the inspections reveal areas of concern that the seller is unwilling to fix, or the repair costs are higher than the amount limited in the contract. Or the interest rate changes, which affects the necessary down payment and closing costs you will need to come up with. As your real estate team, we will strive to tie up loose ends as quickly as possible, but remember there is no perfect world. Most buyers feel a bit overwhelmed when taking on a new mortgage and the responsibilities of a new home, and many buyers get angry when it seems like costs just keep escalating. Anger is caused when reality doesn't match up with the expectations. So if you anticipate this happening in advance, you won't get angry. In fact, it'll probably go better than you expected.
    3. Trust in the process. There's just so much to do, it's easy to panic. You wonder if it will ever work out. You think you're taking a big chance, but the truth is you're giving yourself a big chance. Even though you can't see every step of the way, as you move towards your goals, the way opens up. Anytime you move, it's a major upheaval in your life. But your real estate agent can help you. Trust that they know the way to get you there.
    4. Get knowledge. One thing you'll probably feel during this transition time is being out of control. It feels like everyone else has taken over your life. The seller, your lender, the appraiser, the inspectors; all have the power to say yes or no to your moving plans. Your real estate agent will do their best to let you know ahead of time what your expenses will be, and what the unknowns are. They'll tie down the loose ends as soon as possible. They'll try to get your loan approved within a reasonable time frame. They'll educate you as best they can and let you in "behind the scenes" so you won't ever feel uninformed or out of control.
    5. What is your option? When things don't go as smoothly as you had hoped, don't let emotions take over. Always ask yourself "What is my option?", because there are always options. For example, perhaps the lender takes longer than agreed upon to get your loan. He keeps asking you for more and more documentation until if feels like he also needs to know how many gold fillings you have in your mouth! You'll feel upset because you wanted to feel certain about the move and instead, you continue to deal with the uncertainty. You want to say, "Forget it, I'm fed up with this!" But what is your option? Find a new lender and start the process over again? That may take weeks, plus you will have to provide all the paperwork over again. If the lender is trying his best, it may be better to give him a few more days. Each case is unique, but when setbacks occur, asking yourself this question helps to defuse the situation and restore clear headed thinking.
    6. Seek entertainment. When there's nothing you can do about the situation, take your mind off of it altogether. Maybe you expected loan approval on Friday, but now it won't come until Monday. You hate being in limbo and feeling powerless. So do something else entirely, maybe something empowering. Take a hike, play tennis, get out of town for the day. Watch a movie, visit friends, or pour yourself into your work. Whatever diversion works best for you, now would be a good time to engage in it. Just forget the situation and refuse to listen to those irritating thoughts when they come into your head. Think about something else instead and just take it one day at a time.

    To keep stress to a minimum, here's how your real estate agent can serve you when buying your new home:
    -Give you their expert counsel and advice, with your interests in mind.
    -Help you clarify your goals and motivation, and help you decide if moving is the wisest choice at this time.
    -Provide recommendations and information to help your kids through all the changes.
    -Negotiate effectively for you to get the lowest possible price for your new home.
    -Handle your financial transactions like it was their own, shaving every expense possible.
    -Protect your interests during escrow, keeping a detailed record of the transaction.
    -Be your levelheaded sounding board or relief valve when the stress is overwhelming.
    -Counsel you through the feelings of "buyer's remorse".
    -Alert you ahead of time to every possibility so you feel more in control.
    -Contact you daily during the last 10 days of the transaction to serve your needs.
    -Provide guidance and help with movers, change of address, utilities shut off, cleaning, etc.
    -Deliver your closing paperwork.
    -Continue to give you information of value after the transaction... for life.

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    Different Reasons to Own Your Own Home...

    You've probably seen lots of financial arguments about why you should own your own home rather than rent. This includes budgeting (no rent increases)
    and the tax savings you'll most likely have. Now I'm going to give you some reasons you probably haven't heard.

    1. Freedom to pursue other goals in life once the major goal of home ownership is achieved.
    Strange as it sounds, many of my first-time buyers have told me that once they bought the house, other things in their life started to fall
    into place. It's as if not owning took so much of their mental energy that other goals were not worked on until that big goal was reached. So buy a
    home and get on with your life!
    2. A greater sense of belonging to the community.
    Once you own a home, you feel more attached to the city in which you live. You're more interested in what happens in town, to the roads, schools, and
    shopping areas. Some people even become involved in local politics, which you seldom see a renter do.
    3. A commitment to something, a sense of stability.
    Home ownership is an anchor, something that cannot be pulled out from under you. You'll never get a notice that you have to move. Your kids will never
    have to change schools. It gives you freedom to plan years ahead.
    4. You can change things, a feeling of being in control.
    It's your home. You can add to it, remodel it, change the landscaping, do whatever projects you want. You have a feeling of being in control of
    something in your life. At work we don't always have control of what happens, but your home is your castle that you have dominion over. You can
    see what you're building take shape before your eyes.
    5. More control over the children than in an apartment complex.
    In a neighborhood, kids usually play in the yards or go to friends' houses a few doors away. My clients have told me that in an apartment complex they
    never knew where the kids were. They could be in any of hundreds of apartments, doing who knows what. In a home, you get to know the neighbors
    and watch out for each other's kids.
    6. Children do better in school and feel more secure.
    This one surprised me, but buyers have reported to me that their kids calmed down in school after they bought a house. I don't know why, but it seems to
    work that way. I remember a single mom watching her son play in the yard, making steps in the slope and building things. She didn't have to tell him
    to leave everything alone, like she did at the apartment complex. I guess kids feel the same need for control we adults do.
    7. Time and money saved by not going to the laundromat.
    A small point, but if you have kids, you know the value of this one. You gain a whole evening a week when you buy a house! The wash gets done in
    between other things, or while you're at work. What would you do with the extra evening you'll have? How about going out for dessert with your spouse
    with all those quarters?
    We've been in a home of our own for so long; we take these benefits for granted. We forgot what it's like to be renters! If you have anything you
    can add to the list, please let me know via email. I'd love to hear from you!

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    Things You Should Know about Moving...

    In Search of a New Residence
    Subscribe to the area's local newspaper in advance of your move. It usually contains a large real estate section, which can be very helpful in giving
    you some idea of the type of housing available in the new city, as well as other useful information. Arrange for a house-hunting trip to your new city.
    When looking for a new home, take along a tape measure and a list of the exact dimensions of each of your major appliances and other large pieces of
    furniture. Measure the areas provided for them to be sure your appliances and furniture will fit. Establish credit in the new city. Ask your banker
    for a referral to a correspondent bank and to act as a credit reference.

    Preplanning Your Move
    Plan the move as early as possible. If you are able to move at any time of the year, don't wait until summer, the peak-moving season. Consider also
    that the first and last few days of the month are extra busy. If you plan to sell your house, get it on the market as soon as possible. If renting,
    give your landlord timely notice of your moving date. Keep a record of all expenses related to the move, some of which may be tax deductible. Fill out
    the Personal Household Inventory for each room. This is important for establishing the amount of declared valuation for the shipment and as a
    permanent inventory for insurance purposes. List, as nearly as possible, the year of purchase and original cost of each item. Attach any invoices or
    records of purchase to the completed inventory. Prepare a separate high-value inventory if the shipment will contain articles of
    "extraordinary" value. The following list includes items that might fall into this category:
    * Antiques
    * Art Collections
    * Cameras
    * China Collections
    * Computer Equipment
    * Crystal
    * Figurines
    * Firearms
    * Jewelry
    * Manuscripts
    * Oriental Rugs
    * Silver
    * Stones or Gems
    * Tapestries
    * TVs or Stereos

    Estimate of Moving Costs
    Unless you have been given a binding estimate where a firm cost is established in advance, the exact cost of a move cannot be determined until
    after the shipment has been loaded on the van and weighed. The weight on which charges are based is calculated by weighing the van before and after
    loading. The total cost of the move will include transportation charges, any charges for declared valuation, plus charges for any extra services
    performed at your request. All of these charges are based on tariff rate schedules.

    Owner's Responsibility
    It is the owner's responsibility to see that your mechanical, electrical equipment and appliances are properly serviced for shipping prior to the
    arrival of the moving van. For safe moving, have these items prepared by a licensed or properly trained technician. This service may be performed by a
    technician of your choice or by qualified personnel of the moving company. If the owner has failed to have an item serviced, the van operator may load
    and haul it, but will mark the inventory sheet, "Not Serviced-Loaded at Owner's Risk."

    Six to Eight Weeks before Moving Day - Working with the Mover
    * Have the moving company conduct a household goods survey in order to furnish you with a written estimate, although the final cost will depend on the actual weight of your household goods after they are loaded on the van.
    * Before the removal list arrives, inspect the property. Include the garage, patio and any storage shed. Decide what to move and what to discard. Remember the cost of moving an item may be greater than the cost of replacing it.
    * Decide whether you want to do any of the packing or have it done by the moving company's experienced personnel. Provide a list to your movers of everything that is to be moved. Specify articles that are to be packed, or any special handling, so the estimate will include these charges. Any items that are later added to the shipment will add to the cost estimate.

    Transfer of Personal Records
    * Arrange for closing or transfer of charge accounts.
    * Check personal insurance policies to see whether moving is covered. Transfer fire, theft and other personal property insurance to ensure coverage at the new home.
    * Obtain transcripts of the children's school records and credentials from school authorities or secure transcripts of school records, if you prefer to take them along.
    * Gather medical and dental records including vaccination data, medical prescriptions, dates of last examinations, history of past illnesses and so on.
    * Ask your doctor and dentist to recommend colleagues in the new city. Be sure to check current telephone numbers and addresses of physicians, dentist and hospital, which will help when transferring your records.
    * Obtain letters of introduction from your church, organization, club, and business associates.
    * Transfer, sell or resign memberships in clubs or associations. Report your move to any lending agency with which you do business. A lender's permission may be required to move personal property in which the lender has an interest.

    Four to Six Weeks before Moving Day - Planning Your Packing
    If you plan to do the packing yourself, start collecting suitable containers. You can purchase specialized containers from most moving companies, such as:
    * Small cartons for heavy items (books, record albums, and tools).
    * Wardrobe containers
    * Large cartons for bulky items (pillows, blankets, and stuffed toys).
    * Medium-sized cartons for bulkier but not so heavy items (towels, linens, and small appliances)

    Collect other packing materials
    * White paper
    * Tissue paper
    * Paper towels
    * Non printed paper
    * Newspapers
    * Tape or strong twine for sealing containers * Scissors or sharp knife (keep out of children's reach)
    * Felt marker to mark containers
    * Notebook & pencil for listing contents
    * Labels (Available from moving company)
    Set goals and deadlines to ensure that all packing is completed by moving day. You may want to pack one room per week. Attach a list of contents to each carton. Separate and mark goods that will go into storage. Consider having a garage sale to dispose of unwanted items. If you donate clothing or household goods to charitable organizations, get receipts showing their approximate value for tax deductions. Begin to use up large supplies of canned goods and frozen foods. Buy only what will be used before moving.

    Places To Notify of Impending Address Change
    * Electric
    * Gas
    * Water
    * Telephone
    * Fuel
    * Trash removal
    * Professional services
    * Doctor
    * Dentist
    * Accountant
    * Lawyer
    * Real estate agent
    * Stock broker
    * Insurance agents
    * Life
    * Health
    * Fire
    * Auto
    * Boat
    * Established business accounts
    * Credit cards
    * Motor Vehicle Department
    * Finance companies
    * Banks
    * Department stores
    * Government and public offices
    * Social Security Administration
    * Federal and state income tax offices
    * Publications
    * Newspapers
    * Magazines
    * Professional and trade organizations
    * Relatives and friends
    * Business associates
    * Book and record clubs
    * Schools and colleges
    * Church
    * Landlord, if you are a tenant
    * Tenants, if you are a landlord

    Two to Three Weeks before Moving Day
    Let the post office know your moving date and new address. If you do not have a permanent address by the time you move, the post office will hold your mail and forward it upon written instructions from you. Phone the local business office of the telephone company. They can make arrangements for service in your new home and, on request, give out your new number when your present number is called.

    Contact utilities
    * Electric
    * Gas
    * Water
    * Fuel (Propane or Oil)
    * Cable TV
    * Internet Service Provider

    If possible, arrange to have utilities connected before your arrival. Make family travel plans. Reserve air or rail transportation and hotel accommodations as needed. Have your car prepared for the trip-- tires, brakes, lubrication, oil change, and tune-up-as needed. Dispose of flammables such as fireworks, cleaning fluids, matches, acids, pressure cans or paint thinner. Drain oil and fuel from your power mower and other machinery. Discard partly used cans of oil, paint, syrup or any other substance that may leak. Carefully tape-seal and place in individual waterproof bags any jars of liquids or semi-liquids you do not wish to discard. Have rugs cleaned that are to be moved. Leave them rolled and wrapped when they are returned from the cleaners. If draperies are to be moved, have them cleaned and ready for alterations that might be needed in your new home. Collect items that are being cleaned stored or repaired (clothing, shoes, watches). Empty your locker at any club you are a member of. Return library books and anything borrowed from friends or neighbors. Also collect things you may have loaned. Decide what to do with your houseplants.

    Set a date with a reliable service person to prepare your appliances for shipment, preferably the day before the move. Depending on the appliance, service may be needed at your destination for hooking up your refrigerator, freezer, range, washer, dryer and others. For more information, request a free booklet, generally provided by most moving companies. Pianos and organs need to be prepared for moving by a specialized technician. Make arrangements to have utilities disconnected on moving day:
    * Electric
    * Gas
    * Water
    * Fuel
    * Cable TV
    Plan to keep your telephone in service through moving day in case last minute calls are necessary. Take pets to the veterinarian. Make sure identification tags are securely attached to the pet's collar.

    Three Days before Moving Day - Instant Aid Box
    Pack a box for instant needs on arrival. Mark the box "To be loaded last and unloaded first." Package each group of items separately in labeled paper bags. Here are some suggestions. Cleaning:
    * Powdered detergent
    * Sponge
    * Paper towels
    * Dish towels
    * Dish cloth
    * Kitchen cleanser
    * Window cleaner
    * Scouring pads

    Kitchen:
    * Paper plates, cups, napkins
    * Plastic knives, forks, spoons
    * Small saucepan
    * Serving spoons
    * Aluminum foil

    Snacks:
    * Easy-to-open cans of pudding
    * Dry soup mix
    * Sandwich spreads
    * Jars of cheese
    * Package of crackers
    * Boxes of dry cereals
    * Instant coffee, tea, chocolate
    * Instant creamer, sugar, salt

    Bathroom:
    * Towels and face cloths
    * Toilet tissue
    * Facial tissue
    * Soap, hand lotion, deodorant
    * Toothbrushes and toothpaste

    Miscellaneous:
    * Reading materials
    * Puzzles

    Last-minute packing:
    * Cellular telephone
    * Light bulbs

    * Flashlight
    * Hammer, screwdriver, pliers, assorted nails and screws
    * Shelf paper
    * Trash bags and ties

    Children:
    * Coloring books and crayons
    * A favorite toy or two


    Complete an inventory checklist. Check contents of drawers. Remove all things that can spill or break. Soft goods such as blankets, pillows, blouses, shirts and lingerie may be left in drawers. Pin clothing to hangers if it is to be moved in wardrobe cartons. Remove items left in the attic or other storage areas. Empty the refrigerator and freezer so they can dry at least 24 hours before moving. Be careful not to overlook the defrost water pan. Failure to have the appliances completely dry can lead to mildew and unpleasant odor.

    Be sure the water is emptied from your steam iron. Launder all soiled clothing prior to the day the appliance service technician is expected. Take the telephone directory with you for contacting former doctors, dentists, suppliers, etc., and for preparing holiday card lists. For more information, request a free booklet, Moving Appliances and Other Home Furnishings, from United Van Lines, or a similar booklet from the mover of your choice.

    Pack suitcases for the trip to the new home. Put in extra clothing for emergencies. Consider packing a picnic lunch to eat while traveling. Take along snacks such as fruit and cookies for the children. Include towels for a quick cleanup. Arrange for a baby-sitter for moving day, or have older children look after the younger ones.

    Moving Day - Loading Your Belongings
    * Be on hand when the movers arrive. Otherwise, it is important to let the mover know to whom you have given authority to take your place. Be sure this person knows exactly what to do. Remember the person may be asked to sign documents obligating you to charges.
    * Accompany the van operator through the house inspecting and tagging each piece of furniture with an identifying number. These numbers, along with a description of your goods and their condition at the time of loading, will appear on the inventory.
    * Be sure the condition of each item is recorded and the van operator has a clear understanding about what is to be loaded last. It is your responsibility to see that all of your goods are loaded, so remain on the premises until loading is completed. After making a final tour of the house to be sure no items have been overlooked, check and sign the inventory. Get your copy and keep it in a safe place.
    * Check to see that the van operator has the exact destination address. Be specific as to where and how you can be reached pending the arrival of your household goods.
    * Leave the phone connected throughout the moving day. Leave a note listing your new address in a conspicuous place in the house so the new occupants will be able to forward any of your mail inadvertently delivered to them.

    Take a last look around:
    * Water shut off?
    * Gas shut off?
    * Air-conditioning shut off?
    * Light switches turned off?
    * All utilities arranged for disconnection?
    * Windows shut and locked?
    * Have you left anything?
    * Lock the house and leave the keys with a responsible person or in a prearranged location.

    At Your Destination
    * Contact the moving company whose name appears on the forms signed as soon as possible and indicate where and how you can be reached.
    * Make sure the house is ready for occupancy before the van arrives. If you have not already done so, contact the utility companies and make necessary arrangements for service. Ask if any of them provides free appliance connection service.
    * Be on hand to accept delivery of your household goods. Otherwise authorize an adult as your representative to accept delivery and pay the charges for you. Inform the movers of the person so authorized. On the day of delivery, the van operator will attempt to contact you by phone and make an appearance at the residence if unable to reach you. If no one appears to accept the shipment within the free waiting time, the goods will be placed in storage at the owner's expense.
    * Check your household goods as they are unloaded. If there is a change in the condition of the property from that noted on the inventory at the time of loading or if any items are missing, note any damage and/or missing items on the van operator's copy of the inventory sheet. By signing the inventory sheet, you are acknowledging receipt of all items listed. Personally report any loss or damage to the moving company agent at destination immediately. (You must file the claim yourself; the van operator cannot do it for you.)
    * To save time and confusion, place a floor plan of your new home at the entrance the movers will use, indicating where each piece of furniture should go. Then unloading, each piece of furniture will be placed as you direct, including the lying of rugs and setting up of bed frames, box springs and mattresses. However, appliances and fixtures may not be installed. At your request and additional cost, the agent may arrange for this service and for refilling of waterbed mattresses.
    * To prevent possible damage, television sets, other electronic equipment, and certain major appliances should not be used for 24 hours after delivery, allowing them time to adjust to room temperature. If you have paid for unpacking, you are entitled to unpacking service and removal of the cartons.

    Getting Settled
    * If you have not already done so, contact the utility companies and make necessary arrangements for service. Ask if any of them provides free appliance connection service.
    * Make arrangements for reinstallation of appliances.
    * Keep all documents pertaining to your move in a safe place. You will need them for verification of moving expenses and for filing your income tax returns. For more information on tax-deductible moving expenses, consult an accountant or tax specialist.
    * Check with the post office for any mail being held and ask for delivery to start.
    * Have your medical and dental records transferred after selecting a family physician and dentist.
    * You may want to select an attorney to discuss laws pertaining to your destination state, county and/or city. Be sure to cover such matters as wills, transfers of property and investments, insurance regulations, inheritance laws, taxes and the like. Most laws affect a family as soon as residence in the new state and city is established.
    * Register to vote.
    * Locate the selected schools. Take the children, introduce yourself and register them.

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    Five Powerful Buying Strategies...

    1. Don't Get "Pre-Qualified"!
    Do you want to get the best house you can for the least amount of money? Then make sure you are in the strongest negotiating position possible. Price
    is only one bargaining chip in the negotiations, and not necessarily the most important one. Often other terms, such as the strength of the buyer or
    the length of escrow, are critical to a seller. In years past, we always recommended that buyers get "pre-qualified" by a lender. This means that you
    spend a few minutes on the phone with a lender who asks you a few questions. Based on the answers, the lender pronounces you "pre-qualified"
    and issues a certificate that you can show to a seller. Sellers are aware that such certificates are WORTHLESS, and here's why: None of the
    information has been verified. Many times unknown problems surface. Some of the problems include recorded judgments, child support payments
    due, glitches on the credit report (due to any number of reasons both accurate and inaccurate), down payments that have not been in the
    client's bank account long enough, etc. So the way to make a strong offer today is to get "underwriting approved". This happens after all information has
    been checked and verified. You are actually APPROVED for the loan and the only loose end is the appraisal on the property. This process takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on your situation. It's VERY POWERFUL and a weapon we recommend all clients have in their negotiating arsenal.
    2. Sell First, Then Buy
    If you have a house to sell, sell it before selecting a house to buy! Contingent sales rarely work, unless it's with a new home builder who has other houses
    to sell and can afford to put one on a contingency. Imagine that we go out looking for the perfect house for you. We find it and you love it! Now
    you have to go make an offer to the seller. You not only want the seller to reduce the price, but you also want them to wait until you sell your
    house. The seller figures that's a risky deal, since he might pass up a buyer who doesn't have to sell a house while he's waiting for you. The
    seller will probably agree to either the contingency or the reduced price, but not both. This causes you to pay more for the house than you could
    have without the contingency. Now you're in the position that you have to sell your existing house in a hurry, or you lose the dream house. So to sell
    quickly you might take a less attractive offer than you would consider if you'd had more time. The bottom line is that buying before selling might
    cost you TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars. We always recommend that you sell first, then buy. If you're concerned that there is not a house on the market for you, then go on a window-shopping trip. You can identify possible houses and locations without falling in love with a specific house. If you feel confident after that, then put your house on the market. Another tactic is to make the sale "subject to seller finding suitable housing". Adding this phrase to the listing means that when you do find a buyer, you will have some time to find the new place. If you don't find anything to your liking, you don't have to sell your present home.
    3. Play the Game of Nines
    Before house hunting, make a list of nine things you want in the new place. Then make a list of the nine things you don't want. We call this "Nine of This and None of That". You can use this list as a scorecard to rate each property that you see. The one with the biggest score wins. This helps avoid confusion and keeps things in perspective when you're comparing homes. When house hunting, keep in mind the difference between "skin" and "bones". The "bones" are things that cannot be changed such as the location, view, size of lot, noise in the area, school district, and floor plan. The "skin" represents easily changed surface finishes like carpet, wallpaper, color, and window coverings. Buy the house with good "bones", because the "skin" can always be changed to match your tastes. We always recommend that you imagine each house as if it were vacant. Consider each house on its underlying merits, not the seller's decorating skills.
    4. Don't Be Pushed Into Any House
    Your agent should show you everything available that meets your requirements. Don't make a decision on a house until you feel that you've seen enough to pick the best one. Go to the Multiple Listing computer with your agent to make sure that you are getting a COMPLETE list. In the late 1980's early 90's, homes were selling quickly, usually a few days after listing. In that kind of market, agents advised their clients to make an offer on the spot if they liked the house. That was good advice at the time. Today there isn't always this urgency, unless a home is drastically under priced, and you'll know if it is. Don't forget to check into the neighborhoods and school districts of the area you're considering. Information is available on every school, such as class sizes, percent of students that go on to college, SAT scores, etc. You can get this information from your agent or directly from the school. Even better, you can find a wealth of related information on your agent's website.
    5. Stop Calling Ads!
    A word of caution - sellers create ads solely to make the phone ring! Many homes have some drawback not mentioned in the ad, such as traffic noise, power lines, or litigation in the community. What's not mentioned in the ad is usually more important than what is. For this reason, be very careful when reading ads. Remember that the person writing the ad is looking for a buyer and not necessarily one for that property! The most important thing you can do is to have someone on your side looking out for your best interests. Your own agent will critique the property with an eye towards how well it meets your needs, and will point out any drawbacks you should know about. So pick a real estate agent you feel comfortable with and enlist the services of that real estate agent as a buyer's broker. Then you become a client with all the rights, benefits, and privileges created by this agency relationship, and you're no longer just a shopper. Did you know that many homes are sold without a sign ever going up or an ad ever being put in the paper? These "great deals" go to those people who are committed to working with one agent. When a real estate agent hears of a great buy, who do you think he's going to call? His client, with whom he has a legal obligation to work hard for, or someone who just called on the phone and said "keep your eyes open"? To get the best buy on a property, find your own real estate agent and stick with them.

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    Four Things to Consider - Buying a Home...

    1. Make the Right Choice
    Choosing which home to purchase is the critical phase of your search - make sure the house is right for you before deciding to buy. Consider your wish list, the location, and the price when making your final decision.
    2. Location Location Location
    You've already researched the community in general terms - now it's time to take one last look at the neighborhood to make sure it's the right place for your family. Consider your route to work, the local shopping - anything that affects your lifestyle and daily routine.
    3. Just the Details
    Make sure the house is right for your family and lifestyle. Will your furniture work out? Is the yard big enough? Does the layout work well for your family's routine? Check through your wish list and notes to make sure you're not forgetting anything.
    4. When in Doubt - Don't
    Don't buy a home out of frustration or impatience - this is a major investment and it should be treated as such. If the market is strong or your standards prove to be unreasonable you may need to revise your expectations before continuing the search.

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    8 Steps to Getting Your Finances in Order...

    1. Develop a family budget. Instead of budgeting what you’d like to spend, use receipts to create a budget for what you actually spent over the last six months. One advantage of this approach is that it factors in unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, illnesses, etc., as well as predictable costs such as rent.
    2. Reduce your debt. Generally speaking, lenders look for a total debt load of no more than 36 percent of income. Since this figure includes your mortgage, which typically ranges between 25 percent and 28 percent of income, you need to get the rest of installment debt—car loans, student loans, revolving balances on credit cards—down to between 8 percent and 10 percent of your total income.
    3. Get a handle on expenses. You probably know how much you spend on rent and utilities, but little expenses add up. Try writing down everything you spend for one month. You’ll probably see some great ways to save.
    4. Increase your income. It may be necessary to take on a second, part-time job to get your income at a high-enough level to qualify for the home you want.
    5. Save for a downpayment. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage with only 5 percent down—or even less in some cases—you can usually get a better rate and a lower overall cost if you put down more. Shoot for saving a 20 percent downpayment.
    6. Create a house fund. Don’t just plan on saving whatever’s left toward a downpayment. Instead decide on a certain amount a month you want to save, then put it away as you pay your monthly bills.
    7. Keep your job. While you don’t need to be in the same job forever to qualify, having a job for less than two years may mean you have to pay a higher interest rate.
    8. Establish a good credit history. Get a credit card and make payments by the due date. Do the same for all your other bills. Pay off the entire balance promptly.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Budget Basics Work Sheet...

    The first step in getting yourself in financial shape to buy a home is to know what you make and what you spend now. List your income and expenses below.
    Income
    Take-Home Pay/All Family Members  
    Child Support/Alimony  
    Pension/Social Security  
    Disability/Other Insurance  
    Interest/Dividends  
    Other  
    Total Income=  


    Expenses
    Rent/Mortgage  
    Life Insurance  
    Health/Disability Insurance  
    Vehicle Insurance  
    Homeowners or Other Insurance  
    Car Payments  
    Other Loan Payments  
    Savings/Pension Contribution  
    Utilities  
    Credit Card Payments  
    Car Upkeep  
    Clothing  
    Personal Care Products  
    Groceries  
    Food Prepared Outside the Home  
    Medical/Dental/Prescriptions  
    Household Goods  
    Recreation/Entertainment  
    Child Care  
    Education  
    Charitable Donations  
    Miscellaneous  
    Total Expenses=  
    Remaining Income After Expenses=     


    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    8 Ways to Improve Your Credit...

    Credit scores, along with your overall income and debt, are a big factor in determining if you’ll qualify for a loan and what loan terms you’ll be able to qualify for.
    1. Check for and correct errors in your credit report. Mistakes happen, and you could be paying for someone else’s poor financial management.
    2. Pay down credit card bills. If possible, pay off the entire balance every month. However, transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.
    3. Don’t charge your credit cards to the maximum limit.
    4. Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage. You’re penalized less for problems after a year.
    5. Don’t purchase big-ticket items for your new home on credit cards until after the loan is approved. The amounts will add to your debt.
    6. Don’t open new credit card accounts before applying for a mortgage. Having too much available credit can lower your score.
    7. Shop for mortgage rates all at once. Too many credit applications can lower your score, but multiple inquiries from the same type of lender are counted as one inquiry if submitted over a short period of time.
    8. Avoid finance companies. Even if you pay the loan on time, the interest is high and it will probably be considered a sign of poor credit management.
    This information is copyrighted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is used with permission of the Fannie Mae Foundation. To obtain a complete copy of the publication, “Knowing and Understanding Your Credit,” visit http://www.homebuyingguide.org.
    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score...

    Credit scores range between 200 and 800. Scores above 620 are considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. These factors will affect your score.
    1. Your payment history. Whether you paid credit card obligations on time.
    2. How much you owe. Owing a great deal of money on numerous accounts can indicate that you are overextended.
    3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer the better.
    4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay promptly.
    5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit—installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

    For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, go to http://www.myfico.com.
    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Your Property Wish List ...

    While your opinions on the type of home you want to own may change during the homebuying process, use this easy checklist to help you prioritize and make the shopping process less time consuming.

  • How close do you need to be to: (a) public transportation _______ (b) schools _______ (c) airport _______ (d) expressway _______ (e) neighborhood shopping _______ (f) other_______?
  • What neighborhoods would you prefer?
  • What school systems do you want to be near?
  • What architectural style(s) of homes do you prefer?
  • Do you want a one-story or two-story house?
  • How old a home would you consider?
  • How much repair or renovation would you be willing to do?
  • Do you have special facilities or needs that your home must meet?
  • Do you require a fenced yard or other amenities for your pets?

    Prioritize each of these options into
    Must have             Would prefer
    Yard (at least_________)
    Garage (size________)
    Patio/Deck
    Pool
    Bedrooms (number_________)
    Bathrooms (number_________)
    Family room
    Formal living room
    Formal dining room
    Eat-in kitchen
    Laundry room
    Basement
    Attic
    Fireplace
    Spa in bath
    Air conditioning
    Wall-to-wall carpet
    Hardwood floors
    View
    Light (windows)
    Shade

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)
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    Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood ...

    The neighborhood you choose can have a big impact on your lifestyle—safety, available amenities, and convenience all play their part.
    1. Make a list of the activities—movies, health club, church—you engage in regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each neighborhood you’re considering to engaging in your most common activities.
    2. Check out the school district. The Department of Education in your town can probably provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college, and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, also consider paying a visit to schools in the neighborhoods you’re considering. Even if you don’t have children, a house in a good school district will be easier to sell in the future.
    3. Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type—burglaries, armed robberies—and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?
    4. Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but they do mean a more transient population. Do you see vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months?
    5. See if you’ll make money. Ask a local REALTOR? or call the local REALTOR? association to get information about price appreciation trends in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, this information may give you a sense of how good an investment your home will be. A REALTOR? or the government planning agency also may be able to tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood—like a new school or highway—that might affect value.
    6. See for yourself. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go there, and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets quiet? Pick a warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside. Are they friendly? Are their children to play with your family?

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Tips on Buying in a Tight Market...

    Increase your chances of getting your dream house instead of losing it to another buyer, with these easy steps.
    1. Get prequalified for a mortgage. You’ll be able to make a firm commitment to buy and make your offer more desirable to the seller.
    2. Stay in close touch with your real estate sales associate to find out first about new listings that come on the market. And be ready to go see a house as soon as it goes on the market.
    3. Scout out new listings yourself. Look at Internet sites, newspaper ads, and drive by the neighborhood frequently. Maybe you’ll see a brand-new “for sale” sign before anyone else.
    4. Be ready to make a decision. Spend lots of time in advance deciding what you must have so you won’t be unsure when you have the chance to make an offer.
    5. Bid competitively. You may not want to start out offering the absolute highest price you can afford, but don’t try to go too low to get a deal. In a tight market, you’ll lose out.
    6. Keep contingencies to a minimum. Restrictions such as needing to sell your home before you move or wanting to delay the closing until a certain date can make your offer unappealing. In a tight market, you’ll probably be able to sell your house rapidly. Or talk to your lender about getting a bridge loan to cover both mortgages for a short period.
    7. Don’t get caught in a buying frenzy. Just because there’s competition doesn’t mean you should just buy anything. And even though you want to make your offer attractive, don’t neglect inspections that help ensure that your house is sound.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    The Pros and Cons of Condos...

    Condominiums and townhouses offer an affordable option to single-family homes in most areas. But consider these facts before you buy.
    1. Storage. Some condos have storage lockers, but usually there are no attics or basements to store belongings.
    2. Outdoor space. Yards and outdoor areas are usually smaller in condos, so if you like to garden or entertain outdoors, this may not be a good fit. However, if you hate yard work, this may be the perfect option for you.
    3. Amenities. Many condo properties have swimming pools, fitness centers, and other facilities that would be very expensive in a single-family home.
    4. Maintenance. Many condos have onsite maintenance personnel to care for common areas, do repairs in your unit, and let in workers when you’re not home.
    5. Security. Many condos have keyed entries and or even door attendants. Plus, you’ll be closer to other people in case of an emergency.
    6. Reserve funds and association fees. Although fees generally help pay for amenities and provide savings for future repairs, you will have to pay the fees agreed to by the condo board, whether or not you’re interested in the amenity or not.
    7. Resale. The ease of selling your unit is more dependent on what else is for sale in your building, since units are usually fairly similar. Single-family homes usually are more individual.
    8. Freedom. Although you have a vote, the rules of the condo association can affect your ability to use your property. For example, some condos prohibit home-based businesses. Others prohibit pets. Read the covenants, restrictions, and bylaws of the condo carefully before you make an offer.
    9. Proximity. You’re much closer to your neighbors in a condo or townhome. If possible, try to meet your closest prospective neighbors before making a decision.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    6 Reasons You Need a REALTOR?...

    1. A real estate transaction is complicated. In most cases, buying or selling a home requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multi-page government-mandated settlement statements. A knowledgeable guide through this complexity can help you avoid delays or costly mistakes.
    2. Selling or buying a home is time consuming. Even in a strong market, homes in our area stay on the market for an average of ____ days. And it usually takes another 60 days or so for the transaction to close after an offer is accepted.
    3. Real estate has its own language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with someone who speaks that language.
    4. REALTORS® have done it before. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. And even if you’ve done it before, laws and regulations change. That’s why having an expert on your side is critical.
    5. REALTORS® provide objectivity. Since a home often symbolizes family, rest, and security, not just four walls and roof, homeselling or buying is often a very emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you keep focused on both the business and emotional issues most important to you.
    6. REALTORS® are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS?, a trade organization of more than 1 million members nationwide. REALTORS? subscribe to a stringent code of ethics that helps guarantee the highest level of service and integrity.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Questions to Ask When Choosing a REALTOR? ...

    1. How long have you been in residential real estate sales? Is it your full-time job? (While experience is no guarantee of skill, real estate, like many other professions, is mostly learned on the job.)
    2. What designations do you hold? (Designations, such as GRI and CRS?, which require that real estate professionals take additional, specialized real estate training, are held by only about one-quarter of real estate practitioners.)
    3. How many homes did you and your company sell last year?
    4. How many days did it take you to sell the average home? How did that compare to the overall market?
    5. How close to the initial asking prices of the homes you sold were the final sale prices?
    6. What types of specific marketing systems and approaches will you use to sell my home? (Look for someone who has aggressive, innovative approaches, not just someone who’s going to put a sign in the yard and hope for the best.)
    7. Will you represent me exclusively, or will you represent both the buyer and the seller in the transaction? (While it’s usually legal to represent both parties in a transaction, it’s important to understand where the practitioner’s obligations lie. A good practitioner will explain the agency relationship to you and describe the rights of each party. It’s also possible to insist that the practitioner represent you exclusively.)
    8. Can you recommend service providers who can assist me in obtaining a mortgage, making repairs on my home, and other things I need done? (Keep in mind here that real estate professionals should generally recommend more than one provider and should tell you if they receive any compensation from any provider.)
    9. What type of support and supervision does your brokerage office provide to you? (Having resources, such as in-house support staff, access to a real estate attorney, or assistance with technology, can help a real estate professional sell your home.)
    10. What’s your business philosophy? (While there’s no right answer to this question, the response will help you assess what’s important to the real estate practitioner—fast sales, service, etc.—and determine how closely the practitioner’s goals and business emphasis mesh with your own.)
    11. How will you keep me informed about the progress of my transaction? How frequently? Using what media? (Again, this is not a question with a correct answer, but that one reflects your desires. Do you want updates twice a week or don’t want to be bothered unless there’s a hot prospect? Do you prefer phone, e-mail, or a personal visit?)
    12. Could you please give me the names and phone numbers of your three most recent clients?

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Steps to Prepare for Homeownership ...

    1. Decide how much home you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.
    2. Develop a wish list of what you’d like your home to have. Then prioritize the features on your list.
    3. Select three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in. Consider items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.
    4. Determine if you have enough saved to cover your downpayment and closing costs. Closing costs, including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees average between 2 percent and 7 percent of the home price.
    5. Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report.
    6. Determine how large a mortgage you can qualify for. Also explore different loans options and decide what’s best for you.
    7. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan.
    8. Do research to determine if you qualify for any special mortgage or downpayment-assistance programs.
    9. Calculate the costs of homeownership, including property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and association fees, if applicable.
    10. Find an experienced REALTOR? who can help you through the process.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    How Big a Mortgage Can I Afford?...

    Not only does owning a home give you a haven for yourself and your family, it makes great financial sense, too.
    This calculation assumes a 28 percent income tax bracket. If your bracket is higher, your savings will be, too.

    Rent: _________________________

    Multiplier: X 1.32

    Mortgage payment: __________________

    Because of tax deductions, you can make a mortgage payment—including taxes and insurance—that is approximately one-third larger than your current rent payment and end up with the same amount of income.

    For more help, use Fannie Mae’s online mortgage calculators at http://www.fanniemae.com/homebuyers/calculators/index.jhtml?p=Resources&s=Calculators

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    7 Reasons to Own Your Own Home...

    1. Tax breaks. The U.S. Tax Code lets you deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, property taxes you pay, and some of the costs involved in buying your home.
    2. Gains. Between 1998 and 2002, national home prices increased at an average of 5.4 percent annually. And while there’s no guarantee of appreciation, a 2001 study by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS? found that a typical homeowner has approximately $50,000 of unrealized gain in a home.
    3. Equity. Money paid for rent is money that you’ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity ownership interest in your home.
    4. Savings. Building equity in your home is a ready-made savings plan. And when you sell, you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.
    5. Predictability. Unlike rent, your mortgage payments don’t go up over the years so your housing costs may actually decline as you own the home longer. However, keep in mind that property taxes and insurance costs will rise.
    6. Freedom. The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and be able to benefit from your investment for as long as you own the home.
    7. Stability. Remaining in one neighborhood for several years gives you a chance to participate in community activities, lets you and your family establish lasting friendships, and offers your children the benefit of educational continuity.

    To calculate whether renting or buying is the best financial option for you, use this calculator courtesy of Ginnie Mae: http://www.ginniemae.gov/rent_vs_buy/rent_vs_buy_calc.asp?Section=YPTH

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    5 Common First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes ...

    1. They don’t ask enough questions of their lender and miss out on the best deal.
    2. They don’t act quickly enough to make a decision and someone else buys the house.
    3. They don’t find the right real estate professional who is willing to help you through the homebuying process.
    4. They don’t do enough to make their offer look good to a seller.
    5. They don’t think about resale before they buy. The average first-time buyer only stays in a home for four years.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers ...

    1. Be picky, but don’t be unrealistic. There is no perfect home.
    2. Do your homework before you start looking. Decide specifically what features you want in a home and which are most important to you.
    3. Get your finances in order. Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your downpayment and your closing costs.
    4. Don’t wait to get a loan. Talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage before you start looking.
    5. Don’t ask too many people for opinions. It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion.
    6. Decide when you could move. When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area?
    7. Think long-term. Are you looking for a starter house with the idea of moving up in a few years or do you hope to stay in this home longer? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that suit you best.
    8. Don’t let yourself be “house poor”. If you max yourself out to buy the biggest home you can afford, you’ll have no money left for maintenance or decoration or to save money for other financial goals.
    9. Don’t be naïve. Insist on a home inspection and, if possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects within one year.
    10. Get help. Consider hiring a REALTOR? as a buyer’s representative. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer’s representative is working only for you. And often, buyer’s reps are paid out of the seller’s commission payment.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Things to Take the Trauma Out of Homebuying ...

    1. Find a real estate professional who’s simpatico. Homebuying is not only a big financial commitment, but also an emotional one. It’s critical that the practitioner you choose is both skilled and a good fit with your personality.
    2. Remember, there’s no “right” time to buy, any more than there’s a right time to sell. If you find a home now, don’t try to second-guess the interest rates or the housing market by waiting. Changes don’t usually occur fast enough to make that much difference in price, and a good home won’t stay on the market long.
    3. Don’t ask for too many opinions. It’s natural to want reassurance for such a big decision, but too many ideas will make it much harder to make a decision.
    4. Accept that no house is ever perfect. Focus in on the things that are most important to you and let the minor ones go.
    5. Don’t try to be a killer negotiator. Negotiation is definitely a part of the real estate process, but trying to “win” by getting an extra-low price may lose you the home you love.
    6. Remember your home doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Don’t get so caught up in the physical aspects of the house itself—room size, kitchen—that you forget such issues as amenities, noise level, etc., that have a big impact on what it’s like to live in your new home.
    7. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to get approved for a mortgage, investigate insurance availability, and consider a schedule for moving. Presenting an offer contingent on a lot of unresolved issues will make your bid much less attractive to sellers.
    8. Factor in maintenance and repair costs in your post-homebuying budget. Even if you buy a new home, there will be some costs. Don’t leave yourself short and let your home deteriorate.
    9. Accept that a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable and will probably pass. Buying a home, especially for the first time, is a big commitment, but it also yields big benefits.
    10. Choose a home first because you love it; then think about appreciation. While U.S. homes have appreciated an average of 5.4 percent annually from 1998 to 2002, a home’s most important role is as a comfortable, safe place to live.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    How High Tech Is Your Home? ...

    If the latest technology or entertainment options are important in your new home, add the following questions to your buyer’s checklist.
    1. Are there enough jacks in every room for cable TV and high-speed Internet hookups?
    2. Are there enough telephone extensions or jacks?
    3. Is the home prewired for a home theater or multi-room audio and video?
    4. Does the home have a local area network for linking computers?
    5. Does the home already have wiring for DSL or other high-speed Internet connection?
    6. Does the home have multizoning heating and cooling controls with programmable thermostats?
    7. Does the home have multi-room lighting controls, window-covering controls, or other home automation features?
    8. Is the home wired with multi-purpose in-wall wiring that allows for reconfigurations to update services as technology changes?

    Visit the Consumer Electronics Association (www.ce.org/techhomerating) for a complete Tech Home ™ Rating Checklist.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Hidden Home Defects to Watch For ...

    No home is flawless, but certain physical problems can be expensive. Watch for:
    1. Water leaks. Look for stains on ceilings and near the baseboards, especially in basements or attics.
    2. Shifting foundations. Look for large cracks along the home’s foundation.
    3. Drainage. Look for standing water, either around the foundation of the home of in the yard.
    4. Termites. Look for weakened or grooved wood, especially near ground level.
    5. Worn roofs. Look for broken or missing copings and buckled shingles as well as water spots on ceilings.
    6. Inadequate wiring. Look for antiquated fuse boxes, extension cords (indicating insufficient outlets), and outlets without a place to plug in the grounding prong.
    7. Plumbing problems. Very low water pressure, banging in pipes.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Questions to Ask a Home Inspector ...

    1. What are your qualifications? Are you a member of the American Association of Home Inspectors?
    2. Do you have a current license? Inspectors are not required to be licensed in every state.
    3. How many inspections of properties such as this do you do each year?
    4. Do you have a list of past clients I can contact?
    5. Do you carry professional errors and omission insurance? May I have a copy of the policy?
    6. Do you provide any guarantees of your work?
    7. What specifically will the inspection cover?
    8. What type of report will I receive after the inspection?
    9. How long will the inspection take and how long will it take to receive the report?
    10. How much will the inspection cost?

    Portions adapted from Real Estate Checklists and Systems and used with permission (www.realestatechecklists.com).

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    What Your Home Inspection Should Cover ...

  • Siding: Look for dents or buckling
  • Foundations: Look for cracks or water seepage
  • Exterior Brick: Look for cracked bricks or mortar pulling away from bricks
  • Insulation: Look for condition, adequate rating for climate
  • Doors and Windows: Look for loose or tight fits, condition of locks, condition of weatherstripping
  • Roof: Look for age, conditions of flashing, pooling water, buckled shingles, or loose gutters and downspouts
  • Ceilings, walls, and moldings: Look for loose pieces, drywall that is pulling away
  • Porch/Deck: Loose railings or step, rot
  • Electrical: Look for condition of fuse box/circuit breakers, number of outlets in each room
  • Plumbing: Look for poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots or corrosion that indicate leaks, sufficient insulation
  • Water Heater: Look for age, size adequate for house, speed of recovery, energy rating
  • Furnace/Air Conditioning: Look for age, energy rating; Furnaces are rated by annual fuel utilization efficiency; the higher the rating, the lower your fuel costs. However, other factors such as payback period and other operating costs, such as electricity to operate motors.
  • Garage: Look for exterior in good repair; condition of floor—cracks, stains, etc.; condition of door mechanism
  • Basement: Look for water leakage, musty smell
  • Attic: Look for adequate ventilation, water leaks from roof
  • Septic Tanks (if applicable): Adequate absorption field capacity for the percolation rate in your area and the size of your family
  • Driveways/Sidewalks: Look for cracks, heaving pavement, crumbling near edges, stains

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)
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    How Comprehensive Is Your Home Warranty? ...

    Check your home warranty policy to see which of the following items are covered. Also check to see if the policy covers the full replacement cost of an item.
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical Systems
  • Water Heater
  • Furnace
  • Heating Ducts
  • Water Pump
  • Dishwasher
  • Stove/Cooktop/Ovens
  • Microwave
  • Refrigerator
  • Washer/Dryer
  • Swimming Pool (may be optional)

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)
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    5 Property Tax Questions You Need to Ask ...


    1. What is the assessed value of the property? Note that assessed value is generally less than market value. Ask to see a recent copy of the seller’s tax bill to help you determine this information.
    2. How often are properties reassessed and when was the last reassessment done? Generally taxes jump most significantly when a property is reassessed.
    3. Will the sale of the property trigger a tax increase? Often the assessed value of the property may increase based on the amount you pay for the property. And in some areas, such as California, taxes may be frozen until resale.
    4. Is the amount of taxes paid comparable to other properties in the area? If not, it might be possible to appeal the tax assessment and lower the rate?
    5. Does the current tax bill reflect any special exemptions that you might not qualify for? For example, many tax districts offer reductions to those 65 or over.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Questions to Ask Your Condo Board ...

    Before you buy, contact the condo board with the following questions. In the process, you’ll learn how responsive—and organized—its members are.
    1. What percentage of units is owner-occupied? What percentage is tenant-occupied? Generally, the higher the percentage of owner-occupied units, the more marketable the units will be at resale.
    2. What covenants, bylaws, and restrictions govern the property? What grandfather clauses are in place? You may find, for instance, that those who buy a property after a certain date can’t rent out their units, but buyers who bought earlier can. Ask for a copy of the bylaws to determine if you can live within them. And have an attorney review property docs, including the master deed, for you.
    3. How much does the association keep in reserve? How is that money being invested?
    4. Are association assessments keeping pace with the annual rate of inflation? Smart boards raise assessments a certain percentage each year to build reserves to fund future repairs. To determine if the assessment is reasonable, compare the rate to others in the area.
    5. What does and doesn’t the assessment cover—common area maintenance, recreational facilities, trash collection, snow removal?
    6. What special assessments have been mandated in the past five years? How much was each owner responsible for? Some special assessments are unavoidable. But repeated, expensive assessments could be a red flag about the condition of the building or the board’s fiscal policy.
    7. How much turnover occurs in the building?
    8. Is the project in litigation? If the builders or homeowners are involved in a lawsuit, reserves can be depleted quickly.
    9. Is the developer reputable? Find out what other projects the developer has built and visit one if you can. Ask residents about their perceptions. Request an engineer’s report for developments that have been reconverted from other uses to determine what shape the building is in. If the roof, windows, and bricks aren’t in good repair, they become your problem once you buy.
    10. Are multiple associations involved in the property? In very large developments, umbrella associations, as well as the smaller association into which you’re buying, may require separate assessments.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Questions to Ask Your Lender...

    Be sure you find a loan that fits your needs with these comprehensive questions.
    1. What are the most popular mortgage loans you offer?
    2. Which type of mortgage plan do you think would be best for us? Why?
    3. Are your rates, terms, fees, and closing costs negotiable?
    4. Will I have to buy private mortgage insurance? If so how much will it cost and how long will it be required? NOTE: Private mortgage insurance usually is required if you make less than a 20 percent downpayment, but most lenders will let you discontinue the policy when you’ve acquired a certain amount of equity by paying down the loan.
    5. Who will service the loan? Your bank or another company?
    6. What escrow requirements do you have?
    7. How long is your loan lock-in period (the time that the quoted interest rate will be honored)? Will I be able to obtain a lower rate if they drop during this period?
    8. How long will the loan approval process take?
    9. How long will it take to close the loan?
    10. Are there any charges or penalties for prepaying the loan?

    Used with permission from Real Estate Checklists & Systems (http://www.realestatechecklists.com).

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    10 Things a Lender Needs From You ...

    1. W-2 forms or business tax return forms if you’re self-employed for the last two or three years for every person signing the loan.
    2. Copies of one or more months of pay stubs from every person signing the loan.
    3. Copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements for both checking and savings accounts.
    4. Copies of personal tax forms for the last two to three years.
    5. Copies of brokerage account statements for two to four months, as well as a list of any other major assets of value, e.g., a boat, RV, or stocks or bonds not held in a brokerage account.
    6. Copies of your most recent 401(k) or other retirement account statement.
    7. Documentation to verify additional income, such as child support, pension, etc.
    8. Account numbers of all your credit cards and the amounts of any outstanding balances.
    9. Lender, loan number, and amount owed on other installment loans—student loans, car loans, etc.
    10. Addresses where you lived for the last five to seven years, with names of landlords, if appropriate.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home ...

    If your income and savings are making homebuying a challenge, consider these options.
    1. Investigate local, state, and national downpayment assistance programs. These programs give loans or grants to cover all or part of your required downpayment. National programs include the Nehemiah program (http://www.getdownpayment.com) and the American Dream Downpayment Fund from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (http://www.hud.gov).
    2. Get the seller to provide financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you do a mortgage.
    3. Consider a shared-appreciation, or shared equity, arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and thus share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and all maintenance costs, but all investors’ names are usually on the mortgage. There are companies that can help you find such an investor if your family can’t participate.
    4. Get help from your family. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the downpayment and/or act as a cosigner for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a cosigner if you have little credit history
    5. Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your downpayment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.
    6. See if you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage to give you the money to make a higher downpayment. This may be possible if you have a good income and little other debt.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Choices That Will Affect Your Loan ...

  • Mortgage term. Mortgages are generally available at 15-, 20-, or 30-year terms. The longer the term, the lower the monthly payment if the same amount is borrowed. However, you pay more interest overall if you borrow for a longer term.
  • Fixed or adjustable interest rates. A fixed rate allows you to lock in a low rate for as long as you hold the mortgage and is usually a good choice if interest rates are low. An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is designed so that interest rates will rise as interest rates increase; however they usually offer a lower rate in the first years of the mortgage. ARMs also usually have a limit as to how much the interest rate can be increased and how frequently they can be raised. ARMs are a good choice when interest rates are high or when you expect your income to grow significantly in the coming years.
  • Balloon mortgages. Balloon mortgages offer very low interest rates for a short period of time—often three to seven years. Payments usually cover only the interest, so the principal owed is not reduced. However, this type of loan may be a good choice if you think you will sell your home in a few years.
  • Government-backed loans. Government-backed loans, sponsored by agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration (www.fha.gov) or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov), offer special terms, including lower downpayments or reduced interest rates—to qualified buyers.

    Slight variations in interest rates, loan amounts, and terms can significantly affect your monthly payment. For help in determining how much your monthly payment will be for various loan amounts, use Fannie Mae’s online mortgage calculators at http://www.fanniemae.com/homebuyers/calculators/index.jhtml?p=Resources&s=Calculators

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)
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    5 Things to Understand About Homeowners Insurance ...

    1. Look for exclusions to coverage. For example, most insurance policies do not cover flood or earthquake damage as a standard item. These coverages must be bought separately.
    2. Look for dollar limitations on claims. Even if you are covered for a risk, there may a limit on how much the insurer will pay. For example, many policies limit the amount paid for stolen jewelry unless items are insured separately.
    3. Understand replacement cost. If your home is destroyed you’ll receive money to replace it only to the maximum of your coverage, so be sure your insurance is sufficient. This means that if your home is insured for $150,000 and it costs $180,000 to replace it, you’ll only receive $150,000.
    4. Understand actual cash value. If you choose not to replace your home when it’s destroyed, you’ll receive replacement cost, less depreciation. This is called actual cash value.
    5. Understand liability. Generally your homeowners insurance covers you for accidents that happen to other people on your property, including medical care, court costs, and awards by the court. However, there is usually an upper limit to the amount of coverage provided. Be sure that it’s sufficient if you have significant assets.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Ways to Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Costs...

    10 Ways to Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Costs
    1. Raise your deductible. If you can afford to pay more toward a loss that occurs, your premiums will be lower.
    2. Buy your homeowners and auto policies from the same company. You’ll usually qualify for a discount. But make sure that the savings really yields the lowest price.
    3. Make your home less susceptible to damage. Keep roofs and drains in good repair. Retrofit your house to protect against natural disasters common to your area.
    4. Keep your home safer. Install smoke detectors, burglar alarms, and dead-bolt locks. All of these will usually qualify for a discount.
    5. Be sure you insure your house for the correct amount. Remember, you’re covering replacement cost, not market value.
    6. Ask about other discounts. For example, retirees who are home more than working people may qualify for a discount on theft insurance.
    7. Stay with the same insurer. Especially in today’s tight insurance market, your current vendor is more likely to give you a good price.
    8. See if you belong to any groups—associations, alumni groups—that offer lower insurance rates.
    9. Review your policy limits and the value of your home and possessions annually. Some items depreciate and may not need as much coverage.
    10. See if there’s a government-backed insurance plan. In some high-risk areas, such as the coasts, federal or state governments may back plans to lower rates. Ask your agent.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    5 Things to Understand About Title Insurance ...

    1. It protects your ownership right to your home both from fraudulent claims against your ownership and from mistakes made in earlier sales, such as mistake in the spelling of a person’s name or an inaccurate description of the property.
    2. It’s a one-time cost usually based on the price of the property.
    3. It’s usually paid for by the sellers.
    4. There are both lender title policies, which protect the lender, and owner title policies, which protect you. The lender will probably require a lender policy.
    5. Discounts on premiums are sometimes available if the home has been bought within only a few years since not as much work is required to check the title. Ask the title company if this discount is available.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    What Not to Overlook on a Final Walk-through ...

    Be sure that:
  • Repairs you’ve requested have been made. Obtain copies of paid bills and any related warranties.
  • All items that were included in the sale price—draperies, lighting fixtures—are still there.
  • Screens and storm windows are in place or stored.
  • All appliances are operating.
  • Intercom, doorbell, and alarm are operational.
  • Hot water heater is working.
  • HVAC is working.
  • No plants or shrubs have been removed from the yard.
  • Garage door opener and other remotes are available.
  • Instruction books and warranties on appliances and fixtures are there.
  • All personal items of the sellers and all debris have been removed.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)
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    Common Closing Costs for Buyers ...

    The lender must disclose a good faith estimate of all settlement costs. A check to cover your closing costs will probably have to be a cashier’s check. The title company or other entity conducting the closing will tell you the required amount for:
  • Downpayment
  • Loan origination fees
  • Points, or loan discount fees, you pay to receive a lower interest rate
  • Appraisal fee
  • Credit report
  • Private mortgage insurance premium
  • Insurance escrow for homeowners insurance, if being paid as part of the mortgage
  • Property tax escrow, if being paid as part of the mortgage. Lenders keep funds for taxes and insurance in escrow accounts as they are paid with the mortgage, then pay the insurance or taxes for you.
  • Deed recording fees
  • Title insurance policy premiums
  • Survey
  • Inspection fees—building inspection, termites, etc.
  • Notary fees
  • Prorations for your share of costs, such as utility bills and property taxes

    A Note About Prorations: Because such costs are usually paid on either a monthly or yearly basis, you might have to pay a bill for services used by the sellers before they moved. Proration is a way for the sellers to pay you back or for you to pay them for bills they may have paid in advance. For example, the gas company usually sends a bill each month for the gas used during the previous month. But assume you buy the home on the 6th of the month. You would owe the gas company for only the days from the 6th to the end for the month. The seller would owe for the first five days. The bill would be prorated for the number of days in the month, and then each person would be responsible for the days of his or her ownership.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)
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    What to Keep From Your Closing ...

    What to Keep From Your Closing
  • The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) statement. This form, sometimes called a HUD 1 statement, itemizes all the costs associated with the closing. You’ll need this for income tax purposes and when you sell the home.
  • The Truth in Lending Statement summarizes the terms of your mortgage loan.
  • The mortgage and the note (two pieces of paper) spell out the legal terms of your mortgage obligation and the agreed-upon repayment terms.
  • The deed transfers ownership of the property to you.
  • Affidavits swearing to various statements by either party. For example, the sellers will often sign an affidavit stating that they have not incurred any liens on the property.
  • Riders are amendments to the sales contract that affect your rights. For example, if you buy a condominium, you may have a rider outline the condo association’s rules and restrictions.
  • Insurance policies provide a record and proof of your coverage.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)
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    Tips for Packing Like a Pro ...


    1. Develop a master “to do” list so you won’t forget something critical.
    2. Sort and get rid of things you no longer want or need. Have a garage sale, donate to a charity, or recycle.
    3. Don’t throw out everything. If your inclination is to just toss it, ask yourself how frequently you use an item and how you’d feel if you no longer had it.
    4. Pack like items together. Put toys with toys, kitchen utensils with kitchen utensils.
    5. Decide what if anything you plan to move yourself. Precious items, such as family photos, valuable breakables, or must-haves during the move, should probably stay with you.
    6. Use the right box for the item. Loose items encourage breakage.
    7. Put heavy items in small boxes so they’re easier to lift. Keep weight under 50 lbs. if possible.
    8. Don’t over-pack boxes and increase the chances they will break.
    9. Wrap every fragile item separately and pad bottom and sides of boxes.
    10. Label every box on all sides. You never know how they’ll be stacked and you don’t want to have to move other boxes aside to find out what’s there.
    11. Use color-coded labels to indicate which room each item should go in. Color-code a floor plan for your new house to help movers.
    12. Keep your moving documents together, including phone numbers, driver’s name, and van number. Also keep your address book handy.
    13. Back up your computer files before moving your computer.
    14. Inspect each box and all furniture for damage as soon as it arrives.
    15. Remember, most movers won’t take plants.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    14 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent...

    1. How long have you been in Real Estate full time?
    2. Do you personally answer all phone calls on the property?
    3. Can we cancel the listing if we're not happy?
    4. Do you have a personal assistant?
    5. If you go out of town, what licensed real estate agent will take care of your business?
    6. May I see your personal and company Internet web site?
    7. What systems do you have in place that will keep you in contact with me during the listing and the transaction?
    8. Are you fully automated with your own personal computer/laptop, FAX machine, scanner/copier, color printer, mobile phone, Vmail, Email, etc.?
    9. Do you have a resume that I may have?
    10. What real estate office positions have you held (ie., Chairman, etc.), and what professional designations do you have?
    11. I want to give my home the advantage of the latest marketing strategies. What will you do for me?
    12. Can you give me a list of your clients who have closed escrow and can I call them?
    13. Why are you personally motivated to sell my house?
    14. Why should I list with you rather than any other agent who is calling?

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    How To Get Top Dollar In Any Market...

    The best chance for selling your property is within the first seven weeks. Studies show that the longer a property stays on the market, the less the seller will net. Below are five main factors to accomplishing this goal.

    1. Pricing Factor
    It is very important to price your property at a competitive market value right when you list it. The market is so competitive that even over-pricing by a few thousand dollars could mean that your house will not sell. It's interesting, but your first offer is usually your best offer. Here are reasons for pricing your property at the market value right from the start in order to net you the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time. An overpriced home:

    * Minimizes offers
    * Lowers showings
    * Lowers agent response
    * Limits financing
    * Limits qualified buyers
    * Nets less for the seller

    80% of the marketing is done when we decide on what price to list your home. If you are unwilling to list at current market value, you would be better off not putting it on the market at this time.
    2. Clean Factor
    Most people are turned off by even the smallest amount of untidiness or odor when buying a home. Sellers lose thousands of dollars because they do not adequately clean. If your house is squeaky clean, you will be able to sell your home faster and net hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more. If you are planning on moving, why not get rid of that old junk now so that your house will appear larger? Make more space. Odors MUST be eliminated especially if you have dogs, cats, or young children in diapers, or if you are a smoker. You may not notice the smell, but the buyers do! Most agents have a difficult time communicating to their sellers about odor. If you employ an agent to get the most amount of money for you, don't take offense if they must confront you about odor problems.
    3. Access Factor
    Top selling agents will not show your home if both the key and access are not readily available. They do not have time to run around town all day picking up and dropping off keys. They want to sell homes! The greatest way to show a house is to have a key box installed at your home. When your home is being shown, you should do the following:

    * Keep all lights on
    * Keep all drapes and shutters open
    * Keep all doors unlocked
    * Leave soft music playing
    * Take a short walk with your children and pets
    * Let the buyer be at ease and let the agents do their job
    4. Paint & Carpet Factor
    Paint is your best improvement investment for getting a greater return on your money. Paint makes the whole house smell clean and neat. If your house has chipped paint, exposed wood, or the paint looks faded, it is time to paint. If your carpet is worn, dirty, outdated, or an unusual color, you may need to seriously consider replacing it. Many houses do not sell because of this problem. Don't think that buyers have more money than you do, to replace carpeting. They don't. They simply buy elsewhere.
    5. Front Yard Fact
    Your front yard immediately reflects the inside condition of your house to the buyer. People enjoy their yards. Make certain that the trees are trimmed so the house can be seen from the street. Have the grass mowed, trimmed and edged. Walkways should be swept. Clean away debris. Remove parked cars. This all adds to curb appeal. If it's winter time, make sure all walks and driveways are clear of snow and ice. And if your roof needs to be shoveled call a professional to do it. If a buyer doesn't like the outside, they may not stop to see the inside.

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    When Selling Your Home...

    When selling your home, there are no guarantees that a buyer will simply walk through the front door. In many cases you may have to bring your home to the buyer. Effective marketing will help ensure that your property receives maximum exposure to attract a ready, willing and able buyer. The appearance of your home, a buyer's first impressions, and other considerations can also affect the sale of your home. Be sure to explore tips for increasing your home's value. Have you considered that home prices in your neighborhood and the value of your property are also factors used for pricing your home?

    Increasing the value of your house while preparing your house for sale is to remember the importance of first impressions. The market isn't the only factor that influences whether or not you get your asking price. Appearance and overall condition play a major role. Here are some easy things you can do to make your home more appealing to buyers. It is estimated that more than half the houses are sold before the buyers even get out of their cars. So stand across the street from your house and review its curb appeal.

    Outside:
    * Sweep front walkway.
    * Remove newspapers, bikes and toys.
    * Park extra cars away from the property.
    * Trim back shrubs.
    * Apply fresh, clean paint throughout.
    * Clean windows and window coverings throughout.
    * Keep pet areas clean.
    * Keep plumbing and all appliances in working order.
    * Maintain all sealant (window, tub, shower, sink, etc.) in good condition.
    * Make sure roof and gutters are in good condition;
    * Mow the lawn more frequently and plant flowers.

    Inside:
    * Kitchen and bathroom should shine.
    * Quick once-over with the vacuum; carpets should be clean.
    * Place fresh flowers in the main rooms.
    * Put dishes away, unless setting a formal display for decoration.
    * Make beds and put all clothes away.
    * Enhance the spaciousness of each room.
    * Open drapes and turn on lights for a brighter feel.
    * Straighten closets.
    * Put toys away.
    * Turn off television.
    * Play soft music on the radio/stereo.
    * Keep pets out of the way and pet areas clean and odor-free.
    * Secure jewelry, cash, prescription medication and other valuables.

    Important Reminders
    * Potential buyers usually feel more comfortable if the owners are not present.
    * If people unaccompanied by an agent request to see your property, please refer them (for safety issues) to your real estate professional for an appointment.
    * Leave a number where you can be reached if you are leaving town, even for a weekend.

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    NINE Deadly Mistakes Home Sellers Make...

    Mistake #1. Using a real estate agent instead of a REALTOR®
    When you're looking for help buying or selling property, it's important to remember that the terms "real estate agent" and "REALTOR®" are not synonymous. REALTORS® can provide an extra level of service, and to be a REALTOR® you must be a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The equivalent organization in Canada is the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Both are non-profit trade organizations that promote real estate information, education and professional standards. The National Association of REALTORS® also has earned a strong reputation for actively championing private property rights and working to make home ownership affordable and accessible. The NAR and CREA members adhere to a strict code of ethics founded on the principle of providing fair and honest service to all consumers. REALTOR® business practices are monitored at local board levels. Arbitration and disciplinary systems are in place to address complaints from the public or board members. This local oversight keeps REALTORS® directly accountable to the individual consumers they serve, and therefore, the consumer is more likely to find better service and accountability by using a REALTOR®.

    Mistake #2. Complacent marketing when selling a home
    When selling your home there are no guarantees that the ultimate buyer of your home will have simply walked through the front door. In many cases you may have to bring your home to the buyer. Effective marketing will help ensure that your property receives maximum exposure to attract a ready, willing and able buyer in the shortest period of time. Ask your real estate agent to list for you all of the ways he/she intends to market your home and on what time-line. Also, be sure to ask about the home being advertised on the Internet.

    Mistake #3. Taking for granted the "curb appeal" of your home
    When you're preparing your house for sale, remember the importance of first impressions. A buyer's first impression can make or break their desire to go inside for a look. It is estimated that more than half of all houses are sold before the buyers even get out of their cars. With that in mind, be sure to stand outside of your home and take a realistic "fresh look" and then ask yourself what can be done to make the "curb appeal" improve. Also ask your REALTOR®'s opinion as to how to improve the curb appeal. It could make a huge difference in your final sales price.

    Mistake #4. Forgetting about health and safety issues
    Be upfront and disclose to your real estate agent any problems with the property. The problems are going to be discovered anyway. A decade ago, health and safety issues were rarely a part of the typical real estate transaction. Today, however, it's common for inspections relating to health, safety, and even environmental concerns to be a part of most sales contracts. Moreover, in many states, the seller must disclosure to the buyer any knowledge of existing property problems. In many cases, these issues have been or can be factored into the home's listing price.

    Mistake #5. Forgetting what you would want to see if you were the buyer of your home
    Remember that although people can be different in personality, they tend to be the same when it comes to expectations at someone else's expense. In other words, a prospective buyer would probably like to see a perfect home from top to bottom, inside and out, when it comes to your home. Try to do as many of the following tasks as possible to improve the likelihood of your home selling expediently.

    On the outside
    1) Sweep front walkway.
    2) Remove newspapers, bikes and toys.
    3) Park extra cars away from the property.
    4) Trim back the shrubs.
    5) Apply fresh, clean paint throughout.
    6) Clean windows and window coverings throughout.
    7) Keep plumbing and all appliances in working order.
    8) Maintain all sealant (window, tub, shower, sink, etc.) in good condition.
    9) Make sure roof and gutters are clean and in good condition.
    10) Mow the lawn frequently and plant flowers.
    11) Keep pet areas clean.

    On the inside 1) The kitchen and bathroom should shine. 2) Quick once-over with the vacuum; carpets should be clean. 3) Place fresh flowers in the main rooms. 4) Put dishes away, unless setting a formal display for decoration. 5) Make all beds and put all clothes away. 6) Open drapes and turn on lights for a brighter feel. 7) Straighten closets. 8) Put toys away. 9) Turn off television. 10) Play soft music on the radio/stereo. 11) Keep pets out of the way and pet areas clean and odor-free. 12) Secure jewelry, cash, prescription medication and other valuables. 13) Enhance the spaciousness of each room.

    Mistake #6. Thinking you need to be in the home to explain things to a prospective buyer
    You will be better served if you allow your REALTOR® to do their job without you there. Most potential buyers usually feel more comfortable if they can speak freely to the real estate professional without the owners being present. If people unaccompanied by an agent request to see your property, you must refer them (for safety issues) to your real estate professional for an appointment.

    Mistake #7. Not knowing how to price your home to sell
    Perhaps the most challenging aspect of selling a home is listing it at the correct price. It's one of several areas where the assistance of a skilled real estate agent can more than pay for itself. Listing the home too high can be as bad as too low. If the listing price is too high, you'll miss out on a percentage of buyers looking in the price range where your home should be. This is the flaw in thinking that you'll always have the opportunity to accept a lower offer. Chances are the offers won't even come in, because the buyers who would be most interested in your home have been scared off by the price and aren't even taking the time to look. By the time the price is corrected, you've already lost exposure to a large group of potential buyers. The listing price becomes even trickier to set when prices are quickly rising or falling. It's critical to be aware of where and how fast the market is moving - both when setting the price and when negotiating an offer. Again, an experienced, well-trained agent is always in touch with market trends - often even to a greater extent than appraisers, who typically focus on what a property is worth if sold as-is, right now.

    Mistake #8. Not planning your move early enough
    Many sellers simply don't plan their move early enough and then feel totally overwhelmed at the time of moving out of the house. If you are able to move at any time of the year, don't wait until summer, the peak-moving season. Consider also that the first and last few days of the month are extra busy. If you plan to sell your house, get it on the market as soon as possible. Keep a record of all expenses related to the move, some of which may be tax deductible. Fill out a personal household inventory for each room. This is important for establishing the amount of declared valuation for the shipment and as a permanent inventory for insurance purposes. List, as nearly as possible, the year of purchase and original cost of each item. Attach any invoices or records of purchase to the completed inventory. Prepare a separate high-value inventory if the shipment will contain articles of "extraordinary" value. The following list includes items that might fall into this category:

    * Antiques
    * Art Collections
    * Cameras
    * China Collections
    * Computer Equipment
    * Crystal
    * Figurines
    * Firearms
    * Jewelry
    * Manuscripts
    * Oriental Rugs
    * Silver
    * Stones or Gems
    * Tapestries
    * TVs or Stereos

    Mistake #9. Using a "convenient" REALTOR® rather than an experienced REALTOR®
    When working with a licensed real estate agent, it's critical that you have full confidence in that agent's experience and education. A skilled, knowledgeable agent should be able to explain to you exactly why your home needs to be priced at a certain level - compared to recent listings and sales of homes similar to yours. Experienced agents also know exactly what the current pool of buyers are looking for in relation to particular styles and price ranges of properties. A skilled agent can recommend changes that will enhance the salability of your home, thus increasing the price - and/or decreasing the length of time before a sale.

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    Important Considerations About Setting a Price...

    Determining the right price for your home is a difficult task. Set too high a price and your home may languish on the market - too low and you may get thousands less than you could have.

    Use Your Resources - Your Agent!
    What you need is someone who works in the market everyday - and that person is your agent. No one can offer you a better opinion of pricing and sales. Once your agent is familiar with your home, he or she can prepare a CMA and propose a price.

    No Home is an Island...
    Real estate moves in cycles. While home prices have usually risen over time, the path is unpredictable. What you will get for your home - and the time it will take to get it - depend on the overall market.

    No Tears.
    Be objective about your home when determining price. Remember, it is not relevant what you paid, how long you lived there, or how much you adore the property. The important consideration is what it will do in the market.

    Tortoise or the Hare?
    Setting home prices is not a precise science. Too low an asking price may generate a quick sale. However, a bit of patience - and a higher listing price - could allow you to list at a larger dollar amount. It's important to be honest with yourself about your needs when setting a price. We can help you decide if it makes sense to accept a bit less in return for a faster sale.

    Is Your Home Overbuilt?
    Generally, nicer homes yield higher sales prices. This relationship begins to diverge a bit, however, near the top of the market. Overbuilt homes rarely sell within the price range it appears that they should. Buyers in the price range of the overbuilt home are generally interested in more upscale communities, while the typical buyer for the area cannot afford to pay a significantly higher price. If your home is overbuilt you may have to accept the fact that you won't be able to get the price you think you should.

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    Understanding Agency ...

    It’s important to understand what legal responsibilities your real estate salesperson has to you and to other parties in the transactions. Ask your salesperson to explain what type of agency relationship you have with him or her and with the brokerage company.

    1. Seller's representative (also known as a listing agent or seller's agent). A seller's agent is hired by and represents the seller. All fiduciary duties are owed to the seller. The agency relationship usually is created by a listing contract.

    2. Subagent. A subagent owes the same fiduciary duties to the agent's principal as the agent does. Subagency usually arises when a cooperating sales associate from another brokerage, who is not representing the buyer as a buyer’s representative or operating in a nonagency relationship, shows property to a buyer. In such a case, the subagent works with the buyer as a customer but owes fiduciary duties to the listing broker and the seller. Although a subagent cannot assist the buyer in any way that would be detrimental to the seller, a buyer-customer can expect to be treated honestly by the subagent. It is important that subagents fully explain their duties to buyers.

    3. Buyer's representative (also known as a buyer’s agent). A real estate licensee who is hired by prospective buyers to represent them in a real estate transaction. The buyer's rep works in the buyer's best interest throughout the transaction and owes fiduciary duties to the buyer. The buyer can pay the licensee directly through a negotiated fee, or the buyer's rep may be paid by the seller or by a commission split with the listing broker.

    4. Disclosed dual agent. Dual agency is a relationship in which the brokerage firm represents both the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction. Dual agency relationships do not carry with them all of the traditional fiduciary duties to the clients. Instead, dual agents owe limited fiduciary duties. Because of the potential for conflicts of interest in a dual-agency relationship, it's vital that all parties give their informed consent. In many states, this consent must be in writing. Disclosed dual agency, in which both the buyer and the seller are told that the agent is representing both of them, is legal in most states.

    5. Designated agent (also called, among other things, appointed agency). This is a brokerage practice that allows the managing broker to designate which licensees in the brokerage will act as an agent of the seller and which will act as an agent of the buyer. Designated agency avoids the problem of creating a dual-agency relationship for licensees at the brokerage. The designated agents give their clients full representation, with all of the attendant fiduciary duties. The broker still has the responsibility of supervising both groups of licensees.

    6. Nonagency relationship (called, among other things, a transaction broker or facilitator). Some states permit a real estate licensee to have a type of nonagency relationship with a consumer. These relationships vary considerably from state to state, both as to the duties owed to the consumer and the name used to describe them. Very generally, the duties owed to the consumer in a nonagency relationship are less than the complete, traditional fiduciary duties of an agency relationship.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    5 Things to Do Before You Sell ...

    1. Get estimates from a reliable repairperson on items that need to be replaced soon, such as a roof or worn carpeting, for example. In this way, buyers will have a better sense of how much these needed repairs will affect their costs.
    2. Have a termite inspection to prove to buyers that the property is not infested.
    3. Get a pre-sale home inspection so you’ll be able to make repairs before buyers become concerned and cancel a contract.
    4. Gather together warranties and guarantees on the furnace, appliances, and other items that will remain with the house.
    5. Fill out a disclosure form provided by your sales associate. Take the time to be sure that you don’t forget problems, however minor, that might create liability for you after the sale.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Tips for Holding a Yard Sale ...

    Hold a yard sale to reduce the clutter in your home and get rid of items you don’t want to move.
    1. Check with your city government to see if you need a permit or license.
    2. See if neighbors want to participate and have a “block” sale to attract more visitors.
    3. Advertise. Put an ad in free classified papers, and put up signs and balloons at major intersections and in stores near your home.
    4. Price items ahead and attach prices with removable stickers. Remember, yard sales are supposed to be bargains, so don’t try to sell anything of significant value this way.
    5. Check items before the sale to be sure you haven’t including something you want by mistake.
    6. Keep pets away from the sale.
    7. Display everything neatly and individually so customers don’t have to dig through boxes.
    8. Have an electrical outlet so buyers can test appliances.
    9. Have plenty of bags and newspaper for wrapping fragile items.
    10. Get enough change, and keep a close eye on your cash.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Ways to Make Your House More Salable ...

    1. Get rid of clutter. Throw out or file stacks of newspapers and magazines. Pack away most of your small decorative items. Store out-of-season clothing to make closets seem roomier. Clean out the garage.
    2. Wash your windows and screens to let more light into the interior.
    3. Keep everything extra clean. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates. Mop and wax floors. Clean the stove and refrigerator. A clean house makes a better first impression and convinces buyers that the home has been well cared for.
    4. Get rid of smells. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Open the windows.
    5. Put higher wattage bulbs in light sockets to make rooms seem brighter, especially basements and other dark rooms. Replace any burnt-out bulbs.
    6. Make minor repairs that can create a bad impression. Small problems, such as sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, or a dripping faucet, may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression that the house isn’t well maintained.
    7. Tidy your yard. Cut the grass, rake the leaves, trim the bushes, and edge the walks. Put a pot or two of bright flowers near the entryway.
    8. Patch holes in your driveway and reapply sealant, if applicable.
    9. Clean your gutters.
    10. Polish your front doorknob and door numbers.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    5 Ways to Speed Up Your Sale ...

    1. Price it right. Set a price at the lower end of your property’s realistic price range.
    2. Get your house market-ready for at least two weeks before you begin showing it.
    3. Be flexible about showings. It’s often disruptive to have a house ready to show on the spur of the moment, but the more often someone can see your home, the sooner you’ll find a seller.
    4. Be ready for the offers. Decide in advance what price and terms you’ll find acceptable.
    5. Don’t refuse to drop the price. If your home has been on the market for more than 30 days without an offer, be prepared to lower your asking price.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    7 Steps to Preparing for an Open House ...

    1. Hire a cleaning service. A spotlessly clean home is essential; dirt will turn off a prospect faster than anything.
    2. Mow your lawn, and be sure toys and yard equipment are put away.
    3. Serve cookies, coffee, and soft drinks. It creates a welcoming touch. But be sure the kitchen has been cleaned up; use disposable cups so the sink doesn’t fill up.
    4. Lock up your valuables, jewelry, and money. Although the real estate salesperson will be on site during the open house, it’s impossible to watch everyone all the time.
    5. Turn on all the lights. Even in the daytime, incandescent lights add sparkle.
    6. Send your pets to a neighbor or take them outside. If that’s not possible, crate them or confine them to one room (a basement or bath), and let the salesperson know where to find them.
    7. Leave. It’s awkward for prospective buyers to look in your closets and express their opinions of your home with you there.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    10 Ways to Make Your Home Irresistible at an Open House ...

    1. Put fresh or silk flowers in principal rooms for a touch of color.
    2. Add a new shower curtain, fresh towels, and new guest soaps to every bath.
    3. Set out potpourri or fresh baked goods for a homey smell.
    4. Set the table with pretty dishes and candles.
    5. Buy a fresh doormat with a clever saying.
    6. Take one or two major pieces of furniture out of every room to create a sense of spaciousness.
    7. Put away kitchen appliances and personal bathroom items to give the illusion of more counter space.
    8. Lay a fire in the fireplace. Or put a basket of flowers there if it’s not in use.
    9. Depersonalize the rooms by putting away family photos, mementos, and distinctive artwork.
    10. Turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes to make the lawn sparkle.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    7 Terms to Watch for in a Purchase Contract...

    1. The closing date. See if the date the buyer wants to take title is reasonable for you. 2. Date of possession. See if the date the buyer wants to move in is reasonable for you.
    3. The earnest money. Look for the largest earnest-money deposit possible; since it is forfeited if the buyer backs out, a large deposit is usually a good indication of a sincere buyer.
    4. Fixtures and personal property. Check the list of items that the buyer expects to remain with the property and be sure it’s acceptable.
    5. Repairs. Determine what the requested repairs will cost and whether you’re willing to do the work or would rather lower the price by that amount.
    6. Contingencies. See what other factors the buyer wants met before the contract is final—inspections, selling a home, obtaining a mortgage, review of the contract by an attorney. Set time limits on contingencies so that they won’t drag on and keep your sale from becoming final.
    7. The contract expiration date. See how long you have to make a decision on the offer.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    What You’ll Net at Closing ...

    To find out how much money you’ll net from your house, add up your closing costs and subtract them from the sale price of the house.

    Closing Costs for Sellers
    Mortgage payoff and outstanding interest  
    Prorations for real estate taxes  
    Prorations for utility bills, condo dues, and other items paid in arrears  
    Closing fees charged by closing specialist  
    Title policy fees  
    Home inspections  
    Attorney’s fees  
    Survey charge  
    Transfer tax or other government registration fees  
    Brokerage commission  
    Total  


    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Moving Tips for Sellers ...

    1. Give your forwarding address to the post office, usually two to four weeks ahead of the move.
    2. Notify your credit card companies, magazine subscriptions, and bank of the change of address.
    3. Develop a list of friends, relatives, and business colleagues who need to be notified of the move.
    4. Arrange to have utilities disconnected at your old home and connected at your new one.
    5. Cancel the newspaper.
    6. Check insurance coverage for moved items. Usually movers only cover what they pack.
    7. Clean out appliances and prepare them for moving, if applicable.
    8. Note the weight of the goods you’ll have moved, since long-distance moves are usually billed according to weight. Watch for movers that use excessive padding to add weight.
    9. Check with your condo or co-op about restrictions on using the elevator or particular exits.
    10. Have a “first open” box with the things you’ll need most—toilet paper, soap, trash bags, scissors, hammer, screwdriver, pencils and paper, cups and plates, water, snacks, and toothpaste.

    Plus, if you’re moving out of town:
    1. Get copies of medical and dental records and prescriptions for your family and your pets.
    2. Get copies of children’s school records for transfer.
    3. Ask friends for introductions to anyone they know in your new neighborhood.
    4. Consider special car needs for pets when traveling.
    5. Let a friend or relative know your route.
    6. Carry traveler’s checks or an ATM card for ready cash until you can open a bank account.
    7. Empty your safety deposit box.
    8. Put plants in boxes with holes for air circulation if you’re moving in cold weather.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    6 Items to Have on Hand for the New Owners ...

    1. Owner’s manuals for items left in the house.
    2. Warranties for any items left in the house.
    3. A list of local service providers—the best dry cleaner, yard service, etc.
    4. Garage door opener.
    5. Extra sets of house keys.
    6. Code to burglar alarm and phone number of monitoring service if not discontinued.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    20 Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home ...

    Make your home more appealing for potential buyers with these quick and easy tips.
    1. Trim bushes so they don’t block windows and cut down on light.
    2. Buy a new doormat.
    3. Put a pot of bright flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch.
    4. Put new doorknobs on your doors.
    5. Put a fresh coating on your driveway.
    6. Edge the grass around walks and trees.
    7. Keep your garden tools out of site.
    8. Be sure kids put away their toys.
    9. Buy a new mailbox.
    10. Upgrade the outside lighting.
    11. Use warm, incandescent light bulbs for a homey feel.
    12. Polish or replace your house numbers.
    13. Clean your gutters.
    14. Put out potpourri or burn scented candles.
    15. Buy new pillows for the sofa.
    16. Buy a flowering plant and put it in a window you pass by frequently.
    17. Make a centerpiece for your table with fruit or artificial flowers.
    18. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light.
    19. Buy new towels.
    20. Put a seasonal wreath on your door.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    What Is Appraised Value? ...

    It’s an objective opinion of value, but it’s not an exact science so appraisals may differ. For buying and selling purposes, appraisals are usually based on market value—what the property could probably be sold for. Other types of value include insurance value, replacement value, and assessed value for property tax purposes. Appraised value is not a constant number. Changes in market conditions can dramatically alter appraised value. Appraised value doesn’t consider special considerations, like the need to sell rapidly. Lenders usually use either the appraised value or the sale price, whichever is less, to determine the amount of the mortgage they will offer.

    Used with permission from Kim Daugherty, Real Estate Checklists and Systems (http://www.realestatechecklists.com).

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Understanding Capital Gains in Real Estate ...

    When you sell a stock, you owe taxes on your gain—the difference between what you paid for the stock and what you sold it for. The same is true with selling a home (or a second home), but there are some special considerations.

    How to Calculate Gain
    In real estate, capital gains are based not on what you paid for the home, but on its adjusted cost basis. To calculate this:
    1. Take the purchase price of the home: This is the sale price, not the amount of money you actually contributed at closing.
    2. Add adjustments:

  • Cost of the purchase—including transfer fees, attorney fees, inspections, but not points you paid on your mortgage.
  • Cost of sale—including inspections, attorney’s fee, real estate commission, and money you spent to fix up your home just prior to sale.
  • Cost of improvements—including room additions, deck, etc. Note here that improvements do not include repairing or replacing something already there, such as putting on a new roof or buying a new furnace.

    3. The total of this is the adjusted cost basis of your home.
    4. Subtract this adjusted cost basis from the amount you sell your home for. This is your capital gain.

    A Special Real Estate Exemption for Capital Gains Since 1997, up to $250,000 in capital gains ($500,000 for a married couple) on the sale of a home is exempt from taxation if you meet the following criteria:
  • You have lived in the home as your principal residence for two out of the last five years.
  • You have not sold or exchanged another home during the two years preceding the sale.

    Also note that as of 2003, you also may qualify for this exemption if you meet what the IRS calls “unforeseen circumstances,” such as job loss, divorce, or family medical emergency.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)
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    Does Moving Up Make Sense? ...

    Answer these questions to help you decide whether moving up makes sense.
    1. How much equity do you have in your home? Look at your annual mortgage statement or call your lender to find out. Usually, you don’t build up much equity in the first few years of paying a mortgage, but if you’ve owned your home for a number of years, you may have significant unrealized gains.
    2. Has your income increased enough to cover the extra mortgage costs and the costs of moving?
    3. Does your neighborhood still meet your needs? For example, if you’ve had children, the quality of the schools may be more of a concern now than when you first purchased.
    4. Can you add on or remodel? If you have a large yard, there might be room to expand your home. If not, your options may be limited. Also, do you want to undertake the headaches of remodeling?
    5. How is the home market? If it’s good, you may get top dollar for your home.
    6. How are interest rates? A low rate not only helps you buy more home, but also makes it easier to find a buyer.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    Remodeling That Pays ...

    Upgrading your home is always appealing, but which enhancements really get you a good return for your money when it’s time to sell? The 2003 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling magazine and REALTOR? Magazine has the answer. To see the complete article, visit http://www.realtor.org/rmomag.NSF/pages/costvaluedec03.

      2003 2002 Variance
    Bathroom Remodel
    Midrange 89.3% 87.5% 1.8%
    Upscale 92.6 91.0 1.6
    Bathroom Addition
    Midrange 95.0 94.2 0.08
    Upscale 84.3 81.4 2.9
    Major Kitchen Remodel
    Midrange 74.9 66.6 8.3
    Upscale 79.6 79.8 -0.2
    Master Suite
    Midrange 76.4 75.1 1.3
    Upscale 76.9 76.8 0.1
    Family Room
    Midrange 80.6 79.5 1.1
    Deck
    Midrange 104.2 N/A* N/A*
    Basement Remodel
    Midrange 79.3 78.7 0.6
    Siding Replacement
    Midrange 98.1 79.1 19.0
    Window Replacement
    Midrange 84.8 73.8 11
    Upscale 87.0 77.0 10
    Attic Bedroom
    Midrange 92.8 N/A* N/A*


    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    12 Tips for Hiring a Remodeling Contractor...

    1. Get at least three written estimates.
    2. Get references and call to check on the work. If possible, go by and visit earlier jobs.
    3. Check with the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau for complaints.
    4. Be sure that the contract states exactly what is to be done and how change orders will be handled.
    5. Make as small a downpayment as possible so you won’t lose a lot if the contractor fails to complete the job.
    6. Be sure that the contractor has the necessary permits, licenses, and insurance.
    7. Be sure that the contract states when the work will be completed and what recourse you have if it isn’t. Also remember that in many instances you can cancel a contract within three business days of signing it.
    8. Ask if the contractor’s workers will do the entire job or whether subcontractors will do parts.
    9. Get the contractor to indemnify you if work does not meet local building codes or regulations.
    10. Be sure that the contract specifies the contractor will clean up after the job and be responsible for any damage.
    11. Guarantee that materials used meet your specifications.
    12. Don’t make the final payment until you’re satisfied with the work.

    (Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005.
    All rights reserved. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag)

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    For more information, call Harold, Rose, or Heather or send an email to us.