HomeLight Blog https://www.homelight.com/blog Real Estate Advice from America's Top Agents Mon, 07 Feb 2022 22:00:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.3 https://homelightblog.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/gplus-icon-150x150.png HomeLight Blog https://www.homelight.com/blog 32 32 From Commute to Community: How HomeLight Trade-In and Cash Offer Helped One Family Buy Their Dream Home in Point Loma https://www.homelight.com/blog/agent-trade-in-cash-offer-point-loma-house/ Mon, 07 Feb 2022 22:00:51 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=29572 Before moving to their new neighborhood, weeknights weren’t exactly a thrilling time for the Halbert family.

“My girls and I were spending about an hour and a half in the car driving to and from school every day,” says Stacy Halbert, a high school Spanish teacher and homeowner in Point Loma, California. “When we got home, it was just homework, dinnertime, then bedtime.”

Stacy and her husband, Justin Halbert, a real estate agent and culinary instructor, had known for a long time that Point Loma was the ideal location for their family of four. They were drawn to the walkable neighborhoods, great proximity to beaches, and the chance to live near friends.

Though more than ready to eliminate the daily grind of commuting and sell their existing home to fund a relocation to Point Loma, the Halberts quickly ran into challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and a chaotic real estate market.

“There just weren’t a lot of properties available in our price range in the area we wanted,” Stacy recalls. “The market is so crazy right now and so many people are trying to buy a home — we felt like if we didn’t have cash in hand, our offer wasn’t even going to be looked at.”

A house that has used HomeLight Trade-In.
Source: Justin Halbert of PorchLightRealty Team

An inconvenient contingency

As an agent himself, Justin was keenly aware that he and his wife would need a competitive edge to make their offer stand out. Having to include a sales contingency in their purchase offer wasn’t going to cut it.

Beyond that, the Halberts needed a way to transition smoothly between homes. With an eight-year-old and a two-year-old in tow, selling their home too quickly could add another layer of complication. Finding temporary housing between the sale of their existing home and closing on a new one was simply not practical.

“We didn’t have anywhere to go, and we were almost ready to just wait longer with the whole deal,” says Justin, recalling how daunted he and Stacy felt with the prospect of needing to sell one home to fund the purchase of another. Putting off the move to their dream neighborhood began to feel like the only option.

The Halberts needed the flexibility to act quickly — especially with such low home inventory in Point Loma.

A house that has used HomeLight Trade-In.
Source: Justin Halbert of PorchLightRealty Team

Enter HomeLight Trade-In

Thanks to Justin’s work in real estate, he’d heard of HomeLight and thought the array of services sounded potentially valuable for clients. Since he was about to sell his family’s home and become his own client, he knew it was time to take a closer look at HomeLight Trade-In.

It wasn’t long before the Halberts realized the perfect solution was right under their noses.

“With HomeLight Trade-In, HomeLight actually buys your client’s home from them to unlock the equity — about 90% upfront,” Justin explains. “And then the beauty of that is they now have the cash in hand to go make an offer on their next home, without the contingency of selling their current home first.”

Furthermore, since HomeLight Trade-In works with homeowners — and their agents — to purchase the existing home at a fair price and with no hidden fees, the program makes it possible for sellers to stay in their existing home until they’ve found their next house. No residential reshuffling required.

That’s not all. With Trade-In, there’s also a potential financial bonus for the homeowner.

“What’s also amazing is that any money that is made on top of that 90% equity when the home sells, HomeLight cuts a check to the seller for the difference,” says Justin.

Thanks to HomeLight Trade-In, the Halberts were now in a much more flexible position. They wouldn’t have a sales contingency on their offer, they wouldn’t have to find a place to rent in between buying and selling, and they had money in hand to make a competitive offer.

Things were looking up! Except for one tiny little detail: Buyer competition in Point Loma was still cutthroat.

Source: Justin Halbert of PorchLight Realty Team

Next up: HomeLight Cash Offer

When it became clear that the Halberts would need even more leverage to secure a new home for their family in their desired neighborhood, they turned to HomeLight Cash Offer.

“With the homes that were selling in Point Loma — I mean, the cash offers were just outrageous,” says Justin. “So, we unlocked our equity with HomeLight Trade-In, then we were able to make an even stronger offer with HomeLight Cash Offer.”

The HomeLight Cash Offer program works by qualifying buyers through HomeLight HomeLoans, then, when a buyer and their agent find the perfect home, they have the power to make an all-cash offer.

This meant that when the Halberts finally found the perfect home in Point Loma, they were able to use funding from HomeLight Cash Offer to submit a knockout offer — complete with a fast close and no sales contingency thanks to HomeLight Trade-In.

How fast? Thanks to that knockout offer, the Halberts were able to close on their dream home in just 21 days.

It’s possible with HomeLight

Happily settled into their new home, the Halberts reflect fondly on their experience with HomeLight Trade-In and HomeLight Cash Offer.

“I don’t think I fully understood how HomeLight worked at first,” admits Stacy. “But as the process went on and we got deeper into learning about the programs, it all started to make sense. There was more and more of this revelation of how great and smooth everything went — it was even more than we thought we were going to get.”

From their Point Loma home, the commute for Stacy and her daughters is now a five-minute walk instead of a 45-minute drive. Evenings are no longer just for homework, dinner, and getting ready for bed — the Halberts can actually enjoy their downtime as a family.

“We gained so much quality of life by moving to this new home,” Stacy shares. “We have all this extra time now that we get to spend in our neighborhood riding bikes along the promenade, visiting with neighbors, or walking to dinner. We really get to enjoy the neighborhood we live in.

“HomeLight made it possible.”

Header Image Source: (DouggieDimmadab / Shutterstock)

How to Sell Your House in 5 Days Flat: Quick Tips and Creative Techniques https://www.homelight.com/blog/how-to-sell-your-house-in-5-days/ Mon, 07 Feb 2022 16:59:37 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=17656 Life is always one event away from major change. A job relocation, financial problems, divorce, a new baby, or other pressing motivation could mean you need to sell your house at a moment’s notice — let’s say, 5 days flat. Is this type of lightning-quick sale possible?

As of December 2021, properties took an average of 19 days to sell, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). So if you’re able to get an offer in a quarter of that time, you’ll be overcoming some pretty steep odds. However, it’s not unheard of for properties to go under contract in 5 days or less. Some houses sell before they officially hit the market.

“For a quick sale, the most important thing is making your home the home that everybody wants to buy. That’s it,” advises Lisa Hudson, whose team Toril Sells Houses sells 69% more single-family homes than the average agent in Bonney Lake, WA. “Real estate is like psychology. It’s being strategic about launching your home and making sure it garners a lot of interest.”

Hudson shares that to get buyers to want your home and want it now, you need to execute its pricing, marketing, and timing perfectly. We’ve rounded up the hottest tips for hitting all these notes, so you can learn how to sell your house in 5 days flat.

A person researching on their phone about how to sell their house in 5 days.
Source: (Kamran Abdullayev / Unsplash)

Get a cash offer

If you need to sell your house in 5 days, consider bypassing the traditional real estate process and selling your home to a cash buyer instead.

This method cuts out a lot of time-consuming steps, including:

  • No pre-listing preparations or repairs
  • No showings
  • No open houses
  • No home appraisal
  • No financing contingency or delays

In December 2021, it took more than 50 days to close on a purchase loan on average, according to data from ICE Mortgage Technology. So, even if you sign a purchase offer in 5 days, you’ll likely still face a significant waiting period when working with a financed buyer.

Need to Move Fast? Get a Cash Offer

HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform provides cash offers for homes “as is” in as few as 48 hours. Skip repairs, staging, and showings, and close in as little as 10 days.

If you’re unable or unwilling to wait that long, HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform provides a great alternative solution for sellers who need to move quickly by facilitating cash offers on its platform.

Enter your address and answer a few basic questions about your property, and HomeLight will provide you with a cash offer to buy your home in as few as 48 hours. Sell your house as-is — with no additional repairs, prep costs, agent commission, or fees. While there may be no such thing as a 5 day closing, with Simple Sale, you can close in as little as 10 days.

Hire an agent who moves homes fast

Not interested in a direct cash offer? Then you need an all-star agent — and fast. Since you’re in a hurry, don’t waste time browsing through lists of hundreds of possible agents. Take a targeted approach and let HomeLight do the work for you.

We analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs. Tell us a bit about your home and that you need to sell ASAP with a short questionnaire. Within two minutes we’ll match you with the best real estate agents in your area.

Choose your sun among stars by interviewing the top three candidates over the phone. Here are a few essential questions you should consider:

  • What’s your average days on market compared to the market average? Days on market (DOM) is the number of days between the day a home is listed on the MLS and the day it’s sold or taken off the market. If you want to sell your house in 5 days, you must partner with an agent who consistently moves homes faster than standard for their market.
  • How many properties similar to mine have you sold recently? Agents accustomed to selling homes like yours — similar in size, neighborhood, and property type — have refined pricing and marketing strategies for your buyer pool. Ask the agent how quickly their most recent homes sold and if there’s anything they plan to do differently to sell yours even faster.
  • How much web traffic does your average listing receive? How many impressions do your social media posts get? Your home’s digital presence is everything. According to NAR, 76% of buyers found their home on a mobile device, and 97% of buyers used the web in their search. Your agent should prove their digital marketing savvy with real client examples, web traffic data, and quantifiable impressions (likes and shares on social media!)

Need a Real Estate Agent Who Sells Homes Fast?

Get matched with top-rated real estate agents near who sell homes faster than their peers on average — it only takes a few minutes to receive your tailored agent recommendations.

Price your home a little under the comps

Precise pricing is imperative when you’re up against a tight deadline. Price your home too high, and buyers won’t rush in with offers.

Hudson, our Washington state real estate agent, recommends that your listing agent reach out to the agents of any comparable homes as soon as they enter escrow to find out what they’ve sold for before the information is available elsewhere.

Armed with the most recent sales data possible, your agent can create an ultra-accurate comparative market analysis and pinpoint the best price for your home. Hudson demonstrates how this tactic recently helped her sell a home in less than 5 days:

“There was a house down the street that was similar, but needed more work and was a tiny bit smaller, that was listed at $525,000 and received multiple offers. I found out that they were in escrow for $540,000. So knowing what was going on in the neighborhood, we decided to list $579,000. We received two offers well over list price for sale in the market.”

A potent pricing strategy that nearly guarantees offers in 5 days is to price your home below market value. Buyers carefully watching the market will jump at the opportunity to purchase a home priced below the competition. If you receive multiple offers, you can use them as leverage to spark a bidding war, driving the final sale price well above the listing price.

This strategy works best in a seller’s market where home prices are steady or trending upwards. If there are significantly more homes than buyers in your market, you’re less likely to receive multiple offers and may conclude your sale with a lower than ideal price.

Supply chain issues are real and are impacting people’s ability to get appliances and other things. So I think selling something that is not in move-in condition or renovated could prevent you from selling it quickly.
  • Rory S Clark
    Rory S Clark Real Estate Agent
    Rory S Clark
    Rory S Clark Real Estate Agent at Brown Harris Stevens
    • star
    • star
    • star
    • star
    • star
    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 12
    • Transactions 140
    • Average Price Point $1m
    • Co-Ops 72

Account for recent market changes

The real estate market is constantly changing, and as trends come and go, it’s important you move with them. What might help sell your home at lightning speed today might not work as well in a month.

New York real estate agent Rory Clark says this is where your trusted agent can come in especially handy. Ask what current trends or market conditions might impede your home from selling fast and how to best approach the situation.

For example, so far in 2022, Clark is seeing many showings in New York City done by appointment only due to Covid-19 and the Omicron variant. This might disrupt how many showings you’re able to hold and delay offers coming in. But virtual tours and an extensive online presence may help make up for that. (We’ll discuss those more below!)

On top of that, Clark sees more buyers hesitant to offer on homes that require work. As home prices have increased so have construction and labor costs, and many buyers don’t want to spend the time and effort to deal with repairs, even if they’re relatively simple, Clark says.

“Supply chain issues are real and are impacting people’s ability to get appliances and other things,” Clark says. “So I think selling something that is not in move-in condition or renovated could prevent you from selling it quickly.”

Declutter using your garage as storage

Though not the most glamorous task, decluttering speeds up your home sale like no other. And previous HomeLight research reveals that reducing clutter can add over $2,500 to your home’s value.

When decluttering, remember that buyers want to envision the rooms with their belongings in them, not yours, so the more you remove, the better. Stage key pieces of furniture to showcase the room and leave the rest up to the imagination. Not sure what else to do? Here are some tips:

  • Clear all personal items off desks and countertops to avoid distractions
  • Hide away any unnecessary furniture or miscellaneous items in each room to create space
  • Pack up any visible items you won’t need this month
  • Clean counters and furniture to get rid of any dust or mess
  • Make sure all hallways and walking areas are clear

You don’t need to break the bank

Skip the storage unit and pack out your garage instead.

“I always tell sellers that your garage can be packed to the gills with boxes. It can be stacked to the roof with boxes. It does not make you a penny more or a penny less,” Hudson shares.

A spotless home with moving boxes in the garage signals to buyers that you’re ready to move as soon as a deal closes. If you run out of space in the garage, boxes in the basement, attic, closets, or temporary storage shed work well too.

A home office, which might help you sell your house in 5 days.
Source: (ergonofis / Unsplash)

Stage a home office (or two)

Data projections from Ladders indicate that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2023. Home shoppers today and in the future are looking for a dedicated home office — and in some cases multiple spaces that could be used for a home office.

If you have a home office already, clean it up for photos and make sure it photographs nicely.

Otherwise, pick a bedroom or possibly a basement area to stage as the perfect spot to take Zoom calls, work on spreadsheets, or write the next great American novel. If you’re short on time and money, staging a desk, chair, and computer sitting on top of the surface may suffice to show buyers how the space could be used.

Play up outdoor spaces

Outdoor spaces rank #3 on the list of home buyer wants, behind only a home office and great school district, according to one HomeLight survey. An inviting backyard patio with string lights could be the magic touch a buyer needs to stop and view your listing.

If you have a pool, mention it prominently in your property description and include photographs of it at one or more angles, whatever your real estate agent recommends. Dress up the front porch with adirondacks and a few colorful throw pillows, or add a seating area to your deck to help buyers imagine a beautiful evening enjoyed outdoors.

While you prep, mark your house as ‘Coming Soon’

One simple way to generate more interest in your property: build anticipation. Posting your home as “coming soon” not only gives buyers a sneak peek into your house but also gives you a leg up against others hitting the MLS at the same time. After all, the earlier you showcase your property, the earlier you can attract potential buyers.

Marking your home as “coming soon” is precisely as it sounds. Your agent will list your home with photos and basic details to generate interest in the property. However, no showings or open houses are allowed until the property officially hits the market.

Clark says a “coming soon” label is part of an aggressive marketing strategy. Connect with your real estate agent to get professional photos taken of your home and create a strong online listing. The goal is to get more eyes on your property so you can already have a head start when the active listing goes live.

“You really want to funnel as much energy and good vibes and interest into the property as you can,” Clark says.

Note: Clark says it’s important to ensure your “coming soon” listing adheres to all local rules and MLS policies. Typically, properties must be added to the MLS with a “coming soon” label within 72 hours of being made public. Once there, there’s a limited time they can remain in that status before becoming active or being removed.

Share the floor plan with a layout or 3D tour

In today’s digital age, your home’s online presence is more important than ever. According to the NAR, 51% found their home through the internet in 2021. Buyers are becoming more tech-savvy and utilizing digital tools more often, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it’s not just good enough to have a detailed online listing anymore. According to NAR data, 67% of buyers find floor plans very useful, and 58% believe virtual tours are very helpful. So instead of overloading buyers with dull hallway photos, show off your home’s flow with a traditional or 3D Matterport floor plan.

“Matterport lets you as a consumer click through with your mouse as if you’re walking through a house, so you can basically look at every little corner of it,” Donnelly explains, sharing she always includes a Matterport or a professionally drawn layout in her home listings.

In a recent Matterport survey, 90% of buyers stated they’re more compelled by listings with 3D tours, and 55% of buyers said they would be open to purchasing sight unseen if provided with a 3D tour.

Draw eyes with out-of-the-box marketing

Get buyers talking about your listing with unique marketing strategies. Marketing that inspires buyers to laugh or dream helps them connect with your property and motivates them to share your listing with others.

“We had a house for sale on a street called San Francisco Avenue, so we made a scavenger hunt of items you’d see in San Francisco for everybody who came in,” shares top real estate agent Liz Donnelly, who sells 68% more single homes than the average agent in Ventura, CA.

“We handed them a piece of paper with items like the Golden Gate Bridge and Rice-A-Roni — there were probably 10 things. We put one thing in each room, so everybody had to go into every room while they looked at the house.”

And the winning prizes? Chinese takeout boxes filled with chocolate-covered fortune cookies and Donnelly’s business card! Donnelly promoted the event to her network of agents and received double the average open house attendance, maximizing the listing’s exposure and contributing to the home’s quick sale.

Get creative with these buzz-worthy marketing tactics:

  • Celebrate an oddball holiday: Is it National Donut Day? Share donuts at your open house or highlight the best donut shops close to your home on social media.
  • Highlight your home’s lifestyle: Do so with short videos for social media posts or stories. Show off the renovated basement in a selfie-style tour, create a no-bake dessert tutorial in your gorgeous kitchen, or shoot GoPro footage of a bike ride from your home to a nearby trail.
  • Work with an influencer: Partner with a social media influencer to plan a virtual event, like a game night or wine tasting, that includes a showing.
  • Host a moving sale / open house combo: Make a splash on the market the first day your listing goes live by combining an open house with a tag sale — call it a “moving sale.” Purge unwanted items and invite people to tour the home while they’re there.
  • Share your home’s claim to fame: Pitch your home to local news outlets for heightened exposure. Was your home featured in a movie or TV show? Were any of the previous owners famous? Is your home historic due to its age, architecture, or location? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, research the connection and pitch your listing story to local radio stations, TV news programs, newspapers, and magazines.

Connect to your non-local buyer pool

A savvy agent knows how to target out-of-area buyers, so your listing reaches as many prospects as possible the day it hits the market.

“We have a lot of buyers who work in Santa Barbara, and since Barbara’s far more expensive to live in, they choose to buy in Ventura,” shares Donnelly. “And very recently, we’ve had a lot of people inquiring about our homes who are anywhere east of us, say like Pasadena area, Los Angeles, or even south Orange County, who find that they can telecommute now that they don’t need to go into the office.”

When her listing goes live, Donnelly calls buyers’ agents in these areas to jump-start interest. Your agent can also reach out of town buyers with these tactics:

  • Promote your listing posts on Facebook within a 15-mile radius in the region out-of-town buyers often come from.
  • Add location hashtags to social media posts, for example, #losangelesrealestate and #santabarbararealestate.
  • Email listing details and a virtual tour to real estate agents in target areas.

Add some color to your curb appeal

Whether a buyer is pulling up your listing online or pulling into your driveway, your home’s exterior is their first impression of your home — you need to nail the curb appeal. Paint your home’s exterior a neutral color to appeal to the most buyers possible. Then dial up the energy with colorful accents that draw buyers in like bees to a flower.

Donnelly attributes her most recent 5-day sale to the seller’s colorful yet tasteful curb appeal (pictured below):

(Source: Mark Corcoran / Upmarket Photo, Courtesy of Liz Donnelly)

“They went with a gray house, and they chose a cranberry red trim color for the shutters and the front door. I wouldn’t have thought of that combination, but it actually looks really nice. Then they painted one part of their house a white and the rest of it gray, so it really pops.”

If selling fast isn’t enough motivation, buyers will also pay 7% percent more for a home with excellent curb appeal versus a house with a neglected exterior, according to HomeLight’s 2022 Top Agent Insights. Agents estimate investing in your home’s curb appeal could add nearly $12,000 in resale value.

Consider these easy opportunities to douse in some curb appeal color:

Pair pre-listing home inspection with a home warranty

When you pair pre-listing home inspection with a complimentary home warranty, you assure buyers that your home is free from costly hidden issues. The more confident they feel about your home’s condition, the faster they’ll submit an offer.

With a pre-listing home inspection, you learn your home’s condition before you go to market to tackle necessary repairs on your own terms. With the inspection and repairs complete, your sale can close faster, cutting out back-and-forth negotiations over the inspection report.

Throw a cherry on top with an included home warranty. A home warranty costs on average around $600 and covers emergency expenses that arise from appliances, electrical systems, HVAC units, garage doors, and other home systems for the first year after the closing date.

Motivate buyers with a limited time offer

Include a freebie with your home for buyers who offer in the first 5 days to incentivize those interested to act quickly. If the freebie is particularly grand, it may even attract media attention like this luxury housing community in Nevada offering Tesla Model 3’s to buyers. Between the sweetener and the press attention, your listing wins even more exposure.

Here are some enticing inclusions:

  • Generous gift certificates to local establishments
  • Gym equipment
  • Whiskey collection
  • Fully stocked gameroom
  • Car
  • Furniture
  • Electric bicycles
  • Covering all closing costs or other concessions
  • Outdoor entertaining setup

Getting an offer in 5 days is possible

With the right pricing and marketing strategies, it’s possible to attract an offer on your home in 5 days. In the 2022 market, buyers love to see a move-in ready home with a home office and outdoor space — and they want to be able to experience the home online as much as possible.

If you’re going the traditional route, find the best real estate agent for the challenge, and remember to account for anywhere from 30-50 day close. Otherwise, consider requesting a cash offer from HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. You’ll receive a cash offer in as few as 48 hours, with the ability to close in as little as 10 days.

Header Image Source: (Erik Mclean / Unsplash)

How to Sell Your House Fast in the Beach Town of Panama City, FL https://www.homelight.com/blog/sell-house-fast-panama-city/ Sun, 06 Feb 2022 22:24:19 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=29544 There’s a lot to love about Panama City, Florida (just ask the 75% of residents who love living in this beach town). But maybe you’ve decided it’s time to pack up and sell your Panama City house… fast. We spoke to top agent — and Panama City native — Carrie Routt who describes it as a  “family destination.” Here are her top local tips that will help you sell your home in a flash.

Panama City has a lot of perks for those looking to market their homes. There are amazing white sand beaches on the gulf, lots of shopping, an eclectic range of dining, and fun water sports for the whole family — all great ways to market your home to buyers seeking fun in the sun.

While Hurricane Michael was responsible for damaging 85% of homes and structures in 2018, the rebuilding process has led Panama City homes to see a 10.7% increase in listing price, making this the perfect time to sell your home!

A house that sold fast in Panama City, FL.
Source: (Sam E / Unsplash)

Take advantage of your Panama City location

Location, location, location. Potential buyers in Panama City are attracted to its white sandy beaches, clear blue water, and dreamy vacation living. It’s a perfect selling point for your home and definitely one to note when listing your home.

Routt, recognized as one of Bay County’s top 1% of agents, recommends highlighting the location of your lot from an aerial perspective by having pictures taken from a drone. In her 19 years of experience, she says, “If you get the drone high enough, you can see how close it is to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Proximity to the beach — whether your backyard is sand or you’re just a few blocks away — can add significantly to your asking price. In fact, hot market conditions prompted Forbes to rank Panama City as one of the best real estate investment locations in America, giving sellers who want to move quickly a large pool of potential buyers.

Even if your place of residence isn’t quite as close, you can still market your home based on Panama City’s ample parks and golf courses, and noted attractions beloved by families, including ZooWorld Conservatory or SkyWheel.

There are so many virtual staging options you can do online that are very cheap.
  • Carrie Routt
    Carrie Routt Real Estate Agent
    Carrie Routt
    Carrie Routt Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Success Realty
    • star
    • star
    • star
    • star
    • star
    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 19
    • Transactions 875
    • Average Price Point $200k
    • Single Family Homes 697

Stage to showcase the Panama City lifestyle

With 93% of home buyers now using the internet for their next home search, you might be thinking about how best to stage your home for your listing photos. While staged homes do have the tendency to sell quicker, the professional stager you’ve been eyeing might not be your only option if you’re looking to sell fast.

“There are so many virtual staging options you can do online that are very cheap,” Routt says as opposed to hiring a professional stager. If you have a completely vacant house, Routt says these virtual options are a great way to showcase your home to potential home buyers.

For occupied homes that see families every day, here are some tips for staging your home for your “professional photos,” as Routt says, that should be uploaded to the home-selling platform you choose:

  • 71% of Panama City residents have a pool in their backyard and water is almost second nature to these beach-town residents. If your home has any special amenities like a pool, fenced-in yard, or elaborate patio, make sure you include pictures of these as well.
  • Remember that staging your home is not all about the inside. When it comes to the backyard and curb appeal, Routt says you should make the place seem “inviting” and cozy. “Put a fresh stain on your deck or pressure wash your moldy brick.”
  • It’s especially easy for brick homes in Panama City, Florida to see mold pop up on the exterior, especially in this tropical climate where a rain storm passes through everyday. After a simple pressure wash, your home can look good as new.
  • Most Panama City homes have a “beach vibe” that’s highly visible from the lawn before you step foot into the house. Gorgeous pathways to your front door with palm trees or shrubs along with a welcoming back patio are the top-selling landscape perks for Panama City homes.

Don’t skip out on your needed home inspection

With the way the market is right now, you might have seen local listings that haven’t had an inspection and are still selling. But from a buyer’s standpoint, knowing the condition of the house could make a world of difference in the final sale.

Routt says your major home inspection areas are going to be three things:

  • Windows
  • Wood rot
  • Roofing conditions

Your roof is vitally important for a Panama City home, especially when there’s hurricanes and tropical storms that pass through. Having a home with architectural shingles is not only more visually pleasing, but they provide your home with the safety it needs to withstand winds up to 120 mph.

Even if you’re selling a newer home, which should already be up to code, home inspector Mark Hensel, recommends sellers have an inspection done to get ahead of any problems that could slow down a sale. Be sure to highlight improvements that will help protect the home from the high winds of hurricanes or tropical storms that pass through the area with a wind mitigation inspection.

When asked about any preventative care for wood rotting, Hensel said it’s best to “control the flow of water around the house — having gutter systems is great — to prevent wood rotting. And having proper landscaping helps.”

Another benefit to inspecting your home before you list is that it can give you a greater indication of where to price your home. If you’re thinking of putting your house on the market within the next month or so, Hansel says, “it’s good to start making those phone calls now.”

Set your price right in relation to the market

Speaking of prices, you may notice that the average home in Panama City sells around $215,000, which in early 2022 is up 14.6% compared to December 2020, making it an attractive time for sellers looking to cash in fast.

There’s a lot of stress that comes with setting your price, but Routt recommends you don’t set the bar too high. Here are the most important factor for Panama City home sellers some factors to consider when setting your home’s fair listing price:

  • Location — does your home offer any special close proximity to the beach or local hang out? If so, the convenience could help with price. The average home price for a Panama City home is around $155,800 with the more elaborate and modern homes ranging from $250,000-$400,000.
  • Condition & Newness — if your home has seen a lot of updates or is a newer home, you can likely list it at a higher price. This is especially true if your home has state-of-the-art features like an architectural shingle roof update, a modern landscape design, or new appliances.

Give your older home a fresh makeover

If the last time your home’s interior saw updates were in the ’80s (we’re looking at you, wallpaper), it might not be a bad idea to give your home a simple makeover with fresh paint colors (but nothing elaborate unless your house calls for it). Here are some updates residents in Panama City can make that could even boost home value and give a higher ROI and help with faster selling:

  • Update your wall paint colors (most Panama City homes have bright colored walls for a beach feel)
  • Paint your kitchen cabinets
  • Install newer appliances
  • Update lighting
  • Put down new flooring
  • Go over exterior paint

Homes that have a more modern look with updates and a makeover can make your home appear to have kept up with the times and trends. With these fresh paint colors, appliances, and flooring, your pictures with natural light will look irresistible.

List your house in the spring for a quick offer

So, your house is ready to list, but just like posting a picture on Instagram, you have to follow the housing algorithm.

We have found that the best time to list your home in Panama City is during the spring (preferably in May) which sees homes move 15.77% quicker compared to the year-round average. With it taking around 3 months to go from listing to closing, you’re looking at moving out in August.

Work with a top-rated Panama City real estate agent

Selling your home quickly is already hard enough, so why not partner with a local real estate agent who knows the market and all the fast home-selling tricks? With the current changing trends in the market and features home buyers are after, it’s important to work with an agent in every step of the process.

You could potentially have your home sold within 55 days if you work with one of the top 3% Panama City agents. HomeLight’s agent matching platform can find you the right partner, offering you a choice of top agents in the Panama City area based on your selling goals.

From there you will be able to speak directly to an agent and ask your questions to get expert knowledge on the home-selling process and how to advertise your home specifically to your local market.

With our top home selling tricks and a smart agent on your side, you could have your Panama City home sold quicker than you ever imagined.

Header Image Source: (pisaphotography / Shutterstock)

Wait! Read This Before You Sell Your House for Cash https://www.homelight.com/blog/sell-house-for-cash/ Sun, 06 Feb 2022 17:27:18 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=3199 As a rising number of companies provide cash offers for homes and improve experiences for sellers with advanced technology, the idea that you don’t have to wait months to list and close on your house appeals to many stressed-out sellers.

A divorce, job move, or low bank account can all be strong motivators to go for the speed and convenience of a cash sale.

“You make a phone call or answer some questions online, agree to an offer, and then it’s not something you have to worry about anymore,” says Doug Van Soest, owner of a house flipping company in Southern California, in describing the typical way things go. “Plus, you’ll save money on things like commissions, repairs, and closing costs.”

If it all sounds too good to be true or you’re unclear about what selling for cash is really like, we’re here to help walk you through the most common questions and points of confusion.

Sell Your House for Cash: Request an Offer Today

HomeLight provides you with a competitive all-cash offer to buy your home, on your timeline. No repairs, no staging, no showings — and close in as little as 10 days.

What does it mean to sell your house for cash?

Selling your house for cash has similar benefits to trading in your old vehicle to the dealership when you buy a new car. Sure, you might pocket a little more money if you sold it yourself. But it would likely take longer — and require extra work on your end. You’d have to make minor repairs, advertise it on Craigslist, organize test drives for potential buyers, and handle all the paperwork yourself.

Translating that to real estate terms, selling a house for cash goes something like this:

1. Request an offer

You skip the staging and showing process and go straight to requesting an offer. At this point you can communicate whether you’re selling “as is” — meaning you don’t intend to make repairs or change anything about the house — or if you’re open to making any repairs.

2. House is evaluated

The buyer will collect some information about the home, possibly send a representative to do an onsite visit to the property, and determine what they’re willing to pay.

3. Review the contract

You as the seller then review the offer, including the contract price and terms, and decide whether to accept.

4. Ask for proof of funds

You should always obtain documentation that a person or company is who they say they are and actually has the funds and abilities to complete a transaction of this size.

5. Complete inspections

If the deal moves forward, the cash buyer may still perform steps like the inspection and appraisal — it all depends on who you work with and how they operate. Even if you’re selling “as is”, an inspection could still be required.

6. Fast-forward to closing

Without a lender’s involvement, there will be no lender-ordered appraisal or loan processing period. As of Dec. 2021, the average time to close a purchase loan for a home was 54 days, according to a report from Ice Mortgage Technologies. In contrast, a cash buyer has the ability to close in as little 1o days to two weeks.

7. Clear title

The cash buyer will require a title search to make sure that you can convey the property free and clear of any claims or judgments against the property, such as mechanic’s liens, unpaid taxes, or boundary encroachments.

8. You get paid!

The cash buyer will likely wire the funds over to your bank account in a process that all in all may take only a matter of weeks or even days.

In summary, selling for cash won’t mean that a person shows up on your doorstep with a briefcase full of hundred-dollar bills. You’ll still have official steps to complete and hiccups like a title defect can still arise. But when your buyer doesn’t have to wait for the lender to underwrite or process their loan, you can usually coordinate a much faster sale.

A HomeLight infographic about selling a house for cash.

Are cash-for home companies legit?

In short, the answer is yes; there are many legitimate companies out there that purchase homes for cash, will provide you with a great experience, and are good on their word. However, we always recommend that you do your due diligence on any buyer before you provide any sensitive information, sign a contract, or send any money.

Check their BBB rating

No matter what type of house-buying company you decide to work with, make sure it’s an accredited Better Business Bureau (BBB) member. Check for positive reviews and timely responses to complaints. (HomeLight, which provides cash offers through our Simple Sale platform, has more than 500 BBB reviews with an average 5-star rating.)

Ask for proof of funds and EMD

Shaun Simpson, a leading real estate agent based in Columbus, Ohio who’s helped a number of clients navigate cash sales, advises asking for official proof of funds from the buyer’s bank and confirming that they can provide adequate earnest money, the deposit that represents a buyer’s commitment to a sale. “If you’re buying a $500,000 house that’s supposed to close in a week, you should have no problem putting a 2-3% deposit into earnest money,” he says.

Consult an agent where needed

An established real estate agent will likely have the inside track on who’s who in the local cash buyer market and can also help you avoid getting lowballed.

“There are a lot of investors that are reaching out directly to homeowners to try and buy their property with cash,” notes Brian Breeckner, a top-selling real estate agent who, like Simpson, is based in Columbus, Ohio. “To make sure a buyer is legitimate, or that they’re making a good offer based on the value of your home, you can always speak to an experienced local real estate agent and get their opinion.”

What about ‘We Buy Houses?’®

You’ve probably seen ads for “We Buy Houses For Cash®” companies — so are they legit? If you connect with any one of the company’s bonafide 1,150 franchises in 47 states and 170 markets across the country, the answer is yes. The company, which specializes in flipping dilapidated homes, has bought more than 100,000 houses and is well-established in the cash buying space.

But like you would any other cash buyer, do some digging before working with any investor operating under this brand known for their shaggy-haired caveman and yellow billboards. For more details on this particular company, we’ve put together an entire guide on the history of the We Buy Ugly Houses® business.

Who will purchase your home for cash?

As a group, cash buyers or house buying companies are individuals or entities that buy your house outright and all at once, without the need for lender financing. In general, selling your home to a cash buyer allows you to skip the home prep, showings, and staging hassles and arrange a more flexible closing timeline to coordinate with the purchase of your next residence. But not all cash buyers have the same exact business model. To keep it simple, we’ve grouped these buyers into a few broader categories you’re likely to encounter today.

Online house-selling platforms, such as Simple Sale

With Simple Sale, HomeLight provides you a competitive all-cash offer to buy your home, on your timeline. To get started, tell us a few details about your home and when you need to sell. After collecting some information, we’ll provide you with a full cash offer, and you can close in as little as 10 days.


iBuyers (instant buyers) are a specific type of house-buying company. iBuyers first emerged in the mid-2010s and use automated valuation models (AVMs) to make competitive offers on homes that are typically in better condition. Examples include Opendoor, Offerpad, and Redfin Now. iBuyers generally pay more for homes than flippers or buy-and-hold investors but charge a service fee of around 5%. Since iBuyers tend to make less profit per flip, their business is more reliant on turning over a high volume of homes using technology to streamline operations.

Buy and hold investors

Buy-and-hold investors purchase homes and convert them into rental properties. Sometimes, these buyers sell a property once it appreciates enough. Other times, they hold on to it indefinitely.

Within this category, you have individual investors who buy and rent out properties for passive income. On a larger scale, there are institutional investors that purchase a minimum of 10 rental properties per year, the quintessential example being Invitation Homes, a subsidiary of Blackstone that operates in 16 markets across America.

According to a January 2022 report from ATTOM Data Solutions, institutional investors were responsible for 6.9% of all single-family home and condo purchases in Q4 2021, the highest level since 2013.

When you sell to a buy-and-hold investor, you have more flexible closing dates and will likely get better pricing than if you were to sell to a house flipper.

House flippers

Perhaps media darlings Chip and Joanna Gaines or your remodeling-enthusiast uncle come to mind when you see the phrase “house flippers.” Whether a small mom-and-pop operation or a larger business, flippers buy homes — often in poorer condition and at a lower price — with the intention of renovating them and reselling them for more.

“The minimum return on investment varies depending on things like the market and the condition of the home, but typically we need at least a 10% return on a purchase to make it worth the risk,” says Van Soest.

He adds that while flippers usually want to renovate their purchase and resell it as fast as possible, the actual time it takes to get a home ready to list can vary. In the current hot sellers’ market, for example, contractors and subcontractors are extremely busy, so it’s taking twice as long to fix up the typical home. Van Soest is okay with this because home prices are still rising.

ATTOM Data Solutions reports that in the third quarter of 2021, 94,766 homes and condos were flipped, representing 5.7% of all home sales.

Why would someone sell their house for cash?

Speed, convenience, peace of mind, and financial motivations top the list of reasons a growing number of sellers are turning to cash buyers, says Van Soest. Here’s how each one of these motivations could apply to your situation.


  • You’re moving for a job and have to be there by a certain date.
  • You’d rather not deal with the risk of a low appraisal.
  • You don’t have the time to hire contractors and make major repairs.
  • You’re nervous accepting an offer with tons of contingencies.

Speed and convenience

  • You inherited a house you’re unfamiliar with and perhaps far away from.
  • You don’t want to disrupt your life with house prep, staging, and showings.
  • You have a problematic or occupied rental property.


  • You need cash for a down payment on your dream home.
  • You don’t have the funds to make necessary repairs.
  • You’re on the brink of foreclosure.
  • You need cash to get out of debt.

Take Northern California couple Sam and Cathy,* who were preparing to retire. Plan A, they told HomeLight in an interview, was to fix up their condo and list it on the open market. But after struggling to find contractors to make repairs and updates, they decided to sell to a cash buyer instead and skip the legwork. Figuring they’d take a significant loss on price, they were shocked when they received a near market-value offer and closed the sale in just 20 days.

What value does a cash buyer provide?

In other words, what do you get out of working with a buyer who pays cash that you wouldn’t receive otherwise? We lay out the main benefits of this type of deal below.

Faster closing

If your buyer has to borrow money, they — and you — are on the lender’s timeline, which is often at least six weeks. All-cash purchases close quickly because lenders aren’t part of the picture. What’s more, a cash buyer’s offer won’t hinge on your home appraising at a certain amount. Real estate transaction data shows that appraised values and contract prices are increasingly misaligned on the heels of a steep run-up in home prices.

Flexible move-out

Whether you want to move next week or stay put for a couple of months, a cash sale generally gives you plenty of wiggle room. Again, this goes back to the steps you can skip in a cash deal. “With cash, you get a lot of flexibility on your closing date because you’re not waiting on a third party to approve things like a loan or appraisal,” says Simpson.

Lower-maintenance sale

When you request a cash offer, you won’t need to worry about keeping your home spotless for weeks or disrupting your schedule for a slew of showings. In addition, you can choose to sell your home “as is” and skip pre-listing projects like roof repairs, painting, and landscaping. How much work you want to put in is really up to you with a cash sale, whereas traditional buyers will have higher expectations about how your home should look.

Reduced expenses

A cash offer can cut out many of the usual home-selling expenses including repairs, curb appeal projects, staging, and commissions, acting as a counterbalance to any discount you may receive on price. Our analysis shows that selling a home the traditional way costs an average of $31,000.

What are the downsides of selling for cash?

If what you’ve read so far has sold you on the idea of selling for cash, great! But it’s important to understand the downsides before rushing into a cash sale.

Lower price

The trade-off for a faster, hassle-free sale is often getting less money for your home. How much less depends on many factors, including the type of buyer you’re selling to, your location, and the condition of your home. Even though it’s becoming more common for iBuyers to make competitive offers on homes, their fees will still cut into your profit.

Not totally off the hook for repairs

One of the biggest lures of selling to a cash buyer is that handling pesky repairs lands on their plate, not yours. While you won’t have to pay for repairs out of pocket, you may have to settle for a lower price on your home. In most cases, a house-buying company calculates how much it will need to spend on repairs before finalizing your offer and deducts that cost from their offer.

Harder to negotiate

When you list your house on the open market, you’ll likely get bids from multiple buyers. They may already see your place as their new home and imagine themselves living there, which can help you leverage a better price. With cash buyers, there are generally no heart strings to tug — it’s strictly business.

How much do cash buyers pay?

Different house-buying companies and investors will offer different amounts for a home.

Depending on your home’s condition, price point, and location, your house will be a more desirable purchase to certain cash buyers over others. Most real estate buyers have a specific “buy box” they use with parameters as to which types of properties are most valuable to them. That means what your home is “worth” will vary, even among buyers who can pay instantly.

Flippers, for example, often use the 70% rule. According to the rule, a flipper should pay 70% of the After Repair Value (ARV) of a home. iBuyers pay closer to market value — and, increasingly, match or exceed it — because they target newer homes in good condition. They charge a service fee, though in the current seller’s market, these fees can be even lower.

Buy and hold investors fall somewhere in between flippers and iBuyers. They typically pay more than flippers but less than iBuyers and aim to make between 8 to 12 % on their investment.

“The discounted price someone should expect for a cash sale varies significantly,” says Van Soest. “The cleaner the house, the better the neighborhood, and the fewer issues a house has, the more likely you’ll get an offer that’s closer to market value. The more problems the buyer has to deal with, the lower the offer will be.”

How long does it take for a cash buyer to close?

Getting over that final hurdle to close a traditional sale — making sure a buyer’s financing is in order — can be an ordeal. With the average time to close a purchase loan exceeding 50 days in today’s market,  that’s almost two months of waiting.

Cash buyers, on the other hand, are a lot more agile. Typically, a company that buys homes for cash will show you proof of funds for the amount they’re willing to offer and can close in as little as a week to 10 days.

Is selling for cash a smart move?

If speed, convenience, and certainty are your top priorities, then selling your house for cash can be the right choice for you.

“As a seller, one of the big things you want to do is eliminate all of the question marks around your sale, and cash can do that,” says Simpson. “Cash is the ultimate poker chip because it gives you a lot of leverage. You just have to know a cash buyer might not have the same pain points a traditional buyer has when it comes to negotiating.”

Still on the fence? Our Simple Sale platform offers a commitment way to test the waters. Just enter a few details about your home online and we’ll provide you with a cash offer in 48-hours. From there, you can decide whether you want to move forward with the. In as little as a few weeks your house will be sold — and you’ll be moving on with your life.

One thing is certain: Companies that buy homes for cash aren’t going anywhere. And they are becoming more popular with a variety of sellers, not just those in distress.

“In my opinion, iBuyers and other cash buying companies will continue to become more mainstream,” says Van Soest. “Technology is making it easier and easier to sell a home virtually. Things like COVID-19 also impacted sellers’ willingness to sell to iBuyers because it eliminates the need for lots of direct contact.” And, he adds, if your house is in really good condition and in a desirable area, you may get a better price than you think.

*Sam and Cathy are pseudo names; these sources asked to be anonymous for privacy reasons.

Header Image Source: (Will Porada/ Unsplash)

Can I Sell My Home if It Is in Foreclosure? Why Time Is of the Essence https://www.homelight.com/blog/can-i-sell-my-home-if-it-is-in-foreclosure/ Fri, 04 Feb 2022 23:59:13 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=19875 DISCLAIMER: This article is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as financial, tax, or legal advice. HomeLight always encourages you to reach out to an advisor regarding your own situation.

Life sometimes brings harsh rain — like death, divorce, job loss, or medical bills. And on top of that rain might come thunder — missed mortgage payments.

It’s natural to feel paralyzed with sadness, and a sense of panic when those overdue notices come from your mortgage company. As the storm rages, you might ignore the problem, hoping it’ll just go away. Or perhaps you start to believe that the only solution is to lose your house. But then a sliver of sunlight carries a question to your mind — “Can I sell my home if it is in foreclosure?”

The answer is often “yes.” Sean Anderson is an experienced real estate agent in Cartersville, Georgia, who sells houses 49% faster than the average agent in his area. During the economic downturn of 2008 to late 2011, he sold about 650 homes, many of them in foreclosure. It is possible, but you’re going to need to acknowledge the situation, and then take prompt, decisive action.

“The best advice I can give to sellers facing foreclosure is don’t wait till the last minute. Don’t wait until your foreclosure is 30 days away from the sell date,” says Bethany Mendoza, top real estate agent in the Modesto, California area who’s helped clients navigate selling their home to avoid foreclosure.

“That’s what homeowners typically do because they’re in denial. That just puts you in a dire situation where you have to sell aggressively, which leaves money on the table.”

If you’ve exhausted your options for working out an arrangement with your lender to stay in the property, then you need to act sooner than later to get the house sold — or prepare to face the ramifications of foreclosure.

Envelopes with information about a home foreclosure.
Source: (Andrius Zemaitis / Shutterstock)

When does foreclosure begin?

If you’ve missed a few mortgage payments, you’re probably wondering when your lender will begin the foreclosure process. The answer is: it depends.

Foreclosure rules, processes, and timelines vary by state and among mortgage companies. According to HUD, mortgage companies typically begin foreclosure three to six months after your first missed mortgage payment.

After about three months of missed payments, you’ll likely receive a Demand or Notice to Accelerate letter. This letter tells you how much you owe and typically gives you 30 days notice to get your balance current. Lenders send registered letters so that they have legal proof of communication.

From the date of the Demand Letter, HUD’s guidelines note that it can be two to three months to the scheduled sale of your property if you take no action to square up with the mortgage company.

Depending on your location, the timeline could be much longer. In New Jersey, foreclosures take an average of 1,477 days total, while in Arkansas, a foreclosure takes an average of 253 days. Nationally, it takes an average of 922 to foreclose on a home.

Foreclosure and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Due to circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the government has offered additional mortgage relief options through the CARES Act. These options will be available as long as the COVID-19 National Emergency is in place (currently set to expire on Feb. 24, 2022).

This included forbearance plans which allow you to temporarily pause making payments on your mortgage or reduce them. It’s only available if you have a mortgage backed by HUD/FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac, though other lenders may offer their own programs. Forbearance plans do not wipe out your mortgage debt — you still owe that money once payments resume.

Need to Sell Your Home Fast? Start By Requesting a Cash Offer

If you need to sell your home fast with no time for repairs or showings, request a cash offer so you can make an informed decision. We’ll provide you with a no-obligation cash offer in as few as 48 hours. It’s quick, easy, and stress-free.

Can I still sell my home if I am behind on my payments but not yet in foreclosure?

The pre-foreclosure period is typically the best time to sell. When you still have months before the bank initiates foreclosure, you have time to prep your home for sale so that it sells for the best possible price. The advantages to selling pre-foreclosure include:

  • Time to have small repairs done, the home cleaned, and staged to get top dollar
  • The ability to work with an agent and get top dollar
  • Avoiding a foreclosure hitting your credit report and limiting your ability to buy again
  • Move on your timeline, not a bank’s, depending on negotiations with the buyer

If you list too late in the foreclosure process, you won’t have time to prep the house. You might have to list at a lower price than market value just to sell it in time to beat the foreclosure clock.

Don’t let the stigma of foreclosure keep you from making wise financial decisions about your home sale. You’re not alone in facing foreclosure. It can happen to almost anyone:

“I had one foreclosure where the house was worth over half a million, and it went into foreclosure over a loan of $10,000. Unfortunately, that homeowner waited too long, and left me with just 60 days to sell it,” explains Bethany Mendoza.

“So, if you’re in financial trouble and facing foreclosure, don’t wait. Get your house on the market so you have the time to sell at a fair price.”

Am I allowed to sell my home after I have received a foreclosure notice?

Even if the foreclosure process has begun, you can still sell your home independently prior to your scheduled auction date. If you’re facing long-term financial struggles, rather than a short-term loss of income, selling your home could be your best option. Not only will it get you out from under your mortgage, you could make some money on the sale.

Many homeowners have equity built up in their house that could help them out of their current financial difficulty. As of this writing in 2022, home values are rising quickly as buyers desperately search for houses, putting seller’s in the driver’s seat.

“We have a huge inventory shortage in our area. We’re at a 1.2 months’ supply. So our inventory would have to quadruple, and our buyer demand would have to drop in half in order for home values to start going down,” explains Bethany Mendoza.

If homes in your area are selling for more than you paid, and you’ve owned your home for several years, you likely have some equity in it.

What are my next steps for a pre-foreclosure home sale?

Don’t despair — take action! Follow these steps to successfully sell your home pre-foreclosure.

1. Find out roughly how much your home is worth

Use an online tool like our Home Value Estimator to get a home value estimate in less than two minutes. We’ll compare information you tell us about your home to housing market data to get a better understanding of your home’s worth. (Note that you’ll use this number as a starting point and to run some preliminary math — but you’ll want an expert’s opinion before actually pricing your home.)

2. Calculate what you owe on your mortgage, plus any late fees

Reach out to your lender and ask exactly what you’ll owe if you decide to sell, so you can be financially prepared. If you’ve received notice of foreclosure, you’ve likely missed several months of mortgage payments.  When you sell your home, you’ll owe that money and any additional late fees. Mortgage lenders typically charge late fees 10-15 days after the first missed payment.

You may have also accrued fees from the mortgage company’s attorney for your delinquency. Look at any recent foreclosure communications from the bank to determine what’s owed, including all outstanding principal and interest, and subtract it from your estimated sale price.

3. Subtract selling fees

It costs money to sell a house. You’ll also need to deduct any fees for staging and preparing the house for sale, the real estate agent commission, closing fees, seller concessions, and moving costs from the final sale price.

Consult our guide on the fees associated with selling a house for a full rundown, and use our Net Proceeds Calculator to estimate your final payout. The — “How much is left on your mortgage?” — section is a good place to input your outstanding mortgage balance, including any missed payments and late fees. It will tell you if your home sale would be enough to pay off the mortgage, fees, closing costs, and other selling expenses.

With any luck, you’ll be in the black and even have some cash leftover. If your sale proceeds won’t cover your mortgage and other costs, your next option is to bring money to the table to cover them. If you can’t afford to bring money to the closing, then you’re probably looking at a short sale (which we’ll discuss more in depth further down).

Most agents, when they hear the word foreclosure, think that means a bank has taken the house back and are kicking the now former homeowner out. If an agent doesn’t know where to start, or know the questions to ask, it puts the homeowner at risk of not being able to sell the home in time.
  • Sean Anderson
    Sean Anderson Real Estate Agent
    Sean Anderson
    Sean Anderson Real Estate Agent at Atlanta Communities
    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 14
    • Transactions 241
    • Average Price Point $260k
    • Single Family Homes 210

4. Take your next steps with a qualified agent

The proceeding steps get you to a “back-of-the-napkin” number to estimate your financial position. But selling a house, especially with a potential foreclosure hanging over you, is no easy task.

Rather than face it alone, reach out to a real estate agent who’s well-versed in facilitating pre-foreclosure home sales. Anderson stresses that it’s very important for homebuyers to find an agent who’s experienced in these sales. “Most agents, when they hear the word foreclosure, think that means a bank has taken the house back and are kicking the now former homeowner out,” he explains, even though that isn’t the case. “If an agent doesn’t know where to start, or know the questions to ask, it puts the homeowner at risk of not being able to sell the home in time.”

At HomeLight, we’re happy to help connect you with a few qualified agent candidates with the experience you need. Your agent can help you confirm your proceeds calculations with a seller’s net sheet and is there to help you prep, stage, list, and market your home for what you hope to be a quick sale.

5. Keep in close touch with your lender

As tempting as it is to hit “decline” on the phone calls and throw the letters in the trash, it’s important to communicate with your lender. Keep them informed about your plan, even if it continues to evolve. Most lenders would rather work with you to get your house sold, rather than foreclose and sell your house at a loss.

Your agent also needs to be in touch with the bank. Anderson explains that, after gathering as much information on the pre-foreclosure as he can, he asks sellers to “complete a document(s) that will allow me the authorization to speak with the bank, asset manager, or whoever is handling this foreclosure process.”

Even if there’s equity in the house, and they could sell it for more than the mortgage amount, the bank still incurs expenses with a foreclosure. Lenders aren’t in the business of buying and selling real estate, nor do they want to hold it on their balance sheet. If a sale is pending, they could hold off on foreclosure (either voluntarily or by law).

“Here in California we have a Homeowners’ Bill of Rights. It states that if we have a legitimate offer on the table from a qualified buyer that we can prove to the bank, then the bank cannot foreclose,” explains Bethany’s husband and real estate partner, Tony Mendoza. Lenders have to give homeowners an additional 30 days on the foreclosure timeline, but that means that you have to get your house sold within those 30 days.

Unless home values drastically drop or demand in your area is uncharacteristically low — you can potentially sell your home for a profit before the bank forecloses. Do that, and you’ll be able to pay your mortgage in full and maybe walk away with some cash in hand to help start over.

Can I stop my foreclosure once it starts?

At any point in the foreclosure process before the final day, you can work out an arrangement with your lender or pay them what you owe, according to HUD. HUD recommends working with a housing counselor as soon as you miss a payment to advise you of all your options.

Once the lender’s attorney is involved, you’ll likely need to cover those fees — in addition to your missed payments and late fees — to stop the foreclosure. Whether you bring that money to the table independently or by selling the home to unlock equity is up to you.

“Sellers can always call the bank to make arrangements to avoid foreclosure. Some homeowners will decide to do a deed in lieu of foreclosure, which is basically just giving the house back to the bank,” explains Bethany Mendoza.

In the current hot market, few homeowners are upside down on their mortgage, so she isn’t seeing this much now. Instead, “they’re all walking away with money by selling prior to foreclosure.”

How long does it take to sell a foreclosure home?

Selling a home facing foreclosure is typically not much different than a traditional home sale. How long it takes a home to sell is all about pricing, the home’s condition, and the local market, not its foreclosure status. But when foreclosure is a possibility, you need to price to sell.

“You don’t have time to waste when you’re headed into foreclosure,” explains Bethany Mendoza, “so you need to price your home fairly yet competitively. If it’s priced right, it’s going to sell within a week or two.”

For example, let’s say the home values in your neighborhood are between $300,000 and $315,000. When you’re up against a ticking clock, you’ll want to list your home closer to $300,000 so that it attracts more offers than other higher priced homes.

However, you don’t need to let the threat of foreclosure force you into selling your house for a lot less than it’s worth. There’s no requirement to disclose a potential foreclosure to buyers, though you’ll want to be upfront with your agent so they can help you price the home to sell quickly.

When Carol Temple, an experienced agent in Arlington, Virginia, helped a homeowner facing disclosure, she listed the house, pricing it conservatively, and got a full price offer shortly.

“Never disclosing to the buyer’s agent the circumstances, I accelerated the closing date (day before the looming foreclosure),” she says “and further negotiated a short rent back for the seller as the seller had a place to go but no money for movers.” Once they had the sale proceeds, they could afford to move.

Most buyer’s agents aren’t going to pull up the tax records to see if a home is flagged for foreclosure. They’ll never know that they’ve found you in financial straits, which could result in lowball offers, and you could get fair market value for your house.

“It’s only when you’ve waited too long and you’re facing a hard sell-by date due to impending foreclosure that you may need to mention it to push things along a little faster,” says Bethany Mendoza.

Is a short sale a good option for me?

Homeowners who are behind on payments, out of work, and upside down on their mortgages may be eligible to do a short sale instead of foreclosure. In a short sale, you ask the bank for permission to sell your house for less than you owe.

You can also ask them to forgive any loan amount you still owe above that selling price. However, forgiveness of the remaining balance is not guaranteed. The lender may still go after the homeowner to collect all or part of the difference through a deficiency judgment. In some states, lenders are required by law to write off the difference in a short sale.

A short sale is typically preferable to a foreclosure. “When you short sell a house, it’s recorded on your credit as paid for less than or settled,” Bethany Mendoza says. “Your credit will bounce back a lot faster with a short sale on your report rather than if the property is foreclosed on.”

A short sale has its downsides, though. Not only is any forgiven debt considered taxable income, but these sales also tend to be anything but short:

“Short sales can take longer and will be more expensive if you are using an attorney,” explains Justin Meyer, a real estate attorney licensed in Florida, New York, and New Jersey.

“Everything will need to be negotiated with the bank, including any money that you are taking out of the sale, if there is any. Depending on the bank, it can be an easy process or a difficult one.”

Lenders won’t approve a short sale just because you tell them you can’t afford the mortgage. To get approval for a short sale, you have to prove that you can no longer afford the house on your current income. You’ll also have to prove that you don’t have other assets you could liquidate to pay the mortgage.

They’ll request proof that your hours were cut, or that you have lost a portion of your income and therefore can’t make your mortgage payments. They could also request statements of other assets — such as 401Ks and retirement funds — available to pay the mortgage. The bank reviews those financial statements to determine if you qualify for debt forgiveness.

You can get in serious trouble if your financial statements aren’t accurate. “We had one individual that was hiding money and didn’t report it to the bank. They did get in trouble because they were not honest about their financials,” says Tony Mendoza.

A home that is in foreclosure and will be sold.
Source: (Pickawood / Unsplash)

What happens if my home is foreclosed on?

Forget anything you’ve seen in the movies — no one’s showing up to march you out of your house in handcuffs.

“A lot of people are embarrassed to reach out for help when they’re facing foreclosure. Many people move out of their homes in the middle of the night because they think the sheriff is going to escort them out of the property. That does not happen,” explains Bethany Mendoza. The sheriff only gets involved if you fight the bank and won’t work with them.

Traditionally, once a bank forecloses, the house goes to the courthouse steps to be sold at auction. However, it typically takes months for the bank to actually foreclose on you, which gives you time to sell if you know that you can no longer afford to keep your home. Oftentimes there’s no need to ever get to those courthouse steps — especially if you have already built up equity in your home.

In Temple’s situation, the seller avoided foreclosure and he didn’t lose $250,000 of equity that he had in the property. “Not only did he get a fresh start, his self-worth was restored,” she says.

It’s easy to get emotional when faced with selling a house you worked so hard to buy in the first place, but remind yourself that this is just a financial decision.

Will I still owe money after the foreclosure?

Possibly. If during the foreclosure auction your home doesn’t sell for enough money to clear the debt, you might still owe your lender the deficiency. This is the balance remaining on the mortgage.

Because the house is now sold, the deficiency is an unsecured debt. The bank can take this deficiency to court and get a judgment, after which they can place liens on other property that you own, garnish your wages, or freeze your bank accounts. You might have to work out a repayment plan with them.

Bottom line – If you’re facing foreclosure, don’t wait. Act now!

Don’t panic and avoid dealing with foreclosure until the last minute. You have options, some of which can help preserve your credit score and shorten the waiting period until you can buy another home. Facing the situation head on increases your chances of selling the house while it’s still rightfully in your possession.

“In this current housing market, almost every homeowner has equity. So, don’t be in denial and go into foreclosure. That just gives your equity back to the bank,” explains Bethany Mendoza. “If you hit the point where you’re 60 days behind and you know you can’t catch up, call a real estate agent, get the house on the market, and get as much money out of it as you can.”

To find a top-rated agent in your area, try the HomeLight Agent Match tool. It analyzes sales data to find agents who sell faster than average in your area, someone who can help you get out from under the cloud of foreclosure and move onto sunnier days.

Find Your Perfect Real Estate Agent

We analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

Header Image Source: (Steve Johnson / Pexels)

Why Hire a Real Estate Agent? 11 Reasons Why Buyers Should Work With A Pro https://www.homelight.com/blog/buyer-why-hire-a-real-estate-agent/ Fri, 04 Feb 2022 21:10:14 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=29504 If you haven’t purchased a home before, you probably have lots of questions about the process. And if you’ve recently overheard a work colleague gloating about how they easily bought a house without a real estate agent, one of those questions might be whether you actually need to hire an agent at all.

In truth? Yes, you can buy a house without the aid of a real estate agent. But for buyers especially, a good agent can make all the difference — they’ll simplify the process and not only make sure you find the right home for your lifestyle and budget, but they’ll also be able to help you make the most of current market conditions and maximize your dollar.

Let’s take a closer look at 11 reasons why you should definitely hire a real estate agent.

Two women in a meeting with a real estate agent they hired.
Source: (LinkedIn Sales Solutions / Unsplash)

1. An agent is your advocate

As a buyer, your agent works on your behalf. The full list of a real estate agent’s duties is exhaustive, and we’re about to dig into some of those nuances — but to give you an idea of everything you stand to gain from hiring an agent, here’s a quick rundown of the benefits you can expect.

An agent will:

They may not be lawyers, but it’s a real estate agent’s job to act on your behalf throughout the homebuying process. No one else in the deal is going to be looking out for you or your best interests!

And if you’re worried about agent representation costing you money, know that in most cases with real estate purchases in the United States, buyer’s agents earn their pay through a commission paid by the seller.

It’s entirely possible — and likely, even — that you won’t pay a dime for the services of hiring a real estate agent to buy your home.

2. Agents really know the real estate market

Unless you’re a real estate investor who deals with dozens of home sales every year, it’s going to be very difficult to learn as much about real estate as your agent already knows.

Scrolling through home sales websites may offer a helpful overview of what’s available around your local market — but they aren’t a deep dive into market conditions and inventory. They’re not even a reliable preview of a particular home!

“Photos are not a great source for understanding what kind of shape a home is in, how big the rooms actually are, and whether the floor plan is desirable,” says Michael Berg, a real estate agent in Scottsdale, Arizona, with 13 years of experience.

Busy agents are in and out of homes on a daily basis, which means that once they understand your wants and needs, they can direct you to homes that are likely to be a match.

“Experienced buyer’s agents have likely been in many of the homes in the neighborhood you are considering,” says Berg.

This is helpful not just for the purpose of locating homes that suit your layout preferences, but for finding those that match your budget, too. Agents will understand which neighborhoods are showing signs of becoming overpriced — and which areas may still have potential for you to snap up a good deal.

In short? An experienced real estate agent will quite literally have their finger on the pulse of your local market, and this knowledge is simply not something you can replicate from outside of the industry.

3. Is the price right? An agent will know

While it’s true that a home purchased with a mortgage loan will be evaluated by an appraiser before all is said and done, there’s more to a fair price than a bank’s willingness to loan money.

Real estate pricing varies depending on whether market conditions have created a seller’s market or a buyer’s market. When you’re trying to buy a home in a seller’s market (which are the conditions we’ve seen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic), you can expect a limited inventory of available homes and a high likelihood of multiple-offer scenarios when you do find one you’d like to purchase.

And this is when it’s especially helpful to have a buyer’s agent in your corner — because an agent will have the market expertise to advise you on how to make a competitive offer.

We’ll touch on this again later, but writing an enticing purchase offer isn’t just about meeting or exceeding a seller’s asking price; it’s also about navigating possible contingencies (such as needing to sell your current home before buying this one), knowing what to negotiate on versus what to leave alone (do you really need a $2,000 allowance for new carpet, or can you tackle that replacement after the home is yours?), and being able to close within a period of time that works for both you and the seller.

A great buyer’s agent will know what the “right price” actually means.

4. An agent can help you find a home faster

As we mentioned earlier, there’s only so much you can learn about your local market from scrolling past listings on real estate websites or driving through neighborhoods on Saturday mornings in search of “for sale” signs. No matter how many alerts and newsletters you sign up for, no matter how many streets you drive up and down, you’ll never have the same market intel as a real estate agent.

Particularly in a seller’s market where homes are moving faster than MLS syndication to third-party websites can keep up with, you’ll want to be among the first to know when a new property is about to become available.

“Agents often know about things coming on the market before the public,” says Madalyn Suits, an Atlanta-based real estate agent with 25 years in the business.

She also notes that, particularly in competitive markets with low inventory and multiple offers, sellers (and their own agents) want to work with agents — not unrepresented buyers.

Real estate agents know how to communicate effectively and get things done because they know what needs to be done. Self-represented buyers generally do not have that knowledge, and certainly not in the same capacity as a professional agent.

“Buyer’s agents are working nonstop right now,” says Suits. “And keep in mind, they work for you for free because the seller pays them.”

Working with an agent will help you find a house — and make it yours — much faster than if you’re going about it on your own.

5. You won’t just have an agent; you’ll have a network

One great reason for hiring a real estate agent is because they’re well-connected with other industry professionals. Think mortgage lenders, inspectors, appraisers, closing attorneys, repair professionals, and lots more.

“The relationship with your real estate agent doesn’t end at closing,” says Kirsten Conover, an agent who has been working with Atlanta-area buyers for 17 years. “They can recommend movers, interior designers, contractors, and other professionals for all your home maintenance and service needs.”

And don’t overlook how that network can help you find your dream home in the first place.

“Real estate agents also have relationships with other agents, and this can work to a buyer’s advantage in terms of finding out about ‘coming soon’ listings,” says Conover.

In a competitive market, that early info can be your key to being first in line with a knockout offer.

6. Agents can expand your horizons

Whether you’re moving to a new city or staying put in a place you know well, chances are good that there’s a neighborhood or three that you’re not as familiar with as you might think. If you’re open to it, a real estate agent can introduce you to areas and homes that may not have been on your radar.

Maybe you thought a certain neighborhood was out of your price range, or perhaps you’ve been set on a two-story home. An agent who knows their stuff will be able to identify that, actually, a lakeside community can be in your budget — and they might even know of a ranch-style home with a clever layout that meets your needs even better than that hypothetical two-story.

It’s worth keeping an open mind, and it’s definitely worth hiring a real estate agent.

A good buyer’s agent can point out red flags and teach you what to look for while viewing homes. There’s a lot more to consider than just a pretty kitchen, and an agent could potentially save you money by pointing out a major issue with a home before you get to the offer and inspection stages.
  • Michael Berg
    Michael Berg Real Estate Agent
    Michael Berg
    Michael Berg Real Estate Agent at Ranch Realty
    • Years of Experience 13
    • Transactions 35
    • Average Price Point $313k
    • Single Family Homes 19

7. Agents can help you spot red flags

Busy agents are in and out of homes all the time. They know a good thing when they see it — and a bad one, too.

“A good buyer’s agent can point out red flags and teach you what to look for while viewing homes,” says Berg. “There’s a lot more to consider than just a pretty kitchen, and an agent could potentially save you money by pointing out a major issue with a home before you get to the offer and inspection stages.”

With the help of professional photography, thoughtful home staging, and the urgency of a hot seller’s market, it’s easier than you might think to overlook potential problems.

While certain issues with a home may be obvious — such as rotting window trim, damaged hardwood floors, or water stains on a ceiling — there are other problems that you may not even be aware of to consider as a point of caution.

A buyer’s agent, meanwhile, will know that termites tend to be an issue with homes of a certain age in this neighborhood, or that this particular house may not appraise as high as you’d hope because the kitchen renovation is simply above and beyond that of any comparable homes.

It’s all about having that local expert in your corner to offer a heads up when you’ll need it most!

8. Agents can help you be more competitive

We’ve already talked about how it’s not just price that creates a competitive offer — and, by this point, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that a real estate agent will have creative ideas and access to unique tools to help your offer stand out even more.

What if you could sweeten the deal for a seller by offering them a rent-back clause?

What if you knew about a program that  could let you write an ultra-competitive cash offer, or even trade in your current home to eliminate that pesky sales contingency?

What if writing a heartfelt letter could be the nudge a seller needs to bump your offer to the top of their pile?

Sometimes we’re just not aware of the things we should look for or ask about, and while it’s often fine to bumble along and figure things out as we go — consider that the homebuying process may not be the ideal time for a self-guided journey.

A woman using a laptop to look up why she should hire a real estate agent.
Source: (Shayna Douglas / Unsplash)

9. Agents know how to write a contract (which becomes legally binding)

Real estate agents are not lawyers, but they do know how to write legally binding contracts for the purchase and sale of real property in accordance with state regulations.

What’s more, a buyer’s agent will be able to guide you through everything that needs to happen after the contract is signed and you’re officially on your way to owning a home.

“Transactions are complex, time-consuming, and no two are ever alike,” says Conover. “A home purchase is one of the largest transactions most buyers will ever make, and it takes support from a trusted professional during every step of the process to make that transaction successful.”

This means that your agent will keep you on track with your due diligence — which includes all the research, inspections, appraisals, and steps required by your lender to finalize your mortgage loan.

All of these things have to happen according to a certain timeframe as stipulated by the purchase agreement, and your agent will be there to help you each step of the way.

10.  Agents know how to negotiate

Seller’s market or buyer’s market, buying a home isn’t just about pleasing the seller. You need to feel comfortable not only with the price you’re paying for a home, but also about the terms under which you’re acquiring the property.

What if you and the seller are only a few thousand dollars apart on sales price, and you’re at the absolute top of your budget? What if the home doesn’t appraise at your offer price? What if you need 45 days to close, and the seller wants to finalize in 30?

And what happens if the home inspection report comes back with issues you weren’t expecting? Sure, a leaky bathroom faucet might be a quick fix — but what if the inspector found signs of water damage in the unfinished basement?

A real estate agent can help you negotiate through anything — including knowing when to walk away. Any buyer’s agent who has been on the job for more than a few months has faced certain objections over and over and will know how to handle those challenges — and recognize when there’s nothing more that can be done.

Can you say the same for yourself?

11. You can’t DIY a full-time job

If you’ve ever tried to chop an onion with a spoon, you know there’s something to be said about having the right tool for the job.

When you work with a real estate agent to buy a home, you’re arming yourself with the expertise of someone whose actual job is to advise and advocate for homebuyers. And most of us are busy enough as it is — do you really have the time to take on finding and negotiating for a house as a DIY project in addition to your work and other responsibilities?

There are few scenarios wherein we have the opportunity to hire an expert at no cost to us — remember, the buyer’s agent earns their commission from the seller’s side of the transaction — so there’s very little reason why you shouldn’t find an agent who can help you with this major purchase!

How to find your ideal agent

There are lots of ways to find a great agent, including asking your friends, family, or colleagues for their referrals.

You can also explore HomeLight’s network of experienced agents all over the country — and don’t be afraid to chat with a few! (We’ll recommend three who we think could be a good fit for you.)

Remember, buying a home is a big deal. You can and should take the time to find someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to.

But do find someone, because hiring a real estate agent is the best move you can make — before you actually make your move.

Header Image Source: (Filiz Elaerts / Unsplash)

Government Websites, Real Estate Agents, A Drive around the Block, And More Ways to Find REO Homes in Your Area https://www.homelight.com/blog/buyer-reo-homes-in-my-area/ Fri, 04 Feb 2022 21:08:40 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=29477 Here’s a riddle for you: What do government websites, real estate agents, and a drive around the block have in common?

Give up?

They’re all great ways to find REO homes in your area. If you’re in the market for real estate, either as an investment or a residence, REO (which stands for “real estate owned” also known as “bank owned”), homes can offer you a deal, but without the hassle of dealing with a foreclosure auction.

To figure out the best place to find REO homes, we did a lot of digging and looked at banks, the U.S. Marshals, auction sites, and government-sponsored enterprises, as well as talked with Chris Barnett, a real estate agent in Birmingham, Alabama, who specializes in REO properties, to give you this list of the 10 best ways to find REO properties in any area.

A house that might be an reo home.
Source: (Roger Starnes Sr / Unsplash)

What is an REO home?

Real estate owned, or REO, homes are a result of the foreclosure process, which varies from state to state. If a homeowner is unable to make their mortgage payments, ultimately the bank can foreclose on the home.

Once the home is foreclosed, it will typically go up for auction. This happens in one of two ways: through the local court or sheriff’s office in a judicial foreclosure, or through the mortgage company in a power of sale or non-judicial foreclosure. If the home doesn’t sell at this stage, then the bank will take possession of it, and it becomes an REO home.

The bank will then work with a listing agent to list the home on the MLS. These types of homes can be a great way to invest in real estate and can result in a good deal and a higher return on investment (ROI).

In 2022, due to eviction moratoria throughout the coronavirus pandemic and issues with courts being shut down at different times, REO properties have been difficult to come by. Barnett says: “typically where we would have 20 to 30 properties a year just from this one bank, we’ve had two that we’ve been dealing with, and they’ve been working on them for a year and a half trying to get the foreclosures done properly.”

This backlog of property means that inventory for REO properties is low. But as foreclosures eventually move forward, REO inventory should go up.

So, now you’re probably wondering how to find REO homes in your area? We’ve got you covered.

How do I find REO homes in my area?

There are a number of different ways to find REO homes, so let’s break them down.

1. Find an agent who specializes in REO properties

Finding an agent who specializes in REO properties can give you an advantage throughout the process.

Barnett is one of these agents. He got his start selling REO homes and continues to work with a bank, helping people buy the properties that it owns.

Often, REO properties are sold “as-is,” and many need work before they can be sold again or lived in. When he works with seasoned investors, Barnett discusses the risk and the scope of the work that the property needs. For people new to REO properties, he says that he takes a slightly different approach.

Especially if his clients are unfamiliar with REO purchases, he tries to explain certain possible challenges upfront: While some REO homes may be financed with a conventional loan, others may be more distressed and need to be purchased in cash, or potentially through a rehab loan such as a FHA 203(k) loan, a Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation loan, or a Freddie Mac CHOICERenovation loan.

An agent with REO experience will be able to explain what it means if the HVAC is missing or the roof is leaking, guiding you through things you will have to fix or deal with. Barnett, for instance, will walk the property with clients (or via video) to identify things that would need to be repaired or renovated.

2. Use the MLS

You’ve probably searched Zillow or realtor.com or even individual real estate agent sites for homes for sale — or just to look at the island property you’ve been dreaming about buying when you win the lottery. MLS (multiple listing service) listings are distributed to these public websites, but real estate agents have access to additional MLS data, which includes details that are hidden from the general public, such as information about who owns the house.

Using this access, your agent might be able to identify REO properties that are owned by a bank or other entity and help you pursue a purchase.

3. Track a foreclosure property

Some real estate portals will list pre-foreclosure and foreclosure properties as well as homes currently for sale.

You can attend the auction and purchase the property (though keep in mind you’ll likely need all-cash to do so!). If you want to hold out, and the house doesn’t end up selling, you can then watch for it to come up as an REO property. This is a good way to approach the purchase if you don’t want to deal with the foreclosure process.

A person researching reo homes in their area.
Source: (Malte Helmhold / Unsplash)

4. Go to an auction website

Auction websites, like auction.com, may have a dedicated section to bank-owned properties. Auction.com boasts over 7,800 bank-owned properties that you can browse by entering your preferred location and then using the “asset type” menu to search for bank-owned properties in that area.

5. Head straight to a bank’s website

Banks, especially larger banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, will have a dedicated portion of their website dedicated to the REO properties they are trying to sell. They also work with listing agents to list the property, and these agents can help walk you through the process if you find one you want to buy.

6. Search government foreclosure sites

If you’re in the market for a property that has been seized and forfeited due to violation of federal laws that are enforced by the US. Department of the Treasury, then this website is the place for you! And the proceeds for any sales go to the U.S. Treasury Asset Forfeiture Fund, which helps support law enforcement efforts as well as providing restitution to crime victims.

The U.S. Marshals Asset Forfeiture Program is another place to search for REO properties. This program also helps with victim compensation and restoring property to victims…and may offer you a deal. You can also browse for other items for sale if you’re in the market for more than just a house.

If a bank fails, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will often take control of the bank’s assets, either selling them to another bank or selling them to someone else — maybe you! On the FDIC’s Real Estate and Property Marketplace, it sells real estate retained from failed banks.

Apparently, it’s possible to buy a home from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for one dollar. This may not be available to people as an investment property, and at the time of this writing, there aren’t any available. But it is a way for families with low to moderate incomes to purchase a qualified HUD-owned home. HUDHomes also lists HUD-owned homes for sale.

HUD also gives links to other places where you can find single-family homes for sale though other federal agencies, including the IRS, the Real Property Utilization & Disposal site of the U.S. General Services Administration, and the USDA. Some of these sites also include multi-family housing, land, and commercial real estate.

7. Get to know Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored enterprises that buy loans from banks, sometimes holding onto them, and sometimes repackaging them in mortgage securities and selling those on the secondary market.

When a home loan that Fannie or Freddie is holding goes into foreclosure, and the house doesn’t sell at a foreclosure auction, those Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-owned homes are then sold through the sites HomePath and HomeSteps respectively.

8. Pay for a specialty site subscription

Sites like RealtyTrac and HUDHomesUSA provide a database of foreclosure properties. You can use these sites to find properties in foreclosure and then track them to see whether they sell or later become REO homes.

9. Search public records and check for sheriff’s sales

Your local sheriff’s website should have a space that lists upcoming sheriff’s sales, which can include foreclosure properties that could become REO properties if they don’t sell — and if you’re wondering if I just spent 15 minutes looking at sheriff’s sales in my county, the answer is “yes.”

People driving, looking for reo homes in their area.
Source: (Orkun Azap / Unsplash)

9. Take a drive through town

If you want to get really proactive, you can drive around town and look for homes that look abandoned or vacant. Then you can do some digging to find out who owns the home using the county’s website, though some are easier to use than others.

Some apps like onX, which is geared towards outdoor adventures, will also give you a property owner’s name.

Once you know the owner’s name (which will sometimes be the bank), you can try and figure out the status of the property and keep an eye out for it to become foreclosed on or become an REO property.

10. Ask around and put out some feelers

Sometimes, the best tool is your existing network. If you let people know that you’re looking for an REO property, they may hear some information that they wouldn’t normally pay attention to and be able to give you a lead.

You can also work with a real estate agent and let them know what you’re looking for. If they already work with a bank, they can really help you out, or they may be able to do some of the legwork for you.

Found your REO dream home? Here’s what to do next

The first thing you should do when you decide to purchase an REO home is to work with a qualified agent who can walk you through the process and help you understand what you’re getting — and what, if any, repair or renovation work will need to be done. If you’re buying the property as an investor, an agent can also help you work through the possible return on investment.

After you’ve found a property, it’s important to get an inspection. Even if you’re purchasing the property “as-is,” an inspection will let you know exactly what you’re getting into. It’s also important to get a title review to check to see if the title is clean, and strongly consider purchasing title insurance. Often, REO homes come with a clean title, but it’s important to double-check so you’re not surprised.

If you’ve bought homes before, it’s important to understand that when you’re purchasing an REO home, the bank is the owner, so the process may be a little different than a traditional homebuying process. Hold on and enjoy the ride, and you just might get a good deal.

Header Image Source: (Fab_ Fotos / Unsplash)

How to Sell a Mobile Home That Rolls in a Nice Profit https://www.homelight.com/blog/how-to-sell-a-mobile-home/ Fri, 04 Feb 2022 16:00:31 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=20808 Living in your mobile home has awarded you a cozy, modest lifestyle, either as a snowbird retreat to escape the icy winters, a summer getaway to beat the heat, or as a primary residence to enable you to put money in the bank, but now you may be ready to move on and are wondering how to sell your mobile home.

Whatever the reason, you need to be savvy and strategic in your approach to get the best price for your investment. Follow these expert tips to increase the probability of a successful sale.

An agent and a client chatting about selling a mobile home.
Source: (Christina Morillo / Pexels)

1. Know the difference between personal and real property when selling a mobile home.

Many mobile homes are considered personal property (the legal term for this type of property is “chattel”) rather than real property, meaning they’re sold a bit differently from a typical house.

A mobile home may be considered real property if you own the land it sits on (depending on the state), and it’s attached to that land — usually, that means it needs a foundation, though some states have a pretty loose definition of “foundation.”

If your mobile home doesn’t fit the above criteria, it’s likely considered personal property. This means the home is treated as a movable asset, akin to an automobile.

When you sell a mobile home as personal property, you’ll transfer the title over to the new owner in the same way you would sell a car, while the land remains with its owner.

Collect these documents to sell your mobile home as personal property

When selling a mobile home as personal property you’ll need the following documents:

  • Transfer of Title: You’ll sign your existing title over to the buyer and apply for a transfer of title. If you’ve lost it, you’ll need to order a replacement or duplicate title from the DMV or tax collector.
  • Bill of sale: Your municipality and the buyer’s lender typically require a bill of sale to sell a mobile home.
  • Notarized transfer of title: Lenders usually require a notarized title transfer with the seller and buyer present at the time of signing. Check with your department of motor vehicles or tax collector for their requirements.
  • Taxes: You’ll need to provide evidence that your taxes are paid in full when you sell your mobile home. Some states like Georgia require owners to pay a personal property tax on manufactured homes while other states require an annual registration fee for personal property.
  • Certificate of Occupancy (CO): You’ll need to provide a Certificate of Occupancy, which is proof your home complies with relevant regulations. The CO includes a fire safety inspection certifying that electrical wiring meets all fire codes.

If you own the land, consider converting to real property

Unlike personal property, real property means your manufactured home is affixed to land and not a movable asset. This classification offers various benefits including a combined tax bill for home and land, a higher resale value, and more financing options.

You’ll need the following documents when converting your mobile home to real property:

When you own the land where it’s affixed, the land deed and the mobile home title must both be in your name.

To legally classify your mobile home as real property, you need to retire the DMV-issued title (this process is known as “de-titling”) and obtain a warranty deed for the home and land.

The cost for de-titling depends on where you live. South Carolina, for example, “requires a filing fee between $500 to $700,” reports Sheila Newton, a veteran real estate agent expert serving Anderson, South Carolina who sells single-family residences and mobile homes.

Mobiles homes that are for sale.
Source: (hans engbers / Shutterstock)

2. Get a pre-listing appraisal to catch installation and inspection issues early.

As the name suggests, a pre-listing appraisal is conducted before listing by gathering data to calculate a home’s value. “An appraiser examines the area’s topography and locates the HUD Data Plate/Compliance Certificate to verify the home conforms to HUD’s Model Manufactured Home Installation Standards,” says Mason Spurgeon, a seasoned and certified general real estate appraiser serving Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.

Installation standards stipulate perimeter support pier locations, how homes should be anchored, and other legal requirements for HVAC, ductwork, electrical, plumbing, and drainage systems.

Home Inspection

Appraisers also conduct a home inspection that can help sellers identify maintenance issues that could come up later and void a contract contingent on a buyer’s home inspection.

A pre-listing inspection can help point out any red flags, such as faulty wiring, plumbing leaks, and termites. “People mistakenly think mobile homes cannot have termites. They can,” Newton says.

3. Partner with a top local agent with experience selling mobile homes.

Though selling a mobile home has its own set of challenges, working with a top local real estate agent can help you navigate through issues such as contract negotiations, disclosures, repairs and upgrades, housing improvements needed, and marketing to get to the closing table without delay.

HomeLight’s agent finder can help you identify and partner with local agents with a track record of selling mobile homes. Using a few details that you provide about your home, we will match you with the best agents for selling your property.

4. Expand your buyer pool with various financing options.

Manufactured homes classified as real property can be financed by conventional and government-insured loans. In contrast, mobile homes classified as personal property can qualify for chattel loans, or utilize owner financing. Here are your options, depending on whether your home is considered real or personal property.

FHA loans

Federal Housing Administration loans are one of the toughest loans for buyers to get when it comes to real property mobile homes. FHA lenders require manufactured homes to be FHA-certified which requires a structural engineer stating the home has been affixed to the land correctly, according to Newton.

“If the underpinning is constructed of brick or cement, it usually requires mortar and pier work which runs around $3,500. However, if the underpinning is vinyl, expect to pay closer to $7,500 to add brick.” The good news: the cost to have a mobile home FHA-certified can usually come out of the seller’s proceeds at closing.

VA loans

If you sell your manufactured home as real property to a military buyer, they may finance the home with lenders approved by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. A buyer’s VA mortgage can finance the home, along with any land and foundation improvements needed to meet VA requirements.

Owner financing

If your buyer isn’t able to qualify for a home loan but has the capital for a downpayment, you can offer an owner-financed home loan for your property. They’ll make the down payment and you’ll both agree on the terms for the life of the loan.

You’ll provide the title with the down payment and put a lien on the property until the buyer pays off the loan. Make sure to do a background and credit check before you consider this option –– and hire a lawyer to handle the details.

Chattel loans

Chattel mortgage companies finance manufactured homes classified as personal property. Chattel lenders require a home inspection, but these loans are much easier to qualify for than traditional mortgages. Similar to vehicle loans, they come with higher interest rates than traditional mortgages.

5. Price your home based on the market and buyer demographics.

A manufactured home costs 50% less per square foot than a stick-built home, which makes your mobile homes an affordable option for buyers.

However, low inventory in the housing market has contributed to rising prices for mobile homes, which is good news for sellers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the price for an average manufactured home increased from $81,900 in 2019 to $87,000 in 2020.

Pricing depends on a variety of factors. The first is the location. These U.S. states and top eight cities are the most popular locations for mobile homes.

Understanding your buyer pool also makes a difference, especially when it comes to marketing. Leased and land-owned park communities can attract retirees who live in 55+ communities or families who live in all-age mobile home parks.

A mobile home with curb appeal.
Source: (nito / Shutterstock)

6. Increase the value of your mobile home with the following features.

When pricing mobile homes, Newton takes features into account when crunching data.

“If you have a nice deck, or porch, or screened-in porches and sunrooms, that’s going to add to the value, of course,” says Newton.

Porches take away from the boxy look of mobile homes making them look more attractive if they’re kept up in good condition. If the finish is starting to fade or chip, apply a fresh coat of paint or stain.

Interior features like appliances and materials can also fetch a better selling price, including:

  • Stainless steel and energy-saving appliances
  • Hardwood cabinetry
  • Drywall versus paneling or wallboard
  • Energy-efficient windows
  • New lighting fixtures
  • Six-panel doors

Some of these items may not be in your budget, but new lighting fixtures can cost well below $100. When replacing cabinets isn’t an option, consider refinishing them and switching outdated hardware for something stylish. A set of 10 knobs costs around $30.

7. Sell your mobile home more quickly with these staging and landscaping tips.

Ninety percent of homebuyers search online for traditional and manufactured homes before they book a showing with an agent, so make sure your home looks attractive in digital photo and video tours.

“There are some mobile homes that are so well done and kept up so well, it’s hard to tell it’s a mobile home,” says Newton. Follow these mobile home landscaping and staging tips to make a good impression.

Build a beautiful border with raised flower beds

A raised flower bed makes a colorful border to define your property line while giving your home visual appeal. Plant flowers, or herbs like basil and thyme, or even a vegetable garden.

Replace vinyl skirting with stone, brick, or cement

Vinyl skirting can easily tear from mowing and begin to look shabby. Choose a heavier material like stone or brick to not only make skirting last but also add beauty and texture.

Repair driveway cracks and replace damaged vinyl siding

Pulling up a property with a crack in the driveway or dented siding can deter buyers from wanting to come inside––or book a showing from their computer. Ensure to repair driveway cracks and replace damaged siding panels before taking photos.

A couch in a mobile home for sale.
Source: (Nathan Oakley / Unsplash)

8. List your home as furnished to attract seasonal buyers.

If you live in a warm climate that attracts snowbirds looking for a second home, consider listing your home as furnished. Take the decor up a notch by decorating in the local aesthetic. If you’re by the beach, lean into that with a fresh and airy beach cottage theme, for example.

As with staging a traditional home, be sure to depersonalize your mobile home by removing family photos and similarly identifying items, to help buyers envision themselves and their belongings in your home.

​​Selling a mobile home provides new buyers an affordable option for homeownership. With the right information and selling tips in your possession, you’re ready to start the next chapter of your life with confidence and more money in your wallet, especially if you partner with a top real estate agent experienced with selling mobile homes.

Header Image Source: (agil73 / Shutterstock)

How to Keep Your House in the Divorce: A Step-By-Step Guide https://www.homelight.com/blog/how-to-keep-the-house-in-a-divorce/ Fri, 04 Feb 2022 16:00:08 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=10366 DISCLAIMER: As a friendly reminder, this blog post is meant to be used for educational purposes only, not legal advice. If you need assistance navigating the legalities of keeping your home in a divorce, HomeLight always encourages you to reach out to your own advisor.

You’ve already made the hard decision to divorce. You need to plan and determine how to keep the house in a divorce. Maybe you are weighing your options and wondering if you should even try to keep the house.

The answer is, it depends. There are a lot of reasons why you want to keep the home:

  • Concerns over being able to afford a comparable home
  • Desire to stay close to family or close friends
  • Emotional memories tied to the home
  • Seeking stability in an unstable situation
  • Sentimental attachment to the house or neighborhood
  • Strong community ties (church, work, neighbors)
  • Want to keep your children in the same school district

Your reasons may be more emotional than practical, but it can be helpful to adopt a pragmatic approach in deciding whether you want to keep your house in the divorce.

Unsure What to Do With the House?

Start with a free home value estimate from HomeLight. Input your address and answer a few questions about your home, and we’ll provide a preliminary estimate of home value in under two minutes.

First, familiarize yourself with your state’s laws on property division and the divorce waiting period. Then, you need to evaluate your finances to ensure that you put yourself in an excellent financial position in the future.

Maybe instead of asking how to keep your house in the divorce, you should be asking, “should I keep the house in a divorce?”

Use this step-by-step guide to determine if keeping the home is the right move for you.

When one spouse is attempting to keep the house, it’s important to remember that you can’t qualify for as much as a single person.
  • Dawn Fore
    Dawn Fore Real Estate Agent
    Dawn Fore
    Dawn Fore Real Estate Agent at RE/MAX Universal
    • star
    • star
    • star
    • star
    • star
    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 31
    • Transactions 863
    • Average Price Point $254k
    • Single Family Homes 853

How to keep the house in a divorce: Take it step by step

You’ve decided to keep the house in the divorce. Now, you want to start the process of keeping your home.

First, you need to figure out if keeping the house is financially viable. Then, determine the home’s value. Finally, you will remove your spouse’s name from your deed.

Before continuing down this path, you need to take a hard look at your finances and determine if you qualify to refinance with only you.

“When one spouse is attempting to keep the house, it’s important to remember that you can’t qualify for as much as a single person,” advises Dawn Fore, a top Texas real estate agent and divorce specialist who works with 72% more single-family homes than the average Houston agent.

Step 1: Evaluate your finances

You have to be able to afford to keep your home. There are a lot of things to consider when making that determination.

Keeping a house when you cannot afford it is a common mistake people make when getting a divorce. People do not anticipate the actual cost of owning and maintaining a home.

“Can you pay the mortgage, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and maintenance? There are many hidden costs that homeowners incur,” says Denise Erlich, an Illinois attorney that specializes in divorce and family law. “You should not simply be comparing the monthly mortgage to the cost you would pay to rent a residence. Utilities are probably two times the cost in a house than an apartment.”

You don’t want to give up your rights to other assets to secure the house, only to find out that you can’t afford to keep the home.

If you have a mortgage on the property, you have to prove to the court that you’re financially stable enough to pay for the following:

  • Mortgage
  • Repairs
  • Taxes
  • Upkeep

There are other things to consider beyond your ability to secure the home from your ex and prove your financial stability. Even if keeping the house is a viable option for you, it might not be the best financial move.

What are you willing to sacrifice to keep your home in the divorce?

You will have to decide what you are willing to give up in exchange for keeping the house. There are consequences for keeping an expensive home as part of your divorce settlement.

One potential consequence is the capital gains tax. You may have to pay tax on some capital gains you make when you eventually sell the home. That amount of tax burden might eat up an unexpected chunk of your equity.

Here is an example of how the capital gains tax exclusion might work for a married couple:

  • You and your partner sell your house for $501,600 profit before or during a divorce
  • You’ve both lived in the home as your primary residence for at least two of the five years before the sale.
  • Up to $500,000 ($250,000 each) is typically exempt from the sale of your home.

If you decide to take the house in the divorce, this is how the capital gains tax exclusion might work for a single homeowner:

(Note: The exclusion may be reduced if you purchased the house less than two years before the sale. Also, the five-year period can be extended if either spouse is actively serving in the military, depending on the circumstances. Always consult with your financial advisor or tax professional to determine what’s best for your situation.)

Another potential consequence is the assets you might exchange to offset the house price.

A person researching on their phone about how to keep the house in a divorce.
Source: (Jacob Townsend / Unsplash)

Step 2: Figure out the best way to pay for it

There are a few ways to pay for the home post-divorce. You could buy out your ex’s equity with your own assets, or you could try a cash-out refinance which would release your ex’s equity and allow you to remortgage it, along with the remainder of the mortgage. Of course, you’ll need to qualify for the mortgage on your own.

Let’s take a look at how you might pay for the home in three different scenarios:

  • If the house is paid off
  • If you still have a mortgage but have some equity
  • If there is little to no equity in the home

How to keep the house in a divorce if it is paid off

When you divorce, the home is likely the most significant and most valuable joint asset controlled by your state’s division of property laws. The court typically divides the equity in the house.

When you want to keep the house following a divorce, you may need to use your other assets to offset your ex’s share of the equity in the home.

Here is an illustration of what that means:

Suppose you and your ex have $300,000 equity built into your home. You decide you want to keep the house, and your ex agrees to let you keep the home. In this scenario, you will typically be responsible for paying the $150,000 to your ex for their share of the equity built up in the house.

If you do not have enough cash to offset the cost of the home outright, then you may need to give up your claim to other marital assets, which can include, but are not limited to:

  • Brokerage or investment accounts
  • Different types of personal property
  • Reduction in alimony
  • Retirement accounts
  • Vacation homes
  • Vehicles

When you choose to offset your ex’s half of existing equity in the home, it doesn’t remove their name from the mortgage or deed. You will need your ex to sign a quitclaim deed to remove their name from the property.

Another thing to consider is that you may not have enough assets to offset the home’s value. If that’s the case, you will need to secure a loan to pay your former spouse their share of the equity.

If you decide to get a loan, make sure that you have enough cash to cover the loan payments, taxes, insurance, and repairs for the house.

How to keep your house in a divorce if you still have a mortgage

When there is a mortgage on the home, keeping it is more complicated. In many cases, the simplest way to keep the house in a divorce if it still has a mortgage is to refinance.

The best-case scenario is for you to refinance and remove the mortgage from your ex’s name altogether. You’ll need to qualify for the mortgage on your own, so make sure to have all your financial ducks in a row.

Here again, if you don’t have the cash to pay for the house outright or other assets you can leverage, you will probably need to refinance just to pay your former spouse’s half of the existing equity.

Here are some things to consider when refinancing:

  • You’ll be refinancing for the existing balance of the original loan
  • You’ll need to add your ex’s half of the current equity to the actual loan total
  • You’ll need to qualify for the larger loan with your income alone

In general, lenders cap refinancing a mortgage at 80% of the home’s total value. If your debt and your partner’s equity combined push you past that cap, you may not qualify for the mortgage on your own.

Here is an example of what that means:

Suppose your home’s value is $600,000 and your existing mortgage debt is $400,000. You have current equity of $200,000. Your ex’s share is $100,000.

As a result, you need to refinance for a $500,000 mortgage (existing debt + ex’s equity share). But your lender caps the refinance amount at 80% of your home’s value, or $480,000.

In this scenario, your options will be to:

  • Secure an additional $20,000
  • Negotiate with your former spouse to accept $20,000 less
  • Not refinance the house

How to keep the house in a divorce if there is little to no equity

Do you want a home with little to no equity? Why?

Maybe you’ve decided that it’s the right choice for you. One word of caution – don’t let your emotions control this critical financial decision.

You can negotiate with your former spouse to keep the mortgage the same with both your names on the title or deed. But, you must dictate who is financially responsible for the mortgage payments and other expenses that may arise.

Keep in mind that if a payment is missed and both your names are on the mortgage, the lender views both parties equally responsible. Consequently, missed payments negatively impact both your credit scores.

A person researching online about how to keep the house in a divorce.
Source: (Bench Accounting / Unsplash)

Step 3: Determine the value of the home

How much is your home worth? Just like a divorce, the answer to this question can be complicated.

In general, you can determine your home’s worth by:

  • Checking comparable sales
  • Getting a comparative market analysis
  • Getting a new appraisal
  • Using HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator as a starting point (and follow up with a real estate agent or appraiser)

Determine your home’s worth by checking comparable sales

Take a look at comparable sales or house comps. It is a process of aggregating and analyzing similar, recently sold houses.

Comps are a crucial tool in adequately evaluating your home’s worth. Both real estate agents and appraisers take into account the following criteria when pooling comps:

  • Location
  • Square footage
  • Number of rooms
  • When you built the house
  • Desirable amenities

Determine your home’s worth by getting a comparative market analysis

You should find the current market value of your home from a real estate agent to get a comparative market analysis (CMA).

That is just the first step, and the value may change over time. Divorce may take a long time, especially in states with a divorce waiting or “cooling off” period. Your home’s value will likely fluctuate with the real estate market.

“When you’re trying to figure out how much to buy your spouse out for, you need to remember that the preliminary market analysis you get from an agent isn’t the final number for your home’s actual value,” explains Fore.

“I’ve seen home values change in just a matter of months based simply on the time of year. For example, let’s say we provided the home value in the fall, but the divorce and the home buyout didn’t go through until spring, which is when we see home values increasing.”

One thing to consider is that CMAs may value your property for the most money possible. That type of valuation is not helpful when trying to buy out your ex.

During a buyout, you are the buyer. Your former spouse is the seller. You may want a lower home value. In contrast, your ex may want to get the highest possible value so they’ll get more cash for their equity interest.

So what should you do to determine the home’s value? It might be best to get a new appraisal.

Determine your home’s worth by getting a new appraisal

A new appraisal is almost always a lender-required condition of refinancing your home. Beyond the lender requirement, it is also good to get a new appraisal to get a starting value for your divorce negotiations.

“This may require hiring an appraiser to give an appropriate valuation. If you are wanting to keep the house, you will want that appraisal to be as close to the amount owed on the mortgage as possible,” says Brent Morgan, a Texas attorney who specializes in divorce, child custody, and family law.

Depending on your situation, it may be worth spending the $450-$550 for an outside appraisal to make sure that your home is valued appropriately.

Here is the bottom line:

  • During a buyout, you’re the buyer
  • Your ex is the seller
  • You will need to determine the home’s value
People discussing keeping the house in a divorce.
Source: (Kristine Isabedra/ Death to the Stock Photo)

What to do if it makes more sense to sell the house and move on

After going through your financial checklist, you might decide that selling the home is the best thing to do. Selling may enable you to make a clean break and find more affordable housing, a fresh start.

If starting anew is the right choice for you, here are the steps you need to follow.

Step 1: Hire divorce specialists (that both spouses trust)

When selecting a divorce specialist real estate agent, “do your homework,” Erlich advises. That means thoroughly vetting your agent and asking them lots of questions.

Erlich suggests asking potential agents:

  • Is the divorce specialist qualified?
  • How long has he/she been working as a divorce specialist?
  • Does he/she have a good reputation?
  • Is he/she affiliated with a larger organization that provides ongoing training?
  • Can the divorce specialist refer you to other qualified and vetted individuals you may need in the divorce process?
  • What can you expect the total cost of their services to be, absent something unusual occurring?

Selling the house and splitting the proceeds during a divorce is less complex than keeping the home, but it probably won’t be free from disagreements. After all, both you and your ex’s financial security is at stake.

Find a Real Estate Agent Experienced in Divorce Sales

A great real estate agent can help you navigate the complexities of selling a home in a divorce and lighten your load. Get connected with two to three top matches in your area today.

It is helpful to find someone you both trust when tackling financial situations.

“Using a financial neutral is always the best choice if the parties are agreeable to working together through their financial issues,” says Lisa C. Decker, a certified divorce financial analyst based in Georgia that specializes in helping couples and their attorneys achieve equitable divorce settlements.

“Make sure your legal and financial experts are certified in divorce. If parties choose to work independently, working with settlement-minded professionals is always better. Litigation should be a last resort only, as it is the most expensive and least predictable path,” Decker advises.

How do you settle on one agent without the selection process becoming contentious?

You could use rank choice voting. You and your ex interview the agents individually and rank them according to preference. Then, give your respective list to your attorneys, who will select the highest-ranked agent from both lists.

Step 2: Agree on the details of the home sale

You’ve jointly decided to sell the house. That’s a significant step in the process of moving on.

Here is a list of things you need to consider as you agree on the details of the home sale:

  • Appropriate list price
  • Lowest offer you’re both willing to take
  • Repairs to make or not make
  • Value of upgrades
  • Whether to sell “as is” or not

Step 3: List, sell, and settle

You are at the point where emotions may flare and battle lines appear. If you plan and expect some of the pain points of listing, selling, and settling, you will be able to control your emotions and have a smooth sale.

Here is a list of challenges you and your ex may encounter:

  • Agreeing on how to handle buyer concessions, credits, or repairs
  • Agreeing on which offer is the best for both parties
  • Arranging both of your schedules around showings
  • How to divide up the proceeds after the sale
  • How the home sale proceeds fit in with negotiations over other assets
  • If one spouse is focused on moving on and the other on making the highest profits
  • Managing property division laws
  • The stress of keeping the home clean and staged
  • Tensions regarding which spouse will be living in the house during the sale process

After the sale, the property division laws of your state help determine how the profits and proceeds are divided.

After the home is sold, you may be able to give up your claim to some physical assets or personal property in exchange for more cash from the profits of the sale.

For example, your ex wants sole ownership of the family boat. You can exchange your interest in the family boat and ask for cash proceeds from the home sale.

Two people discussing how to keep the house in a divorce.
Source: (Surface / Unsplash)

Q&A: What else to consider when deciding whether to keep the house

Does the wife or husband always get the house?

Not always. The person who gets the house may depend on who has:

  • Primary custody over school-aged children
  • Emotional attachment
  • Financial ability to pay for the home

Can I force my spouse to leave home during our divorce?

It depends on the state law controlling divorce.

However, in general, if you and your spouse bought the house together, or if one party bought the house during the marriage, you will likely not be able to force your spouse out.

A generally recognized exception occurs when:

  • The home isn’t marital property
  • Child abuse occurs
  • Domestic violence occurs

What is a common reason that neither spouse keeps the house?

It might be the case that neither party can afford to pay the mortgage. If that occurs, then the court decides on another outcome.

Keep or sell? Ask yourself these 8 questions before you decide

Elrich suggests that you ask yourself the following questions when making the decision:

  • Can you afford to pay the mortgage, property taxes, upkeep and not be “house poor”?
  • Can you and the children (if there are children) still go on vacations and live a similar comfortable lifestyle that you enjoyed before the divorce?
  • What rental options are there (cost, location, etc.), and what would those rental costs be?
  • Is there anywhere you can live to pay off debts and save money so that you can save up for a down payment? Think long-term.

Decker encourages you to examine the following financial questions as you make your decision:

  • Am I able to qualify for refinancing?
  • What significant expenses or repairs can I expect in the next couple of years?
  • How will I afford the monthly payments for the life of the mortgage?
  • Can I find another place in this school zone or a similar commute? 

Don’t be overcome by emotions and let them drive your decisions. Instead, make sure to consult your attorney, divorce specialist agent, accountant, or financial planner before making any decisions.

Another thing you should consider is finding a top-rated agent for additional expert advice about selling your home and for a comparative market analysis.

Use our Agent Match tool, which analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

Header Image Source: (Roman Motizov / Shutterstock)

10 Things to Do Before Hiring a Real Estate Agent https://www.homelight.com/blog/things-to-do-before-hiring-a-real-estate-agent/ Fri, 04 Feb 2022 13:00:56 +0000 https://www.homelight.com/blog/?p=20665 There are a million and one reasons why it might be the right time to sell your home, but whatever the motivation, almost all sellers want their house sold at a good price and relatively quickly. Working with a top agent is important, but make sure to take care of these things before hiring a real estate agent to help sell your house.

We asked top-rated agents what they wish sellers would do (and not do) before contacting them. Here is their list of the top 10 things to do before hiring a real estate agent.

Having a price range in mind is always helpful because it helps us understand where you’re at.
  • Shannan Laudet
    Shannan Laudet Real Estate Agent
    Shannan Laudet
    Shannan Laudet Real Estate Agent at Adept Real Estate | Professional Realty Services
    • star
    • star
    • star
    • star
    • star
    Currently accepting new clients
    • Years of Experience 18
    • Transactions 343
    • Average Price Point $284k
    • Single Family Homes 320

1. Determine your selling goals

Before you can even think about hiring a real estate agent, you need to map out your selling goals. This means you’ll need to determine the price range you’re willing to accept offers from. Shannan Laudet, a top-rated real estate agent in Bremerton, Washington, advises homeowners to have an offer range that they consider is an acceptable offer for their home.

“Having a price range in mind is always helpful because it helps us understand where you’re at,” she says. If the price range is unreasonable, the agent can suggest a range that is more in line with local market conditions.

Along with the price range, you’ll want to think about what timeframe you’re comfortable with — and how that might impact the ultimate sale price. Are you willing to accept a lower offer for a quick sale, or do you want to hold out for the best price? Are you willing to negotiate or are you firm on the price?

Note: If you don’t yet have a price range in mind, you can use HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator to get a sense of your home’s current market value

Get a Home Value Estimate As You Prepare to Sell

HomeLight’s tool takes into account recent comparable sales records, local market trends, and your home last sale’s price to provide a preliminary estimate of home value in under two minutes.

2. Know how much equity you have in your home

It’s helpful to know how much equity you have built up in your home before contacting a real estate agent. Home equity is a homeowner’s financial stake in their property that they own free of their mortgage loan obligation. It’s calculated by taking the current value of your home and subtracting the total cost of the mortgage balance and any additional liens that must be paid off in order to sell the property.

Ideally, you’ll have enough equity to use as a decent down payment on a new home (if you’re going to be buying a house as well), but at the bare minimum, your equity should be sufficient to cover expenses you’ll need to pay once the house is sold  — such as the agent commission and closing costs that will be deducted from your proceeds.

Remember, any remaining mortgage value will need to be paid off once your house is sold.

3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage if you are buying, too

In August 2021, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) released their Realtors® Confidence Index Survey, which found that 22% of real estate contracts were delayed and 8% of contracts were terminated due to issues obtaining financing. Since buying a house while selling one can be tricky for a number of reasons, get ahead of the game and get pre-approved for a mortgage before you even begin looking for a new home.

You could get pre-approved in as little as five minutes if you apply through HomeLight’s Home Loan program. HomeLight Home Loan provides loans at low rates with fast closing times and a $0 lending fee and is currently available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

4. Research the best time to sell in your area

Life has a crazy way of throwing us a curveball and sometimes you don’t have a say in when you need to sell your house. However, if you are able to be more strategic, find out what time of the year is the best time to sell your house in your area.

Housing market trends show that the difference in sale price for homes listed during the peak selling season compared to those listed at the slowest times of year is, in most years, a swing of over 10 percentage points.

Note: You can use HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator to figure out which month is the best time to list. We recommend hiring an agent at least three to six months before the recommended month to sell in order to give yourself enough time to complete pre-listing renovations and repairs.

5. Make necessary repairs

In the same NAR report, 9% of contracts are delayed and 9% of contracts are terminated due to home inspection issues. Don’t let your sale fall through or be delayed because there were some repairs that needed to be addressed. Be proactive and use a repair checklist to make sure your home will pass future home inspections with flying colors.

Of course, you can order a home inspection on your own prior to calling a real estate agent. The inspection report will tell you exactly what needs to be fixed and then you can start scheduling appointments so the repairs will be completed before the house hits the market.

6. Gather receipts and warranties for home improvements and renovations

Real estate agents can use tools like automated valuation models (AVMs) to get information about your house. However, they can tell when a home has been taken care of and when it hasn’t, and they take that into consideration when they suggest a price range for your home.

You can help them come up with a fair price by keeping detailed records of the work you’ve put into your house. These records should include any receipts and valid warranties, as well as a rundown of project costs, materials, finishes, and when the project was completed.

“Having a list like that ready for a Realtor® is huge because it’s all about us being able to enhance the buyer’s perception of value,” Laudet comments.

A father cleaning a house with his son before hiring a real estate agent.
Source: (Gustavo / Pexels)

7. Deep clean and declutter

The moment you decide that you’re going to sell your house, you should start the cleaning and decluttering process. This task can take anywhere from weeks to months from start to finish, but it is a crucial step if you want to get the best price possible.

Deep cleaning the interior of an average house can cost between $200 to $400, but some companies will charge an hourly rate, typically $25 to $50 an hour. Of course, the actual costs will depend on factors like the size of the home, the extent of the work that needs to be done, your location, and any additional services you may opt for. If you’re going to have the exterior of your home professionally pressure washed (which you should!), the average price ranges between $300 and $600.

At the end of the day, deep cleaning and decluttering the interior of your home can add about $2,000 in sale price, and a professional pressure-washed exterior can add up to $15,000. Beyond the sale price, a cleaner home will be more attractive to potential buyers.

8. Refresh the interior

Once the interior is sparkling clean, think about ways you can make your home feel refreshed and new. An easy way to breathe new life into a home is by replacing the linens, curtains, and towels with fresh ones (neutral colors only!) throughout the house.

Other ways you can refresh your home include:

  • Replace the existing light bulbs with LED bulbs so rooms look brighter
  • Eliminate (or hide) unnecessary extension cords
  • Paint kitchen cabinets and update hardware
  • Place a few plants (be they live or faux) throughout the home

Note: The agent you decide to hire may suggest a staging plan because staging helps buyers envision themselves in the home, according to NAR’s 2021 survey. In addition, staging can net a higher sale price, with 23% of agents reporting offers increased between 1% and 5% compared to similar, unstaged homes. Plus, staging can decrease the amount of time your home sits on the market.  

9. Take time to boost curb appeal

In selling a house, first impressions matter, beginning as soon as a potential buyer spots your house from the road. The way your yard looks and how well it’s maintained is going to leave an impression on potential buyers, so make it a good one!

Fortunately, boosting curb appeal doesn’t mean you have to hire a professional landscaper to overhaul your whole yard. You can do simple things like:

  • Pressure wash the exterior of your home, the driveway, walkways, and patio/deck
  • Wash the windows, inside and out (remove screens if they’re in poor condition)
  • Clean up the yard and remove clutter, debris, and dead plants
  • Keep up with regular lawn maintenance tasks like mowing, fertilizing, and watering
  • Add fresh mulch to flower beds

10. Start researching top real estate agents near you

As you’re completing this checklist of things to do before hiring a real estate agent, you can start your research into who you should hire. There are about 3 million real estate agents with active licenses doing business in the United States, so suffice to say you have a lot of options, but remember: not all agents are equally good.

So how do you sift through the millions of agents? Well, you can ask people in your network for referrals, but you can also use HomeLight’s agent matching platform.

We’ve crunched the numbers on real estate data to find top performing agents in your area. Our platform will match you with three top agents based on their average list to sale price, how many days the average house they sell is on the market, and client reviews.

Find a Top-Rated Real Estate Agent

HomeLight makes it easy to connect with the best real estate agents in your area. Tell us a bit about your home and when you plan to sell, and we’ll connect you with two to three agent recommendations in minutes.

Once you narrow down your top candidates, reach out and schedule an appointment (in-person, Zoom, or phone) for an interview. In the interview, make sure to ask these 24 questions. These questions will give you insight into their work ethic, experience, availability, marketing strategies, and so much more.

After the interviews, take some time to reflect on the agent’s answers and their overall vibe. They may have amazing credentials and history, but if they rub you the wrong way during the interview, chances are you may not be the best match.

A man using the internet to hire a real estate agent.
Source: (Avi Richards / Unsplash)

What not to do before hiring a real estate agent

There are a lot of things to do before hiring a real estate agent, but before you go wild, there are some things real estate agents wish homeowners wouldn’t do before hiring them, such as:

  • Starting major renovations: There’s no guarantee you’ll see a return on investment
  • Painting the walls: Poor color choices could be a buyer repellant
  • Advertising your home: This could cause problems for your agent’s marketing strategy
  • Change the interior design: Like painting, anything but neutral can drive buyers away
  • Updating fixtures: Updating fixtures can be costly and not worth the investment
  • Upgrading the backyard: The upgrades you do may not be in demand in your area

A top agent understands your market and they’ll be able to advise you on what upgrades will increase the value of your home and which ones will not. They can help you choose finishes and materials that will give you the most bang for your buck.

Most of all, the right agent will have an extensive network of contractors, landscapers, and home designers that can take your home from “just okay” to “I want that!” with ease. So, roll up your sleeves and tackle this list and you’ll be ready to reach out to and hire an agent having already made a solid start to selling your home.

Header Image Source: (Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels)