Ask Michael - Real Estate Blog

Our blog will allow us to leverage social technologies to engage in two-way communication with our community and to take your feedback into consideration as we create new content, tools and resources. In addition, we’ll use the blog to share multimedia, such as videos, photo albums and more. Here you’ll also find client stories, resources for buyers & sellers, local event updates and real estate news, as well as details on opportunities to engage with members of the community.

As we continue to build our blog, we’ll also create specific content so you can learn more about the latest news, research and tips for you whether buying or selling.

We look forward to growing with you as we embark on this new journey. Thanks for stopping by! 

Oct. 20, 2016

Avoiding PMI. Is it Worth it?

Posted in buyer
Oct. 20, 2016

October 20, 2016 Market In Minutes

Posted in buyer
Oct. 17, 2016

Find out what you need to know before you decide to sell or stay

When real estate prices are on the rise, it’s always tempting to sell. But should you sell your home? If you’ve been on the fence, now may be the time. Just be sure to consider these five things before pulling the trigger.

Equity advantage

During the housing bust, a huge percentage of homeowners saw their equity evaporate as home values dropped. Many even owed more than their houses were worth. No one wants to sell when it requires writing a check to the bank or listing as a short sale. And owners with equity definitely didn’t want to list knowing that lower sale prices would have eaten it all away.

TIP: Check your Home's value

If you’ve been waiting to sell for this reason, chances are, you now have a bit more positive equity in your home, thanks to recent market upswings. Maybe now is the time to consider that long-awaited sale and hopefully walk away with some equity intact.

Too big for your own good

You’ve grossly outgrown your current home — either it’s way too small after that second or third child or an elderly parent has moved in. If you’re in a home that’s too small for your immediate (and future) needs, this is the time to consider the jump to something a bit larger. Sale prices are solid, and you can take advantage of current interest rates before they start to climb.

Incredible shrinking family

What if you’ve recently joined the empty nester club? Maybe your oldest child has headed off to college, and you’ve realized it’s time to pack up that extra bedroom and ditch all that square footage. Selling now and downsizing has many perks — lower operating costs and less cleaning and maintenance, to name a few — so go for it, and take advantage of a move that enhances your new lifestyle.

Interest rates could light a fire

Interest rates aren’t going anywhere but up, so if you’re wondering when it would be the best time to get a good mortgage rate on a new home once you’ve sold your old one, the answer is now.

TIP: Market Updates

Rates are at historic lows and aren’t likely to go anywhere but north in the foreseeable future. Sell now, buy, and get in on those low rates for the long term.

Sell when you need to, don’t chase the market

Not ready? Don’t rush it. The bottom line: List when you need to. If you’re dealing with a job change, divorce, children, health issues, marriage, etc., and you really need to sell your current home right now (or don’t have the time or energy to get your home in market-ready shape), don’t try to chase the market in either direction.

When you sell and subsequently buy another house, there’s good news: If you’re selling low, then you’ll be buying low. And if you’re selling high, well, then you’ll be buying high. It’s a wash. Come to terms with the current market and sell your home for its current fair-market value. When you move on, be sure to buy a house you can afford, both now and in the future!

Posted in Seller
Oct. 17, 2016

Top 10 Reasons to Have a Real Estate Agent Help You Sell Your Home


1. A real estate agent is professionally trained to ensure that the sale of your house proceeds smoothly. When trouble arises, you agent will let you know when you need a lawyer.


2. A real estate agent can negotiate with potential buyers and their agents in your place. The agent must act on your instruction and must tell you about offers. Your real-estate agent will be particularly helpful if the potential buyer is extremely demanding.


3. A real estate agent may have a special showing of your home and limit it to other agents. Those agents will see your house with a professional eye with their clients in mind.


4. A real estate agent regularly talks to other agents. Word-of-mouth is an extremely effective way of finding buyers.


5. A real estate agent may be able to provide referrals of qualified home inspectors and contractors should your home needs additional repairs or if it needs to be brought up to code (to comply with your city's housing rules).


6. A real estate agent can help you fill out the paperwork you will need before you offer your home.

TIP: Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent

7. An experienced real estate agent can help you get your house ready for sale, point out housing-code or zoning violations, and suggest improvements to help your house sell.


8. If you try to sell your home by yourself, you might not be listed in the MLS and buyers' agents won't bring your home to their clients' attention. Also, some buyers are not comfortable about looking at your house while you're there too, because they feel inhibited about discussing things they don't like.


9. A real estate agent has access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS is a database of current homes for sale. By hiring a broker, information about your home will be instantly available to agents all across your area. They can conduct searches in the MLS for potential buyers to locate properties the buyers might be interested in.


10. A real estate agent knows the real estate market in your area, has access to data about recent sales in your neighborhood, and can help you price your home accordingly.

TIP: Get Your Home Evaluated

Posted in Seller
Oct. 14, 2016

Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent Before You Hire One to Sell Your Home

Looking to hire a real estate agent to sell your home? Here are some Questions, ask these questions of real estate agents before you hire one. Compare as many agents as you need until you feel comfortable and confident with one. 


Do you work full or part-time as a real estate agent? 

  1. Full-time agents are likely to give you (and other potential home buyers) more time and attention.

  2. How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood in the past year or two?

    Ideally, you want someone with a track record in your neighborhood and preferably in your price range. If you live in a city that has different property types (e.g. co-op, condo) see how much experience they have selling what you have.

    The more stats and data the agent is willing to provide (houses sold, prices, average sale to list price ratio, average days on the market, etc.*), the more confident they are in sharing their expertise and their ability to sell your home.

    *As with any stats, beware - they can be manipulated. Ask to see the raw data. For example, a house listed at $120K which was reduced / relisted at $100K and sold at $99K can be said to have a sale to list price ratio of 99% but when compared to the original list of $120K, that ratio becomes 82.5 percent. Reported "days on market" can be reduced in some locales by taking down the listing and then re-listing or simply re-listing the home with another agent. Also, a great average days on market (DOM) in a hot market is vastly different in a slow market. If you are able to determine the average DOM in your market, you can better gauge how a local agent is doing relative to the competition. But this is not an exact science. Drats!

  3. How many sellers are you representing now?

    Folks say this can cut two ways. A busy agent may be too busy and an agent with no clients may have more time to market your home. I prefer a busy agent. Maybe it's the wisdom of the crowd?

  4. What aspects of the transaction will you personally handle and which will be delegated to others?

    Most agents delegate, so do not let that be a negative. But you want to know the extent of your agent's work and involvement in the process. This question will also test the agent's knowledge of the process: marketing/advertising / signage, open houses, negotiation of price and terms, qualification of buyers, contract negotiation, title, home inspections, closing.

  5. Are your fees negotiable?

    If they say no, leave. All real estate agent compensation is negotiable. There are many ways to go, from a flat fee to a traditional percentage of the sales price. Business models are continually evolving. If you are the creative type and have an idea on compensation, run it by the agent. Heck, you may each discover a new way to do business.

  6. At what price do you think my house will sell in the current market? And why?

    This will give you an understanding of the agent's knowledge of the market and their thought process in pricing your home, the most important decision you'll have to make. An experienced Realtor will refer to the recent market data, the current pool of comparable homes on the market, and your home's condition and amenities in giving you an answer. Make sure they factor in the "unzillowables". Also, if they rely solely on a value based on Zillow or any computer generated home value ... run, run, Forrest, run.

TIP: Preparing Your Home To Sell

  1. Can you give me a written CMA and a list of homes currently on the market?

    All agents should give you a written comparative market analysis (CMA). The detail (or lack thereof) of the report will tell you a lot about the agent and their knowledge of the market. If there are comps in there you know are crappy, play it cool and ask the agent why so-and-so's home is comparable. Their answer will be revealing.

  2. What is your advertising and marketing plan for my house?

    A blend of online and offline marketing will reach a broader spectrum of buyers. Know the manner and frequency of advertising and any open houses. The issue of open houses is hotly debated by professionals, many who feel they do not produce buyers. There should at least be an open house for other brokers, especially for buyers' brokers.

    Photos: The more photos a listing has, the more attention the home will get. Ask how many will be taken and by whom. A professional photographer is preferable. There is an ongoing debate whether video is necessary for a listing to sell. In my (biased) opinion, a video of the home and/or neighborhood, done by a professional videographer makes your home stand out from the rest. And, for me (once again biased), it suggests an agent who is up on trends and new technology.

    Ask to see sample marketing materials. All agents will list your home in the local MLS and their website (make sure they have one) so that's a given. You want to know what else will be done. Compare it to the marketing plan & materials of other agents.

  3. How long must I list my house with you?

    Most consumer experts say a three month or less listing period is preferable. In this market, that may not be enough time to evaluate the abilities of your agent but you can always renew the listing agreement. If you have the free right to cancel the listing agreement (if you are unhappy with the agent), the term is not that important.

  4. How long have you been a real estate agent and how much education have you received?

    IMO, an agent with at least four years experience shows a dedication to the profession and an ample opportunity to acquire a good sense of the market. As far as education goes, by law, agents are required to take classes to keep their license in good standing -- so look for education that goes above and beyond their minimum requirements. A well educated and experienced agent is worth their weight in oil.

  5. Is your real estate license in good standing and have you ever been subject to a client complaint?

    There are websites to check an agent's license. Ask the agent to provide it to you.

  6. Can you provide me the names and phone numbers of past clients as references?

    Ask if any of the references are relatives. Check out the references.

  7. Do you work with stagers or will you stage my home?

    In this market, your house has to be dressed to sell. Home staging, in my opinion, is a must. It is one thing to take a listing and market it and quite another to sell it. Ask the agent to make suggestions to improve the salability of your home - it will probably involve your kitchen and baths, the most common areas of buyer interest and generally the best home improvement return on investment (ROI).

  8. How often will you communicate with me?

    Ideally, your Realtor should communicate with you regularly, updating you with any new information/concerns. They must inform you of all offers. They should have email and be reachable most of the time should you have a question or concern. Ask when they are not reachable.

  9. Why should I hire you over your competition?

    The agent should have a ready answer. Most consumers are looking for a real estate agent who is:

    • Honest

    • Experienced in the local market

    • Excellent negotiators

    • Readily available by phone or e-mail

    • Good communicators

    • Quick to return calls or emails

    • Friendly

    • Analytical

    • Successful in getting results

  10. May I see the documents I will have to sign?

    These should include, of course, the listing agreement and sales contract. If the listing agreement does not have a cancellation clause, ask if you can cancel if you are unhappy with the services. If you have the free right to cancel, the length of the listing agreement does not matter much. Read all documents and ask questions if you don't understand anything. There are several types of listing agreements. Like any legal document, I strongly advise it be reviewed by an attorney. Compare listing agreements provided by other agents.

  11. What will be my closing costs?

    I have always believed this helps sellers understand the process more completely. And understanding removes anxiety.

  12. Can you explain the process to me?

    This will give you all the steps involved in selling a home and why an agent is a valuable expert to have on your side.

  13. Do you have a website and/or blog?

    Virtually all agents have a website. Visit it to get a sense of the agent and the brand. Not many agents have blogs so don't hold it against them. But if they do have a blog, visit and read their posts and comments. In my (biased) opinion, you will get enormous insights into the agent's personality & local expertise, among other things.

  14. What haven't I asked you that I need to know?

    This catch-all can prevent surprises later on.

Good luck with finding the agent and home of your dreams. . 

Tip:Get Your Home Evaluation

Posted in Seller
Oct. 14, 2016

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t For Sale by Owner


Some homeowners consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). We think there are several reasons this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.

Here are five of our reasons:

1. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With

Here is a list of some of the peoplewith whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to FSBO.

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value
  • Your bank in the case of a short sale

2. Exposure to Prospective Purchasers

Recent studies have shown that 92% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 28% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?

3.  Results Come from the Internet

Where do buyers find the home they actually purchased?

  • 43% on the internet
  • 9% from a yard sign
  • 1% from newspapers

The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.

4. FSBOing has Become More and More Difficult

The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 9% over the last 20+ years.

TIP: Reasons To Use a Realtor

5. You Net More Money when Using an Agent

Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $184,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $230,000.   This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $46,000 more for your home as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.

Bottom Line

Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer.

TIP: Questions To Ask a Realtor


Posted in Seller
Oct. 4, 2016

Challenges for sellers in a "seller's market"

A "seller's market" is a market where there are more home buyers looking to purchase a new home than there are homes for sale. This shortage of supply causes a number of frustrations for buyers: increasing prices, multiple offers, short listing periods, fewer options and less negotiating leverage. While it is easy to think about the challenges that buyers face trying to purchase a home in a strong seller’s market, there are challenges on the seller's side as well:

Rushing buyers may be unprepared.

In this kind of a market, buyers have to make quick decisions and often have less information available to make those decisions. A home listed on Friday may likely be sold by Monday, especially if it is in a desirable neighborhood or priced well. Buyers are watching the available home inventory shrink and homes disappear as quickly as they are listed. Pressured by this fast pace, buyers may be tempted to make a quick-impulse purchase decision without being completely prepared – or worse, they may write an offer on a home that they don't really love out of fear that they won't get one at all. This has two impacts for sellers:

(1) The buyer who rushes into a contract on a home that they are not in love with is more likely to terminate the contract during the option period once they have had more time to think about it.

(2) A rushed buyer may not have gone through all of the proper steps to make sure their financing is in order, which could result in a delayed closing or no closing at all. While there is not a lot a seller can do about a buyer who changes their mind, there is something they can do to identify a buyer with weak financing.

TIP: Check the buyer's pre-approval letter to make sure that the lender has reviewed, in writing, the buyer's income, assets and credit. If the letter does not say it explicitly, call the lender to ask. What you are trying to get at here is whether the lender has really reviewed all of the important documents that they need to make a loan, or if they just received an inquiry over the Internet and issued a letter without reviewing anything.

The higher offer is not always the stronger offer.

I find this to be true more than half of the time. There are many factors that make up a good offer and price is just one of them. As the seller, you want the highest price for your home – that goes without saying – but more importantly, you want to accept the offer that is going to actually close.

If a buyer offers you $350,000 on a house that was listed at $325,000 because there were multiple offers, it does not mean that you are going to close the sale at $350,000. The largest obstacle in this situation is the appraisal that will be ordered by the buyer's lender. The lender will only loan based on the lower of contract price or appraised value, and appraisals are lagging indicators that must use past sales data to establish market value.

TIP: Get Your Home Evaluation 

The adage, "A house is worth what someone else will pay for it," is true if the buyer is paying cash – but if there is a lender involved, then the house is worth what the appraiser can support based on past sales.

Another common scenario is for the buyer to ask the seller to pay some of the buyer's closing costs and then add that amount to the sale price. This can also lead to an appraisal problem if the new sale price is above market value.

For example: You have your home listed at $325,000 and you receive two offers. One offer is $322,500 with conventional financing and one is $330,000 with you paying $5,000 of the buyer's closing costs. On paper, the second offer is better because it is $2,500 higher than the first offer ($330,000 - $5,000 = $325,000, which is higher than $322,500), so you accept it.

Now, when the appraisal comes in, it is $323,000. The appraisal typically comes back about 20-25 days into a 30-day closing period, so you are through the inspections and any repair negotiations at this point, and you are ready to close.

If you lower the sale price to the appraised value, you are at $318,000 after you net out the closing costs. If you don't lower the price, the buyer will either back out or have to come up with an extra $2,000 at closing (which many cannot do). You can try to lower the amount of the seller-paid closing costs, but the buyer may need them to be able to close the purchase and may not be able to close without them.

Now you are at risk of losing the sale, 20-25 days in, and having to put your house back on the market and paying the expenses (mortgage, property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, utilities) until it sells. Had you accepted the first offer, you would be $4,500 ahead and ready to close without a problem.

TIP: Include a provision in the contract that says that if the property does not appraise for the sale price, any seller-paid closing costs will be reduced as the price is reduced until you reach the appraised value. This will trigger any conversations about the buyer needing closing costs early on in the negotiation and will avoid losing the deal later.

The type of loan the buyer is using.

There are many types of mortgages and each has their upside and downside for the seller as well as the buyer. A buyer who has chosen a 20% down conventional loan is a stronger buyer than one using a 3.5% down FHA loan, because the first buyer has cash on hand to absorb unforeseen costs and can switch to a 10% down loan if necessary.

A VA buyer has to ask the seller to pay some of their closing costs, called the "VA Non-Allowables," where a conventional-loan buyer does not. A USDA-loan buyer has to go through double underwriting, once by their lender and then again by the USDA, and so their loan may take longer and has more opportunities to fall apart. VA loans have their own appraisers who can also call for repairs to be made, and they must be made prior to closing for the loan to go through. Both VA and FHA loans have certain minimum criteria that the property must meet in order to qualify for financing – so if your home needs work or repairs, you may not want to accept those buyers.

TIP: In my experience, the loan that the buyer's lender is most likely to bend over backwards to find a way to fund is a "Physician Loan" being made to a doctor. If you see a buyer with a pre-approval for a physician loan, that is very likely a solid buyer.

It is difficult to time a sale and subsequent purchase.

Once you sell your home, you become a buyer for your next home, and you will be on the other side of the market. In a slower or more evenly balanced market, a seller can time their sale and subsequent purchase so that they can move straight from their current home into their new home.

In a seller's market, this becomes much more difficult to do because you will likely sell quickly and you will have competition buying your new home. This competition means that you are less able to control the timing and terms of the purchase to line up with your sale. To make matters worse, you may need to sell your current home in order to qualify for the mortgage on your new home (or you may not want to be in the position of having to make two payments); so you have to make an offer contingent on the sale of your house, which puts you at a great disadvantage compared to other offers.

TIP: Negotiate to lease back your home, once you have sold it, for 30 to 60 days. Since you have the upper hand when you are selling, use it to buy yourself some time. One aspect of considering offers on your home may be which one has the ability to delay their move-in to allow you to lease back. Most lenders will allow a buyer to lease back the home for up to 60 days before they have to move in. With a lease-back, the sale of your house is final, you have your sale proceeds, and you are free to contract for your next house without having any contingencies.

Posted in Seller
Sept. 2, 2016

7 Reasons Your House Isn't Selling

Home SoldHousing is back. The market is starting to hum again—even roar in some areas, with demand outstripping supply. A new report from the National Association of Realtors shows that sales of existing homes in February saw the most growth in more than three years. But a stronger market isn't a guarantee that you can sell your house. There will always be reasons people won't buy what you're offering.

If you've been having bad luck on the market, you may want to cross the street, hold up a mirror and take a good, long look. According to numerous housing experts, the most common reasons your house isn't selling are the following.

1. You're pricing it too high"Without question, the No. 1 reason a home doesn't sell is price," says Bill Golden, an independent, Atlanta-based Realtor who sells for ReMax and has been in the real estate market for 26 years. "Sellers have an emotional attachment to their homes and tend not to objective about the true value."

Click Here for Your Free Market Value Report.


2. Your house is kind of run-downThis doesn't mean you need to renovate your kitchen or fix your leaky roof. Well, you do need to fix the leaky roof, but you don't need to spend $40,000 on a new kitchen. "Sometimes it's as easy as doing some fresh landscaping or a fresh coat of paint in certain areas," says Golden.

And you may think your house is a fixer-upper, and that you're likely to attract some handy do-it-yourselfers, but Alix Prince, a vice president and broker at Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty, in Rye, N.Y., is skeptical.

"Today's buyers are busy," she says. "They are looking for properties where they can 'unpack' without doing a lot in renovations or decorating. Properties that are in need of TLC are at a disadvantage since two-income families would prefer to spend their weekend relaxing rather than redecorating."

3. Your house isn't run-down, but it looks like it might be. "Any signs of water damage can be a huge turn-off to potential buyers. Take a water spot on the ceiling. The offending roof might have been fixed 15 years ago, but if the evidence is still there, buyers will assume there's still a problem," says Jessi Hall, a real estate writer for the Columbia, Mo.-based Veterans United Home Loans, which provides home loans to veterans. "Water damage makes buyers understandably jumpy, and can keep a home on the market indefinitely."

4. There's too much "you" in the house. It sounds cruel, but you want to sell your house to other people, who can imagine themselves living in your house. Simply put, you are not them.

"This is perhaps the most common problem of all," says Joshua Mogal, founder of eco+historical homes, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in renovating historic homes using eco-friendly materials. "Buyers rarely have the same tastes as sellers."

Jessica Edwards, a Coldwell Banker Real Estate consumer specialist and agent in Wilmington, N.C., agrees, saying, "If you love the beach and palm trees, putting a palm tree in every single room may not be fit for everyone."

What to do? Mogal and Edwards recommend moving your stuff, or at least some of it, out of the house and painting the rooms neutral colors so the buyer's imagination can start taking flight.

5. You are inflexible. No offense, but maybe you aren't showing your house off enough? If you aren't using a real estate agent and work away from your home, your time might be limited, of course. But you should try to make your house as accessible and available as possible for a Realtor and a potential homebuyer to easily drop by and take a tour (which means having the place clean, too).


"Having your home be shown only by appointment or only at designated times will severely cut down on the number of showings you get," says Golden, "and if the house isn't getting shown, it isn't going to get sold."

6. You aren't advertising your home properly. If you aren't a photographer or much of a writer, you may be giving your potential buyers an underwhelming idea of what it would be like to live where you live, according to Edwards. Conversely, she adds that you don't want your photos and prose to blow away homebuyers too much, if your house can't live up to what you're posting online or in brochures.

"A description that doesn't meet a homebuyer's expectation when visiting the property in person may also contribute to a failed site," Edwards says.

7. Your house is poorly located or poorly plannedAs you suspect, there's really not much you can do about either problem.

It's just a reality that some homeowners have to deal with, says Mogal, who adds that one problem you may be able to fix relatively easy is if the lot has a major drawback. Maybe the yard is extremely small, or there's an awkward hill that makes it challenging to mow a lawn. In that case, "great landscaping could be helpful," says Mogal.

 TIP: Prepping Home To Sale

Posted in Seller
June 23, 2016

June 23, 2016 Market In A Minute

Posted in buyer, Seller
June 9, 2016

June 9, 2016 Market In A Minute


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Posted in buyer, Seller