Choosing a Realtor

Buyers should give careful consideration when choosing an agent to represent them in the buying process. When dealing with the most important investment of your life you want a strong advocate rather than someone who merely shows you houses and encourages you to buy. The agent whose name appears on the advertisement or sign for the property you have an interest in represents the owner or seller of that property so their first obligation is to that person.

Most buyers will appreciate the value of having their own Realtor represent them when preparing to buy real estate. The Realtor knows – or should know – the ins and outs of negotiating contracts, how to recognize value, what pitfalls to watch for and whom to recommend as members of your team. When choosing one, take care to get to know the agent by interview, just as you would any contractor who you will trust with large sums of money in order to get a job done.

Some things you might like to know may include; the level of education the agent has achieved. Have they taken a number of relevant classes that are not required in order to better serve their clients? What is the most challenging transaction they have been involved in and what was the outcome? The answer to that question will likely be quite revealing – letting you know what to expect of that party when you face challenges in your own transaction. If your agent is new, did they go to their broker without delay for advice regarding how to handle the difficult situation or did they “wing it” and get lucky?

Experience is not always the best teacher as people in an industry for an extended period of time may become jaded and develop a cavalier attitude about transaction related challenges. Even worse, they may be set in how they go about doing things and unresponsive to what you need from the relationship. It is better to establish your expectations up front rather than discover difficulties in the middle of the buying process.

Is the agent available to show you properties at times that will not negatively impact your work schedule? Will they accommodate your children or adjust their schedule around the times you have child care? Will they search the Multiple Listing Service and recommend houses to visit and advise you of which are more desirable explaining the circumstances that influence that desirability? Are they only intending to show you properties that their brokerage has listed or does the list of homes they recommend viewing include a good cross section of listing from a variety of agencies? Are the properties they recommend within your price range or are they trying to stretch your comfort zone by showing you houses beyond your requested budget?

When you prepare to buy a house you should consider that you are building a team to help you. We have discussed your lender and title company in recent weeks. Often those relationships will be from a pool of folks recommended by your Realtor and hopefully with the reasons why they receive the agent’s endorsement. They should also be ready with a list of inspectors they trust as well as specialists for inspections or testing beyond the abilities of a typical home inspector.

It is your right to know the level of service that causes the agent to recommend members of your buying team so ask questions. If your find your Realtor is not as interested in your well being as they are in making a commission, fire them! Call their broker -who is ultimately responsible for all their agents’ actions- and asked to be released from any contractual obligations you may have with that brokerage. Usually the broker’s desire to maintain a good reputation will cause them to accommodate your desire.

Choosing the right title company

You are about to make what is likely the largest investment of your life – a piece of real estate. In Idaho selection of the Title Company is the buyer’s. Title is the right to use your property as you see fit. Any restrictions on its use will be recorded as a condition, covenant or restriction. A title report will reveal these CCRs as well as any number of easements which provide access to your property. Title insurance guarantees the rights of the property owner and is often paid by the seller of the property to warrant to the purchaser that they are protected from defects and will have unencumbered title. If the buyer encumbers the property the lender will require a second policy to protect their interest in your real estate.

Even though many title companies in our area buy their title insurance from the same provider, the level of service provided varies greatly. Some are very efficient and communicate exceptionally well with all parties involved in the transaction while others take a more casual – even cavalier – approach to your investment. Whether buyer or seller you owe it to yourself to review the title company suggested as the one responsible for insuring and closing your transaction. Since it is the buyer’s choice it is the buyer who should be comfortable with the insurer and request that particular company in the Purchase and Sale Agreement.

Your broker will likely recommend a title company to you but it is wise to ask why they prefer that one. “Because I have always used them” or “We went to school together” or “We golf together every Wednesday” are not good reasons. Remember the decision to buy real estate is a huge one. You should be prepared to ask some questions of your agent that go a little deeper. How does the suggested company like to communicate? Do they phone, fax, email or text pertinent questions and documents? If you think email is an antiquated way to communicate would you use a company that still faxes documents?

Is there a particular escrow officer or closer that your agent or broker recommends and why? Does that person stay in touch from opening to closing of escrow? What type and at what frequency will that person communicate? When should you expect to hear from that person if at all? Do they have a history of discovering transaction challenges early and dealing with them head on? How often are your agent’s transactions closing on time or prior to the agreed upon closing date? How often are there last minute details that cause the parties to scramble for information requested by the title company that could have been addressed sooner but delay the closing?

The buyer gets to choose the company but the seller has a right to object if they feel the transaction will be better served elsewhere. If a seller questions their agent or broker and finds that there have been challenges in the past with the buyer’s choice, the seller may ask for a different company to close and insure the transaction in a counter offer.

Just like real estate agents and brokers and doctors and lawyers not all title companies are created equal. As with all aspects of your real estate transactions do a little homework and ask some direct questions before agreeing to the first title company suggested.

Positive Equity

Did you know, most mortgaged homes have positive equity? Are you interested in knowing your home’s value? Contact Kim Cooper of Select Brokers LLC today about determining the value of, and selling, your home in North Idaho!

How Good is your CMA?

How good is your CMA?

With the shortages of inventory reported here week after week, more and more agents are advertising free Comparable Market Analyses in an effort to garner more personal inventory. This marketing strategy has always been used by some. Judging from the emails sent daily within our agent network it is easy to see the desperation that comes from the lack of available houses currently listed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and more agents are resorting to offering this free service.

Some agents have equipped their sites with Automated Valuation Models or calculators that purport to estimate the value of your home. Typically, registration is required so that the agent can capture your name and address to pursue you in attempt to list your home. This is all well and good and nobody is fooled but the tactic can be a disappointment to a homeowner when the agent actually visits the home and determines what a calculator cannot – the condition and marketability of the home.

You do not need to register on an agent’s website to use an AVM to estimate value. You can go to any number of nationally known websites that host these calculators. These can be even more misleading since these sites exist to generate income from agents who pay for positioning there. The problem is that these sites do not have sufficient data to generate good estimates of property values in Idaho. You see Idaho is a “non-disclosure” state meaning that sold prices of properties may not be disclosed except to Realtors who report that information to their MLS. We then use that information to report the trends you read here and to allow our members to do an accurate evaluation for buyers and sellers of real estate.

These CMAs, generated by our members for you, can be achieved with a few keystrokes in a matter of minutes by any neophyte member of the MLS. There is no substitute though for a boots on the ground analysis that comes from truly understanding the market, the neighborhood and the subject. This of course requires a personal visit to the property. An AVM does not require disclosure of defects nor can it automatically adjust for amenities atypical to your neighborhood. A agent’s visit may quickly ascertain that the proximity of your home to a recent mudslide or the 118 stairs to your front door will have an impact on your home’s value. These characteristics can be calculated by adding adjustments to yours and the properties it is being compared to with some effort on behalf of the person performing the analysis. Once these additions or subtractions are made to yours and the other homes within the analysis your agent can better predict the selling price of your property.
With the sellers’ market we find today in many price ranges your agent may want to temper this analysis with a little common sense. Rather than relying on the default searches that look for sales over the last year, perhaps your CMA should only reflect activity over the last three months. What happened a year ago may no longer have any relevance when buyers are having a very difficult time finding homes to buy. If your are in that sellers’ sweet spot where there is only a three month supply and you’re not in a hurry to sell your agent may advise you to list at the higher end of the recommended price range since there is little competition and statistics show prices still rising.

Unlike a McDonald’s where kiosks are replacing people to take orders or big box stores with self checkout kiosks your real estate needs the personal touch of a human being with an understanding of your property and its competition or your CMA is not worth the paper it isn’t written on.

What’s different in today’s market?

In 2007, there was speculative investing, loose lending, new construction abundance and now in 2017 there is consumer demand, low inventory, job growth, population growth, and controlled lending. Inventory is down across the state, supply is low and demand is high.  The time to sell is now, contact REALTOR® Kim Cooper of Select Brokers LLC to take advantage of a healthy housing market!

* Dec. 2015 – 76,902 active listings compared to Dec. 2016 – 61,848 active listings (-18.7% change) Sources: realtor.com, bloomberg.com, NAR, IR

What is home equity, and what can I do with it?

Here are a few things you may be able to do with your home equity:

  • New home down payment
  • Home repair and renovation
  • Retirement
  • New car
  • Healthcare expenses
  • Vacation property
  • Consolidate debt
  • Higher education
  • Gift to heirs

Contact your REALTOR® Kim Cooper of Select Brokers LLC to learn more about home equity, about your home’s value, and how to invest your equity in a new home!

Thinking of selling?

Contact your REALTOR® Kim Cooper of Select Brokers LLC to get ahead of the competition and to learn more about the current market for sellers in Kootenai County!

Feel the LOVE of home ownership!

Feel the love of home ownership! There are lending options for every buyer, and you don’t always need 20% down! The attached informational graphic shows some great data found via a recent study by the National Association of REALTORS® about home buying and lending options.

Also, be sure to contact REALTOR® Kim Cooper of Select Brokers LLC about any other questions you may have about buying real estate in North Idaho!

How do interest rates affect buying power?

Lower interest rates equals more buying power! See the attached chart for an illustration of how purchasing a home at $150,000, and financing it over 30 years, can potentially affect your monthly payment and buying power. Numbers on the chart reflect principal and interest only. Contact your REALTOR® Kim Cooper of Select Brokers LLC about buying a home now while interest rates are still at an all-time low!

Coeur d’Alene Multiple Listing Service Market Report for January 2017

In the Coeur d’Alene MLS Market, January 2017 New/Active Residential Inventory was down 13.6% compared to 2016, with 508 Active listings at the end of January 2017 vs. 588 at this time last year. January shows 291 Residential closings compared to 248 in 2016, for an increase of 17.3%.

For the full report, click here (PDF).

The representations in this report are based on data generated from the database of the Coeur d’Alene Multiple Listing Service, Inc. for the time periods specified.  Data maintained by the Association or its Multiple Listing Service may not reflect all real estate activity in the market.

Kim Cooper, Select Brokers LLC