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The Legal Benefits of Using a Licensed Real Estate Agent

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Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s a good idea to have a pro on your side.

Are there legal benefits to using a licensed real estate agent?

The short answer is yes. Licensed real estate agents have legal obligations — formally called “fiduciary duties” — to their clients that are commonly referred to by the acronym OLDCAR.

O = Obedience

If you give an agent who is representing you an instruction with any financial implications (more about what constitutes “representation” below), they are obligated to follow it, even if they strongly disagree — as long as it’s legal and doesn’t contradict a contractual agreement.

L = Loyalty

Your agent is obliged to put your interests above those of anyone else involved in the deal — including themselves.

D = Disclosure

If your agent knows any fact that’s “material” to the sale, they are obligated to share that fact with you. And while they’re not obligated, they’re also motivated to find out as many of those material facts as possible.

C = Confidentiality

Your agent must protect your confidentiality. That means they can’t share any information about you or your situation (without your permission) with any other party to the deal.

A = Accounting

Your agent is responsible for keeping track of funds in play in the deal.

R = Reasonable care

This one is a bit sticky. An agent is obligated to use “reasonable” care and diligence while handling your affairs. Though exactly what reasonable care means in any specific transaction often ends up being decided by a judge in court.

Who is (and isn’t ) your agent

This is an important distinction. The fiduciary duties above only apply to a real estate agent who’s working for you. That means you either have a verbal or written agreement with them.

Often, you’ll run into a situation where you end up interacting, perhaps a lot, with an agent who is part of the deal, but who isn’t formally representing you. They’ll most likely be nice, professional, and helpful.

But if they’re the seller’s agent, they’re obligated to the seller, not you, and the legal obligations they have to the other party don’t apply to their interactions with you.

Whose side are you on?

The agent’s legal obligations also depend on whether you’re a buyer or a seller. You should know that these obligations are in direct competition.

For instance, if you’re a buyer and you have an agent representing you, their duty to you is to keep quiet regarding any information about you that the seller might not like (confidentiality).

The seller’s agent, on the other hand, has a duty to their client to find out everything about you they can (disclosure).

For another example, if you’re dealing with an agent who isn’t officially representing you, they’re not bound by loyalty. In other words, they don’t have to do anything you tell them or ask them to do.

Holding agents to their legal obligations

Of course, in the real world, there are sometimes issues with how these legal obligations play out.

Every agent has a real interest in maintaining good relationships with other agents. Sometimes, unfortunately, agents can get too friendly. If things get too cozy, they might casually or carelessly disclose information to one another that they shouldn’t.

Extreme cases of over-sharing might even involve collusion. That’s when two agents get together on the side and work to structure the deal so it benefits both of them (or someone on the outside with a hidden future interest in the property) — above the interests of either of their clients.

If you think something’s off with the information and service you’re getting from your agent, or if you feel things are too cozy between your own agent and the other party’s agent, you can complain to the company where either of them works, or go up the ladder and make your complaint to the local affiliate of their professional organization.

Your first and best option is to get a different agent. You can usually do this by informing your agent in writing that you no longer wish to be represented by them (and if you feel their behavior has been unethical, you can copy their employer or their professional association).

Be aware, though, that if you’ve signed an agreement of representation with the agent, you may still have liabilities, including a liability to pay them a commission, if the original agreement had a procuring clause.

So while it’s important to know where you stand and your agent’s legal obligations, there are genuine legal benefits to working with a licensed real estate agent.

Furthermore, in a transaction where one party has an agent and the other doesn’t, the party with the agent has a bit of an edge — part of which is that many people don’t understand the agent is only working for one of the parties, not for the benefit of both.

Posted by Rudy Yuly on Zillow

It’s Not Too Late to Grow These 11 Tasty Plants

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It may be mid-July, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on all the gardening fun. These tasty veggies and herbs are just the thing for a late-summer garden that will keep on giving come autumn. Get our best tips for these late-summer specialties, below.

Beans

DK – How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

 

 

How to Rent Out Your House and Make Bank

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alexsl/iStock

There are many reasons you might be one of the many homeowners wondering how to rent out your house: Maybe you’ve tried to sell your home but the market’s too sluggish, or you’re moving to a new area but want to hold on to your old property and rake in some income on the side.

Whatever the reason, it’s a good time to be considering this, because the rental market is hot: A recent study from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found that the rental market has been growing for the past 10 years straight, and the share of Americans renting is at a 20-year high of 35%.

But renting out your digs for the long term is a very different animal than the occasional stint on Airbnb. Here are some basic steps to take to get you started down rental road.

Determine how much to charge in rent

At the least, most newbie landlords want their rental income to cover their monthly mortgage, as well as taxes and insurance. Times may have changed since you bought, so you want to be clear on what the market will bear. Check rental properties on realtor.com® for the going rate in your area.

“Look for comparable properties in similar areas, with corresponding bedroom and bathroom counts,” says Realtor® Ed Laine, partner/broker of Miller Laine Properties in the Seattle area. “That will give you a per-square-foot rental figure that you can then apply to your own property.”

Screen tenants carefully

“Picking the right tenant can make all the difference and is one of the top ways to make your experience as a landlord a good one,” Laine says. You’ll want to check their employment history, credit history, and income (via pay stubs or tax returns), as well as references from past landlords if possible.

To add an extra layer of security, you can do statewide and federal background checks at places like the National Tenant Network, which has been screening tenants since 1980, to make sure potential renters don’t have a checkered history elsewhere.

Decide whether to manage your property yourself or hire help

It may be tempting to manage your property yourself when you consider that property managers typically charge 4% to 12% of the monthly rental. But that might be a small price to pay for avoiding headaches with your rental. According to a survey from property management firm Buildium, 62% of respondents mentioned maintenance and 5% cited tenant management as the two main reasons that rental property owners choose to hire property managers.

“I often suggest that my clients manage the first one themselves, which gives them a great education on their property and on being a landlord,” Laine says. “It also proves to them that management fees are nothing compared to a 3 a.m. call about a tree limb coming through a window.”

Pick the right property manager

Picking a property manager isn’t just about finding one with the lowest fees. Fees are important, but don’t let that be the sole deciding factor. For instance, what are the property manager’s hours? If they’re available only during weekday business hours and a pipe bursts on the weekend, you may get stuck with coming to the aid of your tenant yourself. What happens if rent isn’t paid on time—will they pursue the matter? If not, you may get stuck chasing down your money, which rather defeats the purpose of having a property manager at all.

Also make sure that the property manager—and you yourself—are committed to keeping up on local laws. Laine cites a recent case when the local municipality enacted laws that hold landlords liable for bedbugs.

“We updated our leases immediately,” he says. “The liabilities are too great to take a risk just to save a few bucks.”

Because at the end of the day, hired help or no, the buck stops with the landlord, literally.

Posted by Cathie Ericson on realtor.com

5 Tips for Selling Your House This Summer

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Summer may be real estate’s busy season, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy time to be a seller. With so many homes on the market and minimal pressure to settle, buyers can afford to be pickier.

It takes strategy, patience, and a level head to manage a sale successfully. Nevertheless, it is still possible, and if you follow these five steps, you will not only survive this summer home selling season, but thrive.

Home For Sale Real Estate Sign and House
Home For Sale Real Estate Sign and House

1. Curb Appeal

Summer is a time when all the flowers are out and blooming and all the trees are nice and green. Use this to your advantage and keep the outside of your house looking as good as it possibly can.

Pay special attention to your lawn. Grass in the summer grows twice as fast as it does in the winter. If you are trying to sell a house, make sure you keep your lawn looking trimmed and tidy. It’s a good idea to mow your lawn 1-2 times a week to keep it in top shape.

2. Natural Light is a Must

Summer is the time of the year with the most sunlight and almost everyone likes to capitalize on that. If your house is not showcasing its full natural light potential, it will be most noticeable in the summer. Consider removing any heavy curtains or dark shades because this can make the room seem darker and smaller.

3. Show Off Your Outdoor Space

One of everyone’s favorite activities during the summer is enjoying the outdoors. People who are buying a house in the summer are going to be seeking somewhere to do that, so make sure that you have showcased the outdoor space at your house. Outdoor furniture and decorations will allow them to easily visualize themselves relaxing outside on a calm summer night.

4. Air Temperature

As we all know, summertime can often be too hot. The last thing you want on an 80 degree day is a potential buyer to walk into your house and find it hot, stuffy, and uncomfortable. This can be a real turn off.

Before anyone comes into your house, do everything you can possibly do to prevent this from happening. It could be as simple as opening the windows, but it may require an investment in an air conditioner.

5. Tidy Up

Prior to any prospective buyers walking around your house, pick up after yourself and clean everything until your house is looking its absolute best. It’s a very simple fix that could make or break a buyer’s decision.

While you’re at it, be strategic about how you arrange each room. Be sure to keep every room neutral and not too personal so people can imagine themselves living there. Also, have the furniture set up so it brings out the positives of each room. Don’t allow furniture to make an otherwise open room seem small and uninviting.

6. Be Realistic

This last tip is applicable any time of the year. It’s no secret that everyone wants to get as much money for their house as possible, but if you try and price it too high, it might not sell at all. So do your research and list your house at a price that you’re happy with, but that is also fair for your area and house’s quality.

Bottom line   

Summer is the time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sunshine. Don’t ruin it by stressing about an unsold house. Instead, use these tips to sell it quickly and move on.

Posted by Carter Wessman on HomeZada

3 Questions Every Buyer Should Ask Themselves

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If you are debating purchasing a home right now, you are probably getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family will have your best interest at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in the real estate market.

Answering the following 3 questions will help you determine if now is actually a good time for you to buy in today’s market.

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place?

This truly is the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with money.

For example, a recent survey by Braun showed that over 75% of parents say “their child’s education is an important part of the search for a new home.”

This survey supports a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University which revealed that the four major reasons why people buy a home have nothing to do with money. They are:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of that space

What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you and your family gain from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not. 

2. Where are home values headed?

According to the latest Home Price Index from CoreLogic, home values are projected to increase by 5.3% over the next 12 months. 

What does that mean to you?

Simply put, if you are planning on buying a home that costs $250,000 today, that same home will cost you an additional $13,250 if you wait till next year. Your down payment will need to be higher as well to account for the higher home price.

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?

A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The ‘long term cost’ of a home can be dramatically impacted by even a small increase in mortgage rates. 

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of Realtors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase over the next twelve months as you can see in the chart below:

Bottom Line

Only you and your family will know for certain if now is the right time to purchase a home. Answering these questions will help you make that decision.

Posted by The KCM Crew

Talk with one of our agents today about buying a home!

9 Porch Makeovers For Less Than $1,000

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Fresh paint, a stylish new door, and welcoming seating can all help make your porch a more inviting place.

Save the big cash for major projects. Update your porch — and curb appeal — with these inexpensive tips.

When you’re hoping to add curb appeal to your home, look no further than the part that’s closest to the curb: your porch. A porch makeover can help you make a great first impression on visitors, and it provides you with a pleasant place to spend some time, whether you’re living in Nashville, TN, or San Diego, CA. Here are a few ways you can update your porch’s look without spending more than $1,000.

Determine priorities

Before you start any porch upgrade, walk across the street to get a feel for how your home looks from afar. “Decide if the shrubs, furnishings, shutters, door numbers are proportional and in good condition,” says Kim Trouten, a Charlotte, NC–based real estate agent and interior designer. You might find that your porch has lost its luster, or that the landscape bed beside it is too shallow, or your columns are too narrow. It’s a good starting point.

Clean up

There’s rain, heat, and possibly snow, plus foot traffic and other wear and tear — your porch can look dull over time, and a simple cleaning can help. “Paint and power wash go a long way,” Trouten says. Use an outdoor bleach solution that’s available at a home improvement store. It attaches to your hose and works fast. After you clean, you can better evaluate what needs painting and updating. Here’s a tip when painting outdoor columns and shutters: Avoid semigloss paint that reflects sunlight, Trouten says, and opt for satin for trim.

Update your entrance

Perhaps nothing can make a front porch pop more than a freshly painted door. “Doors are where you should let your personality shine,” Trouten says. Keep in mind that paint shows up more intensely outside than on the swatch. Light colors, for example, tend to wash out and appear pale. “Get samples and try them,” she suggests. “Once you find one you like, live with it for a week before making a decision. The shock of a new color on a door can take time to adjust to, but with the right accessories, can be a fabulous statement.”

Replace your door

If paint’s not the problem (your door maybe just has no style), buy a new one. If you don’t need a custom size, you can usually get one for under $1,000 with installation. “It can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your house,” Trouten says. She suggests a three-quarter glass or transom style for the most up-to-date look (half-glass can look too traditional). If you have a storm door, evaluate how well it’s working and whether it adds to or detracts from the style of your home.

Mind the little things

Add appeal with hardware. “Unique and substantial door handles, door knockers, vintage mailboxes, doorbells — they all add new interest,” Trouten says. Just be sure to look for quality solid metal, nothing too kitschy. “An old 1940s screen door can look wonderful, but a 1970s one? Not so much,” she says. Make certain the house numbers on your porch can be clearly seen from the street.

Add seating

A welcoming sitting area or porch swing can add warmth. Be advised, though, that a porch swing needs plenty of space. No room? Pair a couple of small chairs with bright seasonal throw pillows that can be changed to add interest year-round. “These are all ways you can make your porch beautiful and functional,” Trouten says.

Increase style and substance

Using cedar or paintable wood to beef up columns can make a huge difference, especially on a newer “production house,” Trouten says. “Remove the manufactured shutters and have rustic painted cottage-style shutters added for a custom look,” she adds. Also, trim windows and add larger trim around your door; it will make your home feel more substantial. “Try adding a flagstone step or a stone veneer to your foundation front. This can also add style and substance,” she says.

Perfect the path

Guests will know whether they’re welcome and whether you take pride in your home based on their walk to the front porch. For starters, ensure your pathway is wide enough. If it seems too narrow, line it with bricks or pavers on each side to give it a bit of character. “[The path to your porch] should have a gentle curve to the house, an introduction,” Trouten says. “Your walkway should be well-groomed, clean, and inviting to your porch, which is really an extension of your home.”

Minimize decor

Very few porches are large enough to hold lots of stuff. So you love roosters? It’s fine to show your personality, just don’t go overboard. If your porch is big enough to sit on, be sure you choose the right-size furniture. If your porch is small, add accents like a console table, rug, or bench. Make sure you choose complementary colors and use them carefully in throw pillows, large pots, and maybe one or two other accents like lanterns, Trouten says. It’s best to use less on your porch than you think. “The point is to make it inviting to sit on, not a display area for your favorite decorating ideas,” Trouten says. “If you keep it simple, it’s a fun spot to create a little peek into your home and life.”

Posted by Virginia Brown on Trulia

3 DIY Painting Tips for Tricky Areas

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The pros use these clever time-saving tricks (and you can, too!).

Painting is a DIY project that just about anyone can master. Even if you’re a seasoned painter, though, you’re bound to encounter tricky or difficult-to-reach areas occasionally.

Fortunately, there are some easy tricks that anyone can use to paint these areas with excellent results. Here are pro tips for addressing three common problem areas.

Check out this video for a demo of each tip described below. Watch more home entertaining and design videos, and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss the next Zillow video. 

Painting window trim

Sometimes it’s a real challenge to paint window muntins (the wood diving panes of glass) and sashes neatly, and it will be time-consuming if you try to mask out the glass with painter’s tape first.

Here’s a timesaving solution: Go ahead and throw out your painter’s tape!

Shutterstock ID 95773408; PO: Cat Overman
Shutterstock ID 95773408; PO: Cat Overman

This is one time when it simply doesn’t matter if your paint job is a bit messy. It’s ok to get paint on the window glass. Just wait for the paint to dry, and then scrape it off easily with a razor blade, for clean, crisp edges.

Pro tip: For best results, scrape up the dried paint soon after it dries, and don’t let it sit for more than a day or so.

Painting behind the toilet

Bathrooms have more tight areas than most rooms, and perhaps the most challenging of all is the space behind the toilet.

This is where a “hot dog” roller comes in. It works just like a regular paint roller, only it’s smaller, narrower and shorter. This is the best tool for painting behind the toilet, but it’s also the perfect tool for painting behind radiators and other fixtures.

In fact, you may find all kinds of tight spaces that your hot dog roller can reach that might have been a real challenge to paint without it.

Pro tip: If you need a longer handle on the roller to get into a particularly tight or high space, you can screw on an extension pole to provide the right amount of reach to get your hot dog roller into the space.

Painting high ceilings and walls

There may be some high areas in your home where a ladder simply can’t go, such as above a staircase. And when you need to paint a wall right up to the ceiling, it’s going to be a challenge.

Perhaps in the past you’ve tried attaching a paintbrush to a pole to reach these high areas. But that can be very awkward, and you might end up creating a mess.

Enter the paintbrush extension tool. Think of it as an extension of your arm, holding your paintbrush right up to the top of the wall in the area where a roller can’t go. And it’s flexible, so you can position your paintbrush in just the right way.

Pro tip: Load your paintbrush judiciously, using less paint than you would if you were painting the wall in front of you. This is one job where you’ll want to take your time to get neat and drip-free results.

Painting high spaces, window trim, and areas behind fixtures  are just a few of the areas that might present a challenge when you’re giving your room a makeover with anew paint color.

Follow these tips for painting in tricky areas, and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to get professional-looking results in your own home.

Posted by See Jane Drill on Zillow