Are you thinking about buying or selling a home? Starting and operating a small business of your own? Maybe you need a little help with personal motivation or computer technology... If so, you may find this column useful over time because we will be discussing ways you can save time and money, protect your legal and financial interests and deal on a more level playing field with industry operatives to help you avoid costly mistakes made by so many people. Let's face it, it's a complex world out there and either you operate from a position of knowledge and insight or from guesswork and blind trust. Money Matters is designed to help remove the blinders. Knowledge is power right? We believe applied knowledge is powerful.
To jump-start this column we decided to throw out a few tips for homebuyers and sellers before the real estate season begins. You may want to clip this article and tuck it away for safekeeping. Buying or selling a home is the largest investment of a lifetime for most people...it's a BIG business deal composed of people, emotions, contracts and cash...all the ingredients for legal and financial pain if you don't know what you are doing (and most people don't).
1. Buyers: real estate agents legally represent sellers, NOT buyers...their job is to get the highest possible price for the property. They are not "your agent" and what you tell them may be used against you. Caveat Emptor is legal jargon meaning "buyer beware"...
2. Buyers: avoid giving more than $100.00 when you write a purchase offer on a home. In this way, if you cannot complete a transaction you have less money at risk. Large good faith deposits do NOT guarantee you will get financing. Why risk your money?
3. Buyers: arrange your home financing first, BEFORE you look for a home. Doing so gives you the same power as a cash-buyer You can use your financial pre-qualification to SAVE THOUSANDS when buying a home if you are a smart negotiator.
4. Buyers: when you sign a purchase offer, make sure that you write above your signature the clause "subject to buyer's attorney's approval". These 5-magic words (known as a weasel clause) can get you out of a bad deal if your attorney does not approve... you can (weasel) out of a bad deal...
5. Buyers: remember; a purchase offer becomes a legally binding contract when accepted by the seller. Fully understand the legal details before signing ANY contract or document.
6. Sellers: avoid signing long-term listing agreements with any real estate agent. Keep the listing contracts limited to 90-day increments so that you can review selling performance.
7. Sellers: Avoid signing a listing agreement with part time agents. Use only full time agents so that you increase your chances for more professional representation.
8. Sellers: Interview multiple agents before signing a listing contract. Make sure the "potential selling prices" they are quoting you are accurate. Many agents will quote high selling prices just to get the listing contract. There is a saying in the real estate business "if you don't list, you don't last"...many agents will do and say most anything to get you to sign a long term listing contract. (See tip-6)
9. Sellers: avoid signing purchase offers with unqualified buyers. Doing so removes your property from the market while waiting to find out you are dealing with a dud.
10. Sellers: Make sure your agent presents you with an itemized marketing plan detailing the selling activities that will be performed during the listing agreement.
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James W. Hart, IV
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