Seller’s Checklist

As the seller, you have relatively little to do at this point. Avoid common glitches by keeping abreast of progress on both sides.

Be aware if the buyer is having trouble getting a loan on the terms specified in the contract. If he/she is turned down, it could jeopardize the whole deal, and your house could be put back on the market. A day or so before closing, make sure all the necessary papers and documents have been gathered and are in the hands of the right parties.

Things can go wrong. Documents can be misplaced, delayed or lost. However, common last-minute glitches can be avoided.

  • Parties who should be present at closing need to be informed of any change in the date, time or place. They should be reminded a week before closing and again the day before.
  • Everyone named on the deed under which you hold title must sign the new deed by which you grant title.
  • Know when and how you will be paid. Don’t expect to walk away from the settlement table with a check in hand.
  • If you are buying another property, consider having both closings at the same office scheduled back-to-back. That way, the timing of the disbursement is not a problem. You sign a paper authorizing the title company or attorney to assign the funds from sale to purchase.

The papers you’ll need

  • A copy of the sales contract and documentation showing that any contingencies have been removed or satisfied.
  • All documents needed to complete the transfer of title. This may include certificate of title, deed, correcting affidavits, quitclaim deeds, survey and title insurance policy or binder.
  • Homeowners insurance policy. If the buyer plans to take over the unused portion of your hazard insurance, you’ll need to make arrangements in advance for all paperwork to be completed on time.
  • Prorations for ongoing expenses such as insurance premiums, property taxes, accrued interest on assumed loans and utilities (if not shut off between owners).
  • Receipts showing payment of the latest water, electric and gas bills.

A certificate from your lender indicating the mortgage balance and the date to which interest has been prepaid.


How to Get Every Dollar You Deserve…. By Getting the Full Value of Your House!

The ability to reap additional profits on the sale of your home can be accomplished easily enough if you make the rightimprovements. Many changes can provide the prospective buyer with enhanced feelings about your home. Feelings of more space, more light, more rooms, more closet space, greater privacy, warmth and security. Basic, simple and inexpensive improvements can provide an improved emotional response in a potential buyer.

An example could be something as small as a crack in the paint on a wall. Simply by applying some plaster and touch up paint, you eliminated what may be an unstated concern that your home was poorly maintained. Though the feeling may be unconscious, it’s just as important that the potential buyer feel an overall desire for your home. If you are working with a small budget these simple techniques will work absolute wonders:

The Magic of Mirrors!
Mirrors can provide a greater sense of space and elegance when properly placed. Be careful not to overdo it, but when placed properly throughout your home, each area will seem larger to the potential home buyer. Try looking in your attic or basement for any old mirrors, but be sure they have a nice frame or at least give the frame a new coat of paint. You may also want to visit a local flea market or garage sale, you can almost always get a great deal on an old mirror or two. Putting one foot square mirrors on a closet door in the master bedroom is always an attractive touch. 

Adding Additional Closet Space
One of the biggest complaints heard from potential buyers is that there just isn’t enough closet space! Simply purchasing an inexpensive closet organizer and installing it in any or all of your closets can make all the difference. You can also try putting a rod across one corner of a bedroom for hanging clothes. Also you could try hanging a screen made from a variety of materials. The screen could match the material of the bedspread, drapes etc. The idea here is to be creative so that the “fake closet” looks as though it was a part of the room. 

Make a Bare Wall Beautiful
Wallpaper is inexpensive, quick and easy to do! The right wallpaper can brighten the room or hallway and bring it back to life. Be careful to choose something with a neutral design or pattern, remember you’re trying to move out. 

Bring Old Floors Back to Life!
Nothing turns off a potential buyer quicker than dull, dingy, disgusting looking floors. Whether you have wax, wooden or tiled floors do whatever you can to make them shine again! For wax floors, either rent a floor machine and do it yourself or, if it’s in your budget, hire a professional. Have a professional give you an estimate and explain exactly what they would do to bring your floors back to life. If you have them explain what they would do, it may be just as easy to do it yourself. If you have carpeted floors you should either have the carpet steam cleaned or install new carpeting. This may sound expensive but new carpeting can add thousands of dollars to the value of your home. 

Add Attractive Plants
Having plants in the house is not only healthy for you but you create a warm feeling with them. Many indoor plants are far less expensive then you might imagine. Attractive pots such as ceramic, brass or even designer plastic will add a designer flair to your home. Hanging plants such as Boston ferns are inexpensive, easy to care for and would go great in your new home wherever you move. 

Adding a Room Without Calling in the Contractor!
This simple but seldom used technique, can give a buyer the feeling there are more actual rooms in your house. Floor to ceiling room dividers are inexpensive and simple to install. When a buyer walks through your home, they will generally count the rooms in a subconscious manner. Each room will present an emotional response as they walk through your home. By dividing and designing each side of your room, you create a ” separate room” feeling in the potential buyer. It may sound crazy but it works! 

Clean Up the Bathroom
We’ve probably all heard that phrase a hundred times growing up as children! Well guess what? It’s still valid. Give your bathroom a face-lift if needed: fresh paint, decorative moldings, tile grout, new designer faucets are all attractive eye catchers. 

What is That Smell?
Though people don’t like to admit it, everyone’s home has a certain smell to it. We just never notice it because we live with it day in, day out. Strategically placing fresh scent devices throughout the home will be pleasant to the nose of any potential buyer. As a matter of fact, an old Real Estate Professional trick is to pop some cinnamon rolls in an oven 5 minutes before a showing. I bet you thought all Real Estate Professionals just had a sweet-tooth!

Sell Your Home at the Highest Possible Price

Making a mistake in selling a home can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in lost profit. Often home sellers make the same mistakes over and over. Avoiding these mistakes is easy and takes little time and effort on your part. Take the time with your home sale and follow the guidelines in this report.

  1. Distress Selling: At times, selling quickly is unavoidable. That’s when knowing the right techniques to sell your home without looking desperate and making yourself a target for low bidders really pays off. Know all there is to know about the market before listing and work hand in hand with the right real estate professional. Ensure that you are not settling for the first offer through the door.
  2. Best Home in the Neighborhood: Your home is one of your most personal possessions. Don’t be blind to flaws and needed cosmetic improvements. This will cause overvaluing of the home, hurting it’s chances to be sold. Listing with the right agent gives you a well informed third eye that will help you price your home at a fair market price.
  3. Limited Home Viewing: Buyers want to view a home on their own time schedule. Unfortunately their time schedule does not always coincide with your time schedule. Leave a lockbox or key with your agent so your home can be shown when you are not around. You never know if the one who got away was your buyer.
  4. Restrain Emotional Decisions: Don’t allow a few hundred dollarsto ruin a sale. That money will mean very little to you in the long run. Take a look at the big picture and react rationally. Use sound business judgment!
  5. Make Cosmetic Improvements: Prospects make up their minds within the first twenty minutes. First impressions can make all the difference in selling your home. Spending $1,200 on new carpet might add another $4,000 to the price of your home. Get an objective point of view from your real estate professional. They can provide you with a list of items that will maximize the profit of your home sale.
  6. Disclose Property Flaws: Property disclosure laws require sellers to list any flaws required by your state. If you are unaware of flaws or attempt to cover them up, you risk losing the sale and finding yourself in court. Get professional assistance from your agent who can introduce you to qualified inspectors and ensure the smooth sale of your home.
  7. For Sale By Owner: Most homeowners who decide to sell their own home do so because they believe they can save the commission paid to the real estate agent. Everything has a price and selling a home carries a high one. The enormous amount of time and effort required to sell a home often surprises the “For Sale By Owner.” Furthermore, many costly mistakes can be avoided with the right guidance.
  8. Refusing to Trust Your Agent: Would you tell a physician that you’ve decided to run your own tests and come to your own diagnosis? By choosing the right Real Estate Professional, you can relax and trust their judgment. The right agent is a valuable team member who will protect your best interests and make your sale as profitable as possible.
  9. Know Your Market: Most homes that do not sell in their first listing period are priced too high. Conversely, most homes that sell quickly are priced too low and cheat the homeowner out of profits. You need to understand the market and evaluate the value of your home based on fact, not gut instinct or conventional wisdom. A professional agent knows the market, just as you know the market for your business.
  10. Choosing a Real Estate Professional Based on Personal Relationships: Home sellers often pick a friend or family member as their agent. Choose an agent with a strong track record and aggressive Marketing Plan. A top producer knows the market well and can generate many buyers. Selling your home is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make! Base it on good, sound business sense and the rewards will add up.

Before you make one of your most important decisions regarding your home sale shouldn’t you become as informed as possible? By aligning yourself with a top agent you ensure that all the important issues and seemingly insignificant but….very important….details are handled professionally. Your home sale should not be a grueling ordeal. The more informed you are, the better chance you have of making a sound business decision.


Mistakes to Avoid Prior to Home Ownership

1.   Spending more than you make.  This can lead to real   danger in not being able to afford to purchase.  Create a budget you can live with and cancel credit cards you do not use before applying for a loan.

2.   Not Saving Enough for Down Payment and Closing Costs. Be sure to include these items when working on your home buying budget.  It will be difficult to come up with thousands of dollars if you have not planned ahead.

3.   Failure to Understand Cost to Own and Maintain a Home.  You must understand the expenses involved in ownership and plan your budget to include these items.  All homes are different and the costs vary depending on the type of home and construction.

4.   No Knowledge of Mortgage Products.  Investigate the types of mortgages available and find one that fits your needs.  No two are alike and the costs can vary greatly.  Shop lenders for the best rates and terms.

5.   Failing to Seek Professional Help.  If you find you are in financial trouble and getting deeper in debt, seek professional counseling to improve your credit history and ability to purchase a home.

6.   Failing to Control Your Home Purchase.  This is your home and be sure you are in charge of the location, style, and price you can pay.  Never let family, friends, or a Real Estate Agent sell you on something you do not want.

7.   Indecision.  Know what you want in regards to your future.  If you are unsure, now may not be the right time for you to buy a home.

8.   Purchasing a Home Before You Are Ready.  Buying a home is a major commitment.  If you are not prepared for the responsibility of ownership and the financial obligation it creates by all means rent.


Negotiating for Your New Home


What Your Buyers Need to Know in the Negotiation Phase

Give your buyer clients an early education in problems that might be encountered, how they are usually resolved, and your role in the process. Negative surprises in the emotionally charged and time-sensitive home purchase process can be avoided in many cases by going through a checklist of instructions to buyers.

1. Making a Good Deal

Everybody wants to make a good deal, and working a motivated seller into a bargain purchase price is the goal of most buyers. Be sure to talk to your buyers about how this will influence the process in almost every aspect through to closing. Let them know that getting a seller to their rock-bottom price line will generally ensure that they will not agree to further concessions for repairs or money to correct inspection problems. As long as you’ve educated your buyers to this fact, you will hopefully avoid the deal falling through due to seller remorse or inspection correction negotiations.

2. A Really Low First Offer Can Backfire on You

A slowing market with rising inventory sometimes encourages buyers to make low-ball offers to test the sellers’ motivation. In some markets, it’s not that unusual, and sellers simply come back with a high counter offer to draw the buyer up to a reasonable price. However, sometimes a very low offer can offend them.

3. Offer a Comparative Market Analysis

When you get the question, “What price should I offer for this home?”, you should advise your client using a comprehensive market analysis of similar recently sold properties in that area. This should yield a range and your buyer can then choose an offering price based on accurate market statistics.

4. Help Your Buyers Locate Resources

You actually enhance your value to the client by helping them to locate the appropriate, competent professional to answer their questions. This can include inspectors, lawyers, appraisers, engineers, etc.

5. Buyer Representation Agreement

You want to help them find the home of their dreams, and to devote the time necessary to turn over every rock to locate it. You should execute a buyer representation agreement with them. Explaining and getting this agreement in writing will help to assure you a commission if they do buy.

6. Don’t Buy That New Furniture Until After Closing

With many of today’s buyers purchasing homes at the top end of what they can afford, there isn’t any room left in their loan qualification score. Deals have been lost days before closing because the lender did a final credit check and found several thousand dollars of new furniture had just been purchased on a credit card.

Advise your buyers to make no significant credit changes or purchases in this critical pre-closing phase.

7. Stuff Happens – Don’t End Up Temporarily Homeless

There are so many variables involved in a closing that it’s not that unusual for there to be last-minute delays that move a closing a few days farther out. Many times this is due to loan documents, as the lender wants to see all appraisal, survey, title and other documents first. If any of these are delayed, then the closing might be later than expected. Be sure that your client has a contingency plan should a delay occur.



Why is it that some homes sit on the market for a year while others sell like hot cakes?  Frustrated sellers will blame a bad market, while a good real estate professional will tell you that many times, a slow sale is often attributed to the listing price.

If a home is overpriced, buyers will stay away.  But, if the price is competitive with similar homes in the area and “shows” better than the competition, it will have a better chance of being sold quickly.

The secret is perfecting a technique that’s as American as apple pie: comparative shopping.

Although comparing houses with different styles, square-footages and locations is challenging, real estate professionals still feel it’s one of the best methods to use when determining a home’s market value.

A responsible real estate agent will effectively evaluate a home’s worth through a process known as Comparative Marketing Analysis (CMA).  Taking a look at assets, such as a swimming pool, bigger than normal living spaces, a fantastic view, adjacent city parks and other attractions, the agent will begin to compare your home with similar properties, called “comparables,” that have sold in the area within the last six months.  Typically, the agent is able to recommend a realistic price range that will ensure you top dollar and a reasonably

However, factors such as the amount of time needed to sell your home can alter the agent’s price recommendation dramatically.

Typically, people should check with real estate offices in the community to determine the typical duration that listings are on the market.  Sales associates will explain that the marketing “norms” vary with prices and properties.  Based on this criteria, the agent feels confident that he or she will be able to sell it for a price that both you and the buyer will be happy with.  However, if you’re under time constraints because of unexpected job changes or moving agreements you’ve made on another property, this will narrow your chances of selling the home for top dollar in the market.

Assuming you have sufficient time to market the home, here are a few small steps you and your agent can take to finding the right price for your property.

The best comparisons can be made with similar homes that have been sold within the last 45 days as opposed to the standard six months.  Any longer and other factors, such as the economy, could cloud your view of how much your home is really worth.

Another good benchmark is to review the selling prices of homes that have just been sold and are pending closes.  Most MLS services provide information on deals pending that most real estate agents should be able to shore with you.

A good rule of thumb before setting a price is to make 20 comparisons of comparable properties within a one-mile radius of your house.  Once completed you can feel comfortable that the price you’ve picked is a good gauge of the home’s worth and won’t discourage qualified buyers.

Being open and honest about what you see as the home’s greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses will also help an agent get a better feel for how to best evaluate (or assess) and market your home.  Think of your home as if you were the buyer.  If your home is listed at the right price, you’re well on your way to a speedy and fruitful sale.




Moving from one house to another is always a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare.  Here are some simple tips on how to get it done with minimal stress and strain.

  • Look at all the alternatives: hiring a moving company, for example, versus renting a truck and doing it yourself. Whichever alternative makes most sense for you, get bids from more than one vendor.
  • A few days before the moving company is scheduled to arrive or you’re supposed to pick up your rental truck, call to confirm that everything is on track to happen when it’s supposed to .
  • Prepare your change of address cards in advance and send them out as soon as it’s appropriate to do so. The post office, utilities, companies and people you do business with, city hall, friends, relatives – all should be notified of your move.
  • Get an early start on packing by concentrating on seldom-used items first. Each box should have its contents and the room those contents belong in written on it clearly.
  • Take a hard look at things you seldom or never use and throw away as many of them as you can. The more you throw away, the less you’ll have to move.  Every item you throw away is one less item to clutter up you new home.
  • Use your extra towels and linens to protect breakables. When your supply of these things is exhausted, crumpled newspaper makes an excellent substitute.  Write “Fragile” on all appropriate boxes.
  • Put your valuables (such as jewelry) and important documents (birth certificates, car titles, etc.) aside in some safe place where they won’t be misplaced.
  • When the house is empty, go back for a thorough final inspection. Check closets, crawl spaces, basement, attic, out-of-the-way nooks and crannies of all kinds.  Have a second person make the same inspection separately.
  • Clean your new home thoroughly before moving in. It’s infinitely easier that way.
  • Decide in advance where you want the heavy furniture. Changing your mind after the movers have departed is no fun – especially for your back!
  • Locate all fuses, circuit breakers, and water/gas and electrical valves. Record the meter readings and check the smoke detectors.
  • List the phone numbers of the local police and fire stations, doctors, nearby hospitals, etc. Put a copy of your list near each phone.


Above all, plan, plan, plan and plan some more. Make a schedule you can live with, and then stick to it.  Preparation and forethought will help you to keep everything under control and finish the move with your sanity and your nervous system intact.



Whether it’s a lakefront cottage or a log cabin in the woods, a vacation home often seems to be a dream that only the wealthy can afford.  But these days, you don’t have to be a millionaire to own one.

A nationwide survey shows the median household income of second-home owners is $46,500.  And, according to recent statistics, there were 7.2 million U.S. households in 1990 that owned some kind of recreational property or second home for vacation purposes.  That number is expected to at least double and possibly triple over the next 10 years.  With today’s continued low interest rates, the tax advantages a second home can bring, and a wide selection of areas experiencing solid home price appreciation, this is an excellent time to consider purchasing a second home as an investment – and a great getaway place.

When searching for your second home, remember to investigate the area thoroughly.  Ask a Realtor® and the local chamber of commerce to provide information packets, maps and brochures.  Take time to visit the area several times – a few months prior to and during its peak season(s).  Are the crowds unbearable? Is the weather unpredictable?

Speak with a local Realtor regarding current and past home prices.  Knowing the area’s sales history will help determine the market value of the homes and effectively predict their appreciation potential.

Once you’ve settled on a community, work with a Realtor and lending institution to determine how much home you can afford.  Drive around the town and its neighborhoods.  Experience the day-to-day activity around potential properties. Keep in mind you may decide to retire to the area one day.  Will the property serve two purposes – that of vacation and retirement home?  More and more Americans are purchasing vacation properties in areas where they plan to eventually retire.

Remember, vacation homes remain a good investment and provide substantial deductions on yearly tax forms if they meet certain criteria.  As the laws are ever-changing, complex and detailed, consult your real estate agent, who will usually work with a tax attorney or certified accountant, to calculate the tax benefits of owning a second home.

Relaxing in your own home in that dream vacation spot is not out of your reach.  More and more Americans are realizing that owning a vacation home is do-able – not to mention a good investment and a peaceful retreat for years to come.



The classic way for homeowners to increase the value of their house is by remodeling existing rooms or adding on to its current plan.

Some choose to build recreation rooms and studies while others add new appliances, fixtures and cabinets to enliven rooms and make their home more attractive to future buyers.

But, when should you decide to stop sinking money into a home and buy a bigger place?  And how much rehab is too much when it comes time to recovering remodeling costs through a home sale

For instance, if you’ve just spent $1,000 remodeling your living room and didn’t expand your small bathroom, the chances of increasing the number of interested buyers are slim.

With these concerns in mind, Century 21 sales associates offer a few tips for those struggling to add value to their home.

First, always protect the character of your home. Nothing sticks out more than a new addition that is in a completely different architectural style.  Be consistent.  Recognize your home’s character and stay within its framework.

The most financially rewarding areas to remodel are usually the kitchen and bath.  Newly re-done cooking spaces and cabinets can attract more buyers and may command a slightly higher price for the home than a comparable one on the market.  Simple repairs that are made to last will bring you the biggest returns upon sale.

Enlarged bathrooms are the most popular attraction for new home buyers, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association.  Today, the most popular additions for younger buyers are sunken whirlpool baths and showers.  But be sure to install modest, solid amenities.  It’s easy to quickly over-spend on bathroom fixtures.

Buyers are, by convention, more interested in above-ground living space – not basements, yards and walkways.  Swimming pools can be a poor investment if installed for the sole purpose of increasing a home’s value; it’s rare that a pool’s cost will be recovered in a home sale.  It can also be a negative feature for potential buyers with very young children.

Replacing worn carpeting, tiles and wood floors can give your home an immediate advantage over similar properties in the area.  Updating paint colors in all areas of your home can also prove beneficial.

However, it’s recommended that you use neutral colors, such as gray, beige and off-white when adding new floor and wall coverings.  Fewer buyers will then turn away because of differing tastes.

Stay simple with your remodeling and look at your home as though you were the buyer.  Chances are that if you find the upstairs bedroom could be brightened by a larger window, potential buyers will probably feel the same.

Don’t go overboard.  Concentrate on improving two or three deficiencies in your home.  More than likely, the time and money you spend adding quality to your home will be rewarded with greater profit at selling time.



For many renters, the first step in buying a home is becoming educated about the process.  If you’re like many people considering a home purchase, you’ve spent nights and weekends poring over your local real estate section.  You’ve talked to friends and relatives about their experiences.  Maybe you’ve even purchased a book or tow to help you become more familiar with real estate terminology and the various types of mortgages commonly used today.

Coming up with a down payment and finding a loan that meets your needs are the greatest hurdles faced by first-time homebuyers.  So, you may even have leafed through stacks of brochures and flyers from lenders offering down payments that are far less than the 20 percent you’d always thought you’d need to save before you could buy.  With so many excellent first-time buyer programs to choose from these days, you practically need to be an expert to sort through them all.

That’s why if you’re a first-time homebuyer seeking a low down payment loan, you’ll save time by selecting a professional real estate agent who is experienced in working with people just like you in the area where you plan to buy.  An agent who frequently assists first-time buyers will know from experience which lenders in your area offer a low down payment program that will most closely match your needs.

A professional real estate agent can help you determine whether you are likely to qualify for these special programs, since participation in some may be limited to buyers under a certain income level or for the purchase of homes below a certain purchase price.  Your agent also will be able to tell you whether there are other requirements you must fulfill in order to be considered.  With some programs, for example, you must attend an educational seminar before you can be considered for one of these low down payment loans.

`It’s important that your agent become familiar with your current financial situation.  Before you meet with your agent to discuss your financial situation and housing needs, you’ll want to collect some basic information to make the process easier.  Be prepared to show recent paycheck stubs or pay vouchers to certify sources of income; a complete list of current credit card, auto and other consumer credit payments you make each month; and recent bank and savings statements.  These documents will help you and your agent determine how much home you can afford.  It’s also important that you disclose any prior credit problems or late payments.  Your agent may be able to suggest ways to remedy any negative remarks on your credit report that could disqualify you from a low down payment loan program.

In addition, because most lenders w2ill require that you have several months of house payments in the bank as a reserve, your agent may be able to suggest ways you can increase your savings in the weeks and months leading up to your home purchase.  Don’t forget that some programs allow you to apply a cash gift from a family member to cover the required down payment and losing costs.

Your agent also may know a motivated seller who would be happy to assist you in accomplishing your home purchase by caring a second mortgage.  A second mortgage is helpful because it reduces the amount of the first mortgage you need to obtain.  In some cases, a second monthly payment and generally is required to protect the lender when a down payment is less than the standard 20 percent of the loan amount.  Even if your seller isn’t willing to take a second mortgage to complete the sale, he or she may be willing to pay your closing costs, which will reduce the amount of cash you need to have on hand up-front.

With interest rates edging up, innovative mortgage financing programs that require a low down payment are even more important than ever to first-time buyers.  A professional real estate agent can help you sift through the countless programs that are available and help find the one that’s mortgage can eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance, which is added to your right for you.  To locate a CENTIURY 21 agent near you, call 1-800-4-HOUSES.