Do You Need a Buyer’s Agent or a Listing Agent?

In a real estate transaction, the listing agent works exclusively for the seller, while the buyer’s agent works exclusively for the buyer.   

Call me at (616) 942-2449 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation.

What’s the difference between a listing agent and a buyer’s agent? 

They each have unique roles in how they help their respective clients. For the full legal explanation, I’ll quote the definition of each position from the Disclosure Regarding Real Estate Agency Relationships. 

The listing agent: “A seller’s agent, under the listing agreement with the seller, acts solely on behalf of the seller. Seller’s agents will disclose to the seller known information about the buyer which may be used to benefit the seller.”

This means is that the seller’s agent is bound by a contract in the form of a listing agreement, and they are to get the seller the best terms. The have a fiduciary obligation to find out anything they can about the buyer that would benefit the seller. It’s a common misconception that the listing agent also works for the buyer. While there is such a thing as a dual agent, a listing agent works for one side and one side only. 
If you’re a buyer, the agent with a sign in the yard is working for the seller.
The buyer’s agent: “A buyer’s agent, under a buyer’s agency agreement, acts solely on behalf of the buyer. Buyer’s agents will disclose to the buyer known information about the seller which may be used to benefit the buyer.”

As you can see, this is the complete opposite of the listing agent. If you’re a buyer, the buyer’s agent will help negotiate the contract with you, help you set up showings, and guide you through the closing steps once you have an accepted offer. Buying a home without a buyer’s agent is like going to court without an attorney. 

If you have any more questions about the differences between a listing agent and a buyer’s agent, feel free to give me a call or type something into the comment section below. If you send us a question that we use for a future video topic, you will receive a gift card. We look forward to hearing from you! 

What to Expect from Real Estate in the Aftermath of the Election

In the aftermath of the election, people are wondering what is going to happen to the real estate market. 

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The dust has settled, and we finally have a new President of the United States. With the craziness of this election season, many people have asked me what we can expect from the housing market in the coming months and years, so I’m excited to tackle these topics and provide some clarity to you.

We have heard the question of “What happens next?” a lot over the last six months. Here’s the truth: elections can affect anything from mortgage rates to housing prices, stock market values, and corporate investments. However, studies show that during a typical election year, the uncertainty of a presidential race itself can have more of an impact on the housing market and economy than the actual outcome of the election. Statistics show that home prices rise 1.5% less during an election year than the year before an election and they rise 1% less in the year after the election.

The good news is that the U.S. housing market is stronger than it was during the 2012 election, as is the economy overall. Based on that, we should continue to see the market go up for the following year. 
I hope this clarifies any misunderstandings you have.
Here’s the challenge, though: because the election results can affect personal finances, some home buyers have been unwilling to take the plunge until the dust settles and the new president's policies become known. I anticipate more buyers will jump back into the market in 2017 because it will be considered a window year where many adjustments will be taking place and policies won’t have an immediate impact on people’s lives.

Market fundamentals such as housing inventory, affordability, interest rates, job growth, and consumer confidence are real factors that influence the housing market. The fact still remains that housing accounts for 18% of the U.S. economy and remains one of the most foundational ways for Americans to build wealth.

I hope this has helped to clarify any misunderstandings you may have had about our real estate market in the aftermath of the election. If you have any follow-up questions or other questions you’d like me to answer, give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

5.5 Reasons To Sell Your Home This Fall

Timing is everything when it comes to selling your home, so should you list it now or wait until the spring? Here are the pros and cons of each option.

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When you’re thinking about selling your home, timing is a very important component. Should you sell your home in the fall or wait until spring to list it on the market? Today I’d like to break down the pros and cons of each option.

The only reason that you should consider waiting to list your home until the spring is if you’re not super motivated to sell it right now. You have to be motivated to sell in most markets, but it’s especially important in our market today. When I say motivated, I don’t mean desperate; you should have a clear idea about where you’re going and why you want to sell.

Why should you consider listing your home now as opposed to the spring? Here are 5.5 reasons:

1. Your home will have more competition in the spring. It’s true that more homes sell in the spring, but this is only because everybody else waits until spring to list their home. The bottom line is that there is roughly 35% less inventory—or competition—in the fall than in the spring. This means that if you list in the fall, you will be competing with fewer sellers.

2. Interest rates may be higher in the spring. We don’t know how long interest rates will stay as low as they are right now. If you wait to sell until the spring and interest rates increase, it will affect affordability for people that could otherwise purchase your property, shrinking your buyer pool and affecting your own purchasing power for your next home.
You’ll face less competition as a seller in the fall and winter.
3. Many job transfers are about to take place. These inbound relocations for companies will occur now and you’ll be on the receiving end of those since people need to buy a house and need to move quickly.

4. Homes sell faster during the fall and winter. Because there are fewer homes on the market, demand increases, especially when you factor in the low interest rates we’ve been seeing.

5. Buyers are more serious in the fall and winter. Buyers will not put on their coats, boots, and hats and drive through snowstorms to get to your front door unless they are ready, willing, and able to purchase your home. There are tons of buyers are out in droves during the spring and summer, but not so much in the wintertime. The buyers that are left are highly motivated.

5.5. You could be in your next home by Christmas. Think about what it would mean to you if you and your family could be at Christmas dinner in a new home. If you can visualize this, you can make it happen now.

If you’re interested in selling your home during the fall or holiday season or are just curious about what your home is worth in today’s market, give me a call or send me an email. I’d be happy to help you!

Home Improvements That Net the Highest Return on Investment

If you’re a seller thinking about listing your home this fall or next spring, there are three key home improvements you might want to consider making.

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If you’re a seller thinking about listing your home this fall or are thinking about a spring listing strategy, you might want to listen up. Here are the top three home improvements you can make in terms of percentage of cost allocated for that improvement, according to the 2015 Cost vs. Value Report for home improvements in Grand Rapids:

  1. Entry doors. Average cost: $1,187. Average resale value: $1,023. Average return: 86%. The entry door is the focal point of the home and the first thing a prospective buyer sees upon entering it.
  2. Stone veneer accents. Average cost: $7,100. Average resale value: $5,400. Average return: 76%. By stone veneer accents, I mean any place outside your home where you can put stone veneers on a column.
  3. The entry door is the focal point of the home and the most important improvement.
  4. Wooden deck additions. Average cost: $9,204. Average resale value: $6,700. Average return: 73%. A shoddy wooden deck can make a bad impression because wooden decks are the most accessible way people enjoy the exterior of their home.

Click on the image below to get a free download of the 2015 Cost vs. Value report:

If you have any real estate questions, please feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Which Offer Is the Best for You?

We had a question come in from a viewer who is wondering how to choose the right offer when selling a home. It's a great question for sellers.

You want to start with price, but don't end there. The offer with the highest price will certainly get your attention because it's probably at asking price or even above it, but it doesn't mean you should automatically hand over the keys.

You also want to compare contingencies in their offer - these are the conditions in the offer that if not met, they can cancel the deal. These contingencies can include getting approved for a mortgage, the house passing an inspection, and making sure the home appraises for a certain amount. They're all negotiable.

Some buyers who are really aggressive will strip these contingencies to make their offer more appealing to you.
Start with price, but don't end there.
Also remember to consider the buyer's funding; will they pay cash or finance the house with a mortgage? If they're paying cash you won't have to wait on mortgage approval. If they're using a mortgage, make sure they have a pre-approval letter, and look at it closely.

Thirdly, consider your home's value. Say you've accepted an offer, but the appraisal came in less than the price they offered. If the offer indicates that the buyers are willing to spend their own money to honor the original offer price, the offer is more attractive than one where the buyer is leaning completely on the money that's being loaned by the bank.

Also remember to review closing periods. A buyer who can close within a few weeks is more attractive than one who needs a month or two. For most sellers, closing sooner is better, but that's not always the case, and it may not be the case for you.

Finally, review buyer's extras in the offer. Some buyers may be willing to pay some of your closing costs to stand out. They might also have an escalation clause, where they automatically outbid other offers up to a certain amount.

So if you're thinking about selling your Grand Rapids home and you have any questions for me, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'd love to help you out.

Should You Get a Pre-Listing Inspection?

The number one thing a seller can do to prepare their home before listing is to get a pre-listing inspection. We all know about home inspections during the buying process. They usually happen during the due diligence period after you’ve already accepted an offer. Most of the time, it’s the buyers that are leading the charge on the inspection so they make sure they know what they are buying.

Many times, items pop up that the seller actually had no idea about beforehand. There are hidden problems in your home that only an inspector is going to be able to diagnose. We realized eventually that the best advice we can give a home seller is to have a home inspected prior to listing it. Here are three reasons why:

1. You’ll know about problems in advance. You’ll know exactly what’s going to come up during a buyer’s inspection. It’s nice to have this advanced knowledge so you are not surprised later on. You’ll know about problems before the buyer does, and you’ll have the opportunity fix them as well. It’s never fun and always super expensive when buyers find the problem themselves.

2. You can fix problems on your own terms. With a pre-listing inspection, you can get multiple quotes, search for a good contractor, and generally make repairs for cheaper than you would be able to if the buyer asked for them later on.  
A pre-listing inspection is our best advice.
3. You can list with confidence. With a pre-listing inspection completed, you can list your home with absolute confidence and pride knowing that it is priced right and there are no major problems for a buyer to uncover. This will allow the buyer to buy with confidence as well.

3.5. The home will sell for more. A pre-inspected home is going to fetch a premium from buyers, just like a certified pre-owned car does. If it’s ready to be moved into, people will spend more money. Getting repairs done up front is smart because it will allow you to profit even more.

Getting a pre-listing inspection means spending money now to make it up on the final sale price of your home. It may be a bit of an investment, but it’s worth it in the end. We can actually get you a great deal from one of our great home inspectors, so let us know if you want 50% off your pre-listing inspection. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you.

Don’t Lose $70,000 By Waiting to Sell or Buy

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Call me at (616) 942-2449 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation

If you’re “waiting to sell” your home, you’re not alone. I’m constantly hearing that inventory is low because sellers are reluctant to list their homes on the market.

There are a few reasons why potential sellers are not listing homes right now. The most prevalent is that there are not a lot of homes available to buy, so many are holding off on selling out of fear that they will not be able to find a home to move into. In addition, many people have refinanced their mortgages and don’t want to give up their comfy, cozy, low-interest rates. Finally, the uncertainty surrounding the November election has frozen sellers in their tracks, keeping them from listing otherwise available homes on the market.

However, remember that one decision impacts the next. Deciding to hold off on selling your home now is a decision to live with the conditions at play when buying a home in the future, which can have more of an impact on your finances than you might realize.

Let’s consider current interest rates. Back in 1981, interest rates were at about 18%. Today, interest rates are below 3.75%. Interest rates have never been this low, and will not remain this low for long.

To put this further into perspective, let’s take a look at an example mortgage for a $200,000 home with 10% down. This puts you at a $180,000 mortgage. At the current interest rate of 3.75%, your monthly payment would be about $834 per month (principal and interest only, not including taxes or insurance). Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, you’d pay about $120,000 in interest on that home. This is a pretty typical West Michigan purchase scenario.

Now, let’s assume that interest rates rise as the economy improves, as they often do. As shown below, if rates increase modestly by 1.75% on that same mortgage to bring the rate up to 5.5%, the monthly payment jumps from $834 per month to $1,022 per month. That’s a $188 increase, which is roughly the equivalent of a car payment. Annually, that’s $2,256—the cost of a family vacation. Now we’re talking about real money; money that impacts your lifestyle.

In terms of the big picture, that $120,000 at 3.75% interest jumps up to $188,000. This is nearly a $70,000 increase just for waiting to list your home. It’s also important to note that this figure does not factor in the price increase for a property.

If you can correctly navigate today’s market, it’s possible to end up in a win-win situation in which you’ll get a maximum price as a seller, then take advantage of low interest rates as a buyer.

If you’re interested in finding out what your home will sell for in today’s market, give us a call or send us an email and we’d be happy to discuss it with you.

Words of Advice from a Former FSBO Seller

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Call me at (616) 942-2449 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation

A recent client of ours named Mary Dykstra just sold her home with us about six months ago. We’ve invited her to join us today to give us some perspective on her home sale. Mary owns a personal organizing business and she’s one of the most detail-oriented clients we’ve had. We wanted to get her unique perspective on what it was like to work with us. Mary tried to sell her home on her own, then hired us, and had great results. Here’s how she did it.

Mary recently got married, and has had a home for about three years that she’s used as a rental. Her accountant let her know it was time to let the investment go, and she decided to do it herself. She knew that the market was hot, and wanted to see if she could save the money she would have spent on an agent’s commission by selling on her own. She gave herself a few weeks to get it done. The house showed well, but it didn’t have many buyers coming through who were ready to make a purchase. That’s when she decided to give us a call.

We were delighted to be able to help Mary sell quicker and take home more money.

When we initially sat down with Mary, we talked to her about what she was looking to get out of that transaction, and she changed the way she thought about it after speaking with us. Instead of focusing on the commission or how much she would have to give up to work with us, we shifted the focus to what she wanted at the end of the transaction. She gave us a number that she wanted to take home at the end of the day, and we told her that we could make it happen. By listing her home for more than she thought about selling it for, we were both able to get what we wanted.

Mary had her house marketed for less than what we thought it was worth, so we changed that. We listed it for what we think it should sell for, and we got offers over asking price, which made everyone happy. We were delighted to be able to help Mary sell quicker and take home more money at the end of the day than she would have by selling on her own.

Thanks to Mary for taking time out of her day to join us. If you have any questions for us about this topic or anything else real estate-related, give us a call or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you!

Why You Should Consider a Professional Organizer

Buying a home? Click here to perform a full home search
Selling a home? Click here for a FREE Home Price Evaluation
Call me at (616) 942-2449 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation

The local market is experiencing low inventory right now. That’s bringing some challenges in for buyers and sellers alike. With that in mind, I’m here with Mary Dykstra from Within Reach. At her company, she offers organizing services.

For 16 years, she has helped people reduce clutter from their minds and environments, so they can focus on their priorities. A professional organizer can help you with the entire process.

A professional organizer can help you throughout the real estate process.

With a clean home, you can maximize home value and sell for top dollar. A professional organizer can help you make decisions, such as what you should keep or throw away. Many people don’t consider going through their belongings before moving; they spend extra money and end up bringing the junk with them. Don’t let that happen to you!

To contact Mary, you can reach her at 616-453-2976 and If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home in the surrounding area, give us a call or send us an email! We both look forward to hearing from you.

To view Mary's full report on professional organizing, click here.

How to Avoid Costly Lender Delays in Grand Rapids

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Selling a home? Click here for a FREE Home Price Evaluation
Call me at (616) 942-2449 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation

I’ve been having some of my clients complain about lender delays that are costing them quite a bit of money. I just sold a home for a family that’s relocating to Ohio. We managed to sell it in five days and the buyer had all the credentials in place. My sellers went ahead and put an offer on a home in Ohio and they were working towards a closing and getting their moving trucks set up. They were even turning off their utilities in their home!

Then got a call from the lender saying their buyer in Grand Rapids couldn’t close on time, and this affected the family’s other transaction in Ohio. This is a terrible domino effect, and it’s sad because I see it all too often.

Sometimes the problem is lender-related. They do drop the ball sometimes, but we can’t place all the blame on them. If a lender is not getting a fully pre-approved buyer this can cause issues, and if the lender misses or doesn’t properly account for the buyer’s debt obligations, these things can all cause issues. The lender must consider the other debts of the buyer, because these can all throw off the debt-to-income ratio and disqualify the buyer. Lenders need to operate with a sense of urgency, and it’s your agent’s job to ensure that.

Your agent needs to place a sense of urgency on the lender and the buyer.

Other times, the buyer is to blame for the delays. If a buyer provides information too late in the transaction, that can also delay the paperwork. Also, sometimes buyers don’t have a sense of urgency in this process. Sometimes buyers will also take on new debts while they’re being approved, and this will derail a transaction quicker than anything! That is a big no-no for buyers.

As real estate agents, we try our best to communicate closely with reputable lenders that work with qualified buyers. We hate to see family’s struggle with problems that they did not create, and we work hard to avoid those kinds of problems.

If you’re looking for a reputable lender in Grand Rapids, I suggest working with John Seville of Benchmark Mortgage. He can be reached (616) 581-0250.

If you have any questions or real estate needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

5 Ways to Find Out What Your Grand Rapids Home Is Worth

Buying a home? Click here to perform a full home search
Selling a home? Click here for a FREE Home Price Evaluation
Call me at (616) 942-2449 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation

As we head into the spring market, a lot of people are asking, “What’s my home worth?” We are definitely in a seller’s market, and now is a great time to sell. Today, we’ll go over five ways to find your home’s value.

  1. Figure out your property’s X factors.
Finding out what nearby homes have sold for is a great starting point. You can use online tools, but there is usually a 10% margin of error either way. Still, sites like Zillow or Trulia are good places to start. Not every home will be just like yours, but look for homes that are similar. Buyers will keep your home in mind while comparing these similar homes.

  1. What improvements have you made to your home to add value?
The improvements that add value to your home are things an appraiser would attach dollars to.  Sure, a pool is a nice feature to have for the summer months, but an appraiser won’t add value to your home because you have a pool. You need to look at things like adding square footage or updating the kitchen, bedrooms, or bathrooms. Those are high impact areas that buyers care about.
  1. Use an agent who’s in the know.
An agent will provide a comparative market analysis for your property. They will find comparable properties for sale nearby and see how those stack up when compared to yours. The CMA is a great way to find out what your home is worth in our current market.

  1. Hire an appraiser to fine tune your property’s value.
If you’ve gotten multiple CMAs from different agents, it may be wise to bring in a third party who is not trying to sell your property. Hiring an appraiser can cost around $400, but we know of a couple discount appraisal companies that run for about $175. Appraisers will examine your property and tell you what they think it’s worth.

  1. Price based on the 3 Cs: competition, consumption, and condition.
Competition is important because you need to know how many homes are on the market in your price range. Consumption is another way of saying absorption rate, where you see how long it would take to sell all the active properties on the market. As for condition, compare your home with others on the market. Evaluate your property the way a picky buyer would. That can be difficult to do on your own, but a good agent will offer you an unbiased opinion on the condition of your property.

There you have it, five ways to find out what your home is worth. If you have any questions about your property or about real estate in general, give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to help you!

Navigating Through the Hot Grand Rapids Market

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Selling a home? Click here for a FREE Home Price Evaluation
Call me at (616) 942-2449 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation

We’ve been tremendously fortunate to see our real estate market here in Grand Rapids grow considerably in the last year. What we’re left with is a hot seller’s market, and today we're going to talk about how you can navigate through it, from both a buyer’s and seller’s perspective.

A recent article in Forbes claimed that Grand Rapids was the best place in the U.S. to buy a house. We have seen our economy grow by 3.9% and unemployment fall to 3% in recent years. All of these factors are contributing to a hot market for sellers. Sellers are getting the prices they want for their homes because inventory is low, and buyers are competing for the best homes.

We’ve seen a massive drop in inventory from this time last year. We’re down by nearly 50%, and our average days on market is down to under 60 days. That’s a far cry from the 13 months of inventory we were seeing at this point back in 2008.

Because of this hot seller’s market, home prices are up by 13% from last year. Part of this is also due to increased buying due to low interest rates. Only 32% of buyers out there right now are first-time buyers. The buyers that are out there are having to deal with multiple offer situations due to the market conditions.

If you’re a buyer and find yourself in a situation like this, it’s important to not get too hung up on the list price. This price is set by the seller or their agent and while it may be accurate, it is not absolute. If you have your agent do a market analysis of the home as well, you’ll be able to get a more accurate picture of what the home is worth and what you’re willing to pay.

In a hot market like this, buyers are at a disadvantage. However, they can still accomplish their goal of purchasing a home with a low interest rate, which will save you money down the line no matter what you purchase the home for now.  Just remember, an extra $1,000 on the list price is an extra $4 a month in mortgage payments. If you’re looking to find your dream home, think about how much extra you’d be willing to pay to get it.

If you have any questions for us about the Grand Rapids market or you’re looking to buy or sell in the area, we would love to hear from you. Just give us a call or send us an email!