The Top 5 Questions to Ask Before Starting Your Home Search

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The time has come….you’ve decided to embark on a search to find your dream home. But before you reach for the phone to call your real estate agent to start seeing properties, here are some important questions to ask yourself first so that you can better understand your priorities and the consequences therein as well as optimize your home buying search:

  1. Do you need to sell before you buy? This addresses the financing component and is probably the most important question that you need to ask yourself - and your lender - and figure out prior to your home buying search. If the answer is “yes,” call your real estate agent pronto to list your house before passing go. And then once your house is solidly under agreement or sold, you can begin seriously looking at potential dream homes.

  2. Are you willing to do work to a house? In other words, is your new home’s condition important to you? Are you looking for a home that is move right in, a fixer-uper or somewhere in between? If it’s the former, be prepared for your potential dream house to sell quickly perhaps in a bidding war and possibly over the asking price (which is the perfect segue into question 3 below). If you are willing to do updating, you often don’t have to act as quickly, and you may even get a better deal.

  3. Will you pay more for the house you love? To paraphrase, how much price flexibility do you have? As mentioned above, a bidding war often happens with properties that are in beautiful condition among other things, i.e. priced to sell, in a great location, etc. If you find yourself in a bidding war for your dream house, will you do whatever you need to do to get it, which usually means paying more than you might like to? If the answer is no, you’ll likely have to shift your focus to properties that will be less appealing to the masses and less likely to result in a competitive buying situation.

  4. Can you accept a compromised street or location? For example, would you buy a house on a busy road or close to a noisy thoroughfare? Or do you only want to live on a quiet street in an A+ neighborhood? The answer to this question will also impact your home search. If you only want a quiet, highly desirable location, then you could be competing with many other buyers for your dream house, which then can force up the price of the property. If a busy street, noise issues or a compromised location are ok, you may be able to find a bit of a better deal.

  5. What is your ideal timeline and closing date? Do you need to buy quickly or can you wait to buy? If you need to buy quickly, you might have to make more compromises - or even rent - if the inventory at the time isn’t appealing to you. But if you have time on your side, you can wait for that just right house for you - keeping in mind that no house is ever 100% perfect.

While there are millions of questions you can ask yourself to help you focus and streamline your home buying search, the questions above hit on the major categories that will come up again and again during your search. Once you understand your financing capabilities, price flexibility and timeline as well as your preference for you new home’s condition and location, you’ll be able to better understand what you want and to more quickly and effectively find the right home for you and your family.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Did you ask yourself these and other questions when you were starting your home buying search? What were the most important and insightful questions you pondered at the start of your home search? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (www.lisacurlett.com, 781-267-2844 or lisa.curlett@compass.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

The Time to Get the Best Deal When Buying a House

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The time to get the best deal when buying a house is - drumroll please - NOW! And by now, I mean the late Fall market into the holidays. If you’re scratching your head and wondering why this is true, here are the three primary reasons that sellers are extra motivated to sell at this time of the year:

  1. The real estate market virtually goes on hiatus for three months. In early-mid November when Thanksgiving comes onto the horizon, buyers tend to get into holiday mode - not only for Turkey Day but also for Hanukkah, Christmas and the start of the New Year. And then once the New Year has begun, it takes a bit for buyers to focus on real estate again especially if the weather is cold, snowy, icy and yucky. This translates to a very slow market for most of November, December, most or all of January and sometimes even into February*. There is no other time in the year when the real estate market activity slows for this amount of time. And for those who are anxious to sell and can’t afford to wait at least another three months to potentially do so, they will accept the price that allows them to move on and sell now. 

  2. Many sellers don’t want to carry their homes through the winter. They don’t want to deal with some of the damaging and costly issues that can come up during the winter months, i.e. pipes freezing, ice dams, heating problems, shoveling/plowing snow time and time again, etc. I have found that this can be especially true if the sellers are elderly as home care-taking in the winter can be quite taxing for them. I also see this with sellers who no longer live in the house and can’t monitor the housing issues/situations that tend to arise in the winter months. Therefore these sellers are especially motivated to get the deal done before the harsh weather comes and potential ensuing issues emerge.

  3. Sellers know that they will be competing with fresh, new-to-the-market inventory in the Spring. During the Fall market, the sellers’ homes have accrued days on the market (DOM) - often significant DOM. In addition, their homes have been on the market and haven’t sold which often leads buyers to wonder what’s wrong with the properties. So not only are these sellers stuck with homes that have a prolonged market time** but also that need an explanation for why they haven’t sold. The bottom line is that these properties often have a hard time competing with the fresh, new-to-the market inventory in the Spring. And knowing this can make sellers more motivated to accept offers that allow them to sell now instead of waiting to do so in the Spring market.

There are two caveats to getting a deal at the end of the Fall market. First, not all sellers are motivated to sell their homes despite the reality of the three issues outlined above. And if you end up negotiating with one of these un-motivated sellers, you probably won’t end up with a great deal. Second, the downside to buying at this time is that the inventory is sparse. And so you may be able to get a great price on a house, but you might have problems finding a property that fits your needs and desires.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation - looking for a deal on a house at the end of the Fall market? Were you able to find it? If not, what prevented you from getting a great deal? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (www.lisacurlett.com, 781-267-2844 or lisa.curlett@compass.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

* The start of the Spring market varies depending on the town or city in which you live.

** Although there are tricks to making market time less apparent, there is no way to erase it.

Is There Such a Thing as a Dream House?

I ponder this question all the time….  And I can tell you from my experience as a real estate professional, whether a house is priced at $500,000 or $5,000,000, buyers seldom view a house as their “dream house.”  A testament to this is a newly-constructed home that sold in Weston, MA a few years ago for more than $6 million.   At this price, you would think that the house would have been perfect – a real dream house.  But the week after it sold, there were a multitude of contractors’ trucks parked on the street. They were doing work on the house, and they were there for months.  Wow…..

I share this story with my clients because I think it is important information for them to have. The truth is, for the most part, a home is not going to satisfy everything you want in a house – no matter what the price point.  For example, the street may be busier than you like, the house may need more updating than you want or can afford to do, and/or there may not be a garage.  So it’s really about prioritizing and potentially compromising.  It’s about understanding what you can and can’t live with.  And also realizing that if you are waiting for your perfect, dream house, you could be waiting a long, long time.

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I know that sounds a little negative – especially from someone who aspires to sell clients their perfect, dream houses over and over again.  But I have a different perspective when I think of my own life.  In the early 1990s, my father bought a Sea Captain’s house built in the early 1800s in Nantucket.  This was the house of my dreams – and still is, in fact.  It was filled with charm and personality (a fireplace in every room on the first two floors), it had six well-sized bedrooms and could comfortably sleep 13 people. It was located a stone’s throw from the center of town, and it had a private, gorgeous backyard which is almost impossible to find in the heart of Nantucket town.  We all loved the house and shared so many happy times there – countless birthday celebrations, wedding events, Thanksgiving dinners, family croquet tournaments.  We filled the house with such joyful memories.  Did it matter that the bathrooms were not updated, that the laundry room was in the basement or that the garage was detached?  Not a bit.  We looked past those imperfections because the home held a special place in each of our hearts – we truly loved the house.  It was our dream home!  So when I think of this, then my answer is YES; of course there is such thing as a dream house.  It really just comes down to your state of mind…looking past some of the home’s features that perhaps may not be ideal and focusing on the broader picture – the memories and joyous times that the house provides for you when sharing life with family and friends.

And so ultimately what I’ve decided is that yes, there is such thing as a dream house. But is it perfect in every way?  Not at all…which is completely okay and to be expected!  With all of this said, I wanted to share with you a few pictures of my dream house*, 6 Darling Street, Nantucket, MA lovingly owned by the Jack Curlett family from 1991 – 2011…..  Cheers!

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (www.lisacurlett.com, 781-267-2844 or lisa.curlett@compass.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

* P.S. These photos don’t do my dream house justice….😉

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The Top 5 Tell Tale Signs that You Are a Home Buyer

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As many of you know, the home-buying process can be fun, exciting and ultimately quite rewarding, but it can also be time-consuming, intense and stressful too, especially if you are under a deadline to purchase a home. During my years in the business, my buyer clients have shared their behaviors and experiences with the process, and from their feedback, I’ve come up with the top 5 tell tale signs that you are a true, bonafide home buyer who is 100% committed to purchasing your next home:

  • 1. You find yourself spending hours upon hours and significantly more time on MLSRealtor.comTrulia and Zillow searching for information on properties for sale than on GoogleCNN.comTwitterand Facebook searching for information on breaking news, financial results, consumer trends and personal updates.

  • 2. You schedule all of your free time to see houses. This means the hours before work, during lunch and after work, not to mention weekends when you now plan your Sundays around open house times instead of around the PatriotsBruinsCeltics  or Red Sox games.

  • 3. You take calls from your Realtor before those from your significant other, boss, children or anyone else for that matter.

  • 4. You spend double the money on gasoline given all of the drive-by viewings of the properties, neighborhoods, schools and more – at a variety of times during the day.

  • 5. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat after a terrible nightmare in which a multiple offer situation went awry and you lost your dream home.

The good news about all of this is that the often stressful and intense home-buying process is usually short-term and the net gain is that you end up with a home that you love. In other words, a little pain for a lot of gain….

What are your thoughts on this subject, and can you relate? When you were a home buyer and trying to find the right home, did you experience some of these tell tale signs? And were there other, relevant tell tale signs that you experienced as a home buyer? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (www.lisacurlett.com, 781-267-2844 or lisa.curlett@compass.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

The Post Offer Timeline for Buyers

The other night, I was going over the process from offer to closing with one of my buyer clients in terms of the standard dates and typical timeline, and as I was doing so, I realized that I hadn’t put this pertinent information in a document and go-to place for easy access.  Although we as Realtors know the standard timeline by heart, this can often be a new process for buyers – one that they might not have gone through in years.  And so I hope that putting all of this in writing will help my buyer clients as well as other buyers in need.

As you may know, when you put in an offer on a property, you commit to a variety of dates to get you from the accepted offer to the closing.  Here is a standard timeline and the events to which they are attached:

  • Inspection contingency (including pest and radon inspections) –  7-10 days from accepted offer. This part of the process actually has two dates.  The first is the date within which you as the buyer must have the inspection, and this is usually within 7 days of the accepted offer.  The second is the date within which you need to come back to the seller with any inspection issues to be addressed, and this is usually within 10 days of the accepted offer.  So let’s say, the seller has just accepted your offer today on Friday, May 12.   This means that you would have the inspection by Friday, May 19 and get back to the seller with any issues by Monday, May 22.  And more times than not, this will result in a back and forth – a.k.a. another negotiation – between you and the seller concerning the inspection issues.

  • On another note, during the days from the accepted offer through the inspection contingency, you also need to do two other things.  First, you need to talk to a few mortgage brokers about getting the best rate possible.  The mortgage commitment date is coming soon (see below), and so you need to start working on securing your options for getting a loan. Second, you need to hire an attorney.  Then once the inspection issues are resolved, your attorney and the seller’s attorney will work together to develop the Purchase and Sale Agreement (P&S), which is our next date/event.

  • Purchase & Sale Agreement – usually 2 weeks from accepted offer. So using our example above, the P&S would be signed on Friday, May 26.  This is also when you would put down the remaining 5% of the deposit (a deposit of $1,000 was put down at the time of the offer).  And once the P&S has been signed, you would formally apply for a mortgage if you haven’t done so already thus fulfilling the mortgage application date, which is part of the mortgage contingency. 

  • Mortgage contingency/commitment – usually 3-4 weeks after the signing of the P&S (or 5-6 weeks from accepted offer). Most buyers want the date of the mortgage contingency/commitment to be four weeks after the signing of the P&S (or Friday, June 23 in this example) to have more time to make sure all of the mortgage paperwork is complete.  And most sellers want the date to be three weeks after the signing of the P&S (or Friday, June 16) because it lessens the time that their house has been red flagged with an accepted offer and basically not shown by the brokerage community, which is generally what happens.  So if the deal falls through because you can’t get a mortgage, the seller has only lost five weeks of active market time instead of six.

  • Closing – usually 60 days from accepted offer. And so the closing in this case would be Wednesday, July 12 (or thereabouts).  The theory behind this is that you can lock in a mortgage rate in 60 days, and it generally provides adequate time for the lender to provide the loan to the buyer and the seller to vacate the property.

I think that’s about it from a timeline perspective.  I hope this information helps, but keep in mind that the time frame from an accepted offer to closing can vary immensely based on the particular circumstances of the buyer and the seller.  Closings can happen within 30 days and can also take four to six months.  I’m hoping that laying out the typical timeline will give you a guideline from which to start to formulate a plan of action that works for you…. Good luck!

What are your thoughts on the subject? Did you experience a similar timeline when you were buying a home? Were there any surprises on the timing that you didn’t expect? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (www.lisacurlett.com, 781-267-2844 or lisa.curlett@compass.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

The Buyer Offer Process: The Documents

Recently I wrote a post on The Post Offer Timeline for Buyers, and now, I am continuing that line of analysis of the buyer offer process by overviewing the documents that are usually submitted at the time of the offer:

1. Offer to Purchase Form – this details the purchase price, dates for the purchase and sale agreement (P&S) and closing, special provisions, exclusions and inclusions, additional provisions, escrow information, etc.  As the name suggests, this form is basically the nuts and bolts of what you as the buyer are offering the seller.  Click offer to purchase to see the GBREB standard offer to purchase form.

2. Offer to Purchase Contingency Addendum Form – this includes dates and information regarding your mortgage, inspection, pest, radon and lead paint contingencies. Click contingency form to see the standard GBREB contingency form.

3. Agency Disclosure Form – this is to inform the seller that your agent is working as your buyer’s agent or facilitator. Click agency disclosure to see the standard GBREB agency disclosure form.

4. Check – a copy of the check, usually for $1,000, made out to the listing firm is included to bind the offer.  Once the offer is accepted, the check is given to the listing agent and usually “held” by the listing firm (in other words, deposited into the listing firm’s bank account).

5. Pre-Approval Letter and/or Letter of Funds – this gives the seller the confidence that you have been pre-approved to borrow and/or have the funds to buy the house.  This sometimes comes just after the offer is submitted, but these days, most sellers won’t accept an offer until they see the pre-approval letter.

6. Lead Paint Form – this is provided by the listing agent and discloses whether the seller knows of any lead paint within the home and/or has any lead paint reports.  It also gives you as the buyer a choice of whether you would like to test for lead paint or waive the inspection. Because the buyer needs to complete the form that the seller has already completed, this form is not always submitted at the time of the offer as the buyer doesn’t always have access to it.  But the submission of the lead paint form usually follows quickly thereafter. Click lead paint form to see the standard GBREB lead paint form.

So that’s about it….  Are these the documents that you submitted when you put in an offer on your house?  There can be other forms to sign with the offer (i.e., notice and consent to dual agency if this applies) or after the initial offer (i.e., seller’s statement of property condition, statement of seller’s preferences), but the above six documents are usually those that are submitted with the initial offer.  Then the negotiations begin, and once the offer is accepted (fingers crossed), the offer and addendum documents will need to be revised to reflect the agreed-upon terms, conditions and dates.  This is fabulous, and most importantly – Congratulations to all!

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (www.lisacurlett.com, 781-267-2844 or lisa.curlett@compass.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

The Pre-Moving Day Checklist for Buyers

Moving Day is such an exciting time when buying a new home, but it can be stressful too. I have put together this list in an effort to help you focus on what needs to get done in the event that things become crazy leading up to the big day. Here are some things* to remember to do to make your move a bit less stressful and worry-free (I hope):

  • Contact the utility companies – make sure that the gas/oil, electricity, cable and any other utility services have all been transferred into your name at the new house. At the same time, make sure you cut off service for those utilities at the home you are leaving.

  • Complete a change of address form at your post office – this is a crucial step so that you can rest assured that your mail will be forwarded to your new home.

  • Confirm school enrollment/information for your children – if you are moving to a new town, and your kids will be attending the public school in your new town, make sure that they are properly enrolled and that the school(s) have all of your up-to-date information.  Even if you are moving within your town/area, make sure that the schools have your new contact information.

  • Take final measurements – take any last minute measurements of spaces in your new home to confirm that your furniture fits in just the right spot.

  • Reserve a safe place for important documents and items – this is especially important during a move when things have a tendency to get rather chaotic.  Put your passports, birth certificates, medications, etc., in a designated place so they don’t get lost in the move.  In fact, I might put them in my purse or briefcase so they are “on my person,” as they say, rather than on a moving truck.

  • Confirm your moving logistics with the moving company – by this time, you will have hired a mover so check in with the company to confirm the arrival time on moving day and any other logistics.

  • Find a babysitter or family member to watch your children – if you have younger kids, you may want to do this and/or schedule play dates so that the children are cared for during the closing and first hours of the move.  This will help you focus on the task at hand.

  • Schedule your walk through – ask your buyer’s agent to schedule a walk through of your new home the day before or morning of your closing. During the walk through, you want to make sure that everything has been removed from the property and that any inspection items have been repaired or resolved.

  • Review the HUD-1 Settlement Statement with your real estate attorney – the HUD-1 Settlement Statement is usually available to review with your attorney the day before the closing. You can also wait to review it with your attorney at the closing, but many like to go over it in advance of the big day.

  • Send out  change of address cards – make sure all of your friends and family know about your move and your new address and phone number. It’s a fun way to reach out to and connect with your loved ones and share the exciting news.  Congratulations on your new home!

I think that pretty well covers it….  Are there any other things you did just prior to moving day that you would add to the checklist? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (www.lisacurlett.com, 781-267-2844 or lisa.curlett@compass.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

* This list does not include the packing of items and furniture and the determination of what is being given to goodwill or other family members, thrown away, potentially sold at a yard sale or to a consignment shop and/or moved to the new house as these efforts are part of the overall and ongoing moving out process.

Home Buying: Love for the House or Financial Security?

During your most recent home buying process, you most likely found yourself in one of two scenarios: (1) you fell in love with a house and bought it before having sold your existing home or (2) you sold your current house before buying, and then either bought another home or rented a home if you couldn’t find a home that was right for you. Buy and then sell OR sell and then buy – very different approaches to home buying with a variety of pros and cons….

The first scenario is really about falling in love with a particular house. You have to have it – no matter what. It’s irrelevant that you haven’t sold your existing home and that you may not sell it for months to come. The good news about this approach is that you have the home you love when you want it. The bad news is that you may very well find yourself in a precarious financial situation. What if it takes months and months for your home to sell, which means that you are carrying two homes instead of one? This can be a stressful, financial burden and can keep you up fretting a night or two to say the least. You can try to negotiate an extended closing to try to give yourself more time to sell before you ultimately buy. But there are some drawbacks to an extended closing too (i.e., mortgage commitment timeline, locking in a rate, etc.). And yet sometimes luck is on your side – you price your home competitively, and it sells relatively quickly. When you are in this kind of situation, more times than not, you are a “motivated” seller intent on doing what it takes to sell your existing property and move on with your life in your new home.

The second scenario is about financial security – making sure you have sold your home, and the money is in the bank before contemplating a home purchase. There are several advantages to following this path. First, having sold your home and knowing the price for which it sold, you know how much you can spend on your next property. You also don’t have the added stress of carrying two properties and the uncertainty about the final price and timing of your existing home sale. As referenced earlier, these kinds of unknowns can go round and round in your head night after night while you’re trying to sleep. As with everything, however, there are also cons to this approach. Once your house is sold, the inventory may not cooperate, and you may not be able to find the right home for you and your family. In fact, it could take months upon months until you do. And so it’s important that if you opt for the financial security route, you feel comfortable with the prospect of living in a rental or temporary housing. This generally means having to move twice and can cause some logistical issues, but on the bright side, your stress level will be lower and you will be having restful nights of sleep.

Where do you find yourself on this spectrum of home buying? Are you one who acts for the love a particular house or do you wait to act until the selling of your home is not a question mark but an exclamation point? When I bought my house in Weston, MA almost 12 years ago, I was a home buyer who acted for the love of a house. Luckily my current home at the time sold within a day, and so I was able to close on both homes on the same day. Phew…. Honestly, though, if I had to do it all over again, I would still act for the love of a house. And I see it happen with a majority of my clients too. The bottom line is that whichever path you choose, it all works out – one way or another, sooner or later. What are your thoughts and experiences on this aspect of the home buying process? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (www.lisacurlett.com, 781-267-2844 or lisa.curlett@compass.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.