Homeowners obviously know their homes better than anyone, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best salespersons for their properties. Some sellers are tempted to try a For Sale by Owner (FSBO) transaction because their local community is in the midst of a sellers’ market and they think they can sell easily without help. Others try the FSBO route because they want to maximize their profits and avoid paying a commission to a Realtor.
However, statistics show that selling your home with the assistance of a professional real estate agent will garner you a higher profit, enough to cover the commission as well as put more money in your pocket. According to the National Association of Realtor’s 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the average FSBO sales price was $174,900, while the average price for a home represented by an agent was $215,000, a difference of $40,100.
Top 5 Reasons to sell with a Realtor
A great article was posted in Sunday’s Dispatch. Jim Weiker hit on some very important questions to consider when looking for a real estate agent.
Choosing the right real-estate agent makes all the difference
The right real-estate agent can make all the difference in buying or selling a home. But how to choose the right one? Homebuyers or sellers can look for agent reviews at the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List or real-estate sites such as Zillow or Trulia. They can also confirm that an agent is licensed at www.com.ohio.gov/real. After that, buyers and sellers should plan to interview candidates, just as they would contractors. Here’s what veteran agents say clients should ask.
For homebuyers and sellers
How well do you know the neighborhood?
If agents draw a blank on current listings or recent sales, they probably don’t know the market well enough.
Sellers’ agents must know the neighborhood to properly price the home against the competition. Buyers’ agents need to know the neighborhood to understand what to pay and what is available.
Do you have colleagues or assistants who can help?
Real estate is a 24/7 enterprise, especially in some hot-selling parts of central Ohio.
When an agent gets sick or goes on vacation, a buyer or seller could miss a deal if an agent isn’t covering during the absence.
How long does my commitment to you last?
Most central Ohio agents will want an exclusive six-month contract to represent a buyer or seller, although this can be negotiated. Be cautious of yearlong contracts, which are typically used for harder-to-sell properties.
Can I get a list of your most recent clients?
Agents are under no obligation to provide this, and some might balk because of legitimate confidentiality concerns, but references can be just as useful in picking an agent as they can be in picking a contractor.
What do you charge?
In central Ohio, a 6 percent commission, divided between the buyer’s and seller’s agents, is common, although the fee can sometimes be negotiated. Buyer’s agents are paid by the seller, but all fees must be clarified before signing a contract.
How will you market the home?
A sign in front and a spot on the Multiple Listing Service isn’t enough anymore. Multiple photos and, in some cases, videos draw eyeballs where it counts: online. Look also for agents whose listings appear on many sites beyond the MLS, such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.
Before interviewing an agent, sellers should check out the agent’s current listings online: Are they well-presented with high-quality images and inviting descriptions?
How many homes have you sold in the past year? How many listings do you now have?
Be careful of agents who sell only a few homes a year; they might not do enough business to stay on top of changing rules and trends. On the other extreme, sellers should be cautious about an agent who has dozens of listings, which could mean they’re too overstretched to give every home the attention it needs.
How quickly do your homes sell?
Days-on-market figures can be tricky because homes in different neighborhoods and price ranges don’t sell at the same pace. In addition, homes are often taken off the market and put back on, restarting the clock.
Still, sellers should seek agents who sell homes faster than the local average, which is currently about 70 days. Sellers should also be cautious about agents who boast of routinely selling homes in a few days, which might suggest they are underpricing the homes.
On homes you have sold, how close was the sale price to the listing price?
Homes should sell for at least 90 percent of the asking price. (The average central Ohio home that sold in May received 95 percent of its asking price.) Less than 90 percent suggests that agents are overpricing homes, and more than 98 or 99 percent suggests they’re underpricing. Be especially careful of agents who tell you they can get an exceptional price for your home — they might simply be seeking the listing.
How will you keep me informed about my house? Feedback is crucial for sellers, especially those whose homes aren’t attracting offers. Make sure a clear communication plan will be in place.
How often do you represent buyers?
While some agents specialize, most represent both buyers and sellers. Buyers should look for agents who have a long track record representing their side of the deal.
Who will I actually be working with?
Big team agencies might assign new or young buyers to new or young agents. That might work fine, but buyers deserve to know before picking an agent who exactly will be handling their home search.
When will you be available to show me homes?
Buyers need an agent who is able to show them homes when the buyers are available to see them. A part-time buyer’s agent or someone with other commitments might not be there when buyers need them.
How many clients have you helped in the past year, and how many are you working with now?
Most individual agents should be able to comfortably juggle six or eight buyers at the same time, depending on where they are in the process. But agents working with more than 10 or 12 buyers might find it hard to give each one full attention.
What can you tell me about any special loan and other programs available for buyers like me?
The real-estate world is awash in special government and bank programs tailored to certain buyers — such as first-time homeowners, college graduates or veterans. An agent who understands those programs can be a huge resource.
Have you ever wondered about the appraisal process when buying a home? Click here for a quick video with answers to the most common appraisal questions:
By Jim WeikerThe Columbus Dispatch • Sunday July 6, 2014 5:50 AM
Note to homebuyers: Forget the stainless-steel appliances. Overlook the wall colors. Skip over the countertop.
Contrary to what you might see on home-shopping TV shows, those things aren’t that important when evaluating a house. They can all be easily changed at relatively little cost and inconvenience.
Instead, check out the electrical box. Peer into the attic. Open the windows.
In those places you’ll find what really matters to the health, safety and ultimate cost of a home.
“Some buyers can’t get past the wallpaper or the decoration,” said Susanne Novak, an agent with RE/MAX 24/7 in Dublin. “You say, ‘These things can be changed.’ As an agent, you try to get them past that.”
Novak considers home condition so crucial for buyers that she often accompanies home inspectors through a house and insists that new agents in her office do the same.
Sure, buyers must first consider big-picture issues — location, style, size, price — when choosing a home. But after a house meets enough of those criteria that buyers decide to tour it, what should they then look for?
To find out, we spoke with Novak and three others: Rick Harrington, owner of Patch Independent Home Inspections in Westerville; Andrew Show, owner of Buyer’s Resource Realty Services in Worthington; and Todd Schmidt, owner of Renovations Unlimited in Grove City.
In addition to making a home purchase contingent on an inspection, which all recommend, they advise prospective buyers to examine 10 spots during a home tour.
• Foundation. This is the bedrock of the house.
A serious problem here can run into thousands — or tens of thousands — of dollars faster than a blink. All houses settle over time, so don’t panic about small cracks in the foundation. But big cracks, bowing along the wall and uneven concrete blocks could suggest major repairs ahead.
“This is absolutely critical to the longevity of the home,” Show said.
• Moisture. While in the basement, look for stains along the wall, floor or corners, which indicate water damage.
Some homeowners might be willing to live with a damp basement (especially in older homes), but others will find that the moisture too severely limits the use of the house.
Repairing a basement leak might be as simple as applying a sealant to a small crack or it might require a far more costly remedy, such as trenching or landscaping work.
• Windows. These might be among the most commonly overlooked and potentially most expensive features
of a home.
Replacing single-pane, drafty or dysfunctional windows in an entire house can easily cost $25,000 — as much as some kitchen renovations.
Check for cracks, functionality and clouding (in double-pane windows).
• Roof. Replacing a roof can cost several thousand dollars and can even top $10,000 depending on the size, materials and complexity of the job.
To find out whether a roof is needed, look for curled, cracked or bald roof shingles, or a patched or sagging roof. Roof granules in the gutter offer another clue that the roof might be nearing replacement time.
• Heating and cooling system. On average, furnaces last 20 to 25 years, and the outdoor part of an air conditioner lasts 10 to 15 years.
Many units include a manufacturing date or a maintenance history that will indicate age. A maintenance history also shows how well the furnace has been cared for. But even if you can expect many more years out of the furnace, you might not want to if it’s inefficient.
Replacing a furnace or air conditioner can cost $3,000 to $5,000 each, on average.
• Electrical system. More than most home mechanicals, the electrical system can benefit from a professional’s eyes.
Still, homebuyers can look for signs that the electrical system is stressed or has been tampered with, such as two wires tapped into a single circuit (although some panels allow double-tapping).
The problem with a dated electrical panel isn’t as much cost (upgrading costs $1,500 to $3,000 on average) but safety.
• Pests. Especially in homes with wood siding, look for any signs of termite or carpenter ant infiltration, which can be disastrous to the physical integrity of a building.
This can be difficult for nonexperts to identify, but rumpled paint around window and door frames and termite tunnels on the foundation suggest an ongoing problem.
• Landscaping. When outside the home, make sure the ground slopes away from the structure, allowing water to run off instead of toward the house.
For the same reason, examine whether gutters and downspouts are intact so they carry water away from the home.
• Attic. A peek in the attic might reveal structural problems with the roof and will certainly answer whether the home is insulated.
The answer speaks to a crucial detail often overlooked by homebuyers: How much will the home cost to operate?
• Fireplaces. Glass doors and a working damper help keep warm air from escaping out the chimney during the winter.
Look up the fireplace if possible for black shiny tar, which could potentially catch fire.
“You only get one chimney fire,” Harrington notes.
By: Myriam W.Gluck
Owners of multi-unit properties should be familiar with Section 5431.04(A)(3) of the Ohio Revised Code, which requires a landlord to, “[k]eep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition.” At first glance that language seems fairly straightforward. However, what happens when it’s not a tenant who is injured while in a common area, but the guest of a tenant?
This very issue was brought before the Ohio Supreme Court in Mann vs. Northgate Investors, LLC., d.b.a. Northgate Apartments 2014-Ohio-455 (Mann). In that case, Lauren Mann was injured when she left her friend’s second-floor apartment. The hallway and stairwell leading to the exit were dark because all the bulbs had burned out in the light fixtures. Mann was seriously injured when she stumbled off the last step and fell through a glass panel.
Mann sued Northgate, alleging that they had negligently failed to maintain adequate lighting for safe ingress and egress to the property. The trial court dismissed the case on the basis that because R.C. 5321.04 applied only to tenants and not their guests, Northgate only owed Mann an “ordinary duty of care.” The trial court further held that the danger was open and obvious. Mann appealed, and the Tenth District Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court of Ohio accepted the case for review because the decision conflicted with a similar case decided in the Ninth District. The sole issue for consideration was whether R.C. 4321.04(A)(3) applies to a tenant’s guest properly on the premises and injured while in a common area.
In a unanimous decision, the Ohio Supreme Court held that R.C. 5321.04(A)(3) applies not only to tenants, but also to tenant’s guests, so long as they are properly on the premises. The Supreme Court found that a landlord’s negligence in such situations is negligence per se, that is, that a violation conclusively proves that the landlord violated a duty to the tenant. When a landlord is negligent per se, the defense of “open and obvious danger” is inapplicable. However, whether the landlord knew or should have known of the violation is a factor in determining liability. Sikora v. Wenzel 2000-Ohio-406 (syllabus). The Mann case has been remanded back to the trial court, where Mann is seeking over $500,00.00 in damages.
In a nutshell, a landlord owes the same duty of care to a tenant’s guest as he does to a tenant. Because a violation of a duty owed under R.C. 5321.04(A)(3) constitutes negligence per se, a landlord cannot use the defense that the violation is open and obvious. Accordingly, landlords should make sure that the common areas in their properties are kept in good repair.