Is it time for a Home Insurance check-up?

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Your home is perhaps your most cherished and largest investment, so naturally you want to have financial protection in case something happens to your property or its contents. To offset these costs, you purchase homeowners insurance. But when was the last time you reviewed your policy to make sure that your coverage was up-to-date? If your answer is “when I purchased my home five years ago,” it’s definitely time to take another look at your policy.

Ideally, your homeowners insurance policy should be evaluated once a year, and sooner if you’ve completed major work to your home or have a life event such as marriage, new baby or divorce. This review will help guard against you being under- or over-insured. Below are some situations that will illustrate why it is important to make sure that your homeowners insurance is current.

Remodeling


Have you added on a room or made significant upgrades to an existing room in your home? What about structures outside your home such as a hot tub or gazebo? These improvements, undoubtedly, have increased the value of your home. When you purchased your homeowners policy, your coverage was based on the value of your property at that time. If there is damage to your home, you want to make sure that those areas are covered as well.

Safety Upgrades


Did you know most insurance companies give discounts for features that increase the safety of your home? If you’ve installed items such as fire sprinklers, central home security system, smoke detectors, deadbolt locks or even added an upgraded electrical system, you could possibly reduce your premium.

Personal Property


Besides structural coverage, most standard homeowners insurance policies include personal property coverage. Usually there is a percentage or dollar limit on the amount protected.

Take a home inventory. Are your current limits sufficient? If you’ve purchased high-ticket items such as computers, jewelry, and artwork, you may need to get additional coverage. Talk with your insurance agent to decide if you should increase your limits or purchase an endorsement/rider, which will give you higher and broader coverage than you have under your homeowners policy.

Life Events


Different life events can affect your coverage. For example, if you get married and your spouse moves into your home, you will need to make sure that there is enough coverage for your combined assets and even all of the wedding gifts you received. On the other hand, if you divorce, you may be able to decrease your personal property limits.

Deductible


Are your deductibles still relevant? Based on your current financial situation, you may want to adjust them. A higher deductible lowers your premium and increases the amount you will pay toward a loss.
Because the mortgage lender often pays insurance premiums, it is easy to overlook your insurance coverage. However as the homeowner, make it a priority to review your policy periodically and make changes as needed. That way if damage or loss does occur to your home or its contents, you are adequately insured. Speak with your insurance agent, who can give you more in-depth information and explain your policy to you.

 

Picayune Insurance Companies:

Allstate - 915 Hwy 43 North, Picayune MS - 601-798-7005

Farm Bureau - 6361 Hwy 11 North, Picayune MS - 601-798-2861

State Farm - 1817-B Hwy 11 North, Picayune MS - 601-798-4082

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You’ve Got The Keys, Now It’s Time To Settle In, Improve, And Maintain

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You might not realize it, but qualifying for a home loan, making an offer, and signing documents at the closing are only part of the home ownership process. Once you receive the keys to your new home, there are still steps you need to take before truly calling your house home.
Settling In
The most obvious step you’ll take next is packing and moving your household contents. If you plan on hiring a professional, check with your real estate representative to see if he or she knows a reliable mover.  Once you’ve moved in, one of the first things you want to do is change the lock on all entry doors. This ensures that only your household has access to your home.  You’ll also want to make arrangements for special services such as paper delivery, cable and high-speed Internet service, and garbage and/or recycling pickup.  Get to know your neighborhood. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. They can give you inside information such as babysitters, names of contractors and more. Take a tour of your new neighborhood. Locate the nearest fire and police stations, as well as hospital. This will also give you an opportunity to find the closest grocery store, gas station, parks, etc.
Organizing
Next up is making sure that all of your documents are in order and that others know where you are.  At your closing, you more than likely were given a copy of your settlement papers. Make sure that you file them away somewhere that is easily accessible for tax time. Or, keep them with your other tax records. Next, don’t forget to finish sending out your change of address to family, friends, magazines, and organizations that may not have been a part of your primary group. Notify the Internal Revenue Service of your change of address. You can download Form 8822 from the website www.irs.gov or call (800) TAX-FORM (829-3676) to order the form by phone.
With a change in your address, there are other documents that need to be changed as well such as auto registration, driver’s license, and voter registration. Check with your state organizations to see what the procedure is. Also, don’t forget to notify your insurance agent of your change of address so that your policies remain up-to-date.
Improve and Maintain
After you’ve unpacked your boxes, it’s time to get to know your home. Locate your smoke detectors, furnace and switch or fuse box. Go room to room and make an improvement checklist such as new carpeting, window dressing or painting. Note regular maintenance that will be required such as cleaning water drains and replacing air filters and batteries in smoke detectors.  After you’ve completed an inventory, you may decide that you want to hire contractors to help with decorating needs. You may even decide that you want to hire a home cleaning or lawn care service. Your real estate professional is a good source for getting reliable recommendations.
There is much to do when you move into a new home. However once you’ve unpacked the last box, painted the final room, and all your services are running smoothly, you can sit back in your favorite lounging chair and enjoy the benefits of home ownership.

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Homestead Exemption in Pearl River County, MS

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When filing for Homestead Exemption for your real estate taxes, in Pearl River County, MS, you will need the follow items:

 

1. Warranty Deed (Original or Recorded Copy) – Chancery Clerk can provide recorded copy.

2. Husband’s and Wife’s Social Security Numbers

3. Purchase Price of Land and/or House or Mobile Home; Down Payment, Interest Rate, Monthly Payments.

4. License plate numbers on ALL vehicles owned by you or in your possession. THEY MUST BE MISSISSIPPI LICENSE PLATES! (Once a resident of Mississippi, you have 30 days to get your MS tags for your vehicles)

5. If over 65 on or before January 1st of the year you are filing, bring proof of age (driver’s license, birth certificate, voter’s registration card, school record or bible record)

6. If Social Security Disabled – 100%- Bring proof of liability.

7. If certified 100% Disabled Veteran – SERVICE CONNECTED – Bring claim number.

8. If you do not have all the information listed above, please DO NOT ask to make an application for Homestead Exemption. This information is required by the State Tax Commission and is used in determining your eligibility for Homestead Exemption. No applications will be accepted unless they are complete. Any information requested by this office on the application that is not given will be considered DENIED and may result in loss of exemption.  IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PROVIDE THE INFORMATION TO THE TAX OFFICE.

9. The deadline for filing is MARCH 31st. ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS. Application will be taken Monday thru Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm during the whole months of January, February, and March.

This information was obtained from the Pearl River County Tax Office – 601-798-2866

If you have any questions, please call Michelle Fradella with Keller Williams Realty Professionals at 601-569-0075, or call the Tax Office.

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Buying Your First Home? Here’s What You Need to Know

Posted in Buying A Home | 0 comments

By Michelle Fradella, Broker – Pinnacle Real Estate Services, LLC

You’ve made the decision to make one of the largest investments you’ll ever make in your life-buying your first home. You’re excited, but at the same time anxious. Some of the questions you may be asking are: Will I be able to afford the home of my dreams? Do I have enough money for a down payment? Can I get a home inspected before I make an offer?

The homebuying process can be overwhelming, but if you go into it prepared, your first purchase can be a good experience. Here are some things to consider before making the plunge.

Getting a mortgage-Fear of being rejected for a home loan is one of the main concerns for first-time homebuyers. To lessen the stress, you may want to get pre-approved for a loan before looking at prospective homes. This will not only help you feel more confident, it will also give you an advantage when there are multiple offers for a specific home. The fact that your loan has already been approved is of great value to the seller: because it shortens the purchase process and there is less of a chance that the buyer will back out of the sale.

Mortgage Payments-The costs involved in the purchase of a home can be overwhelming to first-time buyers. However, with the help of a real estate professional, you can calculate out how much they you be able to pay each month in mortgage payments, and from there, what prospective homes offer a feasible payment plan.

Down-Payment-The down-payment amount varies depending on the value of the home you choose and your mortgage lender. And in some cases, first-time home buyers can purchase a home with no money down. Although it varies from state to state, most offer government-funded programs for first-time buyers that help people buy a home with no down-payment. Your real estate professional will be able to explain the different options available to you.

Closing Costs-First-time buyers often forget to consider the closing costs when making an offer on a home. Paying closing fees of up to 10 percent of the home sale amount is not unusual. Add that to the down-payment and you’ll have quite a sum to raise before the final papers can be signed. However, a smart first-time buyer takes this into account before making an offer, and with some professional help, the costs can be estimated in advance.

Making offers-Don’t feel pressured into making an offer on the first home you see. This is a common mistake of many first-time homebuyers. Make sure you view different homes to get a feel for the marketplace. When you do decide on a home to make a bid on, work with your real estate professional to get all of your questions answered first before making an offer. But don’t wait too long to make an offer. The longer you wait, the greater the chance other prospective buyers may place offers, making it harder for you to negotiate a good deal.

Condition of the Home-Buying a “problem” home is another fear of first-timers. A home that needs major repairs can become a costly venture. And, unless the asking price is adjusted to reflect the hidden repairs needed, chances are the home is not worth as much as the seller is asking for it. To avoid unfortunate surprises, your real estate professional may advise you to hire a home inspector before making a serious offer. That way, you know what you are getting into.

Above all, remember that there are no silly questions. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with every aspect of the transaction. Your real estate professional can be an invaluable asset in helping you make educated decisions so that your first-home purchase is a rewarding experience.

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9 Deadly Mistakes Home Sellers Make

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Mistake #1.  Not knowing how to price your home to sell.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of selling a home is listing it at the correct price. It’s one of several areas where the assistance of a skilled real estate agent can more than pay for itself. Listing the home too high can be as bad as too low. If the listing price is too high, you’ll miss out on a percentage of buyers looking in the price range where your home should be. This is the flaw in thinking that you’ll always have the opportunity to accept a lower offer. Chances are the offers won’t even come in, because the buyers who would be most interested in your home have been scared off by the price and aren’t even taking the time to look.

By the time the price is corrected, you’ve already lost exposure to a large group of potential buyers. The listing price becomes even trickier to set when prices are quickly rising or falling. It’s critical to be aware of where and how fast the market is moving – both when setting the price and when negotiating an offer. Again, an experienced, well-trained agent is always in touch with market trends – often even to a greater extent than appraisers, who typically focus on what a property is worth if sold as-is, right now.

 

Mistake #2.  Using a part-time real estate agent instead of a Full-Time Realtor(R).

A part time agent is not going to be there to dedicate their full interest in selling your home. If you were in need of medical care, would you trust your body to a part-time doctor?  Your home is one of your greatest investments.  Don’t trust it to someone who isn’t working full time to market your home.

Mistake #3.  Minimal marketing exposure. 

When selling your home there are no guarantees that the ultimate buyer of your home will have simply walked through the front door. In many cases you may have to bring your home to the buyer.  Effective marketing will help ensure that your property receives maximum exposure to attract a ready, willing and able buyer in the shortest period of time. Ask your Realtor to list for you all of the ways he/she intends to market your home and on what time-line.

 

Mistake #4.  Not paying attention to “curb appeal”.

When you’re preparing your house for sale, remember the importance of first impressions. A buyer’s first impression can make or break whether they even want to go inside for a look. It is estimated that more than half of all houses are sold before the buyers even get out of their cars. With that in mind, be sure to stand outside of your home and take a realistic “fresh look” and then ask yourself what can be done to make the “curb appeal” improve. Also ask your Realtor’s opinion as to how to improve the curb appeal. It could make a huge difference in your final sales price.

 

Mistake #5.  Forgetting about health and safety issues.

Be upfront and disclose to your Realtor any problems with the property. The problems are going to be discovered anyway. A decade ago, health and safety issues were rarely a part of the typical real estate transaction. Today, however, it’s common for inspections relating to health, safety, and even environmental concerns to be a part of most sales contracts. Moreover, in many states, the seller must disclosure to the buyer any knowledge of existing property problems. In many cases, these issues have been or can be factored into the home’s listing price.

Mistake #6.  Forgetting to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes

Remember that although people can be different in personality, they tend to be the same when it comes to expectations at someone else’s expense. In other words, a prospective buyer would probably like to see a perfect home from top to bottom, inside and out, when it comes to your home. Try to do as many of the following items as possible to improve the likelihood of your home sale in an expedient way.

On the outside

o       Sweep front walkway.

o       Remove newspapers, bikes and toys.

o       Park extra cars away from the property.

o       Trim back the shrubs.

o       Apply fresh, clean paint throughout.

o       Clean windows and window coverings throughout.

o       Keep plumbing and all appliances in working order.

o       Maintain all sealant (window, tub, shower, sink, etc.) in good condition.

o       Make sure roof and gutters are clean and in good condition.

o       Mow the lawn frequently and plant flowers.

o       Keep pet areas clean.

On the inside

o       The kitchen and bathroom should shine.

o       Quick once-over with the vacuum; carpets should be clean.

o       Place fresh flowers in the main rooms.

o       Put dishes away, unless setting a formal display for decoration.

o       Make all beds and put all clothes away.

o       Open drapes and turn on lights for a brighter feel.

o       Straighten closets.

o       Put toys away.

o       Turn off television.

o       Play soft music on the radio/stereo.

o       Keep pets out of the way and pet areas clean and odor-free.

o       Secure jewelry, cash, prescription medication and other valuables.

o       Enhance the spaciousness of each room.

 

 

Mistake #7.  Thinking you need to be in the home to explain things to a prospective buyer.

You will be better served if you allow your Realtor to do their job without you there.  An experienced Realtor will know how to show your home, and point out the items that matter most to their buyers.  Most potential buyers usually feel more comfortable if they can speak freely to the real estate professional without the owners being present.  If people who are unaccompanied by an agent request to see your property, you should refer them to your real estate professional for an appointment.

Mistake #8.  Not planning your move early enough.

Many sellers simply don’t plan their move early enough and then feel totally overwhelmed at the time of moving out of the house. If you are able to move at any time of the year, don’t wait until summer, the peak-moving season. Consider also that the first and last few days of the month are extra busy. If you plan to sell your house, get it on the market as soon as possible. Keep a record of all expenses related to the move, some of which may be tax deductible.

Fill out the Personal Household Inventory for each room. This is important for establishing the amount of declared valuation for the shipment and as a permanent inventory for insurance purposes. List, as nearly as possible, the year of purchase and original cost of each item. Attach any invoices or records of purchase to the completed inventory.

Prepare a separate high-value inventory if the shipment will contain articles of “extraordinary” value. The following list includes items that might fall into this category:

o       Antiques

o       Art Collections

o       Cameras

o       China  Collections

o       Computer Equipment

o       Crystal

o       Figurines

o       Firearms

o       Jewelry

o       Manuscripts

o       Oriental Rugs

o       Silver

o       Stones Or Gems

o       Tapestries

o       TVs Or Stereos

 

Also, unless you have been given a binding moving estimate where a firm cost is established in advance, the exact cost of a move cannot be determined until after the shipment has been loaded on the van and weighed. The weight on which charges are based is calculated by weighing the van before and after loading. The total cost of the move will include transportation charges, any charges for declared valuation, plus charges for any extra services performed at your request. All of these charges are based on tariff rate schedules.

 

Mistake #9.  Using a “discount broker” to list your home.

When working with a real estate agent, it’s critical that you have full confidence in that agent’s experience and education.  A skilled, knowledgeable agent will be a great negotiator.  If an agent is willing to drop their fees, before they even begin marketing your home, how strong of a negotiator do you believe they will be when it’s time to stand strong for YOU and negotiate the best price possible for your home?

These agents also offer less of the commission split to a cooperating broker (the one that will most likely be bringing the buyer for your home), and if your home is offering less commission, it will most likely be placed on the bottom of the properties offered to their buyers (if it’s even included in the list at all).  Think about it this way – if you were going to be offered $3000 on one job, and $2000 on another, which job would YOU pick to work?

 

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8 Ways To Improve Your Credit

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1. Check for and correct errors in your credit report. Mistakes happen, and you could be paying for someone else’s poor financial management.
2. Pay down credit card bills. If possible, pay off the entire balance every month. However, transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.
3. Don’t charge your credit cards to the maximum limit.
4. Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage. You’re penalized less for problems after a year.
5. Don’t purchase big-ticket items for your new home on credit cards until after the loan is approved. The amounts will add to your debt, and this could affect your credit score, and/or debt-to-income ratio on your pending loan.
6. Don’t open new credit card accounts before applying for a mortgage. Having too much available credit can lower your score.
7. Shop for mortgage rates all at once. Too many credit applications can lower your score, but multiple inquiries from the same type of lender are counted as one inquiry if submitted over a short period of time.
8. Avoid finance companies. Even if you pay the loan on time, the interest is high and it will probably be considered a sign of poor credit management.

This information is copyrighted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is used with permission of the Fannie Mae Foundation. To obtain a complete copy of the publication, “Knowing and Understanding Your Credit,” visit http://www.homebuyingguide.org.

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8 Steps to Getting Your Finances in Order

Posted in Buying A Home | 0 comments

1.  Develop a Family Budget. Instead of budgeting what you’d like to spend, use receipts to create a budget for what you actually spent over the last six months. One advantage of this approach is that it factors in unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, illnesses, etc., as well as predictable costs such as rent.
2.  Reduce Your Debt. Generally speaking, lenders look for a total debt load of no more than 36 percent of income. Since this figure includes your mortgage, which typically ranges between 25 percent and 28 percent of income, you need to get the rest of installment debt—car loans, student loans, revolving balances on credit cards—down to between 8 percent and 10 percent of your total income.
3.  Get a Handle On Expenses. You probably know how much you spend on rent and utilities, but little expenses add up. Try writing down everything you spend for one month. You’ll probably see some great ways to save.
4.  Increase your income. It may be necessary to take on a second, part-time job to get your income at a high-enough level to qualify for the home you want.
5.  Save for a down payment. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage with only 5 percent down—or even less in some cases—you can usually get a better rate and a lower overall cost if you put down more. Shoot for saving a 20 percent down payment.
6.  Create a house fund. Don’t just plan on saving whatever’s left toward a down payment. Instead decide on a certain amount a month you want to save, then put it away as you pay your monthly bills.
7.  Keep your job. While you don’t need to be in the same job forever to qualify, having a job for less than two years may mean you have to pay a higher interest rate.  8.  Establish a good credit history. Get a credit card and make payments by the due date. Do the same for all your other bills. Pay off the entire balance promptly.
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8 Hints to Help Sell Your Home Fast

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By Jenny McCune • Bankrate.com

In a hurry to sell your house? Here are some ways to set a winning pace in the home-sale race.

1. Hire a top-notch sales agent - ”You need a good agent, an agent who knows your neighborhood” says Julie Greenwood, co-owner of Greenwood King Properties, a Houston real estate agency.

2. Price it right - The No. 1 thing that will sell a house quickly is price. “That’s the name of the game,” says Tom Innes, president of Re/Max Commonwealth in Richmond, Va. “If you price it right, it will sell. If you price it wrong, it won’t sell.” OK, so just how do you play the home-sale-version of “The Price is Right”? That crackerjack agent you hired should have a good sense of what price will help sell your home sooner rather than later. As the owner, you are probably not objective, so give your agent free rein, within reason, to set the price. The broker will look at the average days a home in your neighborhood is on the market, how your home compares to others in the area and its condition.

3. Create an adjustable sales plan - Come up with a sales strategy, but make sure it’s flexible. What’s your initial asking price? How long will you insist on it before making a reduction? How much of a cut will you accept? What about after that? Having a plan in place will help you react quickly, according to Greenwood, and will move your home that much more quickly.

4. Clear out the clutter – “Get the clutter out of it,” says Stephen Roulac, author of the forthcoming “360 Housing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” It will make your home more inviting to buyers. “After you thought you got out the clutter, take out more. Get it spare, open and fresh.”

5. Offer incentives - Incentives can help shorten the sales cycle, but be careful. Agents are divided on how much they help. ”I think it can be a fine line between wanting to sell a house quickly and having it look like it’s a fire sale,” Greenwood says. If prospective buyers get the idea that you’re desperate to sell, they will try to get you to accept a bargain-basement price.  Roulac, however, believes that adding premiums can help speed a house sale. A popular incentive offered purchasers is closing-cost help. You also can encourage your sales agent: Offer a higher commission for a speedy sale or give your broker show tickets, a meal at a fine restaurant or some other perk if the property moves quickly.

6. They buy houses, don’t they? – What about those “cash for homes” ads you see on matchbook covers, billboards and late-night TV? Agents say houses sold this way are heavily discounted. You will sell your property quickly, but it will go cheap, probably at a price that really won’t make you happy. “If it’s too good of an offer to be true, it is too good of an offer,” says Re/Max’s Innes.

7. Ask for company help – If you’re relocating because of a job change or company transfer, you may be eligible for home-sale help from your employer or a relocation company representing your employer. “Generally speaking, these buyouts are fair,” says Todd Thornton, a real estate instructor, consultant and author of “Home Buying Without the BS.”
“An appraiser would appraise the property and the buyout would be for the suggested fair market value less a sales fee,” he explains. “The company would then put the home on the market with a local real estate professional.” While that’s a great deal for the home sellers, Thornton notes that many companies are scaling back on their relocation packages, so it may not be an option.

8. Rent it – If time runs out and you’ve got to get out of Dodge without selling your home, consider renting it. Just be sure to strike a deal with the renters so your home will be available for showing. For example, if a home such as yours normally rents for $1,000 a month, offer a discount (say $750) in exchange for the renters making the house accessible for showings to potential buyers.  The downside of renting a house that you’re trying to sell is that its condition probably won’t be as pristine as you or buyers would like. One way around this problem, says Innes, is to rent with an option to buy. “Let people move in six months and pay rent and then close,” he says.

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7 Reasons to Own Your Own Home

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1. Tax breaks. The U.S. Tax Code lets you deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, property taxes you pay, and some of the costs involved in buying your home.
Gains.
2. Equity. Money paid for rent is money that you’ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity ownership interest in your home.
3. Savings. Building equity in your home is a ready-made savings plan. And when you sell, you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.
4. Predictability. Unlike rent, your mortgage payments don’t go up over the years so your housing costs may actually decline as you own the home longer. However, keep in mind that property taxes and insurance costs will rise.
5. Freedom. The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and be able to benefit from your investment for as long as you own the home.
Stability. Remaining in one neighborhood for several years gives you a chance to participate in community activities, lets you and your family establish lasting friendships, and offers your children the benefit of educational continuity.

To calculate whether renting or buying is the best financial option for you, use this calculator courtesy of Ginnie Mae: http://www.ginniemae.gov/rent_vs_buy/rent_vs_buy_calc.asp?Section=YPTH
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5 Reasons You Need a REALTOR®

Posted in Buying A Home, Selling Your Home | 0 comments

  1. A real estate transaction is complicated. In most cases, buying or selling a home requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multi-page government-mandated settlement statements. A knowledgeable guide through this complexity can help you avoid delays or costly mistakes.
  2. Selling or buying a home is time consuming. Even in a strong market, homes in our area stay on the market for an average of 150 days. And it usually takes another 45 days or so for the transaction to close after an offer is accepted.
  3. Real estate has its own language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with someone who speaks that language.
  4. REALTORS® have done it before. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. And even if you’ve done it before, laws and regulations change. That’s why having an expert on your side is critical.
  5. REALTORS® provide objectivity. Since a home often symbolizes family, rest, and security, not just four walls and roof, homeselling or buying is often a very emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you keep focused on both the business and emotional issues most important to you.
REALTORS®are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, a trade organization of more than 1 million members nationwide. REALTORS® subscribe to a stringent code of ethics that helps guarantee the highest level of service and integrity
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