Frequently Asked Questions




I am ready to buy a home, but I’m not sure what I should do to start the process. What do you suggest?


You should contact us first if you’re not sure where to start or who to talk to, if you are buying, selling or looking to refinance. With our real estate and finance background we have developed a consulting and referral program to assist our clients.


Next, create is a wish list that of what kind of home you want to suit your needs, including desirable locations, price range and what would be a comfortable monthly payment (the better the financing the more purchase power you have). Decide what is important to you and for your quality of living.


Prepare a financial goal and budget plan. So often, people get sucked into overbuying or over-financing and find themselves in a financial mess, ruining their credit. Beware of predatory lending. Find out if you qualify for special programs offered by your city, such as down payment assistance or affordable home programs. Find out what community programs are out there that the local banks are offering. Many people who do qualify miss out because they are not well informed.


Are you really ready to buy a home? Ask yourself at this time if you are capable of saving money. Weather you have credit problems or not, you may still qualify for a loan but that doesn’t mean you are really ready. There are specialists out there who will really spell it out for you, best case and worst. After you’re well informed and well advised, then it’s up to you to make the decision. Beware of “too good to be true” investments. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We teach our children that there is no such thing as a stupid question: Don’t be afraid to practice what you preach. If the person assisting you gets upset because you are asking tot many questions, than I suggest you find a new person to work with.



Should I have pre-approval from a lender before I start looking?


The law doesn’t state you have to have one, but it’s a good idea to get a pre-approval. The worst thing for you to do is find a home you really love only to find out you can’t get the loan you need. When working with a realtor, part of the process is to get pre-approved before they start showing you homes. When signing an offer to purchase a property, having a pre-approval will increase your chances of getting your offer accepted over the person who placed an offer with no pre-approval.


Getting pre-approved will allow you to know how much purchase power you have. The better your credit, the lower your rate and closing cost, allowing you to buy more. If you borrow $80,000 to buy a home, the cost of that $80,000 depends on the type of loan you get. Be prepared to interview banks and brokers for preliminary rate and term information. Look into FHA products. Be sure the lender or broker you work with is FHA-approved.


Know your credit rating up front, before you go shopping for a loan and lenders start checking your credit. Having your credit pulled too many times can bring down your credit scoring, which may have a negative affect on your borrowing ability. Make sure you let lenders know you don’t want your credit pulled until you settle on a lender to work with. BEWARE: Your name, address and birth date provide enough information for someone to pull your credit; they will have your social security number without you ever giving it. By asking the right questions, you can narrow down your choice of lenders and settle on the one that is best for you and your needs.



Should I get a real estate agent to assist in finding a home?


Real Estate agents have access to a multiple listing service. Along with your wish list they can help you find the house that is right for you. A Real Estate agent can do a lot of the footwork, saving you time and energy. If you find a for “Sale By Owner” house you are interested in and would like the extra security of having an agent handle the paperwork and assist you in the buying process, your agent can try to negotiate a split fee with the owner and still represent you with that transaction. 


It doesn’t cost a Buyer to have an agent represent them. The seller, through their contract, pays the broker fee with the Real Estate Company. Do keep in mind, some Real Estate Brokers charge buyers a small administration fee, which is added into your closing cost. Have your agent also ask if you can receive a Home Warranty if one is not already being offered. This warranty covers some mechanical components and appliances that standard insurance may not cover. Who pays for it is negotiable. Some homes that are listed include this warranty with the sales price. A warranty can mean added security, depending on the age and condition of the home.






I want to sell my home. What is the best approach?


You need to decide if you want to try your hand at selling your property on your own, or find an agent to list your home.  However you choose to do it, we can help through our Consulting and Referral program.  Prior to listing your home with an Agent or selling as a "For Sale by Owner" property, you should create a checklist. This list should include repairs that need to be done for the interior and exterior. Focus on your Kitchen and Bathroom for many of the updates. Will your house qualify as a FHA sale? The FHA has their own checklist of requirements concerning the condition of a home before financing a buyer for that particular property.  


What are the city requirements for sale of your home?  Does your city have a point of sale inspection that is required prior to transfer of title?  What’s a reasonable asking price for your home?  Real Estate agents handle all the details and help you prepare an asking price for your home. They also handle finding the buyer and all contract paperwork.  It is however important to find the right Real Estate agent for your needs.  Don’t be afraid to interview them prior to signing an exclusive right to sale, and remember everything is negotiable. 


If you choose to sell your home yourself, some Real Estate agents offer individual services to meet your needs.  Perhaps you would like help setting a price.  Ask your agent for a BPO.  This is a Brokers opinion on what they feel is a fair market value for your home.  The cost can range from $50-$75.00.  Your BPO should be in written form along with tax and legal assessments of your property.  This is a helpful tool when it comes to the presentation of your home.


If you decide to use an agent, beware of hidden costs or administration fees.  Know how the agent plans to market your home. Will the agent be doing open houses, How many?  What kind of advertising, where and how often?  Will it be sufficient?  Prior to deciding if you are going to represent yourself as "For Sale by Owner" or get an agent, find out what the average turnaround time is to sell a home in your community.  If homes are selling like hot cakes, you might want to consider selling your home on your own if you’re comfortable with it, or at least negotiate the commission paid out to the Agent. 


You should take the time to weigh out the pros and cons of doing a “For Sale by Owner” or listing with an agent.  Some people are too busy even though they are perfectly capable of selling their own home.  What ever you decide, we have a referral list divided by area and specialty for agents that you may review.  If you choose a “For Sale by Owner” option, we have informational packets available and we can assist you with Marketing Tips.



Can I sell my home “as is”?


Most contracts have an “as is” clause written right in them. In most cases, you are required to transfer a home with a clear title. Some liens, such as a mortgage loan placed on a property, can be assigned (taken over by the new owner); this depends on the lien holder and their requirements, and is not often done. As the owner you are required, if owner occupied or unoccupied for less than 5 years, to fill out a property disclosure form. If you fail to disclose past or present problems with the property and the new owner has unforeseen costs or issues due to your failure to disclose, you could be held legally accountable. Please consult a real estate attorney on this matter.


Even if you fix or negotiate the price of your home in lieu repairs, your contract should still state “as is.” You may attach an addendum to the contract spelling out your agreement with the buyer. Know your local point of sale or disclosure requirements prior to setting a sale price or completing a contract. If you agree to assign city violations and/or repairs, make sure the city will OK it and/or the lender will approve it. In many cases 1.5 times the curative cost will be required to be held in escrow by the city or lender. Make sure the buyer has estimates available and is aware of this up front in order to save both the buyer and seller unforeseen issues prior to transfer.



When is the best time to sell?


The economy the local housing market normally dictate the best time to sell, but the rule of thumb is to sell in the spring. This is because many people who have children and are looking to purchase a home like to have everything finalized before the new school year starts. People are looking to buy and sell all year long, but the market slows down during the holidays and winter months. Mortgage loan rates and the overall economy also dictate the increase or slow down in sales.





Closing costs: Who pays for what?


Buyer and seller cost is always negotiable. Who pays for what will also depend on the type of loan for which the buyer has applied, for example, FHA, VA, conventional or cash. Some contracts are negotiated so that the seller pays up to 3% to 6% of the purchase price toward the buyer’s closing cost; this is a seller’s concession. A seller’s concession helps the buyer when they don’t have enough funds to bring to the table for closing, or is part of the contract negotiation to purchase. Standard closing cost includes but is not limited to the escrow fee, split between buyer and seller ($250 to $300 per side), and owner’s title insurance, split between buyer and seller. Buyer’s fees may include a recording fee, commitment to insure, lender fees, filing fees and lender policy. Seller fees may include mortgage payoff, tax/rent proration, title exam and transfers tax. Types of fees and amounts depend on the sale price, county and type of loan. Title insurance, government and county fees are some of the regulated fees you will find in connection with a closing. A title company and or lender may not collect more or adjust regulated fees. Be prepared to price out your service fees, and be sure you’re not being over-sold for a product you don’t need. These fees may vary from company to company. When you are shopping for real estate services, always look for quality and price. Beware of costs that are too good to be true: Don’t forget you get what you pay for.



How do I know if I am paying too much?


The same way you would if you were shopping at the store: by comparing product and cost. Mix and match the services you need. Many places offer all services under one roof. This is called a “one-stop shop.” In reality, there really isn’t any such thing as one-stop shop. What this means is the place offering this service can save you the time of running around to find a real estate agent, lender, title company and all the other required services needed to complete your transaction. In some cases these services come to you in one central location; they have offices all across town. Most real estate service providers offer “we come to you, service” anyway. One-stop shops do not always mean quality service at reasonable cost.


In some cases, these services are done by networking the services together. In other cases these services are done through affiliated business arrangements. These arrangements must be disclosed at or before the time that the referral is made, before they can provide you with any services and you must be advised that you have the right to choose your own or continue with services provided by the affiliated business. If you do use their service providers, be sure to question your costs. Are you saving money by utilizing this service or are you being charged $200 to $300 or more, due to it being an affiliated arrangement?


Affiliated business doesn’t always mean better or more convenient service to the consumer. EXAMPLE: Acme Realtor or Whatever Lender buys into or creates a co-owned title company calling it Real Title. You pay Acme Realtor, X amount for the service provided to you. You pay Real Title X amount for the service they provided, and the lender X amount for the services they provided. Realty Title cuts back a share to Acme Realtor or Whatever Lender. Now Acme Realtor or Whatever Lender, or even both, got paid for services they themselves did not provide to you – once for their service, and once for sending the business to the title agency they made an affiliated business arrangement with. In some cases, combining services might save you money because the company is passing the savings on to the consumer, you. In other cases the consumer ends up paying extra, because Real Title had to pay a percentage of profit to Acme Realtor and/or Whatever Lender. This has become a widespread practice in the real estate industry. The best way to protect yourself from overpaying is to ask who the parent companies of the affiliated business arrangements are and check out their standard cost for getting services directly from them. A parent company may charge a standard $250 for escrow services provided. If the business is filtered to the affiliated business of that company, they may charge $350 for the same service to cover added overhead, such as the payout to partnered business, and you, the consumer, picks up the tab.


You have the right to choose your own lender, realtor and title agency. Be comfortable with your picks and don’t get bullied. If you have been forced to use certain companies in the past but were not made aware of the affiliated business arrangement up front, and feel you were over-charged under these services, you may want to seek the advice of legal council. Look for local housing advocate groups to help you.







What is title insurance? Why do we need it?  


It is a one-time premium policy that covers risks that are present in all real estate transactions. When a title agency performs an exam/abstract search of the property, it is simply searching public records; substantial defects may not be discovered.


So, what does Title insurance protect you against?


Mistakes in recording of legal documents, (this happens a lot)
Forged deeds, releases or wills (has been known to happen)
Undisclosed or missing heirs, including spouses
Claims of service not completed in prior foreclosures
Deeds by minors
Deeds executed under invalid or expired POAs
Liens for unpaid taxes, assessments, judgment liens


When you buy, sell or refinance a home, do you have an option if you don’t want the insurance?


When obtaining a mortgage, the property for which you are receiving the mortgage is pledged as security for the loan. In other words, if you don’t pay back the mortgage according to the terms, the lender can foreclose on your home and force a sheriff’s sale to get back the money you borrowed. The lender requires assurance that the title to the property is clear. This is done through a loan policy and is normally a condition of the loan approval.

The owner’s policy protects the buyer against loss or damages due to title defects. This is negotiable and not required, but for a nominal fee when issued at the same time as a loan policy, the buyer is not left exposed to losses. The policy serves as a written guarantee that the underwriter will undertake, at his own expense, the defense of your title in all legal actions or proceedings alleging the title is anything but insured.


Other coverage includes Closing Protection Coverage (CPL or CPC), which is almost always required by the lender and offered to the buyer and seller. This is standalone coverage to protect all funds in an agent’s escrow account being held for your transaction. The state of Ohio Department of Insurance requires that all agents offer this coverage. The buyer and seller always pay for it. This must be offered, even on cash transactions being handled by an agent.


What if I am doing a cash transaction and not requiring any title insurance, just basic escrow services?


Anyone offering “escrow only” services should be separately bonded and insured against loss. Title agents handling escrow only are now required in the state of Ohio to carry a bond that covers the loss of funds during a transaction they are handling for you. It is OK to ask for proof before you place your money in their escrow account.