CENTURY 21 Atwood of Fergus Falls Resources

Tips and Information for Buyers

In our experience, we have found that an educated and informed client is a satisfied client. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a veteran purchaser, we are confident you will benefit from the following tips and information:


Information to Keep in Mind Before Buying a Home:

  • Get Pre-Approved, not just Pre-Qualified. In order to ensure that you are in the strongest negotiating position possible, get a written loan approval letter from your lender. Pre-qualification letters are worthless and only mean you spent a few minutes on the phone with a lender who asked you a few questions and then issued a pre-qualification letter. This pre-qualification letter is the equivalent of a CONDITIONAL loan approval, but sellers and their agents want an UNCONDITIONAL loan approval. The problem with pre-qualification letters is that none of the information has been verified and undisclosed problems usually surface which affect the loan amount (sometimes dramatically). Undisclosed problems may include recorded judgments, child support payments, inaccuracies on the credit report, and funds for the down payment that are borrowed or have not been in the bank account long enough. Pre-Approval letters mean that the potential borrower is approved for the loan based on a careful check and full verification of the information provided to the lender. Therefore, the only way to make a strong offer is to get pre-approved.
  • Don't Use Any Credit. After you have been pre-approved for a loan, don't use any current credit or apply for new credit. New purchases and loans should be postponed until after your home closes. Otherwise, you may alter your credit score and ratios in a manner that significantly affects your ability to qualify for your loan. Remember, the lender checks your credit report a few days before close of escrow to make sure you haven't taken on any additional debt and liabilities. Lenders even look at how many credit checks you have had and more than two is usually trouble. This means you shouldn't sign a contract for a new cell phone or accept offers to increase existing credit lines.
  • If Possible, Sell Your Current Home Before You Buy a New Home. If you need to sell your current home to afford a new home, try to do it first because contingency offers don't always work out. One of the worst scenarios in residential real estate is watching a buyer find and secure their dream home and then have it slip away because they couldn't sell their current home. In addition, buying before selling might put you in a desperate situation and end up costing you thousands of dollars. Most likely, any seller who accepts a contingency offer will want full price and, since you need to sell your home in a hurry, you will probably accept far less than you normally would just to be able to keep your purchase alive and on schedule.


Why you should hire a Buyers Agent to represent you:

Both buyers and sellers should be represented in a real estate transaction. However, years ago, traditional real estate assumed that all brokers involved in real estate transactions were agents of the seller of the property and, therefore, acted in the best interests of the seller. In recent years, buyers have been given the option of hiring their own representation, a Buyer's Agent. A Buyer's Agent will help the buyer find the appropriate property, determine its correct value, assist with applicable financing terms and advise the buyer during negotiations. Legally, a Buyer's Agent must act solely on behalf of their client and owes that client a full range of professional services. These legal obligations are known as "fiduciary duties" and include full disclosure, undivided loyalty, accountability, reasonable care, lawful obedience and strict confidentiality.

The difference between a listing agent (who only represents the seller) and a Buyer's Agent (who only represents the buyer) is that the buyer is merely a "customer" to the listing agent. As a customer, the buyer is without representation because the listing agent handling the transaction is employed by the seller and is obligated to get the highest price and best terms for their client. Although the listing agent must, at all times, be honest and disclose all material facts about the property to the buyer, the listing agent is always working in the seller's best interests. A buyer becomes a client when a Buyer's Agent is hired as an advocate. Only a Buyer's Agent can legally negotiate on a buyer's behalf.


How to select a Buyers' Agent:

As in any other profession, the quality of real estate agents varies dramatically. To find a great Buyer's Agent to represent you, insist on the following traits and qualifications:

  • Excellent Reputation and References
  • Direct Affiliation With a Well-Established and Prominent Brokerage Firm
  • Experienced in All Facets of Real Estate
  • Extensive Knowledge About the Area
  • Access to the Latest Technology and Equipment
  • Full-Time Agent (you deserve full attention, don't hire a "part-timer") and Employed by a Full-Service Firm
  • A Real Estate Agent Who is an Actual REALTOR® [A Member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) andthe Minnesota Association of REALTORS® (MAR)]
  • A Member of At Least One Local Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
  • A Recipient of Additional Credentials Indicating Higher Levels of Education and Professional Skill

Questions for a prospective Buyer's Agent should include:

  • How many buyers have you assisted in the last 12 months? A good Buyer's Agent will be able to provide you with the addresses and selling prices of their most recent transactions. They should also share written testimonials and/or quality surveys from previous clients. The same question should also be asked with regard to the Employing Brokerage Firm.
  • Who are some past clients I can call as references for you? If you are considering the Buyer's Agent, call the references.
  • Can you provide guidance for financing my purchase? A good Buyer's Agent will be able to tell you about current mortgage rates, mortgage loan programs, insurance requirements and any recent changes in tax laws. In addition, a seasoned Buyer's Agent should be able to provide you with names and contact information for Reputable Lendersin the area.
  • Are you a REALTOR®? A good Buyer's Agent is also a REALTOR®.
  • How do you stay current on new listings and those that return to the market (the closing fell through)? A good Buyer's Agent (AND Brokerage Firm) will belong to at least one MLS and will be familiar enough with the area to know about new for-sale-by-owner listings. In addition, many homes are sold even before the sign is installed in the yard because a good Buyer's Agent has access to "real time" information in MLS.
  • Is real estate a full-time job for you? A good Buyer's Agent works "more than full-time" for clients in order to exceed their expectations. If your agent is also working as a cashier or attending school, will they (and YOU) miss your dream home when it enters the market?
  • Do you utilize the latest technology and tools in your business?A good Buyer's Agent invests in the latest technological advances in a continuing effort to provide exceptional service to clients. In fact, up-to-date technology and tools enable a good Buyer's Agent to work "more than full-time" for clients.
  • How will you communicate with me regarding the status of my search and subsequent transaction? A good Buyer's Agent (AND Brokerage Firm) will utilize transactional software that allows a client to check on the status of their search and subsequent purchase, at the client's convenience, 24 hours a day/7 days a week. (CENTURY 21® Vista uses Transactional Software for ALL transactions)

Once you have decided on a Buyer's Agent, commit your agreement to writing, and then play fair by not signing up additional agents to assist you.


What CENTURY 21 Atwood can offer a buyer:

  • Complete Service - no transaction is too large or too small.
  • Local large staff of proven professionals with years of experience.
  • Initial consultation and detailed discussion of your wants and needs.
  • Step-by-Step discussion on the home-buying process.
  • Information and statistics for communities and schools.
  • Access to each and every home that meets your criteria in the area and price range specified.
  • Constant updates on market conditions and prices.
  • Careful, and accurate, market value estimate for the property before you write an offer.
  • Assistance in determining the best way to purchase your desired property, either for cash, cash equity, financing, assumption or on contract.
  • Thorough knowledge of financing...FHA, VA, Conventional and Private Loans.
  • Discussion on how to present an attractive offer.
  • Protection of your interests within the contract
  • Effective negotiating techniques ensuring you get the best price and terms possible.
  • Home Protection Plan for buyers.
  • Assistance with post-contract home inspections, repairs and walk-through inspection
  • Description of your probable closing expenses.
  • Comprehensive explanation of how we will handle all of the details of the close of escrow.
  • Services of an In-House Closing Agent.
  • Attend the closing with you.
  • Assist you with any real estate-related challenges after the transaction is finalized.

CENTURY 21 Atwood Buyer Service Pledge:

As an independently owned and operated CENTURY 21®System office, we are dedicated to providing you with service that is professional, courteous and responsive in helping you find the right property. To fulfill this commitment, we agree to provide you with the following services:

  1. Dedicate myself to making the process of buying your next home as easy and as successful as possible.
  2. Respect you, your needs and be honest and forthright.
  3. Hold your best interests in the highest regard throughout the process.
  4. Value and respect your time, being as efficient and effective as possible.
  5. Understand your needs and respond quickly.
  6. Consult with you to determine your particular real estate wants and needs.
  7. Use my base of experience, knowledge, tools and the most up-to-date training to best serve you.
  8. Explain each step of the process and act as a guide to help you make most informed decisions.
  9. Disclose material facts known about the property and respond to questions concerning the property.
  10. Help determine your purchasing power, while explaining alternative methods of purchasing and/or financing.
  11. Provide an action plan for locating the right property, at the right price and terms, in an acceptable time frame.
  12. To the best of my ability, continuously show you new properties that fit your needs.
  13. Provide a Customized Home Search Plan for locating the right property for you, only showing you properties that will best meet your needs and in accordance with Fair Housing regulations and ethical real estate practices.
  14. Use the most comprehensive database of listings in the area, to help you find the home that best meets your needs, whether that be the Multiple Listing Service and/or other methods.
  15. Provide the resources of Century21.com that offers thousands of listings, allowing you to easily review homes that are right for you, access in-depth information on neighborhoods, and additional information.*
  16. Use my knowledge and expertise to promote the most valuable purchase on your behalf. I will assist you in evaluating the market value of properties that are of interest to you and help you obtain the most advantageous price and terms.
  17. Provide access to financing that meets your needs, at the lowest possible rates available to you.
  18. Advise and assist you in completing your purchase agreement, and present your offer with integrity in a light most favorable to your needs.
  19. Upon acceptance of an offer by you, pre-settlement (escrow) activities throughout the closing process will be monitored as permitted by law or local practice.
  20. Offer to provide you with information regarding other professionals (e.g. attorneys, accountants, inspectors, contractors) that may assist you during and after your move.
  21. Utilize the CENTURY 21 System of thousands of offices to provide you with the name of an office in the area of your new home, to assist you further.

"NOTICE: As a prospective purchaser of real estate, you should be aware that cooperating ("selling") brokers and sales associates can work for you as your agent, in which case they represent you and owe you the fiduciary duties of loyalty, confidentiality, disclosure, diligence and care; or with you as a subagent (unless prohibited by law) of the listing broker, in which case they represent the seller, and the fiduciary duties are owed to the seller; or with you as facilitators (as permitted by law) representing neither party to the transaction; or in such other brokerage relationship as may be permitted by law. In any case, as real estate licensees, we are at all times obligated to treat you honestly and fairly, and inform you of our particular representation status. In any event we do not represent (work for) you in the transaction, should you feel it necessary or desirable, you can obtain representation from a lawyer or another real estate broker or both."
© 2004 Century 21 Real Estate LLC. An Equal Opportunity Company. Equal Housing Opportunity. ® licensed trademark to Century 21 Real Estate LLC. Each Office Independently Owned and Operated. *2002 Web Trends Site Metrics Report.

Reasons to purchase a home protection plan:

You buy a homeowner's insurance policy to protect your investment against storms, fire and theft.

A Home Protection Plan is basically an insurance policy for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing parts and systems of a property, since no one can tell how long a furnace, air conditioner, water heater or appliance will last...particularly as they get older. The CENTURY 21® Home Protection Plan will cover the cost for repairs to or replacement of any covered mechanical system or major built-in appliance for one-year following close of escrow on your home. If a covered item should breakdown due to normal wear and tear, you simply call the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Care Line and arrange for repair service. All you have to pay is one low deductible fee per service call.

Some key facts to be aware of include:

  • The CENTURY 21® Home Protection Plan does not cover everything and is only intended to provide protection for covered breakdowns. Certain exclusions and limitations apply. Be sure to carefully read the entire Terms and Conditions and, in particular, sections E) Exclusions and F) Limitations of Liability.
  • A Home Protection Plan does not replace the need for a home inspection - pre-existing defects, improper installation or building code violations are not covered.
  • If you have a claim, you must receive an authorization based on an estimate of cost prior to any work being performed or your claim will not be paid. Be sure to call prior to the start of any repairs or replacement.
  • You are not required to purchase the CENTURY 21® Home Protection Plan to obtain financing or for any other reason; purchase is strictly voluntary.


The added benefit of CENTURY 21 Atwood closing services:

CENTURY 21 Atwood of Fergus Falls is pleased to offer, to all of our clients, the services of a full-time, in-house Closing Specialist. Our Closing Specialist is responsible for coordinating all aspects of closing involving the seller, buyer, other agents, attorneys, lender, lender's closing agent, appraiser, surveyors and inspectors.

  • Open new transaction accountand keep it current throughout escrow period.
  • Have abstract brought up-to-date.
  • Arrange for buyer's title opinion or title insurance.
  • Coordinate and assist with clearing title objections.
  • Provide documents to lender.
  • Arrange for an inspection.
  • Arrange for survey, if needed.
  • Arrange for (or take) water test.
  • Arrange for appraisal.
  • Plan for and set date for closing.
  • Review documents in advance of closing.
  • Prepare closing statements and submit to buyer and seller.
  • Arrange for final inspection, if required.
  • Review documents with attorney, lender and closing agent.
  • Represent client at closing.
  • Execute documents with notary.
  • Record documents.
  • Distribute copies to buyer and seller.
  • Disburse funds and pay expenses.
  • Arrange for utility changes.
  • Negotiate any final issues at closing.
  • Finalize moving details and possession issues.
  • Provide amortization schedules.
  • Provide packet of all executed documents to client.
Post Closing
  • Set up closed file.
  • Process 1099 for tax purposes.
  • Follow-up and negotiate unforeseen problems.


Invest in a vacation property:

According to a study conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®, there were a record 2.82 million vacation home purchases last year, up 16% from the year before. The study showed that it's not just the wealthy purchasing vacation homes; the typical buyer earns $71,000 and buys a home worth slightly less than $200,000.

Perhaps more than any other property type, vacation homes offer the potential for considerable price appreciation over the long term. Benefits of vacation property ownership include tax deductions, capital gains exclusions and a retirement option. In addition, owning a vacation home, especially if it is within driving distance, will save you on vacation travel and accommodations. Think about how much you spend on airfare, hotels, rental cars, meals, etc. Not only can you redirect those funds into a leveraged investment, you have guaranteed availability for last-minute getaways.

In determining where to buy, look for developers and large developments emerging in an area. Developers perform more due diligence than any single buyer could ever dream of doing, and they invest thousands of dollars into researching the market, tourism, growth and inventory. If a developer has made the decision to proceed, you should feel comfortable doing the same.

It is also a good idea to look for major employers in the area so, if you decide to turn your vacation home into a rental property, you have access to a pool of prospective tenants.

The REALTORS® at CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. are Specialists in Vacation Property. Please allow us an interview before you make your final decision on an agent.

Looking for more information about Fergus Falls or Fargo-Moorhead Real Estate?

Please contact CENTURY 21 Atwood of Fergus Falls online or call us at 218-739-3281 (Toll Free: 1-800-777-7605) for a free consultation.