CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc.
"CENTURY 21:  The Gold Standard Team" in Minnesota Real Estate

Tips and Information for Sellers

We've put this page together as a resource for sellers. You'll find advice about preparing your home for showings, marketing your home, title insurance and many other aspects of the process. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEN TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL SALE:

  1. Select Your Agent Carefully - The foundation of a successful sale is selecting a qualified Agent. Since our Agents sell real estate for a living, they can provide an invaluable service in all of the following steps.
  2. Property Inspection - Inspect your property with our Agent and make notes about necessary repairs. For your convenience, please refer to this valuable information on home inspections.
  3. Top-Priority Repairs- Make all top-priority repairs, especially any related to safety issues.
  4. Curb Appeal- Take steps to maximize the curb appeal of the property (the first impression of the house as seen from the street). Listen to and consider our Agent's advice.
  5. Cleaning- Consider having a yard sale or donating any unwanted items. This is also a good time to get a jump-start on packing, taking care to stack boxes neatly out of the way in the garage or in a shed. Thoroughly clean the house and manicure the landscaping.
  6. Cosmetic Upgrades and Repairs - Not all upgrades will increase the sales price "dollar for dollar." Consult with our Agent to discuss which upgrades would maximize your sales price. CLICK HERE for a FREE copy of REALTOR Magazine's 2006 Cost vs. Value Report.
  7. Establishing the Sales Price- Our Agent can perform a market study of other properties in the area that have recently sold (you will also receive useful information regarding properties that did not sell). By referring to comparable sales, our Agent will assist you in setting a realistic sales price. In today's market, one of the most important factors in selling your property is pricing. We recognize that it is sometimes difficult for sellers to understand that the market establishes real estate values, but it is a fact. Ironically, overpricing often has the effect of actually de-valuing your property, so that when your property finally does sell, it generally sells for even less than fair market value.
  8. Marketing Plan - Our Agent will devise a thorough and broad-based marketing plan for your property. This may include flyers/brochures, virtual tours, prominent placement on our many websites, open houses, advertising, MLS listings or other appropriate efforts. Remember, you are partnering with the largest and most recognized brokerage firm in the world - We are FIRST in consumers' minds and we bring that power to you. See for Yourself...We also have a full-time Business Manager on staff, working constantly to promote your property.
  9. Negotiating Offers- Consider and discuss all offers with your Agent, paying special attention to the contingencies. Negotiation is an art, and our Agents have experience and expertise in this area. Always remember to disclose, to the fullest extent, all relevant issues related to your property.
  10. Closing - Be attentive to the requests of your closing team. For your convenience, CENTURY 21® Vista has an In-House Closing Professional and 24/7 availability to allow you to check the status of your transaction, at your convenience ("My Transaction").

 

DO YOU REALLY SAVE BY SELLING YOUR OWN PROPERTY?:

If you think you might want to try selling your house yourself, take a moment to look realistically at what's involved. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I afford the time it could take to sell my house with only a sign in the yard and an ad in the local paper? Research shows that 50% of buyers hear about a house through an agent, not an advertisement. Without access to those buyers, a sale could take much longer.
  • Am I able to stay at home to take calls and conduct showings? Do I know how to screen inquiries so as not to waste precious time showing my house to unqualified buyers?
  • Do I know what to do before putting a house on the market (disclosure laws or local inspection regulations)? Will I know what to do when someone tells me that they want to buy my house? Do I have the necessary legal and financial knowledge to answer buyers' questions, negotiate a contract and close a sale?
  • Are you sure you are pricing the property in line with today's market?
  • Can you "follow up" on the prospects without seeming anxious?
  • Who will make the best loan on your type of home, in your location, at this time?
  • Can you eliminate the "lookers" and the unqualified?
  • How can you avoid the natural sensitivity one feels in dealing face-to-face that sometimes results in antagonism?
  • Can you arrange special financing for a "good buyer" when they are a little short?
  • How do you show a house...since you have been living there and know all of its faults? Are you the person to show it to its best advantage and in its best light?
  • When advertising, what size of ad should you place? Should you state the price and the address? How should the description read?
  • Should you sit by the phone and keep the house ready at all times because you never know when a Buyer will appear?
  • What facts do you have to substantiate your claims as to value?
  • How much actual sales exposure can you obtain with one house and one sign and one ad and one salesperson (yourself)?
  • Will your sale be the result of chance or luck...or the result of intelligent, planned effort whereby the whole market is reached and given the opportunity to make an offer on your home?
  • All commitments should be in writing. Are you able to do this?
  • Who will handle the abstracting, liaison between attorneys, correct the abstract, prepare conveyance papers, pay taxes, assessments, and mortgages, prepare statements for future income tax reference, handle earnest money disbursements?
  • Most homebuyers prefer to work with a Real Estate Agent. Serious prospects are pre-qualified as to their affordable price range before they are shown through your home.

 

SELECTING THE RIGHT AGENT:

  • Talk with friends, neighbors and co-workers who recently sold or purchased real estate in your area. Whom did they work with, and were they happy? Would they use this agent or company again?
  • Go to open houses in your area and observe the listing agents. Do you like the way they are marketing the house? How knowledgeable are they about the house, the surrounding community and the market? Are you comfortable with the answers they have to your questions? Are you impressed with their professionalism (including their work attire)?
  • Take note of SOLD signs in your area. This is a SURE indication of an active, successful agent and brokerage firm.
  • Interview at least three agents. Try to find out as much about each as possible. Because you will be working closely together, you want to be absolutely certain that you are comfortable with your agent's style of doing business. Here are some important questions to ask:
    • What are your qualifications, experience and education?
    • How long have you been selling real estate? How long in this area? Please provide the same answers for your brokerage firm.
    • What is your track record? How many houses have you sold in the last three months? Will you supply three references from these recent sales?
    • Do you work for the oldest, largest and most successful brokerage firm in the area?
    • What services can you offer me that I can't get elsewhere?
    • Do you include Virtual Tours as part of your marketing? Where can I view one?
    • On how many Internet sites will my property be found after I list with you?
    • Do you provide In-house Closing Services? Is the service provided by a full-time Closing Specialist? Will I have access 24/7 to my transaction?
    • How will you find buyers for my house? May I see a marketing proposal? Are you connected to a relocation network? (Access to out-of-town buyers and corporate transferees substantially increases the pool of potential buyers.)
    • What additional services can I expect from your parent company?
    • Tell me about your office and support staff.
    • May I see a copy of your company's Seller Service Pledge?
    • What if I am not satisfied with your service?

Again, interview three agents. After the important questions have been asked and answered, we are confident you will hire one of our Agents.

 

WHAT CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc.  CAN OFFER A SELLER:

  • Local large staff of proven professionals with years of sales experience.
  • Careful and accurate market value estimates of the value of your property, with constant updates on market conditions and prices.
  • Assistance in determining the best way to market and sell your property, either for cash, cash equity, financing, assumption or on contract.
  • Thorough knowledge of financing...FHA, VA, Conventional and Private Loans.
  • Planned, effective advertising including internet placement, virtual tours and proper signage.
  • Suggestions on the appearance and staging of your home. Advice on preparations in your home that may be necessary to obtain the highest price possible for your home.
  • Discussion on how to deal with an early offer.
  • Explanation of the importance of listing for a sufficient length of time and the relationship of price and market conditions regarding exposure of time (stale or stigmatized properties).
  • Reliability...most buyers will not make the largest purchase of their lives without the advice of a professional and experienced Real Estate Agent.
  • Pre-selected buyers in order to find the most qualified for your property.
  • Help for the buyer who might not otherwise purchase your home, because of financing, by making finance services available to the buyer. Not everyone understands the process of qualifying for a mortgage loan, or the advantage of conventional, FHA, VA or private loans and other types of financing, such as contract, assumption, private money mortgages, etc. Very often, this is the key to selling your property.
  • Explain your probable sales expenses, including any penalties, back taxes or assessments that may be due.
  • Home Protection Plan for Sellers. (will link to "CENTURY 21® Home Protection Plan)
  • In-House Closing Agent and Virtual Tour Production Unit.
  • Open Houses and REALTOR® tours for additional exposure.
  • Complete Service - no transaction is too large or too small.
  • Comprehensive explanation of how we will handle all of the details of the close of escrow...even allowing you to leave town ahead of time.

CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc.  SELLER SERVICE PLEDGE:

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

  1. Dedicate ourselves to making the process of selling your home as easy and as successful as possible.
  2. Respect you and 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. Use our base of experience, knowledge, tools and the most up-to-date training to serve you best.
  7. Provide regular progress reports throughout the process and discuss with you comments received about your property.
  8. Explain each step of the process and act as a guide to help you make the most informed decisions.
  9. Make recommendations to enhance the marketability of your property.
  10. Use a written Competitive Market Analysis and local market information to help you set the right listing price to sell your home and get the value you deserve.
  11. Review various financing alternatives and assist you in determining those that best enhance the salability of your home.
  12. Develop, present and agree upon a Customized Marketing Plan that will detail specific promotional efforts to best market your property.
  13. Place the internationally recognized CENTURY 21® yard sign on your property, with your permission and subject to local ordinances.
  14. Provide worldwide exposure for your property on the Internet, including posting your property on CENTURY21.com, a site that receives millions of visitors each month.
  15. Explain local real estate procedures and regulations.
  16. Show your property to pre-qualified buyers.
  17. Utilize the CENTURY 21® System of thousands of offices to expose your property to potential buyers referred to our office.
  18. Utilize the vast and powerful resources of the CENTURY 21® System to get you the results you deserve, including leveraging a Network of 6,600 offices and 109,000 agents worldwide.
  19. Submit to you all written offers, assist with negotiations, and provide an estimate of your net sales proceeds, so you understand all implications prior to any acceptance.
  20. Upon acceptance of an offer to you, pre-settlement (escrow) activities throughout the closing process will be monitored as permitted by law or local practice.
  21. Assist you in finding your next home, or offer to refer you to another office in another location.

This CENTURY 21® Seller Service Pledge Certificate applies only to an exclusive right-to-sell agreement of not less than 180 days. If any terms or conditions contained herein are prohibited by local law, they shall be considered severed from this pledge and of no force or effect. In the event of any alleged breach under the terms of this 21 Point Seller Service Pledge Certificate, the seller (as a sole and exclusive remedy) may terminate the exclusive right to sell agreement, provided that our CENTURY 21® office is given ten (10) days written notice of the reason for termination and an opportunity to cure the default during the notice period.

©2003 CENTURY 21® Real Estate Corporation. An Equal Opportunity Company. Equal Housing Opportunity. licensed trademeark to CENTURY 21® Real Estate Corporation.  Each Office Independently Owned and Operated. *2002 Web Trends Site Metrics Report. 

PRICE AND TERM CONSIDERATIONS:

At any given time, three general factors affect the sale of your house: the current real estate market conditions, the location of your property, and the competition. Smart sellers don't put themselves at the mercy of these factors—they optimize conditions to their advantage. Even though you have no control over any of these three factors, our Agent will help you to package your property so it remains favorable under current market conditions, focuses on the positive aspects of its location and stands out from the competition.

Pricing a house for market is much more of an art than a science. Houses are a commodity subject to the laws of supply and demand, and market conditions keep changing. Prices rise when there are more buyers than sellers, and they decline when there are more houses for sale than buyers. The availability of mortgage money also affects sales, but ultimately what the buyer feels about a house is what determines the price that is paid. While the buyer determines the selling price, you and our Agent establish the listing price of your house. Homes that are appropriately priced will consistently sell at or above 97.5% of list price. A well priced home is half sold!

Beware of overpricing your house, a dangerous tactic that often backfires because you lose the critical window of time—the first two weeks a house is on the market—when the most serious buyers arrive ready to buy. Overpricing will:

  • Drive away interested buyers
  • Attract the wrong prospects
  • Reduce the response from advertising
  • Reduce showing activity
  • Lead to mortgage rejections (a bank appraiser will eventually determine the value on your property)
  • Help to sell your competition

With Regard to Terms:

  • The average buyer compares price and terms on an average of twelve properties
  • Buyers are generally willing to pay more for a house they can purchase with a low down payment
  • Cash buyers are tough negotiators

PREPARING YOUR HOME FOR SHOWINGS:

The market determines your price range, but you determine where your house falls within that price range. Once you have decided to sell your home, there are a number of things you can do to help obtain the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time. Simply put, your home will sell faster, and bring a higher price, if it shows well (never leave it up to the buyer to do the visual work). Within fifteen seconds, buyers develop an attitude toward your house that is reinforced by everything else they encounter. Potential buyers will get the best impression if your home is clean, neat, uncluttered, in good repair, light, airy, fragrant and quiet. Leaving your house in "as is" condition will help sell your competition. In fact, if you choose to sell your house without preparation, in "as is" condition, chances are it will remain as your house and on the market for much longer than you want.

Take an inspection tour of your home, observing it as a potential buyer. If you can't be objective, ask a friend for an honest opinion—if you can't see objectively, you can't package effectively. Remember, our Agents are specialists and are trained to view your home specifically for the purpose of making suggestions that will improve its marketability. Let your home and our Agent sell your home for you!

Here are a few general guidelines:

  • First impressions are crucial. Pay attention to the landscaping and the curb appeal. Does the lawn need to be reseeded? Do shrubs and trees need to be trimmed? What about the driveway, fencing and walkways? While the buyer is waiting for the front door to be unlocked, where will they be looking? Your front door (including hardware), the light fixture, your mailbox and your doormat should appear brand new. In addition, remove clutter and replace it with a planter full of greenery or flowers. Play up the comfort and visual appeal of the porch by arranging the furniture in an attractive way.

  • Clean everything, including the windows and the carpeting (if necessary, replace it—you'll get your money back on this improvement). Cleanliness signals to a buyer that the home has been well cared for and is most likely in good repair. A messy or dirty home will cause prospective buyers to notice every flaw. For most buyers, the house must have that "ready to move into" look.

  • De-clutter your home before you show it. Empty and/or organize closets. Consider storing oversized furniture and excess artwork/pictures so rooms look larger. The less "stuff" in and around a home, the roomier it will seem. Live with the basics and get a jumpstart on your packing.

  • Let the light in. Raise the shades. Open the blinds. Pull back the curtains. Put brighter bulbs in the lamps (but not bright enough to cause a glare). Bright, open rooms feel larger and more inviting. Dark rooms feel small and gloomy.

  • Let fresh air in. Get rid of odors that may be unfamiliar or unpleasant. People are most often offended by odors from tobacco, pets and cooking. Fresh flowers and potpourri can be used to your advantage. Other smells that attract positive attention include fresh baked bread and cinnamon.

  • Fix anything that is broken—top dollar demands top repair. This includes plumbing, electrical systems/switches, windows, TV antennas, screens, doors and fences. If it can't be fixed, replace it or get rid of it. (No window screens are better than broken ones.) A buyer will make a much lower offer if your house is in disrepair and will probably still insist that everything be fixed before taking occupancy. You're better off if you leave potential buyers no reason to offer less than you are asking. Remember, you position your house as a "fixer upper" when you put it on the market in need of repair.

  • Remove or secure pets when prospective buyers are coming over. You never know if people will be annoyed or intimidated by your pets or even allergic to them. You never want a prospective buyer to have to avoid animal droppings.

  • Take the kids for a drive during showings. It is never a good idea to be present during a showing. Everyone feels uncomfortable.

  • Paint. There's nothing that improves the value of a home for a lower cost than a fresh coat of paint. It's often easier to paint a room than it is to scrub it. Stick with neutral colors - off-white is safest. Be sure to avoid very bright or very dark colors.

  • Keep noise down - silence is never offensive. Soft, instrumental music is fine, but no vocals and no television. If necessary, close the windows to avoid outside disturbances.

  • Make sure the temperature in your home is comfortable - keep it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If it's cold outside, and you have a fireplace, a nice fire will make your home seem cozy and inviting.

  • Provide a Home Protection Plan and promote it. 

  • Look at model homes because they are professionally staged to appeal to buyers. Take special note of how a carefully staged house makes you feel. How do you feel in a house that is completely clean? Notice how you respond to uncluttered rooms and closets. Notice, too, the sense that there is no work to be done—no screens to repair, no walls to paint, no doorknobs or handles to tighten. This "model home effect" is exactly the look and feel you want to create in your buyer's mind.

  • Read decorating and home magazines and catalogs. Designers, stylists and editors spend hours staging each room to get the details just so. Think about the message that is being conveyed by each setting and the feelings it generates.

THE DANGER OF OVER-IMPROVING YOUR PROPERTY:

Of course, minor repairs should be made because no prospective buyer wants to do the things you have let stack up. Use caution, however, in planning major improvements you think will enable you to get more for your house than you paid for it. Of course, a financial investment in a fresh coat of paint and having the carpets cleaned will be well worth the costs. However, you don't want to invest a lot of money when you are planning to sell the house. In order to help you make an informed decision on improvements, CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. is pleased to offer, at no obligation, a free copy of REALTOR Magazine's 2006 Cost vs. Value Report.

Remember, most buyers are looking for a house that has been well maintained and is in good repair. They would rather buy a home and oversee their own major improvements and decorating choices. As a seller, you will fare much better by offering them the "potential" at a price they can afford.

MARKETING AND PROMOTING YOUR HOME:

We pride ourselves on our extensive and specialized knowledge of each individual community and our comprehensive understanding of the real estate market as a whole. Our focus is on bringing your home to a successful close of escrow, in the shortest possible time, and at the greatest possible return to you.

The Agents of CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. bring together over 100 years of combined specialized marketing experience, and our strategic marketing strategy has been developed through years of research and testing. We stay on the cutting edge of new marketing trends and technologies, and we use the most effective media to create as much exposure as possible in marketing your home. This commitment is the most valuable service we offer to you and is the greatest investment we make on your behalf.

  • Local Networking - The Agents of CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. operate within a community of real estate agents among whom we have excellent credentials and an impeccable reputation. This gives us the ability to effectively pre-market your home by networking within a group of qualified agents with an established track record of selling real estate in your area.

  • Media - Upon listing your home, we will initiate a comprehensive marketing program that introduces your property to the greatest number of potential buyers. In addition to the standard formats being offered to market your home, CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. works to customize a program that exposes your property to the area of the market most likely to respond.

  • Direct Response Marketing - CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. strongly believes that each individual property is unique and should be marketed to a specific (and appropriate) audience of prospective buyers. Our initial goal is to determine who the prospective buyers are for your home and then describe the home's features and benefits. We do this in such a manner to create an offer to sell which will be most attractive to the defined audience. Our direct mail campaigns are designed to deliver a specific message and offer to sell and are directed to the appropriate audience of REALTORS® and consumers in order to ensure the highest possible response from each mailing.

  • Electronic Marketing - Our commitment to remain current on the latest marketing technologies takes us into an ever-expanding arena of electronic media, which we utilize to market your property. We ensure that your property is presented to the appropriate group of buyers in a way that will best encourage further inquiry and maximize the possibility of a sale. Currently, we use three primary forms of electronic marketing: Web Sites (we currently promote your property on over 20 different web sites), Email Marketing, and Virtual Home Tours.

To help our Agent sell your home for the most money, take a few minutes to tour your home and provide an exhaustive written list of its features. These extras may not be immediately obvious so, when showing your house, our Agent can point these valuable additions out to prospective buyers. Your list may include:

  • Central air-conditioning
  • Central vacuum system
  • Lawn sprinklers
  • Anything built-in in the kitchen
  • Pull-out shelves in cabinets
  • Convection oven
  • Industrial refrigerator
  • Security system
  • Intercom system
  • Central stereo system with speakers throughout the house or outdoors
  • Gas log fireplaces or gas starters in wood-burning fireplaces
  • Pull-down stairs to a storage area
  • Automatic garage door openers
  • New appliances, furnace, air conditioner or water heater
  • Sump pump in the basement
  • Upgraded construction materials
  • Attic fan
  • Location and number of outdoor faucets and electrical outlets
  • Quality materials used in the home (woods, metals, stones)
  • Windows with superior insulative or UV-ray blocking abilities
  • Water Softener
  • Humidifier
  • Air exchange system
  • Separate water heater for any part of the house
  • New roof
  • Outside motion lights and any extra outside lighting
  • Low-flow toilets or showers
  • Upgraded hardware on doors or in plumbing fixtures
  • Upgraded doors
  • Deep sink in laundry room
  • Cedar closet
  • Alternate heat or energy sources
  • Maintenance-free siding
  • Custom-made anything
  • Programmable thermostat
  • Recent improvements to the house

It can also help to point out favorable things about your home and neighborhood known only by someone who lives there. Here are some suggestions for your list:

  • A description of the neighborhood, such as "There are four families on this block with children." You might even provide the number and ages of boys and girls. You could also provide names and numbers of babysitters and those who will mow lawns, walk dogs or shovel snow.
  • Details of and proximity to shopping, schools, churches, grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Is cable television available? What are the choices for Internet service?
  • If your house has had an interesting or unusual history, write down some anecdotes.
  • If you are selling your house when the flower beds or landscaping are not at their best (off-season), provide pictures of your house showing the lawn, shrubs, flowers and trees at their peak.
  • If appropriate, provide average monthly figures for utilities.

A CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. Property Profile binder, containing this and other information, will be prepared by our Agent and made available to all prospective buyers.

SELLER PROPERTY DISCLOSURE DOCUMENTS:

In order to ensure that you fully and adequately protect yourself when selling your home, you should disclose everything you know about your property, allow a buyer to inspect the property and then make necessary repairs. In addition, CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. recommends that you purchase a one-year Home Protection Plan, which covers repairs on mechanical (heating and cooling), plumbing, pool equipment, built-in appliances, etc. Remember, when you sign a purchase agreement, you are guaranteeing that many of these items (the major systems) are in working order. The Home Protection Plan is just one more level of security for you and your buyer.

The following disclosure documents are required by law to be completed by the seller. The law states that the seller must disclose all known material facts about the property to the buyer--the forms are designed to assist you in making these disclosures. They must be completed by the seller, not the agent, and will be included in the CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc. Property Profile binder and presented to the buyer within five (5) days of contract acceptance (unless otherwise specified). The buyer will be required to sign the documents and, by doing so, acknowledges that they have received the disclosure documents and all information contained therein. Note that when the buyer signs the disclosure documents, they are in no way accepting any aspects of the condition of the property or agreeing to accept any defect or condition noted on the form. It becomes the buyer's responsibility to investigate any material fact, with regard to the property, to their own satisfaction.

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 180 days during the listing period. If a protected item should break down due to normal wear and tear, you simply call the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Care Line and arrange for repair service. All the seller has to pay is one low deductible fee per service call. If the home does not sell within the 180-day listing period, the coverage ends and the seller pays nothing for the plan. The only out-of-pocket expense will be the deductibles for any claims.

For the seller, the CENTURY 21® Home Protection Plan can also add value to a listed home while protecting it against unexpected repairs during the listing period. The buyer gains assurance that the home they're buying will be covered against many of the most costly repairs for up to one year. With advantages to both sellers and buyers, it's easy to see why homeowners are asking for a CENTURY 21® Home Protection Plan when they list their property for sale.

Some key facts to be aware of:

  • 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 HOME INSPECTION:

Today, as a result of consumer protection measures, a significant and growing percentage of existing houses (and even some new homes) are inspected at the time of the sale. Such inspections are routinely performed on homes of all ages and quality and should not be viewed as a negative reflection on the home, or as a sign that the prospective buyer suspects there are problems with the home. These inspection reports usually conclude in the successful transaction and purchase of the property.

Hiring an Inspector - In choosing a home inspector, look for one who is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors. This organization requires members to have performed at least 250 paid inspections. Experience and reputation are also keys to finding a good inspector.

Pre-Listing Inspection - Some sellers choose to contract for an inspection report prior to the listing of a home. Such an inspection report will determine whether any easily remedied defects can be repaired prior to the listing of the property (thus improving the quality of the listing). It can also be used as a potential tool in the sale of the house, keeping in mind that any new information about defects in the home must be disclosed to any potential buyer.

Preparing The Home for an Inspection - As a general rule, it is unwise to try to anticipate the results of a home inspection, or to make any last minute corrections. It might be a good idea to reattach missing gutter downspouts, reposition splash blocks or replace missing electrical cover plates. Such detailed corrections may give the house a neater appearance, but are unlikely to affect major findings about drainage systems, electrical wiring or the life expectancy of a roof system. Some last minute corrections, such as the painting of basement walls to cover water stains, or the use of caulking to reattach loose bathroom tiles, may provide the experienced inspector with additional clues to possible problems. Making the house accessible and easier to inspect would help the inspector. It will not change the material findings of the inspection, but could eliminate some unnecessary aggravations.

A few suggestions:

  • Remove any furniture and stored material from access panels to crawl spaces, electrical panel boxes, furnaces, and spa pump motors.
  • If the access panel to the attic crawl space is in a closet, you might remove the clothes from that closet, or cover the clothes with a sheet, in order to protect them from bits of insulation and debris that fall down in the process of removing the access panel.
  • Overly friendly or unfriendly dogs can complicate the inspection process and are best kept away from the house during the period of an inspection.
  • A copy of building permits, construction contracts and drawings, septic tank service reports, utility bills and similar documents can be helpful to an inspector. If you have such documents, you may want to collect them prior to the inspection and have them available at the time of inspection. If you do not have such documents, don't go out of your way to search for copies.
  • Be honest. If, for example, your basement has leaked, disclose that information. If you have made repairs that appear to have solved the problem, then disclose that you think the problem has been solved.
  • Most inspectors will perform the inspection in the company of the prospective buyer. This is the time for the buyer to take another look at the house. It is customary and recommended that the seller be absent from the house during the actual inspection, or remain in portions of the house not being inspected.
  • The inspector should have prior permission from the customer to discuss the inspection report with a third party. As such, it would be best to refrain from asking the inspector about the inspection report, unless you have contracted for the report.

Special Inspections - The home inspector is a general practitioner, familiar with most of the standard systems in a residential structure. However, he/she is unlikely to have the licensing or expertise necessary to analyze all of the specialty problems that may arise in some inspections. In addition, the inspector is prohibited from doing any sort of destructive testing, which precludes the inspector from making a complete examination of certain portions of systems, such as furnaces. The home inspector may find conditions in a particular structure that require further analysis. Such analysis may have to be performed by a specialty inspector; for example, a soil engineer, a testing laboratory, a furnace service company or a licensed electrical contractor.

Findings and Conclusions - Home inspections do not result in passing or failing grades. The inspection report is an analysis of the condition of the various systems in the house. It is the customer of the inspection who determines whether the inspection results are satisfactory. An inspection report indicating that the roof of a structure needs immediate replacement may be an acceptable finding to the customer who expects to do some rehabilitation to the structure. The same report can result in significant concerns to the customer who expected few (if any) short-term major maintenance requirements.

Very few inspection reports result in a completely clean bill of health. There are always a few maintenance items that will need attention or repair in the near future. The rule of thumb suggests that the average home requires 1 to 2% of the value of the structure in annual maintenance and repair costs. Most inspection findings show a need for 2 to 4 years worth of normal annual repairs, or 2 to 8% of the value of the structure.

The most common items found to require repair or maintenance include the following:

  • Wood rot, as a result of moisture and soil-wood contact in areas such as decks, foundations and porches.
  • Roofs and roof venting systems, including flashing and deteriorating chimneys.
  • Tub and shower walls, and bathroom floors.
  • Furnaces that have not been serviced or cleaned in several years.
  • Outdated electrical systems and unsafe electrical wiring.
  • Gutters, downspouts and improper downspout drains.
  • Asbestos-containing material, especially in homes built or remodeled prior to 1978.

UNDERSTANDING TITLE INSURANCE:

The purchase of a home may well prove to be the largest financial investment a person makes in their lifetime. Therefore, the importance of fully protecting such an investment cannot be overstated. When a buyer signs a contract to purchase a home and apply for a mortgage, the lender is going to require title insurance.

When a title company receives an application for title insurance, their initial area of responsibility is to abstract the public land records in order to examine information surrounding the title to the property being purchased. This title investigation or search is referred to as the "Chain of Title". The Chain of Title will reveal the following:

  1. That the contract seller of the property is, in fact, the legal owner and that all owners are parties to the contract.
  2. That the "estate" or degree of title, which the buyer has agreed to purchase, is currently and accurately vested in the seller.
  3. The presence of open mortgages, judgments or similar liens that must be satisfied before a "clear" title can be conveyed to the buyer.
  4. Existing restrictions, easements, or rights of way for roads, public utilities, etc., which may limit the buyer's right to the use of the property, or grant rights to others who are not owners.
  5. The status of property taxes and other public or private assessments.

Once this investigation or title search is complete, the information is supplied to the lender and attorney in the form of a commitment for title insurance.

During the final settlement or closing stage of the purchase, the title company will work very closely with the buyer's lender and attorney. Acting in its fiduciary capacity, the title company will often handle the transfer of all appropriate funds between buyer, seller, lender and all other interested parties. After closing, the Owner's Title Insurance Policy is issued and will protect the buyer against hidden title defects such as fraud, forgery, incompetency or similar matters which are not revealed by the public records.

The real estate contract most frequently used in this area calls for the seller to provide the buyer with "merchantable title". This means, among other things, that the buyer should be provided with an "Owners Title Insurance Policy" at the seller's expense. The buyer will pay only a minimal one-time fee for the lender's mortgage policy.

CENTURY 21Vista, Inc.  Agents, in conjunction with the title company, now have the ability to have a title insurance commitment produced at the time a property is first listed. The benefits for the buyer and seller are as follows:

The seller benefits by:

  1. Fulfilling their contractual obligation by providing merchantable title.
  2. Having an opportunity to reduce their title insurance fees.
  3. Having an early warning of any possible title-related problems that can be cleared by their counsel.
  4. Reducing delays in their real estate closing.
  5. Having the maximum flexibility and convenience in selecting the time and place of closing.

The buyer benefits by:

  1. Being able to provide the lender with the required title commitment when first applying for their loan.
  2. Having a title commitment that contains the property's legal description, a requirement of the lender for the preparation of their documents. This will reduce delays with the lender.
  3. Giving their attorney immediate knowledge of any major defects to the title which must be cleared.
  4. Maximum closing flexibility.

This Listing Commitment Program carries no cost until the final real estate closing and title to the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.

This article courtesy of N. F. Field Abstract Co., Inc., 125 South Mill Street, Fergus Falls, MN 56537, 218-739-5476.

THE ADDED BENEFIT OF CENTURY 21 Vista, Inc.'S CLOSING SERVICES:

CENTURY 21® Vista 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.

TIMEFRAME
SERVICES PROVIDED
Preparation
  • Open new transaction account ("My Transaction") and keep it current throughout the closing.
  • 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.
Closing
  • 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.

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