What Should You Look For In A Real Estate Agent?

Selling or buying a home can be challenging and will also be one of the biggest financial decisions of your lifetime. Finding the right real estate agent that has the experience for what you need is crucial.

Having a good real estate agent in your corner will is important whether you’re buying or selling. In the state of Florida alone there are almost 300,000 active real estate agents.

Everywhere you look there are advertisements for real estate agents; billboards, bus stop benches, radio ads, etc… So how do you choose the best one for you? Follow these steps on hiring the perfect real estate agent for your needs.

Tips On Finding A Real Estate Agent

Speak To A Lender Before Hiring An Agent

One of the biggest mistakes a potential home buyer makes is to start looking for homes without knowing how much they can afford to pay for a home. There’s nothing more disheartening to fall in love with a home only to find out that you can’t afford it.

By getting pre-approved for a mortgage, you’ll know exactly how much home you can afford as well as address any issues with your credit if needed well ahead of time. Having your pre-approval letter ready will also show potential buyers’ agents and sellers that you are serious about buying. When you’re in a competitive market, sellers may not even consider an offer without a pre-approval letter from a lender.

Get Recommendations

A good way to start on your agent search is by asking friends and family members if they can recommend a real estate agent they’ve had a good experience with. You should hire an agent that specializes in whatever your real estate goals are. For example; If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you should hire an agent that specializes in first-time homebuyers as opposed to an agent that works with investment properties or short sales.

It’s also a good idea to hire an agent who is a Realtor. This means they are a member of the National Association of Realtors aka [NAR] and are held to a higher standard as specified in the organization’s code of ethics. Many Realtors hold special certifications to demonstrate they’ve completed training in specific areas of real estate. These are some of the designations:

CDPE [Certified Distressed Property Expert]: Completed specialized training in short sales and foreclosure prevention. CRS [Certified Residential Specialist]: Completed special training in working with buyers of residential real estate. ABR [Accredited Buyer’s Representative]: Trained in representing buyers in transactions.
SRES [Seniors Real Estate Specialist]: trained in helping buyers and sellers aged 50 and over.

Research Potential Agents

Always begin with online research. Start by checking their website and any social media accounts they may have. You should be able to find reviews, current listing information and get an overall feel for the person through their online presence. If they have no online presence then move on to the next candidate.

Interview 3 Real Estate Agents… at Least

Remember, you’re going to be communicating with this person for the next several weeks or even months until you’ve accomplished your real estate goals. An “in-person” interview will be a chance for you to get a feel for the agent’s experience and style. You want to work with an agent who understands what you’re looking to accomplish and be very familiar with the area you’re buying or selling in.

This is also a chance for you to see firsthand how professional they are. The more effort they put into a presentation for you is a good indication of the effort they’ll put in when they’re working for you. Interviews are also a great way for you to establish a preferred way of communication moving forward whether it be texting email or phone calls.

Ask For References

When you’re interviewing potential real estate agents, request to see their references. Ask the agent to

provide the information on any homes they’ve recently sold [in the past year]. You should also ask them to provide the contact information from any of their recent clients. Be sure to call those clients and find out what their overall experience was with the agent…Ask them if they would work with the agent again.

Trust Your Gut

Once you’ve followed the tips on finding the best agent, you still might have to choose between 2 or 3 of them. At this point, you should go with your gut. Remember, you’ll be in constant communication with this person so you should feel comfortable around them and be able to tell them everything.

It’s kind of like dating… sometimes it comes down to the chemistry… or lack of chemistry. If you have an agent and everything checks out, but you’re still not feeling the vibe, don’t hire them. Keep looking until you find the right fit for you, it will be worth the extra effort.

Read The Contract Carefully

Your contract should spell out all the terms to which you have agreed… including the commission. Typically, the seller pays all of the commission which is usually about 5-6% to be split between the listing agent and buyer’s agent. You should also pay close attention to the length of the contract. If your home hasn’t sold in 6 months or you haven’t found a house to buy in that time, then you’ll probably want to find a new real estate agent.

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What Does A Real Estate Agent Do?

A Typical Day in the Life of a Real Estate Agent

Technically, as defined in the Cambridge Dictionary, a real estate agent is someone whose business is to arrange the selling or buying of homes, vacant land, offices, or buildings for the sellers or buyers. Technically, it’s an accurate definition, however, it doesn’t tell you everything a real estate agent does on a day-to-day basis.

In my world as a Real Estate Broker, each day is different and unique; while this can seem to be an appealing aspect of being a real estate professional, it can be quite challenging, depending on the Realtor’s skill and experience level. So, exactly what does a Realtor do on a typical day?

Managing a Real Estate Brokerage

The majority of real estate agents [especially newbies] typically work inside an office provided by the broker that employs them. This is good in the sense that they can discuss opportunities and exchange ideas with their co-workers, get updates on new listings, as well as discuss buyers’ and sellers’ needs.

There are quite a few administrative tasks that occur every day at the core of a successful real estate brokerage. Depending on the size of the brokerage they may have someone who works as an administrator to make sure an office is a well-oiled machine.

A good Realtor

  • Stays current on local and regional market activity and industry news.
  • Consistently researches active, pending, and sold listings in their farm area.
  • Maintains, completes, submits, and files any paperwork, such as real estate contracts, records, etc. with the proper agencies.
  • Coordinates and schedules appointments, showings, open houses, and any meetings with clients and other agents.
  • Develops and implements marketing plans for listings and creates marketing materials like fliers and other promotional materials.
  • Responds to incoming emails and phone calls
  • Keeps their website updated with fresh content and is active on social media and real estate blogs.

Most successful real estate agents hire an assistant to assist with the day-to-day activities, allowing the agent or broker to focus on more important activities.

Real Estate Agents Sell Themselves In Addition To Selling Homes

Being able to consistently attract new clients is crucial to the success of a real estate agent. Below are a few ways a real estate agent can attract new clients:

Marketing Themselves. Competition is fierce in the world of real estate. A successful agent should have a niche in their local real estate market and become an expert in that niche. This helps differentiate agents out there and what they specialize in. A successful real estate agent has a monthly budget set for marketing themselves through their website, fliers, video, and pay-per-click advertising.

Generating Leads. Generating leads via networking with other real estate agents as well as anyone else they come in contact with such as friends, family, business associates, and so on is an extremely valuable asset to a successful Realtor.

Treating Everyone as a Prospect. Everyone lives in a home, condo, townhouse, or apartment. Therefore, to a real estate agent, anyone they meet will eventually need to buy, sell or rent a home. A real estate agent spends a substantial amount of time cultivating leads and meeting with potential buyers and sellers.

Listing Agents

Listing agents specialize in working with homeowners who need to sell their homes. They have a responsibility to understand the needs of a seller with every new listing.

They must demonstrate to the homeowner their knowledge, marketing abilities, and negotiation skills. A successful listing agent must be an expert at researching the current market activity and comparable properties to determine an accurate listing price for your property. Here are some of the responsibilities of a listing agent.

  • Staging The Home: It’s the agent’s responsibility to advise the seller on tips to make sure the home shows off it’s best features during showings. A bit of de-cluttering and some touch up paint can go a long way in making a home look its best. Depending on the situation, you may want to have the home fully staged prior to listing it.
  • Take Quality Photographs: The listing agent is required to take [or hire somebody to take] quality photos inside and out in order to prepare a proper listing presentation and advertising materials. In addition.
  • Pre-screening and Negotiating With Potential Buyers: Your listing agent is in charge of making sure potential buyers are pre-qualified before showing the house. Once you have secured a qualified buyer the agent will be in charge of helping negotiate the best price.

Buyers Agents

Buyers agents are real estate agents that specialize in working with buyers. Their responsibilities include meeting with potential buyers to determine what their real estate needs are as well as to help them get pre-qualified for a mortgage if needed.

Once the agent knows exactly what the potential buyer is looking for, they will alert the buyer as soon as a property meeting their needs hits the market and schedule a showing.

Another option that agents utilize to narrow down a search for a buyer or to perform research on the competition for sellers is the MLS tour. This allows agents and brokers to quickly gather first-hand knowledge on several available properties in the local market.

Developing Your Skills
Although continuing education is a requirement to maintain a real estate license, it is also an opportunity to develop the skills that will keep an agent at the top of their game or open a door to new real estate opportunities within the regional or local market. Continual development is crucial to the long-term success of real estate agents and brokers. Continuing education not only widens their scope of expertise, but also improves their proficiency, knowledge, and marketability as real estate professionals.

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A Happy Home And A Good Investment

Living in a home that is both a good investment and the home you’ve always dreamed of is the ultimate goal for just about every homeowner. If your home is an older home then you probably have to work a bit harder to keep it maintained as opposed to a newer home. If you’re the kind of person that likes to constantly make improvements to your home to maintain or even increase its value. The good news is that the process of increasing the property value of any home isn’t all that difficult. 

Happy Home = Happy Life

People can sense when other people are happy as well as when they’re not happy. If you’re happy in your living space, it tends to be contagious to people that visit your home. Furnish your home with items that fit your taste and interests and no one else’s. Don’t worry so much about what the latest trends in home design if they really don’t appeal to you. If want to change things up a bit and need some ideas, you may want to consult with an interior designer that can work with you on making a few changes that will not only make you happy but also your guests.

 You can also get help from a real estate agent. Experienced realtors can be very helpful when it comes to making recommendations that will add true value to your home. Even if you feel that you will never sell your house, sometimes things change that are beyond your control and if your house’s design is appealing to both you and everyone else, it will be much easier to sell for the highest price.

Use Quality Materials Or Nothing

Whether your home needs a quick facelift or major surgery it’s important that you use quality materials. This is not only about you being happy while you live there but you should also consider that every penny you spend on your home should be an investment. You should make an effort to use designs and materials that increase your home’s value and ensure that your choices will last for generations to come.

Don’t Forget The Exterior
Creating a consistent look between the exterior and the interior of a home is a must. Having a nice front and backyard really enhances the overall feeling of a home and your guests will notice right away. Consider planting a few flowers near the front entrance for a splash of color.

Get Ideas From The Internet

If you don’t really trust your sense of style and you don’t want to spend money on a professional designer then Google it! The internet can be helpful in many ways to a homeowner searching for ideas. You can view countless images of every home design known to man to see what appeals to you and your sense of style.

 Once you have some ideas about how you would like to decorate your home, you don’t even need to leave your chair for the next step. You can do most or even all of your home furnishings shopping online. Great deals are available from private sellers as well as sites like Amazon, eBay, etc. at a fraction of the cost of the major retailers.

 Finding the right design and decor for your property shouldn’t be frustrating or difficult. It should be fun! Especially if you’re creating the look you’ve always dreamed of. If you enjoy the process, it will be easy and rewarding when you’re done. If you need help or ideas on making your home a happy one, call me. I’m here to help!

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10 Best Tips To Sell Your Orlando Home

 Sell Your Orlando Home For Top Dollar

If you need to sell your Orlando home for top dollar, then showing your home to buyers is unavoidable. So it’s important to make a good first impression on interested buyers. Here are some tips that I recommend you follow when showing your house to a potential buyer.

 1- Make Them Feel Welcome

As an Orlando real estate agent, I prefer to show houses without the sellers being there, but many times the homeowner insists on being present when other people walk through their home which is completely understandable. If it were me, I’d probably be the same way.

If you want to be there during showings, you should politely greet the potential buyers and invite them to look around. Tell them to take their time and let them know that you’d be happy to answer any questions they may have. Don’t follow them around as they walk through your house! Your presence may make them uncomfortable and restricted. Let the agent give them the 10-cent tour while going read on the patio or walk the dog. This will allow the buyers to communicate freely with their agents and voice any concerns.

 2- Be Flexible With Showings

Bending over backward to make your home available to show at any time will be advantageous to you. Most home buyers are on tight schedules because of work or other commitments. Sometimes I get out-of-state clients that only fly in for a day or two to see houses before flying back so try to be as flexible as possible about scheduling showings. If you still live in the home it’s very important that you be ready for a showing at a few moments’ notice. Some people can only see houses in the evening time and especially on weekends. Being as flexible as possible with showings will give you more opportunities for the right buyer to walk through that door and make an offer.

 3-Room Temperature

Make sure that when a potential buyer walks through that door, they feel comfortable. They don’t want to be cold during winter or hot in the summertime. If they’re not comfortable, they may not spend enough time in your home to decide if it’s an option for them or not. The last thing you want is for a buyer to rush through a showing because they can’t wait to leave.

 4- Keep It Clean

If you’re still living in the home, you should try to keep it showing ready at all times so that you’re never caught off guard. Make sure all clutter is cleaned up, run the vacuum whenever needed, and keep the kitchen and bathrooms spotless at all times. A clean and de-cluttered home appears larger as opposed to a dirty and cluttered home can appear small and uncomfortable. Having scented candles around the house is always a good idea and if you really want to make a good impression, you can bake some cookies and have them on the table. This entices the senses and they will also know that the oven works. lol!

 5-Not Everyone’s An Animal Lover

If you have a pet or pets, the best thing to do is temporarily remove them from your home or at the very least, put them in their crate. Not everyone is an animal lover and you don’t want a nervous animal distracting the buyers or making them uneasy. This will allow buyers to tour the home without any distractions. You should also remove any animal toys, dog bowls, etc.

 6-Let There Be Light

Your home should be well lit regardless of it’s day or night. When we live in a home, we develop habits of only turning on certain lights. The best thing to do is turn on all the lights during a showing. Most potential buyers won’t be drawn to a dimly lit home.

 7-Provide Documents About The Home

If you’ve recently had the AC or the roof replaced, have the warranty paperwork on the table. Did you have it appraised recently? Have that on the table as well. As a matter of fact, you should have any important paperwork regarding your home in plain view. This will make them believe that you have nothing to hide and that you are organized as is your home.

 8- Talk To Your Orlando Realtor

There are always certain things about a home or neighborhood that are not always in plain view. Educate your Orlando listing agent on things that you may want to be pointed out during showings. For example, having great neighbors is always a plus, but a potential buyer won’t know this by just walking through your house. If you have wonderful neighbors and your neighborhood is very family oriented, let them know.
9- Good Curb Appeal

The first thing a buyer will see when the drive up is the outside of your home and it’s your job as the seller to make sure your home looks as good as it can. The goal is for a potential buyer to be eager to see the inside because of how the outside looks. Make sure the lawn and shrubs are always perfectly trimmed and any flower beds are free of weeds. You’d be surprised how a little clean-up and some brightly colored flowers can enhance your curb appeal.

 10-Get Feedback
If you really want to know what they think, then place some comment cards in the home where buyers can openly leave their feedback about your home. The information they provide may help you for the next showing. Either that or it will piss you off [lol!]. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like criticism, you may want to skip this step.

If you need to sell your Orlando home and want more tips on how to get your house “showing ready” contact us at 407-902-7750. We’re here to help!

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Orlando HOAs Revealed!

Recently, I had a potential buyer call me about moving to Orlando from New Jersey. This particular buyer was interested in the neighborhood of Hunters Creek, FL because he had a young family and he knew that Hunters Creek was voted the 21st best place to live in the U.S. just a couple of years ago. In our first conversation, he says to me “Whatever, you don’t show me any houses where there is a homeowners association”. I can’t say I was surprised to hear this, I hear it all of the time. There’s a lot of bad press about HOAs, especially when it comes to short sales and trying to negotiate with them on discounting the amount owed by a seller, but that’s a different subject altogether.

My first order of business as an Orlando real estate agent was to tell this buyer that every neighborhood in Hunters Creek is governed by an HOA. I then had to educate him on how communities like these put HOAs in place to protect their residents. Imagine if everyone was allowed to paint their house any color they wanted…Yikes!!! or what if residents didn’t have to pick up after their dogs? It would be total Chaos!

I knew that if I was going to keep him as a client I would have to do one of two things; either find him another neighborhood to live in or convince him that not all HOAs are evil. It forced me to do some deep research about HOA’s. See below.

What’s An HOA?

An HOA is an organization in a planned community or condominium that makes and enforces rules for the properties under its jurisdiction. An HOA survives by collecting fees, either monthly or quarterly to pay for the upkeep of the community’s common areas like soccer fields, dog parks, tennis courts, community centers, etc. They also enforce the community rules AKA “the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions”. If there weren’t a set of rules in place, the neighborhood would be much less appealing. These are the rules that keep your neighbor from painting her house bright purple or parking their RV in the driveway. It’s true that sometimes HOAs can be overly strict in some cases, but it’s always in the best interest of the community.

What Do HOAs Cover?

It depends on what community you’re talking about because every HOA is different. You can find out what any particular HOA covers simply by contacting the one that runs the community that you’re interested in.

Who or What Runs The HOA?

The HOA is run by the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions AKA the CC&Rs. This will decide how a HOA will function including but not limited to: what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, and how elections and assessments are managed. Typically, there’s a Board of Directors that are unpaid residents of the community that make sure that the community rules and restrictions are followed and enforced. Also, there’s a management company that’s hired to collect fees and schedule maintenance to common grounds like landscapers, park maintenance, etc.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your HOA Fees?

The HOA has the right to put a lien on your property for non-payment. If the homeowner doesn’t pay the fees for whatever reason, the HOA can actually have the ability to foreclose on the property. This may be hard to believe but it happens all the time here in Orlando. Even though the mortgage company is in the first position if it goes into foreclosure, the HOA has the right to receive up to one year’s worth of HOA dues under Florida law

Why Do Some HOA Fees Increase?

The short answer is inflation. The fees that you pay to your HOA are based on the budget that was determined for that fiscal year. The budget covers day-to-day operations, field maintenance, pest control, landscaping, etc. Also, there should always be a reserve for any unforeseen events that may come up. If the HOA determines that the fees charged won’t cover the needs of the community, then the fees will increase. 



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