First Time Home Buyers

First-time homebuyers have always been a favorite for me and Diana. Nothing compares to the thrill of helping someone find their first home and realize a dream. We still love working for those who are moving up or downsizing but, that first home buyer brings a new kind of excitement and adventure. They come in all shapes, sizes and ages. We have helped several couples who were up in years—if you know what I mean. One couple was about to retire and purchasing their first home. One couple had grown children and actually called about finding a rental. Since we don’t deal with rentals we just asked, “Why rent if you can buy?” They just never knew they could. Can you imagine how excited they were when they found out they could own a home?

First time buyers are full of questions and keep us on our toes. There is a saying that says something like this, “You learn more by teaching.” This is so true. And those first-time homebuyers ask questions about real estate—so we continue to learn as we teach them the way. Most first-time home buyers are younger than us and have a way of keeping us up to date on the latest technology. We have to know to keep up with them.

If you are a first timer, looking for your first home let us give you some tips. First of all, work with a realtor® or real estate agent. It is not going to cost you anything and you will have someone working with you to make this smooth sailing. Have your agent refer a good lender and get pre-qualified before you head out to see any homes. You want to know what you qualify to purchase and you want to make sure the payment is in your comfort zone. Just because you qualify for a $200k home does not mean you want that payment. Maybe something around $150k would be more comfortable and allow you to continue eating out or going on vacations. Don’t become house poor. Trust your agent and your lender and have fun.


Diana and I would be happy to assist you. Just give us a call

Diana Stowe 678-414-6414    or    Mary Lesh   678-618-9688


So, You Want to be a Realtor®

It’s a great career that allows you to work from home, schedule your time and make lots and lots of money. Some of this is true but, some of it is not—we’ll get into all this.

Our favorite is the people who decide to get their license but keep their day job because, number 1 they just want to make extra money and number 2 they don’t want to give up their income until they have “made it”.

One thing we have learned over the years is when you want to do something—jump in and do it. How do you work on your business if you are working all day? Being a realtor®/agent requires hard work. It is not about showing homes and then sitting back and collecting a pay check. In fact, showing homes is the fun part and we probably do that once or twice a week. Of course, if you are working all week you will have to show homes nights and weekends. That could mean you have to go out twice as often because you only have 1 or 2 hours during the week days. In today’s market houses are going quickly. Some won’t wait until you get off work. For instance, Diana and I just listed a house and in less than 12 hours we had a full price offer. This is not the first time this has happened. As a matter of fact, my daughter was looking for a house and I did not represent her because I could not get to Atlanta fast enough to sell her something in the area she was looking. I was not going to be the cause of her missing out on buying her dream home.

If you are a buyer or a seller, do you want a part time agent? Do you want to wait until your agent gets off work? For some people, this could work just fine because they work all day too. They might want to go look at homes in the evenings or on weekends. Full time agents do not have nights and weekends off.  They don’t have week days off either. So, let us tell you what we do all week, each night and on weekends. This is to benefit anyone thinking to become a realtor® or someone looking for a realtor®.

In order to stay in business and keep the paychecks coming, we have to prospect. That means we are constantly looking for new business. We could be calling friends, family, past clients or even cold calling, asking for business. In addition, we could be knocking on doors, networking, or entertaining. We are constantly marketing ourselves to let anyone and everyone know we are looking for work. This also includes making marketing material, mailing things out, and emailing. This takes up about 70% of our time.

If we are working with a buyer, we are constantly searching for their home. Often the buyer will send us homes from Zillow or Trulia and we have to search for them—only to find they were long ago sold. Once the buyer has decided on homes to view, we have to schedule them. That’s right, we can’t just walk in and show. We need to verify they are still available and make sure we have permission to show. Just because it is vacant and there is a lockbox on the house does not give us permission to enter the premises.

If we are working with a seller, we begin by doing Comparative Market Analysis’ and gathering information to price it right. In addition, we have lots of paperwork to complete and sign. Pictures to take, signs to put up and marketing material to make. All this then has to be entered into the multiple listing server before it goes live. Once it is active, we answer all calls from agents scheduling. We show our sellers home to buyers who call us directly and we show our sellers home to buyers who have an agent who cannot show. We give weekly reports to our seller to let them know all we are doing and all the activity on their home.

Then there are the negotiations to contracts. We have to make sure our client, whether buyer or seller, meets all deadlines and adheres to all timelines and agreements. We have to follow up with lenders and closing attorneys as well as our client.

We attend inspections, the walk through and closings. If all goes well, we close and then we get paid. Sometimes, we go through this and at the last minute something goes wrong and there is no closing and we don’t make a dime. We just start over.

Can you get all this done with your nights and weekends? How many times will you—the part time agent—have to tell your client, I can’t, I have to work? Or will you count on the co-op agent to do your job for you? Will you miss a deadline because you were at your full-time job?

Will your buyers lose earnest money because you were working and couldn’t get your part-time job done? Will your buyers miss out on their dream home because you couldn’t take them out because you had to work? Will your sellers miss out because there was a buyer who had a part-time agent who could not show because they were working, and you couldn’t show because you were working?

As a buyer or seller, do you want someone who can’t give you 100%?

If you choose to get your license, please jump in and do it. It isn’t easy but it can be rewarding and there is some fun.

#usearealtor® #bearealtor® #MaryandDianadoitbest!


Do You Need A Realtor® To Sell Your Home?

Once you have decided to sell your home, your next decision should be, how. How are you going to sell it? Are you considering For Sale By Owner? A discount Brokerage? Or, do you want to pay that hefty commission and use a realtor®?

Let’s look at your options. For Sale By Owner means you will not have to pay a commission–well maybe. You see, many buyers know they should use  a realtor to  protect their interests–and it doesn’t cost them a dime to use a realtor® on the buying side. So, if a buyer who is using a realtor® wants to see your “For Sale By Owner” home, they will have their agent contact you directly and negotiate a commission before he/she shows your home.  And sometimes it will be in your best interest to go ahead and offer a commission to any agent representing a buyer. That is just one scenario. Let’s just say you have no agent involvement. How do you know the real value of your home? Will you use Zillow’s zestimate? Will you go into tax records of all your neighbors who have sold in the last 6 months? How will you know the true value? Looking in tax records, you can also get a guestimate on the value of your home. Our tax records always show an estimated value based on sales in the county over the last 6 months or the last year. Again, this is a guestimate because, they are considering all the sales in the county. You need to be sure you are comparing apples to apples. For instance, in my neighborhood every house is different. In the last neighborhood I lived, most all the houses were the same with the exception of a few. However, they were not all comparable because they looked the same. From the outside you could not tell if it was 3 or 4 bedrooms. You could not see if there were upgrades. You could not see the size of the lot. There are a lot of factors to pricing your home. Did you know a ranch plan of comparable size and comparable building materials has more value than a 2-story? Did you know a finished basement does not equate the same value as above ground square footage?

How will you as a for sale by owner, schedule showings? How will buyers gain access to your home? Obviously you will be the scheduler and the shower. Well, you could put a coded/contractor key box on the door but, do you want just anyone entering your home? Will you open your home to anyone who calls? How do you know they are qualified buyers and not just someone being nosy? How much time do you think you will need to be home to show?

Where will you market the home? Zillow does allow FSBO’s to list on Zillow so you can get quite a bit of exposure on Zillow. Who will take your pictures? Will they be good quality pictures? Will they show your home in the best light? You will need to buy a sign, make some flyers and be sure to post on all social media. Will you want to host an open house? Agent luncheon?

How about negotiating? Are you a good negotiator? I used an agent to sell my own home just so I did not have to personally talk to the buyer. I am a softy and probably would have given the house to someone if they gave me a sob story. But that is because it is personal to me. As an agent, I have no problem negotiating for someone else because it isn’t my decision. My feelings do not matter. My clients feelings matter to me. Will you be offended if someone low balls? Where will you get a contract and will you understand it?

Statistics have shown that For Sale By Owner sales are typically lower than those sold by an agent. In addition, FSBO typically take longer to sell, have more difficulty with all the paperwork and have less time to devote to the sale of their home.

A discount broker might be a better option than For Sale By Owner. The discount broker typically charges a flat fee plus 3% commission or 4% of the sales price. The 3% commission will go to the co-op agent and 1% to the discount broker. So what does this get you as a seller? You are one step away from For Sale By Owner with a discount broker. They will place a sign in your yard, place your home in the multiple listing server which will send it out to many online services like Zillow, Trulia, . . So you will get a lot more exposure. You will not have to worry about a co-op agent calling because they already know you are offering a 3% commission if they sell your home. They will also, typically, give you a lockbox which will allow agents access to the house when you cannot be there. They will provide all the forms but, they will not negotiate for you nor will they represent you to make sure the process is smooth. They will also help you price your home. So it is a little better and a little easier for you.

In both the above cases, if the buyer has an agent representing them–who represents you?

What if you list with me and Diana? As realtors® and full time agents, our duties are to our clients. Though we cannot speak for every realtor®, we believe most will do the same things. The best thing to do is interview. To begin, we will do our best to get you the most for your home. However, we will not tell you it is worth more than the true value. Over pricing a listing just to get the listing is a huge mistake. To determine the value, we will research like properties and do a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to show the value. We pride ourselves in doing our job right. We will sit down with you to discuss our plan so you are prepared for each step of the way. We will provide a sign and lockbox and we will take professional pictures. We will list in the 2 multiple listing servers that service the metro Atlanta areas and it will be sent to 50-100 different sites for home sales. Your home will get maximum exposure. We will also, post on social media and depending on the area–we will market different ways. We often send postcards to surrounding neighborhoods or perhaps your neighborhood. We will host an open house and/or an agent luncheon. We send flyers out to all agent offices to announce the sale of your home. We will negotiate in your best interests on any and all contracts that might be submitted. We will advise you throughout negotiations and beyond. We will guide you through the process and update you regularly. Typically we update our sellers on a weekly basis during the listing to keep them up to date on any and all calls, showings and feedback. During the contract we will follow up with the co-op agent, the lender and the closing attorney throughout and we follow up with our seller on a weekly or as needed basis. We go to the closing with you in case you have any questions.

Working with a realtor® can assure you of a smooth sale, but most importantly remove the stress of selling your home, increase your chances of getting true market value for your home and having someone who knows and understands the proper forms and contracts to use and someone working in your best interest. Is that worth the additional 1-2%? We think so.


What Is Going On In The Real Estate Market?

Everyone is always asking about the real estate market. What is going on?  Are there still deals? How much to do need to put down? What is the interest rate? What is a good offer on a house?  Do I need a realtor®?

First let me say, the market is good, but it could be better. It is definitely a sellers market–which means they are getting their price. Depending on the area–because all real estate markets are relative. What that means is the real estate market is relative to the area. It could be relative to a city, town, county or even a neighborhood. Be sure to ask a realtor® for the most up to date information in your area. The biggest problem we have today is lack of inventory.

So, are there deals? It depends on what you consider a “deal.” If you have to pay full price, does that mean you did not get a “deal?” A good deal means both buyer and seller are happy with the price. Let’s face it, full price on a house that is priced fairly is a good deal. Did you get what you were looking for in a house? Is it in your price point? I had a buyer offer more than list price for a home because she really wanted the house. Did she think she got a good deal? Yes! She loves her house and she was willing to pay more to out bid the other buyers. If you think a good deal means you bought for less than list price–you might not think there are deals out there. Many homes are selling for list price or more–because there are more buyers than sellers and buyers want the house. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a good deal.

How much do you need to put down? Well that depends on you and your lender and I will answer the next question with this one. What is the interest rate. First let me explain, interest rates change daily. So it really doesn’t matter what I tell you today. It can go up or down before I spit the rate out. In addition, the interest you will pay is determined by the type of loan and your credit score. That means it doesn’t matter what I tell you because I don’t know what your  credit score is nor do I know what your debt, nor income is. While interest rates have gone up lately, they are still considerably low. The best thing you can do–if you are buying a house–is to bind a contract and lock in your rate.

Another thing I can tell you is, your lender is your friend. Your lender can tell you what you need to do to bring up your credit score and advise you through the process at no cost. You do not need to pay someone to help you improve your credit score. So just a FYI, if you need credit counseling, call a lender. You might also want a realtor® to recommend a good lender. We know who we like and who works harder for our buyers.

What is a good offer on a house? Well, that is another question that is difficult to answer. It is best to have your realtor® do a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) on the home you want to buy. Depending on the market, a good offer could be list price. Don’t think a realtor® is going to tell you a higher price because he/she wants a higher commission. We don’t work that way.

Do you need a realtor®? Yes, yes and yes. Whether you are buying or selling, you should use a realtor®.

For the seller, we market the home–including signage, lockbox, multiple listing servers, open houses, agent lunches, flyers, pictures. . . In addition, the realtor® is there to negotiate on the sellers’ behalf and , monitor the transaction from start to finish. There are companies that will list for you but then you are totally on your own when it comes to negotiations and follow through. They don’t help you with the contract, negotiations nor the follow through. They do reduce the commission for not doing the work.

For the buyer. Today, buyers have access to all the multiple listings through Zillow, Trulia, and so many more. What they don’t have is access to the house nor someone to help with negotiations and follow through with contractual agreements. The buyer can always call the listing agent to get into the house and that agent will also write a contract but, that agent is representing the seller. Do you think the listing agent has the buyers’ interest in mind? No. And that agent receives commission for both sides of the transaction. Buyers, make sure you have a realtor® to represent you. This holds true for new construction too. On site agents represent the builder and do not represent you!! Remember that.