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Can Home Buyers Contact a Listing Agent for a Home Showing?

by Amy McLeod Group


It's bound to happen: You're browsing real estate listings and one day spot a house you'd love to see in person. Should you contact the listing agent directly for a home showing?

After all, most real estate listings (unless they're for sale by owner) mention a listing agent, along with an invitation to contact the agent if you're interested in the property.

If you're already working with a buyer's agent, your first move should be to contact this pro—after all, she's representing you and won't appreciate your doing an end run around her. But if you haven't yet partnered with a buyer's agent, what then?

Here's how to navigate this stage of the home-buying process.

Can buyers contact a listing agent directly?

Technically—yes. The only people who may frown upon contacting a listing agent are buyer's agents, who make their commissions based on representing buyers. But there is no law or rule saying a buyer cannot contact a listing agent.

If you're not actively looking to buy and are just curious about the house, simply be clear about that with the listing agent. Say you're in the early stages of the home-buying process and haven't yet employed the services of a buyer's agent. Ask when the listing agent will be in the neighborhood and would be able to show you the property, says Jane Jensen with Century 21 New Millennium in McLean, VA.

Do buyers need to sign an agreement to see a property?

Touring a property doesn't require signing any documentation. If a listing agent does ask you to sign something, make sure you thoroughly read it. Most likely it is a disclosure about agency, which is required by some local laws. Agency refers to whom the agent represents—in this case the seller—and expectations you should have of the agent's professional responsibilities in regard to showing a property.

However, some agents may be asking you to sign an exclusivity agreement saying they represent you—for this particular property, or all properties you might see in the future. This is rare but possible, so you should make sure you're clear on what you're signing before you move forward.

Do buyers need to find their own agent to see a property?

Checking out a home doesn't require representation, says Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers, in Atlanta. The listing agent is usually present at the property simply for the security of the homeowner. Think of it this way: Viewing the property individually is the same as attending an open house. And you don't need a buyer's agent to attend open houses.

When do buyers need their own agent?

As a buyer, the option to be represented by an agent is yours. However, if you are actively looking for a home, consider getting a buyer's agent. The listing agent represents the best interest of the seller, says Michael Chadwick, a real estate agent with Citi Habitats in NYC. While a buyer's agent represents the best interest of, yep, the buyer.

In most markets, the seller pays the entire commission fee (usually about 5% or 6% of the sale price of the home)—which includes both the seller's and buyer's agents' fees. So by retaining an agent, you'll have a seasoned professional in your corner who won't cost you a dime.

"But not having an agent could leave you without invaluable help about negotiating, say, inspections that uncover issues," says Larry Simons, a real estate professional with Century 21 Maselle & Associates in Brandon, MS.

Let's get together to discuss your current situation and how The McLeod Group Network can help! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry

4 Good Reasons to Not Get a Mortgage Online

by Amy McLeod Group


Applying for a mortgage these days can be accomplished entirely online—no need to schlep to a bank and suffer hand cramps filling out paperwork.

Instead, you can punch some basic info into an online mortgage site, and up pops a bunch of loan choices. An industry renowned for being slow and cumbersome is now wooing customers with the promise of ease, speed, and transparency. Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loan's online platform, for example, promises qualified customers approval in as little as eight minutes.

 
 
 

But taking out a six-figure loan is one of the most complicated and substantial financial transactions most people will ever make. Does it really make sense to handle it by pushing a few buttons on your smartphone?

Maybe for those with a typical 9-to-5 job and good credit.

"If you are a salaried employee with no overtime, no bonus—no funky income, if you will—just a plain-vanilla borrower, then sometimes the online mortgage does work," says Brian Minkow, a divisional vice president and loan originator at Homebridge Financial Services, a non-bank lender. "You know: You have a five-year work history, you're putting 20% down, and have an 800 FICO score."

But then there's everybody else.

Here are some of the many reasons why those borrowers might consider taking more time with the process, including consulting with an experienced loan officer or mortgage broker.

1. You want to shop around for the best loan

First and foremost, it's always in a borrower's best interest to comparison shop on rates and fees, says Keith Gumbinger, a vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage information website. Speed and convenience alone do not always translate into a better price for borrowers.

"You should invest some time in it, do your research," Gumbinger says. "Also, do your diligence on your credit. And think about how long you're going to be in your home." The reason? The length of time you estimate you are likely to be staying in the home can be a factor in whether you apply for a fixed or adjustable rate loan.

Gaining an understanding of different loan programs is a smarter approach than just "going online and filling out things," says Minkow. "A lot of people really don't know if they're getting the right loan program, the right interest rate, the right down payment."

The research process may ultimately lead you straight to the speedy online mortgage site as the best option anyway. But, Gumbinger says, "You won't know that unless you go out and take a look around."

2. You're a first-time home buyer

Researching all your options is especially important if you've never purchased a home before, advises David Weliver, founder of MoneyUnder30.com, a personal finance advice site. First-time buyers should always talk through important details like rates, points, and closing costs with an expert. "After you've been through the process once, you have a better idea of what to expect and what information you'll need to provide to make the process go smoothly," he says.

Even those who have borrowed before may want to consult with someone if there is anything about their circumstances that might make qualifying more difficult. For example, Weliver says, "a real person could be a helpful advocate" for borrowers who are buying a second home or rental property, have spotty credit, or have inconsistent income.

3. You're self-employed

About 15 million Americans are classified as self-employed, according to the Pew Research Center. While salaried workers generally only have to show the lender their W-2 tax forms to prove their income, self-employed workers "should expect that they will have to provide the lender with more income documentation, such as tax returns from the last few years," Weliver says.

The fact is, some online lenders are more strict about documentation requirements than federal guidelines require, because they want to reduce their risk, says Minkow. That can make qualifying even tougher for a borrower who is already perceived as a higher risk—for example, applicants who have only been in their current job for a few months, or those who want to include overtime pay as evidence of their buying power. The lender will want to see proof that the overtime pay is consistent. "Certain guidelines say you have to show you have it for 12 months or 24 months—it depends on the loan," Minkow says.

4. You want some extra handholding

Working with someone one on one may also help prevent last-minute problems when it comes time to buy that house. "I can't tell you how many clients who have come to me after they'd gone online and gotten a pre-approval from a lender," Minkow says. "Then they go to purchase a house, and halfway through the transaction, the online lender says all of a sudden, 'You can't get approved.' The client freaks out. And that's when they get ahold of someone like myself."

Finally, there is the matter of personal preference. Not everyone likes the impersonal approach. Before applying for a loan, borrowers might consider whether they are the kind of person who appreciates a lot of help and attention in other shopping experiences. "If you like a hands-on environment, like a Macy's, you're a different kind of shopper than someone who enjoys going to a warehouse club," says Gumbinger. "Your expectations going in will influence how satisfied you are with the process."

Let's get together to discuss your current situation and how The McLeod Group Network can help! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By and Photo credit: Realtor.com, Lisa Prevost


What's the most common home-buying mistake? If you're reading this from a cramped living room, or while lying in your itty-bitty "master" bedroom, you probably know the answer: buying a too-small home.

The mistake is so common that I—a seasoned real estate writer!—made it, too. And plenty more otherwise-smart homeowners are realizing their starter home might be their forever home and wishing they had sprung for a few more bedrooms.

"All too often, this mistake is made by first-time home buyers upgrading from an apartment rental," says Mark Cianciulli, co-founder of The CREM Group.

But soon enough, the buyers realize their mistake—just like we did. Our cozy two-bedroom suited us fine until we began floating the idea of having kids. Panic quickly gripped us: As two work-from-home adults with three animals and regular visitors (thanks, out-of-state fam!), we didn't even know where we'd put them.

Suddenly, calling our home "cozy" seemed like a euphemism for something far more sinister.

Fellow small-home buyers, don't give up hope: Making your adorable abode work long-term isn't an impossible task. Here's how to make your cramped space function for you.

1. Add on to your home

If you adore the neighborhood, adding space to your existing home can turn a cramped cottage into a lifelong home. Check local restrictions first, then consider whether you could double your square footage with a second story, or transform an unused part of the backyard into a master suite.

This is the easiest way to make a tiny house suit your family's growing needs. But keep your budget in mind.

"This can be an expensive undertaking," Cianciulli says. "You're essentially building a new portion to the home."

Costs vary dramatically depending on your location. Expect to spend $80 to $200 per square foot to expand your home's footprint, and $100 to $300 per square foot to add a second story.

2. Inside, think vertical

You're not interested in selling, and you definitely don't have the budget to add on. No sweat! Think up. Find a talented carpenter and get yourself some serious built-ins—complete with hidden helpers.

"It's relatively easy to complement built-ins with clever, space-saving furniture that not only looks great, but serves many purposes," says Andrew Hillman, a broker at Hillman Real Estate.

Create gorgeous workstations by integrating a desk that folds into a bookshelf, or upgrade your laundry space with pull-out drying racks. Use every inch of real estate to make your home feel like a mansion.

3. Reconfigure the layout

Ready to knock down some walls Chip "Demo Day!" Gaines–style? Your floor plan will thank you.

"The best and most economical solution can be reconfiguring the existing layout of the home," Cianciulli says.

Perhaps your home would feel larger if you transformed your rarely used dining room into a master bedroom. Or maybe the living room is awkwardly placed, interrupting the home's flow.

"Even if each day has you frantically searching for ways to streamline and simplify, each home has the potential to be efficient with the right design," says Larry Greene, the president of design and remodeling company Case Indy.

But this isn't a DIY job: Hire a professional architect or remodeling company to creatively reconfigure your space. Consider going with a local company that has worked with similar homes.

"They'll be able to show you how remodelers have dealt with similar design problems and provide solutions that are specific to the challenges of your local area," Greene says.

4. Swap out your furniture

Maybe you used to have an oversize living room—so you bought a huge sectional. Now it's crammed into your current home's much-smaller TV room, making the entire floor plan feel cramped.

It's time to ditch old furniture that doesn't suit your space and integrate sleek, smaller pieces.

A few years ago, Hillman helped a buyer purchase a small city apartment. Then came buyer's remorse. Hillman stepped in to help her redesign, choosing minimalist, transformative furniture.

Soon, "she was happy about her hip, trendy, spacious small home," he says. "She's now addicted to optimizing and organizing her home with creative furniture concepts."

In addition to ditching bulky items, choose furniture that has storage or does double duty, like this industrial pop-up coffee table ($599) from West Elm.

5. Expand your outdoor space

A versatile outdoor living area "immediately expands your living room outward, making it a fun place to entertain and relax with guests," Greene says.

If you're located in a warm climate—or even one that enjoys a decently long summer—create unique, cozy dining and entertaining spaces outside. Need inspiration? Lifestyle blog A Beautiful Mess' comfortable outdoor living room is serious backyard goals.

If you live in a cold climate, you don't have to sacrifice outdoor living, either. Transform a rarely used porch into a sunroom and enjoy natural light all year long.

6. Sell your home

OK, fine: This isn't really salvaging the situation. But any discussion including the words "I hate my house" deserves at least a quick peek at this last-ditch option. If you're suddenly expecting triplets, a two-bedroom bungalow very well might strain your sanity.

If you're truly down in the dumps, consult with your real estate agent. This is "the obvious solution," Cianciulli says, but also a major commitment.

Consider exhausting all the options above before you settle on selling, and prepare to make difficult sacrifices. If you picked your too-small space because it fit your budget and you loved the surrounding neighborhood, don't expect to find a larger home nearby unless you're willing to pony up significantly more cash.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to start the search for your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe


Offering over asking price on a house often makes buyers wince. But let's face it, paying above list price is just a reality in certain circumstances—at least if you really have any hopes of getting that house!

So when exactly should you aim high and offer over asking? Check for these signs below that suggest this pricey move is essential.

1. It’s a seller’s market

seller’s market is when there are more home buyers than sellers—meaning demand outpaces the supply of homes for sale. As a result, home buyers in a seller's market face a tough challenge: Due to increased competition, they often have to act fast and bid high to woo sellers into accepting their offer, says Seth Lejeune, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Malvern, PA.

Looking at a couple of key factors can help you determine whether you’re in a seller’s market, Lejeune says, starting with the average days on market.

A good rule of thumb: “If houses are selling in your neighborhood in less than 10 days, it’s a strong seller’s market,” Lejeune says. You can find what the average days on market is in your city using realtor.com's Local Market Trends tool.

You’ll also want to evaluate what homes are selling for compared with their list price. In a strong seller's market, Lejeune says, the final sales price is typically at least 10% higher than the asking price. (Your real estate agent can pull this data for you.)

2. You know, for a fact, you're going up against other offers

Bidding wars can erupt, even in a buyer’s market—sometimes all it takes is an aggressively priced home, which is why it’s important to find out whether there are other bids on a property before you make an offer. So go ahead and ask (or have your real estate agent ask on you behalf); generally it's in their interests to say if other offers are on the table since it might spur you to act fast.

3. The house is blatantly underpriced

Some sellers decide to list their home well below the property’s fair market value in an effort to spark a bidding war. In that instance, it may make sense for you to offer over asking price in order for your bid to outshine other offers.

To figure out if a house is underpriced, you and your agent should assess recently sold homes in the area (also known as comparables, or “comps”). This will give you a baseline that you can use to calculate a home’s true market value, which you can use as a benchmark when pricing your offer.

4. You’re competing with cash buyers

Home sellers swoon over all-cash offers for one simple reason: It means there's no doubt that you've got the coin to close the deal. Consequently, all-cash home buyers have a distinct advantage over those who need a mortgage, because there's no guarantee that lenders will fork over the money.

Cash offers made up 29% of single-family home and condo sales in 2017, according to ATTOM Data Solutions. So, if you know you’re competing against one, making a bid that’s over a home’s list price could persuade the seller to accept your offer.

5. The seller isn’t motivated

Some home sellers have to unload their house as quickly as possible, say, due to an imminent relocation for a new job or a need to raise cash to purchase their next home. Other sellers, though, aren’t quite as motivated—and they may just be listing their house to “test the market” and see what sized offer they can get, which is why it’s important to ascertain what the seller’s motivations are, says Diana George, founder of Vault Realty Group, in Oakland, CA.

“I always call the real estate listing agent and speak to them directly to get a better understanding as to what's driving the seller,” George says.

If you find yourself dealing with an unmotivated seller, offering above the home’s list price could make the seller bite. The caveat, of course, is you don’t want to offer so much above asking price to the point where you significantly overpay for the home.

6. You absolutely adore the home—and can’t risk losing it

Sometimes buyers simply fall head over feels for a house, says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis. If you find a house and feel your heart would be broken if you lose it, offering over asking price can help you lock down the property, Dossman says.

7. You can afford to pay over asking price

One word of warning: If you’re obtaining a mortgage, be aware that if you pay way over what a home is really worth, the home still has to pass appraisal in order for your lender to provide you with the loan that you need. Any difference between a home’s appraised value and your contract price would have to come out of your pocket. As always, you’ll want to rely on your real estate agent to help you craft a winning offer you can afford.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to start the search for your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

Salem-Keizer OR Real Estate For Sale

4176 Ward Drive NE Salem, OR 97305

MLS#747139

Welcome home to 4176 Ward Drive where we have the TOTAL PACKAGE READY FOR YOU! A sprawling 4-bedroom 2 bath main level living home nestled on a landscaped lot in Jan Ree Gardens is just waiting for you to arrive! Flaunting new interior paint, new carpet, new counter tops, new vinyl flooring, new roof, and fresh trim paint, all you have to do is pack your bags to move in! Entertaining will be a delight in the Living Room with a large picture window and cozy fireplace one could happily linger here all day! Updated light and bright kitchen offers cabinet and counter-top space galore, smooth top range and a serving bar. Flowing effortlessly from the kitchen is a dining area with plenty of flex space for entertaining, beamed ceiling, planning desk and sliders to the backyard top off this spacious area. Fantastic utility room with sink and cabinetry to keep things organized plus an adjoining full bath for convenience! A large master suite plus three generously sized secondary bedrooms all have hard wood floor and great closet space. ​Slip out the sliding glass doors and you will enjoy a serene setting from your patio with new cover perfect for summer grilling and chilling! Double garage is ideal for keeping your toys out of the elements! Dynamic Salem Oregon location! 

 

The McLeod Group Network has distinguished themselves as a leader in the Salem Oregon real estate market. As a full service, real estate team - focused on working with our Seller and Buyer clients to help achieve their real estate goals!

We bring a keen eye for the details of buying or selling a Salem Oregon home and seemingly boundless determination and energy, which is why our clients benefit from our unique brand of real estate service. Rooted in Tradition, focused on the Future –The McLeod Group Network will help make the most of your Salem Oregon real estate experience. With over 40 years of combined experience, you can rest assured that your real estate transaction will be handled and cared for with the utmost respect and attention to detail. Give us a call today 503-798-4001 and discover the difference we can make during your family's move.

2 Trends Helping Keep Housing Affordable

by Amy McLeod Group


Two positive trends have started to emerge that impact the 2019 Spring Housing Market. Mortgage interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate loan have dropped to new lows, right as reports show that wages have increased at their highest rate in decades!

These two factors have helped keep housing affordable despite low supply of houses for sale driving up prices. First American’s Chief Economist, Mark Fleming, explains the impact,

“Ongoing supply shortages remain the main driver of the performance gap as the housing market continues to face an inventory impasse – you can’t buy what’s not for sale.

 However, an unexpected affordability surge, driven primarily by lower-than-anticipated mortgage rates, rising wages and favorable demographics, has boosted housing demand.”

Mortgage interest rates had been on the rise for most of 2018 before reaching their peak in November at 4.94%. According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates last week came in at 4.20%.

Average hourly earnings grew at an annual rate of 3.2% in March, up substantially from the 2.3% average pace seen over the last 10 years.

These two factors contributed nearly $6,000 worth of additional house-buying power for median households from February to March 2019, according to First American’s research. Fleming is positive about the prolonged impact of lower rates and higher wages.

“We expect rising wages and lower mortgage rates to continue through the spring, boosting housing demand and spurring home sales.”

Bottom Line

Low mortgage interest rates have kept housing affordable throughout the country. If you plan on purchasing a home this year, act now while rates are still low!

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: KCM Crew


Conventional wisdom dictates that one of the more successful tactics out there to convince a home seller to accept your offer is get personal: Include some sweet and heartfelt information to them in a note, expressing why you're just dying to buy the house.

“A personal letter from a buyer can make an offer shine,” says Nancy Newquist-Nolan, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Santa Barbara, CA.

 
 
 

However, attaching a so-called “love letter” to your offer also gives you the opportunity to stick your foot in your mouth, warns Bryan Zuetel, a real estate attorney and managing broker of Esquire Real Estate in Irvine, CA. Say the wrong thing, and it could turn off or even offend the seller so much that they don't even want your money.

Trust me: I’ve been a real estate agent for the past six years, and I’ve read dozens of offer letters ... and some aren’t pretty. At all.

Don’t want to ruffle the sellers' feathers? Here are six phrases never to include in an offer letter.

'I can see our family celebrating Christmas here.'

Sadly, some view other people negatively if they do not share their religious views. And although it’s illegal under the Federal Fair Housing Act for a home seller to discriminate based on religion—or on race, color, national origin, sex, family status, or disability—a claim based on what's in an offer letter can be difficult to prove in court, says Craig Blackmon, a broker and real estate attorney in Seattle. Consequently, Blackmon recommends that home buyers not reveal their religion in an offer letter—plain and simple.

'We're not nuts about your shag carpet, but we'll just tear that out.'

Here’s a good rule to follow throughout a real estate transaction: Don’t insult any sellers you may be dealing with, or their taste! Discussing changes you’d want to make to the house can be offensive. Put yourself in the seller’s shoes. Would you want a buyer criticizing your taste in home decor? No way!

Andrea Gordon, a real estate agent with Red Oak Realty in Oakland, CA, offered one experience as a cautionary tale to home buyers: "In one case, the buyer went on and on about the huge remodel he would do when he owned the house. But this was a slap in the face to my sellers, who had spent a considerable amount of money in the past five years renovating the property."

Flattery can go a long way. So, tell the sellers how great their taste in color is, how much you'd love to have their lifestyle, or what an incredible art collection they have.

'We would do anything to get this house.'

Don’t tip your hand too much—say, by hinting that you’re desperate to buy the home. Doing so can only hurt your negotiating power should the seller come back with a counteroffer.

'Our lease is up soon, so we really need to close quickly.'

This kind of statement can weaken an offer if the sellers are looking for a longer closing period—or just realize they have you over a barrel, and can negotiate accordingly.

Moreover, it’s important for your real estate agent to communicate with the listing agent and find out what the sellers want, and to learn their backstory. How long have they lived in the house? How many children did the sellers raise in the home? Having this kind of info can help you craft a compelling offer letter that touches their soft spots.

'Your home’s fenced-in backyard will be a perfect place for my dog to run around.'

You may love pets, but a seller may not feel the same way. In particular, mentioning your dog’s breed could be risky. For example, let's say you own a pit bull. Considering the stigma surrounding the breed, some people are afraid of these canines—and, even though the sellers will be moving, they may be concerned about their neighbors’ safety.

On the other hand, if you know that the sellers love dogs, mentioning yours in an offer letter can help you find common ground, says Mindy Jensen, a real estate agent in Longmont, CO.

'Although my offer has a lot of contingencies, I know we can make this deal work.'

This might sound like a no-brainer, but some home buyers still make the mistake of drawing attention to negative aspects of their offer. On one occasion, I was selling a house, and we received an offer letter that said the buyer wasn’t willing to pay full price for the home, but was willing to pay in cash. An all-cash offer is great, but why call any attention to the fact that the seller's asking price won't be met? Ultimately, the seller decided to accept another buyer’s offer instead.

Bottom line? Writing a personal offer letter to a seller can help seal the deal, but what you don’t say in an offer letter is just as important as what you do.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz 

With Inventory Low: Will Your Dream Home Need Some TLC?

by Amy McLeod Group


According to a new survey from Move.com, the wave of first-time homebuyers hitting the market this summer has resulted in an interesting statistic. Nearly 60% of buyers searching for a home this spring are willing to consider buying a fixer-upper, with 95% believing that the projects needed will increase their new home’s value!

Realtor.com’s Chief Economist, Danielle Hale, pointed to low-inventory at the entry-level price range for the increase in willingness to renovate.

“The combination of rising home prices and limited entry-level homes for sale is prompting many home shoppers to consider homes that need renovating.

Replete with inspiration at their fingertips – like Pinterest, Instagram, and various home renovation TV shows – some home shoppers are comfortable tackling home renovation jobs to find a home that balances their needs with their budget.”

Just over half of all respondents who said they would be willing to buy a home in need of some TLC, would also spend more $20,000 to make the home fit their needs.

The most common ‘expected’ renovation is a kitchen remodel which can run anywhere from $22,000 for a minor remodel to $66,000 for a major remodel.

This isn’t a new trend by any means. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University,home improvement project spending reached a new high in 2018.

“Americans spent $336.9 billion on remodeling projects, up 7.4% from the $313.6 billion a year earlier.”

Home renovation television shows have given many buyers hope that they could renovate a home they can afford into their dream home!

Bottom Line

If you are one of the many Americans considering buying a home this spring, let’s get together to help you find a house with the potential to be your dream home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: KCM Crew

The Real Estate Commission: A Guide to Who Pays, How Much, and More

by Amy McLeod Group


If you hire a real estate agent to help you buy, sell, or rent a house, this professional gets paid through a real estate commission. So how much do you pay, and what for? Is there any wiggle room to negotiate this fee?

As a real estate agent myself, allow me to tell you firsthand everything you need to know about real estate commissions, from who pays to how much to where that money goes.

How much is a real estate commission?

Rather than getting paid hourly or weekly fees, most real estate agents earn money only when a real estate deal goes through.

While there are some real estate agents who will charge a flat fee for their services, most charge a percentage of the sales price of the home once the deal is done. That exact percentage varies, but the commission is typically 5% to 6% of a home’s final sales price. On a $200,000 home, a 6% commission would amount to $12,000.

Granted, this may seem like a serious chunk of change, but keep in mind that no one makes off with the whole amount! Plus, real estate agents don't see a dime until a buyer finds a home she loves, the seller accepts the offer, and all parties meet at the closing table. That process can mean weeks or months of work.

Who pays the commission?

Generally, the home seller pays the full commission for the services of both their own listing agent and the buyer's agent (assuming the buyer has one).

Buyer's and seller's agents typically split the commission. So if a home sells for $200,000 at a 6% commission, the seller's agent and buyer's agent might split that $12,000, and each receive $6,000.

However, the commission split varies from one agent to another, with new agents sometimes earning a smaller percentage of the commission than experienced agents who sell more homes or more expensive properties.

What is dual agency?

So what happens if an agent represents the buyer and the seller? In that case, the agent becomes a “dual agent” and gets paid both commissions. (Talk about a big payday!)

However, because it puts them in a sticky position of having to work for both the seller and the buyer, many agents don’t practice dual agency—and some states don’t even allow it. I believe it creates a conflict of interest. After all, clients hire me to represent their best interests. How can I do that when I'm sitting on both sides of the table?

What does a real estate agent commission cover?

Though people certainly have the option of selling (or buying) their house without a real estate agent, agents provide clients a wide range of services, including helping you price your home, marketing it (on the multiple listing service, social media, and other venues), negotiating with home buyers, and ushering the home sale through closing.

As trained experts, real estate agents can help you fetch top dollar for your house and put out fires—while also alleviating some of the stress that comes with selling a home. (It’s no picnic!) I might be biased, since I’m an agent myself, but great ones earn their keep.

Want proof? Just look at the numbers: A recent survey found that the typical "for sale by owner" home sold for $190,000, compared with $249,000 for agent-assisted home sales, according to the National Association of Realtors®. That’s in line with a recent survey from Keeping Current Matters that found that homes listed for sale with a real estate agent sell for $46,000 more on average than FSBO houses. Perhaps that explains why 92% of home sellers use an agent to sell their house.

Is a real estate agent commission negotiable?

Though 5% to 6% tends to be the norm, commission standards can vary from state to state and among brokerages. Still, there are no federal or state laws that set commission rates—meaning commission is negotiable.

In other words, if you’re a home seller, you can certainly ask your agent to reduce their commission, but be aware that he is not obligated to do so.

A factor to consider: Because the marketing dollars for a property generally come from the agent’s commission, a lower commission could mean less advertising for your house.

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a lower commission. Most agents won't take offense, and the worst case is they say no. Or, if you’re truly tight on cash—say, because you’ve maxed out your budget buying your next home—you could opt for a transactional agreement, in which the listing agent will help you set an asking price, facilitate communication between you and the buyer, write the contract, and move the process along to closing for a flat fee or lower commission, but you won’t receive the agent's full services. It’s not ideal, but it’s the right route for some people. However, not all agents offer transactional agreements, so you may have to shop around to find one.

Bottom line: It is likely that buying and selling a home will be the biggest financial transactions of your life, so be sure you find an agent that you trust will do a great job. This is not the time to shop solely on price.

What else do I need to know about commissions?

All of the details about a real estate agent's commission (and any transaction fees the agent charges) should be outlined in the contract that you sign when you hire an agent. This is typically referred to as a listing agreement, and it also specifies how long the agent will represent you. (Generally, listing agreements last 90 to 120 days.)

Also keep in mind that there are some exceptions. For instance, rental agents work differently from purchase agents. It's usually the landlord’s job to pay the rental agent's fee, but that’s not set in stone. In New York City, for example, tenants often pay the rental agent’s commission. It's up to the landlord and the tenant to decide who pays the rental agent's fee.

Furthermore, commission is usually higher when selling a vacant lot(anywhere from 10% to 20%), since selling land often takes longer and requires more marketing dollars. Some auctions charge home buyers a 5% "premium," or commission.

As a seller, you want a real estate agent who can broker the best sales price and terms for you, but good agents aren’t cheap. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz
Michele Lerner contributed to this report


Mortgage interest rates are a mystery to many of us—whether you're a home buyer in need of a home loan for your first house or your fifth.

After all, what does “interest rate” even mean? Why do rates swing up and down? And, most important, how do you nab the best interest rate—the one that’s going to save you the most money over the life of your mortgage?

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Here, we outline what you need to know about interest rates before applying for a mortgage.

Why does my interest rate matter?

Mortgage lenders don't just loan you money because they’re good guys—they’re there to make a profit. “Interest” is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you need to buy a home.

Your interest payment is calculated as a percentage of your total loan amount. For example, let’s say you get a 30-year, $200,000 loan with a 4% interest rate. Over 30 years, you would end up paying back not only that $200,000, but an extra $143,739 in interest. Month to month, your mortgage payments would amount to about $955. However, your mortgage payments will end up higher or lower depending on the interest rate you get.

Why do interest rates fluctuate?

Mortgage rates can change daily depending on how the U.S. economy is performing, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Consumer confidence, reports on employment, fluctuations in home sales (i.e., the law of supply and demand), and other economic factors all influence interest rates.

“During a period of slack economic activity, [the Federal Reserve] will provide more funding and interest rates will go down,” Guttentag explains. Conversely, “when the economy heats up and there’s a fear of inflation, [the Fed] will restrict funding and interest rates will go up.”

How do I lock in my interest rate?

A “rate lock” is a commitment by a lender to give you a home loan at a specific interest rate, provided you close on your home in a certain period of time—typically 30 days from when you're pre-approved for your loan.

A rate lock offers protection against fluctuating interest rates—useful considering that even a quarter of a percentage point can take a huge bite out of your housing budget over time. A rate lock offers borrowers peace of mind: No matter how wildly interest rates fluctuate, once you're "locked in" you know what monthly mortgage payments you'll need to make on your home, enabling you to plan your long-term finances.

Naturally, many home buyers obsess over the best time to lock in a mortgage rate, worried that they'll pull the trigger right before rates sink even lower.

Unfortunately, no lender has a crystal ball that shows where mortgage rates are going. It’s impossible to predict exactly where the economy will move in the future. So, don't get too caught up with minor ups and downs. A bigger question to consider when locking in your interest rate is where you are in the process of finding a home.

Most mortgage experts suggest locking in a rate once you're "under contract" on a home—meaning you've made an offer that's been accepted. Most lenders will offer a 30-day rate lock at no charge to you—and many will extend rate locks to 45 days as a courtesy to keep your business.

Some lenders offer rate locks with a “float-down option,” which allows you to get a lower interest rate if rates go down. However, the terms, conditions, and costs of this option vary from lender to lender.

How do I get the best interest rate?

Mortgage rates vary depending on a borrower’s personal finances. Specifically, these six key factors will affect the rate you qualify for:

  1. Credit score: When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance you’ll repay them later! One way they assess this is by scrutinizing your credit score—the numerical representation of your track record of paying off your debts, from credit cards to college loans. Lenders use your credit score to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your home loan, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com. A perfect credit score is 850, a good score is from 700 to 759, and a fair score is from 650 to 699. Generally, borrowers with higher credit scores receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores.
     
  2. Loan amount and down payment: If you're willing and able to make a large down payment on a home, lenders assume less risk and will offer you a better rate. If you don’t have enough money to put down 20% on your mortgage, you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, an extra monthly fee meant to mitigate the risk to the lender that you might default on your loan. PMI ranges from about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.
     
  3. Home location: The strength of your local housing market can drive interest rates up, or down.
     
  4. Loan type: Your rate will depend on what type of loan you choose. The most common type is a conventional mortgage, aimed at borrowers who have well-established credit, solid assets, and steady income. If your finances aren't in great shape, you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, a government-backed loan that requires a low down payment of 3.5%. There are also U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans, available to active or retired military personnel, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, available to Americans with low to moderate incomes who want to buy a home in a rural area.
     
  5. Loan term: Typically, shorter-term loans have lower interest rates—and lower overall costs—but they also have larger monthly payments.
     
  6. Type of interest rate: Rates depend on whether you get a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. "Fixed-rate" means the interest rate you pay remains fixed at the same level throughout the life of your loan. An ARM is a loan that starts out at a fixed, predetermined interest rate, but the rate adjusts after a specified initial period (usually three, five, seven, or 10 years) based on market indexes.

Tap into the right resources

Whether you're looking to buy a home or a homeowner looking to refinance, there are many mortgage tools online to help, including the following:

  • mortgage rate trends tracker lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.
  • mortgage payment calculator shows an estimate of your mortgage payment based on current mortgage rates and local real estate taxes.
  • Realtor.com's mortgage center, which will help you find a lender who can offer competitive interests rates and help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
Salem OR 97302
971-208-5093
Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.