Choosing the right Realtor and Lender

Choosing the right Realtor and Lender
choosing the right realtor and lender blog photo

Choosing the right Realtor and Lender

Why the Right Realtor Makes All the Difference When It Comes to Selling Your Home:

The Realtor’s role is critical in the home selling process. The right realtor is an experienced salesperson and a creative marketer who knows the local real estate market. They can successfully leverage all channels to advertise your home to the widest available audience.  They’ll help you determine a reasonable price, help you prepare your home for viewing and be the go between during critical negotiations with potentials buyers.  Choosing the right realtor means a better selling price and a faster closing.

The right Realtor will:

  • Prepare comparisons to help you determine the right selling price for your home
  • Assist you in showcasing your home to its best advantage
  • Market your home to reach the widest audience using all available channels.
  • Focus on qualified pre- approved buyers so you can move quickly when an offer comes in.
  • Host an Open House and network with other realtors to attract buyers.
  • Oversee inspections, and manage any other professionals needing access to your home.
  • Negotiate with potential buyers to arrive at an acceptable price.
  • Accompany you to the closing and making sure you’re well prepared.

Choose the Right Lender Before You Begin Looking for That New Home:

Trying to sell a home while looking to buy at the same time can be stressful. Avoid that stress by choosing your lender first. ILS will make sure you’re fully prepared to begin your house hunting your house hunting with a free fully underwritten pre-approval. Unlike a traditional pre-qualification, a pre-approval is a detailed picture of your credit worthiness, verified by a full review of your income and assets by an ILS Mortgage Underwriter. With a pre-approval letter from ILS you have the confidence you need to make an offer.  You’ll, know what you can afford, negotiate better and even close faster. All that’s left for final approval is an appraisal and title search and no material changes to your financial condition. Your ILS Loan Officer will assist throughout the home buying process and make sure you have everything you need when it comes time to close.

Your Ideal Lending Solutions Loan Officer will:

  • Have a pre-approval letter in hand before you start looking for a home
  • Walk you through the mortgage loan process
  • Help you choose a loan program that meets your unique needs
  • Lock in your interest rate and disclose all fees and costs

* A pre-approval does not constitute a loan commitment or guarantee of a loan.  Pre-approval is subject to a satisfactory appraisal, satisfactory title search, and no meaningful change to borrower’s financial condition.

Ideal Lending Solutions has locations across the great state of Florida to assist you.
Mortgage Lender in West Palm Beach | Mortgage Lender in Boca Raton | Mortgage Lender in Jupiter | Mortgage Lender in Miami | Mortgage Lender in Cocoa Beach

Do You Know How Mortgage Insurance Can Be Cancelled?

Do You Know How Mortgage Insurance Can Be Cancelled?

Do You Know How Mortgage Insurance Can Be Cancelled?

Did you know that when you have paid down your mortgage loan balance, or your property value has increased, you may be eligible to eliminate your monthly mortgage insurance?

Step One: Know Your Rights – The Homeowners Protection Act mandates that a homeowner can request the elimination of mortgage insurance when the unpaid principal balance of your loan reaches 80% based on the original value of your home

  • Important to Know: If you live in an area that has seen appreciation in home values or you purchased a home under market or fixed one up, you can request early termination based on the current value of your property.

Step Two: Contact your servicing company – This is the company you make payments to.

Step Three: Ask for a “MI Termination Request”.

Step Four: Discuss your options with your servicer. For instance, if you have not paid down your loan balance to 80% of the value or below, then you will need to request cancellation based on the current value of your home.

Requesting MI Termination Based on Current Value of Home

  • In many cases, your servicer has access to a system that will tell them the current value of your home. If this value shows that your loan to value is 80% or less, the servicer can terminate your mortgage insurance, and this should not cost you anything.
  • If the system does not show that your value has increased, you always have the option to pay for an appraisal of your property. However, you will be responsible for paying for that appraisal whether or not the value is sufficient to terminate mortgage insurance.

FHA Condos Are Back

FHA Condos Are Back
FHA condominiums for sale

FHA to make financing easier for condo owners

New FHA condo rules will give affordability a boost! The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released new guidance on FHA-insured condominium financing. The new rules should benefit new homebuyers by allowing more buyers to obtain low down-payment mortgages on affordable housing options.

Specifically, the new rules will:

  • Extend FHA certifications on condo developments from two years to three years, reducing the compliance burden on condo boards.
  • Allow for single-unit mortgage approvals—often known as spot approvals—which will enable FHA insurance of individual condo units, even if the property does not have FHA approval.
  • Secure additional flexibility in the ratio of investors to owner-occupants allowed for FHA financing in a condo building.

According to

The Federal Housing Administration has finally issued a long-awaited update to its condominium rules, announcing Wednesday that it will now allow individual unit approval and is taking other steps to loosen requirements that make these properties eligible for FHA financing.

Under the revised guidelines – which take effect Oct. 15, 2019 – an individual condo unit in a building of 10 units or more may be eligible for spot approval if no more than 10% of the units are FHA-insured. For units in buildings with fewer than 10 units, no more than two units can have FHA insurance.

The FHA is also extending the recertification deadline for approved condo projects from two to three years, and it will insure more mixed-use projects, or those with more commercial space, to be eligible, stating that approved projects can now have up to 35% of their square footage dedicated to non-residential use.

The agency also loosened restrictions on owner-occupancy rules, stating that eligible condo projects can now be just 50% owner-occupied.

It also said it will insure up to 50% of units in any given project.

The FHA said it expects the updated guidelines to qualify an estimated 20,000 to 60,000 more condo units per year for financing.

Currently, of the more than 150,000 condo projects across the country, only 6.5% are approved for FHA financing.

This is something the FHA is aiming to change with the updated guidelines, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

“FHA is publishing a new rule in the Federal Register that we believe will offer significantly more options for individuals and families to buy a home, specifically the kind of home more and more people are looking for in order to achieve homeownership, and of course that is a condominium,” Carson said, adding that the new rules “will open many doors to buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines, waiting to become homeowners, waiting to share in the American Dream.”

FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery said the agency has been working alongside stakeholders for three years to update its condo policies.

“It had become clear for many years that we needed to update our condo project approval regulations so that, while not exposing the agency to more risk, they are more flexible and less prescriptive and more reflective of the current market than the previous condominium project approval provisions,” Montgomery said on the press call.

The National Association of Realtors was among the of the first trade associations to applaud the agency for finally making the long-awaited move.

NAR said the changes, which it has championed for more than a decade, should help alleviate affordability issues for many prospective homebuyers.

“We are thrilled that Secretary Carson has taken this much-needed step to put the American Dream within reach for thousands of additional families,” said NAR President John Smaby.

“It goes without saying that condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time homebuyers, small families and those in urban areas,” Smaby continued. “This ruling, which culminates years of collaboration between HUD and NAR, will help reverse recent declines in condo sales and ensure the FHA is fulfilling its primary mission to the American people.”

Specific changes regarding condo approvals can be viewed in an updated version of FHA’s Single Family Handbook, found here.

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Should You Consider Buying an Airbnb Florida Investment Property?

Should You Consider Buying an Airbnb Florida Investment Property?
Airbnb home in Florida

Should You Consider Buying an Airbnb Florida Investment Property?

Have you thought about buying an Airbnb investment property but not sure where to start? I’m sure you have noticed Airbnb rental in the sunshine state is thriving. Airbnb announced that its Florida host community has surpassed the ten-figure mark by earning a combined $1.2 billion in supplemental income in 2019. Two key factors that determine the success of an Airbnb investment property are high demand and occupancy rate. In the article below, Daniela Andreevska from Mashvisor explains how you can profit from an Airbnb investment property.

If you’ve been reading about US housing market predictions, you are already aware of the fact that Airbnb rentals are expected to remain a defining factor in many markets across the nation. Despite opposition from the hotel lobby and local homeowner associations, short term rental properties are here to stay.

This is why you, as a beginner or even an experienced real estate investor, are wondering whether you should purchase an Airbnb investment property next year and what the best location for this type of real estate investment is. The answer to the first question is “Absolutely YES!”, and the answer to the second one is “In the Florida real estate market.”

Buying an Airbnb Florida Investment Property

The main reason why you should be considering buying a vacation rental in the Florida housing market in 2020 is the high demand. Florida is not only one of the most visited states by both domestic and foreign tourists but also becoming an international business hub. As you already know, in real estate investing a high number of tourists and business visitors translates into demand for vacation homes, or high Airbnb occupancy rate, which on the other hand translates into money for Airbnb rental property investors.

The second most important reason to go for an Airbnb Florida rental in 2020 is the fact that the local legal and regulatory environment remains friendly to short term rentals, unlike many other popular destinations in the US, such as California for example.

So, if you are still not sure whether buying a vacation home in Florida is the right choice for you, let’s have a look at the average Airbnb occupancy rate by city in the Sunshine State. The high levels will clear all your doubts!

Airbnb Occupancy Rate by City in Florida

If you are a new real estate investor, you might be thinking “What is a good occupancy rate for Airbnb?” While no one has a precise answer to this question, not even the top real estate experts, obviously the higher, the better. But we can generally say that anything above 50% is a good Airbnb occupancy rate, especially in a highly competitive rental market as Florida.

As you will see from the figures above, most places in Florida provide higher than typical Airbnb occupancy rate. Let’s take a look at the Airbnb occupancy rate by city in the Florida real estate market at the end of 2018 as these figures are expected to continue into 2019 and beyond:

  • Key West: 74.6%
  • Miami Beach: 64.9%
  • Orlando: 59.5%
  • Jacksonville: 57.0%
  • Fort Lauderdale: 56.2%
  • St. Petersburg: 55.1%
  • Sarasota: 54.4%
  • Miami: 54.2%
  • Lake Worth: 53.5%
  • Tampa: 52.9%
  • Naples: 52.3%
  • Fort Myers: 52.1%
  • West Palm Beach: 50.8%
  • Boca Raton: 43.4%
  • Miami Gardens: 43.3%
  • Greenacres: 31.3%
  • Punta Gorda: 23.8%

As data from Mashvisor’s investment property calculator reveals, the highest Airbnb occupancy rate by city in Florida is in Key West, at 74.6%, while the lowest Airbnb occupancy rate by city is in Punta Gorda, at 23.8%. The rest of the top places to invest in real estate in the Florida housing market have short term rental occupancy rates in the 40s, to 50s, and even 60s. So we can conclude that the average Airbnb occupancy rate in Florida is about 50-55%.

What’s the Importance of the Airbnb Occupancy Rate by City for Investors?

The average Airbnb occupancy rate in the location where you plan to buy a vacation rental is crucially important because it will determine your rental income, or in other words – how much money you will make from your short term real estate investment property. Your Airbnb rental income is a function of two factors: 1) The nightly rate which you charge for your property and 2) The occupancy rate of your rental. While there is no way to know EXACTLY what part of the time your Airbnb rental will be occupied and what part vacant, the typical Airbnb occupancy rate by city is a close approximation of what you should expect in this regard.

Moreover, when searching for and analyzing prospective investment properties to buy through Mashvisor, you get to see what occupancy rates other properties (similar to the one you are looking at and in close geographic proximity to it) actually get when listed on the Airbnb platform. That’s where the data for the average Airbnb occupancy rate by city presented above comes from, which means that it is highly accurate and reliable as it is based on actual bookings on

But that’s not all. In addition to determining your rental income (i.e., how much you get from Airbnb guests per month from your vacation home), the Airbnb occupancy rate also plays a major role in calculating your cash flow and return on investment.

To show you how important the occupancy rate is for your return on investment, let’s have a more detailed look at Key West.

This island city has not only the highest average Airbnb occupancy rate by city in Florida but also the highest Airbnb rental income ($8,560) and the highest cap rate (7.0%). For comparison, the monthly Airbnb rental income in Punta Gorda is only $1,240, while the cap rate is close to 0. The high occupancy rate makes money for short term rental investors in Key West, while the low level in Punta Gorda does not allow investors there to even break even.

Airbnb Rental In Florida

How Can You Boost Your Airbnb Occupancy Rate?

As an investor in vacation rentals, you must be wondering how you can push your occupancy up – above the average Airbnb occupancy rate for your location – in order to make more money. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you out in this regard:

1. Develop a comprehensive Airbnb pricing strategy

Pricing your Airbnb rental property right lies somewhere between science and magic. Getting the right rental price for your property is hard, but it is crucially important for your success. The first step is to investigate what other, similar short term rentals in the area charge – where Mashvisor’s valuation analysis will be of indispensable help.

The next step is to evaluate the high and the low seasons in your location and to adjust your price accordingly. Don’t forget to factor in weekends and weekdays as well. Most importantly, remain flexible. Once you’ve settled your nightly rate, if it prevents you from achieving a high occupancy rate, consider lowering it. After all, it’s better to rent out your property for a few dollars less than to keep it vacant. If, on the other hand, demand is strong at the current price, you can consider raising the rate a bit and see if this affects demand negatively.

2. Excel as an Airbnb host

Reviews from Airbnb guests are one of the key factors for the success of your rental business. The more and the better Airbnb reviews you have, the more people will be willing to stay in your vacation home and the higher rate they will be willing to pay. Make sure your Airbnb rental is equipped with everything needed to assure a comfortable stay and that it is always clean between guests. If needed, hire an Airbnb property management services company. While this will cost you a fee, these professionals will take the best possible care of your property while allowing you to focus on other more important aspects of your real estate investment business, such as growing your property portfolio.

3. Provide more extras

If you want to have a high Airbnb rental income through a higher than average Airbnb occupancy rate, don’t go for just the basics of what’s required from a vacation rental. The homesharing business has become so competitive that you have to put in some extra effort in order to stay on top of your competition and score a higher occupancy rate than the rest of the properties in the area. One of the best ways to do that is to provide some extras to your guests such as good coffee and tea, some breakfast items, toiletries, good wi-fi, and others. Your guests will definitely note those in their Airbnb reviews and secure more demand for your rental. And as you already know, more demand means higher Airbnb occupancy rates, which means more money in your pocket or bank account. Or ideally, money to buy multiple investment properties.

After learning about the average Airbnb occupancy rate by city in Florida, you are a step closer to becoming a successful short term rental property investor. The next step is to find the most profitable property for sale which matches your budget and your personal preferences.

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Consumer Awareness – Wire Fraud

Consumer Awareness – Wire Fraud
Fraud Ninja Photo- Blog

Consumer Awareness - Wire Fraud

At Ideal Lending Solutions, keeping our customer’s personal information private and secure is a top priority. We will remain vigilant against wire fraud through clear communication at all times. Here are a few tips consumers should keep in mind during the mortgage process to reduce their risk of wire fraud.

When you buy a new home, chances are good that you shared this great news with a lot of people, including your social media network. Some of the people that hear about this exciting news may be criminals that you are not even connected to but who are intent on intercepting your money.

According to the FBI, wire fraud is growing each year exponentially. As your lender, we want to protect you so here are some tips to avoid any potential issues:

  • You will be communicating with many people on our staff throughout your loan process.
  • Information sent to you from us that contains personal information will be encrypted to protect your privacy.
  • Always communicate private information through a private internet connection and not through Public Wi-Fi. There is a lot of financial information that you do not want to send through public access Wi-Fi where it is easily intercepted.
  • When you receive an email, always look at the sender’s email address to make sure it is from the person you think it is. Criminals know that just a subtle change, like a letter in the email address, will go unnoticed by most people.
  • Always verify the authenticity of each wire transfer request. NEVER follow instructions in an email. Call us first to verify the information, using the number you have contacted us on before, and NEVER call the number on the wire transfer request. These folks are very sophisticated, and our goal is to protect you during the mortgage process.


Reprinted with permission –

Are Closing Costs Tax Deductible Under the New Tax Law?

Are Closing Costs Tax Deductible Under the New Tax Law?
Man giving money

Are Closing Costs Tax Deductible Under the New Tax Law?

Here’s the scoop on what’s tax deductible when buying a house.

elps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible.

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?
Tax photo

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?

Owning a home can pay off at tax time.

If you’re eligible, take advantage of these home ownership-related tax deductions and strategies to lower your tax bill:

Mortgage Interest Deduction

To claim the  mortgage interest deduction, you must itemize using Schedule A, and your mortgage must be secured by your pirmary or second home. That home can be a house, trailer, or boat, as long as you can sleep in it, cook in it, and it has a toilet.

Interest you pay on a mortgage of up to $1 million — or $500,000 if you’re married filing separately — is deductible when you use the loan to buy, build, or substantially improve your home.

If you take on another mortgage (including a second mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit) to improve your home or to buy or build a second home, that counts towards the $1 million limit, and the interest is still deductible.

If you use loans secured by your home for other things — like sending your kid to college — you can still deduct the interest on loans up $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately) because your home secures the loan. However, this rule changes for 2018, and the interest on such loans will no longer be deductible unless the proceeds are used to substantially improve a home.

Beginning with tax year 2018, the mortgage interest deduction cap is $750,000, and fewer people will likely itemize (and therefore take the MID) because of the increase in the standard deduction.

Prepaid Interest Deduction

Prepaid interest (or points) you paid when you took out your mortgage is generally 100% deductible in the year you paid it along with other mortgage interest. However, you must itemize to take it.

If you refinance your mortgage and use that money for home improvements, any points you pay are also deductible in the same year.

But if you refinance to get a better rate or shorten the length of your mortgage, or to use the money for something other than home improvements, such as college tuition, you’ll need to deduct the points over the life of your mortgage. Say you refi into a 10-year mortgage and pay $3,000 in points. You can deduct $300 per year for 10 years.

So what happens if you refi again down the road?

Example: Three years after your first refi, you refinance again. Using the $3,000 in points scenario above, you’ll have deducted $900 ($300 x 3 years) so far. That leaves $2,400, which you can deduct in full the year you complete your second refi. If you paid points for the new loan, the process starts again; you can deduct the points over the life of the loan.

Home mortgage interest and points are reported on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040.

Your lender will send you a Form 1098 that lists the points you paid. If not, you should be able to find the amount listed on the closing docs you got when you purchased your home or refinanced.

Property Tax Deduction

Again, for 2017, you can deduct on Schedule A the real estate property taxes you pay if you itemize, without limit. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, the amount of real estate property taxes you paid shows up on your annual escrow statement.

For tax year 2018 and beyond, you can deduct local and state taxes, including property taxes, up to $10,000 combined. This again depends on whether you itemize, which many homeowners will not be able to do in 2018 due to a large increase in the standard deduction.

If you bought a house this year, check your closing documents to see if you paid any property taxes when you purchased your house. Those taxes are deductible on Schedule A, too.

Vacation Home Tax Deductions

The rules on tax deductions for vacation homes are complicated. Do yourself a favor and keep good records about how and when you use your vacation home.

If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.

Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E.

Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice; tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

elps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible.

What to Expect During a Home Inspection

What to Expect During a Home Inspection

What to Expect During a Home Inspection

The first thing you need to know about home inspection: You’ll feel all the feels. There’s the excitement — the inspection could be the longest time you’re in the house, after the showing. Right behind that comes … anxiety. What if the inspector finds something wrong? So wrong you can’t buy the house? Then there’s impatience. Seriously, is this whole home-buying process over yet? Not yet. But you’re close. So take a deep breath. Because the most important thing to know about home inspection: It’s just too good for you, as a buyer, to skip. Here’s why.

A Home Inspector Is Your Protector

An inspector helps you make sure a house isn’t hiding anything before you commit for the long haul. (Think about it this way: You wouldn’t even get coffee with a stranger without checking out their history.)

A home inspector identifies any reasonably discoverable problems with the house (a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, etc.). Hiring an inspector is you doing your due diligence. To find a good one (more on how to do that soon), it helps to have an understanding of what the typical home inspection entails.

An inspection is all about lists.  

Before an inspection, the home inspector will review the seller’s property disclosure statement. (Each state has its own requirements for what sellers must disclose on these forms; some have stronger requirements than others.) The statement lists any flaws the seller is aware of that could negatively affect the home’s value.

The disclosure comes in the form of an outline, covering such things as:

  • Mold
  • Pest infestation
  • Roof leaks
  • Foundation damage
  • Other problems, depending on what your state mandates.

During the inspection, an inspector has three tasks: To:

  1. Identify problems with the house
  2. Suggest fixes
  3. Estimate how much repairs might cost

He or she produces a written report, usually including photos, that details any issues with the property. This report is critical to you and your agent — it’s what you’ll use to request repairs from the seller. (We’ll get into how you’ll do that in a minute, too.)

The Inspector Won’t Check Everything

Generally, inspectors only examine houses for problems that can be seen with the naked eye. They won’t be tearing down walls or using magical X-ray vision, to find hidden faults.

Inspectors also won’t put themselves in danger. If a roof is too high or steep, for example, they won’t climb up to check for missing or damaged shingles. They’ll use binoculars to examine it instead.

They can’t predict the future, either. While an inspector can give you a rough idea of how many more years that roof will hold up, he or she can’t tell you exactly when it will need to be replaced.

Finally, home inspectors are often generalists. A basic inspection doesn’t routinely include a thorough evaluation of:

  • Swimming pools
  • Wells
  • Septic systems
  • Structural engineering work
  • The ground beneath a home
  • Fireplaces and chimneys

When it comes to wood-burning fireplaces, for instance, most inspectors will open and close dampers to make sure they’re working, check chimneys for obstructions like birds’ nests, and note if they believe there’s reason to pursue a more thorough safety inspection.

If you’re concerned about the safety of a fireplace, you can hire a certified chimney inspector for about $125 to $325 per chimney; find one through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

It’s Your Job to Check the Inspector

Now you’re ready to connect with someone who’s a pro at doing all of the above. Here’s where — once again — your real estate agent has your back. He or she can recommend reputable home inspectors to you.

In addition to getting recommendations (friends and relatives are handy for those, too), you can rely on online resources such as the American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI) Find a Home Inspector tool, which lets you search by address, metro area, or neighborhood.

You’ll want to interview at least three inspectors before deciding whom to hire. During each chat, ask questions such as:

  • Are you licensed or certified? Inspector certifications vary, based on where you live. Not every state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and licenses can indicate different degrees of expertise. ASHI lists each state’s requirements here.
  • How long have you been in the business? Look for someone with at least five years of experience — it indicates more homes inspected.
  • How much do you charge? The average home inspection costs about $315. For condos and homes under 1,000 square feet, the average cost is $200. Homes over 2,000 square feet can run $400 or more. (Figures are according to
  • What do you check, exactly? Know what you’re getting for your money.
  • What don’t you check, specifically? Some home inspectors are more thorough than others.
  • How soon after the inspection will I receive my report? Home inspection contingencies require you to complete the inspection within a certain period of time after the offer is accepted — normally five to seven days — so you’re on a set timetable. A good home inspector will provide you with the report within 24 hours after the inspection.
  • May I see a sample report? This will help you gauge how detailed the inspector is and how he or she explains problems.

Show Up for Inspection (and Bring Your Agent)

It’s inspection day, and the honor of your — and your agent’s — presence is not required, but highly recommended. Even though you’ll receive a report summarizing the findings later on, being there gives you a chance to ask questions, and to learn the inner workings of the home.

Block out two to three hours for the inspection. The inspector will survey the property from top to bottom. This includes checking water pressure; leaks in the attic, plumbing, etc.; if door and window frames are straight (if not, it could be a sign of a structural issue); if electrical wiring is up to code; if smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working; if appliances work properly. Outside, he or she will look at things like siding, fencing, and drainage.

The inspector might also be able to check for termites, asbestos, lead paint, or radon. Because these tests involve more legwork and can require special certification, they come at an additional charge.

Get Ready to Negotiate

Once you receive the inspector’s report, review it with your agent.

Legally, sellers are required to make certain repairs. These can vary depending on location. Most sales contracts require the seller to fix:

  • Structural defects
  • Building code violations
  • Safety issues

Most home repairs, however, are negotiable. Be prepared to pick your battles: Minor issues, like a cracked switchplate or loose kitchen faucet, are easy and cheap to fix on your own. You don’t want to start nickel-and-diming the seller.

If there are major issues with the house, your agent can submit a formal request for repairs that includes a copy of the inspection report. Repair requests should be as specific as possible. For instance: Instead of saying “repair broken windows,” a request should say “replace broken window glass in master bathroom.”

  • If the seller agrees to make all of your repair requests: He or she must provide you with invoices from a licensed contractor stating that the repairs were made. Then it’s full steam ahead toward the sale.
  • If the seller responds to your repair requests with a counteroffer: He or she will state which repairs (or credits at closing) he or she is willing to make. The ball is in your court to either agree, counter the seller’s counteroffer, or void the transaction.

At the end of the day, remember to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling about all of this. You need to be realistic about how much repair work you’d be taking on. At this point in the sale, there’s a lot of pressure from all parties to move into the close. But if you don’t feel comfortable, speak up.

The most important things to remember during the home inspection? Trust your inspector, trust your gut, and lean on your agent — they likely have a lot of experience to support your decision-making.

That’s something to feel good about.


elps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of home ownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible.

What You Should Really Know About Browsing for Homes Online

What You Should Really Know About Browsing for Homes Online
Man on laptop

What You Should Really Know About Browsing for Homes Online

Oh, let’s just admit it, shall we? Browsing for homes online is a window shopper’s Shangri-La. The elegantly decorated rooms, the sculpted gardens, the colorful front doors that just pop with those “come hither” hues.

Browser beware, though: Those listings may be seductive, but they might not be giving you the complete picture.

That perfect split-level ranch? Might be too close to a loud, traffic-choked street. That handsome colonial with the light-filled photos? Might be hiding some super icky plumbing problems. That attractively priced condo? Might not actually be for sale. Imagine your despair when, after driving across town to see your dream home, you realize it was sold.

So let’s practice some self-care, shall we, and set our expectations appropriately.

  • Step one, fill out our home buyer’s worksheet. The worksheet helps you understand what you’re looking for.
  • Step two, with that worksheet and knowledge in hand, start browsing for homes. As you do, keep in mind exactly what that tool can, and can’t, do. Here’s how.

You Keep Current. Your Property Site Should, Too

First things first: You wouldn’t read last month’s Vanity Fair for the latest cafe society gossip, right? So you shouldn’t browse property sites that show old listings.

Get the latest listings from®, which pulls its information every 15 minutes from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), regional databases where real estate agents post listings for sale. That means that®’s listings are more accurate than some others, like Zillow and Trulia, which may update less often. You wouldn’t want to get your heart a flutter for a house that’s already off the market.

BTW, there are other property listing sites as well, including Redfin, which is a brokerage and therefore also relies on relationships with brokers and MLSs for listings.

The Best Properties Aren’t Always the Best Looking

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. But what they don’t say is a picture can also hide a thousand cracked floorboards, busted boilers, and leaky pipes. So while it’s natural to focus on photos while browsing, make sure to also consider the property description and other key features.

Each® listing, for example, has a “property details” section that may specify important information such as the year the home was built, price per square foot, and how many days the property has been on the market.

Ultimately though, ask your real estate agent to help you interpret what you find. The best agents have hyper-local knowledge of the market and may even know details and histories of some properties. If a listing seems too good to be true, your agent will likely know why.

Treat Your Agent Like Your Bestie

At the end of the day, property sites are like CliffsNotes for a neighborhood: They show you active listings, sold properties, home prices, and sales histories. All that data will give you a working knowledge, but it won’t be exhaustive.

To assess all of this information — and gather facts about any home you’re eyeing, like how far the local elementary school is from the house or where the closest Soul Cycle is — talk to your real estate agent. An agent who can paint a picture of the neighborhood is an asset.

An agent who can go beyond that and deliver the dish on specific properties is a true friend indeed, more likely to guide you away from homes with hidden problems, and more likely to save you the time of visiting a random listing (when you could otherwise be in the park playing with your canine bestie).

Want to go deeper? Consider these sites and sources:

Just remember: You’re probably not going to find that “perfect home” while browsing listings on your smartphone. Instead, consider the online shopping experience to be an amuse bouche to the home-buying entree — a good way for you to get a taste of the different types of homes that are available and a general idea of what else is out there.

Once you’ve spent that time online, you’ll be ready to share what you’ve learned with an agent.


elps consumers make smart, confident decisions about all aspects of homeownership. Made possible by REALTORS®, the site helps owners get the most value and enjoyment from their existing home and helps buyers and sellers make the best deal possible.

Tips for Investing in Rental Properties

Tips for Investing in Rental Properties
Real Estate Investing

Tips for Investing in Rental Properties

Investing in real estate has great potential for passive income. It can also be part of your retirement planning by selling the home and getting a big chunk of equity.

It also comes with risks.

So we wanted to share with you some of the things that we have learned when it comes to knowing our local real estate market and the real estate agents who specialize in working with real estate investors.

Know what’s happening in your area

Are people moving into your area because of job opportunities? Are people retiring there? Are you in a vacation area where you can buy short-term rental homes? Do you want to buy a duplex or four-plex home, live in one of the units and rent out the others?

Understand the costs involved

In addition to a mortgage payment, taxes and insurance, you will need to budget for repairs, landscaping/snow removal.

Long-term or short-term investing 

Investing in real estate can help you build your wealth over the long term. Or buying fixer-uppers and selling them immediately can give you more cash over the short term. You will need to decide which one is right for you.

Know all of your financing options

The mortgage rules are different in regard to the down payment, the closing costs and interest rate. We can help you decide which loan program would be the most advantageous for you.

Know your numbers

Cash flow and income tax rules can benefit you when you invest in real estate. That’s where a great accountant/CPA can help you determine if the numbers work for you and your tax bracket. (We can recommend one to you.)

Build your own real estate investment team

Even if you are only considering buying one or two rental properties, it’s best to work with people you can rely on to give you good advice. A real estate agent who specializes in working with investors (We can recommend some to you), a property management company (if you don’t want to manage your own), and a network of contractors who will help you if the home needs to be repaired.

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of investing in real estate, please let us know and we can set up a time to talk.

*American Financial Network, Inc. is not acting on behalf of or at the direction of the federal government, and this offer is not being made by an agency of the government. AFN is not a tax or financial advisor, and individual tax circumstances may vary. Please consult a licensed tax professional and appropriate government agencies to determine tax consequences of home ownership.