Archive Page 2

What’s the Role of a Title Company?

By Mike Gambino & Mary Jones

Prudential Patterson Realtors

Title companies provide title insurance services to buyers, sellers, lenders and developers, essentially anyone who has an interest in real estate. Services vary throughout the country, depending on local practices and laws. In many states, title companies handle escrow as well as perform and insure title searches. A title search involves searching public records to ascertain if the seller has the legal right to sell the property. In other states, attorneys conduct title searches.

Title companies conduct a chain of title, which is a review of the owner history of the property, checking for who purchased the property, who sold it, and when. They perform judgment searches to determine whether there are any general liens against the property, as well as tax searches to verify the present status of taxes.

Some title companies conduct on-site inspections to verify lot size, the location of improvements, and evidence of unrecorded easements.

They issue a “Commitment of Title Insurance” to lenders after completion of the title search and they receive instructions and documents for the closing. Title companies also prepare a final Settlement Statement.

If it acts as the escrow holder, the title company receives a buyer’s earnest money, which is deposited in an escrow account until the closing, or final settlement.

As a neutral third party agent of the principals—buyer, seller, lender, and borrower—the title company helps with the transfer of ownership by ensuring that the terms of the transaction are completed. This includes safeguarding all funds (including the buyer’s deposit) and documents. Once all the details have been settled, the escrow holder disburses the funds and documents to the appropriate parties.

Another important role of the title company is to issue title insurance. Although a title search is conducted, it’s nearly impossible to guarantee a title is clear of hidden defects, such as mistakes in interpretation of wills and other legal documents, impersonation of the real owner, forgery, missing heirs, falsification of records and confusion stemming from similar names. Title insurance guarantees the title as reported.

Should hidden defects surface at any time challenging an owner’s rights, the title company will defend the title, in court, if necessary, and cover the owner’s losses up to the full value of the policy.

Indeed, a title company can be crucial to the process of buying a home, so select a company that’s known for service. If you need a recommendation, talk to your real estate professional.

130×150-flip.JPGMike & Mary can be reached at (314) 506-6700 or 6701. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.ehologo.jpg

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How Important Is A Home Inspection?

By Mike Gambino & Mary Jones

Prudential Patterson Realtors

Should a buyer get a home inspection for a home they are buying? Should a seller order a home inspection prior to putting the property on the market? There are advantages for both.

Simply put, a home inspection is a visual examination of both the physical structure and major systems of the entire home including: walls, ceilings, floors, decks, exterior covering, the roof, foundation, insulation and ventilation, plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning. It is not an appraisal to validate the value of a home, nor a pass/fail exam. A third-party inspector will give a report on the physical condition and suggest repairs.

Buyers

For buyers, a home inspection clause in the written offer that makes the purchase contingent upon the findings can provide peace of mind. If a serious problem is found, it allows room to renegotiate the purchase price or “opt-out” of buying the home altogether. However, this is usually uncommon. Typically, the seller will already have told the buyer about any major problems.

More often, inspections reveal less serious defects that aren’t enough to warrant backing out of the transition. However, knowing about these minor problems can prevent major disasters down the road. In addition, if specified in the inspection clause, the cost of the repairs can be at the seller’s expense.

Another advantage to having a home inspection is it offers buyers an opportunity to become familiar with their new home and learn about maintenance to help in its upkeep. Although not required, it’s recommended that buyers be present during the inspection. This allows them to observe the inspection; ask questions about the condition of the home; and receive an objective opinion.

Sellers

For sellers, conducting a home inspection (or pre-inspection) before listing their homes puts the control back into their hands.

When the buyer inspection finds problems, it can impede negotiations and cost the seller more in repairs. By having a pre-inspection, the seller can help eliminate any surprise findings after an offer has been made. The seller can make repairs before placing the home on the market and possibly even increase the value of the home.

A pre-inspection can also serve as a great marketing tool. Sellers are required by law to disclose any known defects in the home. Having a pre-inspection report available for buyers tells them that the seller has nothing to hide. It also gives them a clearer picture of the condition of the home.

If there are major problems found during the pre-inspection, it gives the seller an opportunity to disclose the condition up-front, making it less likely for the buyer to pull out of the deal or try to renegotiate the price.

Knowing the true condition of a home can bring peace of mind to buyers and sellers; and be one less hurdle in the home buying and selling process. Ask your real estate sales professional for a list of certified independent home inspectors in your area.

Mike Gambino & Mary Jones can be reached at (800) 321-8586. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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While the contents in this article will apply in most states, they may vary in your particular locale. Mike Gambino & Mary Jones are licensed salespersons in Missouri.
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Make Sure You Have A Marketing Plan

By Mike Gambino & Mary Jones
Prudential Patterson Realtors®

Only for the rare few sellers, simply placing a “For Sale” yard sign on the front lawn creates a line of traffic filled with potential buyers. If you want buyers to see your home, you’ve got to find them. The key is marketing. To get the most exposure for your home, you should have a marketing plan with clear objectives and specifically outlines the resources that will be used to reach potential buyers.

Each marketing plan should be designed around your property and capitalize on its most desirable features. Therefore, you need to be honest with your real estate professional about the condition of your home, and the final price you are willing to accept for your home.

Next, you need to determine what marketing options work best to reach your desired audience. Generally there are two audiences you are trying to reach—home buyers and other real estate professionals. Make sure the plan includes action steps on how each audience will be marketed to.

Seldom is the successful marketing of a property the result of a single activity. Your strategy should include a variety of marketing activities. Using only conventional marketing strategies such as Open Houses, newspaper ads and direct mail can limit your outreach. Most homebuyers now begin their home search online. Having a presence on your real estate professional’s Web site and other portals such as Yahoo! Real Estate gives you worldwide exposure. Besides the increased exposure, online listings also allow buyers to get a sneak peek of your home. Therefore, you may want to complement the listings with plenty of photos and a virtual tour, which allows viewers to get a preview of your home without leaving their computer.

Also, don’t forget the power of email. Sending email flyers or electronic postcard are easy and cost efficient. During your planning, your real estate professional may recommend other marketing tools such as company/broker tours and an Open House. Work with your real estate professional to determine the best options for your market.

Besides identifying marketing tools, an effective marketing plan will also spell out specific dates for the marketing activities. It should leave room for unscheduled events such as following up with sales professionals or brokers who preview or show the home.

Make sure the marketing plan includes checkpoints, possibly at the 15-, 30- and 45-day marks, to review activity on the home and determine if changes need to be made to the marketing plan.

As the home seller, you should be kept in the loop on activity of your home. The marketing plan should state how you will be communicated with (mail, phone, email, in person) and the frequency (daily, weekly, etc.).

Of course these are just guidelines, but can give you an idea if the marketing plan your real estate professional has proposed to you has to be refined. You need to be comfortable with the marketing strategy for your home. An effective plan will not only put you at ease, but also give your home maximum exposure to increase your chances of a quick sell.

Mike Gambino & Mary Jones can be reached at 1-800-321-8586. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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Need Extra Space? Try Storage

By Mike Gambino and Mary Jones
Prudential Patterson Realtors

If lack of space for your belongings is an issue for you, off-site storage may be the right solution. You don’t have to be a pack rat to find yourself needing extra space. You could be renovating a room and need somewhere to house the contents. Perhaps you need to move into smaller quarters temporarily while you’re waiting to move into a new home. Or you may need to create a spacious look for your home while it is on the market.

Renting storage space is a pretty simple process, especially when you plan ahead. Here are helpful tips for choosing a facility and protecting your property:

Shop around to find the facility that best meets your needs such as storage size, price, accessibility and security.

When shopping for a storage facility, you will need to know what size unit is required to hold your possessions. Typically you can choose a space from as small as 5’x5’, which is the size of a small closet and holds between 10-15 boxes, to 10’ x 25’, which is about the size of a single-car garage. The facility’s representative can help decide what is the best size for you.

You also want to make sure that your items will be secure. Ask questions such as: Is there a guard on duty? Video surveillance? Alarms? Do you need to provide your own lock? Is the area well lit?

In addition, don’t assume that the facility, or your homeowner’s or renters insurance, covers your belongings in case of theft or damage. Most storage centers assume no responsibility for your items, so talk with your insurance provider.

You also want to have reasonable access to your belongings. Find out the facility’s hours of operation and the name of a contact person.

Before signing any agreement, inspect the facility and your storage unit for cleanliness and signs of proper maintenance. Is the area well protected from rain, snow or humidity?

Make certain that you understand the rental agreement and get a copy of the contract. Are you renting on a month-to-month or a six-month basis? Is there a deposit? Does termination of the agreement need to be in writing? How much advance notice do you have to give?

Before moving your possessions to the storage unit, take actions to protect them from damage or theft. While packing, label boxes on each side by numbers rather than content. Make a master inventory list so that you know what is in each box, as well as furniture and other unpacked items. Don’t use newspaper as packing paper because it may smudge off on your items.

Prepare your unit by placing plastic on the floor. If you will be moving in large furniture, lay down blankets or sheets as well. Then store your most valuable possession first, toward the back. Store frequently used items at the front. Make sure that you leave a walkway so you can access your belongings. In addition, leave a small space between the objects and the storage unit’s walls.

No matter what the reason, using an off-site storage unit is a good solution for your short-term space challenge. Just make sure that you understand the terms of your agreement and that your belongings are secure.

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Mike Gambino and Mary Jones can be reached at (314) 506-6700 or (314) 506-6710. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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Making Sense Out of Real Estate Lingo

By Mike Gambino

Prudential Patterson Realtors

As with all industries, real estate professionals have developed a lingo and acronyms to help them communicate with each other more easily. For the first-time homebuyer (and even some veterans), making sense of property listings can sometimes leave you feeling like you’re deciphering the DaVinci Code.

Let’s take a look at a sample real estate listing:

2,500 sf on a c-d-s, 2BR, 2.5BA, CA, spac grt rm w/ wbfp, grmet kit, det gar

Looks a lot like alphabet soup. However, using this type of abbreviated property description saves valuable advertising space. Some abbreviations you’ll probably encounters are:

AC or A/C: air conditioning
BA: bathroom
BR: bedroom
CA: central air
C-D-S: cul de sac
DET: detached
DK: deck
EIK: eat-in kitchen
F/FIN BSMT: finished basement
FDR: formal dining room
FP, frplc: fireplace
GAR: garage
GRMT KIT: gourmet kitchen
GRT RM: great room
HDW, HWF, Hdwd: hardwood floors
HOA: home owners association
LR: living room
KIT: kitchen
OFC: office
PVT: private
SF: square feet
SPAC: spacious
VW, VU: view
WBFP: wood-burning fireplace

In addition to the abbreviations in property listings, here are a few other common terms you should become familiar with.

FSBO—For Sale By Owner. This term refers to a property which the homeowner is trying to sell independent of a real estate professional.

MLS—Multiple Listing Service. MLSs are comprised of a group of real estate brokers who have agreed to share their property listings. This listing is then provided to the group through a database or directory. If you are buying your home, this is the service that your sales professional will use to search for potential homes for you to purchase. If you are selling your property, your real estate professional can list your home through the MLS. For-Sale-By-Owner (FSBO) properties are typically not listed through the MLS.

CMA—Comparative Marketing Analysis. This analysis is an informal assessment of a property’s market value. This is one of the tools your real estate professional can use to help you determine a reasonable listing price. Usually, the CMA compares your property with similar properties that have sold in your area within a certain time frame. Besides purchase price, some of the information typically listed is the number of bedrooms and baths, approximate square footage, size of major rooms, amenities such as fireplaces and pools, age of the home, and property taxes.

During the real estate process, you’ll more than likely come across more acronyms and lingo. Make sure you ask your real estate professional to explain any terms you are unfamiliar with so that you are not in for any surprises.

By the way, the listing above was a 2,500 square-feet home on a cul-de-sac, with two bedrooms and two and a half baths, central air, a spacious great room with a wood-burning fireplace, and a gourmet kitchen and detached garage.

Mike Gambino can be reached at (314) 506-6700 or 1-800-321-8586. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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Tips for Selecting a Real Estate Professional

By Mike Gambino
Prudential Prudential Patterson Realtors

Technology has changed the way consumers do business. The real estate industry is no exception. In fact, 77 percent of homebuyers use the Internet during their property search. (The 2005 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers) However, most agree that when it comes to buying or selling a home, a transaction of this magnitude requires the guidance of a professional. In the same study, 90 percent of buyers and 87 percent of sellers use a real estate professional during the process.

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll want to interview two or three real estate professionals. To locate a pool of potential candidates:

* Ask family, friends, and business associates for referrals.
* Attend open houses. If the sales professional or broker impresses you, ask for a business card.
* Drive through neighborhoods that interest you and look for yard signs to see what company handles most of the sales.
* When referred to a company rather than an individual, call and ask to speak with the “sales professional on duty.”
* Search local newspapers and real estate publications.
* Call the local Prudential Real Estate Network member office for a referral to an office in another town.

Now you’re ready for the interview. Whether you’re buying or selling, the sales professional should explain the entire process up front. Sellers can use the “listing presentation” to compare sales professionals on their preparation and professionalism. Ask questions that will display the sales professional’s experience, knowledge and motivation to help you. Questions such as:

* Do you work full time or part time?
* How long have you been selling homes in this area?
* Are you familiar with the areas I’m considering?
* What type of homes do you usually handle?
* What percentage of your business comes from referrals and repeat clients?
* How many sales have you closed?
* How many homes did you sell last year?
* What percentage of your listings sold during the listing period?
* Did they sell close to the asking price?
* On average, how many days does a home stay on the market?
* Will you guide me as I prepare the house to be shown?
* Will I receive a copy of the marketing plan?
* How will you advertise our home? In what publications and when will ads run?
* Will you employ an Internet marketing program?
* Will you hold open houses? How will you advertise an open house?
* What other ways will you else to get the word out?
* How often can I expect to be updated, even if there’s nothing to report?

A word to sellers: don’t base your selection solely on selling price or commission. It’s probably best to avoid working with someone who promises you the moon–in this case, an unrealistically high price–then has to make price reductions until the property sells. Instead, focus on marketing plans, service and past results. Also, don’t be persuaded by low commissions. A seller could actually net more than with a discount broker when a winning marketing plan combined with proper pricing results in a faster sale and at a better price.

Aim to select someone who is knowledgeable and with whom you feel comfortable. It almost ensures a productive and mutually rewarding relationship.

Mike Gambino can be reached at (314) 506-6700. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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Choosing Retirement Living That Fits Your Needs

By Mike Gambino
Prudential Patterson Realtors

For many, retirement is a time when people shift priorities and put their own needs first. One of the most important choices they need to make is where to live in retirement. Choosing the right community and home is an important and challenging decision.

Ask yourself, do you want to:

* Remain in the home you occupied before retirement?
* Remain close to your present community, but move to a different home?
* Move to another county or state, or to a different climate?
* Move into your present vacation property?

Where to Live
If you lean toward moving to another region, start reviewing options based on general climate, seasonal changes, lifestyle, and proximity to family and friends.

For example, the Southeast is becoming a popular destination. It has more temperate climates than the Northeast, and golf and outdoor recreation are abundant. The region offers a wide range of living environments from which to choose: coastal, mountain, woodland, rural, and both planned and urban communities. But, while Florida has almost year around sunshine, the Carolinas offer seasonal change.

Many people choose to live where they play. If finances allow it, some may consider the owning two or more homes so they can change their address along with the seasons. This is one of the reasons why second home sales have increased dramatically over the past few years.

When you’ve narrowed it down to a few possible destinations, compare them on the basis of these factors:

Financial

Estimate the income you’ll need to retire in that area
Evaluate your resources and tax consequences
Speak with your financial advisors about how long your retirement resources can last in any given area

Housing

Research average home sale prices and cost of living in areas you like
Factor in costs such as property taxes and utilities.

Climate

Review summer and winter comfort factors, such as high temperatures, humidity, or snow and ice.
Look at psychological factors such as excessive cloudiness or rain or fog.

Personal Safety

Research violent crime and property crime rates in areas you like
Find details in the FBI’s Crime Index, and local police departments.

Services

Investigate the supply, availability, and quality of health care, public transportation, and continuing education in each area.

Employment

Evaluate the potential for pursuing a part-time or full-time second career.

Leisure Living

Find out if the area offers the variety and quality of restaurants, cultural events, and recreational activities you want

When researching your options, you may want to start with the Internet, where there is a wealth of information. Other resources include your local library, trade associations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), local organizations in the areas of interest, visitor bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, local newspapers and vacation guides.

Retirement can be the best time of your life. Be sure to plan it wisely.

Mike Gambino can be reached at (314) (506-6700). Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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