Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, The Buying Process, Tips For the Buyer

House Hunting House Tours

Once you establish what you are looking for, tell me and I will work with you to create a list of properties to preview in person.  ​

Once I have that list…. 

I will schedule appointments with the listing agent/seller, route them on the map, gather information and advise you where to meet.  Depending on the number of properties on your list, will depend on the length of time for you to block out.  I would say each home can take as little as 10 minutes for those that don’t meet your standards and go up from there.  ​

Remember, some are owner occupied so being punctual is important as they have left the home for you to preview it.  Always be respectful, wipe your feet, remain courteous.  Once you leave, the listing agent will reach out for feedback to relay to the seller.  ​

Homes that are vacant are easier to preview.  You won’t feel as bad opening closets / cabinets.  You do need to judge closet sizes though, so even if a home is not yet cleared out, yes, you can open them!​

In today’s world, be cautious of speaking freely inside and outside of the homes, as many homes have cameras which may allow the seller to hear / see everything.  Don’t talk numbers!​

House Hunting shows are extremely popular! Remember… that is TV! Be realistic with your goals, abilities, finances & expectations!​


Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, Researching to Buy, Tips For the Buyer

Buyer’s Agent Role

For most people, buying a home is generally the most expensive transaction they will make in their lifetime. And during this costly purchase, there are a lot of processes to go through. Hiring a real estate agent such as myself as your exclusive buyers agent to represent you in the purchase of your home will prove beneficial. ​

Buyers aren’t responsible for the commission payout for their agent. (With the exception of special, rare circumstances.) So without the cost of paying an agent out of pocket, you’ll receive the experience and guidance to help you through a process that could otherwise be emotionally exhausting if you are going it alone. You also get to have access to view more homes and have a clearer view on how the market is in your area as I have magic keys & localized data!  Buyers agents such as myself, are trained negotiators and know the process! Need help aligning your other professionals?  I can help!  ​

Unfortunately, sites like Zillow, Trulia and REALTOR.COM can contain outdated listings, properties that are not available and misrepresent property values. I will be able to send you a list of active properties for sale, help you go out to view them and obtain exclusive information from the sellers and agents.  I can help you find the perfect home BEFORE somebody else gets it under contract!  ​

I will work hard to help you find your dream home and avoid the pitfalls of buying a home by doing it on your own.  I am an agent who knows the area, the market and  love to find dream homes!   Contact me for all previews and questions so that I can guide you through the process and continue to ​
adapt to your needs. ​

Laws in NJ about agency can be found in the ​
Consumer Information Statement. ​

Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Researching to Buy, The Buying Process, Tips For the Buyer

Your Dream Home Questionnaire

Here are some questions to help you establish your search parameters and allow your agent to assist you.  This will help you set  a realistic understanding of what the market offers in your price point while searching! 

  • Town(s)You’d Like To Buy In:  ________________________________________________ ​
  • What is your primary reason for searching? 1st Time Buyer / Upsize / Downsize / Relocation / Secondary  ​
  • Current living situation? Rent / Own / with Family ​
  • When Do You Want To Purchase By: ___________________________________________​
  • Do you have a Pre-approval? Yes / No​
  • Maximum Price that you are Pre-Approved for:  __________________________________​
  • Has the mortgage pro reviewed documents ie tax returns, statements, pay stubs? Yes / No​
  • Are you currently working with an agent? Yes / No​
  • How long have you been actively home searching? Just started / 1 month / 3 months / 6 months /Longer​
  • Do you prefer a 1 Floor / 2 Floor home / Something different?​
  • Minimum Bedrooms: _______________    Minimum Bathrooms  ______________​
  • Do you prefer a Tub / Stall Shower in the main bathroom? ​
  • Preferred Square Footage?:  ________________​
  • Basement? Yes Has to Have / Wouldn’t mind / No​
  • Garage? 1 car / 2 car / 3 car / Added Bonus if it has one/ Has to have (circle then car#)​
  • Your Most Desired Features:  _________________________________________________​
  • What do you not want?  ____________________________________________________​
  • How long do you anticipate owning the home? <5 years / 5-10 years / 10 years +​
  • Do you entertain a lot? Yes / No   Where do you entertain most? ____________________​
  • Do you have any pets? Yes / No    If so, how many pets? (HOA restrictions) ____________​
  • Do you need a Fenced Yard? Yes / No ​
  • Do you want a Formal Living Room AND a family room? Yes / No​
  • Do you want a Dining Room? Yes / No​
  • Do you want a Kitchen Island? Yes / No​
  • Do you want a Kitchen Pantry? Yes / NO​
  • Do you want a Fireplace? Yes – woodburning/ Yes – Gas /  No / Wouldn’t mind​
  • Do you need a Home Office? Yes / No  Can it be on the 2nd floor? Yes / No​
  • Do you want a Pool? Inground / Above / Either / No​
  • Do you have a particular lot type in mind? ______________________________________​
  • Do you have to have Central air conditioning? Yes / No ​
  • What kind of parking do you require? Driveway / On street / Garage​
  • What condition do you prefer? Move In / Average / Fix up​
  • Are you purchasing with: Cash / Conventional / FHA / VA / 203k or rehab / Alternate​
  • What kind of down payment? 0% / 3.5% (FHA) / 5% / 10% / 15% / 20% / Over 20%​
  • Do you have cash for closing costs? Yes / No / Will need seller credit​
Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Renting vs. Buying, Researching to Buy, Tips For the Buyer, Uncategorized

Before You Start House Hunting


  1. Is owning a home right for you?​
  2. Have you determined the desired location? ​
  3. What is your lifestyle? Condo / Single Family / 55+​
  4. Are you financially prepared for the purchase? ​
  5. Have you considered the costs of home ownership​
  6. Have you established credit & credit history?  ​
  7. Have you planned on a down payment? 20% is a misconception! Beyond a down payment, you will need prepaid items & closing costs (seller concessions can help to offset the closing costs) ​
  8. What are your current & immediate future needs?​
  9. What is your current situation- Renting / Own / Family​
  10. Speak to a mortgage professional! They can let you know if your credit history / score is sufficient (and guide you if it isn’t)!  They will calculate your affordability based on debt to income ratio (and guide you if you need to improve it to obtain a higher budget)!  They will assist you… ​
  • By reviewing documents & getting you Pre-Approved !​
  • Advise of down payment needed & cash for closing ​
  • Provide estimated monthly mortgage payments​
  • Advise you of mortgage types that exist and what you qualify for​
  • Advise on the conditions of the loan that you will need to satisfy prior to closing​
  • Your closing time frame​
  • Remain in constant contact with you through your purchase!​
  • Advise you on what to do and NOT to do during the purchase – ie change jobs, make large purchases, open new credit accounts, etc.​
  • Be a KEY part in your purchase! ​
  • Help you with all of your mortgage needs!​
Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, Researching to Buy, The Buying Process, Uncategorized

Buyer Questionnaire

No matter where you are in the buying process- just researching, ready to look, ready to purchase, you are going to need to know what it is you are looking for. Searches many times evolve.  But thinking about what you may want and knowing what you are initially starting with, helps significantly in the process and can reduce the amount of time you spend actively looking.

Initially, you begin looking online and driving by listings or through neighborhoods.  That is a great first step.  This however, is very different than physically walking through homes.  Every home is different in design/structure and every person has different uses for the home.

Sit down and think about your use for the home and what it is you need for your life.  Using the below sheet (there is a jpg and pdf printable), you may be able to identify some items to focus on.

I always tell my clients, you can change paint and flooring, you can do some remodeling with walls, however, you can’t change the location or the property lines.  Adding rooms will require additions to be put on down the line as well.

As you are going through homes, you will begin to narrow it down.  You will sometimes wish that you could take the kitchen from one home, the yard from a second home and the pool from a third home and then one day, it’ll click.

When agents are working for you searching for listings, we type in your parameters which gives us the results to share with you.  The biggest ones are generally: Township(s), Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Garage, Basement, Budget.  As I said, when you start going inside homes, you may realize that the 4 bedrooms your search started with, is too big or too small for your family.  It’s a process.  I try and keep it as stress free as possible 🙂


buyer questionnaireNJ Real Estate Buyer Questionnaire – Printable PDF

Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Researching to Buy, Uncategorized

10 Things Every New Homebuyer Needs to Know

Homebuying can be a confusing and somewhat daunting task. We’ll help you understand the homebuying process and find the home that’s the perfect fit.

1. Know your needs.

First, examine your lifestyle. Do you long for bucolic pasturelands? Feel energized by urban cityscapes? Looking forward to a family-friendly suburban lifestyle? It’s important to think of the limitations each locale places on your lifestyle and the perks each has to offer — before making the commitment to buy.

Suburban lifestyles are flexible, offering children the opportunity to play outdoors and enjoy a neighborhood environment. Urban areas offer greater social, culture, educational and career opportunities. Rural environs offer privacy, room to roam and the ability to pursue hobbies — such as gardening — on a larger scale.

In addition to locale, it’s important to think about the type of dwelling you’re considering. Will you quickly outgrow that handsome city brownstone? Is a country cottage the perfect size? Will purchasing a condo allow you to forego lawn and home maintenance and enjoy more leisure time?

2. Weigh the costs of homeownership.

There’s more to consider than just a monthly mortgage payment. Will you be able to afford the expenses that come with owning a home? Utilities, property taxes, repairs, homeowners association fees, lawn maintenance (unless you will do the work yourself) can all add up.

If you’re moving to a new part of town or a new city, it’s important to consider the cost of living for that area. Transportation, school tuition and everyday living expenses can also make homeownership more expensive than it initially appears.

3. Better to build or buy?

Having a home custom-built to your specifications can be expensive. But are you ready to take on remodeling and updating an older home to meet your needs?

A remodel can often be expensive and in the end, is less satisfying, and finishing a project yourself, without experience, can result in the purchase of costly tools and the loss of your valuable time. Do your research before signing with a contractor or deciding to revamp an older home.

4. Location, location, location.

A bargain is never really a bargain when located in a bad neighborhood. Sometimes lightning will strike and gentrification of certain areas will result in skyrocketing property value — but that’s rare. It’s better to take a chance on a smaller home — or one in need of repair — in a great area where the value will only rise.

5. Know your loans.

A loan rate can look great in an advertisement, but once bankers have drawn you in to the branch office, what will you really pay? Points, PMI (private mortgage insurance) and closing costs can drive your mortgage cost up.

Some programs allow buyers to have smaller down payments. But how long are you required to stay in the home without penalty? And how much more will you pay each month?

Be sure to read all the clauses and fine print before getting a mortgage. And don’t be afraid to shop around for the best rate.

6. Consider a buyer’s broker.

Most real estate agents represent the seller, but a Buyer’s Broker (also called a Buyer’s Agent) represents your needs and desires and helps you locate the property that’s best for you.

While buyer’s brokers are difficult to locate in some markets, locating a professional advocate who is required by law to get you the best price and terms can alleviate home shopping stress.

7. Demand full disclosure and a professional home inspection.

Most states require that a home seller disclose potential problems with the property, but the homeowner may not always know or reveal existing structural problems (despite the legal requirement). The only way to truly know what’s going on inside (and over and under) a home’s structure is to secure the services of a reputable home inspector. Expect to pay $300-600 for the inspection. It seems like a lot of money, but consider the thousands it could save you if the home isn’t up to code or has major issues.

8. Get it in writing.

Perhaps one of the best ways to protect yourself is to have every part of the sale in writing, and make sure you understand every aspect before making a commitment. Legal jargon and real estate terminology can be confusing and somewhat frustrating, so hone your real estate vocabulary before house hunting, and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions along the way.

9. What to do before completing the purchase.

First, make sure your title is “free and clear” and there are no problems with you assuming ownership of the property. Then, purchase homeowners insurance. Finally, decide if the purchase of a home warranty (if not included as part of the sale) is in your best interest. These should all be taken care of before “closing.”

10. Don’t forget about taxes.

Are your property taxes rolled into your monthly mortgage payment? Or will you be responsible for paying them yearly? Don’t forget to keep paperwork for your annual federal or state income tax return. You can often deduct the property taxes, points and interest paid on a mortgage. Set up a consultation with a tax accountant to learn more about the restrictions on these types of deductions.

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor® Associate has the following insight:

When I personally purchased my Barnegat Pines home in Lacey, NJ over 10 years ago, it was my first home purchase.  Luckily, I was fortunate to have great resources at my disposal (my agent!) and the items listed within this section were presented to me then and still ring true today.  Trust in your real estate professionals to guide you through the process, but also do your own research- you have the internet at your fingertips which means endless information.  But also, you need to do some foot work too and drive by the homes different times of day, research the areas and really think of what you want in a home.  How long do you think you’ll be there?  What plans do you have in that time frame?  If you purchase a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom home on the bay for example off Beach Blvd, how long do you plan on staying?  Will your family grow?  You may realize that in 2 years you will be starting your family and your needs will change to more of a backyard, swing set and a home in a different neighborhood such as Cranberry Hill due to its proximity to the parkway and schools.  Use this as a guide!

Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, The Buying Process, Tips For the Buyer, Uncategorized

Take These Pointers When Buying a Second Home

Brush up on location, lifestyle and finances while searching for your retreat.

Buying a second home has become one of the fastest growing trends in the United States. In fact, more than 30 million Americans are expected to enter the second home market within the next decade. It can seem like a daunting task, but with a few essential steps you can learn how to turn buying your second home into a sane, reasonable venture.


Assess Your Lifestyle

  • Think about what spot you love the most and the amount of time you will be spending in your vacation home.

  • If this house will be for weekend getaways, anything more than two hours may seem like a long trip.

  • Condos have relatively low maintenance, making them a good option for those using their homes one season a year, or for those who want a place farther away from their primary home.

  • When considering a condo, find out whether you can live with the homeowners association rules.

  • With a single-family home, you will have more privacy but you’ll have to handle all the maintenance.

  • Many hotels are now providing rooms as condominium hotel rooms. These offer all the services of a hotel, but yet you’re still able to benefit from the appreciation of that property over time.

 Choose a Location

  • The best way to spot the up-and-coming neighborhoods is to drive around the area that you like, and go farther out; the homes in these areas will likely see their value increase as well.

  • Find out from local people how the town has changed, what’s being built and what types of people are moving to the area.

  • Pick up the local paper to obtain information about political issues, tax issues and more.

  • Visit your vacation spot during each season to get a good idea of what it’s like year-round.

  • If you might retire in your second home one day, make sure that there is quality, accessible health care nearby and that the environment is both safe and affordable.

  • Find out if there are enough places to pick up part-time work if you want or need to.

  • It’s always important to check out the weather, especially if you plan to use for all seasons.

  • Think beyond the price tag of the home:

    1. Check out the area public schools.

    2. Consider neighborhoods just off the beaten path.

    3. Rent two or more years in a row to get the true flavor of a place.

    4. Do a test drive to the location at peak times, look for alternate routes.

And, finally, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I love one spot?

  • Do I have enough time?

  • Is it close enough?

  • What can I afford?

Assess your lifestyle before buying a second home.

 Shop and Evaluate

Take your time and have some fun finding the right vacation home for you, and be sure to view at least 10 to 15 properties before making your decision. You can check out some virtual home tours on the Internet to help you get an idea of what’s out there.

  • Your most valuable resource is a good realtor.

  • Pick up the local paper. The most successful agents are always advertising and promoting their listings. Go to some open houses on your own and choose the best agent.

  • The right agent should be punctual and return your phone calls promptly.

  • There will be more than one or two house options in a given area so experts insist: Cast a wide net.

  • Make sure you look at a wide variety of houses, both above and below what you can afford, to truly compare the price that you’re paying and the value you’re getting for that price.

  • Once you start narrowing down your choices, seriously check out the potential neighborhoods. Talk to the current residents to make sure you get the insider’s view.

  • Keep in mind, a vacation property is likely to have more blemishes than your first home. Homes that are built as vacation homes often aren’t built as well as year-round homes.

  • Many vacation homes are built over crawlspaces which have wood and soil in close contact. This can result in decay.

  • Porches are often built without adequate foundations and may need to be re-supported over time.

  • Trees around the home can damage it. They drop leaves and nutrients on the roof, causing decay. Houses surrounded by trees aren’t able to dry out as quickly.

  • Water is a problem with all homes but is more of an issue with vacation homes, because we are not there to notice if a water problem has occurred. Also, the home is susceptible to mold.

  • Keep thermostat on year round to avoid frozen pipes.

  • Hire someone to look in on your property while you’re not using it.

  • Make sure your home inspector is registered with the American Society of Home Inspectors.

  • Use mold-resistant materials in all remodeling and avoid manufactured wood products or materials that incorporate wood products, such as wafer board, particleboard and sheet rock.

Get Your Bucks in a Row

  • If you have reasonably low debt, and money left over at the end of the month, you can probably afford a second home.

  • Lenders want to make sure that your debt does not exceed 40 percent of your gross income.

  • You’ll get the most competitive mortgage rate on your first home, not your second. Your mortgage rate could be up one-quarter or even half a point.

  • The climate right now is great for getting a good rate, because of competition between lenders. Make them work for you!

  • For second homeowners insurance, be prepared to shell out a little more than you do on your primary home. A lot of insurers realize that if it’s a vacation home you are not around all the time.

  • Stay with your current home insurer and you may get a solid discount.

  • A central alarm system that detects burglars and fires can cut 20 percent off your rate. Buying a home in a gated community could save you 10 percent.

  • A second home can actually help you out with regard to your taxes if you live in your vacation home more than 14 days per year, you can deduct your real estate taxes and mortgage interest, as long as your combined mortgages don’t exceed a million dollars.

Rent It

  • For many second homeowners, an occasional renter can help offset a lot of expenses.

  • If your house is rented out for fewer than 14 days a year, you don’t have to report that income to the IRS. If you rent out for more than 14 days, you have to report the income to the IRS, but you can deduct some expenses too.

  • If you’re going to be renting, make sure you have a very good accountant.

  • Don’t expect the rental income to cover your monthly mortgage.

  • Make sure you screen your tenants very closely. Use a good property management company that will guarantee the condition, if not, make sure you get a large deposit on the property from the tenant.

  • A good property management company will take a lot of the work, and worry off your plate.

  • Encourage long-term renters to take out renters insurance. Rent only by the month or the season, as longer-term renters tend to take better care of a property.

  • Make sure you have a locked storage room that only you have the key to.

Quick Tips

  • Current debt load should not exceed 40 percent of your gross income.

  • Mortgage rates on vacation homes can be a quarter to half a point higher.

  • Some home insurers offer discounts of 5 to 10 percent on second homes.

  • Half of second homeowners leave their homes unoccupied for 330 days a year.

  • The fee is usually 20 to 40 percent of rental fee.

Think Before Remodeling

  • Normally, a new kitchen will have 80 to 100 percent return at time of sale, but not necessarily on a vacation home.

  • Before you spend any money on improvement, check with the real estate agent how it will affect the value of the property.

  • Don’t count on getting your investment back on hot tubs, saunas or tennis courts.

  • Safer investments include outdoor barbecues, decks with panoramic views, adding a bathroom for each bedroom or expanding two small bedrooms into one big bedroom.

  • More bedrooms can add significant value to a home.

  • Consider the city as more and more people now are buying vacation homes in the cities.

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor® Associate has the following insight:

Purchasing a second home is a little different, but not much.  A vacation home will more pertain to what you do for your leisure activities.  Think about when you will be staying there.  Is this easily accessible.  The drive time or plane ride. Gas, tolls, airfare, traffic, your work schedule.  If this is going to be full time yours or will you rent it out?  Being in Southern Ocean County,  we see our fair share of vacation houses!  We also have in the surrounding areas of LBI the Barnegat Bay running through backyards with a boat/jet ski parked in the back.  Many homes down here are vacation properties.  Before purchasing, don’t just buy a home on a whim the day you leave town from your trip (although who wouldn’t want to?!)

Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Researching to Buy, Uncategorized

What Is a Buyer’s Agent? A Trusted Guide Who’ll Help You Find a Home

Ready to house hunt? It’s a jungle out there: Prepare for a flurry of paperwork, stampedes of buyers competing for the same digs, and other challenges before you get your hands on those house keys. We won’t lie: The process can be complex and stressful—which is why having a pro by your side can make all the difference.

You might have heard of buyer’s agents, seller’s agents, listing agents, and so on. You’re a buyer, so what is a buyer’s agent? True to their name, buyer’s agents assist home buyers every step of the way; they can also save you tons of time and money on the road to homeownership.

Read on to learn how a buyer’s agent can help, and how to find the right one for you.


Benefits of using buyer’s agents

“A buyer’s agent will guide you through the home-buying transaction and be at your disposal for any questions or concerns,” says Shane Wilcox, a Realtor® with Partners Trust. Here are some of the things a buyer’s agent can do:

  • Find the right property. After determining what clients are looking for and what they can afford, the agent will schedule appointments to tour homes that fit the bill. The agent can also explain the ins and outs of various properties and neighborhoods to help buyers decide which home is right for them by explaining the pros and cons of various options.

  • Negotiate the offer. The buyer’s agent will advise clients on an appropriate price to offer and present it to the seller’s agent. “Then they will negotiate on your behalf and write up the contracts for you,” says Matt Laricy, a Realtor with Americorp Real Estate in Chicago. This is where the agent’s experience in negotiating deals can save you money and help you avoid pitfalls like a fixer-upper that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

  • Recommend other professionals. A buyer’s agent should also be able to refer you to reliable mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, movers, and more. This can also help expedite each step of the process and move you to a successful sale all the faster.

  • Help overcome setbacks. If the home inspector’s report or appraisal brings new issues to light, a buyer’s agent can advise you on how to proceed, and then act as a buffer between you and the sellers or their agent. If negotiations become heated or hostile, it’s extremely helpful to have an experienced professional keeping calm and offering productive solutions.

Buyer’s vs. listing agent: What’s the difference?

Buyer’s agents are legally bound to help buyers, whereas listing agents—the agent representing the home listing—have a fiduciary duty to the home seller. “That’s why it’s in your best interest as a buyer to get an agent who is there to represent you,” explains Alex Cortez, a Realtor with Wailea Village Properties LLC in Kihei, HI. “Think about it this way: If you were getting sued, would you hire the same attorney as the person suing you? Of course not. You need someone who will diligently fight for your interests and rights.”

Let’s say, for instance, you walked up to the listing agent at an open house and gushed about how you love the home and want to buy it, but you will need to move soon because you’re expecting your second child and need to decorate the nursery pronto, or the lease on your rental is up in a couple of months. A seller’s agent could then use this information against you by informing the seller that your clock is ticking, so they shouldn’t budge too much on their asking price—or at all.

Yet make this same confession to the buyer’s agent you’re working with, and it’s all fine—this professional would know to keep this info private from sellers (and their agents) so it can’t be used against you.

How to find a buyer’s agent

A good buyer’s agent can ease your way to homeownership—and a bad one can result in a bumpy ride. As such, don’t just take the first buyer’s agent you meet (which is what two-thirds of home buyers do), or blindly accept the recommendation from a friend (over half do this). Instead, it’s best to interview at least three agents and ask them a few questions, including the following:

  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in? Real estate requires local expertise, so you should find an agent who’s extremely familiar with the areas you’re interested in.

  • What’s your schedule and availability? Part-time agents who are committed can do a fine job, but if the house of your dreams pops up or you encounter last-minute closing snafus, you want an agent who will be readily reachable.

  • How long have you been a real estate agent? You ideally want someone with a couple of years of experience, and a proven track record of selling homes.

To find real estate agents in your area, head to, where you can also read online reviews provided by past clients and learn more.

The agent/buyer contract

Once you agree to work with an agent, you will have to sign a contract called an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement outlining the agent’s services and compensation (more on that next). This contract also means that this agent will be your sole representative and that you won’t work with other buyer’s agents.

How much do buyer’s agents cost?

Home buyers need to worry about the expense of hiring a buyer’s agent. Why? Because the seller pays the commission for both the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent. Typically the commission equals about 6% of the home’s sales price, which is split evenly between both agents (on a $200,000 home, that would be $6,000 apiece).

 Liz Alterman is a writer who’s covered a variety of subjects, from personal finance issues for to career advice for The Muse.

Follow @LizAlterman

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor® Associate has the following insight:
When buying your NJ home, ensure that the real estate agent you choose to work with is working for you and will be guiding you every step of the way to ensure that you get the best price on your new home.  Some prefer to not use a sellers agent when buying their home and use their own buyers agent.  Some don’t mind using 1 agent.  But do understand, that by working with your own agent, you won’t have any charge at the end.  That is a common misconception.  The agent that works for the buyer is paid by the seller of the home as explained above.  For example, when I purchased my Barnegat Pines home in Lacey, I had an extended family member who was from Monmouth County assisting me with my first time homebuyer purchase.  She was from a different proximity, but she worked with me, guided me, negotiated, set up the showings, and worked solely for me, so I always felt that my best interest was taken care of.  A dual agent can do the same.  It depends on your comfort level.
Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Researching to Buy, Tips For the Buyer, Uncategorized

9 Home-Buying Myths You Need to Stop Believing Immediately

So you think you’re finally ready to make the jump from renter to homeowner? Awesome! In this exciting but admittedly scary time, you might be inclined to turn to friends and family for advice—especially if they own homes.

But beware, dear home buyer of the future: Those close to you might not be the experts you think they are. You could be heeding bad (albeit well-intentioned) advice without even knowing it.

So we’re here to bust the most common misconceptions about home buying so you can do this thing the right way. Because this is what we do.

Myth No. 1: The first step is looking for a house

Perhaps you just want to get a feel for the area. You know, have something in mind before you sit down with a Realtor®. I mean, you’re not really looking yet, right?

Stop right there. Even if you think you’re just browsing, you run the risk of setting your heart on something, only to have it broken.

“A buyer might be viewing homes that are in a higher or lower price range than what they are qualified for,” says Connie Antoniou, a broker associate in Barrington, IL.

Browsing is always fun, but when it comes to serious home-buying work, you need to make sure your credit is in top-notch shape before you get started for real. Also, don’t forget to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you embark on your home-buying journey. This will determine what your budget is.


Myth No. 2: A 30-year mortgage is the best option

If you think that the longer you agree to invest in your home, the cheaper the mortgage payments will be, think again.

Most people opt for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and for valid reason: Monthly payments for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are lower than its 15-year counterpart.

But consider this: You could end up paying more during the life of the loan if you pick the 30-year option instead of the 15-year mortgage. That’s because essentially, with a 30-year loan, you’re borrowing the same amount of money for twice as long—at a higher interest rate.

“If you have $1,000, would you rather put that toward your monthly payment for your house or is there a better place for your money?” asks Samantha DeBianchi, Realtor and founder of DeBianchi Realty in Florida. “If you’re more focused on paying down the house versus the interest, a 15-year option is great.”

No, we’re not saying the 30-year option is a bad one. But keep an open mind toward other loan plans, including an adjustable-rate mortgage. If you aren’t set on staying in your home for the long haul, this could be an ideal mortgage for you.

Myth No. 3: Your down payment must be 20%

Sure, a 20% down payment is ideal if you want to avoid that pesky private mortgage insurance otherwise known as PMI. But many lenders will be glad to offer up home loans with 10% or 5% down—as long as you’re willing to foot the monthly bill for PMI. Or you can skip the conventional loan and head to the Federal Housing Administration for a government-backed loan with only 3.5% down, if you qualify.

In fact, there are thousands of options for down payment assistance. And while many programs are geared toward low-income home buyers, you don’t have to be destitute. There are lots of different ways you can qualify for help on the local or federal level.

Myth No. 4: The only up-front cost is a down payment

As if! For one thing, the seller might determine you’re responsible for closing costs, which can be anywhere from 3% to 6% of the purchase price—and those costs can change drastically depending on your state. And don’t forget the slew of fees, taxes, and other costs for inspections, credit reports, insurance, among others.

Myth No. 5: You can’t buy with bad credit

If you’re looking to get a conventional loan, having bad credit might give you a full stop. But FHA loans require only a 3.5% down payment and borrowers with low credit scores—even under 600—can qualify. Keep in mind, though, that FHA loans may look great at first, but they definitely aren’t for everyone.

Myth No. 6: You don’t need a home inspection

You might be tempted to believe this tall tale, especially if your housing market is hot and you’re worried your dream home could be sold in a split second to someone else who waives the home inspection.

But beware: Sellers are banking on your skipping this crucial step. It means you’ll get the home as is, including any and all problems that come with it. And sometimes those problems aren’t exactly visible.

“Just spend the money for a really thorough inspection, because in the long run it can save you a lot of money and time,” DeBianchi says.

Myth No. 7: The asking price is set in stone

Much like buying a car, the offer you make on a house does not need to be the asking price. If you have stellar credit, pre-approval, and a down payment ready to go, sellers might be more willing to negotiate than to wait for another, possibly less awesome, buyer to come around.

Plus, if your home inspection (you know—the one you got because you’re smart) turns up issues, you can use those to your advantage in your negotiations.

Myth No. 8: You don’t need an agent

You might think you can do this home-buying thing solo. After all, isn’t that what the internet is for?

This is where we tell you to resist the urge to DIY your first home purchase and call a Realtor instead. They’re pros who bring expertise to the table—everything from negotiating chops to turbocharged searching power (yes, they have tools to see stuff you can’t). Trust us: They know more than you do.

Myth No. 9: Schools don’t matter if you don’t have kids

We get it: You love the house, it’s in your price range, and you want to move fast. But there’s more to it than that.

The neighborhood you choose matters—both now and later when you might consider selling. Even if you don’t have children, good schools are a sign of a good neighborhood. Also, check out the area’s walkability, your commute to work, and any other features that would make the hood a good fit for your lifestyle—now and a decade from now.


Dori Zinn writes about home buying, selling, and finance for Her work has appeared in Money Talks News,, Quartz, and other outlets.

Follow @dorizinn

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor® Associate has the following insight:

If ever a home buyer heads the advice of an article, I sincerely hope it is this one!  Entrust a real estate professional.  It does not hurt to inquire, see what your options are and obtain information.  If you are unsure if now is the right time to sell your home or buy a new home, or both, ask a professional!  For example, I live in Barnegat Pines.  Years ago when I purchased this home, I foresaw by the time that I sent my children to school I would be in a larger home and didn’t consider schools.  Luckily, Lacey has good schools, because I never took into account what school would my unborn child go to? So Myth # 9 isn’t necessarily something to not consider unless your children are grown. Kids in Barnegat Pines go to one elementary school, children in Cranberry Hill and Sunrise Beach all go to different elementary schools!  Lesson learned by me, (10 years later!)
Buying Tips, Choosing An Agent- Buyer, First Time Buyer, Renting vs. Buying, Researching to Buy, Uncategorized

The Worst Home-Buying Advice People Actually Believe

If you’re looking to buy a house, you’re bound to have well-meaning friends and family pull you aside and say, “Let me give you some advice.” After all, they’ve been there, done that. Or they’ve watched an ungodly amount of “House Hunters.”

We know they’re trying to be helpful, but just because people have an opinion doesn’t mean they’re informed. And when it comes to buying a house, that seemingly friendly direction can send you down the wrong path.

So to keep you from jumping into the market armed with half-baked “wisdom,” we’ve gathered the worst home-buying advice people have heard and explain why these maxims are myth rather than gospel.


‘Hold off, home prices are going down’

Why you might hear this: The predictions have been going on for years: The housing bubble is going to burst again; income is stagnant; the zombie apocalypse will free up stock.

Why it’s bad advice: Sadly, we have yet to find a Magic 8 Ball that’s spot-on when it comes to predicting the future. So if you want or need to buy a home, the time isn’t someday—it’s now. And “with a lack of inventory and the busiest time of the year approaching, home prices aren’t going down anytime soon,” says California Realtor® Tracey Hampson.

‘You don’t need to use a real estate agent’

Why you might hear this: See a home you like, then make an offer—how hard can it be? Cut a buyer’s agent out of the picture entirely and you’ll do just fine. Plus, with no agent to collect a commission, you’ll be able to negotiate a better deal with the seller. Right?

Why it’s bad advice: In a market where houses are moving so fast it’d give you whiplash, a real estate agent is indispensable. Not only will your agent know about properties long before you do, he or she can also guide you through mountains of paperwork, pointing out potential problems that could cost you big-time down the road.

“Also, though you may consider yourself a great negotiator, an agent’s knowledge and experience will help you get the house you want at the best price,” says Atlanta-based Realtor Bill Golden of Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside.

‘Just use the listing agent to represent you’

Why you might hear this: While listing agents work for the seller, they might offer to help you, too. What’s wrong with that? It certainly seems to cut down on the number of cooks in the kitchen, and maybe it’ll give you an edge in a competitive bidding situation.

Why it’s bad advice: You need someone in your own corner with a water bottle, cool towel, and an eye on getting you the best deal.

Put simply, “the seller’s agent represents the seller,” says Evelina K. Vatkova, associate partner at Partners Trust in Beverly Hills, CA. It’s akin to going to court with just one lawyer—one who’s working both sides of a case. You want someone who has your interests in mind, first and last.

‘Make a lowball offer and negotiate up from there’

Why you might hear this: Someone read Donald Trump‘s “The Art of the Deal” (while moving their lips, most likely) and thinks everything is a negotiation.

Why it’s bad advice: Making a major lowball offer can very often start negotiations off on the wrong foot with the seller. Worse, “you end up paying more in the end than you would [have] had you been more reasonable to start with,” says Golden. Serious buyers and sellers know what homes are worth. Which leads to our next piece of bad advice…

‘Never pay full price’

Why you might hear this: Because only losers pay full price, right? (See: “The Art of the Deal.”)

Why it’s bad advice: There’s no such thing as absolutes in real estate.

“If a home is overpriced, you don’t want to pay full price,” says Golden. “However, if it seems that the house is well worth the money after carefully studying the comps your Realtor provides, paying full price may be the only way to get it, especially in a seller’s market.”

‘Remove contingencies to make your offer stronger’

Why you might hear this: A house has tons of bidders, and you want to be the most attractive to the seller.

Why it’s bad advice: In a competitive market, it’s tempting to feel pressure to cast off contingencies—you know, those safeguards where you agree to buy the home only if certain requirements (e.g., passing a home inspection or title clearance) are met. Of course sellers dislike contingencies, because they’re designed to protect you against utter catastrophe—say, your buying a home riddled with toxic mold or liens that will cost you thousands of dollars.

“Never remove contingencies unless you are 100% positive the property is the right home for you,” say Erfan Haj, an associate partner at Partners Trust.

‘Don’t bother hiring a home inspector’

Why you might hear this: You’ll spend a lot of money on an inspector to point out a leaky faucet. Besides, the home looks fine! Um, right?

Why it’s bad advice: Oh boy. That property that looks just perfect at an open house could be rife with issues only a pro will uncover. And saving those few bucks from skimping on an inspector could cost you loads down the line. And Los Angeles stager Michelle Minch of Moving Mountains Design reminds us not to skip inspection even with a home warranty from the seller.

After reading this article, Melissa Christopher, Ocean County, NJ Realtor® Associate has the following insight:

Truly, I hope buyers do not take these home buying tips and run with them.  If you believe any of the above, you  have a great shot at a stressful home buying purchase and the aftermath.  Please, heed the advice of a real estate agent in your area!