Like any important life decision, figuring out if you are ready to buy, or sell, a home or property comes with a long list of questions. Today the Lake Life Realty Team has compiled our list of the top real estate FAQs (frequently asked questions) – and expert advice for potential buyers.

I’m ready to buy a house or property…where do I start?

Making the decision to buy a home or property is a big step. “My advice to a new buyer is to first talk to a lender or mortgage broker so they know that they can get approved for a loan, no what they actually qualify for,” Noreen Pfund said. This will help a buyer set their budget accordingly and help narrow down the search. “Once they take that first step they then need to figure out what area they want, learn about the schools (if that matters) and the type of properties they are interested in,” continued Noreen. “I find it important to educate my buyers and involve them in the process!!”

I currently own a home…should I sell it before I begin to look or buy?

Andy Sheriff, one half of the Sheriff & Plum Team, says “Yes and no. My advice is to lean on your real estate agent to answer questions related to how fast homes are moving in your local market. If homes are flying off the market and receiving multiple offers, it’s probably not 100% necessary to list your home before you start looking. But if you live in a market where homes are taking a bit longer to go under contract (I would use 30-45 days as a benchmark), then you probably want to list before looking. You should also lean on your agent to show you the current inventory in the area where you would like to live to help you make a decision as well. And, as I always tell clients, be sure you’re pre-approved with a lender (preferably a local lender your agent recommends) so you can make a move when your dream home hits the market!” He added, “One last thing…HAVE A BACK UP PLAN! For example, if you do decide to list first and your home goes under contract much sooner than expected, make sure you’ve got somewhere you can go while you’re still searching.”

How much do I have to pay my Realtor®?

Simple answer…you don’t. “The commission comes out of the seller’s side at closing,” Angie Dickmeyer said.

How many homes or properties should I see before putting in an offer?

John Agostino advises, “As many as it takes!You’ll know the right one when you see it!” When viewing properties and homes it is important to take your time, really look around and ask questions.

Is a short sale the same as a foreclosure?

Danny Weaver explains, “Both are similar, however, a short sale is still partially owned by the seller. In the case of a short sale, the bank has agreed to accept a payoff less than the balance of the mortgage. This type of transaction does less damage to the seller’s credit score.”

I’m thinking about purchasing investment properties – how much rent can I get?

If you are considering investment property, the first thing you should do is research the area with your Realtor®. Not all cities and towns have the same needs when it comes to rentals.Some may have a higher need for single family homes while others may have a call for condos, townhomes and/or duplexes. Not all real estate companies deal in property management – and vice versa. “Having your Realtor® communicate with a property manager is key. This relationship will give you a better understanding of the going rental rates and any repairs or upgrades you may need, or want, to make to improve both the property and your return,” advises Robert Mixon.

How low can I start my offer?

Christy Medeiros suggests asking, “What’s most important to you? Feeling like you got a good deal, or getting the house of your dreams?” She continued to explain, “The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but low balling an offer can turn off a Seller and make negotiations much more difficult. A good buyer’s agent can provide buyers with comparative properties and an understanding of current market trends so you can feel more confident with the offer you place.”

What is Earnest Money and why is it required?

Some real estate transactions do not require earnest money. However, when a contract asks that you put up a certain amount (typically 1%, give or take a little, of the contract sales price), Jessica Coley explains, “Earnest money shows that you are a serious buyer. If you don’t have anything to lose from defaulting on an offer, what security does that give the seller that accepting your offer may not be just a waste of time and possible lost buyers?”

Should I have a home inspection?

Brian Cox says, “YES! I always recommend to my customers and clients, no matter what, to have a home inspection done. This way they know any and all potential problems with the property before moving forward.”

Is a final walk through required?

“The final walk through isn’t required, BUT it is best to do one”, advises Jocelyn Plum, the other half of the Sheriff & Plum Team. “You are able to verify all repairs have been done and nothing has changed inside the house i.e.: the appliances are still there when they said they would be staying with the house, or to make sure the seller did get all their belongings and nothing is left behind that they didn’t want to leave”, she added.

When it comes to making any major life decision – there truly is no stupid question! If you have other questions or are ready to find a home or property, feel free to contact one of the agents at Lake Life Realty. We hope you found this “question and answer” session helpful!

Jennifer Cox, Lake Life Realty