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A real estate transaction can be an exciting thing to experience, but it can also be nerve-wracking and stressful. Your experience will largely depend on the circumstances surrounding your transaction and, perhaps more importantly, the agent you’re working with.

A great agent will not only get you over the finish line to the best of their ability, but they can also change your life for the better. Here are eight ways:

They’ll show you they care

In today’s fast-paced world, it seems like everyone’s attention is in short supply. A great real estate agent will show you that’s not always the case, by listening and caring about you and your needs. Not only will being a good listener help an agent do their job, but it’ll also show you that even in business, there are still people out there who care.

They can save you a lot of money

There’s an old expression, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Hiring a great agent can save you literally thousands of dollars, as the right agent will not only negotiate effectively, but also know what pitfalls to look for as the transaction moves along, saving you money in the process.

They can help you see things in a different way

One of the most overlooked aspects of hiring a great agent is just how much of an effect they can have on your perspective. For instance, you might think that you’re looking for something in particular, but a great agent can take what you asked for and find something that’s even better than anything you’ve ever considered. A great agent is like an expert matchmaker.

They’ll do more than help you buy or sell a home

A great real estate agent will go above and beyond for you. They’ll help you find contractors, give recommendations on design (if you’re open to them), and even help you navigate the restaurants in your new neighborhood. Great agents provide so much value because they want to be your go-to resource for anything to do with real estate.

They can find you something that no one else can

Great real estate agents aren’t necessarily miracle workers, but they’re close. A great agent will surprise you with something no one’s ever thought of before, whether it’s finding a property that you didn’t know about, or a solution to an otherwise complex problem. A great agent is proactive and instead of sitting around waiting, will make things happen for you.

They can take a lot of stress away

One of the best things about a great real estate agent is the peace of mind that comes from working with them. There are lots of things that can go wrong during a real estate transaction, and a great agent knows this and will not only anticipate issues ahead of time, but will shoulder the burden and solve problems for you, making it a low-stress experience.

They’ll go to battle for you when it counts

The right agent is like a general you can depend on when the going gets tough. From searching for the right property or buyer, to negotiating, to pushing the deal through despite all obstacles standing in the way… a great real estate agent won’t back down from adversity and will battle for your best interests at all times.

They can become a friend for life

Maybe your real estate agent is already your friend, but if not, with a great agent you might eventually become one. Real estate is much more about relationships than it is about individual transactions, and great agents know this. They also usually have the kind of infectious personality that you always want to be around. So don’t be afraid to form a lifelong friendship with your real estate agent, it could truly change your life.


Buying a home is, for many people, an essential part of the American dream. But for people with a checkered financial history - and a less-than-perfect credit score - it can feel like a dream that's out of their reach.

But just because you don't have a perfect credit store or a pristine financial background doesn't mean you can't buy a home! While it may be a bit more challenging, you can find financing and buy the home of your dreams even if your credit score isn't quite up to the level you'd like it to be.

Here are five tips for buying a house (even if you have a less-than-perfect credit score):

1. Make Sure Your Credit Report Is Accurate

If you're worried your financial past might prevent you from securing a mortgage, the first step is to go through your credit report with a fine-toothed comb to make sure everything is accurate and up-to-date.

Mistakes on credit reports are more common than you think. In fact, in 2016 alone, consumers lodged 43,000 complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding inaccurate credit reporting, accounting for nearly a quarter of total complaints.

Inaccuracies on your credit report can contribute to a low score - and make it harder to secure a loan. Go through your entire credit report to check for inaccuracies and, if there are any, reach out to the credit agencies to have them removed. Even remove one or two inaccurate negative remarks on your credit score can have a big impact on your score and make it easier for you to secure a mortgage.

2. Pay Your Rent On Time For A Year

When offering a loan to someone with a less-than-perfect financial history, lenders want to know you're responsible and they can count on you to make your payments. And that's why it's SO important that you pay your rent - on time - for the entire year prior to applying for your mortgage.

Having a documented history of your rental payments that clearly shows you've made your payments on time for at least a year shows your lenders you're able to pay your living expenses on time. And since you were able to pay your rent responsibly, they'll be more likely to believe you will also pay your mortgage responsibly.

3. Apply for an FHA Loan

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can be an excellent resource for potential homebuyers with a less-than-perfect financial history.

An FHA Loan is a mortgage that's insured by the FHA. FHA Loans have more lenient requirements - these mortgages are available for potential buyers with a credit score of 580+ and at least a 3.5% down payment (500+ with at least a 10% down payment).

If you have some money to put down and are concerned your credit score could be holding you back from securing a mortgage, you'll definitely want to explore an FHA Loan. Just keep in mind that in addition to your mortgage, you'll need to pay insurance premiums (since the FHA is insuring your loan in case of default).

4. Find A Co-Signer

If there's any possible way to have a friend or family member with higher credit score and better financial situation, do it.

Having a co-signer can help you avoid all the negative aspects of applying for a loan with less-than-stellar credit, including sky high interest rates. Over the course of the loan, securing a competitive interest rate can save you thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in interest.

But before you ask someone to cosign your loan, remember: a cosigner is taking legal responsibility for your debt. If you default on your mortgage, the lender can take legal action against both you AND your co-signer. Make sure you're able to afford the mortgage and can manage the payments before letting someone co-sign your loan.

5. Make A Plan To Refinance

If there's no way to avoid a mortgage with a high interest rate, it's ok! Just because you've got a high interest rate now doesn't mean you'll have a high interest rate forever.

If you get stuck with a high interest rate, make a plan for how you can better your financial situation so you can refinance and get a lower rate in the future. Set a date to refinance and strategize ways you can improve your credit score before then, like lowering your total credit card debt, paying all of your bills on time, or looking into credit consolidation options.

There's no way around it - the better your credit score and financial history, the better (and less expensive) your mortgage will be. But financial mistakes don't have to keep you from buying the home of your dreams. With determination, a bit of creativity, and these tips, you'll be well on your way to buying your home - even if you don't have a perfect credit score.


Deciding whether you're ready to purchase your first home is one of the biggest decisions you'll make in life. Buying is a huge (not to mention expensive) commitment and isn't a decision you should take lightly. Before you make the leap to homeownership, it's imperative you know where you stand, what you want, and what's realistic for you and your financial situation.

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before buying a home:

1. "How much can I really afford?"

One of the biggest mistakes first time homebuyers make is stretching their budget and buying a house they can't afford. Before you start looking for your dream home, you should sit down, write out a budget, and figure out exactly how much you're comfortable paying per month. Keep in mind that owning a home is more than just a mortgage payment. In addition to your mortgage, you'll need to cover additional home-related expenses, like homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance property taxes, and maintenance. Ideally, your total home costs shouldn't exceed 35% of your pretax income. So, if your household makes $10,000 per month, your total home costs shouldn't exceed $3500.

2. "What kind of shape are my finances in?"

Before you purchase your home, it's imperative you take stock of your financial situation. The state of your finances plays a huge role in how much lenders will approve for your mortgage, and before they approve your loan, the banks will dig deep to make sure you're a qualified applicant. Your financial situation will also affect the interest rate on your loan, which can save or cost you hundreds of dollars per month.

When deciding whether to approve your mortgage, the banks will look at:

  • Your credit history, including your credit score, delinquent payments, and overall balances
  • Your debt, including credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and auto loans
  • Your income
  • Your employment history, including your salary history and your length of employment
  • Your savings and the amount available for a down payment

Essentially, your lender is going to review your financial history to determine whether they believe you will pay back your loan. If they feel you're a risky candidate, they'll either approve a loan with a high interest rate - or approve no loan at all.

Before you apply for a mortgage, it's important to get your finances in the best shape possible. Review your credit report and ask for any inaccuracies to be removed. Work on paying down your debt and padding your savings. The better your financial situation, the better deal you'll get on your mortgage.

3. "What are my must-haves, my nice-to-haves, and my can't-haves?"

Before you buy a property, it's important to iron out the details of exactly what you're looking for. You should break down the qualities of your future home into three lists:

  • Must-haves
  • Nice-to-haves
  • Can't-haves

Your must-haves are the qualities you absolutely need in a home in order to move forward with a purchase. A must-have might be a home in a safe neighborhood, enough bedrooms to accommodate your family, or a backyard where your kids can play.

Your nice-to-haves are things you'd ideally like to have in a home but aren't deal-breakers if they're missing. Nice-to-haves might include an updated kitchen, an en suite, or a finished basement.

Your can't-haves are the qualities you absolutely don't want in a property. These are the deal breakers that will keep you from purchasing a home. Can't-haves might include a property that borders a busy street, a fixer-upper property that needs a lot of work, or a property that's too far away from the center of town.

Once you have these three lists, it will be easier for you and your real estate agents to judge potential properties and narrow down the list of homes to view.

4. "Do I know where I want to live?"

When it comes to real estate, one of the more important things is location. And before you purchase property, it's important you iron out exactly what you're looking for in a location.

Do you want to live in the center of a city or out in the country? Do you want to live in a residential neighborhood or in a more developed area? Is it more important to be close to your job or close to shops, restaurants, and entertainment?

Once you know everything you're looking for in a location, your real estate agent can suggest neighborhoods that match your criteria.

5. "When do I want to move?"

When you move is also an important factor to take into consideration. There's no "best time" of the year to move, but different times of the year have different advantages.

If cost is your top concern, you might want to consider moving in the winter, when prices are traditionally at their lowest. If being able to see a wide variety of home choices is more important to you, then plan to look at properties in the spring and summer, when available inventory peaks.

Buying a home is a big decision. Asking yourself these questions will help provide the clarity you need to make sure your new home is the best fit for you, your family, and your long-term goals.


There's usually at least one home in every neighborhood that looks so attractive you can't help but slow down and swoon each time to walk or drive by. On the flip side, there may be a few that force you to look away in horror. (Sorry, neighbors.)

It's a fact: Curb appeal can make or break your home. So, it's no surprise that a house that makes you want to move right in before you're even past the mailbox not only commands a higher selling price but also sells faster.

Whether it's the perfect paint job, meticulous landscaping, or a combination of these and other factors, some homeowners will go to extraordinary lengths to create the "wow" factor necessary to woo would-be buyers.

Let's look at the ways you can boost your home's curb appeal.

1. Freshen up the facade

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Nothing improves the look of your home faster than a power washing, fresh paint job, or new siding. Depending on your budget and how desperately your place needs a facelift, consider one of these options and see if your home doesn't look as good as new. Need more incentive? An exterior paint job can potentially increase the value of your home from 2 to 5 percent, according to Consumer Reports.

2. Roll out the green carpet

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Think of a sweeping green lawn like a lush welcome mat. It's just that inviting. If you've noticed some weeds or bare spots, it's time to put your green thumb to work. Especially in good weather, your lawn is an extension of your home, providing a wonderful space to enjoy both recreation and relaxation. If your grass has gone to seed, consider rolling out some sod, which serves as a fast solution to your lawn dilemmas. Not sure about the effort or expenditure? Consider this: According to The Lawn Institute, a well-maintained lawn increases a home's property value by 15 to 20 percent.

3. Trim those hedges

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Your grounds needn't rival the Gardens of Versailles, but ensuring that they're well-kept goes a long way toward creating an overall appealing look. Scraggly shrubs and bushes that have seen better days detract from your home's appearance. Be sure to prune overgrown hedges and remove and replace anything that's dead, as it can also be a fire hazard in some areas.

4. Spruce up the fence

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They say fences make good neighbors, but they're also great for adding privacy while keeping kids contained and pets on your property. Depending on the material you select, such as wood, cast-iron, or concrete versus chain-link, a fence will add value during an appraisal. If you already have one, be sure it's in the best shape possible.

5. Raise the roof

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You want your home to dazzle from top to bottom. If your roof is in bad shape, it's not only going to drag down the look of your home, it's also going to bring down its value while possibly making it less energy-efficient. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, a new roof boosts a home's resale value by a national average of nearly $12,000. Not too shabby!

6. Add a pop of color

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Now that you've taken care of the major items, it's time to get creative. Ornamental plants provide a welcome burst of color and add interest and intrigue. This is a homeowner's chance to show a little personality. Pick plants and flowers that fit your lifestyle, terrain, and budget. (Then, don't forget to water them!)

7. Light it up

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Strategically-placed outdoor lighting allows you to show off your home's best features. It also offers safety to family members as well as guests who come and go after the sun sets. If you're interested in keeping electricity costs to a minimum, look into solar lighting.

8. Pave the way

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Though most of the time it's simply a place to park your car, your driveway can up your curb appeal if it's in tip-top shape. Asphalt makes it easy to plow if you live in a climate that gets plenty of snow. Homebuyers with young children love it as a spot to let kids play basketball, scooter and skateboard, or create a masterpiece with sidewalk chalk. If you have the means, upgrading to pavers adds an elegant touch that will truly make your home stand out.

9. Don't forget maintenance!

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Whether you're hoping to put your home on the market or plan to stay put permanently, increasing your curb appeal is always a good idea. So, if you've made improvements, stay on top of them. Small things like a missing shutter or a loose gutter rob your home of its chance to live up to its true potential. Plus, when you stand back and admire your property, you'll remember why you feel in love with your home in the first place.


When you go to sell your house, there’s a good chance you’re not going to agree with what a real estate agent suggests for a list price. It’s one of the most common issues real estate agents deal with, and help homeowners understand. Problem is... many homeowners don’t necessarily see it as agents trying to help them, so much as convince them to do something they don’t want to do.

Naturally, you want as much as you can get for your home. And, you’ll certainly have your own opinion on the value of your home. You’re totally entitled to your opinion. And it’s totally your call to ignore the agent’s advice, and list your house for as much as you like... if the agent is still willing to work with you. But if the agent is not willing to, it doesn’t matter, you can always find any number of agents who will put it on the market for as high of a price as you want. But, it might be the biggest mistake you can make...

In the least, you’ll just waste your time. (And the agent’s time.) But, it could also lose you money, instead of make you money...There’s lots of ways this happens, but one of the biggest reasons is that the longer you are on the market, the more it impacts how buyers perceive your home, and what it is worth. And that is hard to hide...

It has become more and more of an issue as so much data and information has become available online. Like, how long a house has been on the market, and how many times it has been listed without selling. So, the best thing to do, is list your home based upon the current market data... not what you want, wish, or think.

When it comes to pricing your home for sale, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, has such an appropriate quote... “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.”

Let’s break that down and apply it to pricing your home... starting in reverse.

As You Wish It To Be

This is so human, isn’t it? Everybody has things in life they wish were different and better.  C’mon, we all wish we were millionaires. Or even just hundred-thousandaires. But why wish for just hundreds of thousands. Almost everyone wishes beyond that. Why not? It’s a wish. No harm in that. It might even motivate you to do something that gets you there... Because you can certainly do things to make it your reality. But you’re probably not going to just wish yourself into becoming a millionaire. And you’re probably not going to become a millionaire by simply doing whatever it is you have been doing, which has not gotten you there yet. But there’s hope. Always hope.  And so it is when many homeowners want to sell their home. Not to say that everyone thinks that their home is worth a million dollars. But almost every owner feels like their home is worth a good amount more than the actual market value. Usually by tens of thousands of dollars. Regardless of price range. But the market value is based upon what buyers have paid for similar homes recently. So you need to base your price against the prices similar homes have sold for.  You can’t expect your 3 bed, 1 bath Ranch style home, to sell for as much as a 4 bed, 3 bath Colonial in a similar (or better) location and condition than yours.  You can wish it would. But it probably won’t.  With that said, you can make your home worth as much as a 4 bed, 3 bath Colonial... if you make it into one. But the point being... you would need to do something to make it so, not just wish it were.

Not As It Was

A lot of times, when they hear how much their home is worth in the current market, say something along the lines of... “There’s no way my house is only worth $525,000. Back in 2005 my house would have gone for $700,000! And, sure, I know that the market was crazy high back then, and the market took a dive. But the market is bouncing back now. So, I can’t see asking anything less than $650,000.” OK. Deep breath. Phew. Here we go... Half the time, you can’t even prove that a house would have sold for, say, $700,000 back in 2005. That is often just what an owner personally thought it was worth in their mind. But that was never tested. The chances are... it wasn’t worth that back then. Or ever.  But, let’s just say it was worth $700,000 back in 2005. And now it truly is only worth $525,000. That is the reality. Now. And that is all you can deal with. You can decide not to sell. Wait out the market until prices go up to a point you are happy with.  You cannot, however, turn back time. You can’t price your home based upon such distant history... as it was. It won’t do you any good. 

Face Reality As It Is

It is that “simple”. But yet, so hard. So many homeowners overprice their homes, and lose money in many ways by not facing reality as it is. And a lot of real estate agents reluctantly allow homeowners to do it.  It takes a pretty special agent to be firm about pricing with a homeowner. Because many agents will do as you wish. And they’ll put your house on the market and wish right along with you. First, they’ll wish for a miracle...Then, they’ll wish they were firmer with you on the price to begin with...And the whole entire time, they’ll wish that you would just lower your price already...And they will bring up lowering your price. Constantly. And you will be annoyed. And feel like that’s all they are doing. And you’ll start thinking about who the next agent you hire will be, once your listing contract expires with the agent who did as you wished.

So, save yourself some time, aggravation, and make as much money as you can and should on your home, by facing reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be. You’re better off listening to and hiring an agent, who is firm about your market value, and helping you face reality, than you are working with an agent who is, well... wishy-washy.