Is it a good time to buy right now?
Generally, it is always a good time to buy a residence that you will live in.  Market prices will move up and down over the short term, but real estate always appreciates in the long term, and is better than renting, both from a lifestyle and financial perspective.  Many buyers will try to "time the market" and wait for prices to drop and hit bottom before considering buying.  The problem with that is that by the time you've figured out where the bottom is, it's already passed you by.  If you're considering purchasing an investment property, look at the current cost/income ratio alongside your long term goals and see if it makes sense for you.  We have all the analysis tools to help you make the right decision for your situation.

 

What do you think will happen to the real estate market? 

Nobody can answer that question with any degree of certainty.  There has never been a national "real estate bubble" as some analysts are suggesting is occurring.  When prices have fallen in previous times, it has been due to local economic forces and job losses, that caused many people to move out of the area.   Many people over the last few years were able to obtain financing that, based on their income and credit, should not have been as easy to obtain.  That has caused prices to rise too quickly, and we're seeing the result of that now in depressed prices and foreclosures.  Overall, the economy in our area remains strong, and the rental market is doing quite well in Jefferson County, showing that the fundamentals are still pointing towards a recovery in the housing market in the near future.  That said, it's possible that prices will come down a bit further before buyers start feeling comfortable entering back into the marketplace.

 

What areas appreciate more than others?
Areas that are convenient to both mass transit and to freeways, as well as areas with quality schools, are most popular with buyers and tend to have somewhat higher appreciation rates over the long term, as well as holding their value better when there is a downturn in the market.  That has been the case so far in that areas of South Shelby County, have seen steeper price drops than much of North Shelby County and South Jefferson County areas. 

 

Do condos & townhouses appreciate as much as detached homes?
Condos & townhouses in our area have actually appreciated at a slightly higher rate over the past few years than single family homes.  This is mainly due to the fact that they are generally located in very convenient locations for commuting, and their price points are very attractive to first time buyers.  For that same reason however, during a downturn, they can be harder to sell, and may experience larger price drops in that situation, as first time buyers are more likely to be dissuaded from buying in a buyer's market.

 

How does an agent representing a buyer get paid?
When a seller lists a property for sale with a real estate brokerage, they agree to a specific commission percentage to be paid upon a successful sale of the property.  In turn, the listing brokerage markets the property on the multiple listing service, making it available for any member agents to access the property, and show it to buyer clients of theirs.  The listing brokerage offers any cooperating member brokerage representing a buyer a percentage, usually 50%, of the total commission rate being paid by the seller for representing the buyer through the transaction to a successful closing.  The fees are paid directly to the brokerage firms, and not to the individual agents.  The brokerage firm then pays the agent a portion of the commission earned.

 

What is dual agency?
Dual agency occurs when one broker (the broker is the firm, not the individual agent) represents both the seller and buyer in the transaction.  Dual agency is legal, but must be firmly disclosed to both parties in writing when the offer is written and presented.  Dual agency can be a conflict of interest, especially if the same agent is representing both parties.  It's important to remember that an agent representing both parties, while having a duty of fairness and honesty to all parties, also has a fiduciary duty to both parties, and may not provide any confidential information to either party.  This may prevent a dual agent from acting as more of an advocate for you during the purchase, than simply a transaction coordinator.

 

What is title insurance, and do I have to have it?
Title insurance covers you and your lender from unknown matters regarding the title to the property, and may include unknown easements, problems with a previous sale of the property, undisclosed liens, etc.  If you are getting a mortgage loan on the property, your lender will require that you provide both an owner's and lender's policy of title insurance.  Title insurance in our area is provided by the title/escrow company agreed to in the purchase contract by buyer and seller, and is part of your closing costs.

 

Can you help me buy a "For Sale By Owner"?
Yes, there are two ways this can be accomplished.  First, many "for sale by owner" or FSBO for short, will agree to compensate the buyer's agent a percentage of the sale amount when they are presented an offer by the buyer's agent.  If the seller refuses to compensate the buyer's agent in any way, the buyer can directly compensate their buyer's agent for handling the transaction.

 

What areas do you specialize in?
The majority of our business, and where we focus is Jefferson County, Shelby County, Tuscaloosa County, Calhoun County Chilton County, & St. Clair.  We have also completed transactions, and are very familiar with Montgomery County.

Can I get a great deal on a foreclosure?
There's a few different opportunities regarding foreclosures, depending on where the people are in the foreclosure process and some things you should know about the process itself

1.) When a homeowner misses a payment and falls more than 30 days behind, the lender records a notice of default, which is a public record.  Notice of Defaults are public records, and you can usually view these at sites such as
www.realtytrac.com.  You can, at this point, make an uninvited offer to the homeowner to see if they are interested in selling. The trouble is that you generally aren't going to get to see the property beforehand, and it's possible the seller's loans are higher than the price you're willing to pay, making this very difficult.

2.) When a bank actually reaches a point where it forecloses on a homeowner, they will usually begin with an auction of the property on the courthouse steps. This is where you can find a deal, but they are generally few and far between. The minimum bid is the amount owed to the lender, which again in many cases in this market can be more than the market value of the property, so the majority of homes don't get any bids. If you do want to bid on a house at a courthouse auction, there is no purchase agreement, no inspection of the property, and you must have a cashier's check for the purchase in hand - so it's not very practical for most people who don't have a lot of money, and a lot of experience in this area. You also generally have to be willing to do a lot of fix up work.

3.) Assuming a property doesn't sell in a courthouse auction, it becomes "bank owned". At this point, most banks hire real estate agents to list and market the property like any other. There are agents that specialize in bank owned properties. This is a more practical time to buy foreclosures, as you do have the protections of doing inspections and have time to finalize a loan on the property, although banks are much tougher to negotiate with than the average seller, and have lots of contract addendums limiting their liability. You also won't get any property disclosures, as banks are exempt from the typical disclosures required by sellers. The banks are becoming more flexible on pricing, and there are definitely some good deals to be had. However, there is nothing special or secret about the listing of these homes as they are listed on the MLS like all other available properties, so there is no secret list of foreclosure properties out there that you're not getting to see, Another thing about foreclosures that is pretty consistent is that they tend to be fixer-uppers, as people that are losing their homes to foreclosure aren't real big on keeping them in good conditio
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