Understanding the Role of the Real Estate Agent

The road to homeownership can be bumpy, and it’s often filled with unexpected turns and detours. That’s why it makes sense to have a real estate pro help guide the way.

While real estate websites and mobile apps can help you identify houses you may be interested in, an experienced agent does much more, including:

1. Guide. Before you tour your first home, your agent will take time to learn more about your wants, needs, preferences, budget and motivation. A good real estate agent will help you narrow your search and identify your priorities.

2. Educate. You should expect your agent to provide data on the local home market and comparable sales. The home-buying process can be complicated. A good agent will explain the steps involved – in a manner that makes them understandable – and provide counsel along the way.

3. Network. An agent who is familiar with your target neighborhoods will often know about homes that are for sale – even before they’re officially listed. Experienced agents tend to know other agents in the area and have good working relationships with them; this can lead to smooth transactions. Your agent may also be able to refer you to trusted professionals including lenders, home inspectors and contractors.

4. Advocate. When you work with a buyer’s agent, their fiduciary responsibility is to you. That means you have an expert who is looking out for your best financial interests, an expert who’s contractually bound to do everything in their power to protect you. If you find yourself in a situation where the same agent represents both the buyer and seller, things can get trickier, advises Scottsdale, Arizona-based real estate agent Dru Bloomfield.

“A lot of people think they’ll get a lower price by going straight to the listing agent, but that’s always not true,” she says. “If I was representing both the buyer and seller, I’d be hard-pressed to take a low-ball offer to the seller. But, as a buyer’s agent I’d do it, because I have no emotional ties or fiduciary responsibility to the seller. Buyers should work with an agent who can fully represent them.”

5. Negotiate. Your agent will handle the details of the negotiation process, including the preparation of all necessary offer and counteroffer forms. Once your inspection is done, the agent can also help you negotiate for repairs. Even the most reasonable consumers can become distraught when battling over repair requests; an agent can do “the ask” without becoming overly emotional.

6. Manage minutia. The paperwork that goes along with a real estate transaction can be exhaustive. If you forget to initial a clause or check a box, all those documents will need to be resubmitted. A good real estate agent understands the associated deadlines and details and can help you navigate these complex documents.

7. Look out. Any number of pitfalls can kill a deal as it inches toward closing; perhaps the title of the house isn’t clear, the lender hasn’t met the financing deadline or the seller has failed to disclose a plumbing problem. An experienced real estate agent knows to watch for trouble before it’s too late, and can skillfully deal with challenges as they arise.

Professional real estate agents do so much more than drive clients around to look at homes. Find an agent you trust and with whom you feel comfortable working; you’re sure to benefit from their experience, knowledge of the local market and negotiation skills.


Originally published July 21, 2014.

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Understanding the Role of the Real Estate Agent was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home


Found On Trulia: Sinners And Saints Built This Annapolis Estate

Picture this: It’s the Roaring ’20s. An industrialist from Baltimore, MD, is looking for the perfect spot for his new home base, and he has some very specific requirements. Because although his business in the steel industry is legit, he also has a secret — he’s running guns and selling illegal liquor on the side.

Then he finds a piece of land in Annapolis, MD, along the Severn River, secluded and expansive, with daring views of the United States Naval Academy. The industrialist builds his massive estate on the site — including a secret underground vault that connects to a tunnel leading from the home to the river.

That’s the truth-is-wilder-than-fiction behind the construction of this luxurious $ 28.8 million estate for sale in Annapolis, MD. But that’s not the end of the story.

Annapolis real estate

The 26,000-square-foot home sits on 23 acres along the Severn River, just 40 minutes from Washington, DC. It’s been renovated many times over the last 80 years, but its private location is what attracted the original owner — and, years later, the Catholic Church, which turned it into a Capuchin friary, and finally its current owners, who made it an expansive yet cozy family home.

Annapolis Real Estate

One big clue to the estate’s illicit past? That secret vault. “Supposedly, it was a tunnel that went all the way from under the house down to the river. We don’t know if it still goes down that far, but you can still get into the vault through the billiards room,” says listing agent David DeSantis, partner and managing broker, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in Washington, DC.

But the billiards room no longer looks the way it did when the vault was built; it has since been paneled with hand-carved teak. “The entire room was hand-carved in Southeast Asia,” says DeSantis. “The ceiling, the walls, everything. It was measured to specifications, shipped to Annapolis, and then rebuilt in the house.”

Annapolis Real Estate

While we’d love to know what gems could’ve been tucked away in this wine cellar in the 1920s, chances are slim that any original items would’ve made it through the home’s many extensive renovations. “[The home] was pretty much uninhabitable when the current owners bought it,” explains DeSantis. “There were raccoons living in it.”

Annapolis Home for sale

Saved from its sinful origins, the home was eventually purchased by the Catholic Church and converted into a friary. The vaulted ceilings in the ballroom (it once served as the chapel) are some of the last remnants of its religious past. According to DeSantis, about 25 to 30 friars lived here, sleeping in a dormitory that was torn down to build the home’s more recent spa wing, added by the current owners.

Annapolis Real Estate

The current owners, who are in the seafood business, restored the estate, adding contemporary updates — including this cheerful commercial-sized gourmet kitchen. Although the home has been for sale for a few years as a private listing, the owners aren’t in a hurry to sell. (We can see why!) Buyers today might benefit from those days on the market; it was originally listed at $ 32 million, now down to $ 28 million.

Annapolis Real Estate

Rich wood paneling and comfortable furniture with antique accents, seen here in a trunk-turned-coffee-table and Windsor rocking chair, keep formal spaces casual. “[The owners] have been fishermen for several generations,” says DeSantis. “It was very important to them not only to restore the house to the grandeur that it once had, but [also] to reflect their sensibilities and be a house that was comfortable for them.”

Annapolis Real Estate

Instead of the massive friars’ dormitory, the home now has a more manageable seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms — including this light-filled room with paneled walls. In this bedroom, Old World meets New, with elegant drapery around the Colonial-style, four-poster bed frame and rich oil paintings that frame the entrance to an adjacent sitting room.

Annapolis Real Estate

This wood-paneled sitting room is a spot for quiet contemplation — and cozying up by the fire with a good book. (Or perhaps writing one about the colorful history behind this piece of Annapolis real estate?)

Annapolis Real Estate

The current owners replaced the dorm with a spa wing, which includes an indoor pool and elaborate baths. According to DeSantis, since the owners frequently travel to Asia for work, their travels inspired them to add Asian influences throughout their decor — like the dragon candlesticks in this shower.

Annapolis Real Estate Home With Pool

The Asian influence carries over throughout the spa wing, where a teaching Buddha statue, symbolizing the union of teaching and method, overlooks the indoor pool and spa.

Annapolis Real Estate Home With Pool

The back of the home overlooks a 60-foot infinity edge pool lined with chairs. To the left, a covered pool pavilion with an outdoor fireplace offers a sheltered place to relax.

Annapolis Real Estate Home With Pool

This room, called the Zen room, is part of the guest wing. The large, circular windows let in light and offer views of swimmers in the outdoor pool. “A lot of times when you go in very expensive homes, they have that feeling like a museum — where you’re uncomfortable touching anything,” says DeSantis. “This home doesn’t feel like that.”

Annapolis Real Estate Waterfront Home

Of course, no self-respecting gunrunner would be able to transport goods without a private dock. The home now boasts a private, six-slip dock with a boatlift — and 2,000 feet of riverfront.

Annapolis Real Estate Teahouse

The current owners built the charming teahouse, a relaxing spot to enjoy a pot of Sencha — the tea that a guest is most likely to be served when visiting a Japanese home. The property also includes a conservatory, game room, catering kitchen, workshop, nine-car garage, roof garden, and tennis court.

Check out the image gallery and real estate listing for this home: 1600 Winchester Road, Annapolis, MD. (Find other homes for sale in Annapolis.)

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Found On Trulia: Sinners And Saints Built This Annapolis Estate was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to Get Started in Real Estate Investing

There’s no reason amateur real estate investors can’t profit from small, individual property purchases. With home values currently rising 3.9 percent year-over-year, and expected to rise another 2.6 percent over the next year, why not allocate some of your savings toward real estate?

To get started off on the right foot, you’ll need to make some decisions. Follow these steps prior to entering the real estate market.

Assess your current finances

Typically, financial professionals advise buyers put down at least 20 percent of a home’s purchase price. But to avoid being responsible for two mortgages, many investors wait until they can pay for real estate outright. Obviously this requires a large savings, but to skip the lender and avoid interest rates you might opt for a foreclosure listed below the local market median.

If you do need a mortgage, you might consider living in your investment property to take advantage of owner-occupant rates. You don’t have to live there forever, either. Lenders typically require just one year of residency to lock in the lower rate for the remainder of the mortgage. Owner-occupied interest rates are much more favorable than secondary home or rental property loans.

For those fortunate enough to purchase multiple income properties simultaneously, it’s important to choose the right financing.

“We recommend our clients leverage their investment capital using cheap 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and buy as many income-producing properties as possible. This is how they accelerate their wealth-building with our turnkey properties,” says Marco Santarelli of Norada Real Estate Investments.

Determine the potential cash flow

House flipping shows can make quick profits look easy. Typically, most homeowners don’t profit when they sell shortly after closing. Of course, a major renovation on a flipped home increases the potential for short-term profit, but such extensive upgrades are going to cost a lot of money. Unless you’re capable or experienced in large-scale home improvements, don’t assume you can flip a house by yourself to benefit immediately.

Renting out the property, on the other hand, is more of a long-term strategy. Pricing requires some serious calculations to attract the largest number of possible tenants, while still covering the mortgage and homeownership costs. Although you’ll aim for profit in the beginning, the real money usually flows in after the mortgage is paid.

“When I calculated my potential cash flow from renting out my house I started with Zillow,” says Andy Prescott of Art of Being Cheap. “I looked at Zillow’s rental estimate to see how much income I could expect. Since I was renting out the home I was already living in, I knew exactly what my mortgage, insurance and tax payments would be, and had a pretty good idea how much I would spend on repairs. So I subtracted all my expected payments from my expected income to get my expected cash flow. If that number had been close to zero, I would have been nervous about unexpected expenses, but since I had a few hundred dollars cushion I knew renting my home out would work out well,” Prescott says.

Today’s rental market is notoriously expensive, and competition among lessees is high. Even if you’re not looking to be a landlord long-term, it could be financially wise to rent out your unit at least until median sale prices in the region peak.

Decide on your investment type

Many investors default to considering individual direct ownership as their only way to profit from real estate. However, partnerships (both close and limited) and publicly-traded investment trusts are designed to help investors who might not have the time, or the skills, to run real estate investments on their own. Partnerships can benefit individuals with similar investment interests who aren’t quite ready to dive in solo. Real estate investment trusts (REITs), on the other hand, enable investors to fund multiple projects simultaneously without the hassle of day-to-day management.

“REITs behave in a certain respect like stocks (potential for capital appreciation/loss) and in certain respects like bonds (high levels of current income),” says Rich Ellinger of Wealthminder. “These somewhat unique properties, combined with the ability to raise rents on the underlying properties in inflationary times, mean that REITs behave a little differently than other types of investments. Although subject to economic fluctuation, REITs have performed well in the past few decades. Over the past 20 years, REITs have appreciated approximately 13 percent per year — the top among all equity classes,” Ellinger says.

Unsurprisingly, your financial capabilities, estimated profit margins and choice of investment are all interconnected. Whether you’re starting out with $ 10,000 or a million, staying informed in the real estate industry — even as a passive investor — is a key to success.


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How to Get Started in Real Estate Investing was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Your Guide to Online Real Estate Auctions

By Peter Miller

Real estate auctions, long a staple of commercial real estate, are gaining popularity in the residential arena.

Auctions? Really?

It’s not much of a stretch to see that auctions will be part of real estate’s future. The technology is in place, and online auction services are being used more frequently as a way to both market and purchase residential properties.

“You have to embrace technology. You have to embrace the changes that are going to be happening in real estate,” explains Waldo Herrera with Realty World-Connect in Elk Grove, CA. “If you don’t you’re gonna be left behind.”

The new era for auctions

Auctions have a long and storied history — and some of the stories are perhaps less believable than others. Today, however, auctions are more mundane affairs involving cars, wine and even royal titles.

Go to a real estate auction, and you’ll find two types of sale arrangements:

  • Properties offered on an absolute basis: This means that the highest bidder will get the property even if the bid is lower than lowball.
  • Properties sold with a reserve or minimum bid: Here the seller — often a lender who is in control of the property — can accept or reject an offer that does not meet certain expectations.

Auctions allow buyers and sellers to negotiate in a way that avoids common bargaining headaches. With an auction the seller sets the terms, and buyers can then bid or not bid as they prefer. Because the terms of sale are the same for everyone the only variable is price — the willingness of one buyer to offer a higher bid than another.

Missing from this process are the disputes and disappointments that arise from home inspections, radon tests and appraisals. Homes are sold “as is/where is” with no contingencies. The seller gets a sale, and the buyer gets a house. For real estate brokers, auctions can eliminate massive piles of paperwork as well as lengthy – and sometimes difficult – negotiations.

Keys to success

The lack of point-by-point negotiations raises a number of issues:

  • You should take every opportunity to physically examine the property, review related disclosures and adjust bids accordingly: With auctions what you see is what you get, so it pays to see as much as possible.
  • Homes have a given value depending on factors such as location and condition: You should set limits on your spending and not get caught up in the bidding process.
  • Bidders don’t have a financial contingency: In a traditional real estate sale there is often a financial contingency:  If the borrower cannot get financing with the stated rates and terms, then the transaction cannot close and the purchaser will not be penalized with the loss of a deposit. However, with auctions a bidder is simply expected to have the ability to close the sale. Be certain you have sufficient cash or financing in hand when making a bid, including any buyer premiums and other costs. Financing is often available; however, you should line up loans well before the auction date to ensure you can close the deal.

Pre-auction bids

We usually think of auctions as instantaneous and immediate events — sales that are opened and closed in just a few minutes. In fact, it may be possible with some properties to make what is called a “pre-auction bid” and close the sale before the property comes to market.

With a pre-auction bid you make an offer and if the seller finds it satisfactory you have a deal. A pre-auction sale follows the usual rules of the auction process, meaning you’re buying a property “as is/where is” with no contingencies.

Post-auction sales

In some cases there are also post-auction transactions.

Imagine a situation where a seller, perhaps a lender, has set a reserve price that is not met, but you still like the property. In this situation title reverts back to the lender, and the property becomes what is called a REO, or “real estate owned” on the books of the lender.

Working through the auctioneer you could contact the lender and possibly purchase the property. Because the home did not meet the reserve price, the lender might now be willing to accept a lower offer rather than keep the property in its inventory with the associated costs for maintenance, security, insurance and taxes.

There’s little question that real estate auctions will be more common in the years to come. However, online real estate auctions are not just a future trend; they are here today and increasingly are used to market properties with speed, transparency and fewer headaches for everyone.


Peter G. Miller is a nationally-syndicated real estate columnist. His books, published originally by Harper & Row, sold more than 300,000 copies. He blogs at OurBroker.com and contributes to such leading sites as The Huffington Post and Auction.com. 

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Your Guide to Online Real Estate Auctions was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

5 Reasons to Be Thankful for a Great Real Estate Agent

Not all real estate agents are created equal. Like all industries, there are plenty of terrific pros, but once in a while a bad apple rubs a buyer or seller the wrong way and spoils it for the rest of us.

If you’ve had a bad experience in the past, don’t let it happen again. If you aren’t comfortable with your current agent, stop everything. You can find wonderful agents in every market – don’t move forward until you have.

Once you find an exceptional real estate agent, you’ll discover plenty of reasons to be thankful for them.

They’ll be there for you during the difficult moments

In the middle of a transaction that seems to be giving you more heartache than love? Maybe it’s not the “deal” you thought it was, or something just doesn’t seem right?

A good agent will take your call at 10 p.m., hear you out and support your decision not to move ahead. Buying or selling a home is a serious financial transaction – not to mention one with huge emotional and practical considerations.

Your agent should uncover any issues and, if it’s the best decision, suggest backing out of the deal before you even bring it up. They’ll be on your side, and looking to build a long-term relationship – not just make a quick buck.

They’ll help get your house ready for sale in record time

A good listing agent doubles as a project manager, designer, and connector of all things quick and fast for home improvement.

Thinking of selling, but daunted by the idea of prepping your home, making necessary fixes or simply deep cleaning? Good listing agents take on the burden and alleviate unnecessary drama from an already stressful time in your life.

With your approval, your agent can muster up a team of painters, stagers, floor finishers, home organizers – and the list goes on. As the lead on prepping your home for sale, your agent will be your single point of contact and get the job done quickly.

They know you’re juggling work, kids and all the other parts of your life

A real estate transaction can be so tedious. Someone always wants a random signature or a document notarized. Inspectors and appraisers need to get into the home, and sometimes one of the parties has a last-minute request that you can’t ignore.

A good agent realizes you have a life outside your real estate transaction. She’ll drive to your home late at night or catch you in the lobby of your office building in between your meetings for that important signature. He’ll open doors, get second bids, sometimes pull weeds and even walk your dogs.

Tasked with making your life easier and your transaction as smooth as possible, a good real estate agent is full service 24/7. And they love doing it.

They’ll send you helpful data about your home long after you’ve closed

Some agents do their deals and move on, seeing your purchase or sale as transactional. But good agents know that their services continue long after you close.

Homeowners like to know what’s going on in the market and how their investment has fared over time. Agents see homes in person each week, and can take note of comparable homes and keep their past clients informed about the market.

It’s true you have a lot of information at your fingertips already, but having an active agent keeping you in the loop, without even asking, is the best.

They have the inside track because they’re well-connected and well-liked

Often, deals fall into place because of the strength of the relationships a good agent builds over time. Being well-connected with other agents, bankers, inspectors and deal-makers means they can help you find opportunities off the market, get the attention or time you need, or get your offer to the top of the pack in a competitive bidding situation.

A truly great agent constantly has your interests, wants and needs in mind, and uncovers opportunities to find the house or the buyer of your dreams.

If you’ve found your dream agent, you have a lot for which to be thankful. If you haven’t, find a good agent and get them on your team. They can make all the difference.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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5 Reasons to Be Thankful for a Great Real Estate Agent was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home