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I Buy Houses Reviews

we buy houses

I Buy Houses Reviews

Have you thought of selling your house fast as is?  Are you looking for a cash offer for your property?  If so, you have probably noticed all of the “I Buy Houses” advertisements.  Whether in TV, billboards, mailed postcards or on the internet you have seen the ads.  Fast Cash Offer, We Buy Fixers, pretty houses or even ugly houses.


Who Buys Houses?

Who is buying all these houses and how does this work?  Generally speaking the house buying industry is a pretty fragmented industry.  There are a few larger companies but most of the buyers operate in one or two cities and purchase a small number of homes.  They can be handymen, small construction companies or real estate investors.  The business model is to buy the home at a discount, then fix up the home to updated standards.  Then they will either keep the home as a rental property, or sell the home on the MLS to an end user ( a homeowner that will live in the home).


How Much Will They Pay For My House?

They are usually investors and not end users of the house.  They will be purchasing the home with the intent to make a profit.  So they have to purchase the home at a discount.

If you want absolute top dollar for your home they your should list your house on the MLS.  There are several cons to using the MLS  The realtor and closing fees can be 7 to 10 %.  Time to closing can be 2 to 6 months or longer.  Numerous people will be walking through the house.  Escrow can fall apart for various reasons.  Also, you will usually need to spend some money to improve the condition of the house.  Often buyers in escrow will ask for a reduction in price for repairs or deficiencies.

If however time and certainty of closing are a priority then it may be in your interest to accept a cash offer.  This could apply to people dealing with an inherited property, divorce, moving, tired landlords or owners, the home can’t sell, foreclosure, house rich cash poor  or other reasons.

The amount of the discount that they offer will vary based on several factors.  Consider the location and condition of the property, the neighborhood real estate market.  Average days on market it takes a property to sell.  Repair costs to get your home to a like new or rentable status.   Also factor in the investors time and profit to take on the project.


Know Your Sale Price

Before your start negotiations you should have an idea of how much you want to sell your house.  Find out the amount of your mortgage if you owe one.  Determine any other liens against the property.  Think about what you will do with the money after the sale.

Is It A Scam?

Generally these are reputable companies that are providing a service.  They help homeowners get out of their house and get cash quickly,  and in exchange they make a fair profit in the process.  Real estate is a very illiquid investment with amazingly high transaction costs and commissions.  These home investors help make real estate more liquid.

Always use a title or escrow company to control the funding and title recording issues.  Consider contacting a lawyer if you have more questions.

Why Does Property Get Condemned

When a house is condemned, it can mean that government is seized for public use, such as widening a street. A condemned house often refers to a building inspector’s determination that the space violates local or state building codes. Thereafter the local Department of Health may declare it unfit for human habitation or use.

If the housing inspector says that part or all of a building you’re living in is condemned, it must be closed up. You aren’t legally required to move if your local board of health condemns the house or building. After a judge orders you to vacate the premises, you must move.

If you’re wondering about the how’s and why’s to condemn a house, the reasons include damage, poor construction, health hazards, and other issues.

Signs of Damage

If trauma caused by extreme weather or fire comprises the structural integrity of a house, it can be condemned. Damage from hurricanes, snow storms, and floods can make cleaning or repairing the property impossible.

Poor Construction

A new building probably won’t get condemned, but an old building may reveal its poor construction. The building may have been constructed with now-banned materials or the original construction didn’t use the proper materials. In either case, the building’s rafters, pylons, support beams, or foundation may be comprised.

Health Hazards

An old or crowded building may also be more prone to contamination or infestation. Either may be a sufficient reason to condemn the house. For instance, black mold may warrant condemning the house because it causes health and respiratory problems to residents. Termite or rodent infestations might not be correctible.

Based on its history, a building may pose a chemical threat. For example, if the building was once used to manufacture or store illegal drugs or produce toxins, it may pose safety and health dangers to its occupants. Hygiene issues may result in a building when a resident has a hoarding disorder. It may be unsafe to clean and sanitize the structure as a result.

Other Issues

A dilapidated, unhygienic, and vacant house may prompt complaints from other community residents. A home in poor condition can cause surrounding property values to decline. The property in poor condition creates a safety hazard when it tempts squatters or transients to enter. If the property is past the point of worthwhile repairs, the community may arrange for demolition.

All kinds of structures can be condemned. Part or all of the house or building may be condemned. Both residential and commercial properties may be condemned. Hidden hazards of the condemned property may require the need to remove large amounts of debris. Demolition services may be needed. Cleanup and resurfacing may be necessary to prepare the site for future needs.

Fight a Condemnation

Owners or residents may wish to fight a condemnation of a home or building. In that case, you are required to attend a condemnation hearing. You receive notice of the hearing from the Board of Health. The hearing is considered an emerging situation, so you won’t get lots of advance notice about it.

At the hearing, an occupant, landlord, or anyone else affected by the house condemnation has the right to speak out against it. If you’re a tenant, you might present documents or witnesses that support your case as to why the building shouldn’t be condemned. Challenge the condemnation order by showing the building is structurally sound and will be safe if specific repairs are made. Experts, such as structural engineers, can appear to testify about the integrity of the property at the condemnation hearing.

However, if an inspector believes that the condition of the building presents immediate danger to inhabitants, tenants will be ordered to immediately vacate via written determination. In that case, they may be denied a condemnation hearing.

If the Board of Health issues an Order to Condemn, you may challenge it in court:

  • Ask the judge to order the necessary repairs to avoid condemnation if you or the owner has sufficient funds to repair the building and if the building doesn’t pose danger to workers performing repairs.
  • Ask the court to require the landlord to make necessary repairs to avoid condemnation if you’re a tenant.
  • Ask the court to appoint a receiver to oversee the management and repair of the property when the landlord can’t pay for repairs.

If you get an order for repairs to be made and the building is saved from condemnation, you’ll need to leave while repairs are performed. Ask the court to order the landlord, town, or city involved in condemning the property to pay for interim lodging for you and your household members. Request a daily allowance to help pay for meals while you’re displaced.

If the owner doesn’t make required repairs within a year of the issued Order to Condemn, the building may be demolished. It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible if this happens to you.

Moving Expenses

It may be necessary to vacate the condemned building. In that case, the town or city must provide vacating occupants with financial assistance for moving expenses. If you’re forced to leave an apartment because of Sanitary Code violations, you may also ask for emergency assistance from the Department of Transitional Assistance office (TANF). You may also apply to the local housing authority for emergency housing at that time.

What Is Foreclosure

If you’re falling behind of mortgage payments, facing foreclosure, or in foreclosure, it’s important that you know something about the foreclosure process, including ways to avoid foreclosure, defenses against foreclosure, procedures and consequences of foreclosure.

Start with the foreclosure basics: understand what happens in foreclosure and how it generally works as well as your options to avoid foreclosure. Know the foreclosure process timeline and what happens if you face deficiency judgements. Read more to learn more about the general steps involved in foreclosure and what defenses may be available in the process.

Step 1: Understand Mortgage Transactions

Buying real estate typically requires a large amount of money. It’s uncommon for the buyer to pay for the home or property purchase price in cash. Instead, he or she usually makes a down payment in cash or through a down-payment assistance program and arranges a mortgage to cover the remainder of the purchase price.

Financing the mortgage involves a promissory note plus a mortgage or deed of trust:

  • A promissory note documents your promise to pay the lender the money you borrowed. It’s a type of IOU. The promissory note records a debt for which you’re personally liable. You must pay the lender the balance due and currently owing on the promissory note. The promissory note is transferrable. If the original mortgagee sells the loan, the promissory note is signed over to the loan’s new owner.
  • A mortgage, also called a deed of trust in some places, is a document that pledges a certain piece of property to secure the debt created in the promissory note. It creates a property lien. When the mortgage loan is transferred between parties, transfer must be recorded and documented in local land records. The document used in this case is called an assignment.
  • If you don’t uphold your promise to repay the mortgage lender according to original terms and conditions, it can proceed to foreclose.

Step 2: Know the Foreclosure Players

The following players are typically involved in residential foreclosures:

  • The borrower, or mortgagor, is the homeowner who borrows money from the mortgagee and pledges his or her home as security to the lender underwriting the loan.
  • The lender is the mortgagee or lender who provides a loan to the borrower.
  • The investor purchases loans from the original lender. Some mortgagees hold mortgage loans in portfolio. However, most lenders resell the loan to free up funds to write new mortgage loans.
  • The mortgage servicer is the company to which you make monthly mortgage payments. It managers your loan on behalf of the investor or lender. Loan servicers collect and process monthly mortgage loan payments. They pursue foreclosure if the borrower stops making mortgage payments as agreed.

Step 3: Understand the Basics and General Steps of Foreclosure

If you default on mortgage payments, the lender or investor can use a procedure called foreclosure to force the sale of your home to get repaid for the debt owed on it.

The foreclosure process is different across the states. However, two types of foreclosure, judicial and nonjudicial, are common:

  • A judicial foreclosure involves the court system. The lender must use the court to reclaim ownership of the property secured by the mortgage loan.
  • A nonjudicial foreclosure requires the lender to follow the state’s foreclosure procedures. No court supervision is involved in this type of foreclosure.

States use one of these foreclosure procedures most of the time. With few exceptions, your mortgage is typically foreclosed in court. Deeds of trust may be foreclosed without the need to go to court.

In both types of foreclosures, the foreclosing party (mortgage servicer, lender, or investor) must mail a notice stating that foreclosure will proceed if you don’t make payments you owe. In most cases, you have 30 days to pay the amount that’s past-due. Otherwise, the foreclosure process will start.

Step 4: Judicial Foreclosure Basics

If your state uses judicial foreclosure, the lender or servicer begins the foreclosure process by filing a lawsuit in the state courts. You’ll get a copy of the petition or complaint and receive some time, such as 30 days, to respond to it.

When you don’t respond, the court will automatically grant the judgement of foreclosure to the foreclosing party. A public auction of the property allows the foreclosing party and members of the public to bid on the foreclosed property. The high bidder is the new property owner.

Step 5: Nonjudicial Foreclosure Basics

In a power of sale or nonjudicial foreclosure, the mortgage lender or servicer must take at least one of the following steps according to state requirements:

  • Mail a Notice of Default to advise you of how much time is available to get caught up on your past-due payments.
  • Record the default notice in the land records office.
  • Mail a Notice of Sale to tell you the date on which the home will be sold. Depending on state law, you may get a combined notice of sale and default, a notice of sale or notice of sale by posting or publication in the newspaper.

Each notice has time limits and specific requirements. A notice might be required to describe the property to be foreclosed, the amount you owe, and the amount of money needed to reinstate the mortgage loan plus interest and costs, and contact information to discuss the information within the notice.

  • As in a judicial foreclosure, the property or home is sold at public auction where anyone may bid on it. The foreclosing party may bid on the property at auction as well.
  • If your state allows the Right to Redeem, you’ll have a certain period of time to regain title after the foreclosure sale by paying the high bidder the sale price plus expenses and accrued interest.

Step 5: Know What Happens after the Sale

You continue to own the property until the auction foreclosure sale. You’re legally allowed to stay in the property until that date. In some states, you may remain n the property until the expiration of the redemption period or until another action, e.g. sale ratification, happens.

If you stay in the home after the ratification of sale, the new owner (sometimes the foreclosing party) can take steps to evict you. You state may require the new owner to file a lawsuit to initiate eviction but, in some states, eviction is started with the foreclosure action.

In certain conditions and in some states, the new property owner must notify you prior to initiating eviction. This may give you a little more time to vacate. However, it’s usually best to vacate before the period expires according to the formal eviction notice.

Step 6: Deficiency Judgements

If the property sells for less than the amount needed to cover the outstanding total debt, you’ll face a deficiency judgement. The deficiency judgement is the net difference between the auction sale and mortgage loan debt. Depending on your state of residence, the lender may be able to get a personal deficiency judgement against you.

Let’s say you still owe the lender USD 250,000. The property sells at USD 150,000 in the foreclosure sale. The deficiency in this case is USD 100,000.

In some states, the deficiency is limited to the difference between total debt and fair market value. If the fair market value is USD 175,000, you’d face a deficiency judgement of USD 75,000.

Step 7: Defenses against Foreclosure

You may defend against a foreclosure action depending on your circumstances. Foreclosure defenses include:

    • The mortgage servicer can’t verify that it owns the debt or it made a significant error
    • You’re on active duty in the military services—you’re entitled to protection against foreclosure under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
    • The servicer didn’t follow state laws for foreclosure

You may be able to raise the foreclosure defense:

  • In a judicial foreclosure, raise the defense when you answer the foreclosure complaint. Engage an experienced attorney at this point if you can.
  • In a nonjudicial foreclosure, you must file a lawsuit against the foreclosing party to bring up the defense.

Whether you want to fight foreclosure or you’ve accepted the foreclosure and plan to move on, knowledge about the foreclosure process in your state can help.

Timelines for Selling a House

Charting the timelines for selling a house can reduce some of the stresses involved in achieving a successful sale. Most of us want to know how long it takes to sell a house in today’s brisker than usual market. Interest rates are near historic lows but the Federal Reserve has signaled an intention to raise interest rates over the next few years.

If you’re thinking of selling a home, use your phone or tablet calendar to map out the timelines. Expect the process to take 90 days or even longer. If you’re blessed with a highly qualified cash buyer, your timeline may be shorter than most. Although good fortune might be a happy accident, your shorter than typical sale might happen because you considered the potential buyer’s perspective and planned for a smooth process.

The truth is, no one really knows how long it will take to sell your house. If you’re in the midst of a hot real estate market, you may have offers in a week. If the market is slow, expect the sale to take longer. Prepare for the long-term sale and, if your house sells fast, enjoy the happy surprise. The following timeline assumes a 90-day offer to close example.

Print the list now to get started.

At 12 Weeks

  • Consider whether you’ll hire a real estate professional or sell your home on your own.
  • Interview realtors or real estate agents. Check agents’ credentials and discuss all important issues before agreeing to list your home with him or her.
  • Research comparative home prices.
  • Ask a local real estate professional for a no-cost market analysis. The agent will compare your property with others in your neighborhood. The service is free because the agent wants your listing.
  • Gather survey, title and deed to list the property.
  • Make a list of improvements (see above), such as cleaning, repairing, painting, or landscaping. If you have carpets, have them cleaned before showing the home. Refinish bare wood floors and perform tile and grout work. An agent can help you determine the improvements to be done. Get estimates for larger jobs if you can’t do the work yourself.

At 8 Weeks

  • Check your HVAC system and all appliances if you’re leaving them with the house.
  • Clean your garage. Have a “garage sale” or donate items to a local charitable organization if you’re not taking them with you.
  • Hire a landscaper or fulfill landscaping needs yourself.
  • Get inspections.
  • Consider paying for an appraisal. If you’re being transferred, it may be part of the corporate relocation package.

At 6 Weeks

  • Make contingency plans, such as what happens if the house sells faster than projected? Have you lined up a new home or apartment? What will happen if the buyer doesn’t want to move in right away? Can you rent it back from the new buyer until you find a new place to live?
  • Relocation issues may be involved. Know what your company will pay for in the move. How much will they pay for moving expenses? Will you be reimbursed for house-shopping trips? Will you have temporary housing until your new home is ready? What assistance does your employer offer in buying a new house?
  • Contact real estate agents in your future city or town. Go online to check out demographics.
  • Have an estate sale to sell furnishings. Travel light.
  • Get movers’ estimates. Request at least three to get an accurate estimate. Consider how to trim costs if you’re paying any portion of moving costs.
  • Notify friends, creditors, family, doctors, dentists, and schools about the move.

At 5 Weeks

  • Call your insurer to cover belongings during the move. Ask what the mover covers. Basic coverage may insure items per pound. Ask about extra coverage for valuable items.
  • Appraise valuable items you plan to ship through the mover.
  • Ensure that recent refinancing changes have been recorded with your mortgagee
  • Ask your lender about arranging a bridge loan if you’re selling and simultaneously buying another property. Inquire about other programs that make sense for you.
  • Book flights if you’re moving to a distant location. Line up the mover and ship your cars. Reserve a rental car if needed.

At 4 Weeks

  • Pack delicate items you don’t want the movers to touch.
  • Give away flowers and plants. Safely dispose of flammables, chemicals, paint, ammunition, etc.
  • Prepare for closing. Discuss it with the lender’s representative or your attorney. Review fees, taxes, points, commissions, etc., that you will pay.

At 2 Weeks

  • Contact utilities and phone companies. Have the services shut off or transferred if you’re moving within the local area. Your mover needs light, so don’t cut off the power until your items are packed. Keep your current mobile service to travel en route to your new house.
  • Arrange a hotel or place to stay after closing if the new buyers are moving in right away.

At 1 Week

  • Retain important papers and valuables, such as jewelry, for the move. Close your safe deposit box if you have one.
  • Consider your checking and savings accounts. If you use a national bank, you might not need to close the accounts.
  • Visit the bank to draw a cashier’s check for the moving company.

On Moving Day

  • If the house hasn’t sold yet, give a friend, relative, or real estate agent duplicate keys.
  • Review the mover’s bill of lading with care.

On Closing Day

  • You might take a final walk-through with the new owners.
  • Sign papers at the closing before receiving the check for the sale of your property.

Take time to plan the sale of your home. Organizing the sale timeline makes the process of selling a home seem less stressful. Discuss the timelines with parties following the sale, such as your real estate agent and attorney.  You might need more time to prepare your home for the marketplace if it needs major repairs or remodels to sell.

Short Sale Process Basics

Short sale signs may reflect a less than brisk economy or an individual homeowner’s need to sell a property for less than the amount needed to pay off his or her mortgage loan. The homeowner must get lender approval.

Many people don’t understand the short sale process. If you’re one of them, you’re in good company. Many buyer’s agents lack experience with the short sale process. They can’t provide guidance to buyers in search of information. In short, not all listing agents know how to complete a short sale. Let’s review the basics of the short sale process now.

Short Sale Basics

Lenders grant a short sale for two primary reasons: the seller has a financial hardship and there isn’t sufficient equity in the home to retire the mortgage after paying costs associated with the sale.

Hardship examples include unemployment, death, divorce, bankruptcy, medical emergency, or job transfer (out of town).

If the seller requests a short sale, he or she must prepare a financial statement to submit to the lender. Each bank or lender has individual guidelines. The seller short sale statement and package will probably include an LOA (authorization letter to allow the seller’s agent to speak with the lender), comparative analysis of recent comparable home sales, preliminary closing statement, prior two months’ bank statements, RMA financial statement, paycheck stubs over the past 30 days, seller’s hardship letter, and W2 earnings statements for the past two years.

Preparing the Short Sale Offer and Submitting to the Lender

Ask your realtor for a list of comparable sales before you write the short sale offer. Banks and other lenders want to receive close to market value on your mortgaged property.

Unfortunately, the short sale price might not reflect current market value. Because the seller wants to encourage as many buyer offers as possible, the short sale price may be lower than the comparable market.

Most often, the lender begins the process on receipt of an approved purchase offer. If the seller accepts the buyer’s offer, the listing agent sends the following to the lender:

  • Seller’s short sale package
  • Listing agreement
  • Buyer’s copy of earnest money check, proof of funds, or preapproval mortgage loan letter
  • Executed purchase offer

Avoid delay of the short sale process by ensuring that the package to the lender is complete on the first try.

Bank Short Sale Process

The prospective short sale buyer must be patient. He or she can wait a long time to receive a response from the bank. The listing agent must call the bank on a regular basis and make careful notes regarding the short sale process. Buyer frustration is normal. Good communication between agent and buyer can avoid discussions about the need to cancel the purchase offer. After all, threats of canceling the purchase offer won’t speed up the bank’s decision-making process regarding the short sale.

Consider the following example of a short sale process at the bank:

  1. The bank acknowledges receipt of the seller’s file. Typically, the response arrives within 10 to 30 days after submission.
  2. The bank assigns a negotiator in two to 30 days.
  3. The bank orders a BPO (Broker’s Price Opinion). The bank may refuse to share BPO results with the seller.
  4. The bank may assign a second negotiator requiring up to 30 days.
  5. Based on the Pooling & Servicing Agreement (PSA), the file is sent for review. This step takes 14 to 30 days.
  6. The bank may ask that all parties in the prospective sale sign an “Arm’s-Length Affidavit” to verify that no party to the contract shares a business interest with the mortgagee and that no special or hidden terms and understandings are in use.
  7. The bank authorizes issuance of the short sale approval letter.

The short sale process takes a long time. Buyers might feel angry or annoyed or cancel an offer without advising the agent. Although some short sales are approved in two to eight weeks, others take an average three to four months to conclude. The short sale timeline usually depends on the investor, not the lender.

As you can see, an experienced short sale agent supports the short sale process. He or she stays on top of the process and holds the lender accountable. It’s essential to check in with the lender each week or as necessary to keep the short sale process moving. Sometimes, it’s important to ask for a replacement negotiator. The experienced short sale agent is fearless in concluding the short sale in the least amount of time possible.

Selling Inherited Property

Selling inherited property received as an inheritance isn’t considered as income for tax purposes by the individual who inherits it. The inherited home’s adjusted basis is the fair market value at the time it passes to the heir. How long the heir holds the property before selling it determines the amount of profit on the sale and whether the sale is considered a short or long-term capital gain.

In many instances, when you add the value at the time of the home when you inherited it to the improvement costs you make to the property in order to sell it, the home’s fair market value might not substantially increase. If the sale doesn’t result in a gain, you won’t owe capital gains tax.

Selling an inherited property from a parent or loved one may be perceived as a challenging task or a generous windfall. Some heirs move into the inherited home and sell the former residence. In other instances, the heir holds an estate sell to dispose of furnishings or unnecessary items in the home before selling the property itself.

Selling Inherited Property: Lien Status

If you have concerns about selling inherited property, know whether the property has mortgages or liens that must be paid. To determine fair market value, compare similar properties in the area. You may have questions about how to calculate net profits from the sale of inherited property as well.

Step 1: Pay all outstanding taxes on the property and stay current on them

If the property was mortgaged in the past, check that it’s paid off. Verify that any outstanding bills are paid because not all inherited properties arrive free and clear.

Many heirs reach out to a real estate agent to list and sell the property. If you live out of town or if you’re concerned about getting the maximum potential sales price, hiring an experienced realtor makes good financial sense.

Step 2: Contact a Realtor

Ask friends and family for referrals. If you live in another city and work with a local realtor, he or she may have network resources to identify a real estate agent. Ask the new realtor to appraise and deduct probable expenses from the property’s potential sales price:

  • Include mortgage payments if any
  • Taxes
  • Homeowner insurance policies
  • Appraisal fees, real estate costs and fees
  • Inspection fees, and
  • All other expenses related to sale of the inherited property

For example, you might want to sell heavy antique furniture and replace it with modern staged furnishings. Include the cost of staging in your estimated costs. This step provides a better idea of how much money you’ll realize following the sale of the inherited property.

Discuss the list price with the realtor. Tell him or her the lowest offer you’re willing to accept.

Step 3: Plan an Auction or Estate Sale

An auction or estate sale can reduce the time you’re responsible for maintenance costs of the inherited home. An auction or estate sale can reduce the amount of time between learning about the inherited property and liquidating it. Alternatively:

  • Find a cash buyer. You probably won’t get as much for the property but you may sell it quickly. According to the National Association of Mortgage Professionals, cash buyers typically expect to pay 80 percent of the property’s fair market value.
  • Discuss selling your property with a tax advisor or attorney before signing legal documents and contracts. You must know the tax consequences of selling inherited property, if any, before going forward.
  • The property’s stepped-up value, or its value at the time the prior owner died, may allow for a smaller taxable gain when the property is liquidated. Appreciation of the property’s value in the decedent’s life is considered forgiven. This helps adult children avoid paying a large amount of taxes on a deceased relation’s appreciated property value.
  • If the inherited property declined in market value since it was passed on to you, it may be possible to take a loss deduction for tax purposes.

Other Tax Concerns

Tax laws vary between the states. The following comments should be considered as a general guide to tax implications involved in selling inherited property:

  • Inherited property doesn’t qualify for the tax exclusion. In most cases, when you sell property in which you’ve lived for at least two of the prior five years, it’s possible to take advantage of the home sale tax exclusion. This means up to $250,000 the sale proceeds are considered tax-free to the single owner. Married couples may avoid paying tax on a maximum of $500,000 in proceeds. If you don’t plan to live in the inherited property for a minimum two year period, you won’t qualify for this tax exclusion.
  • Know how and where to report proceeds after selling inherited property. IRS says that those selling inherited property must report proceeds. The actual taxable amount is calculated on the basis of the property’s fair market value and improvements made to the property by the heir. Use Form 706 (United States Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer) to report the sale on your annual tax return.
  • If you aren’t required to pay tax after selling inherited property, you must report the event to IRS.

There are differences between estate tax and inheritance tax. Some differences occur among the individual states. Tax law is a complex topic, so it’s always best to seek advice from an experienced attorney or accountant to discuss the nuances relating to financial obligations that arrive with selling inherited property.

How to Sell Your House Fast

If you’ve ever needed to sell a home fast, you know it’s frustrating and stressful. Each day, you pray for the stress to end when the ideal buyer makes the right offer.

Happily, you can speed up the sale of your home, without giving up profits. Let’s discuss at least 10 tips to speed up the sale of your house fast—regardless of the real estate market or financial environment.

Tip #1:  Spruce Up Your House to Sell It Fast

Your house’s first impress is important. Put yourself in the potential buyer’s shoes as he or she sees your house for the first time:

  1. Look at your home from the street view. Does it look clean and well-kept or is maintenance needed?
  2. When you make the decision to sell your home, landscaping and lawn appearance are crucial. Mow the lawn often. Clean the exterior porches, driveway, and exterior facing walls. Hire a pressure washer to make your exterior sparkling clean.

Cleaning up the exterior of your home naturally invites buyers to tour the inside. Buyers want curb appeal. Spruce up your home to distinguish it from the field of competitors. Know that most prospective buyers want a house in move-in condition. Unless you’re offering the house for quick sale at a discount, invest in your home’s first impression.

Tip #2: Let Your Floors Shine

If you use scatter carpets and rugs, pull them up to show beautiful tile or hardwood floors. Bare is beautiful and makes the rooms appear larger.

Consider the condition of installed carpeting. If an older carpet covers hardwood floors, rip it up and restore your floors. Otherwise, make sure your carpets are freshly steam cleaned before showing your home to the market.

Tip #3: Declutter Your Home

Avoid the urge to throw clutter into closets. Prospect buyers will look in the closets and, if they’re full to the brim or disorganized, the buyer might think the home doesn’t have enough closet space.

Rent a storage space instead while your home is for sale. Put anything you don’t use every day in storage. Consider storing personal family photos and art in a climate-controlled unit. Give potential buyers a clean slate to let them imagine décor and art.

Tip #4: Stage and Photograph Your Home

A home stager’s expertise is valuable. He or she can see your house from the prospective owner’s point-of-view.

Your listing photos are often the buyer’s first impression of your house. Even the most beautiful homes can benefit from staging and professional photography. If the budget allows, do both.

Tip #5: Choose a Great Real Estate Agent

Don’t make the mistake of hiring a real estate agent after a short conversation. Look for feedback and reviews about the agent’s experience. You need an agent who knows how to sell your house fast. Hire an agent who uses multiple formats to sell your house, including social media.

Tip #6: Self-Promotion Will Help You Sell Your House Fast

Your agent has other clients, so it’s important to get out there and promote your home, too. Use your social networks and send the listing to friends and family. Ask the agent to send postcards to neighbors or contact the homeowner’s association to send neighbors a link to your listing.

Tip #7: Make Multiple Small Upgrades

Most sellers don’t want to undertake a major remodeling job because you might not get your money back. Consider small upgrades, such as the bathroom or kitchen. Add a new sink, light fixtures, or cabinet hardware. Fresh bathroom towels or a new shower curtain are inexpensive upgrades that have the potential to attract the buyer’s eye. For instance, don’t splurge on a full kitchen remodeling. Instead, spend a few thousand dollars on new stainless appliances for high impact.

Tip #8: Lighten and Brighten Your House

Avoid a dark or depressing interior. Use natural light and light fixtures to brighten the rooms. Open curtains or blinds to let the light in and, before a showing, turn the lights on.

Paint the walls to brighten them, but keep it neutral. Freshly painted walls in a soft neutral gray shade makes rooms appear bigger.

Pay for a deep cleaning service to brighten windows, fixtures, and baseboards. A clean home is a happy home.

Clean smells best and natural homey smells, such as freshly baked bread or apple pie, are lovely. Don’t use artificial scents.

Tip #9: Sell Your House in Spring and Summer

The warmer months are the best time to sell your house fast. If it’s winter, wait for spring flowers when possible. Although spring and summer shoppers typically have more inventory to choose from, fewer homes sell in the winter months.

Tip 10: Use Redfin, Zillow, Craigslist <i>and</i> the MLS-Multiple Listing Service

Rising rent prices and cheap mortgage rates continue to push renters to homeownership. It may be an excellent time to sell your home fast.

Most homeowners are familiar with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) used by realtors. MLS combines services that realtors and brokers use to create contractual offers and to accumulate or disseminate information that’s needed for appraisals. Real estate professionals want to share information about their listed properties. Other brokers may have potential buyers or wish to act with sellers’ brokers in identifying a buyer for the home, asset, or property.

  • Redfin offers MLS listings online. It combines the web-based database with brokerage services. The site charges a reduced listing fee for sellers and pays its agents a salary instead of commission-based compensation. The firm ties agent bonuses to client satisfaction. Each agent’s transactions and reviews are listed under the Redfin agent’s profile.

Homebuyers receive a partial commission refund from the site. Buyers in Tennessee, Missouri, and Oregon aren’t eligible under their states’ laws.

  • Post your MLS listing to Craigslist. Start with your area’s Craigslist:
  1. Select “Post to Classifieds.”
  2. Choose “Housing Offered.”
  3. Note the type of property you’re listing, such as “Real Estate by Broker.”
  4. Select the closest community.
  5. You’ll be prompted to the list details page. Enter your details to sell your house fast. Next, add photos of your home. (More photos are better than less.)
  6. Craigslist will email to confirm your post. Click to confirm your email.

Before you post, choose a title to engage prospective homebuyers. Include the property type keywords in the title, such as “town home” or “apartment” and the words “for sale” plus the location of the home in the title. Quality images are essential. If your home includes recent renovations, hardwood floors, or gorgeous landscaping, include these details in the listing.

  • Zillow offers listing options for brokers. If you’re a real estate agent, ask your broker to arrange direct feed to Zillow for listings. He or she should opt-in to have listings included in Zillow Group.

Now you know how to sell your house fast. Solicit more advice from your real estate professional’s advice to increase your chances of selling a home quickly.

How the Probate Process Works

Probate describes the gathering of the decreased individual’s assets with the intention to distribute them to inheritors and creditors. Probate process dependsupon the relevant state’s adoption of Uniform Probate Code (UPC), a group of probate laws written by a cohort of national experts. UPC’s goal is to simplify the probate process for smaller estates and to provide executors with greater flexibility in the proceedings.

Alaska, Utah, Arizona, South Dakota, Colorado, South Carolina, Florida, North Dakota, Hawaii, New Mexico, Idaho, New Jersey, Maine, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Montana, Michigan, and Minnesota have adopted the UPC.

Probate Process in UPC-Adopted States

Law is similar in UPC-adopted states but it’s not identical. You must familiarize yourself with your state and county rules. Under UPC, there are three basic kinds of probate: 1) informal; 2) unsupervised formal; and 3) supervised formal.

Informal Probate

Most probates are informal in UPC states. It’s a relatively simple process used when inheritors are friendly and you don’t anticipate creditor claims. If you expect anyone will contest, you should not use informal probate.

The informal probate process is paperwork. Court hearings aren’t required:

  1. File an application with probate court to initiate informal probate. Identify yourself as the “personal representative.” UPC states don’t use administrator or executor.
  2. When the application is approved, the personal representative has official authority, e.g. in documents called “letters” or “letters testamentary,” to act on the estate’s behalf. You must do the following:
  • Send written notices of probate to creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries you know about.
  • Publish a notice of probate in the newspaper to alert creditors.
  • Supply proof that you properly published and mailed notices.
  • Prepare an appraisal and inventory of the decedent’s assets.
  • Safeguard estate property in the probate process.
  • Distribute the property according to UPC and county laws.

After distributing the property, informally close the estate by filing the “final accounting” paperwork with the court. As a last step, file the “closing statement” to state you’ve paid all outstanding taxes and debts, distributed the estate property, and submitted a final accounting to the court.

Unsupervised Formal Probate

The unsupervised formal probate process in UPC states requires a traditional court proceeding. It’s often used when a reason exists to involve the court. For instance, if heirs disagree over the distribution of assets, if heirs must be determined without a valid will, or if minors stand to inherit significant property, the personal representative will want to involve the court:

  • You may need court permission to sell the decedent’s real estate, distribute estate property to intended beneficiaries, pay for a lawyer’s services, or pay yourself for work performed on the estate’s behalf.
  • File an accounting statement to show how you handled assets of the estate to close.

Supervised Formal Probate

Supervised Formal Probate is used the least often in UPC states. It’s rarely used unless the court needs to supervise procedure. For instance, if one of the beneficiaries can’t look after his or her own matters and requires protection of the court. You’re required to get the court’s approval before distributing estate property.

Probate Process in Non-UPC Adopter States

Each probate court has individual rules concerning require documents, what documents must contain, and how documents must be filed. Since no estate is typical, here’s an outline of states that don’t use the entire UPC. As of this writing, most states use parts of the UPC:

  1. Begin the process by asking the court to recognize your role as executor. If you’re accepted as executor, you must:
  2. File a petition or application request for probate in the decedent’s county in which he or she lived at the time of death. File the death certificate along with the original will, if any, with the court.
  3. Publish the notice of probate in the local paper according to court’s rules. Identify creditors, if any, and mail notices to them.
  4. Mail the notice to heirs and beneficiaries, as required by law.
  5. File proofs that you mailed and published the notice in accordance with the law.
  6. If the court requires one, post a bond to protect the estate from losses you might cause up to a specific dollar amount. The bond amount will depend upon the estate size.
  7. Provide statements from witnesses to prove the will’s validity. Submit the “self-proving affidavit” signed by witnesses before a notary when the will was signed.
  8. File additional documents as required by the court.

Administering the Estate. The executor must keep charge of estate property. He or she must safeguard it during the process of probate. Prepare a list of the decedent’s assets and, if needed, have assets appraised. You must:

  1. Get an employer identification number (EIN) from IRS for the state.
  2. Notify the state’s health and welfare department, Social Security Administration, etc., if required by law.
  3. Open a bank account for the estate.
  4. Prepare tax returns for the estate.
  5. Prepare an inventory of estate assets and provide appraisals if necessary. File the inventory and appraisals with the court.
  6. Notify creditors by mail and pay the decedent’s outstanding debts. State law may specify a certain time period for creditors’ payments.
  7. File approved creditors’ claims (or those you’ve denied) with the court if required.
  8. File a federal estate tax return within nine months of the decedent’s date of death if required. Most estates don’t owe federal estate tax.
  9. File a state estate tax return, typically within nine months of the decedent’s date of death. Less than half of non-UPC states impose tax on estates as of this writing.

Closing the Estate. After the creditors’ claim period is past and you’ve paid debts and filed tax returns as necessary (and you’ve settled any disputes that arose as part of the probate process), it’s time to distribute property to beneficiaries:

  1. Mail a notice to beneficiaries and heirs about the final hearing. Note that you must do this within a specific period of time prior to the hearing.
  2. Provide proof that you mailed notices as required and file these with the court.
  3. Obtain the court’s permission to distribute estate property.
  4. Transfer property or assets to new owners and obtain receipts.

After assets are distributed, ask the court to release you from duties as the estate executor.

How For Sale By Owner Works

If you’re wondering how FSBO sites work, you’re not alone. “For Sale by Owner” makes good sense to many sellers in today’s healthy real estate market.

Most people remember the commonly held belief that selling your property always required a professional real estate broker. The seller paid a commission for the service, usually about six percent of proceeds from the sale. In real estate bull markets, the seller usually came out ahead. Sometimes, it was worth the commission to have an experienced seller to do the hard work of marketing and selling your home.

You Might Not Need a Realtor

It’s not always necessary to hire a real estate professional. For instance, the supply of available homes may have dropped in your market. You may have received unsolicited indications of interest from one or more people who want to know “When are you planning to sell this house?”

The idea of selling your home without paying the selling agent’s commission is tempting for several reasons. It’s not just about the money, but the money is an important consideration. For instance, if you sell your house for $250,000 without a selling agent, you could save $15,000 to use elsewhere. Just realize an important caveat. Successful FSBO sellers know they’ve got to do the marketing, staging, and photography to introduce their home to potential buyers.

FSBO isn’t All about Money

Let’s face it. Many homeowners don’t trust real estate salespeople. Some real estate agents seem quite new at their work. Others are so busy it’s challenging to get them on the phone.

Successful real estate agents might not have the seller’s best interests at heart. He or she might be less interested in getting top dollar for your property. The immediate goal is to get qualified buyers to the table as quickly as possible. A higher sale price won’t substantially change his or her commission. The time value of when the agent gets his or her cut is very important as well.

Realize that selling your home without a real estate salesperson will take more work:

  • Research homes in your area. You must properly price the home to your market.
  • Avoid overpricing your home—it will take longer to sell and undermine leverage in negotiating a sale later.
  • Stay flexible. Prospective buyers are likely to have the highest interest in the first few weeks on offer. Continue to gauge the market and lower your price if necessary to attract interested buyers.
  • Spend for a professional appraisal.
  • Visit open houses to get a better idea of current prices. Ask open house agents about how long the property has been on market and if there’ve been price reductions.
  • Use the Internet to further your research about housing prices.

How to Use for Sale by Owner (FSBO) Sites

  • The homeowner decides to list a home for sale without a real estate agent. He or she decides to sell directly to prospective buyers.
  • When the buyer and seller reach an agreement, the parties prepare a contract to detail the agreement. Both parties should consult an experienced real estate attorney to follow the agreement.
  • Parties in the agreement schedule a closing to transfer title, ownership, and possession of the property as per the agreement.

The seller should understand that most buyers must obtain a mortgage. Fewer buyers will have cash to pay for the home in full. The mortgage lender will protect its interests. The process will include home inspections:

  • If repairs are necessary, the buyer will ask for repairs before proceeding with the purchase.
  • The seller will be required to make reasonable accommodations for these steps to be performed. He or she should consider whether it’s in his or her best interest to make repairs desired by the buyer.

Closing is usually dictated by the buyer’s mortgagee. That is, when the lender makes the money available to close the home purchase, the buyer, seller, attorneys, and lender representatives convene to complete the closing.

Considerations of FSBO

There are plenty of reasons to use a professional real estate agent. For example, you’ll need to consider liability, proper disclosure, and state and local ordinances involving the sale of your home before opening the door to prospective buyers.

Determining the fair market value of your home is a complex topic. Your next door neighbor might have gotten top dollar for his home because a realtor tirelessly performed all the steps necessary to get the word out. He or she did the social media marketing, staged the home, made a video to post online, and used a large firm database to invite prospective buyers to the open house gatherings.

You may also ask, “How do I know if I’m getting a fair deal?” or “How do I know if the terms of my contract are met?” You might lose sleep at night if luck of the draw presents a disgruntled buyer. Understanding your legal obligations and options is one of the best reasons to hire a real estate lawyer to protect your interests in the sale.

It may be in your best interest to hire a real estate agent. However, before you agree to list with anyone, ask lots of questions. Check out your prospective agent’s track record. Read reviews. When in doubt, ask him or her for a few references—and then call each one before making a decision.

Popular FSBO Sites

Owners have a wide range of FSBO site options. If you’re ready to do the work necessary to market your home to prospective buyers, check out some of the For Sale by Owner sites:

  • com self-bills as the “leading by owner site.” Use the site’s ready mobile application to reach buyers on the go. Access printable flyers, a ready-to-use Open House Scheduler, and secure message center.
  • com helps agents list MLS properties with several flat fee packages.
  • com offers flat-fee MLS and several listing options.
  • com is a popular site for FSBO users. The format makes it easy for buyers to get in direct touch with sellers after finding the right home.

Explain Notice of Default and Remedies

A Notice of Default from your mortgage servicer means you face the prospect of losing your property. Most people are overwhelmed by the idea of foreclosure. Many homeowners don’t reply to the Notice of Default and accept the foreclosure process as their fate.

Know that you have legal rights in a foreclosure proceeding. Your understanding can play an essential role in keeping your property or, at minimum, mitigate some of the damage done to your financial health. Lenders must abide by state law and, as long as your state stipulates that you must receive a written Notice of Default, you have some time to fight or remedy the situation.

Lender Obligations: Notice of Default, Written Claims, and Military Relief

In most states, the lender’s most important obligation is to provide the Notice of Default to the property owner. Lenders in these states must provide the homeowner with “sufficient notice” to facilitate understanding of the default and provide notice of his or rights to cure the default before the lender initiates foreclosure proceedings.

The lender must also provide proof of the money owed on the mortgage. It must file a statement to itemize what the current owner owes on the mortgage loan, including principal, interest charges, late fees, attorney costs, and other items the lender may charge under the mortgage contract’s terms or according to state laws. In some states, lenders aren’t required to send a written claim to the property holder.

If you’re active military, you may have an automatic remedy against the foreclosing party. The lender must certify in writing that the property owner isn’t a member of the military services before starting the foreclosure action. The Service members (Soldiers & Sailors) Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects deployed active duty members. Consult an experienced attorney about foreclosure proceedings to protect your rights.

Let’s review potential remedies you might have when faced with the written Notice of Default.

Notice of Default and Foreclosure

The written Notice of Default is the mortgage servicer’s declaration that you’re behind on mortgage loan payments. It’s a statement that you’re in breach of the loan contract. With the notice, you receive a specific time period to remedy the condition to avoid foreclosure.

Foreclosure allows the lender to repossess or sell your property for purposes of repayment of the debt you owe on the mortgage loan. The mortgage holder has the right to foreclose on your property at any time after you miss mortgage payments unless the mortgage contract or state laws in which the property is located say otherwise. Each state laws vary. However, foreclosure in all states usually involves the following:

  • The current holder of the mortgage loan provides the homeowner in default with the written Notice of Default.
  • The property owner has a certain period of time in which he or she may cure the default by paying the full amount due, including interest, fees, penalties, attorney’s costs, and other charges allowed by law.
  • If the property is located in a state which uses the judicial foreclosure process, the foreclosing party must file a lawsuit against the property owner If the property is located in a state which allows nonjudicial foreclosure, it won’t need to file a lawsuit in court. Some states, such as California allow lenders to use both types of foreclosure.
  • If the homeowner doesn’t cure the default in the time period allowed, the mortgagee (loan holder) usually gives the homeowner notice of the foreclosure sale.
  • The high bidder may purchase the foreclosed property at public auction or, in some cases, the lender may purchase it with the intention of liquidating the property in a private sale.
  • The foreclosed owner must leave the property is he or she is still living in it after the sale. The new owner may file an unlawful detainer suit to evict him or her if necessary.

It’s important to communicate with the lender after receiving the Notice of Default. The timeline of the foreclosure process can vary widely. State law and the mortgagee’s motivation can shorten or lengthen the time needed to foreclose. Typically, the foreclosure process begins 90 to 180 days after the homeowner misses the first mortgage payment. In the next section, let’s review some of the remedies to prevent foreclosure.

If the Lender is Wrong

Lenders make mistakes. You lender may incorrectly claim you’re in arrears by a certain amount of money. If you believe the lender is wrong, write a letter to explain why you’re not in default. Attach copies of cancelled checks or other documents to prove your position.

If your lender doesn’t agree, there’s a legal remedy. Take the lender to court to provide you didn’t default on the mortgage loan. If you reach the decision to sue the lender, the documentation you provided to it beforehand is crucial. Consult legal counsel at this stage to manage court appearances, communication, and documentation.

Legal Remedies to Stop or Prevent Foreclosure

Two legal ways exist to defend against or challenge the foreclosing party’s decision to foreclose:

  • A technical defense challenges the foreclosure proceeding. For instance, if the property owner isn’t provided with sufficient notice of default and foreclosure proceedings, the property owner can contest in court. Unfortunately, the technical defense can be defeated when the lender corrects the procedural defect. If the homeowner wasn’t given sufficient notice, the lender can defeat the technical defense in the issue of a new notice of default. The proceedings may proceed at that point.
  • A substantive defense is a stronger defense. The substantive defense challenges the mortgage terms. Some examples of substantive defenses in the foreclosure process include:
  1. You aren’t in default. Interest and principal were paid on time according to the mortgage contract terms.
  2. You show that the mortgagee used fraudulent means to obtain the mortgage.
  3. You decide to file for bankruptcy protection. If the bankruptcy is filed prior to the foreclosure sale, it may temporary stop (“stay”) foreclosure.
  4. You pay off the loan plus the lender’s costs and expenses related to the foreclosure within the time period allowed.

You may have a legal reason to prevent or stop foreclosure. In that case, you must file an objection with the state court. In most states, you may file an objection before or after the sale takes place or prior to the ratification of the sale if you believe the sale wasn’t properly conducted.

Practical Remedies to Stop a Foreclosure

  • Ask the lender to provide precise details concerning what you did or didn’t do. Request the lender to explain how you can remedy the default. In other words, ask the lender to work with you.
  • Pay any outstanding loan payments, interest, late charges, or fees the mortgagee says you owe. This may be very difficult if you’re already having financial problems. However, it’s the best way to stop foreclosure.
  • Propose a compromise to stop foreclosure. If the lender agrees, you stay in the home. You’ll avoid a serious hit to your credit scores.
  • Ask the lender to lower payments and provide more time to pay past-due amounts over a longer time period.
  • Ask the lender to raise your mortgage rate in exchange for lower payments.
  • Refinance the mortgage loan if possible to lower your monthly payments.
  • Sell the property to keep a larger percentage of equity Identify a realtor or agent who’s experienced in foreclosure investing.
  • If all else fails, volunteer to give the property back to the lender (Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure).
  • Request a postponement of foreclosure proceedings on a one-time basis. Make a strong written argument about why the postponement of the foreclosure will allow you to get the money necessary to cure the default.

If you’re facing foreclosure, check the mortgagee’s status with the state attorney general’s office. Never make verbal agreements. Don’t hide your head in the sand. Foreclosure is a problem that won’t go away unless you take proactive remedies to cure the mortgage default.

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