Buying a Home

Options Fees vs Earnest Money: What's the Difference?

Options Fees vs Earnest Money: What's the Difference?

Minute details of the real estate market can be confusing to both buyers and sellers alike. Real estate documents contain complicated jargon, making it difficult for even the most experienced buyer to understand. Before making an offer on a home, there are two up-front costs to be aware of: Options Fees and Earnest Money. Both are important pieces to remember when negotiating your contract. Keep reading to learn the difference between the two.

Option Fees

An option fee, or option money, is a non-refundable fee paid to the seller by the buyer within 72 hours of the agreement (also known as an execution). It is the fee paid to the sellers for agreeing to provide the right to terminate the contract without reason or cause for a given period of time. The amount of time provided for the “option period” is negotiated by you and your agent with the seller. The seller is being compensated for their time as they cannot accept additional offers during this period. The option period does not give you any other rights other than the option to terminate. The buyer is allowed to do their due diligence and inspect throughout the contract period. However, the option period provides a period of stronger negotiation, as the buyer could back out if the sellers do not come to an agreement with buyers regarding any number of possible changes that could be brought up. If the buyer does change their mind about the property, they can terminate the contract but will not get their fee back. If a buyer does not pay the option fee and elects to terminate, they must have cause for termination. You only are allowed the option...

Why You Should Hire a Real Estate Agent

Why You Should Hire a Real Estate Agent

Whether you are looking to sell your home or are a first-time home buyer or seasoned investor, working with a real estate agent is a must. Working with an agent means your interests are properly represented. They will prepare you for every move in a competitive and unpredictable market where experience matters. This will likely be the biggest financial decision of your life and you will need an expert if you want to do it right. Here are our top reasons why you should consider hiring a Realtor® when selling or buying a home.

Has access to additional listings 

Although you can start your home search online, through websites like Zillow or Redfin, your real estate agent has access to more listings not actively advertised or yet to be listed. Some properties are headed to market but won’t show on Zillow or Redfin until it’s actually available for everyone to see! If you're open to a non-traditional route to buying a home, consider purchasing an off-market home compared to one on the open market. Your agent will have access to these listings that you otherwise would not even be able to consider. Then you have other homes that are discretely sold due to personal reasons, for example, a divorce. Your Realtor® has access to all of this and more - as well as more detail on all your property options.

Acts as an expert guide 

If anyone knows the local area best, it would be your real estate agent. Think of your agent not only as an expert on your local area but on the transaction side of the deal, too. Buying and selling a home requires various forms, disclosures, and...

3 Things You Must Know Before Buying a Home

Are you ready to start looking for your dream home? Buying a house is one of the most significant purchases you'll ever make. Keep reading to discover three things you must know before starting your home search. 

Get Pre-Approved with a Local Lender

Shopping for a home is exciting and fun, but the process should start in a lender's office, not an open house. Most sellers expect buyers to have a pre-approval letter before making an offer. Sellers will also be more willing to negotiate with those who can prove they have financing. Getting pre-approved by a local lender is also important. When listing agents compare offers in a competitive market, they'll want to work with a lender they can easily contact. Local lenders are usually easier to reach compared to big box banks or online mortgage companies. 

Know Your Market

Home inventory is shrinking, and homes are selling quicker than ever. Mortgage rates are also rising, pressuring homebuyers to move quickly to lock in the best rates. That being said, it's crucial to understand how compeitive the current housing market is. Be prepared to make a quick decision or expand your search radius. Also, be sure to determine what aspects of your home and future neighborhood are non-negotiable. What is most important to you about you future home? Is it living in a top school district? Or maybe the distance of your daily commute to work? Narrow down a list of what is most important to you in your future home, but be willing to compromise if needed. 

Work with a Local Expert 

Working with a local expert that you trust is one of the most important things you can do. Research the agent you will be working with and check out reviews...

Pros and Cons of Buying a Pre-Existing Home vs New Construction

Among the many decisions homebuyers must make, deciding on buying versus building a home is one of the toughest decisions to make in today's market. Keep reading to discover the pros and cons of choosing a pre-existing home versus new construction to help you make the most informed decision.

Pre-Existing Homes: Pros and Cons


Established Neighborhood
Choosing a neighborhood that is already well-established is a top priority for many homebuyers, especially if they are particular about a location or school district. When you choose an existing home, you are also buying into the neighborhood and its surroundings.

Preferable Location
Most newly-constructed homes are built in more distant locations where there is available land for new development. If you want to live closer to a city or established area, choosing an existing home might be the best option.

Mature Trees & Plants
Thriving plants are more likely to exist in neighborhoods that are established compared to new construction. New lots are often bare or will take time to grow established foliage. 

Add Value with Upgrades
Some homebuyers prefer a fixer-upper so they can personalize it and possibly increase its potential resale value with cosmetic upgrades. 


Outdated Floor Plan
Older homes may have smaller closets, smaller windows, and a more closed-off, formal floor plan instead of an open living space, for example. 

Budget for Big Repairs
Pre-existing homes have been lived in and repairs of varying degrees might be necessary. If choosing pre-existing, inspect the home thoroughly for any wear and tear that will need attention. ...

5 Tips for Buying a Home in 2022

With a chronic shortage of affordable and available homes, the nation's population is struggling to find housing options in today's marketplace. A severe lack of new construction is partially to blame for the acute shortage of available housing. Today's scale of underbuilding and rising demand for available homes has led to an imbalance of supply and demand. Towards the end of 2021, the United States was short between 5.5 million and 6.8 million housing units, according to the National Association of Realtors. This statistic factored in single-family homes, townhouses, condos, and rentals, too. With the housing market not budging any time soon, consider these 5 tips when purchasing a home in 2022:

1. Understand what you can afford

Firstly, it's important to understand what you can afford and can't afford when searching for a home. It's easy to fall in love with a gorgeous home you saw during your online search, but the question is- can you afford it? It's more important than ever to understand your budget and choose a new living space that is in your price range. Sticking to a budget doesn't mean you won't find a beautiful space- it just means you won't have to sacrifice in other areas of your life to accommodate housing costs. (Take a look at available homes in your desired area here.) 

Consider these four factors before committing to your dream home: How much you have saved for a down payment; how much your household earns; what debt you carry; and your credit score. Your credit score will directly affect...

Road to Homeownership

The home-buying process is a long and complicated one. Even those who have purchased homes before may need guidance with some of the more convoluted steps. Our staff has boiled the process down as much as possible while still maintaining all the important parts and weren't able to get the total number of steps under 20!

The below graphic, "The Road to Homeownership," is designed to make the home-buying process easier for aspiring homeowners to understand. A more complete walk-through of the home-buying process can be found below the graphic.

The Road To Homeownership


3 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Dream Home

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Dream Home

If you are debating purchasing a home right now, you are probably getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family will have your best interest at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in the real estate market.

Ask yourself the following 3 questions to help determine if now is actually a good time for you to buy in today’s market.

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place?

This truly is the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with money.

For example, a recent survey by Braun showed that over 75% of parents say “their child’s education is an important part of the search for a new home.”

This survey supports a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University which revealed that the four major reasons people buy a home have nothing to do with money. They are:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of that space

What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you and your family gain from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.

2. Where are home values headed?

According to the latest Home Price Index from CoreLogic, home values are projected to increase by 5.3% over the next 12 months.

What does that mean to you?...

Is Getting a Home Mortgage Still Too Difficult?

Getting a Home Mortgage

There is no doubt that mortgage credit availability is expanding, meaning it is easier to finance a home today than it was last year. However, the mortgage market is still much tighter than it was prior to the housing boom and bust experienced between 2003 - 2006.

The Housing Financing Policy Center at the Urban Institute just released data revealing two reasons for the current exceptionally high credit standards:

  1. Additional restrictions lenders put on borrowing because of concerns that they will be forced to repurchase failed loans from the government-sponsored enterprises or Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
  2. The concern about potential litigation for imperfect loans.

What has been the result of these concerns?

6.3 Million Less Mortgages

The Policy Center report went on to say:

“It was so hard to get a mortgage in 2015 that lenders failed to make about 1.1 million mortgages that they would have made if reasonable lending standards had been in place. From 2009 to 2014, lenders failed to make about 5.2 million mortgages thanks to overly tight credit. In total, lenders would have issued 6.3 million additional mortgages between 2009 and 2015 if lending standards had been more reasonable.”

In an interview with DSNews, Laurie Goodman and Alanna McCargo of the Policy Center further explained:

“Our Housing Credit Availability Index (HCAI)* measures the probability that mortgage borrowers will become...