New Jersey Real Estate TipsReal Estate Tips March 30, 2015

What’s the Difference between a Real Estate Agent and a Real Estate Broker?

What’s the Difference between a Real Estate Agent and a Real Estate Broker?

You’ve probably heard both terms before – real estate agent and real estate broker. Some people use them interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing. There is, however, more than meets the eye in the real estate world and you might be surprised to find that real estate agents and brokers aren’t the same.

Real Estate Professionals

There are actually several different terms that can be used to identify those working in real estate. The most common are real estate agent, REALTOR ®, real estate broker, real estate salesperson, and real estate associate broker.

A real estate agent is someone who has fulfilled the educational requirements set forth by his state in order to become a licensed to work in the business. The educational requirements vary from state to state but most require a minimum number of course hours as well as state-mandated examination.  A real estate agent may also be referred to as a real estate salesperson. A real estate agent who has become a professional member of the National Association of REALTORS ® may also call himself a REALTOR ®. Anyone who gives real estate advice must have a real estate license.

A real estate broker always starts out as a real estate agent but then takes additional classes and exams to earn a broker’s license. Each state has additional educational requirements for brokers.

So what’s the difference?

A real estate agent is allowed to give real estate advice and act as a salesperson, but he can’t work alone. He has to be employed by a broker or brokerage, who is then responsible for the agent’s actions and ethical values in sales. Some real estate agents pay a flat rate to the broker while others end up paying a percentage of their commissions or sales to the broker.

A real estate broker can work on his own or may start his own brokerage firm and begin working with other real estate agents.

More Confusing Terms

You’ll probably hear a few more terms while you look for an agent or broker:

  • A real estate associate broker is a broker who chooses to work as an agent for another broker.

  • Both an agent and a broker can use the REALTOR ® symbol, as it merely represents membership in the aforementioned organization.

  • A listing agent represents the seller while a buyer’s agent represents the buyer. Most agents can play both roles (not in the same transaction), but some agents prefer to choose one or the other as their career focus. These roles can be played by agents or brokers.

Confused? Don’t worry – a lot of people are. Make sure you talk to your real estate agent or broker about his role in your selling or buying process and question anything you’re not comfortable or clear about. It’s your right to understand the relationship and transparency is key to a successful sale (or purchase)!


New Jersey Real Estate TipsReal Estate Tips December 5, 2014

Can the Paint Colors in My Home Help or Hinder a Sale?

Can the Paint Colors in My Home Help or Hinder a Sale?

Yes, you read that title right. The color of the paint throughout your home can make a huge difference when it comes to actually making a sale. They say your first impression is the most important, and the first thing you’re potential buy is going to see is color.

Exterior Paint Colors

The exterior paint colors are going to be influenced by the neighborhood in which you live. You’re going to want to have a nice, fresh look to your home without necessarily sticking out like a sore thumb. Case in point – many years ago there was a home in historic Haddonfield, NJ. The homes in that area are all governed by rules based on Victorian-era history. A homeowner painted his house purple – light/medium purples with dark purple trim. The paint job, despite making people angry enough to go to court (the homeowner won, as the color was Victorian), didn’t blend in with anything else in the neighborhood. The home stayed that way for many years, but it was definitely painted before it was able to sell again.

At the end of the day, colors on the neutral pallet tend to do best.

Interior Paint Colors

This is where things get tricky, and where you are most likely to have trouble, as the interior of your home is where you’ve done the most personalization in each room. We once met a couple who spent a great deal of time paining the inside of their home. Most of the rooms were neutral in nature but the kitchen was painted a lovely shade of yellow and their family room was painted a rust-color. People love bright kitchens that are full of light, so there was no problem with the yellow.

The rust-color was the problem because the den had a sports theme, complete with trophies and pennants. A key consideration in selling a home is giving a buyer the opportunity to image it as his own. No one who stepped into that den could visualize anything other than a sports room. Even removing the sports memorabilia didn’t really help. It wasn’t until (months later) they painted the room a neutral color that people started to take the home seriously.

It is, in general, better to stick with warm and neutral colors in your main living areas. Bedrooms should be soft and relaxing. Bathrooms need to be painted with colors that make them look larger instead of smaller, so whites are generally best.

You may have spent a ton of time making your home match your personality, but if it’s really time to move on, you may have to seriously consider undoing some of that work. Selling a home means making it appealing to as many people as possible. Talk to your real estate agent if you need help deciding which areas are a priority for change.

New Jersey Real Estate Tips September 30, 2014

How Much of a Down Payment Do I Really Need?

If you’re planning on purchasing a home, it’s important to know the facts regarding down payments. First-time buyers are often surprised to learn how much they need to put down, especially in today’s returning market. The good news is that there are many options available that may fit your current situation. Homeownership is still the American dream, and if you’re tired of paying someone else’s mortgage, buying a home may be right for you.

20% Down Payment Industry Benchmark

In the mortgage industry, 20% down is considered the benchmark down payment. A 20% down payment looks good on paper and indicates financial security. But, what if you don’t have this much cash to put down on a home? With the high cost of rent, you may not have been able to put much away, but are still able to make mortgage payments. Fortunately, 20% down is not a requirement, nor expected in many cases.

What Other Down Payments are Available?

For an FHA loan, which is backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the minimum down payment is 3.5% down. An FHA loan is a nice option for first-time buyers who don’t have a ton of cash, and the loan requirements are typically more flexible. The one thing to be aware of is that FHA loans carry a monthly mortgage insurance payment, which can add significant dollars onto your payment each month.

Another popular option for homebuyers is to put 5% down and still secure a conventional mortgage. And, with a conventional loan, you may be able to get rid of the private mortgage insurance after accumulating 20% equity in a minimum of 24 months.

What if You Don’t Have a Down Payment?

Some buyers simply have nothing to put down, but this doesn’t mean that purchasing a home is out of the question. The Department of Veterans Affairs does offer a program where the homebuyers don’t have to put anything down, but it’s available only to military veterans, and the home must pass a clear pest report.

A second option is through the Department of Agriculture, USDA. You don’t need to be a veteran for this loan, but it’s only available for homes that are designated rural by the USDA.

Your best option is to meet with a realtor or loan officer who can inform you of your loan options and what down payment will help you secure a home loan.

New Jersey Real Estate MarketNew Jersey Real Estate Tips September 23, 2014

Add Curb Appeal to Your Home – On a Budget!

A home with good curb appeal draws in interest, and that’s a good thing, especially if you’re planning on putting your home up for sale. If you make the home look great on the outside, people will naturally want to know what’s on the inside. Of course, if you are selling your home, you don’t want to put too much money into boosting its exterior. Fortunately, there are smart, budget-friendly ways to enhance your home’s curb appeal without hurting your pocketbook.

Paint the Door and Replace Hardware

Give your door a makeover by painting it a bold color, such as red or blue. Clean off all dirty spots, and use metal polish on the door handles. If the hardware is dull and dingy, replace it with a new set. Don’t forget to match the hardware to the other metal elements on your home – house numbers, light fixtures – so that everything functions together.

Clean and Install Light Fixtures

Go through and give your home’s exterior lights a good cleaning. Not only with the glass look crystal clear, but also the light will shine brightly in the evenings. If your home is lacking in outdoor lighting, consider installing inexpensive solar lights. The added fixtures are both decorative and functional, and will help your home pop in the day and night.

Add Potted Plants or Container Plants

Instead of digging and planting, add color and personality to your home by incorporating potted or container plants. With fall coming up, you can add a lot of interest to your home by planting colorful mums in pots and arranging pumpkins and gourds on the stoop.

Refresh Planter Beds

The way you take care of your flower beds tells a lot about how you take care of your home. Give your flower beds an update by pulling weeds, pruning growth, planting new flowers and laying down new mulch. Consider adding an edging system using stone or brick – a small area won’t cost much.

Shutters and Trim

If your home already has shutters and trim, give them a fresh coat of paint. If you don’t have window shutters or door trim, think about adding them. Simple molding installed around your front door is an effective and affordable way to make the home’s welcome point inviting and intriguing.

Exterior Facelift

Walk around the home and decide what could use a facelift. Give the exterior windows a good cleaning. Power wash the deck, walkways and siding for a bright and clean appearance. Remove debris or old furniture and repair railings and cracked concrete. If you’re looking for a suitable replacement, consider stone veneer that’s lightweight, affordable and super stunning.

New Jersey Real Estate TipsReal Estate Tips September 9, 2014

4 Savvy Home Pricing Tricks

Selling your home in today’s market may not be as easy as you had hoped, but there are things you can do speed the process along and make buyers feel like they are getting a good deal. An experienced realtor can help with this, as they can inform you of what other properties in your area are selling for, and which price range will attract the most attention from prospective buyers. They may also recommend these four tricks.

1. Make it look like a deal.

People make assumptions within a fraction of a second, so you need to make your price look attractive right off the bat. For instance, you know that $1.99 looks better than $2.00, even though it’s only a penny less. So, think in these terms. Also, research has found that buyers perceive prices to be lower when numbers on the right are declining from lower numbers, such as 2 to 1 rather than 9 to 8.

2. List higher than what you’ll accept.

Buyers always feel like they’re getting a deal when they have some wiggle room. That said, always price your home higher than what you’ll actually accept. If you need some reference prices, share the price of competing homes in your area.

3. List at a precise number.

Another interesting part of the human brain is that we tend to associate exact prices as a bargain, whereas rounded numbers indicate quality. Selling your home at $395,530 rather than $396,000 can make it look like you’ve thought long and hard about what your home is worth and aren’t willing to negotiate much more. This trick can be helpful if you’re in a tough market with few bids.

4. Make lowered house prices obvious.

If you do have to lower your price, make sure that it’s easy for prospective buyers to compute. They will be more inclined to jump on the property because they may perceive it as being a bargain and think that others will be making a bid as well. You can specify the dollar discount or drop the price by $5,000 to $10,000, leaving the last three digits the same.

New Jersey Real Estate Agent September 2, 2014

Signs You Need to Dump Your Real Estate Agent (And Find a New One!)

How did you find your current real estate agent? Were you referred to them? Did you find them online? Many people end up working with a real estate agent that they casually bumped into, either online or in person. The fact is that it can be difficult to find ‘the one’ when you first start your search. Often times, it takes working with someone to realize that they aren’t the one who is going to sell your home, or find you a new one.

Here are common signs that it may be time to dump your real estate agent and find someone new.

Your real estate agent doesn’t listen.

Listening is very important because your realtor needs to understand your motivations, interests, expectations, etc. It’s a big deal to purchase a home, and your agent should understand and respect this. They should know exactly what you’re looking for so that they can find the best properties that match your budget, needs and lifestyle. If they seem to be directing you toward any property that pops up on the market, you may need to rethink your arrangement.

Your agent is inexperienced.

You should not feel that your home search is your realtor’s second job. They should make it a priority to find you that perfect home that you feel safe and comfortable in. Good agents are licensed by the state and have strong track records. If you feel that your agent is inexperienced, isn’t familiar with the area or simply lacks the knowledge to lead you in the right direction, it’s time to find someone who has the necessary training and certification to get the job done right.

Your agent is critical.

We all want different things in life, and a home you may find beautiful, another person may not. That’s okay. Your realtor’s job is to find you a property that YOU love. If you find them being critical or harsh about your expectations, it’s time to move on. You know what you can afford and what you feel comfortable with, and your realtor should support you until you find that home.

Think you need a new real estate agent? Let an experienced, trustworthy and knowledgeable agent from Cedarcrest help you find your dream home!

New Jersey Real EstateOpen HousesReal Estate Tips July 1, 2014

Making the Most of an Open House

As a prospective buyer, open houses are a wonderful opportunity to drop by, view a home and meet others in the neighborhood in a semi-relaxed environment. The advantage to an open house is that it’s completely open, and you can drop by during the specific window without an appointment or even being a serious buyer. Below are helpful tips for making the most of an open house.

Attend open houses early on in your search.

Before committing to a realtor, attend a few open houses and get a feel for the market. Seeing what homes are on the market, what they look like on the inside and how much they are selling for are all important criteria to learn about. Plus, it puts you in a position where you can meet realtors and agents who may be a good fit for your needs.

Introduce yourself when you walk in.

Prospective buyers are often concerned that if they sign in, they’ll be hassled for the next few months by the realtor. This can happen, but it’s not the norm. Still, if you don’t feel comfortable signing in, that’s okay. Politely decline. But, you should introduce yourself and be polite, as it’s important for safety reasons for the agent to know who is coming into the home. And, if you’re a serious buyer, make yourself known to the agent. Putting a name to a face is helpful when reviewing offers.

Ask the listing agent questions.

The realtor may ask you questions, but don’t be afraid to ask your own. Listing agents know the most about the property, and they can direct questions to the seller if need be. Some things to ask: how long the property has been on the market, why the home is being sold, what costs are attached to the property and what fixtures/furniture are being sold with the property.

Watch the other buyers.

If you notice that people are leaving as quickly as they came in, that’s a sign that there are issues with the property on some level. If people are asking questions, sticking around and envisioning their own stuff in the house, you know that it’s probably a good property you’re looking at. Take direction from the other buyers and gauge their confidence level.

New Jersey Real Estate TipsReal Estate Tips June 24, 2014

10 Tips for Home Tours

Touring homes to buy can be a fun experience, especially as you start your search. It’s always exciting to envision yourself in a new home! Of course, it’s important to be mindful as you walk through the home, because if you do decide to make an offer, you want it to be the right home for you. Here are ten tips to help you along on your home tours.

1. Bring a Camera and Notepad

You won’t remember all the details of each home, so write down notes about what you like and don’t like about each one. Take photos of any concerns you may have, such as potential mold or structural issues.

2. Check for Mold or Rotting

Speaking of mold problems, check the bathrooms for signs of rotting. Key places to look include the baseboards, around the tub or shower and the ceiling above the shower.

3. Consider the Natural Sunlight

What will the home look like during the day? Does it get enough sunlight? Also think about how the trees will affect the natural sunlight, as they may be bare in the winter and full in the summer.

4. Identify All Storage Space

What types of storage space does the home have? Some have basements, attics and crawl spaces, so make sure you locate all available storage.

5. Listen to the Noise

What do you hear? If the home is located near a busy road or airport, for instance, you must be able to tolerate the noise level.

6. Check the Attic

There should be plenty of insulation in the attic. This is a good sign that the home is well insulated and won’t drain your energy bills.

7. Check the Water Spouts

All outdoor water spouts should be pointed away from the home. Water from the roof can cause damage to the foundation. If the spouts aren’t positioned correctly, take good note of the basement, its appearance and its odor.

8. Review the Exterior

Look for wavy or discolored wood siding. Assess the condition of the roof. Determine the quality of the windows. The exterior can tell you a lot about how well the previous owners took care of the home.

9. Request a Disclosure Packet

A disclosure packet will let you know of any potential issues such as asbestos, lead-based paint or pest infestations.

10. Compare the Tax Records

Sometimes, sellers stretch the truth, but you want the tax records to be accurate. Identify any discrepancies, such as differences in the square footage or number of bedrooms and bathrooms.