REAL ESTATE WRITING SAMPLES
Writing Sample #1
The Short Sale Process: Finding a Buyer for Your “About to Be Foreclosed On” Home
If you’re facing foreclosure and your home is underwater (ie, you owe more on it than it appraises for), one option your lender may offer is to do a short sale. Once you agree to go this route, it’s time to put your home on the market and find a buyer.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to enlist the help of a specialist -- a short sales specialist.
What is a Short Sales Specialist?
These are realtors who specialize in handling this type of real estate transaction. They can help you price your home to sell quickly, as well as find qualified buyers.
These professionals are usually plugged into their communities via professional organizations and real estate networking groups. Also, they have a roster of past clients from which they get qualified leads and referrals. Hence, it’s much easier – and quicker – for them to find a buyer than it would be for you.
If you’re trying to sell your home via this route, you need to hire a short sales listing agent. Remember this term; following is why.
Almost all realtors are eager for listings, but a short sale listing agent does much more than just enter your home into a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database and put their sign in your front yard.
This type of agent has specialized knowledge in how to deal with banks, ie: how their processes work; the paperwork needed; the timeframes for getting everything in; etc.
If an agent has no experience dealing with “loss mitigation departments” and bank “short sale process negotiators,” it can kill your deal. So these agents are literally worth their weight in (real estate) gold.
How to Find a Short Sales Listing Agent
The normal routes: Eg, ask friends and family (especially those in the real estate industry); the internet; open houses; etc.
Finding the Best Agent Tip: One of the best ways to locate a successful agent of this kind is to search those in your area. Following is why this last part is so important.
One of the reasons successful agents are successful is because they’re good at marketing themselves. One of the ways they do this is by staying abreast of technology – and using it to dispense valuable information on their blog; their website; their newsletter; their YouTube channel; and/or via their social media outlets. If they're investing in themselves like this, you can bet they take their business seriously. This is exactly the kind of go-getter real estate agent you want.
What to Look for in Short Sale Buyers
Now that you know what to look for in this type of real estate professional and how to find one, let’s turn our attention to buyers of these type of properties. Note: If you hire the right listing agent, you won’t have to worry about a lot of the following. They'll take care of it for you.
Financing: Make sure the buyer has been pre-qualified and/or pre-approved for a loan (if they need one). Some investors may pay cash.
FYI, you ideally want short sale buyers who are pre-approved as opposed to pre-qualified. What’s the difference? If you’ve been pre-qualified for a home loan, you’ve just provided information to the loan officer. When you’ve been pre-approved, the information has been verified.
Knowledgeable: Many home buyers, particularly first-time home buyers, know very little about the home-buying process. There are exponentially fewer who understand the short sale process.
So, you want to work with short sale buyers who are knowledgeable; preferably ones who are working with a short sale specialist or who are experienced real estate investors.
Patience: The short sale process can be a hairy, sticky, long one; that's why you want buyers who are long on patience. Every lender has their own processes, and some are faster than others.
Reasonable: Some buyers of these types of properties expect to pay pennies on the dollar. And if comparable values dictate, then that’s as it should be.
But, serious buyers tend to know what a property is worth (because they’ve done their homework or employed someone who has) and will tender a “reasonable” offer; one that is likely to be accepted by the lender. Reasonable is in quotation marks because practically everything in real estate is negotiable. But short sale statistics show that, generally, these type of properties don’t sell for that steep of a discount.
Note: A RealtyTrac 2010 Foreclosure Sales Report showed that the average discount of a bank-owned (REO) home was 36 percent. For some, this is a good deal; others want a better deal.
Another area of “reasonableness” you want to look for in a short sale buyer is one who doesn’t ask for endless concessions. The lender probably won’t agree to many of them anyway and you probably can’t afford it, which is why you’re doing a short sale in the first place.
Look for a buyer who WANTS a property inspection, that way they know exactly what they’re getting. While again, everything is negotiable, if a buyer is serious, they’ll ingest the facts and either move on and not waste your time, or move forward with the deal.
One Chicago short sale expert spelled it out this way when talking about short sale buyer concessions:
I am all for them. If I can sweeten the deal for a buyer, great! There are limits though. 3% is about the maximum you can get. On FHA/VA short sales, HUD has reduced this to 1%, only if the buyer is using a government loan to finance the purchase. Whenever I get a contract that has a seller concession, I immediately call the buyer’s agent and ask if the buyers need the seller concession to close. If the answer is yes, immediately reject the contract because while we can ask for a seller concession, we cannot guarantee one.
Here’s hoping the information provided here helps you find a short sale buyer, short sales specialist and other particulars you need to sell your home –- so you can get on with your life.
Writing Sample #2
First-Time Home Buyer Mortgage: The New Credit Standards
Because of the foreclosure crisis that began in 2007, new credit standards for first-time home buyers (any home buyer really) were established. Depending on which side of the fence you're on, it's either a good thing or a hindrance to buying a home.
Here we'll discuss FICO scores and how to qualify for a mortgage according to the new credit standards in place.
Following is a look back at what credit scores used to have to be (before the foreclosre crisis) to qualify for a home loan.
First-Time Home Buyer Mortgage Qualifications: A Look Back at Old FICO Standards
On a recent edition of the news, the newscaster blared from the television that some credit card companies were considering making 740 the FICO score you must have to qualify for a credit card.
In the past, if you were dead or alive, you could get a credit card. Family pets have been known to receive credit cards in the mail. No kidding. Really, there have been instances of dead people and pets being issued credit cards! This is how freewheeling credit card companies were when extending credit.
So what does this have to do with getting a mortgage? Well, who for the most poart extends credit for credit cards? Banks. And, who extends credit (loans) for mortgages? For the most part, banks.
Zero-Down Home Loans: Get 100% Financing with a 580 or 620 Credit Score?
FICO scores have to be a lot higher than they used to be to qualify for a home loan. It used to be that a prospective homeowner could qualify for 100% financing and a conventional mortgage with a 620 FICO score.
And in many cases in the past, a prospective homeowner could qualify for 100% financing (a zero-down home loan) with a credit score as low as 580. It would be a subprime mortgage, which meant a higher interest rate, but the home buyer wouldn't have had to come to the table with any money. None.
The New Reality: What Your FICO Score Needs to Be to Qualify for Zero-Down Home Loans Now
These days, mortgage lenders have raised the bar on what your FICO score has to be to get a conventional loan with a good interest rate.
If you do any research online, you'll see that most websites and blogs still quote 620 to 640 as the credit score needed to get a home loan. That's a bit outdated.
Nowadays, credit standards dictate that you need to have a FICO score in the neighborhood of 750-780 to qualify for a conventional mortgage with the lowest interest rate.
That's the new reality for many would-be home buyers -- and it's unlikely to change any time soon.
Writing Sample #3
Winterizing Foreclosed Homes
When a home is foreclosed on, it can sit vacant for months or even years. And when a home sits vacant, especially during the winter season, pipes can burst, causing water to flood.
Even if the water is turned off, the water that sits in pipes can cause floods or damaging leaks. And, what follows floods and/or water damage? Mold.
Now imagine this sitting for weeks or months with no one being aware of it.
This is why lenders pay plumbing companies, property preservation companies, and real estate service companies to winterize properties. In the long run, it costs them less money.
If you’re a real estate services company, winterization is an easy service to offer. And, it can be quite lucrative because it's one of those services that banks don’t hesitate to pay for, unlike some others.
So, you may be wondering, exactly . . .
What Is Winterization?
Basically, winterization is protecting a home while it is unoccupied for long periods of times. A lot of this has to do with preventing water from entering a home and pipes from bursting. Another equally important component is dealing with the heating and cooling system. Following are some things that should be done to winterize a property.
Shut Off Water: This should be done at the main valve or at the inlet to the meter. Once the water is shut off, the meter should be capped –- preferably by a professional -– so that it can’t be turned back on.
Drain Water Heater: Remember, even if the water is turned off, if something happens, water left in pipes or a water heater can still cause flooding.
Drain Pipes: For the same reason as above, this should be done.
Open Faucets: This allows them to drain completely.
Drain Toilets: Be sure to get rid of any excess water left in the tanks; wipe them dry.
Turn Off Heating System: If you have an electric system, make sure it’s turned off at the circuit breaker. This prevents the burning up of heating elements.
Turn Off Gas & Electric: Call your local electric company to make sure this is done.
Check for Faulty Faucets and Broken Pipes: If damage is found, make sure it’s repaired so that when water is turned back on, there are no leaks.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of what goes into winterizing a home.
HUD Payment Guidelines: Home Much Do Banks Pay for Winterizing a Foreclosed Home
If your firm wants to offer this service, what you will be paid depends a lot on what the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) pricing guidelines are in many cases. This is because many bank-owned properties fall under HUD.
For example, in the state of Georgia, HUD will pay anywhere from $100 to $460 for winterizing a home, depending on the type of heat it has (ie, dry heat, steam heat, wet/radiant heat).
As you can see, this can be a very lucrative service for a real estate services company to offer – and it shouldn’t take more than a few hours for a skilled professional to complete.
Writing Sample #4
5 Things You Should Do to Get Your Home Ready for a Fast Short Sale
If you’re a struggling homeowner facing foreclosure, one of the options available to you to avoid it is a short sale. However, as with any home sale, there are some things you must do first. They can make the difference between selling quickly, or not selling it at all. Before we discuss what they are, let’s briefly discuss what a short sale is.
What Is a Short Sale?
A short sale is simply when a house is sold for less than what is owed on the mortgage, ie, the price paid by a buyer is "short" of the balance owed to the lender.
If you decide to go the short sale route, be sure to get your mortgage holder to accept a short sale “with no recourse." This simply means that the lender agrees NOT to come after you for the balance due (the short; the deficiency). Whether or not your mortgage holder agrees to this will depend a lot on your financial circumstances and who the lender is.
5 Things You Should Do to Get Your Home Ready for a Fast Short Sale
Here are the five “D’s” of preparing your home so it sells quickly.
I. Detach Emotionally: This is probably the hardest thing you will have to do, especially if you don’t want to leave your home. But remember, this is necessary so you can move on with the rest of your life.
A home is made up of the people who inhabit it; not the bricks and mortar it’s constructed of. So, as long as your family remains intact, “home” will always be with you.
II. Depersonalize: One piece of advice Lisa LaPorta, HGTV designer and host of “Designed to Sell” and “Bang for Your Buck,” always gives is to depersonalize your space when you’re “designing it to sell.”
Lisa says that prospective buyers have to imagine themselves living in the space. It’s much easier to do this when your pictures, knick knacks and other personal items are not crowding the walls, tables and mantles.
III. Declutter: If you’ve ever watched an episode of A&E’s “Sell This House,” one of the first things they do is clear out a space. They declutter it, then refill it only with essential elements.
Most people don’t realize how much stuff they’ve accumulated until they get ready to move. Clutter, even in a clean house, can make it appear unkempt, small and all-around uninviting. A decluttered spaces says, “new,” “clean,” “modern,” “crisp,” “open” . . . BUY ME!
IV. Decrease the Price: ... if you have to.
If you’re doing a short sale, you are already selling for less than what is owed. But, you may have to decrease even a short sale price, depending on the real estate market in your area. So, be prepared for this.
Remember, a house is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. This is where working with a short sale realtor can really pay off. They will pull comps and price your home accordingly; that way there’s less chance of overpricing it.
V. Deodorize: If you’re a smoker or you live with pets, it’s likely that you don’t even notice the odor anymore. But odors live in carpets, curtains, bed covers, slip covers, etc., and a prospective buyer walking into your home WILL notice -- no matter how much you think they won't.
Again, if you’ve ever watched an episode of “Sell This House” or any other home-selling program, prospective buyers are notorious for saying things like “That awful pet smell;” or “Obviously, they’re smokers;” etc. So deodorize.
Deodorizing can be as easy as giving a home a good cleaning and lighting some scented candles. Or, it can be more involved, eg, having to paint; or throw out and/or recover smelly, upholstered furniture. To repeat, if you’re working with a realtor, they will make you aware of what you need to do ... right down to cleaning and deodorizing.
If you do these five things, you will be well on your way to selling your home, stopping foreclosure and getting on the road to a new life.
Writing Sample #5
What You Need to Know about Purchasing Pre-Foreclosures
If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and put in some work, here is one way to buy a foreclosure – and perhaps help a struggling homeowner at the same time.
What is a Pre-Foreclosure?
In case you don’t know, pre-foreclosure is the time span between when a homeowner becomes late on payments and when the property is officially foreclosed upon by the lender. This time period can be anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more. It all depends on the foreclosure laws of the state/county involved, and these vary widely.
Many struggling homeowners are happy to speak with investors (you), as they desperately want to sell before they are officially foreclosed on. This is especially true if they know that there is no hope of hanging onto their home. And, this means opportunity for investors because they can purchase a property directly from the owner before the bank forecloses.
Foreclosure Properties for Sale: How to Find Pre-Foreclosures to Buy
Finding pre-foreclosure properties for sale is easy and can be accomplished in a number of ways, ie:
Public Records of Foreclosure Listings: As home ownership and default information is part of public records, all you have to do is research public notices in your area. This can be very time consuming, but if you’re in no rush and plan to make real estate investing part of your financial portfolio, it can be worth the time invested.
Online Sources of Foreclosure Lists: There are many sites online that offer information on pre-foreclosure properties for sale. Be careful if you pay for information though, as it can be incomplete, outdated and downright useless.
One of the most reputable sites on the web for purchasing any kind of real estate-related info is RealtyTrac.com.
Realtors a Great Source for Foreclosure Listings: If you know a realtor, you’re in luck. They are a great source for finding pre-foreclosure properties for sale as they have access to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) databases. These databases can only be accessed by licensed realtors.
It is the primary data system that most real estate agents use to market and sell property. Three-quarters of all properties sold are located and sold via a MLS.
Bank Websites Have Foreclosure Listings: Many banks – especially larger ones -- list their properties for sale on their website. They're known as bank REO properties. REO is the acronym for "real estate owned," by the way.
Property Preservation & Management Companies List Foreclosures: Just like banks, many of these will have foreclosure listings right on their websites.
Steps to Take to Buy a Pre-Foreclosure
The process can be pretty involved, but basically you would take the following steps:
(i) Locate Lis Pendens: A lis pendens is a written notice that a lawsuit has been filed concerning real estate, involving either the title to the property or a claimed ownership interest in it. The notice is usually filed in the county land records office.
(ii) Find Financial Info about Property: This would include finding out how much is owed on the property and which bank holds the note (the mortgage loan).
(iii) Determine Your Offer: You would do this by finding comps to get an idea of what the house is worth. You can hire an appraiser, or if you have a friend who is a realtor, get them to give you information on sales from the MLS.
Don’t forget to figure in costs associated with the purchase, ie, closing costs, realtor fees (if you use one), appraiser fees, etc.
(iv) Contact Homeowner: Once you know all of this information, it’s time to contact the homeowner(s).
This can be a little sticky because it is undoubtedly a very stressful time for the homeowner(s). They may or may not be receptive to your offer. Hence, it’s best to send a letter instead of calling – at least at first. Remember to approach them in an “I’m here to help” manner, instead of an “I’m in this to make a profit” manner.
Buying Pre-Foreclosures: The Right of Redemption Law
Does your state have a “Right of Redemption” law? If so, you need to be careful about buying pre-foreclosures. Basically, this law allows homeowners a "reasonable" opportunity to reacquire the property, provided certain guidelines are followed.
Each state and local municipality has its own set of foreclosure laws. Know them before you make any real estate investment -- whether you’re buying it in pre-foreclosure, as an REO property, or from the steps of a courthouse auction.
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