Frequently Asked Questions


Why Use a Realtor?
Whether you are buying or selling a home, a Realtor® has resources available to help you in the process. A Realtor® :
1. Can give you up-to-date information about the market, prices, financing, terms and conditions of competing properties.
2. Will market your property to other real estate agents and to the public.
3. Will know when, where, and how to best market your property.
4. Can help you objectively evaluate every buyer’s proposal without compromising your market position.
5. Can help close the sale of your home.
6. Has many resources to assist you in your home search.
7. Can provide objective information about each property.
8. Can help you negotiate.
9. Can help you determine your buying power.
10. Provides guidance during the evaluation of the property.
11. Can guide you through the closing process and make sure everything flows together smoothly.

Is My Home Ready for Sale?
The home selling process typically starts several months before a property is made available for sale. It’s necessary to look at a home through the eyes of a prospective buyer and determine what needs to be cleaned, painted, repaired and tossed out.

Ask yourself: If you were buying this home, what would you want to see? The goal is to show a home which looks good, maximizes space and attracts as many buyers – and as much demand – as possible.

While part of the “getting ready” phase relates to repairs, painting and other home improvements, this is also a good time to ask why you really want to sell.

Selling a home is an important matter and there should be a good reason to sell – perhaps a job change to a new community or the need for more space. Your reason for selling can impact the negotiating process, so it’s important to discuss your needs and wants in private with the Realtor® who lists your home.

When should I Sell?
The market place tends to be more active in the summer because parents want to enroll children in classes at the beginning of the school year (usually August).  The summer is also typically when most homes are likely to be available.

Generally speaking, markets tend to have some balance between buyers and sellers year-round. in a given community, for example, there may be fewer buyers in late December, but there are also likely to be fewer homes available for purchase. So, home prices tend to rise or fall because of general demand patterns rather than the time of the year.

Owners are encouraged to sell when the property is ready for sale, there is a need or desire to sell, and the services of a local Realtor® have been retained.

How Do I Improve My Home’s Value?
The general rule in real estate is that buyers seek the least expensive home in the best neighborhood they can afford. In terms of improvements, this means you want a home that fits in the neighborhood, but is not over-improved. For example, if most homes in your neighborhood have three bedrooms, two baths and 2,500 square feet of finished space, a property with five bedrooms, more baths and far more space would likely be priced much higher and likely be more difficult to sell.

Improvements should be made so that the property shows well, is consistent with the neighborhood and does not involve capital investments, the cost of which cannot be recovered from the sale. Furthermore, improvements should reflect community preferences.

Cosmetic improvements – paint, wallpaper and landscaping – help a home “show” better and often are good investments. Mechanical repairs – to ensure that all systems and appliances are in good working condition – are required to get a top price.

Ideally, you want to be sure that your property is competitive with other homes available in the community. Realtors®, who see numerous homes, can provide suggestions that are consistent with your marketplace.

How Much Home Can I Afford to Buy?
This is absolutely the first questions you must answer before beginning to look for a home. It is best to check with several lenders who will be happy to provide you with an approximation of your buying power. Visit the Lenders page of this website for a list of local mortgage lenders who are affiliate members of the East Central Iowa Association of Realtors®, many of whom have links to their own websites with current information on rates and mortgage programs offered. The lenders will base their estimate on several factors including:
– Your gross income
– The amount of money you have available for a down payment
– The amount of your debt
– Your credit score and history
– The type of mortgage you choose
– The current interest rates

What Type of Mortgage is best for Me?
There are literally hundreds of different mortgage programs available including:
– 10, 15, 20 & 30 year fixed loans
– Adjustable rate loans
– New construction financing
– FHA and VA financing
– 5 and 7 year balloon loans
and so many more. Again, it is best to talk over your individual situation with a lender to accurately assess which mortgage program will best fit your needs now and in the future.

How Much Money Do I Need to Buy a Home?
The biggest factor in determining how much money you will need up front is the type of loan program you select. Talk with your lender to determine how much down payment you will need for your mortgage and how much you will pay in closing costs. You will also need to make an earnest money deposit at the time you write an offer on a home and you will need to pay for a home inspection, if you choose to have one.

What is Earnest Money?
Earnest money is a deposit given by a prospective buyer as a show of good faith to the seller of a property. Once an offer to purchase has been accepted by a seller, the earnest money is typically held in a trust account by the listing Broker until the transaction closes.

What is a Home Inspection?
A professional home inspector will physically view and thoroughly inspect a property, usually on behalf of a buyer, and complete a written report on the property, specifically addressing any defects found.  An inspection usually occurs after an offer to purchase has been accepted by a seller.

How Do I Find a Home Inspector?
For a list of qualified home inspectors who are affiliate members of the East Central Iowa Association of Realtors®, go to the Inspectors page of this website.

How Do I Get Started Finding the Perfect Home?
One of the most important choices you will make as you begin to look for a home is selecting a Realtor®. Talk with trusted friends and family who have recently purchased or sold a home, and ask for references. It’s important to find a Realtor with whom you feel comfortable honestly communicating and whose communication style matches your own. The East Central Iowa Association of Realtors® has over 250 Realtors® ready to go to work for you. Go to the  Find a Realtor® page to select the Realtor® who will best serve your needs.