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Miracle Bennett's Blog

By Miracle Bennett | Agent in Cedar Hill, TX
  • Finding a rental...always an adventure!

    Posted Under: Rental Basics, For Rent, Rentals  |  April 9, 2013 11:29 AM  |  200 views  |  No comments
    So! You need to find a rental?  Not sure where to begin? Here are some thoughts about finding a rental property based on questions I often get from clients:

        First, my advice to you is 'be prepared'. There are a large number of people renting these days due to the housing market fall out and tighter mortgage requirements. Due to the increase in possible tenants the available homes tend to get leased very quickly. Homes that go the fastest are 4 bedroom homes up to the $1200 a month range. I have seen them lease literally hours after going on the market. Being prepared means knowing ahead of time that the home you see on the internet, or that your REALTOR® emails you may already be gone. Unfortunately it is a common problem and not one there is really any way to solve. The best thing to do is know you may face some disappointment in your search and stay positive.

        How to start? Well...many folks begin on the internet these days. It's not a bad thing to do - just know that websites like this one and others like it do not update in real time. They pull their information from the MLS we Realtors use and it can take several days for it to filter down. This is not good when you consider my warning about how fast homes lease these days. The smartest thing you can do is engage a Realtor to assist you. Our MLS updates in real time and your agent will be able to stay on top of new listings. Pick one Realtor and use them exclusively - and don't forget that if you call the number of a Realtor you see on a sign in a yard, that Realtor has signed a contract with the homeowner to be the home owner's agent, not yours. Find a Realtor you like and let that Realtor be your advocate.

        One of the first questions I ask a potential tenant is, "where do you want to live?". I am sorry to say the answer is often, "I don't know" or "anywhere is okay". Usually after speaking with them a little further I discover they are not as open minded about locations and they first indicate. Help your Realtor out! Try to have a definite target location so we can quickly narrow down the best choices.

        The next question I ask is, "what is your budget?". You need to have a definite answer for this as well. If you are unsure about your budget, a good thing to keep in mind is that most landlords I have had clients lease with lately require 3 times the rent in verifiable income. If you can verify $3000 in income per month, the most you should look for is a home that leases for $1000 a month. Verifiable income can include anything you have proof of... pay stubs, child support, bank statements etc.

        The two most common questions I get asked are, "what is the process?" and "will I qualify?"

    The Process:
    1) Once you have located a home you like that fits your budget you should first have your Realtor call the listing office to verify that the home is still available.
    2) If it is - schedule a time to see it right away. Putting it off may result in it being leased before you get there.
    3) Once you have seen it, and if you like it, your Realtor can help you complete the necessary applications. Some property management offices have their own applications and a list of requirements. If they don't, your Realtor will use a standard Texas Real Estate Commission application. One application is usually required per adult 18 and over that will occupy the property. Applications should be filled out very neatly, completely and honestly. Failing to do so will complicate the process and may result in it being rejected.
    4) Supply copies of proof of income for two months and your drivers license to your Realtor with the completed application.
    5) Applying for a rental home requires an application fee. This fee will cover the cost of processing the application and the credit/background checks (which I will talk about in a later section). This fee varies per office. The cheapest I have seen is $35 per adult and the most is $50 per adult + a $100 administration fee. This fee is non-refundable so be sure you are prepared to lose that money if your application is declined. Some offices will reduce the fee for married couples. Be sure to have your Realtor ask, it can't hurt to try. Application fees are almost always required to be in the form of a money order/cahsiers check. Personal checks are rarely, if ever, accepted. Some offices will accept cash, just be sure to get a receipt. Many offices are now accepting application fees to be paid online via services like PayPal. Be sure to check about that too if you are interested.
    6) The completed application and application fee now need to get to the leasing office ASAP. Discuss with your Realtor how this will happen. You or your Realtor can deliver it, so who ever can get there fastest is best. If you pay the application fee online the application itself can most likely be emailed.
    7) After the application is delivered, there is nothing to do but wait and hope. Cross your fingers! If the application is filled out well and your employer and past landlord(s) respond quickly to verification requests, getting a yes or no may take a day or two - hopefully less.

    Will I qualify?

        This is one of those questions that is hard to answer, as every landlord has different criteria. Here are some things to consider:
    1) Leasing offices/.landlords will run a credit check. Most of them realize that renters often have credit that is damaged and are unable to qualify to buy a home so credit dings are not as critical as if you were attempting to get a mortgage - but they do look very carefully for credit issues that involve past landlords. Having a recent eviction or judgment from a landlord (and sometimes a utility company) is not good, especially if you still owe money. Often this will be an instant disqualifier. Your Realtor needs to know if you have a past eviction. If there is a circumstance surrounding the eviction you think may mitigate this, include a letter of explanation with your application. Just be prepared for a no. Landlords like to see two years of positive rental history, and with so many renters out there they are being more particular.
    2) Leasing offices/landlords will also run a background check. If there are any issues with this, alert your Realtor from the beginning.
    3) If you are a pet owner, be aware that many landlords will refuse an application that includes dogs of certain sizes and breeds. Again, make your Realtor aware of your pets from the beginning.

    So, there you go! That is a lot to think about. I hope this helps a little. Please let me know if you have any questions, or if there is anything I can do for you!

    Miracle Bennett, REALTOR®
    RE/MAX Preferred Associates
    140 W. FM 1382 #110
    Cedar Hill, TX  75104
    972-293-4586 (office)
    214-763-1857 (cell, best way to reach me!)
  • Thinking about selling?

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Cedar Hill, Home Selling in Cedar Hill, Remodel & Renovate in Cedar Hill  |  January 24, 2011 8:57 AM  |  460 views  |  2 comments
    When it comes to selling in this market, there are lots of things to think about - chief among them is current market value. If you have even been paying even a little attention to the news you know that the Real Estate market is not being nice to sellers these days, with home values dropping over the past few years.

    I am not one to try to sugar coat a hard truth, and if you thinking about putting your home on the market you  need to be prepared for those hard truths. There is a lot of competition out there and a lot of that competition is foreclosed property which may be selling for less than other homes in the neighborhood.

    If you have lived in your home only a few years, it is possible you may owe more than it will sell for right now. It's a terrible thing to have to say, but there it is. You may have to take a loss on the home and even come to the closing table with money to make up the difference. If you think you may be in this situation, contact a REALTOR® and have them do an analysis of your neighborhood to see where you are. Sellers have a lot of closing costs on their side of the deal and between the drop in values in many areas and those fees, it may be impossible to walk away from the home without being upside down.

    If you are in this position you will need to consider your options, Which a REALTOR can also help you with.

    If you decide to put the home on the market, now comes the big job of getting the home ready to be shown to potential buyers!

    The simplest way to put it is, clean, de-clutter, conceal and clarify! 

    Clean - Every day your home is on the market it should be showing ready. Make sure the bathrooms and kitchens are swept, mopped, wiped down, scrubbed and free of debris. Many buyers can overlook an untidy living room, but a dirty bathroom or kitchen will put them off for good. If you are gone at work every day, wake up 15 or 20 minutes early and do a sweep of the home to look for trouble spots. Make the beds, get all laundry to the hamper and dishes to the washer. Give the counters a wipe, check the glass and mirrors for smudges and any other little details. Don't forget to get the often forgotten areas like door jambs, switch place covers, ceiling fans, air vents and plant ledges. Buyers will nit pick every detail!

    De-Clutter!  I know it's hard for some people to remove thier possesions from the inside of the home, but you have to consider that you are trying to make the home appeal to new people...you want them to visualize their things in that space and it's hard to do when all our stuff is already there. Try to remove all the little pieces of furniture that are there for show...end tables, knick-knack shelves, ottomans etc. Take down about 75% of the pictures you have on the walls. You don't want the house to look vacant, but the more things you remove the bigger your rooms will look and that is always a great thing. More floor space = more interested buyers, epsecially in spaces that are small. Open those small spaces up! Stack things neatly in containers in the garage or a storage building. Reduce the number of appliances and storage containers on your counters. Put them in the cupboards underneath. If possible, reduce the amount of clothes and linens in your closets. Take out the stuff you never use and really make those closets look super roomy. It is a lot of work to do this, sure, but your potential buyers will love it and you will be doing the right thing to get the house sold as soon as possible. De-cluttering also works for your yards. You want the yards to look open and welcoming. Remove excess objects off the porches, tidy up your flower beds and trim your walk ways. Curb appeal is as important as interior appeal!

    Conceal? Yes! Conceal!  When your house is on the market you will be having strangers go through the home with their agents. Buyers will open drawers and cabinets and peek in to all kinds of nooks and crannies. While we as agents always are overly diligent to protect your homes, we can not be sure that a potential buyer will not have light fingers. Pack away every thing you do not want a stranger to see or steal. Get a box and put your important papers in it - especially things with account and social security numbers on it. Jewelry too. Keep the box in the trunk of your car or find a way to lock it. Do not leave mail and loose coins sitting on the table, desk or counters. Here's a terrible truth - but there have been people who will steal prescription drugs. Take your prescriptions with you when you leave the house or find a way to secure them in a locked loaction in the house. The same for guns, rare collectibles and anything else you can think of.

    Clarify. When I say clarify I mean take those rooms that may have once been a bedroom but are now the craft room or study or workout room and turn them back in to their intended spaces. Make the dining room that has somehow become the home office back in to a dining room. That sun porch that has all the workout equipment on it? Put the equipment in the garage and make that sun porch look like a great place to sit and have morning coffee again. If you have painted the walls with murals or overly bright colors, neutralize them with soft inviting shades instead. Not everyone will appreciate your sense of style. When your home is on the market, buyers should not have to ask themselves "what is this room supposed to be?" or "what were they thinking with all this faux finish on the walls??" 

    Should you do major remodeling projects? Well..that depends on how you are selling the home. If you are trying to really get every penny, things like new carpet and paint will go a long way. Have a bathroom or kitchen that was fashionable in the 60's? Maybe some work in there would be a good idea. The big thing to remember is to not remodel yourself out of the market. Putting in custom granite counters and walk in shower with travertine tile in an area where the homes are selling for 100,000$ might not be a good idea. It would be very hard to get your investment back. Consult your REALTOR about remodeling that will be beneficial and a good contractor to do the work within your budget. Remodel wisely.  If you are unable to do needed remodeling you may want to sell the home "as is" at a price that reflects the work needed and let someone who is ready to do the work buy the home.

    That's it for now!  Anyone have a question?
  • The scammers are out in full force, future renters...Be wary!

    Posted Under: Crime & Safety in Cedar Hill, Rental Basics in Cedar Hill, For Rent in Cedar Hill  |  January 19, 2011 4:08 PM  |  455 views  |  1 comment
    I've been getting phone calls from people who are looking to rent properties and have a situation they are not sure how to handle. Usually the call begins with "I found a property to rent on craigslist and have had communication with the landlord but when I drove by to look at it your sign was in the yard".

    Here is what is going on - scammers, often from out of the country, are locating foreclosed homes listed for sale by Realtors and taking the information and listing them as 'for rent by owner' on places like craigslist. The ads often are full of long, complicated stories about how the homeowner is a missionary in a foreign land and really needs to rent their home to an honest person. When contacted by email they will send back a convoluted application that asks for all sorts of sensitvie and private information and a request for money. If you send them this money via fed ex right away, they in turn promise to mail you keys. Good rule of thumb..if a landlord can not show you the home IN PERSON, or instructs you to just drive by and peek in the windows, run away.

    PLEASE be wary of finding homes to rent on places that are less than reputable or unregulated. Random websites are often blank templates set up to capture your email address so you can get a ton of spam. In this case, many of the homes I am getting calls about are foreclosed properties that my office has listed for sale.

    Be informed! Foreclosed bank and HUD properties are NOT for lease!

    Another sure sign you may be the possible victim of a scam is if when you call the contact number, someone asks you to send money for a deposit right away, even if you haven't seen the home or met face to face. A common theme with these scammers is "oh boy, a ton of people want that rental - of you really want it, send me the deposit today and I'll take it off the market/hold the home just for you".

    If you are serious about needing a rental, call a REALTOR. We are here to help you with your purchases as well as your leases. We can search the multiple listing system where agents from all over the area have places to rent, find properties that match your wishes and assist you with the leasing process. Let us help you!

    Lastly, remember what your parents always told you...if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Adventures in Real Estate!

    Posted Under: General Area in Cedar Hill, Home Buying in Cedar Hill, Property Q&A in Cedar Hill  |  January 11, 2011 3:35 PM  |  460 views  |  No comments
    Hello out there in Trulia-land!

    I thought I would begin this wonderful blog process with something that means a lot to me and I would expect, every REALTOR...How does the process of buying a home work? Here are some random bits of information to keep in mind..

    First, and this is super important, Pick one Real Estate and go that way!

    Many people think that only the agency listed on the "for sale" sign in the yard can sell that home. This is not true! most any REALTOR can sell the home of any other REALTOR, no matter what office has it listed. It is totally common for a home listed with Keller Williams to be sold by an agent from RE/MAX, Century 21 or Ebby. It is absolutely in your best interest to  interview several agents from different offices, pick one you like very much and use them exclusively. That agent can now pull up homes to fit your requirements and schedule showings. Through constant contact with one agent, your home buying process is streamlined. We agents don't like to step on the toes of other agents - and it can be sticky when one of us shows a home to you but you buy another home using another.

    Plus, many buyers don't know that when you call the agent listed on the "for sale" sign in the front yard, that agent is working to get the best deal for the seller - not you. The buyers agent you select, after you have signed your buyers representation agreement, will be working on your behalf...not the sellers. All negotiations will be to help you get the best deal!

    I have been getting a large number of calls this week from people very interested in a certain property who are wanting  see the home and to know how much we are asking for a down payment and what the requirements for getting in to the home are.

    Speaking for myself, I am NOT a lender. I would guess that most Realtors who have a home on the market are not lenders. We do not control the money end of the home sale - our office is just listing the property on the market.

    If you are thinking about buying a new home, here is the very best advice I can give you...
    Don't schedule random appointments to see homes...Select your designated buyers agent and then get that mortgage first!

    You are doing yourself a world of disservice if you go out and find the home you really really want only to find out later you are not qualified to purchase the home financially. I have witnessed more than one broken heart when the perfect home becomes an impossibility because of a credit problem or a debt to income ratio that is too high.

    Many realtors today are making it a policy not to show homes to buyers who do not have financing in place (or proof of cash). Our time becomes more and more precious every day, not to mention the cost of gas, and showing homes to buyers when there is no proof they have a loan ready can get very expensive. If you find a REALTOR who insists on your having secured financing before they will show you a home, please don't take offense. Your proof of funds indicates that you are serious and not just wanting to look at homes out of curiousity (and yes, I am sorry to say there are people out there who will actually call an agent to look at a home they just drove past because it amuses them or they are what I sweetly refer to as nosey nellies with no intention of acutally buying a home).

    It doesn't take long to become pre-qualified for a mortgage. If buying a home is in your immediate future, find a lender that is competant and experienced ( I always suggest you use a local person, someone you can meet in person and talk over important issues, someone who has been doing it a long time and knows the business ) and start the process of getting your financing in place. Your buyers agent will usually know quite a few good lenders and can offer suggestions of people to call. Once contact is made, Your lender can tell you just how much home you can buy as well as help you know what type of money you will need for closing and what kind of negotiating your agent will need to do for you. With all that information, your buyers agent can now start finding just the home you are looking for!

    I hope some of this is helpful!  If you are going to buy a new home, the best of luck to you!
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