How to Price Your House without Adding an Emotional Surcharge

When you decide to sell your house, it can be hard to let go emotionally, because many of us associate our house with the memories we created there: the birthday parties, the holiday celebrations, and all the firsts—from your child’s first steps to your first day as empty nesters. This can be problematic when it comes to determining your property’s market value because your memories are priceless, while your house is not.

As you contemplate a listing price, remember that you get to take your memories with you to your new home. The memories don’t stay with the old house, so their value shouldn’t either. Determining a listing price is one of the many things a good Realtor can help you with. Your Realtor will review comparable properties in the neighborhood and assess the local housing market trends to come up with a suggested listing price. This is often the moment when sellers see a flash before their eyes of all the improvements they made, and wonder why the house isn’t worth more.

The cost of some improvements can be recouped, usually those that involve updating kitchens and bathrooms. However, converting a garage to a family room or installing built-in shelves may not increase the value of the home by the amount of money (and sweat and tears) you invested. Work with your Realtor to understand the reasons for his or her suggested listing price.

In addition to square footage and location, your Realtor may consider issues such as how quickly you’ve said you want to sell. Keep in mind, the Realtor does not establish the value of the home: the market does. The Realtor is simply trying to interpret market data to reflect an accurate value so potential buyers will come knocking.

Can Realtors make mistakes? Yes, of course. But are they typically trying to sell your property at a price below market value? No, that doesn’t benefit them or you. You should definitely feel free to ask how your Realtor came up with his or her suggested list price, and where wiggle room may exist, but just because you don’t like the price doesn’t mean it isn’t the right one. Sellers have an especially tough time with this concept when they paid too much for the house and are now “upside down” (owe more than the house is worth). Sadly for those folks, when the appraiser comes to examine the property, there is no line item for how much you paid for the house—this has no impact on the value of the property.

If you want to know how much money you’ll walk away with at the end of a sale, ask your Realtor to create a seller’s net sheet, which includes the sale price minus the expenses related to the sale (e.g., brokerage fees, loan, title and escrow fees and any credit to the buyer for repairs).

Here are some signs that you may be overly emotionally invested in your house when it comes to selling it:

  1. You argue with the Realtor that the list price is way too low
  2. You ignore the Realtor’s advice about making improvements, repairs, or updates to the house
  3. You refuse to respond to requests to show the house in a timely manner
  4. You become irrational during negotiations after buyers make an offer or counter offer

It’s understandable to have an emotional attachment to your house, just be sure to recognize it so your emotions do not take precedence over judgment.

One final piece of advice: before you sell your house, be sure you can qualify for a new one. It’s best to get preapproved for a loan to buy another house before you let go of the one you’re in.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.


Avoid Remodeling Mistakes

Have you ever walked into a house and wondered, “What were they thinking when they designed this place?” Most of us have. If you plan to remodel, here are some tips to prevent your house from becoming that house.

Colors evoke moods, so be aware of the message you’re sending or the mood you’re fostering. Colors can be divided into several categories: warm and cool, bright and muted, dark and light—and they all have different impacts.

  • A light, muted yellow is considered cheerful and inviting, a nice way to boost people’s moods. Yellow works well in almost any room, and light colors make rooms feel bigger.
  • Pastels like lavender and pink are great for children’s rooms, but not much else.
  • Light blue promotes tranquility, and is therefore often used in bedrooms.
  • Dark blues (like other dark colors) often make a space feel smaller, so use sparingly.
  • Light green is the color of nature, and as a cool color is quite soothing.
  • Dark green complements dark woods, and can be offset with white trim.
  • Intense warm colors like orange and red are great if you want to make a room seem smaller and more intimate, or if you want to stimulate lively discussions and activities. These colors are popular in dining rooms to promote lively conversation and warm, family moments.
  • Neutrals and browns are safe, conservative options. If you don’t know what you want, or if you are planning to sell in a few years and want future owners to pick their color scheme, neutrals are a good choice. You can always add more color via art, area rugs, or adding a colorful accent wall later.

Once you’ve got your color scheme figured out, here are a few more things to consider.

Be sure you have a vision of what you want your home to look like: the floor plan and the style (modern, traditional, eclectic). Clarity about style, especially, will help you make many of the other decisions coming your way. Be honest about the space you need. It is easy to over-build. While you should plan for the space you’ll need during the next decade or so, the truth is, a well-designed 3,000 sq. ft. home may work better than an ill-designed 5,000 sq. ft. home (and there will be less to clean and maintain).

Find the right people: the architect, builder, sub-contractors, and suppliers. Do not be afraid to ask them if they are licensed, bonded and insured. If they act offended when you ask the question, find someone else because in addition to the right credentials, you also want people with the right personality—people you can get along with. If they are difficult to deal with at this point, the whole process can go south in a hurry. Once construction is underway, visit the site every few days to be sure everything is being built to your expectations. Ask questions if you have them.

If you’re working within a fixed budget, there may be work you can do. Ask the builder if he or she will allow you to put in sweat equity to help reduce costs. Maybe you can paint the walls or stain the trim. Think about the upgrades ahead of time. Builders generally provide estimates based on “medium grade” materials. Some upgrades don’t cost too much, but make a nice difference. When you’re budgeting, think about future mortgage payments, too. If you’ve been pre-approved for a specific mortgage amount, consider what the interest rate will be when the home is completed and how much extra upgrades will add to your monthly payment. Also consider how much money you will need after escrow closes (window coverings, furniture, landscaping).

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Good Credit: Myths and Facts

When it comes to offering home loans to prospective homebuyers, lenders often provide more favorable terms to borrowers with good credit—because for them, good credit means less risk. Your credit score helps lenders determine the likelihood of whether you will pay your mortgage payments, and pay them on time. The most common credit score is the Fair Isaac and Company score (FICO). A FICO score considers a huge amount of credit history, including how many real estate loans and car loans a person has. It reviews credit card information: outstanding balances, whether you pay your cards off each month, and how close they are to the maximum credit limit. The score also reviews how recently and frequently your credit check has been run, and whether closed accounts were closed based on customer requests or vendor requests.

There are decisions you can make that have the potential to affect your credit score. Here are a few to be aware of.

Oddly enough, just having your credit score checked by a potential lender will affect the score. If you inquire about your own credit, this is called a “soft pull” and it does not affect your score; however, if others check your credit, it may cause a little damage. According to, when you apply for credit, you authorize those lenders to ask for a copy of your credit report from a credit bureau. When you later check your credit, those credit inquiries are listed (sometimes along with others). The only inquiries that count toward your FICO scores are the ones that result from your applications for new credit.

Closing old or inactive accounts to help your score could shorten the measured duration of your credit history. This is a bad move. As long as you’ve paid in a timely manner and do not have an outstanding balance, old accounts simply show you have a history of taking care of business. This is good for your credit score. If at some point you got behind and were sent to collections, make sure you clean up those negative accounts. Unfortunately, paying off a negative account doesn’t erase it from your record (it usually remains on file for seven years), but it is far better than allowing it to continue to harm your financial reputation.

If you have a grown son or daughter (or any friend or relative) who may have had some credit trouble, be aware that if you co-sign on a loan for them, you are responsible for that account. If they default on the loan, the bank will come to you for payment. I realize this may sound obvious, but some folks are under the misimpression that co-signing is like a vote of confidence that makes the lender feel good about lending to this high-risk borrower. It is far more:  it is a financial guarantee that you may actually have to make good on in the future. And if your friend doesn’t pay on time it may impact your credit score.

As you consider how to build a strong credit score, making on-time rental, utility and cell phone payments isn’t actually all that helpful. It’s a good idea, anyway, but what really helps your credit score is not getting sent to collections for missed payments. While your score will incorporate your financial history, it is only a snapshot. It is like a home appraisal – its value is only good for that point in time. The good news about this is: if your credit score is not as high as you’d like, you can change it. The bad news is: if it is as high as you’d like, it may not remain there.


If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.




Waiting for Spring to Sell Your House Probably Isn’t Worthwhile

Most people believe that spring is the best time to put their house on the market. Flowers are blooming, weather is warm, and people seem to be more optimistic. When the weather is cold and wet, people prefer to stay indoors and curl up in front of a fire with a good book (or Kindle)—not plan a big move.

Although it’s counter-intuitive, it is precisely because so few people list their homes during winter that you should consider it. While your competitors wait for good weather to show off their homes’ most appealing features, you can work with the serious buyers who are looking for a place to live in December, January or February. Looky-loos wait for a sunny afternoon in April to walk through open houses. People ready to hand over a down payment attend open houses when it’s 36 degrees and raining.

When I compare housing statistics from last winter (December 2015-February 2016) to spring (March-May 2016), I see the average time on the market didn’t change much. In winter, the average residential property in inland Mendocino County was on the market for 91 days. In spring, the average time on the market was 89 days. Not a big difference.

When I compare home sales during the first part of the year (January through May 2016) to home sales for the whole year so far (January through November), it appears the market is heating up. Homes are selling faster now than they were in spring. During the first five months of the year, 96 homes sold. Through November, 277 homes sold; that’s an average of 19 homes per month for the first five months compared to 25 homes per month through November, or put another way: a 32 percent increase in the number of homes selling per month. Seems to me, this is a perfectly good time to put your house on the market.

The fact is, some buyers prefer to look for new properties in winter because a property’s flaws may be more apparent. Savvy buyers know it’s easier to miss problems when everything is warm and dry. In addition, if a property requires work on the septic system (i.e., installation, expansion or repairs), the buyer may be required to submit a wet weather soil analysis, which is tough to come by in August around here.

The bottom line is this: although spring is a slightly better time to put your house on the market, if you have any inclination toward moving during winter, don’t be scared off by the doom and gloomers.

Talk to your Realtor about how to stage your house during this time of year. Think roaring fire, the smell of hot cocoa and warm, fluffy throw blankets strategically placed on your couch. Serious buyers who need to move during this time of year will take one look at your house and picture themselves happily settled rather than trudging through inclement weather to see yet another house.

I think I’ve mentioned that I once had an agent who consistently had his highest sales volume during the month of December. While other agents believed the market would slow down during the holidays and planned accordingly, this guy figured he’d be the go-getter who jumped on every opportunity. Consequently, he was very successful, and you can be, too. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t sell your house in winter. You can.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.


Abandoned Personal Property

As a landlord of residential properties, can you throw away whatever tenants leave behind when they vacate the premises? The quick answer is no, you cannot simply discard someone else’s belongings, tempting as it may be. California Civil Code provides both forms and a procedure to clarify the rights of tenants and landlords. The law is quite specific about steps to take and the timeline to follow.

First, you must send a notice in writing to the last known address of your tenants, letting them know they left personal property behind and that you will either sell it, dispose of it, or store it, depending on the value of the property and your personal preferences. The notice must clearly describe the property and how the tenants can retrieve it.

If the property is worth more than $700, you cannot dispose of it. It must be sold at public auction or stored, and revenues are not yours to keep if you sell the property. Revenues go to the tenant or to the county treasury (minus the costs you incurred storing or selling the items).

When sending a notice to the prior tenants, I recommend delivering the letter in a way that allows you to verify delivery, via certified mail or with a return receipt. In addition to sending a hard copy, I’d send an email, too, if you have that information. If you do not have a forwarding address, consider sending the notice to the tenants’ last known employer or to a relative, if you have those addresses. This is one of those times you’ll be glad you took the time to create a good filing system, so you can, in fact, find your tenants’ original application with all sorts of helpful contact information.

It’s worth putting in some effort to reach the tenants, because otherwise you’ll have to go through the hassle and expense of selling their stuff at public auction, and even though you can deduct your expenses from the sale proceeds, it’s still a time-consuming pain in the neck. If you’d like help with the details of how to write the notice to the tenant, ask your Realtor. They can provide you with a copy of the Abandoned Personal Property Letter template referred to in Civil Code 1984.

While you’re waiting for the tenants to respond to your notice, what should you do with their personal belongings? After a couple days, most landlords want to get their property ready for the next tenants, so storing a bunch of junk isn’t too appealing. You can move the prior tenants’ belongings into the garage (if you have one) or into a secure storage unit. When you itemize the cost of storing those belongings, you cannot charge the opportunity cost of lost rent. That is to say, just because you cannot rent your property (because it’s full of the prior tenants’ belongings) does not mean you can charge the previous tenants the extra rent.
If the tenants do not claim their property quickly, and you decide to sell the belongings, you must first publish a notice of public sale in the newspaper, listing the time, place and a description of all items to be sold. The notice must run once a week for two weeks, with the last notice running five days prior to the sale.

If the tenants do claim their property, they cannot pick and choose what to retrieve. You can require them to take all their belongings. It is their responsibility to dispose of any unwanted items. If you have reason to believe that the items left behind do not belong to the tenant, but instead are lost or stolen property, you can always contact the police department.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Curb Appeal on a Budget

When it comes to selling your house, little changes can have a big impact. You’ve heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Well, this is where curb appeal comes in. Curb appeal is how attractive your property looks from the outside. Is it inviting or are there distractions like dead plants and ugly garden hoses that draw the eye?

Even without a drought, nice-looking landscaping can be tough to maintain. If you don’t have time for yard maintenance, simply remove dead plants; put in native, drought-resistant ones and let nature take care of itself. For a pop of color, place a few bright, flowering annuals in pots on your porch. Before you leave, make sure you trim the bushes, mow the lawn (if you still have one), weed, rake leaves, sweep the sidewalks and driveway, hide trash cans, and remove any lawn art that wouldn’t have broad appeal. You may love those little gnomes, but not everyone would.

If you want even more curb appeal, consider power washing your house. I warn you that a power washer in the wrong hands (like mine) can do serious damage—like blow holes in concrete—so be careful. Used appropriately, however, power washers can remove dust, dirt and cobwebs to make sidewalks sparkle and siding look like new.

Speaking of sparkle, clean windows make a nice difference inside and out. You don’t have to buy expensive glass cleaner to do the job. I use TSP. It’s cheap and can be used to clean many surfaces (it’s great for removing soot from a fireplace). A word to the wise about washing windows: wash them when they are shaded. Sunlight will dry your windows instantly and whatever is in the water will leave streaks all over your windows. If you skip the power washer, you may want to get a soft brush (one that mounts on a pole for second-story windows) to remove cobwebs and dirt.

The next suggestion is paint. If you’re on a budget, simply paint the house trim, shutters and front door. Don’t be afraid to use an accent color that makes windows and doors stand out. If your front door is natural wood, be sure it’s in good condition. You may need to strip off the old finish, then re-stain and re-seal it. If you can afford to paint the whole house, and your siding is peeling, this is well worth the expense.

If you want Realtors (and others, like emergency responders) to be able to find your house, be sure the house numbers are visible from the street. Put them on your mailbox and on your house. Good lighting also helps. Solar-powered lights are inexpensive and add a nice bit of ambience as the sun sets. Mendo Mill and Friedman’s have wall sconces and lawn lights, as well as friendly employees who can help you figure out what you need.

If you already have sconces, remove bugs that have surely accumulated there and clean the glass. If you choose to replace your sconces, be sure they have the same mounting system as your current ones, or your cheap sconces become very expensive because an electrician will be required to make them work.

If you have patio furniture on your front porch, replace sun-faded cushions and make sure the porch doesn’t feel crowded. Just like on the interior, you can probably remove half of the furniture and you’ll still have plenty left.

I know of buyers who have driven up to a house for sale and decided not to get out of the car to view the interior, simply based on how the outside looked. Good curb appeal can be the difference between a quick sale and no sale.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.




Planting Grapes

As the year draws to a close and you begin thinking about adventures for next year, you may be telling yourself, “Gee, I’d like to own a vineyard.” Before you embark on this adventure, there are a few things you should consider.

If what you really want out of a vineyard is the ability to place a bottle of wine on the Thanksgiving table with your label on it to make your brother-in-law jealous, don’t go into farming. There are far easier ways to make your brother-in-law jealous. Farming is not for the faint of heart, and growing wine grapes is particularly challenging given their temperamental nature.

If you’re determined to move ahead with your vineyard project, the first thing you’ll have to do is buy land. You have three choices: buy a producing vineyard, buy an ailing vineyard and work to restore it, or buy land and plant a vineyard. Much of the local orchard land has been converted to vineyards, so that’s an option. In Mendocino County, our appellations have continued to gain the notice of those in the know in the wine world. So from that perspective, planting grapes locally could be an excellent investment.

Many factors combine to determine whether you’ll succeed or fail, but you can get started on the right foot by buying the right piece of land. Vineyard elevation, irrigation, slope of the land, and type of soil will all dramatically affect your farming success, so before you purchase any land, do your homework. For example, did you know that cold air sinks? So, as counterintuitive as it seems, vineyards at higher elevations can actually stay warmer than valley elevations. This is important when it comes to frost protection. If your vineyard isn’t positioned well or if the contours of the land cause cold patches where frost can form, you’ll be up at all hours of the night and you better be sure to have a good water source ( a pond either filled from a high producing well or riparian rights from a river).  In this valley, you’ll get lots of advice about which land to buy and how to manage your vineyard, solicited or not. If you have questions, I’d head to the Farm Bureau and talk to Devon Jones. If she can’t answer your question, she’ll know who can.

Once you’ve found the perfect plot, you’ll probably need a loan. Locally, American Ag Credit and Savings Bank of Mendocino County can help you. If you buy land and plan to develop it, you’ll need to figure out which type of grape to plant. Just so you know, you can’t simply go to the farmer next door and ask for a few cuttings to get you started. Grape varietals have copyrights. You have to purchase vines from a reputable source (one who will provide the patent and copyright certificate) or risk paying fines for stealing someone else’s creation.

If you are as enthusiastic as ever about owning a vineyard, please remember you’ll put in long hours, getting up in the middle of the night when the frost alarm sounds or working until the grapes are in before the rain forecast for the following morning. There will be years when the crop is abundant and the prices are low, and years when the crop is small and the prices are high. And then there will be the year when your crops are good, the prices are high, and your tractor breaks down.

Be prepared for all of it. However, since you can look around Ukiah and see many prospering vineyards (and farmers), it may be worth it. Grape growing is an integral part of life in Mendocino County and our economy. I wish you luck with your vineyard!

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Home Selling Myths – DeBunked Part II

Last week I debunked the first four myths related to selling your home. Here’s four more myths people often believe, but shouldn’t.

Myth #5: I have to carry the financing. Seller financing occurs when you, the seller, take the position of the bank. While in many cases it’s appropriate, depending on the circumstances, if bank financing is available for the subject property and the buyer is qualified, it will likely be available at better terms than you will want to carry. Most home sellers don’t want to tie up funds for 30 years at less than 4 percent interest. And if you require a higher rate than this, it will likely have a negative impact on the sales price. In addition, if you are motivated by tax concerns, you probably qualify for a tax exemption of $250,000-$500,000 of profit if you lived in the house for two of the past five years.

Myth #6: I can’t carry the financing. If your house won’t qualify for bank financing, it will be difficult or expensive for a buyer to come up with the cash to pay you in full, making the amount they can or will pay for the property lower than might otherwise be the case. It depends on the terms of seller financing. Short-term financing to comply with the buyer’s short-term needs may fit in with your plans. After all, if you’re taking sale proceeds and sticking them in the bank at 0.2 percent, getting a low interest rate from a buyer and facilitating the sale of your property might have some tremendous advantages. If you carry the financing, I highly recommend requiring at the very minimum a 20 percent down payment. In the event that the buyer defaults and you have to foreclose, you’ll be sorry if you carried the financing with less than 20 percent down.

Myth #7: I’m selling my property as-is. There are two considerations here. First, as-is doesn’t mean you don’t have to tell the buyer everything you know about the condition of the house. In today’s world, it is an absolute requirement and the courts will hold the seller responsible for disclosing anything and everything the seller knew or should have known. Second, “as-is” actually means what it says: selling the house in its current condition except for government-mandated fixes. You may want to reconsider this take-it-or-leave-it stance. Many times, buyers have limited cash but can afford larger monthly payments. The repairs can be negotiated as part of the entire purchase agreement. You may be able to meet their requirements without negatively impacting yours. Look to your Realtor for advice on these issues.

Myth #8: I’ll be offended if I receive a low-ball offer. Before you reject an offer, be careful. Don’t let your emotions control your business decisions. Any offer is better than no offer at all. Sometimes buyers start low but with guidance and negotiation the buyer and seller may be able to come to an agreement that meets both of their needs.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Home Selling Myths – DeBunked Part I


Most of us don’t buy and sell homes very often, so when we hear a myth that sounds plausible, we believe it. Last week I shared home buying myths and debunked them. This week, I thought I’d jump to the seller’s side and debunk common myths people have about how best to sell their property.

Myth #1: I don’t need a Realtor. Yes, you do. I am a real estate broker and I’ve hired Realtors to represent me when I buy or sell property. A typical, run-of-the-mill real estate contract requires a 10-page purchase agreement, 6-8 disclosures of one to twelve pages each, and 3-5 inspections, all of which need to be reviewed and understood. Real estate law and practices are updated frequently, so knowing the latest information requires constant education.

Myth #2: I looked online and I know what my house is worth. No, you don’t. If you read the disclaimers on those websites, they admit that the prices they list are only estimates and that you should talk to a real estate professional to determine your property’s value.

Myth #3: I can negotiate my home’s purchase price better than a Realtor. This simply isn’t true. One of the biggest benefits to having a Realtor is his or her ability to serve as a third party negotiator. When a prospect has looked at your house and not made an offer, how can you find out if an offer is coming? If you call for a status report, you are breaking the first rule of negotiating by making first move. It is seen as weakness and it communicates a sense of urgency you may or may not care to admit. When a Realtor calls, he or she is just following up in the process of looking for a commission—not putting you at a disadvantage.

Myth #4: I don’t need inspections; the buyer will get them. My recommendation to every home seller is to get as many inspections up front as you can, from wells and septic systems to sewer laterals, roof, pest and fungus, home inspections, preliminary title reports and more. These inspections provide value for lots of reasons. First and foremost, inspections tell you what’s wrong with your house, giving you the opportunity to take care of minor issues before they come to a buyer’s attention. Fixing little issues will also make your house show better. Finally, it will make your sales transaction go more smoothly, because you’ll have no last minute surprises for the lender or buyer to resolve prior to the close of escrow. Having inspections up front takes all the wind out of a buyer’s sails in the event that he or she wanted to renegotiate price because of some newly discovered issue.

Next week, I’ll debunk four more myths about selling your house.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.



Home Buying Myths — DeBunked

Most of us will only buy a home a few times in our lives, so it’s hard to know fact from fiction when it comes to making good decisions. Here are some common myths debunked.

Myth #1: When buying a home, the first thing to do is look for a house. Nope! The first thing you should do is find a Realtor. Then his or her first job will be to help you find a loan officer so you can get pre-approved (not pre-qualified) for a home loan. Once you’ve done this, your Realtor will sift through all the houses on the market and show you those that fit your lifestyle and your budget.

Myth #2: A 30-year fixed mortgage is ALWAYS best. While I tend to believe 30-year fixed rate mortgages are almost always best, some circumstances call for shorter terms or adjustable rates, which can save you money.

Myth #3: You must have a 20 percent down payment to get a home loan. This simply isn’t true. In today’s world, there are many programs with low or no down payment options. Government programs through the USDA and FHA offer loans to people who cannot afford a 20 percent down payment. If you are a military veteran, you may qualify for VA no-down payment loans. Work with a loan broker to review your financial resources, income and credit history to find the loan best suited to your needs and circumstances.

Myth #4: The only cash you need to buy a house is the down payment. Unless you are buying a house from your mom and dad and they are also paying for your loan fees, mortgage insurance, title insurance, escrow fees, and all the inspections and repairs needed before you move in, you’ll definitely need more cash than simply your down payment.

Myth #5: You can’t buy a house if you have bad credit. You can, but it’s more expensive. If you have good credit, you will get a vastly superior loan with a smaller required down payment and lower interest rates. However, I have a source for home loans for people with bad credit. It does require a lower loan-to-value ratio, which equates to a higher down payment or a guarantor on the loan, but it is available. Regardless of your credit score, you’ll be required to prove you can make the loan payments each month before anyone will lend you money.

Myth #6: Home inspections are unnecessary. Not true unless you plan to raze the house and rebuild from the ground up. Especially if you are tight on cash, a home inspection is important so you know what you’re getting into. The last thing you want to discover after you move in is that the roof should be replaced in two years and the furnace needs to be replaced next month.

Myth #7: The seller will be offended if you come in with an offer under the asking price. Most sellers would prefer an offer below their asking price as compared to no offer at all, as long as the offer isn’t frivolous.

Myth #8: Realtors aren’t really necessary. Okay, I’m a little biased here, but Realtors are necessary. They have access to all the local properties for sale (not just those listed online). They know which professionals are good and which ones aren’t when it comes to home inspectors, insurance agents, loan officers, pest and fungus inspectors, contractors, and others. Realtors will negotiate on your behalf, make sure you have all the necessary disclosures, saving you time and money. Choosing a For Sale By Owner property and not using a Realtor yourself can lead to expensive legal mistakes. Your Realtor is your advocate. I wouldn’t buy a house without one.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.