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6 Reasons You'll Need a Real Estate Agent in this Market

Real Estate Tips

Over the last couple of years, we've seen record low inventory, significant demand, and low-interest rates, which have created an unprecedented seller's market. While rising rates are expected to cool things off a bit, sellers are still very much in the driver's seat.

However, our real estate agents say buying a home in this market isn't impossible. Buyers just have to adjust their approach. It's also never been more important to have an experienced real estate agent in your corner. An agent is critical for navigating the complexities of today's market and avoiding costly pitfalls. Here's why:

  1. See Listings As Soon As They Hit The Market
    Properties aren't sitting on the market very long these days, which is why you'll want to get in to see them as soon as possible. Your agent can let you know the minute a property hits the market. The multiple listing service (MLS) website, which is only available to real estate agents, can be configured to send you an email the moment a listing matches your criteria. Speed is essential when it comes to booking home tours, and you can rely on your real estate agent to battle for an appointment time. Your agent may even be in the loop on new properties before they hit the market and can get you in ahead of the competition. For example, if you'd like to schedule a tour of one of these Bradenton homes for sale, a good agent can get you in to see one today.

  2. Help You Spot Potential Pitfalls
    It's hard to spot potential problems during a 15-minute home tour. As a buyer, you'll likely spend the time trying to envision yourself living in the space. Therefore, you can rely on your agent to be an experienced second set of eyes that can help you spot problems, costly pitfalls, or other elements of the home that you may overlook.

  3. Draft A Competitive Offer
    To win a bidding war these days, buyers often have to get creative. Your agent can help you draw up an offer that stands out from the competition. Whether it's waiving inspections, increasing earnest deposit, or determining the right offer price, an experienced agent likely has a good sense of what it'll take to "win" the home.

  4. Administrative Tasks
    There is a lot of documentation involved in the home closing process. It's important that you have an experienced real estate professional in your corner to help you wade through the paperwork. Your agent can take the time to walk you through the various documents, so you know exactly what you're signing.

  5. Coordinate Inspections
    Your real estate agent has a wide network of industry contacts, so they can refer you to reputable inspectors, contractors, and other service providers who can help support the transaction. They'll also work to schedule these appointments on your behalf.

  6. Negotiate On Your Behalf
    Most real estate transactions involve some negotiating. Whether it's contingencies, repairs, or the final sale price, negotiating terms takes time and energy. If you're in the market for one of these Sarasota homes for sale, you want someone in your corner who knows what they're doing.

Buying a home is challenging in today's market, but a good agent can help you find success. Contact us today to start exploring local listings.


7 Tips for Saving Up for a Down Payment

down payment

Saving up for a down payment can be one of the most challenging parts of buying a home, especially for first-time buyers. Here are seven tips our real estate agents recommend to help you save for a down payment on your dream home!

  1. Set a Goal
    First things first: It's important to know how much you need to save. Research Bradenton homes for sale, for instance, to see average home prices in the area. It might be a good idea to talk to a lender, not necessarily to get pre-approved right now but to get an idea of what kind of a loan you will likely qualify for and how much you'll need to put down. Once you know how much you'll need, you can set a goal and start saving!

  2. Reduce Your Spending Money
    There's one place you can always cut back, and that's your "fun money." It might not sound like fun to cut back on trips to the movies, coffees to go, and impulse buys, but putting that money into savings instead is an easy way to save. If that new TV seems too tempting to refuse, browse Sarasota homes for sale to keep yourself motivated!

  3. Lower Your Expenses
    You may be able to save money on your expenses, too. Make a list of your monthly expenses and look for two different things: expenses you can reduce, such as by changing the deductible on your car insurance or even eliminate entirely, such as a cable subscription or gym membership that you don't use often enough to justify the expense. The money you save each month can go straight into savings.

  4. Save Any Unexpected Money
    Any extra money you get, above and beyond your usual income, can also go straight into savings. This includes bonuses from work, gifts from family, and pay for side jobs. If you want to be really ambitious, you could deliberately take side gigs or even a second job on a temporary basis to generate some extra money for your savings.

  5. Start a Dedicated Savings Account
    When you're saving for something specific, such as a down payment on a house, it's a good idea to create a brand new savings account, separate from your regular savings account. Make sure your regular savings account has enough money in it to cover you in an emergency, but having a dedicated account for your down payment savings will help you to save better and see at a glance how you're doing.

  6. Transfer Money Automatically
    Out of sight, out of mind applies here! Add up how much money you're saving each month on reduced expenses and spending, and set up an automatic transfer to happen every month with that base amount. You can always add to it as you can, but this way, you'll have a minimum amount going straight into savings every month.

  7. Seek Help
    No matter how good you are at saving, you could benefit from looking into various programs that will get you into a home sooner rather than later. For instance, many employers offer the ability to borrow from your 401(k) to pay a down payment. There are also many grants and other programs available for homebuyers, especially first-time homebuyers.

Saving for a down payment may seem daunting, but having a solid plan in place can put your dream house within easier reach than you might think. Ready to start your search? Contact us today.


Tips for Picking A Real Estate Agent During a Hot Market

Real Estate Market

It's a hot market, and you're looking to buy or sell a home among Sarasota homes for sale or Bradenton homes for sale. While an agent can help you in any type of real estate market, their help is especially critical during a hot market. Here's why.

Why Hire an Agent?

Yes, your home might just fly off the market with a Craigslist ad or the like, but what if it doesn't? With an agent, your home will get considerably more exposure in MLS (multiple listing service) databases created and maintained by real estate professionals to help homeowners like you sell their property. It just makes sense that the more potential buyers see your property, the greater the chance that the selling price could go much higher than your expectations. You could have buyers competing with one another, and that could only benefit you.

Your agent will be there throughout the whole process and able to offer advice for any aspect of the sale, from determining a price to staging your home to determining the scope of repairs you want to do before you put the home on the market. 

But an even better reason to hire a real estate agent is that many potential buyers are not comfortable talking to the owner of a property and prefer to deal with an agent. Not only can you -- and should you -- make yourself scarce while the agent shows your home, but you'll boost the comfort level of potential buyers, who may feel they are visiting you, as the owner of the home, rather than seriously looking at a home they want to live in.

What to Look for in an Agent

As you begin to look for a real estate agent, you will likely focus on an individual's experience in selling houses like yours in your neighborhood. Ask neighbors for recommendations. Get at least three referrals. And remember, while experience is important, so is personality. Can you relate to this person? Does he or she seem real to you? Look for an agent you can build a rapport with, in addition to their sales and successes.

Pay attention to the agent's marketing tools, including website, business card, brochures, signage, social media efforts, and more. Does the agent's personal appearance give you confidence in them, or is something lacking? 

When you discuss the sale of your home with a real estate agent, you want someone who can guide you through what can be a precarious journey. Can your agent answer questions reliably and with real data about investment analysis, neighborhood-level market performance, and possibly even the impact of your decision to sell? You don't want an agent who honey coats their answers; you need real information about possible pitfalls, so listen carefully to how your agent replies to your questions and make sure the agent is really hearing you.

Our real estate agents can give you solid advice on how to hire the right professional to help you sell your home. Contact us today. 


How to Prepare for a Stress-Free Move

Stress Free Move

Moving can be stressful, but does it have to be? It's never too early to think about how you'll make moving easier, even as you're just starting to look at Sarasota homes for sale. By following these guidelines from our real estate agents, you can stay organized and hopefully avoid any big surprises on your moving day.

  1. Get the Move Scheduled in Advance
    With the number of Bradenton homes for sale and how the market is currently booming, movers and trucks get booked up more quickly than you might think. If you're using movers, schedule with them about a month in advance, possibly longer if you have more notice of your impending move. If you're renting a truck, schedule that too, so that you don't find yourself with a lot to move and no way to move it.

  2. Set up a Labeling System
    Make it easy for movers to get your boxes into the right rooms by color-coding boxes. This will help ensure boxes end up in the room they are supposed to be in. For even more convenience, make sure you label each box's contents on each side of the box.

  3. Start Packing Non-Essentials a Month Prior
    Don't make the age-old mistake of overestimating how much time you still have before your move! Start packing up non-essentials as early as possible. You'll be surprised by how much of your household doesn't get used on a daily basis. Starting early allows you to ensure the nonessentials are well organized and labeled, especially helpful after the move since these are the things that'll probably be unpacked last.

  4. Donate to the Thrift Store
    While you're packing, keep a few boxes labeled for the thrift store. It's easy enough to put things you don't want in the thrift store boxes and drop off a big load of donations when the house is nearly packed. No sense in paying to move things you don't want to keep!

  5. Take Pictures for Reference
    As you're packing, take pictures of anything you want to remember when you're unpacking. Even if you think you'll remember how Grandma's china was displayed or how the stereo is wired up, it may be a long time before those things are unpacked, and you'll have a lot of other stuff on your mind in the meantime. Pictures will make it faster and easier.

  6. Pack Overnight Bags for the New Place
    To prevent having to scramble to find essentials your first night in the new house, pack an overnight bag for each person. Make sure everyone has changes toiletries, a phone cord, a book to read, and anything else you might need if you were staying in a strange place for a couple of nights.

  7. Have a Backup Plan
    No matter how prepared you are, last-minute changes can still happen. Make sure you have several options just in case things go awry. For instance, have a list of local moving companies you can call if your movers fall through or friends with trucks and large vehicles who would help you in a pinch.

Moving is a big event, but it's also an exciting one! By being fully prepared for your move, you can turn your attention to the thrill of moving into your dream home. Contact us today to start the process of finding the perfect home for your family.


What to Consider When Choosing a Gated Community

Gated Community

Everyone wants safety and security for their homes, but before you assume a particular gated community is right for you, it's important that you understand all the rules and restrictions that accompany that security. Our real estate agents can help you make the right decision based on your lifestyle. There are several basic types of gated communities. Each has its own pros and cons.

  • Equity Country Clubs
    These are communities associated with a private country club. In addition to monthly homeowner's association fees, which take care of regular maintenance tasks, homeowners are assessed with a portion of the costs to renovate or add amenities, such as the golf course or tennis courts. These are known as equity fees. Avid golfers may find these added costs worth the benefits.
  • Non-Equity Country Clubs
    These country clubs do not require membership of all residents, who will therefore not have to pay equity fees. That probably also means you are unable to use the golf course or other facilities. Each community has its own rules, so you need to check what amenities are included for your use. 
  • Guard-Gated Properties
    A guard at the gate checks the ID of all visitors. After verifying that the visitor is authorized by a resident, the guard will direct the visitor to the appropriate destination. The guard will usually follow a strict protocol to ensure the safety of the entire community. These properties typically include amenities such as fitness centers, clubhouses, and tennis courts. Their maintenance is included in the monthly homeowner fees. 
  • Guard-Gated 55+ Communities
    Monitored by a guard at the gate, this community is focused on the interests of residents over the age of 55. You will often find social gatherings, crafts, and outings in addition to a clubhouse. To qualify, a household generally only needs one person of the appropriate age, but there may be limits on the number of people under that minimum age in the entire community. Normally, school buses are not allowed on the grounds, and you will rarely find playgrounds. Grandparents who find themselves bringing up their grandchildren may find this a hardship. 
  • Non-Guard Gated Communities
    The gate to these properties is accessed via passcode or telephone. Visitors may need to insert an ID while speaking to someone via camera. With a phone entry system, visitors input numbers on a keypad which causes the resident's phone to ring. The homeowner will then buzz them in. Homeowner fees are typically less expensive than in guard-gated communities.

In addition to the perks and restrictions specific to each of these, there are some policies that apply to all. Some benefits include lower crime rates, less traffic, no solicitors, and higher property values. Most exterior maintenance will be covered by the HOA fees. Some properties even include cable and house painting. Less work on the part of the homeowner means more spare time to enjoy the amenities offered. The downsides can be restrictions on the type of pets allowed, excessive HOA fees, restricted visitor access, and strict rules governing home exteriors. Deliveries may be problematic. Many communities require the owner to reside in the home for a defined time frame before renting to avoid turnover.

Once you understand the parameters of living in the various gated community types, it's easier to know what to look for in a new home. Contact us when you're ready to look at Bradenton homes for sale or Sarasota homes for sale in gated communities. 


How to Make Your Offer Stand Out in a Competitive Market

Competitive Market

If you're looking to buy a home and have found one that you love, that's great news, but we are in a competitive market, so you'll need to make your offer stand out from any others that come in.

Our real estate agents love helping people find a new place to call home in the Sunshine State. With the real estate market being as hot as the Florida summer weather, we suggest the following five ways to make sure your offer stands out. 

  1. Keep it Simple
    Make sure that when you make an offer on a home, it's simple. The contract that's most appealing to the buyer is based on price, of course, but also on the number of contingencies it has, and the fewer the better. Common contingencies include your ability to obtain financing or a painting allowance so you can pay to have the home repainted, but in a competitive market, it's best to make your offer as straightforward and simple as possible.
  2. Show That You Can Afford the Home
    Contact a mortgage lender early in the home buying process so you can be pre-approved for a mortgage. Our mortgage partner, HomeBridge Mortgage, provides buyers with a pre-approval letter that can help you submit your offer in the best possible light. You'll receive a pre-approval letter that indicates the amount and type of mortgage you can qualify for based on your financial situation and credit history. This type of documentation demonstrates that you can successfully obtain the mortgage and close on the loan. If you won't be getting a mortgage but will instead be paying cash for the home, submit proof of the funds along with your offer.
  3. Make Your Inspection Period Short 
    You'll want to have a licensed inspector check out any home you're thinking about buying. This includes a close look at the home's structure as well as systems such as the heating and air conditioning to determine if they have any problems. You'll want to talk to your REALTOR® to be sure that you have a plan in place for having a timely home inspection. That way, if the inspection comes back showing problems and you decide not to buy the home, the seller can put the home back on the market more quickly.
  4. Make Your Best Offer on Price  
    You may assume that if the home seller thinks your offer isn't high enough, they'll make a counteroffer. But especially in a competitive market, this may not necessarily be true since the seller may receive other offers that are higher. If you don't make your initial offer your best one, you may not get another chance.
    It's essential to work with a REALTOR® in today's highly competitive real estate market. Contingency clauses are becoming more common and navigating them successfully takes the expertise of a REALTOR®.
  5. Write a Letter to the Seller  
    It can help to write a cover letter along with your offer so you can explain why you love the seller's home. Let the seller know what you appreciate about their home and give them a glimpse into how you'd love living there. Just make sure to let your real estate agent approve the letter so you don't accidentally violate Fair Housing laws.

Contact us at Wagner Realty today to see Bradenton homes for sale and Sarasota homes for sale and let us help you with your search. We'll help you make an offer that stands out in a competitive market and gives you the best possible chance of buying the home you want.    


Married and House Hunting: Working Together to Buy a Home

Buying a House as a Married Couple
Everyone's "dream home" looks a little different, but what happens when you try to merge two different pictures? House hunting as a married couple is easier than going solo because you have emotional and financial support throughout the process. If you and your spouse have different ideas about your future digs, it's important to find out now and figure it out.  Keep in mind, compromise isn't always easy when you're making the most significant purchase of your life. 

At Wagner Realty, our real estate agents are committed to simplifying your search for a home. We know how important it is to find a house that works for both you and your spouse. As you prepare to embark on a house-hunting journey, here are some home-buying tips to help you avoid common conflicts:

  • Know Your Credit Scores and Financials
    Your finances may already mingle, but do you know each other's credit scores? Before you start the process of applying for a mortgage, pull up your credit reports and see if there's room for improvement. For example, errors should be reported and corrected, and it may be wiser to pay off certain loans or credit cards than to face a higher interest rate. Getting a firm grip on your entire financial picture will also prevent surprises down the road.  Contact to request your free annual credit report. 

  • Create Lists of Your Individual Musts
    As you search for a home, which features are the most important to you? What about your spouse? Instead of learning about each other's must-haves and dealbreakers along the way, take some time to write them down now. Take a week or two to make lists on your own time, and don't consult each other about them. Think of at least a dozen things you want your home to have, like a spacious backyard, master bathroom, or waterfront views.

  • Tap into Your Real Estate Agent's Expertise
    Don't forget: you two aren't doing this alone! Your real estate agent has insights into the local market and the painstaking process of choosing a home, and they're emotionally removed from your disputes and decisions. Use them as a mediator of sorts. If you and your spouse are first-time home buyers, this is especially important, because you will need unbiased input before making emotional decisions that affect your whole future.
  • Fixer-Upper or Move-in Ready?
    Remodeling is right for some homeowners, but you should be on the same page about the amount of remodeling you're willing to do. If one partner wants a move-in-ready house and the other is willing to make repairs and upgrades for years, it's time to decide on a compromise. For example, how much money are you both willing to spend on upgrades? Is it okay to make remodeling plans if key spaces – for example, the kitchen or living room – are already up-to-date? These are questions that may help you get closer to the same page.

Ready to start looking for a house with your spouse? Contact Wagner Realty to find an agent who can help you find a home that makes both of you happy.


Don't Be Suprised By Closing Costs

Buying a Home Closing Day Surprises

Transferring the ownership of a home at closing can be confusing. Even though real estate closings take place daily, the paperwork and costs that ensure that your property transfers legally can often be met with surprises if you're not prepared.

Our real estate agents are here with an explanation of what costs to expect at closing so you are not caught by surprise.

Closing Costs: No Surprises

In any real estate transaction, buyers and sellers should understand each closing cost component before coming to the signing. Some items can be negotiated before the closing to determine who pays.

Typical costs that may appear on your real estate closing statement are:

  • Real Estate Commissions: Usually paid by the seller, this is the realtor fee, usually a percentage of the selling price, to sell the property. The total may be divided between the selling agent and a buyer's agent.
  • Origination Fee: Often expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed, a lender or broker will charge a fee to cover expenses of processing a mortgage application, administrative costs, loan underwriting, and funding.
  • Points: A point represents 1% of a mortgage. Borrowers often have an option of paying more "points" to receive a lower interest rate. A point may be worth one-quarter percent reduction in the mortgage rate. Conversely, borrowers might ask for "lender credits" to offset some closing costs while raising the mortgage rate.
  • Underwriting Costs: These represent the cost of researching your credit history and other background information to determine if you qualify for the loan.
  • Credit Report: This information is required to determine whether the mortgage application is approvable and the maximum amount the borrower may borrow.
  • Appraisal: Lenders require a professional assessment of the property that will ensure they will recover the remaining balance of the mortgage in case of default and foreclosure.
  • Survey Costs: Often paid by the buyer, the mortgage lender may require a survey to confirm property lines.
  • Home, Flood, and Pest Inspection: Before closing, a professional inspection for damage and deterioration is standard procedure. Buyers may request that the seller repair deficiencies before the closing.  In some cases, the seller may have listed the home "as is." Alternatively, the seller may counteroffer with a reduction in the selling price.
  • Title Search: Cost to research the property title among public records.
  • Title Insurance, Lenders:  Title insurance protects the lender in case there are undisclosed liens or other encumbrances. Buyers may also purchase title insurance covering the property as long as the buyer or heirs have possession.
  • Settlement Fee: Paid by either buyer or seller, this fee is paid to the closing agent to manage the closing and escrow accounts.
  • Property Taxes: Responsibility of the seller until closing. After that, the buyer pays.
  • Mortgage Insurance Premium: To protect the lender, if required, the buyer may pay the first premiums at closing.
  • Recording Fees: In many areas, these are fees to record the new deed and mortgage with the local government.

Value of an Experienced REALTOR®

When you're ready to begin touring Sarasota homes for sale, there is nothing like the help of a local real estate professional by your side. Our real estate agents know the current market in Southwest Florida and are ready to help.

Contact us at Wagner Realty to get started.


There's No Place Like a New Home for the Holidays

New Home for the Holidays - Wagner Realty

So you have decided it's time for a new home, and are eagerly counting the days until spring to begin the search. But should you really wait that long to get started? While spring is one of the most popular times for buying a house, there are some advantages to making your purchase in the off-season, particularly around the holidays. So, perhaps it is time to talk to our real estate agents about finding your new home. After all, there's no place like a new home for the holidays.

Here are some advantages of making your home purchase over the holiday season:

  • Less Competition
    Off-season home shopping generally means less competition with other buyers, which means that there is a smaller chance of there being multiple offers on a home you're interested in purchasing. Fewer buyers to compete with can also translate to more room to negotiate with sellers, providing the potential to get a better price and better terms than you might if you were purchasing in the spring or summer. Finally, with fewer buyers shopping for homes, there will be less competition for the time of real estate agents, allowing yours to put a lot more time into helping you find your dream home than might be possible in the peak buying season.

  • Motivated Sellers
    People who put their homes on the market during the holiday season tend to be very motivated to sell. Often, they are selling at this time of year – rather than the peak season – because they need to. Perhaps they have a job in another state or need to move for family or financial reasons. Maybe their home has been on the market for a long time, and they want to make a sale before the end of the year. If you're buying a house from a seller that needs to sell quickly, the chances are good that you can get a better deal than might otherwise be possible.

  • Potential Price Advantages
    Research has shown that buying a house during the holidays can save you money. A study that looked at the best days to get a price discount on a new home found that seven of the ten best days were in December. The highest discounts were secured by people who bought homes on the 26th of December, having put in offers for those homes around Thanksgiving.

  • Quicker Closings
    Generally, everyone involved in a holiday-season home purchase wants to get the deal signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the year. Buyers and sellers want the moving wrapped up, given the hassles of relocating during the holidays. Lenders wish to wrap up loans posting them to the current year's book, and real estate agents want their commission recorded as income for the current year. What that means is that deals are made, and the closing process completed more quickly than would happen during the busy spring or summer seasons.

These are just a few of the potential advantages that can be gained by buying your new home during the holiday season. To hear more about how you can benefit from buying a home in the off-season, please contact Wagner Realty. We're always ready to help you make your best deal on a new home – no matter what time of year you choose to buy.


7 Ways to Negotiate a Home's Purchase Price

Buy House Negotiate Price

If you walk into a supermarket and try to negotiate a lower price for a gallon of milk, you're bound to walk away disappointed. Luckily, when it comes to buying a house, the fine art of haggling is still alive and well. Our real estate agents are here to help you get the best price you can on your dream home, and these are the tips you need to know about negotiating a better deal. 

  1. Do Your Research
    Knowledge is power. Find out as much as you can about the property, its history, and how it stacks up against similar real estate listings--past and present--in the same general area. Relevant market comparisons are one of the most reliable tools you can use to negotiate a lower price, so don't skimp on the research.

  2. Act Fast
    Once you've made an offer and received a counteroffer, don't wait around. Respond as quickly as you can, ideally within 24 hours. This lets the seller know you're serious and prevents another prospective buyer from swooping in with a higher offer.

  3. Be Nice
    Nothing will get the door slammed in your face faster than rudeness. While it might be easy to assume an adversarial relationship with the seller, your goals are mutually beneficial – they want to sell a house, and you want to buy one. Approaching the negotiating process with respect and courtesy will make it more likely that you'll be able to reach an amicable agreement.

  4. Make a Respectable Offer
    From a buyer's perspective, the goal of negotiating is to arrive at a lower price, but it's possible to take it too far. If a homeowner lists their house at fair market value, a lowball offer might insult the seller to the point that you may not get a response at all. So make an offer that's below the list price, but not so far below that the seller will balk.

  5. Increase Your EMD
    An earnest money deposit (EMD) is the sum of money you put down to show the seller that you're serious. Typically it's between 1% and 3% of the sale price of the home. But offering a higher EMD, say 3% to 5%, can let the seller know that you're serious about buying, and may make them more receptive to an offer that's lower than their listing price.

  6. Be Flexible
    Buyers and sellers each come to the table with a list of contingencies, and it's to your benefit to be a little flexible on both counts. Reducing the number of contingencies you're asking for makes the whole process easier for the seller, and being flexible about the seller's needs – such as what date you will take possession of the property – is a great way to butter them up.

  7. Check Your Emotions
    You have to be in love with a house to be serious about buying it, but you should never let your emotions run amok during the buying process. Keeping a cool head will help you stay within your budget, and will prevent any missteps that could put the whole deal in jeopardy. 

Contact Wagner Realty today to learn more about how our team of experienced real estate agents can help you get a better deal on Bradenton homes for sale. We're no strangers to the negotiation process.  We work with you to help you get a house you love at a price you can afford.


Buying a House When You Have Kids

Buying a House When You Have Kids
Buying a home is often a time filled with both excitement and anxiety, and if you are a family with children, those feelings can be even more intense. With kids, your house hunting strategy will be different than that of a single person or a retired couple. Our REALTORS® in Sarasota understand the ins and outs of the housing market, and we've put together a checklist of things to consider as you prepare to find your family's dream home.

  • Get the Kids Involved 
    You might not bring your children to every home tour; however, making them part of the decision-making process can be an advantage. Children can provide a different perspective during a house hunt, and they may bring features of the house to your attention that you hadn't considered. Of course, you won't want to put the ultimate decision-making power in your kids' hands, but letting them experience the process and voice their opinions will make them feel included and allow them to learn a little as well.

  • Education and Your Family's Future
    Most families with kids who are shopping for a home make looking at the school district a priority, and for a good reason. Quality education is essential for all families, and you want your children to have access to schools with high marks. Besides checking online resources and visiting with schools in your desired neighborhood, consider speaking with other parents in the area as well to gain their feedback on area schools. Keep in mind that some communities with highly desirable schools also have higher home prices and property taxes, so you'll need to weigh the benefit and determine if you're planning on living in the home long term.

  • Perfect for Now, But How About Later?
    When you're looking at Sarasota homes, it's easy to picture how well its size and layout will work for your kids at their current age, but it's also key to factor in how it will suit your family's needs as your children grow. Bedrooms and bathrooms are particularly crucial as children transition into their teenage years and want more privacy and space of their own.

  • Yards and Beyond
    Outdoor space is many times considered a must for families with children. Not only do they want a place to play, but parents also want that place to be safe and comfortable. While touring potential homes, consider both the size and layout of the yard to see if it will be ideal for your family. Note whether the yard is fenced or can be quickly and if it borders a busy street or intersection. Many parents also want their children to have neighborhood buddies, so take some time to get a feel for how many other families with children of similar ages live nearby.

Wagner Realty wants nothing more than to see your family's dream of owning your own home come true. We provide personal, results-oriented service to you from our first meeting to closing day for your perfect home. For more information about Sarasota homes for sale, contact Wagner Realty today.

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Make Them an Offer So They Know You Mean It

5 Tips for Making an Offer to Buy a Home

Tips for Making an Offer to Purchase

So you've fallen in love with the perfect house. Your dream home is waiting, and now the ball is in your court. Knowing how to make the right impression with the seller is an important element in negotiating an agreeable selling price and ensuring that your prospective new home doesn't slip away and into someone else's hands. Our real estate agents have the experience and know how to help you make an offer that's hard to refuse, and we've put together a few suggestions that could give you the advantage in sealing the deal.

1. Straight to the Heart

Many home sellers have an emotional attachment to their home and may be a bit reluctant of letting it go to a virtual stranger. If you are ready to make an offer, consider taking the time to write a cover letter to send with it. Of course you'll want to introduce yourself and perhaps give the seller a little bit of personal background, but more importantly, you'll want to let them know why their home is so appealing to you. Giving the seller insight as to why you love their home may just give you the upper hand, especially if there are multiple offers on the table.

2. Build Trust and Confidence

An offer is one thing, but documentation that backs up your offer in black and white is almost certain to get the seller's attention. Proof of financing terms from your bank as well as an underwriting approval indicates that you are ready and have the financial resources available to purchase the home.

3. Think Twice Before Asking for Extras

Asking for seller concessions such as closing costs may put your offer in line behind other buyers who aren't requesting such credits. Furnishings and fixtures are not always included with the home, and no matter how much you fancy them, it might be wiser to wait and purchase comparable items on your own instead of giving the seller a reason to hesitate in considering your offer.

4. Know Your Budget and Use It to Your Advantage

If you are in a position to do so financially, you might give some thought to making an offer over the seller's list price. There's no doubt that an offer that exceeds the seller's expectations will be taken seriously.

5. Sweeten the Pot

Want to let the seller know that you mean business? Here are a few other ideas that might sway the seller to accept your offer:

  • Propose a quicker than normal closing date. This may work especially well if the seller is motivated and wanting to move quickly.
  • Increase your Earnest Money Deposit. By willingly putting more down to begin with, you send a message to the seller that you are committed to obtaining the financing needed in order to purchase the home.
  • Offer a month of free occupancy for the seller. Some sellers may actually need more time to complete the move from the home they're selling. Giving them the luxury of a little added time after closing might be a winning move on your part.

You know what you're looking for, and now you know some of the best secrets to making a successful offer. Your dream home is out there, and we want to help you find it Contact Wagner Realty today, and let our team of experts show you a world of possibilities!

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10 Traits of a Great Neighborhood

10 Traits of a Great Neighborhood
Finding the right home may be your top priority as a shopper, but identifying the right neighborhood is just as important for landing a home you'll love long-term. Our REALTORS® know what it takes to become a neighborhood expert, and we've compiled the top 10 traits of a great neighborhood.

How to Find a Neighborhood You'll Truly Love

  1. Easy Access to Key Services
    Whether you need to shop for groceries, go to the gym, stop at the post office, or simply run your daily errands, having the services you need close to home makes it much easier to get things done. So if you're shopping Sarasota homes for sale, keep an eye out for neighborhoods that allow you to take care of business.

  2. Fun and Entertainment Close to Home
    Every neighborhood offers something to do, but the right neighborhood for you will have entertainment options that match your taste. If you like the idea of a master-planned community with nearby entertainment options, check out Lakewood Ranch homes.

  3. Local Businesses
    Small businesses are the lifeblood of so many neighborhoods because they provide necessary services, unique products, and fun activities close to home. An active, growing small business community is a sign of a great neighborhood, so be sure to sample the local business scene.

  4. Great Food
    We all have our own neighborhood preferences, but most would agree that great food close to home is a major plus. Look for a neighborhood that offers all of your favorite dining options, along with new things to try. Becoming a neighborhood expert has never tasted so good.

  5. Safe Streets
    Whether you're shopping for a family home or flying solo, finding a neighborhood with low crime rates is certainly an important priority. Try visiting neighborhoods both during the day and at night to get an idea of security in the area.

  6. Strong Schools
    Perhaps you're shopping with your family in mind, or you simply want to leave the option open in the future. Either way, finding a neighborhood with a strong school system will serve you well.

  7. Spectacular Scenery
    It's so nice to be able to sit on your patio or peer out the window and enjoy spectacular scenery close to home. Shopping for a home near the water is a great idea if you're looking for lovely views, and Longboat Key homes are a perfect example.

  8. Walkability and Public Transportation
    Do you enjoy being able to walk to nearby amenities, or hopping on public transportation rather than driving to work? Finding a neighborhood with transportation options that fit your lifestyle will make life much easier.

  9. Outdoor Fun
    You won't have any trouble finding outdoor fun in Florida neighborhoods, but it's still a good idea to make sure that a neighborhood offers your favorite outdoor activities. Homes for sale in Bradenton make it easy to enjoy all of the outdoor entertainment our corner of Florida has to offer.

  10. The Right Fit for You
    We have covered many of the topics that shoppers find most important in neighborhoods, but ultimately this process is all about finding the right fit for you. Try creating a list of your own ideal neighborhood features, and rank them in order of priority.

Whether you're still searching for the perfect neighborhood or you already have an ideal match in mind, our local real estate team is here to help you cross the finish line. Contact Wagner Realty to buy and sell homes in the Sarasota/Bradenton area.

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How to Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

Home Preparedness
When you own a home in an area that could be affected by hurricanes, it's important to plan ahead to prepare both your home and all of the people in your household.

Hurricane damage can cut homeowners off from important services like electricity, internet, phone, and water. These risks are present no matter the strength of the hurricane affecting homes both inland and directly on the coast. While there is no way to eliminate the risk of hurricane damage, there are plenty of steps you can take to make sure that your home is prepared.

Weathering the Storm

Being informed is one of the most important steps you can take during hurricane season. You can install a weather app on your phone, watch the local news, or visit the National Hurricane Center's website for the most up to date information on potential storms. Knowing when a storm is coming will give you as much time as possible to prepare.

  • Evacuation Routes and "Escape" Supplies – Take the time when the weather is nice to research evacuation routes in your area, and plan ahead so that you have somewhere safe to go in the event of a storm. Make sure that everyone in your household understands your evacuation plan. It's also a good idea to put together a set of tools for evacuation, including a disaster kit, batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies, and emergency cash.

  • Prepare Outdoor Areas – If you live in an area with hurricane risk, keeping your outdoor spaces safe can reduce potential damage to your home. Check the trees and shrubs in your yard to make sure that they are healthy, trim them to reduce the risk a fallen branches, and clear out any lawn furniture if the arrival of a hurricane is imminent. If a tree or shrub is not healthy, removing it may be the best course of action.

  • Clean Gutters – Hurricanes have the potential to drop tremendous amounts of rainfall in a short time, so it's also a very good idea to clean your gutters regularly, including downspouts. If your gutters are aging, loose, or otherwise not looking their best, it may be time to replace them.

  • Ready Your Roof – While you are up cleaning gutters, check the condition of your roof to see if it is in need of repair or reinforcement. Having a professional repair any issues before a storm comes is well worth the cost.

  • Purchase Supplies – In addition to the preparedness kit we mentioned above, there are a few items you may want to pick up if a hurricane is coming to your area including plywood to cover windows, fresh water in case of emergency, and batteries for electronics.

  • Check Your Home Insurance – No matter how much you do to prepare, hurricanes can still cause serious damage to your home. Check your home insurance to see what coverage you have in the event of a hurricane, and don't wait until the last minute to do so. It is so much easier to take care of these important details ahead of time, when you don't have to worry about the pressure of an incoming storm.

Our REALTORS® are here to help with all of your real estate needs on the Florida coast. Contact Wagner Realty to buy and sell homes in the Sarasota/Bradenton, FL area.

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Buying a House as a Single Mom

Home Buying for the Single Mom
If you're a single mother, the idea of buying a house can seem like an unreachable dream. The Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2016 show that women still earn less than men. As the custodial parent, you must stretch fewer dollars to meet increasing financial obligations. Homeownership can seem unrealistic under such tight financial circumstances.

Our REALTORS® understand your concerns and we want to help. We believe that buying a house should be an attainable dream, so we've compiled a list of resources to help you reach your goal.

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development
    maintains a number of programs that can assist you in buying a house. The Community Development Block Grant Program, Home Investment Partnership Program, and Neighborhood Stabilization Program direct home buying assistance funds to local communities via Florida state agencies.

  • Florida Housing Finance Corporation
    The First-Time Homebuyer Program works with approved lenders to offer a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. As with many loan programs, when you are buying a home, you must meet income and credit guidelines.

    The State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) provides funds and block grants to Florida communities for low-income families. These grants fund home rehab, down payments, homeownership counseling, and other critical services.

  • Habitat for Humanity Florida
    Habitat for Humanity Florida has provided 17,000 new and rehabbed homes to deserving Florida residents. If you qualify as a single applicant, you must give 200 hours of your time to help build your home. You must also agree to live in a Habitat-designated neighborhood and attend homeowner classes. When your home is finished, Habitat will sell it to you with no consideration for profit.

  • Fannie Mae
    publishes a list of Fannie Mae foreclosed properties for sale. Their First Look program gives individual buyers an opportunity to view and bid on foreclosed properties before investors have a chance to buy them.  Homepath offers a three percent reduction in a Homepath property's closing costs when you complete the Ready Buyer online homeownership course.  Homepath properties that qualify for the Home Ready mortgage program may be eligible for a low down payment and other benefits included in HUD's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

  • FHA Loans
    An FHA mortgage can minimize the problems of buying a house when you have limited cash flow or a problem credit history. The requirements are less strict than a traditional loan. The mortgage requires only a 3.5 percent down payment and it offers competitive interest rates.

  • USDA Loans
    Under the Rural Development Home Loan Program, the USDA will guarantee 90 percent of your home loan.  You must meet USDA income and credit qualifications, but the standards are less stringent than traditional loans. The home you choose must also meet eligibility guidelines for rural properties and must be your primary residence. USDA charges a monthly fee for mortgage guarantee insurance.

When your dream of owning a home seems out of reach, we can help. Contact Wagner Realty to help make your homeownership dream come true.

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Battling Multiple Offers and Winning Your Dream Home

Battling Bidding Warts
Sarasota, Florida has it all--beautiful weather, amazing amenities, and a community with something for everyone. It's no surprise that, when buying a house, you might find yourself in a situation where the home you want has multiple bids.

It may seem like the only thing you can do is raise your offer and hope for the best. Sometimes doing just that is the simplest way to get a seller's attention. Still, it's not your only option.

In an ideal situation, you'd make your offer, find out you're the only buyer, and move toward closing within a few weeks. Still, there are some homes that are worth the extra effort. Let's look at some steps you can take to fend off multiple offers and emerge victorious.

Multiple Offers Don't Mean the End – Here's What You Can Do

  • Stay Calm
    Just because there are multiple offers, it doesn't mean you're out of the running – even if offering more money is not right for you. Other would-be buyers could fall in love with another property or discover something they don't want to deal with in the current one. An agreement could fall apart for hundreds of reasons, even something as simple as a personality conflict.
  • Get More Information
    To start, you should work with your real estate agent to figure out, if possible, how many offers are out there and what the current high offer is. Outplaying just one other buyer isn't that hard, but do you want to push forward against three or five? If budget is a concern, you should tread carefully at first. Don't let emotion draw you into a costly "bidding war!"
  • Write a Letter
    When you lead with a more generous offer, it can foreclose other options that might be just as effective. Building a human connection with the seller can be a tremendous help. Send a letter that offers a quick biographical sketch, including reasons why you've fallen in love with the property in question. Sellers are more likely to work with those they like!
  • Offer Cash
    Financing adds a lot of time and complexity to an offer. If you have the opportunity and you're confident the property is right, consider paying in cash. This can be a huge relief to sellers, since it simplifies things and allows them to meet any deadlines they've set for themselves. If you know you'll need a mortgage, get a pre-approval to raise a seller's confidence.
  • Buy the Home As-Is
    Many buyers are anxious to avoid purchasing a property "as-is," feeling that it must mean the seller is hiding something. You can defend yourself against this by getting a property inspection done. Still, if you really want to make a unique impression on a seller, bring up the topic of buying as-is – especially if the seller hasn't mentioned it.
  • Ask Your Agent to Make a Call
    Your real estate agent is there to ensure your best interests are represented. A good real estate agent is a partner who understands not only the market, but the personalities involved. Sure, a miracle is unlikely ... but it never hurts to turn things over to the experts. It just might be the case that a quick conversation with your agent may make a decisive difference.

Buying a house requires the best help you can get. Contact Wagner Realty for the top Sarasota homesour REALTORS® work hard to get you the home you dream of!

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Amazing Fourth of July Events in Sarasota

How Sarasota Celebrates the Red, White and Blue

July 4 Events Sarasota

When the night sky lights up this Fourth of July, where will you be? For families with homes in Sarasota, it's hard to get this answer wrong. Siesta Key's explosive Independence Day celebration has drawn thousands for the past 26 years, but the country's best beach isn't the only place to be on Tuesday, July 4. Our gardens, parks, and restaurants also offer world-class waterfront views and patriotic celebrations this Fourth, so you can choose your view every year.

If you live or plan to buy a house in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, just pick which body of water you want to see sparkle, and settle in for a full day or evening of Fourth of July fun. Here are some of our favorite spots to celebrate:

Siesta Key Public Beach

It's no surprise that Sarasota's most popular fireworks show happens right on its famous white sand beach. The 27th annual Siesta Key Fourth of July Fireworks start at 9:15 PM this year, and the explosives last at least a full half hour, with colors and shapes that rival even the most picturesque Siesta Key sunsets. The Chamber of Commerce's official celebration is always on Siesta Key Public Beach, but if you want to beat the crowds and enjoy unbeatable views, go a little south of the public area, toward Crescent Beach.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

A lush, tropical retreat in the middle of downtown Sarasota, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are nearly surrounded by Sarasota Bay and the Hudson Bayou. They take advantage of their stellar views of multiple fireworks displays over Sarasota Bay, with an evening party that features live music, a cookout, and cool drinks. The All-American Cookout starts at 6, but free trolleys bound for Selby start leaving the Sarasota Friendship Center at 5 PM.

PIER 22 in Bradenton

Would you rather skip the beach and city crowds, and take in some waterfront fireworks at a slower pace? Head north to Bradenton's PIER 22, a literal pier that juts right out onto Manatee River for unbeatable waterfront views. This Fourth of July, the restaurant is hosting a buffet-style barbecue and waterside fireworks display. Come to PIER 22 at 6 PM for the Independence Day buffet, a single seating event that coincides with the explosions over the river.

Bayfront Park & Marina Jack Trail

The fireworks over Sarasota Bay are visible from both sides of the causeway, but the best views are from the edge of the marina, where family-friendly Bayfront Park pokes out into the water. Grab dinner and drinks at Marina Jack or O'Leary's Tiki Bar & Grill, then walk the Marina Jack Trail along the perimeter of this small but beautiful bayfront park. The fireworks over Sarasota Bay will begin at around 9 PM this Fourth of July, so grab a bench or spread a blanket and enjoy the spectacular show.

Before the Fireworks: Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Looking for a family-friendly distraction before the fireworks begin? Sarasota Jungle Gardens is right on the Bay near Ringling Museum and New College of Florida, and it's an interactive wonderland with flamingos, alligators, and lush landscapes where kids can frolic and adults can relax and take in waterfront views. Kids' admission is half off from Saturday, July 1 through Tuesday, July 4, making it the perfect pre-fireworks destination for Sarasota families.

Are you interested in buying a house in Sarasota? Contact Wagner Realty for more information about our beautiful beach town and its fun, lively neighborhoods. One of our REALTORS® in Sarasota will help you get started on your real estate journey. 

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