aerial view of Chesapeake Bay in autumn

Frequently Asked Questions

The multiple listing service (MLS) is a system, which stores all the properties “for sale” in a regional database accessible by real estate agents, appraisers, and search tools on a variety of websites. There once was a time when only Realtors had access to multiple listed properties, however, this is not true today. Today, FSBOS (for sale by owner) can list their property with MLS. MLS properties can be searched via The MLS service or any Real Estate websites that has technology “plugins” which allows MLS access – and and are examples.

A home inspection is typically done after the buyer has a ratified contract on a property. A licensed home inspector or engineer will perform the inspection. In addition to the mechanical and structural inspection, a buyer may elect to have an “Environmental Inspection” done which will cover things such as mold, radon and lead paint. Typically, the scope of the home inspection is set forth to include items such as: (a) Basement – foundation and sump pumps (b) Flooring systems -Framing (c) Ceilings (d) Doors (e) Windows (f) Roof (g) Insulation (h) Exterior and Interior wall systems (i) Decks and Porches (j) Garages (k) Plumbing (l) Electrical systems (m) HVAC systems (n) Appliances and any other systems that are stipulated in the contract. For a better understanding of Home Inspections see our “Guide to Home Inspections”.

Prior to closing, the buyer will be afforded the opportunity to inspect the property. The purpose of the inspection is to ensure the condition of the property and the inclusions (fixtures) that were to remain with the property are still present. Notwithstanding any other provisions, of the contract, upon acceptance of the deed (title transfer) the terms of the contract are said to be merged with the deed which means the buyer accepts the property “as is”.

For properties build prior to 1978, a seller is required to made a disclosure to the buyer regarding their knowledge of laid paint within the property. Additionally, the buyer may elect to have the property inspected for the existence of lead paint. The lead paint test may be done with a XRF gun or by collecting dust samples that will be analyzed in a lab.

Radon is an invisible gas formed in the Earth’s crust. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers. When radon gas decays, it emits radioactive radiation in the form of an alpha particle, a radioactive particle made up of two protons and two neutrons. Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Buyers may request a Radon Test be done in accordance with EPA rules and guidelines.

Closing cost are the those items which require payment at time of settlement (closing) by either buyer or seller. For a better understanding of closing cost see our “Guide to Closing Cost”.

You can purchase another home without selling your existing home if (a) you qualify for a new mortgage without paying off your current one and (b) you have the necessary funds without selling your current home. There are a couple other options available to you in this scenario. You can make your offer to purchase contingent upon the sale of your existing home or you could arrange for a “bridge” loan on your current home which would provide you with the required funds to purchase your new home.

The required down payment varies as to the type of loan you are seeking. A conventional loan requires a minimum of 3% down payment. A FHA loan requires a minimum of 3.5% whereas a USDA or VA loan does not require a down payment.

A pre-qualification is an analysis of your purchasing potential based upon your income, monthly debts and available cash. A pre-approval means a Lender has reviewed your credit in addition to your income, debts and cash. There are varying degrees of “pre-approval” letters. The typical pre-approval letter is subject to the Lender verifying the borrower’s income, debts and other factors required for a loan approval. A pre-approval is not a loan commitment or loan approval.

If the contract is for a cash offer and there are no other contingencies (home inspection etc.) then you could close in as little as 7-10 days. However, the typical contract is contingent upon things such as (a) mortgage loan approval (b) home inspections and (c) pest inspections. Therefore, to satisfy these contingencies, you should expect to close with 30-60 days.

Typically, the seller pays the total commission, which includes the commission earned by the “Buyers Agent”.

Assuming you explored your expectations with a qualified agent, then you should find your new home in a reasonable amount of time. In the event, you can’t seem to find the right house then you may need to reevaluate your expectations of a new home.

Your TCB agent will review, with you, comparable properties that have sold and those currently on the market to inform you of “value”. The offer to purchase will consist of four (4) elements – (a) price (b) terms (c) time and (d) chattel property. We will assist you in preparing an offer, which will be appealing to the seller to either accept of counteroffer.

Earnest money deposit is also known as “good faith” money and is the deposit money (held in escrow) on the contract pending closing. The earnest money will either be (a) applied to your down payment at closing (b) returned to you in the event the contract cannot close and is mutually released or (c) forfeited to the seller, as liquated damages, in the event of buyer default.

There aren’t any legal guidelines for the time a seller has to respond to an offer. As a condition to your offer, you may stipulate a time frame the seller must act – or the offer is automatically withdrawn. Otherwise, you may withdraw an offer, at any time, prior to sellers’ acceptance.

If the seller rejects your offer, then you have two options (a) submit another offer or (b) look at other properties.

You are not required to have any home inspections other than those, which your Lender will require, such as a property appraisal. If the appraisal report detects serious property deficiencies, then the Lender may not approve your loan application.

You are legally entitled to a final walk-thru inspection but are not legally required to do one.

There really isn’t a “best” time to sell your home. However, there are seasonal times, which may allow your home and property to show better. In the mid-Atlantic area, many homes show better in the spring as compared to the winter months. For this reason, more homes come on the market during the spring season – which means if you wait till spring, your home may have more competition in the market place. The best time to sale your home is when your home is ready to be seen by potential buyers.

Your TCB agent will help identify potential items that you may wish to “spruce up” prior to putting your home on the market. Investing money to update items such as paint, light fixtures, landscaping, plumbing fixtures, vanities, carpeting, replacing the caulk and grout in your bathroom, updating old or rusted ceiling fans and light fixtures, and changing switch plates, doorknobs and other hardware for a clean and neat appearance may be beneficial. You should make an effort to declutter your home, especially closets. Too often, sellers either don’t have the time or money to address these issues. We can help by recommending professionals and advancing the money for the project.

The first step is to identify comparable properties in the area that have sold within the past 12 months. The next step is to make adjustments to those sold properties to make them similar your property. Of course, properties currently on the market are also taken into account. Should there be a lack of comparable data, then other valuation approaches will be used to arrive at an “asking price”. The process is more an “art” than science so the more experienced the agent the better the results for the seller.

Assessed value is your home’s value for property taxation. Assessed value is broken into two components – land value and improvement value (house). Typically, improvement value is devised by looking at the value per square foot within your area. Land value is added to improvement value to determine assessed value.

An assessor doesn’t make adjustments for individual properties (other than square footage) thus your assessed value does not necessary reflect the improvements, features or the condition of your property.

If you have your property listed with TCB Realtor then you may cancel your listing contract at any time for any reason. Other real estate firms different on their cancellation policies, however, most firms do not allow cancellation prior to 90 days.

At TCB, we offer the only service guarantee in the real estate industry. If you are not happy then you are not obligated to pay. The typical listing contract provides that the real estate commission is earned when a buyer is ready, willing and able to purchase the home. Generally, this means once the purchase contract is ratified then the seller is obligated to pay the full commission at the time of closing. We disagree with this industry standard premise. We think the commission is fully earned when the seller is 100% satisfied at time of closing.

Seller concessions are buyer-closing costs paid by the seller. The amount of the concession is negotiated as part of the contract and is limited by loan type – Fannie Mae, FHA, USDA, or VA have different limitations on seller concessions. For a complete understanding see our “Financing Guide”.

If possible, you should leave the property to allow the buyer to comfortably explore your home. There is an old real estate adage that there should be an apple pie baking in the oven for showings. While the baking pie scenario would seem extreme, we do encourage sellers to use common sense in prepping their home for showings by cleaning and picking up.

Staging a house is the process of strategically arranging furnishings and decor to make a house look its best while selling. This may involve cutting down and refreshing your own belongings, or moving all of your belongings out of the house and renting furniture and decor. A vacant home probably requires some degree of “staging”. Our agents will consult with you regarding “minor” staging. If needed, professional home staging services are available for a fee.

You can purchase another home without selling your existing home if (a) you qualify for a new mortgage without paying off your current one and (b) you have the necessary funds without selling your current home. There are a couple other options available to you in this scenario. You can make your offer to purchase contingent upon the sale of your existing home or you could arrange for a “bridge” loan on your current home which would provide you with the required funds to purchase your new home.

Most home warranties cost between $300 to $500, and last for a year after the closing date. When you buy a seller’s home warranty, it should include coverage on your home while it’s on the market. The warranty would then be transferred to the buyer for one year of coverage beginning on the closing date of the sale.

As a seller, you will be responsible for normal seller closing cost. These costs will typically include one-half transfer and documentary charges, which are based upon the sales price of the property. For a complete understanding please see our “Guide to Closing Cost”.

The answer is no. Any real estate company can give your property access to sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Far too often, some firms use misleading claims to justify very high commission rates for sellers.