Frequently Asked Questions
1.  How does Help-U-Sell Real Estate work?
Help-U-Sell Brokers and agents are fully licensed professionals, members of their local Board of Realtors and of the National Association of Realtors®, work with both Buyers and Sellers and provide a full range of real estate services.  Help-U-Sell® Real Estate differs from traditional brokers, not in the scope of services provided, but in the dollar amount that you pay for those services.  Our brokers charge a set fee for their services, as opposed to the traditional 6 percent commission, which, in turn, helps you to retain a greater amount of equity while still receiving all the real estate services you expect. Streamlined business practices and a focus on marketing properties rather than marketing themselves allow our brokers to spend their time working with buyers and sellers, as opposed to traditional real estate brokers who spend the majority of their time managing offices and recruiting new agents.
2.  How does the fee for service work?
We believe that the traditional 6 percent commission is an outdated practice and has no correlation to the cost of performing a real estate transaction.  Our goal is to provide a fair price for the cost of services rendered, much like any other professional service that consumers would pay for.  Since the cost of doing business varies throughout the country, the set-fee offered for our services also varies, depending on the market.  What doesn't change is the scope of services we provide.  We perform all the same services as traditional real estate companies, and, oftentimes, more.  Please contact us to find out more about the set fee in your market.
3.  Do you also represent buyers?
Yes. Help-U-Sell Real Estate is a full-service real estate organization representing both buyers and sellers.  We can help a buyer purchase any home for sale in the market, not just Help-U-Sell Real Estate listings.  We take the time to learn what our buyers are looking for and represent their best interests throughout the home purchase process.  Search thousands of listings nationwide.
4.  Why does Help-U-Sell Real  Estate work?
It's simple.  We are consumer-centric.  Sellers appreciate the fact that our Brokers spend their time marketing properties instead of marketing themselves and recruiting agents.  Our Buyers appreciate the fact that we are experts in their neighborhood and that our website contains all of the local MLS listings, and, in many cases, more. Our unique marketing strategies drive an unprecedented amount of traffic to our website and offices, which results in many buyers for our listings and many new listings.  Additionally, our streamlined operations and cost efficiencies translate into low overhead and savings that we pass along to consumers with our low set fee.
5.  Are Help-U-Sell Agents licensed?
Yes. All Help-U-Sell Brokers and Agents are licensed, members of their local MLS boards and members of the National Association of Realtors®.
6.  What advantages does Help-U-Sell Real Estate offer as compared to a traditional Realtor?

Help-U-Sell Real Estate offers several advantages over traditional real estate companies:

1.  Set-Fee.  You know upfront exactly how much it is going to cost to sell your home and how much equity you will retain.

2.  More Equity.  In most cases, our set fee is significantly lower than any other traditional real estate company would charge in their commission.  This means that you retain more of your equity.

3.  More Technology.  Help-U-Sell's proprietary technology allows you to obtain up-to-date information about your home sale quicker and more efficiently than a traditional listing agent. In fact, with our technology, you can be anywhere in the world and learn about the latest activity in your home.

4.  More Experience.  The average agent typically handles less than 10 transactions a year, while our agents and brokers handle dozens, which means more in-depth market knowledge, more experience solving problems and more value for our buyers and sellers.

7.  I've heard that Help-U-Sell Real Estate offers choices.  What does this mean?
Since all Help-U-Sell Offices are independently owned and operated, and all have vastly different market conditions, the choices available to our clients may differ.  However, for those clients who choose to be active participants in the transaction, many of our brokers provide you with the opportunity to save even more money by showing your home yourself and conducting your own open houses.  Or, you may also have the option of placing your home on the MLS.  Again, these choices are optional and vary by office.
8.  How can Help-U-Sell Real Estate charge such low fees for its services?
Years of experience have allowed us to refine the home selling and home buying process. Rather than mega offices, our franchises are streamlined operations with low overhead and a small team of specialized experts. Instead of recruiting and managing agents, we focus on promoting our clients' listings and Help-U-Sell's unique business model. Not only does this result in cost economies but it also allows us to charge a fee directly related to the services provided.  We pride ourselves on being extremely consumer-centric and believe that the traditional real estate commission model, with no correlation between the services rendered and the cost of those services, is outdated and unnecessary.
9.  Since your fees are lower, does that mean you hire inexperienced agents and pay them less?
Actually, almost all of our brokers are seasoned agents, and many are also top producers in their local area. Statistics show that our listings consistently beat the national average in terms of the number of days on market and list to the sales price.  In addition, our brokers and agents consistently conduct more transactions per year than the average real estate agent.
10.  If your business model is so beneficial to clients and you alike, why aren't other brokers doing it?
Help-U-Sell Real Estate, with its innovative business model, has been at the forefront of the revolution in real estate. But as in any industry, and particularly one as entrenched in one way of doing business like real estate, change is slow. Although a number of Internet real estate companies and commission discounters make promises about changing the way real estate is practiced, only Help-U-Sell offers a management team comprised of some of the top names in real estate, experienced brokers and agents licensed by the National Association of Realtors®, full service, a fee that correlates to service, and a proven track record.
11.  Are there any hidden fees that I don't know about?
No. Help-U-Sell Real Estate identifies all fees upfront.  The price you pay is based on a fee for professional services rendered - not on a percentage of the sales price of your home.
12.  What is MLS?
Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the most comprehensive computerized database of homes for sale with over millions of listings nationwide. This database is used by Realtors to market and promote their own listings and to cooperate with other Realtors®. Realtors, in turn, are compensated with part of the commission. A large portion of real estate transactions is a result of direct MLS exposure. By having your home in MLS, it will be exposed to thousands of local real estate agents who otherwise would not have known that your property was for sale and would not have shown it. This is the same MLS used by traditional brokers who charge a 6 percent commission.
13.  Won't buyer's agents boycott my listing?
No. Buyer brokers search many sources for their clients, and they understand the advantages of Help-U-Sell Real Estate. Our listings have been sold by every major real estate company and we have a long history of excellent relationships with our colleagues in the industry.
14.  How do I list my home with Help-U-Sell Real Estate?
Just contact us by calling 925-899-0161 or email us.
15.  How should I price my home?
We will provide you with a Competitive Market Analysis that will provide you with information regarding the price range of similar home sales in your area as well as with information on current sale conditions so you can choose a price you feel is appropriate for your home.

House Hunting FAQs

16.  When I start visiting homes, what should I be looking for the first time through?
The house you ultimately choose to call home will play a major role in your family's life. A home can be an excellent investment, of course, but more importantly, it should fit the way you really live, with spaces and features that appeal to everyone in the family.
At each home, pay close attention to these important considerations.
1.  Is there enough room for you now, and in the near future?

2.  Is the home's floor plan right for your family?

3.  Is there enough storage space? Will you have to replace the appliances, carpet, or mechanicals?

4.  Is the yard the size that you want?

5.  Are there enough bathrooms?

6.  Will your present furniture work in this home?

17.  Is an older home as good a value as a new home?
It's a matter of personal preference. Both new and older homes offer distinct advantages, depending upon your unique taste and lifestyle. New homes generally have more space in the rooms where today's families do their living, like a family room or activity area. They're usually easier to maintain, too. However, many homes built years ago offer more total space for the money, as well as larger yards. Taxes on some older homes may also be lower. Some people are charmed by the elegance of an older home but shy away because they're concerned about potential maintenance costs. Consider a home warranty to get the peace of mind you deserve. A good Home Warranty plan protects you against unexpected repairs on many home systems and appliances for a full year or more after you move in.
18.  Do I need to bring anything along when I'm looking at homes?
Bring your own notebook and pen for note-taking and a flashlight for seeing enclosed areas. Be prepared to "snoop around" a little. After all, you want to know as much as possible about the home you buy. Sellers understand that because their home is on the market, it will be looked over pretty thoroughly. If you need to go back to a home for another look, we will be happy to schedule another viewing appointment. Be sure to ask any questions you have about the home, even if you feel you're being nosey. You have a right to know.
When you find a home you may be interested in buying, make sure we ask the owner the following questions:
1.  How much money do you pay for monthly utilities?

2.  What features have you enjoyed most about living in this home?

3.  Are there defects or problem areas that need to be fixed?

4.  How old are the furnace and central air conditioning system?

5.  How old is the roof? Have you experienced any leaking?

19.  What should I ask my Broker about each home that I look at?
As a rule of thumb, ask any questions you have about specific rooms, features or functions. Pay particular attention to areas that you feel could become "problem" areas-additions, defects, areas that have been repaired. And above all, if you don't feel your question has been answered, ask until you do understand and are satisfied. In most cases, we will be able to provide you with detailed information.
20.  What should I tell you about the homes I look at?
Tell us what you liked and didn't like about each home you saw. It is important for us to really get a feel for what you're looking for in a home in order to find your dream home. Don't be shy about talking about a home's shortcomings. Was the home perfect except for the carpeting? Let us know that, too!
21.  How many homes should I look at before I buy?
There is no set number of homes you should look at before you decide to make an offer on one. That's why providing us with as many details as possible upfront is so helpful. The perfect home may be waiting for you on your first visit. Even if it isn't, the house-hunting process will help you get a feeling for the homes in the community and narrow your choices to a few homes that are worth a second look. You'll be one house closer to "your" home!
If you're looking in more than one community, try to make the most of each house-hunting trip. Stop by the local Chamber of Commerce to pick up promotional literature about the community. Or ask us for welcome kits, maps, and information about schools, churches, and recreational facilities. Also, be sure to take along a camera and snap some pictures of all the homes you like. That'll make it easier to remember.
22.  What should I think about when I'm deciding which community I want to live in?
Good city services, nice parks, and playground facilities, convenient shopping and transportation, a track record of sound development and good planning-these are just a few considerations that are important to many people when they choose a community in which to live.
As for individual neighborhoods within a village or city, there is no better source of information than Help-U-Sell Brokers. We know the people and the communities we serve, and chances are we can help you find a neighborhood that really fits your family's needs.
23.  Where can I get information about local schools?
We are your best source. We know where the local schools are and can provide you with valuable information about school districts, including test scores, extracurricular activities, bus service and more. If you're relocating, we may even be able to put you in touch with teachers and principals when you visit the area.
24.  How can I find out what homes are selling for in a given neighborhood?
Home sales are a matter of public record, so ask us! If you're interested in a particular home, we may be able to provide you with a list of comparables - sale prices of homes in your area that are roughly the same size and age as the home you're considering. Although there will certainly be some differences between the homes - the house next door may have an extra bedroom or the one down the block may be older than the one you're looking at - it's a good way to evaluate the seller's asking price.  We also encourage you to visit the Help-U-Sell e-Valuator, powered by Cyberhomes, which uses public records, among other sources, to provide home valuations.

Ready to Buy FAQs

25.  I'd like to have a professional look at the home before I buy it. What does a home inspector do?
For your own safety, and to make sure you're getting your money's worth in the home you choose, using a professional home inspector is highly recommended. Although services vary from state to state, a home inspector generally will check a home's plumbing, heating, and cooling, electrical systems, and look for structural problems, like a damp or leaky basement.
Usually, you call an inspector immediately after you are "In Contract" on a home. However, before you sign any written purchase offer, make sure that it includes an inspection clause or other language which says that your purchase obligation is contingent on the findings of a professional home inspector.
Your home cannot "pass" or "fail" an inspection, and your inspector will not tell you whether he or she thinks the home is worth the money you are offering. They are not there to address "value." The inspector's job is to make you aware of repairs that are recommended or necessary.
A seller may be willing to renegotiate a price reduction to accommodate needed repairs, or you may decide that the home will take too much work and money. A professional inspection will help you make a clear-headed decision. In addition to the overall inspection, you may wish to have separate tests conducted to check for termites, or the presence of radon gas or mold. Talk to us for information about these tests and companies in the area that perform them.
In choosing a home inspector, consider one that has been certified as a qualified and experienced member by a trade association such as the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors.
26.  Should I be present during the inspection?
Yes. It's not required, but it is very much to your advantage. You'll be able to clearly understand the inspection report, and know exactly which areas need attention. Plus, you can get answers to many questions, tips for maintenance, and a lot of general information that will help you when you move into your new home. Most important, you'll see the home through the eyes of an objective third party.
Remember, the purpose of a home inspection is to help you learn things about the home that are not easily discoverable during your home-buying tour. The home inspection is NOT INTENDED to be a "Laundry List" of cosmetic issues or very minor repairs for Sellers to repair or replace. It is not intended to be a "weasel" clause to get out!
27.  Do I need to talk to my insurance agent?
Yes, and the sooner, the better. Most insurance professionals have a lot of experience in working with homeowners and can offer useful tips about homeownership, particularly regarding home safety and keeping your premiums low.
Once you've found a home, work together to develop a homeowner's policy that meets your individual insurance needs. You'll need to supply your pre-paid policy to your mortgage lender prior to closing.
28.  Is there any way I can protect myself against emergency repair bills in my new home?
Yes. Home warranties offer you protection against many potentially costly problems not covered by your homeowner's insurance. They've become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason: the coverage can save you thousands in the event of a major mechanical breakdown, at a time when your cash reserves may have been depleted by your down payment and moving expenses. Ask us whether a Home Warranty is offered when looking at homes. But remember, if it is not offered, feel free to ask for it when writing the offer to purchase. The Home Warranty will give you the peace of mind necessary to feel comfortable in your new home.
29.  How do I determine the amount of my initial offer?
There is really no rule to use in calculating a realistic offer. Naturally, the buyer wants the best price and value and the seller wants the highest price, but negotiations can be influenced by many factors, such as a seller who may be changing jobs and wants to sell quickly, or a buyer who really wants a specific home.
After you've looked at the home's features, asked questions, checked comparables, and talked about it with us, you should have a good idea in your heart of what the home's value is in the current market. Consider what you can afford and make an offer.
Most buyers and sellers negotiate on price until both agree. When the price is agreed upon, the paperwork will be signed and initialed as needed by both parties. At that point, you typically will begin the process of arranging for home and wood-destroying insect inspections.
30.  Should I move myself or use a moving company?
In almost every case, you can save yourself time and energy by using a reputable moving company to help you move. Ask us, consumer groups, the Better Business Bureau, friends, and co-workers for recommendations, then get estimates from several companies. Don't choose a mover based on price alone - consider the reputation and professionalism of the company, too.  For those that are moving from state-to-state, we offer The Moving Concierge to help with all your moving needs.
Work closely with the moving company to coordinate your efforts and your move will be achieved with maximum efficiency.

Mortgage FAQs

31.  What is a mortgage, and what are the benefits of different kinds of mortgages?
Simply put, a mortgage is a loan that a home buyer obtains directly from a lender to purchase real estate. The mortgage is a lien on the property that secures a promissory note (a promise to repay the debt) that states the terms of the loan, including the interest rate, and the number of payments.
The most popular mortgages available to home buyers today can be divided into two general categories: those which offer fixed interest rates and monthly payments, and those where one or both of those factors are adjustable.
Fixed-rate/fixed payment loans are more traditional and remain the most popular home financing method, currently accounting for about two-thirds of all residential mortgages. Their advantages are well-known: You always know what your monthly principal and interest payment will be, so your basic housing cost will remain unaffected by interest rate changes until the mortgage is paid off.
Mortgages that entail flexible rates and/or payments have grown in popularity during periods of high-interest rates and/or rapidly rising home prices. Many, including the popular ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages), offer lower-than-market initial interest rates that allow buyers a measure of affordability unavailable in fixed-rate loans. The tradeoff may be higher interest rates and higher monthly payments later on. As yourself the question: Is my income expected to go up in the future, or not?
32.  What are the different types of lenders, and how do I choose the right one for me?
Before someone lends you the money to purchase your home, they'll want to know a lot about you. And you're entitled to know as much as you can about them, too.
It's important because getting a mortgage is not just a one-time signing of documents, a handshake, and a check. You will be depending on your lender to fund the loan as promised, on time, and over the life of the loan, to keep good payment records, pay your taxes and insurance (if included in your monthly payment) and many other continuing services.
Look for a lender that has the authority to approve and process your loan locally. It's easier to obtain information on the status of your loan and discuss conditions directly with the person who will approve your loan, rather than some far away loan committee. It's important that your lender know home values and conditions in your local area. And while biggest doesn't always mean best, financial stability, reputation, qualifying procedures, and unique programs benefit are what they offer home buyers.
33.  Are there any mortgages specially designed for first-time homebuyers?
Today, first-time home buyers enjoy a number of mortgage options that make purchasing a home more affordable by minimizing down payments and keeping monthly payments as low as possible during the early years of the loan.
Most ARMs feature an interest rate that is often below market for the first year, and may only rise gradually after that.
VA and FHA-insured loans call for an extremely low down payment (0-5% of the purchase price), and often offer a below-market interest rate. Similarly, favorable terms can also be arranged with the help of conventional loan PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) or FHA loan MIP (Mortgage Insurance Premium).
Finally, first-timers who can find a cooperative seller or third-party investor can look into such non-traditional financing methods as a lease/buy arrangement.
34.  Can I get an FHA or VA mortgage?
Just about anyone can apply for an FHA-insured mortgage through banks and other lending institutions. They are particularly well-suited for buyers of low to moderate-income and have low down payment requirements (as low as 3% of the purchase price).
Similarly, VA-guaranteed loans often require no down payment. These loans are reserved for either active military personnel or veterans, or spouses of veterans who died of service-related injuries.
If there is a downside to these loans, it's the qualifying process. Though you apply for government-insured financing through a lending institution, the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs must insure or guarantee the loan and may require specific documentation or procedures not necessarily required for conventional financing. That may take more time than is generally required for conventional mortgage approval. Additionally, FHA-required insurance (MIP) must be added to your payment. Make sure the lender you select has approved authority by each of these agencies to ensure a quicker loan process.
35.  How much of a down payment will I need to buy a home?
A down payment of 20 percent has been the benchmark for conventional financing, but today, many options are available, some requiring as little as 3 percent down. For buyers who qualify for conventional financing but can't handle the high down payment requirements, lenders offer this financing with PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance. Designed to protect the lender against default by the borrower, PMI allows you to obtain traditional financing with a down payment significantly lower than the standard 20 percent. By using PMI, you may be able to get a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage by putting as little as 5 percent down.
As with an FHA-insured loan, you must pay premiums for PMI coverage, the amount of which is determined by the lender. Moreover, PMI premiums are often lower than FHA insurance and may be paid as part of your monthly mortgage payment, in annual installments, or in a lump sum at the time you obtain the loan. Your mortgage expert can help you determine which down payment option is right for you and your budget.
36.  How does a lender determine the maximum mortgage I can afford?
The three primary areas lenders examine in determining the size of mortgage you can handle include your monthly income, non-housing expenses, and cash available for the down payment, moving expenses, and closing costs.
37.  What are the steps involved in the loan process?
The information your lender needs is not much different than what is needed when you apply for a major credit card: names and addresses of your employer and bank account numbers and balances. The lender will also need other financial information such as installment payments, auto loans, charge cards, and department store accounts. The location and description of the property also are required. Your lender will verify this information with your present and past employers, order a routine mortgage credit report on your current and past accounts, and order a professional appraisal of the property you're wanting to purchase.
38.  What is APR, and how is it calculated?
The Annual Percentage Rate is a calculated rate of interest for a loan over its projected life. This rate includes the interest, all points (which are considered prepaid interest), mortgage insurance, and other charges associated with making the loan that the lender collects from the borrower.
The APR is calculated by a standard formula that all lenders use. This enables the borrower to comparison shop between lenders and/or loan products.
39.  How can I find out what my property tax bill will be?
Usually, the total amount of the previous year's property taxes is included on the listing information sheet for the home you're interested in. Remember, tax rates change from year to year, so the previous year's bill should be considered simply as a "ballpark" figure of what you would pay. For a more precise projection, call the local auditor's office for assistance, or simply ask us.
40.  What is the difference between pre-qualifying and pre-approval?
Pre-qualifying for a mortgage up to a certain amount is a verbal exchange in which the lender tells you in advance approximately how much money the buyer is able to borrow, based upon the information you provide the lender on your debt and income.
Pre-approval goes a step further than pre-qualifying. It is an actual commitment to lend, provided that, when the borrower is ready to buy, he or she still meets all the qualifying conditions that were met at the time of conditional approval. We strongly recommend it to give you the best negotiating position!