Sarah Coleman-Lee (USAF Ret) & Jessica Lee
Realty ONE Group (Charleston's Best Home Team) (843) 814-1513/ (843) 819-8570

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my house ready to sell?

Maximizing space by decluttering. Getting your home inspection, repairs, increasing curb appeal are all things to consider when preparing to sell your home. If you'd like a more detailed guide on getting your home ready, take a look at our article, "4 Tips to Increase Your Home Appraisal"

Should I get a home inspection?

As a home seller, Getting a pre-sale home inspection can't hurt it could help you get the best price for your home and help in negotiations by being aware of and addressing any major issues that could affect an offer. A home buyer will typically pay for their inspection of a home. 

As a home buyer, If you are going to finance your home with an FHA or VA loan, home inspections are required. Inspections aren't necessary for other mortgage programs however, we recommend them because they can reveal defects that aren't easy to detect. 

How long will it take to sell my home?

As of this writing, the market is moving incredibly fast with homes going under contract within days, weeks, even hours. But this is not typically the case. Once you figure in 45-60 days between pending and the actual close date, your home may sell as quickly as two months after you place it on the market. Depending on local market factors and your price point, some homes will sell quicker than others but planning for 1 to 2 months from listing to closing will help alleviate stress.

Why are the Zillow estimate and the realtor's estimates different?

As with any online valuation tool, Zillow doesn't take into account certain factors that may affect the value of a home. While Zillow has improved its algorithm to create its Zestimates in recent years, there are still issues with its accuracy. We perform what's called a Comparative Market Analysis on your home that's a more accurate representation of a home's value. Because we're experts in the Charleston area real estate market, our reports are much more detailed. We're also much more familiar with what the market will bear from working closely with both buyers and sellers in multiple transactions.

What is the difference between market value and the assessed value of a home?

Fair market value is an agreed-upon price between a buyer and seller. A property's assessed value is given by a public tax assessor which, for taxation purposes, is usually done yearly. It's not uncommon to have a difference between market value and assessed value. This can be a good and bad thing for a homeowner. If the assessed value increases, so do their yearly taxes. In contrast, that increase can help increase its market value.

What percentage do most realtors charge?

As your real estate representatives, we are compensated by commission, based on the home's final selling price. It's important to understand that it's different when we represent you as a buyer or a seller. As a buyer, you don't pay a fee to us to represent you - the seller pays our fees.  As a seller, you'll pay a fee equal to 5%-6% of the final sale price of the home; which is split between the listing agent and the cooperating brokerage that brings forth the buyer. 

Can you negotiate a home price?

The simple answer is, yes! The final selling price of the home is usually different than it was listed for, whether that be more or less. In a seller's market, the home will usually sell for at or above the original sale price. In a buyer's market, the home can sell at or below the list price. It all depends on the market saturation of homes.

What is the first step in buying a home?

We always say the first, most important step when you're serious about buying a home is getting pre-approved for a mortgage. A pre-approval letter from a lender will provide you with the most important tool in your home buying toolkit.

However, beforehand - when you're still considering taking the leap - start by thinking about your situation.  Are you ready to buy a home?  How much can you afford in a monthly mortgage payment?  How much space do you need?  What areas of town do you like?  Your home should fit the way you live, with enough space and features that appeal to the whole family.

If you'd like a more extensive answer, take a look at our article, "Where to start when you want to buy a house" for a great primer on getting ready for your home buying journey.

Should I sell my house before buying a new one?

If you find yourself unable to make an all-cash offer on a home, it's probably best to sell your current home before purchasing the new home. If you do decide it's best to sell your current home, you'll likely need to secure temporary housing for the timeframe between selling your home and closing on your new one. A short-term rental, friends, or family are options. You can also check with your employer if you're relocating to see if they offer relocation assistance. 

You may want to use your current home as a rental investment property in which case, you wouldn't need to sell the home. However, you should heed the advice of your loan advisor if it could hinder your ability to secure a loan for the new home.

Do I have to do a final walk-through?

Final walk-throughs aren't a requirement - you can even waive them - but we highly recommend our clients perform them. Final walk-throughs offer you as the buyer the opportunity to make sure any agreed-upon repairs have been completed per the contract and that no other changes to the home have occurred since your last visit. If you waive a walk-through and find problems after closing, you won't have much recourse.

What is earnest money and do I get my earnest money back?

Earnest money is money deposited to demonstrate good faith to the seller when buying a home. If your offer is accepted, the earnest money can be used to assist with closing costs or may be returned to you at the closing table, if not used towards the transaction. If your offer is rejected, your earnest money is returned to you. We'll help you determine a reasonable amount of earnest money to submit with your offer; It will depend upon the purchase price of the home as well as the policies set within a new community. But, we recommend expecting a minimum amount of $1,000.00.

How many houses should I look at before making an offer?

The number of houses you look at is entirely up to you - we'll show you as many homes as it takes to find the perfect one. The pandemic has made virtual showings the new norm and allows you the ability to see homes without leaving your couch or traveling. Even before that, searching online for homes, video walk-throughs, 3D tours and professional photos made things much easier. However, you can't beat seeing the home in person and getting a feel for it, imagining yourself there and learning about the area.

Can I back out of buying a house before closing?

Purchasing a home is one of the biggest decisions you'll make in your lifetime so having second thoughts is ok - these things happen. We've experienced it firsthand. However, It's important to know that if you decide to back out of a home purchase after going under contract, you could forfeit the earnest money you've provided which is 1-2% of the sales price of the home. 

What is a mortgage and how does it work?

Most people don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars laying around to buy a home outright. So, a mortgage is a loan specifically to finance the purchase of a property. Most mortgages are given with 15 or 30-year repayment terms with a fixed interest rate. The interest rates, payment amounts and other details are determined by the lender based on your down payment and financial history.

What happens when a house goes into escrow?

An escrow is a neutral third party that handles the exchange of money, real estate transactions, and related documents. The money and documents are held in a trust until all terms and conditions of the sale are satisfied. 

Are you a part-time or full-time agent?

We are both full-time, licensed Realtors® which means we're members of the National Association of Realtors® the largest trade group in the country. As a Realtor® we are held to a higher ethical standard and must follow a Code of Ethics. Every Realtor® is a licensed agent, but not all licensed real estate agents are Realtors®. Make sure to ask an agent if you're unsure. For more info about our qualifications, please see our About Us page.

Can I see your real estate license?

By all means, if anyone ever requests to see our real estate credentials we are more than happy to provide that information.

What are your listings' average days on the market?

Taking into consideration current market conditions I think it's safe to say homes are pretty much flying off the market like hotcakes. Our average home has been on the market for about 2-3 days.

What is your list-to-price ratio?

Again, due to the current market conditions homes are selling over the list price due to low inventory and high buyer demand.

What is the best way to contact you?

We'd love to hear from you! You may get in touch with us HERE.

How long does it take to buy a house?

Buying a home typically takes about ten to twelve weeks from start to finish. The average time to complete the escrow period on a home is 30 to 45 days, under normal market conditions, once a home is selected. Homebuyers who pay cash have been known to purchase properties much quicker than that.

Market conditions are a major factor in how fast homes are sold. In hot markets with a lot of sales activity, buying a home may take a little longer than normal. That's because vendors involved in the transaction can get behind when business suddenly picks up. For example, increased demand for home appraisals or inspections does not mean there will be an increase in home appraisers and inspectors themselves. Which in turn will make the turnaround times longer.

What is a seller's market?

A seller's market is where the real estate market favors the home seller in more ways than the buyer. An increase in demand for homes will drive up prices.

Some of the reasons for the increased demand are:

Economic - As the local labor market heats up, an inflow of new residents begin and home prices increase before more inventory can be built.

Interest rates (Decreasing) - As interest rates trend downward it improves home affordability, which in turn creates more buyer interest. This is particularly true for first time home buyers who discover they can afford larger homes.

Interest rates (Increasing) - a short-term spike could encourage hesitant buyers to make a purchase if they think rates will continue to rise.

Inventory -  If fewer homes are available on the market whether from hesitancy of home owners to sell or a lack of new construction - Prices for existing homes typically increase because of the limited inventory.

What is a buyer's market?

A buyer's market is where the real estate market favors the home buyer in more ways than the seller. An increase in inventory of homes will see a drop in home prices.

Some of the reasons for an increase in inventory are:

Economic - a large employer may lay off a portion of their workforce or shut down operations.

Interest rates (Increasing) – An increase in interest rates means the amount of money the people can borrow to buy a home is reduced which in turn will reduce the number of potential buyers.

Interest rates (Decrease)– A short term drop could give borrowers more purchasing power before home prices react to the recent interest rate changes.

Inventory – An increase in inventory when a new subdivision is built can create a drop in prices of older homes nearby especially if they lack the more modern features compared to the new construction.

Natural Disaster - Recent earthquakes, flooding or hurricanes can tank property values in locations where the event occurs.

What credit score do I need to buy a house?

Most loan programs require a FICO score of 620 or better. Because buyers with higher credit scores represent less risk to a lender, they tend to receive better interest rates and require a lower down payment. In contrast, buyers with lower credit scores may be required to offset the lender's risk by accepting a higher interest rate or providing a larger down payment. 

How much do I need for a down payment on a house?

You'll always find yourself in a better position when you can put a large down payment toward the purchase of a home. The typical amount is 20% of the purchase prices of the home. However, there are a number of programs that can mean lower down payments with no penalties. First-time home buyer programs usually only require 3-5% down. VA and USDA loans can be approved with zero down, however there are more restrictions on these loans. If you'd like a great primer on some of the programs available, try reading our article called, "Can Single Mothers Get Help With A Mortgage?"  The title mentions single moms but there's a lot of valuable info on programs for anyone.

What if my offer is rejected?

It's not entirely uncommon for a seller to reject an initial offer. But remember, the deal isn't dead until it's dead. The sellers can initiate a counter-offer and the deal is still alive. Offers and counter-offers can bounce back and forth multiple times. This is common and something we as Realtors® deal with often. The goal with the process is to move the buyer and seller closer to agreeable terms with each revision.

How are pre-qualified and pre-approved different?

Pre-qualification is an informal determination by a lender or mortgage broker stating how much mortgage you can afford.  A pre-approval is a guarantee in writing by a lender to grant you a loan up to a specified amount. A pre-approval is what you need in place for a strong negotiating position before making an offer on a home.

What are the benefits of Home Ownership?

Owning a home has many benefits. When you make a mortgage payment, you're building equity and in turn, building personal wealth. Owning a home also qualifies you for tax breaks that assist you in dealing with your new financial responsibilities–like insurance, real estate taxes, and upkeep.

What are closing costs?

Closing costs are fees and expenses, over and above the price of the property incurred by the buyer and/or the seller in the property ownership transfer.  Examples are title searches, lawyer’s fees, survey charges, deed filing, appraisal fees, etc.

What can I expect to happen on closing day?

On closing day, the closing attorney will review all documentation with you to include the settlement statement. Once you review and understand all the documentation, you’ll sign the mortgage, mortgage note, and lots of other documentation. Once all parties have signed the closing documents, you will be given the keys to your new home! You will be given the title to your new home in the form of a deed. The deed and mortgage will be recorded in the state Registry of Deeds.


For additional research, check out our Glossary of Real Estate Terms for definitions of some of the most commonly used terms.