Expert Answers Your Real Estate Questions

James asks…

Suggestions for websites that are similar to craigslist?

my friends and i are looking for a house/condo to rent together, but are having difficulties finding anything. does anyone know of any other websites besides the obvious (,, realtor. com) that could assist in the search???

The Expert answers:

Depends on where you’re located…I found this new website but there aren’t as many users as craigslist yet. You can try posting your specific request for a place there (for free). I’ve seen quite a number of people done that and there’re some real estate agent users too. Good luck!

Nancy asks…

Why are houses in Maryland so expensive when compared to those in other states?

seriously, I went to and I see all these houses in other states for like $20,000/month or less, and the monthly payments to finance are like $300/month or less. But my father is staying with his mother, and I also have to stay there when I am not staying on campus at college. My father really wants to get his own place, but he does not want to have to leave Maryland. But all he gets is like $600/month…and every house I see in Maryland is over $200,000, and the financing is outrageous….I’m talking $800, $900, $1,000/month. And I get the same thing regardless of where in Maryland I search. Every area I search is just as expensive as any other. Granted some areas are expensive in other states, but there are also cheap rural areas in other states. But in Maryland there are no “cheap rural areas”…EVERYTHING is expensive here. Can anyone provide any suggestions as to how my father can get into an inexpensive place of his own in Maryland?
before anyone suggests social services, for that all you can do is put your name on a list and they will call you if they find anything available; there is no garuntee. They also ask you a lot of questions, and my father does not have a job because he like me can’t find one. My mother left him and moved to troy, NY, and he is just looking for a place of his own to stay, perhaps with me, where he can get his thoughts in order. All he needs is a place where the rent is less than $600/month. I just know he will feel a lot better about himself if he has his own place. All he wants is a garunteed place where he knows for a fact he can be there for less than $600/month with no “guesswork” or “waitlist” or any of that social services runaround. Surely there must be some houses that can be financed as they are for less than $600/month somewhere in Maryland. I see them listed all over the place in other states, so why can’t I find any in Maryland? I don’t understand it. I really don’t.

The Expert answers:

Because, right now we are living in the bubble real estate market, and there is a big apreciation in the area of Mariyland, D.C, and Virginia. My suggestion is to wait a little bit, all things that goes high, would go down eventually.

Chris asks…

Which one of these properties, would you say, is best to own horses on?

I do like all the properties, but in order from :
1) Favorite
2) Second Best
3) Not my Favorite
Obviously, there is lots of work involved on these properties, which is why I opted towards less expensive properties. I would be installing fences, fixing, or building stables, and paddocks, as well as renovating, if needed.
It also says that Option Number Two is ‘under repair’, which is probably the reason for the state that it is in now. I have about a $300,000 budget, so there would be the option of fixing up anything that, well, needs fixing!

The Expert answers:

1. I would have to go with Property #3. There is a nice house on it, and there is plenty of flat land you could put a barn/stable on if there isn’t one there already.

2. I would have to go with Property #2. You know for a fact that it has a barn. From the looks of the land, it is a very nice place. But you would need to put a lot of work into the house.

3. Property #1. It’s a nice place, but depending on how many horses you have, it may not be enough. Also, it doesn’t say if there is a barn in place or not.

Edit – Since Property #2 is under construction and you have a $300,000 budget, it’s a toss up between Property #2 and Property #3. They are both very nice places, but Property #3 already has the barn for you to work with. I think I would still choose that one.

Paul asks…

What’s your favorite game or app for your phone?

Preferably something more original than Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter.

BQ: What kind of phone do you have?

I think my all time favorite app is Pandora, then I love looking through listed houses, for no particular reason.
Oh, and I have an iPhone 4s. I’ve had a few Androids and loved them, but Siri swings me in favor of the iPhone.

The Expert answers:

“RedLaser”… A barcode / QR reader. I’ve purchased barcoding software and have coded almost everything on the ranch (animals, tractors & implements, UTVs, cars, etc)… And now I can track maintenance schedules, food supply (human and animal), parts, garden produce, veterinarian schedules, etc !!

BQ – iPhone 4s also… Bought them at commercial cost for the family

Steven asks…

Where can I find forms online to make a real estate contract to buy a home without a realtor?

I need a packet of forms for a good price that will suit my needs to buy a home from someone and neither of us have a realtor. I live in Delaware. Thanks!

The Expert answers:

Why would you want to do that? A Realtors job is to find you the house you want, why would you try to fit that into your busy schedule. Plus you dont have access to the MLS which is going to make it a ton harder for you. You can find Realtors who will take a commission cut to sell you a home, especially in todays market. Its a no brainer to go with a Realtor. If you search a site like and look at the banner advertisement that the Realtors place, you can find an agent who will take a commission cut or give you some sort of rebate.

Donald asks…

How do you find out what land is selling for in a certian area?

We are going to sell our land and house with out going through a realtor. We are going to get an appraisal, but i would also like to know what other properties are going for in our area, not homes, just land. Where would i start looking?

The Expert answers:

Everyone here is saying to use which is very inaccurate, sorry. It will give you a general idea for home prices. However when it comes to raw land the price can really vary.

If you use you can search by zip code and filter for “land only” listings.

Take a look at your appraisal when it is completed. The appraisal will list comparable properties in your area (with homes). The appraiser tries to fit you “in the box” to come up with a value. He’ll find a couple lower priced homes (maybe more sq. Footage home, smaller lot) and couple higher priced homes (larger lots, maybe smaller actual homes). There will be “gross adjustments” on the appraisal to arrive at your home value. They have standard adjustments to account for less/more land or home sq. Footage. Appraising is not an exact science. You can put ten appraisers into a room and they’ll all come up with a different value for your home. As a bank we realize this and allow for a “10% variance” in value. Unfortunately many appraisers are aware of this and will sometimes push the value up 10% unless we decide to slash it before lending on the property.

Your appraisal will also list your “land value” and “cost to rebuild” (home only) in the event of a fire, flood, earthquake, etc. This determines your amount of insurance coverage. You will notice this value is far less than your “actual home value”. The reason is it’s a lot cheaper to build a home when you already own the land. The cost of materials + labor + land value is always below actual “market price” of a fully built home.

Think about how a builder makes profit. He buys a piece of land in your neighborhood and erects a home on it. He then sales the home for “profit” based on market values in your neighborhood. This is known as a “speculative” or “spec home”.

I work for the 2nd largest construction lender in the country. If you are a builder and come to us to for financing to build a spec home we require you to have a minimum 15% profit in the property. An appraiser will perform a “subject to completion” appraisal. The appraiser says if you take this land and build a 2400sq foot home it will be worth $250,000K at completion based on comparable sales in your neighborhood. If you are an “owner-builder” then you get to move in and have immediate 15 or 20%+ or more equity! You took the risk of taking out a construction loan and spent the time and effort so you are rewarded. The builder needs to make a profit because he is a business.

Mary asks…

What is the web address of the official multiple listing service for Tennessee?

I’m looking for the mls website for Tennessee. I don’t want realtor sites, just the mls service website. I’m also interested in Georgia’s. I’m looking to retire in 3 years and would like to move to a cheaper area of the nation other than the Baltimore Washington corridor. I’m looking for someplace that’s progressive politically or socially.

The Expert answers:

You can not access the actual MLS service for particular REALTOR associations it is exclusive to only members. If you are merely looking for the properties listed for sale the National Association of REALTORS has a web site where you can look at any property listed in any area of the US.
Here is their site:
Finding available real estate in the US through REALTORS®:
You also should look at these sites:
FBI: Crime reports for each State:
Statistics on real estate from the Feds:
All US States Constitutions and Web sites:
Search for cities & Counties in the US:
Information on any city in the USA:
Information on any school:
Buying a home an article from AARP:
Buena Suerte

Carol asks…

How do people find fixers and small rentals?

I live in the Twin Cities and I am trying to find out how people go about finding fixers and small rentals. Other than using a realtor what other sources can be used? Looking for some tips, thanks.

The Expert answers:

Look on! Put a low price range in, it will show you every property listed in that city or zip code.

Betty asks…

What do we do as potential buyers at an open house?

My husband and I are in the early home-buying stages and are planning to go to a few open houses this weekend. This is the first time either of us have sought a house to purchase, and we’re wondering what we should be looking for when we visit a home? Is it usually a realtor or the homeowner showing the home? Can we take photos of the house? Do we just walk in the home or should we be greeted? Thanks for any advice!

The Expert answers:

First, go to your banker, taking with you a balance sheet Iwhat you own, and what you owe), and an operating statement for the past year (your revenues and expenses), and find out how much money you can get on a mortgage. Add that to whatever you have for a down payment, and learn what you can afford to pay. The bank may pre-qualify you for a loan of up to a certain amount, and it is useful to have a pre-qualification letter on hand when constructing an offer, as it will show the seller that you are serious.

Second, construct your list of properties to look at. Go to a realtor’s web site, or, and enter search criteria for what you want. You will wind up with a list of interesting properties When I bought a house before the web, I could check out a few dozen properties; after the web, I looked at hundreds. Also, check the newspaper ads for For Sale By Owner (FSBO) places, as these will not show up on realty web sites. ( is starting a service to list FSBO properties, I hear.)

Bring your clipboard and camera, knock, and walk in. Someone (usually a broker, but possibly the homeowner if it is a FSBO) will be there, and may show you around or simply invite you to look around. Begin by appraising how the house would work for you: does the layout suit, is the space appropriate, site okay, yard appropriate, et cetera. Typically there will be a data sheet describing the house, usually with copies available to take; if the house passes your basic sanity check, take one and read it. If you are still okay with the place, it is time to check out the systems. At the top of the list would be HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), you will want to know whether the system is sound, meets your needs, and how much it will cost to run it. Second would be the condition of the roof. Also on the list: plumbing (supply and drains), electrical (panel capacity, suitable circuits and breakers, appropriate fixtures), communications (phone jacks, LAN wiring). When done with this inspection, leave the property and consult with hubby about whether it should be on your final list.

When you have settled on one you like, the next step depends on whether it is a brokered listing or a FSBO. For the former, go to your favorite broker and work with him to write up an offer; for a FSBO, you will need to do this yourself. (Suitable forms for such can be had at stationery supply stores, and if you aren’t familiar with the process, I strongly recommend that you use one; you will never figure out all the details yourself working from scratch.) Your broker (or you, if FSBO) present the offer, and if the seller signs off, you have a deal. More usually, the seller will propose a counter-offer (usually wanting more money than you offered), and now you are bargaining. If you reach agreement, then your broker (or you) takes the agreement to an escrow company to make things actually happen. By the time you have finished the paperwork, you will have signed your name dozens of times. (Which is sad; it required six signatures for me to buy my first house, forty years ago.)

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