Maryland Real Estate FAQ
What to look for in Maryland Real Estate Listings:
How do I find out how much I can afford?
How does buying compare to renting?
What should I look for in a new neighborhood?
Where can I get reports on local schools?
How can I find out what homes are selling for in a certain area?
How can I find out what my tax bill will be?
If I’m relocating, is there any way I can view homes before I arrive?
What do all the real estate ad abbreviations mean?
When I start seeing homes, what should I look for?
How many bedrooms will I need?
What’s a better value, old or new?
What should I bring when looking at homes?
What questions should I ask about each home?
What should I tell my agent about the homes I’ve viewed?
How many homes should I look at before purchasing?
How do I know I’m getting the best value?
Making an Offer, Home Inspections:
What does a home inspector do?
Should I be present during the inspection?
Are there any other inspections I need to have done?
Do I need to use a lawyer to buy a home?
Do I need to talk to an insurance agent?
How do I make an offer?
How much should my initial offer be?
What’s “earnest money” and how much do I need?
Is there any way I can protect myself against emergency
repair bills in my new home?
Closing Maryland Real Estate Listings:
There’s so much to remember before I close. What do I have to do?
What should I look for on my final walk-through?
What will happen at closing?
Is there anything I should do immediately after closing?
Should I move myself or use a moving company?
Can an agent help with the move itself?
Here are all of the answers to the above questions.
If you have a question we haven’t covered here, you can contact
us, and we’ll be happy to help.
Buying a home may seem overwhelming. Even if you’ve been through it many
times, you know that each time presents unique experiences. The
rewards, however can be many.
You don’t have to attempt the process alone! A quality agent has the
training, skills, and the experience to help you through each step
of the process, and make it as smooth, quick, and enjoyable as it
can be. Another advantage is that an agent represents a valuable
source of information about market trends, communities and neighborhoods,
and especially, homes for sale throughout the area. Remember, not
every home seller runs an ad in the local paper or puts a sign up
in the yard. In fact, many homes may sell before they are even advertised.
An agent offers you expertise in his or her market in addition to
complete access to regularly updated information about every home
listed with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Let’s make a list and set priorities in the following three areas:
Location: Are you relocating to a new town because of a new job, or to be
closer to your current job? How will the location of schools, shops,
and transportation affect your choice of communities?
Personal tastes: How large a home do you need? What style of architecture
to you prefer? On what kind of lot? Depending on where you live,
you may have a choice of homes in dozens of styles, sizes, and settings.
How much home can you safely own?
As you consider these, do some research. Drive through neighborhoods
that appeal to you to see what’s available. Read the real estate
listings in the newspaper to learn about current prices in the areas
you’re considering. Talk to friends about the features that you’d
really like to have in your home. The more knowledgeable you become,
the better your final decision is likely to be.
The key word here is right. While there’s certainly no shortage of qualified
agents to choose from, it’s important that you find one who can
fully understand your wants, needs and individual tastes, and whose
personal and professional judgment you respect.
Today’s Maryland Real Estate buyers also have more choices
when it comes to choosing the agent
that can best represent them in a real estate transaction. Until
recent years, virtually all real estate agents involved in a given
transaction worked for the seller. However, a growing number of
today’s home buyers are choosing to be represented by a “buyer’s
agent.” In contrast to traditional agents, a buyer’s agent
represents the buyer exclusively.
Most Maryland real estate companies throughout the United States have both buyer
and seller agency. You should be presented with a disclosure statement
by an agent before any working relationship between the two of you
begins. That statement should explain what a buyer’s agent is and
does, what a seller’s agent is and does, and what dual agency means.
It is very important to remember that real estate firms are governed
by state laws that can vary, and so disclosure laws may also vary.
What’s key is finding a Maryland Real Estate agent that you feel very comfortable with.
We’ve found that affordability is probably the single biggest concern
of today’s first-time home buyers. Given the wide range of media
coverage regularly devoted to the issue, it’s not surprising that
many young families wonder how long it will take them to afford
their first home.
Our advice: Don’t sell yourself short. Talk to your real estate agent.
A good agent is committed to honestly and responsibly working with
you to determine your affordable price range. There are many financing
options available today, and some include low down payments. Your
agent will help find an option that fits your budget, and you may
be surprised at just how much home you can afford.
Renting Maryland Real Estate offers a lifestyle that’s nearly maintenance-free. That may appeal
to you, but consider that renting offers you no equity, no tax benefit,
and most likely no protection against regular rent increases.
If your rent has averaged $700 a month for the last 10 years, you’ve
spent $84,000 with nothing to show for it. Isn’t it time you invested
in yourself instead of your landlord?
Several financing options hold special advantages for first-time buyers
or families with limited cash reserves. FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed
mortgages can minimize or even eliminate your down payment. You
may also consider a lease-purchase agreement, or borrow cash for
a down payment from life insurance, profit-sharing or retirement
In addition to tax deductions you’ll likely receive that can partially
offset the cost of real estate taxes, insurance and home maintenance,
your home may appreciate in value. Say you purchase a home that
costs $100,000. If property increases in value a meager 2% each
year, your potential appreciation in just two years is nearly $4,200.
And thanks to recent changes to the tax code, but subject to certain
restrictions up to 250K/500K if married filing jointly, the profit
you make when you sell the house is tax free as long as you own
the property for a minimum of 24 months.
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. Neighborhood information is only a click away from every listing
on our site. Contact us for your FREE
As for individual neighborhoods within a village or city, there is
no better source of information than your real estate agent. Agents
know the people and the communities they serve, and chances are
they can help you find a neighborhood that really fits your family’s
Again, a good Maryland real estate agent is perhaps your best source. They 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, an agent may even be
able to put you in touch with teachers and principals when you visit
the area. And if you want to do a little searching on your own,
the Internet may also be a good place to start. We can offer you
free information about area school districts.
In most areas, home sales are a matter of public record — you can
get all the information you want about recent sales, including prices
and listing times, by calling the county Recorder of deeds. Complete
reports and additional information are available at our
An easier way is to ask your real estate agent. If you’re interested
in a particular home, an agent 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.
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. If not, ask to see the seller’s receipt.
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
assessor’s office for assistance, or ask your real estate agent.
Today’s Multiple Listing Service — which include up to 90% or more
of the homes listed in any given community — have made it relatively
easy for buyers to access detailed information on homes for sale
practically anywhere in the country.
Abbreviations are a necessity in real estate advertising because so much information
must be communicated in so little space. Some common abbreviations
and their meanings:
for FHA/VA financing
room over garage
sale by owner
you run across any other abbreviations or terms you don’t understand,
don’t be embarrassed — after all, you don’t buy a home every day.
For quick help, check the glossary of real estate terms in the back
of this book. Or simply contact
us — and we’ll be happy to “translate” for you.
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.
you look at each home, pay close attention to these important considerations:
there enough room for you now, and in the near future?
the home’s floor plan right for your family?
there enough storage space?
you have to replace the appliances?
the yard the size that you want?
there enough bathrooms?
much maintenance and/or decorating will you need to do right away?
your present furniture work in this home?
you are married or not, or have kids or not, spare bedrooms come
in handy when family and friends come to stay. And when you’re not
having guests, extra rooms are useful as a library, den, or TV room.
good reason to choose a home with extra bedrooms: Extra space will
make your home more appealing to a larger number of interested buyers
when it comes time to sell.
a matter of personal preference. Both new and older homes offer
distinct advantage, 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. Ask us about
our free home warranty offer.
What should I bring when looking at Maryland Real Estate Listings?
Bring your own:
- Notebook and pen for note-taking
- Flashlight for seeing enclosed areas
- Tape measure for checking room sizes, clearance, etc.
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
If you need to go back to a home for another look, your agent will
be happy to schedule an appointment. Also, be sure to ask any questions
you have about the home, even if you feel you’re being nosy. You
have a right to know.
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
In most cases, your real estate agent will be able to provide you with
detailed information about each home you see.
Tell the agent everything you liked and didn’t like about each home you
see. Don’t be shy about talking about a home’s shortcomings. Is
the home too small for your needs? Let the agent know. Was the home
perfect except for the carpeting? Let the agent know.
However, remember that the real estate agent is frequently paid by and working
for the seller. The seller’s agent is obligated to help secure the
best price for the seller. In addition, agent’s working for the
seller may also report any confidences you share to the seller –
including any willingness to pay a higher price should the seller
not accept your initial offer(s). This is why you may want to be
represented by a buyer’s agent because he/she will keep your input
confidential. A buyer’s agent puts the interests of the buyer –
not the seller – first.
There is no set number of homes you should look at before you decide to
make an offer on one. That’s why providing the agent with as many
details as possible up front 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.
If you’re looking in more than one community, try to make the most
of each house-hunting trip. Stop by the local Maryland Real Estate chamber of commerce
to pick up promotional literature about the community. Or ask the
agent 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 will make
it easier to remember and reach a decision.
A professional Maryland Real Estate appraisal is the best way to tell if a home is priced
fairly. A real estate appraisal is an unbiased opinion of a property’s
value based on its style and appearance, construction quality, usefulness,
and other factors, including the value of comparable properties
nearby. When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will have a professional
real estate appraiser perform an appraisal of the property.
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. A home inspector 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 a Maryland Real Estate inspector immediately after you’ve made an offer on
a home. However, before you sign any written offer, make sure (or
have your attorney 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 Maryland Real Estate 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. 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 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
In choosing a home inspector, consider one that has been certified
as a qualified and experienced member by a trade association. Your
real estate agent may refer you to qualified inspectors in your
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.
In addition to the overall inspection, you may wish to have separate
tests conducted to check for termites, or the presence of radon
gas. Talk to your real estate agent for information about these
tests, and companies in the area that perform them.
Because the legal contracts and other paperwork involved in buying a home
are complex, and can be confusing to the general public, many people
prefer to work with an attorney.
Your attorney will review contracts, make you aware of special considerations
and potential problems, and can accompany you to the closing, to
help make everything go as smoothly as possible.
If you don’t know a real estate attorney, ask your real estate agent
for help. Agents work with many legal professionals every month,
and can provide you with the names of several attorneys in the community.
Yes, and the sooner, the better. Most insurance professionals have a
lot of experience in working with home owners, and can offer useful
tips about home ownership, 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 bring
evidence of a fully-paid policy for your mortgage lender when you
come to closing.
When you’ve found a special Maryland Real Estate you want to call home, you’ll probably
feel excited and a bit nervous. Let the agent know you’re ready
to write an “offer to purchase” — a written document
that declares how much you will pay for the home provided that certain
conditions are met. Because it’s a legally binding contract that
you will sign and date, it may be a good idea to have a lawyer review
it before you sign, or within the grace period noted in the contract.
This is the time when it is most important for you to keep in mind that
the agent is the agent of the seller (unless you are working with
a “buyer’s agent”). As the legal agent of the seller,
the agent is obligated to help the seller get the best price and
he will report to the seller any confidence you share.
It’s best to make your offer without sharing with the agent your willingness
to offer any higher price if the seller does not accept your offer.
Your offer should have a time limit for the sellers to accept, reject
it, or make a counter-offer. If a counter-offer is made, you’ll
have some time to respond. Often, several offers go back and forth
until an offer is accepted, or one party decides to end negotiations.
There is really no rule to use in calculating a realistic offer. Naturally,
the buyer wants the best value and the seller want the best 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 your agent, you should have a good idea
of what the home’s value is in the current market. Consider what
you can afford, and make an offer that you consider to be fair.
Most Maryland Real Estate buyers and sellers negotiate on price, with both sides “giving”
a little until both agree.
At that point, you typically will begin the process of arranging for
an inspection and applying for a Maryland Real Estate mortgage.
When you sign an offer to purchase, your agent will ask you for earnest
money — that is, money that shows you are serious about wanting
to buy. Usually, you will be asked to write a check for 1% to 10%
of the sale price. This money will be held in a special escrow account.
If your offer is accepted, your earnest money will be included as
part of your down payment. If your offer is not accepted, you’ll
get back all your earnest money. But keep in mind that if you back
out, you may forfeit the full amount.
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 have been depleted by your down
payment and moving expenses. For more about home warranties, give
us a call.
Your agent can help you with many of these items:
- Are all the necessary inspections complete?
- Are all the required repairs complete?
- When will you conduct your final walk-through inspection?
- Is your attorney satisfied that title to the property is clear (no
one else has a claim on it)?
- Have you confirmed a date, time, and place for your closing?
- Who will conduct the closing?
- Is your insurance policy paid and ready to go into effect the day
you close? You’ll need a receipt for proof.
- What form of check should you use (and who should it be made out to)
to pay for the closing costs?
- Has your closing agent told you the closing amount?
- Do you have receipts for the items you have already paid for, including
your deposit and inspection fees?
- Bring your checkbook to cover any last minute extras that might have
In most cases, you’ll be given the opportunity to inspect the home
immediately prior to closing. At this time, it’s important to check
on any work the seller agreed to have done in response to your initial
inspection. You should also carefully check the condition of walls
and ceilings from which window treatments, pictures, or any other
attached furnishings have been removed. If you find any problems,
don’t hesitate to bring them up at the closing. It’s the seller’s
responsibility to correct them.
- The lender’s agent will ask for your paid home insurance policy.
- The agent will list the adjustments. These include the money you owe
the seller (the remainder of the down payment, prepaid taxes)
and what the seller owes you (unpaid taxes, prepaid rent).
- You will sign the mortgage. This gives the lender legal rights to
the property if you don’t make your payments.
- You will sign the mortgage note, the promise to repay the loan in
regular monthly payments.
- You will get title from the seller in the form of a signed deed.
- The lender’s agent will collect the closing costs from you and give
you a settlement statement of all the items you have paid for.
- The deed and mortgage will be recorded in the town or county Registry
The first thing you’ll want to do is have the locks changed. Also, put
your deed and other important paperwork from the closing in a secure
place, preferably a safe deposit box. Even though it’s all on file
with the county, it’s smart to know where your copies are and have
access to them at all times.
In almost every case, you can save yourself time and energy by using
a reputable moving company to help you move.
Ask your agent, 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
Work closely with the moving company to coordinate your efforts and your
move will be achieved with maximum efficiency.
Can Maryland Real Estate agents help with the move itself?
Most agents are more than willing to offer advice and assistance
to new homeowners; all you have to do is ask.