How to find a great real estate agent

How to find a great real estate agent

Is selling your home on your to-do list in the upcoming year? Do you feel like you missed the “Spring Market” ??

Have you waffled between putting your home on the market as For Sale By Owner? Does the paperwork involved in selling your home give you a headache? Do the words “due diligence” confuse you?

It can be completely overwhelming to look at all of the moving pieces involved with the real estate puzzle. Yet, when you consider hiring a professional real estate agent, a Realtor, the stress can almost immediately start to fade away!

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VA Benefits ID Card

VA Benefits ID Card

Introducing the VA ID card! Are you a Veteran of the United States military, and weary of carrying around your DD 214 for proof of your service? Often times, discounts are available to you if you show proof, or you are eligible for programs and opportunities because of your service. The Veterans Administration has recently introduced an ID Card that can be carried in place of your DD 214. Learn more here!

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How to Tour A Home Like A Pro

How to Tour A Home Like A Pro

You pull into the driveway of a home you have been eyeing online for days and you're ready to tour a home, finally! The exterior looks just as it did on the internet - nice yard and you love the landscaping. So far, so good! Your Realtor opens the front door for you and smiles encouragingly. You step inside and take your first look around. Now what?

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How to find a real estate agent

How to find a real estate agent

Wondering how to find a real estate agent? The process can feel a bit daunting, we know! There are literally hundreds and hundreds of Realtors, how do you wade through the ocean of agents to choose the right real estate agent? Whether you are buying a home, selling or renting, here are 8 simple and practical tips to help you with your decision. (Yes, you should utilize a Realtor when renting, as well! Read our post on that topic here: Do you need a Realtor to Rent)

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How to attend an open house

It can be a lot of fun to attend open house events and begin getting a feel for what you want in your next home! There are certain things you should always remember to do in order to maximize your time during an open house. First, always ask your Realtor for an open house checklist to help you stay focused! If you would like a copy of the one I send my clients, email me at and I'll send it right over!

The eight things I suggest you carefully look at during an open house are:

The neighborhood!

Take notice of whether the neighbors are out, scope out the yards near the home you're touring. Are there dogs? A lot of toys left out? Maybe you notice a lot of grills and outdoor furniture. Even if you don't have children, drive to the neighborhood school after you leave an open house to get a feel for distance and walkability.


Take note of the gutters (if it's raining, check the drain rate) and siding. Is the paint in good shape and how about the siding? Shut the front door when you enter (does it shut solidly and with no daylight showing through?)


Open the drawers and closets to check for depth, width, issues with handles, etc. and look UP while you preview the home, scoping out any water stains on the ceilings.


What is the natural light like throughout the home?

Electric Panels!

Depending on the age of the home, ask the open house agent when the electric panels were updated.


Check out the parking opportunities. Is there assigned parking, or ample street parking?


Look past the staging and current decor of the home. Imagine your things in each room.

Water Pressure!

Flush a toilet and turn on a faucet to gauge the water pressure situation.


This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it will give you a place to start, and a way to stay focused during open house events. If you have any questions or need to find a trusted real estate professional, no matter where you live, feel free to reach out using the contact form below!

Watch my LIVE video on this same topic if you're on Facebook and feel free to share the post with anyone who might find it useful!


Want to reach out? Have a question? Need a Realtor referral?

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How does a buyer's real estate agent get paid?

One of the most common questions we hear  -- when working with first time home buyers -- is “How does a real estate agent get paid?” It's not a discussion that is very typical to be heard out in the open, but we thought we'd bring a little light to the subject!

According to the National Association of Realtors, 88% of home buyers used a real estate agent when buying a home and approximately 91% of homeowners used a Realtor to sell their house. Those are numbers we like to see, because when a buyer or seller is represented by a really great Realtor, it means their rights are represented and the very stressful process of buying or selling becomes much easier to manage for YOU, the client!

In our market (Northern Virginia), the seller most typically pays all real estate commissions. That means if you are a buyer, you get to choose a Realtor to represent your interests at ... virtually no cost to you!

Real Estate Agent Get Paid

Realtors do not get paid until settlement / closing.

When a Realtor works with you  - - as a buyer - -  to find you a home, they know that they will not make a dime unless you purchase a house and use their services to do so. It’s not enough to simply get a contract signed. Real estate agents have to stick with the transaction and make sure that it makes it to the closing table, or they will not get paid. The seller will pay the Realtor fees out of the proceeds from the sale of their home (if there is enough equity). If the deal falls apart before making it to closing, the Realtors will typically never get paid for their work.

Buyer Representation Document.

It is Virginia law that buyers sign a representation document when working with a Realtor. This agreement protects all parties involved and is called an Exclusive Right to Represent Buyer document. You can work out the details regarding the length of the time for the agreement, and you want to make sure that you are comfortable with the terms (how the broker will release you from the agreement, should you choose to), etc.

Broker Compensation.

A standard percentage for a real estate transaction in Northern Virginia is between 5-6% for both sides of the deal. This is usually split equally between the buyer's Realtor and the seller's Realtor. The percentage is figured on the total sales price of the home (or the base price on a new construction home, not including any options or upgrades) and is disbursed by the settlement company (title company / attorney's office) after all parties have signed the appropriate paperwork.

Something that varies from brokers office to brokers office is the "split", the percentage that the Realtor receives, after any agreement that Realtor has with their broker. The question "how does a real estate agent get paid" is not necessarily an easy one to answer, as it depends on what that split is. A Realtor who has a higher split with their brokerage will earn more, however they may have fees to pay in exchange for that split.

The bottom line is, as a buyer, most often, you do not pay for that commission! Be sure to confirm this with your Realtor.

Administrative Fees.

You may be required to pay a minimal admin fee at the time of settlement, often less than $500. Be sure to request that your Realtor identify any fees that you are responsible to pay, at the time you sign your agreement.

How Hard Does Your Agent Work?

Just because you are not paying your Realtor's commission, doesn't mean they shouldn't work extra hard for you! They have only YOUR interests at heart, and they should work to the best of their ability in order to ensure that you are protected, and have all of the education you need to make an informed decision along the way. Your Realtor will work hand in hand with the agent for the seller to ensure that all paperwork is completed on time, deadlines are met and that both parties amicably reach the settlement table.

Any questions on how a real estate agent gets paid? Reach out and let us know! We're happy to help!

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Mortgage PreApproval Guide

Ready to buy a home? Preapproval is the first thing you'll need to get in order, but even before that, there are some things you need to know! Take a look at our mortgage preapproval guide and make sure you follow this set of steps to ensure that you are as prepared as you need to be before you start looking at homes! Approved Stamp  

1. Review your credit report.

2. If there are any issues on your credit report that do not look correct, dispute them right away!

3. Locate your last two years of tax returns and proof of income (W2s or pay stubs), or if you are self-employed, you will need to provide your year to date profit and loss statement. You'll need to repeat this step for anyone else who will be on the mortgage loan, as well.

4. Prepare to have your down payment funds and any closing costs you will be responsible for ready in the bank, and plan to keep it safe from being spent during the transaction!

5. If you are receiving any funds from relatives or as a gift, you will need to be prepared to provide an explanation letter to your mortgage company.

6. If you are a first time homebuyer and have been renting, ask your landlord for a referral letter and gather your recent rent payment receipts to show you have paid on time.

7. You will need to gather some other documents, such as divorce papers, personal identification documents, etc.

8. Income documentation will need to be provided, including all forms (Social Security, alimony, any government assistance, child support, etc.). In addition, any and all retirement accounts or IRAs will need to have proof provided, as well as any stock markets investments or money market accounts.

9. Be prepared to explain any past financial situations such as bankruptcy. You will be requested to provide a written explanation of the situation.

10. No matter what you do, do NOT:

  • Apply for new credit, even if it's a small clothing store credit card!
  • Make large purchases.
  • Close any credit cards.

When you are preapproved initially, your mortgage lender is approving you based on your credit scores at the time. If you have any changes to your credit score, it can impact your ability to purchase your dream home.

Once you have completed all of these steps, congratulations on receiving your preapproval! It is very smart to shop around and discover who will offer the best rates!

Need to talk with a lender you can trust? Message us, we have a short list of some really amazing lenders and loan officers!

How to find a great real estate agent

Is selling your home on your to-do list in the upcoming year? Do you feel like you missed the "Spring Market" ?? Have you waffled between putting your home on the market as For Sale By Owner? Does the paperwork involved in selling your home give you a headache? Do the words "due diligence" confuse you?

It can be completely overwhelming to look at all of the moving pieces involved with the real estate puzzle. Yet, when you consider hiring a professional real estate agent, a Realtor, the stress can almost immediately start to fade away!

SO ... how do you find an GREAT real estate agent? How To Find a Great Real Estate Agent

First, let's talk about what to look for when searching for a great real estate agent:

A great Realtor helps you be realistic about pricing.

First and foremost, your Realtor absolutely needs to be truthful about the current market when discussing the pricing of your home.

There are quite a few real estate agents who will accept a listing ... no matter how far off the mark the seller wants to be with the price. This is NOT good practice. Not only does it affect that real estate agent's "production numbers" when they end up with listings that sit on the market for too long, it also greatly impacts your end goal - selling your home.

When a home is not priced correctly at the beginning, it will most likely absorb extra days "on the market" and you will run the risk of potential buyers wondering what's wrong with the house after too many days on. Be smart and savvy and choose a Realtor who is being forthright with the realistic and true market price and list at the very beginning with an appropriate sales price.

A great Realtor will truly understand and LISTEN to the timing of your family's situation.

Regardless of where you are moving your family, it's going to be stressful. New jobs, schools, friends, perhaps even new climates will need to be adjusted to. When you choose a great real estate agent who has experience (even better if it's their OWN personal experience) of relocating, the sharp edges of this process start to fade away.

It is very important that your Realtor not only have compassion, but also empathy. Look for a Realtor who has a great understanding of the timelines your family will need to meet and the stressors you are likely to encounter.

A great Realtor assists in every way possible to eliminate challenges.

This is also a BIG one! Listen when your Realtor speaks. Are they not only knowledgeable about the market, about the process of selling/buying real estate, but also "on point" when it comes to your local area? Do they have a good rapport with other Realtors in the area? How tough of a negotiator are they? Do relationships matter to them and do they operate with ethics and values that match yours? Do they look ahead of the transaction and help minimize challenges based on their innate knowledge of the situation?

A great Realtor has resources and assets in place to help with the literal moving parts of your relocation.

The timing of your real estate experience is extremely important. More often than not, the sale of your home or the purchase of your next home is not the only transaction happening simultaneously. If you are selling your home, it's possible the buyer for your home has to sell their current home. If you are buying your next home, chances are, the seller has to now find another home ... the domino effect of this situation can be difficult unless your Realtor is right there by your side to make sure all of the moving parts work together in tandem.

A great Realtor can guide you along the process, including top tips for preparing your home and showing to potential buyers so you can SELL your house!!!

Even if the current housing market isn't leaning in your favor at the moment, you should absolutely *lean* on your Realtor to drive the sale of your home. Ask yourself what your Realtor is doing to get the job done. What is your Realtor doing to inject calm and anxiety-free moments during the process for your family? Is your Realtor savvy with all aspects of the transaction, including how to correctly stage your home? Do they know how to offer suggestions about purging and packing away personal items?

Finding a great real estate agent is easier than you might think!

This article on finding a great Realtor talks about eight main things to keep in mind when interviewing for a real estate agent.  It is important to choose several real estate agents and then interview them. This is a big financial decision you are making and finding someone with the right expertise who also is the right fit for your situation is very important.

The 8th & Home Team has established an amazing network of fabulous real estate agents, almost literally the world over. No matter where you are moving to or moving from, we have a recommendation for you! The Realtors in our network have been personally vetted by us, and interviewed to learn about not only their expertise, but their values and ethics, as well as their marketing prowess and their ability to find the right homes for buyers.

If we can be of assistance to you as you look for a great real estate agent, fill out the form below and we'll be in touch!

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Earnest Money Deposit

Earnest Money Deposit 8th & Home

Just what IS Earnest Money Deposit?

There are many terms and acronyms that one will hear during a real estate transaction and "EMD" or Earnest Money Deposit is one of them!

Broken down quite simply, the Earnest Money Deposit is a good faith deposit that is given by the purchaser or a property to the seller. You will make your deposit at the same time you present your offer to the seller. As each state is different, it is very important that you speak with your Realtor© about the ins and outs of this process. Most typically, the funds (usually deposited with your real estate agent's broker or the title company) are deposited into an escrow account.

An escrow account is a bank account that exists for the purpose of holding funds until they are needed, most often at the time of settlement. Once settlement occurs, the deposit is applied to either closing costs, your down payment or returned to you at closing.


Why is Earnest Money Deposit necessary?

When you write an offer to the seller of the home you are interested in purchasing, providing an Earnest Money Deposit shows the seller that you mean business, that you are willing to "put your money where your mouth is" and also allows your offer to stand out above the others, should there be multiple offers received.

If your situation is one of multiple offers, you may want to consider upping the ante a bit and offering a larger EMD. As you begin a relationship with the seller of the property you are interested in, it is important to start off on the right foot.

Contingencies and the Return of the Earnest Money Deposit.

Contingencies protect the buyer through the home buying process. If there are issues with the home inspection, or financing becomes unattainable, etc, contingencies are what exist to allow the buyer to walk away from the contract.  In these cases, the Earnest Money Deposit is typically returned to the buyer. However, if the buyer cancels the contract for a reason not covered by a contingency, the deposit is generally forfeited to the seller.

How Much Will My Earnest Money Deposit Total?

Depending on the area you are purchasing in, the price of your home, and the specifics to your transaction, the Earnest Money Deposit total will vary.  Typically the Earnest Money Deposit is between 1-2% of your sales price. As discussed previously, if you are competing against other offers, you may want to consider a higher EMD.

What are Contract Contingencies?

We cannot stress enough how important it is that you have a trusted and experienced Realtor© when buying a home. Your agent will help you understand all applicable dates for each contingency, as each one can impact the potential return of your deposit. Contingencies are written and utilized to protect both parties, but most specifically, the buyer. Below are some of the typical contingencies written into an offer to purchase a home:

  • Contingent on selling your current home
  • Contingent on a home inspection
  • Contingent on appraisal
  • Contingent on obtaining financing

If you have more questions about the Earnest Money Deposit process, or the steps to purchasing a home, feel free to email us or call for more information!



What is an ASHI Home Inspector

ASHI home inspector Mike Mallott

What IS a home inspection anyway?

Home inspections first began to be preformed in the 1950s as a regular occurrence during real estate transactions. By the early 1970s, home inspections were thought of to be essential to any and all real estate transactions. When you purchase a home, it is in your best interest to know all you can about that home before you sign on the final line!

Put quite simply, a home inspection is a framework designed to detect some of the major flaws or deficiencies in the significant components and systems of a home.

There are many types of certifications that can be held by home inspectors, but we encourage our buyers to only use someone who is certified as an ASHI home inspector (American Society of Home Inspectors). Formed in 1976, the ASHI Standard of Practice holds their home inspectors to a higher level of care. ASHI is the oldest and most respected organization of home inspectors in North America and an ASHI certified home inspector takes pride in his or her ethical performance of home inspectors and works hard to build public awareness of home inspection.

ASHI Code of Ethics and Standards

ASHI’s Code of Ethics stresses the home inspector’s responsibility to report the results of the inspection in a fair, impartial, and professional manner, avoiding conflicts of interest. An ASHI certified home inspector has to complete at least 250 inspections (with fees paid by a homebuyer), in addition to passing written examinations that prove their knowledge of residential construction, defect recognition, inspection techniques, and report-writing, as well as committing to adhere to ASHI’s Standard of Practice for Home Inspections and Code of Ethics.

An ASHI certified home inspector promises to:

  • Act in good faith toward each client and other interested parties.
  • Perform services and express opinions based on genuine conviction and only within their areas of education, training, or experience.
  • Be objective in their reporting and not knowingly understate or overstate the significance of reported conditions.

Often in the real estate industry, a home inspection becomes a laundry list of items that the prospective homebuyer uses to turn a resale home into a "like new" home. It is the job of the professionals involved to help guide and assist all parties with the home inspection process. When working with an ASHI certified home inspector, you can rely on the thoroughness, attention to detail and adherence to the standards set out for the home inspection industry.

Curious about just what a home inspector is looking for when they perform a home inspection? Take a look at this checklist from Checkmark Home Inspection. For more information on Checkmark Home Inspection:


Moving from a Townhome to a Single Family Home

The size and style of a home is one of the first things most Realtors talk to their clients about. "Do you want a single family home or a townhome?" If you currently live in a townhome and are considering the move up process to a single family home, we wanted to provide some insight into the different aspects of moving from a townhome to a single family home.

Home for sale

Yard Size and Lawn Care

The size of your yard can be both a benefit and a detraction. If you are used to, and enjoy not having to spend much time caring for your lawn, a single family home might not be the right fit for your lifestyle. However, the opportunity for a larger outdoor living space can add enjoyment to your daily living (and truth be told, you can always hire out the lawncare!).

The size of your lot can impact your future resale value as well. Be sure to ask your Realtor about the average sizes of lots in the neigborhoods you are interested in, as well as peruse the various footprints to discover the differences in where homes are placed on the lots to get maximum use out of your yard.


Whether it be by virtue of shared parking stalls or common green areas or even the reality that townhomes share walls, moving from a townhome to a single family home means more privacy! Parking with a single family home will often offer at least one dedicated parking space off-street, and in many cases, a dedicated garage with space for storage as well as driveway spaces in addition.

Potomac Crossing 1511 Barksdale Dr NE Leesburg

Homeowners Association Fees

In some cases, the HOA fees (Homeowner Association Fees) may be lower for single family homes because there are not additional fees to cover the repair or replacement of shared roofs or common areas. Many neighborhoods in Northern Virginia have HOA fees, which provide for services such as garbage pickup, snow removal, pool and community membership, etc.  If you are looking to move from a townhome to a single family home, make sure you check the difference in HOA fees between the two options.


Do you already have a pet or plan to have one in the future? Some townhomes restrict the size or type of pets you can have, especially when talking about dogs. Single family homeowners do not have the same restrictions and also often have a greater sized lot for their pet to utilize.


There are many things to think about when considering a move from a townhome to a single family home! Utilize the advice of your Realtor and friends and family when looking at your lifestyle and future needs before making your ultimate decision.


One of our featured listings is a perfect example of what a single family home can offer its residents. This 5 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom home at 1511 Barksdale Drive in Leesburg offers a large fenced back yard, a generous sized deck, a fully finished basement and more. Interested in making Potomac Crossing your new neighborhood?



Trulia and Zilllow

Even if you are not in the market to buy a new home, odds are you have still spent a fair amount of time on the popular real estate search sites, Trulia and Zillow. I am asked often why Realtors are insistent that our clients obtain their real estate data and information from our own sites, when those like Trulia and Zillow are so "pretty" and "easy to use."  Let's dive in to some of the things I don't like about Trulia and Zillow.

Accuracy of Listing Data

I experience this phenomenon so many times: One of our wonderful buyer clients emails to excitedly say "I FOUND it! I found the HOUSE! It's perfect for us!"

I have the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach as I flip my computer tab over to the MRIS (Metropolitan Regional Information Service) and look up the address our client has provided.

zillow trulia search

Sure enough, the home is not active and available on the market. Even though it showed as such on the popular websites Trulia and Zillow, often times those homes are either no longer on the market, have been placed under contract already, or has (yes, this happens) been an intentional and fraudulent entry where the home hasn't even been ON the market in recent days, weeks or even years!

While you may love the look of the popular home search websites, they cannot replace the actual and real live time data of your local Multiple Listing Service. While you do not have direct access to this list, by utilizing the services of a professional Realtor, you can search on their personal websites such as this one: Find Northern Virginia Homes or request your Realtor to set up a "listing alert" which means you will provide parameters and at your request, you will receive up to date information on homes that fit your criteria.

Advertising for Realtors

The other common thing we talk with clients about is the assumed popularity or talent of a particular real estate agent on Trulia and Zillow. We hear things like "Agent Joe Smith MUST be the best around, I see his photo EVERYWHERE!" Contrary to popular belief, the frequent presence of a specific agent on multiple sites and in various locations is likely simply the culmination of many advertising dollars being paid out so that you are given the illusion that the agent's presence equals his ability to serve you and your family in the best way possible.

For example, take a look at one of my listings, 1511 Barksdale Drive SW, Leesburg. I am no where to be found on that listing information, yet those who have paid to be "premium members" (advertising dollars!) show on the left column as though they are associated with the listing somehow.

Trulia 8th and Home


Looking at that same listing of mine on Zillow (at least Zillow shares that I am the listing agent, however, it's in such light gray type that there is little differentiation). This also showcases one of my dislikes about the way Trulia and Zillow highlight the presumed like-ability of an agent's branding/photo selection.


Zillow 8th and Home



Oh the Zestimate. Ask any Realtor what they think about the Zestimate and you will likely hear many groans! From Zillow's website:

“The Zestimate is not an appraisal and you won’t be able to use it in place of an appraisal, though you can certainly share it with real estate professionals. It is a computer-generated estimate of the worth of a house today, given the available data. Zillow does not offer the Zestimate as the basis of any specific real-estate related financial transaction. Our data sources may be incomplete or incorrect; also, we have not physically inspected a specific home. Remember, the Zestimate is a starting point and does not consider all the market intricacies that can determine the actual price a house will sell for.”

Gee thanks Zillow. The piece "you can certainly share it with real estate professionals" is a bit of slap in the face because research has proven that on average the Zestimate numbers are consistently NOT providing the actual value of the home (they are too high about half as often as they are too low).  Studies actually show that the Zestimates are within 5% of the actual value of a home only 50% of the time! Can you imagine if I missed the mark on pricing a home that often?

This latest ad from is pretty clever:

If you are in the market for real time, up to date information about the housing market you are interested in, contact a professional Realtor directly and utilize their time, talent and ability to guide you in your search!

For a look at our brokerage search site visit Find Northern Virginia Houses or simply start here on our own site!