For Buyers

How to Find Your Dream Home in the Lakes’ Area

How to Find Your Dream Home in the Lakes’ Area

Stauss Realty is The Gold Standard with over 60 years of living in the area and a deep understanding of the region. Explore these pages, see what fires up your imagination, and then contact us to begin tracking down your dream home. 

We’ll ask all the right questions so we completely understand your vision, and then we do all the homework for you. We won’t waste your time looking at homes that won’t suit you, and we won't sell you any property that we're not comfortable with or don't believe is right for you. We can arrange a showing of anything on the market, and we make sure you see all properties that fit your criteria, no matter who has them listed. We want you to do business with us again and refer us to your friends!

How long does it take?
Our schedule is your schedule. Some of our clients find homes they love in a matter of days, others take a more leisurely approach. Our objective is to quickly direct you to property you'll love, but if it takes days and miles, that's not a problem.

What's the market going to do?
Prices for lake real estate are generally firm, with most properties selling within 10% or less, of their list price. While there are always exceptions, it's unrealistic to expect to find many "steals." Demand continues to be strong, giving sellers a fair amount of leverage.

Here are a few of our current predictions

  • Appreciation will continue in any higher quality properties on the water. Prices remain stable in lesser quality properties or developments that are dated, due to the increased inventory.
  • West Lake properties are still strong. East Lake and Big Spirit Lake have remained firm. Prices of condominiums on East Lake have softened due to the inventory.

What happens when we fall in love with a particular property?
Smile and let Stauss Realty help you prepare an offer. We use official forms with additional provisions tailored to your needs.

What about earnest money?
Your offer to purchase is normally presented with a 5%-10% deposit by check or wired-transferred to an attorney's/closing agent's trust account within days of agreement. 

When can we close?
If the seller accepts your offer, you can expect the closing to take place within 30-60 days, depending on your due diligence requirements and financing.

Can we negotiate?
Of course. If the seller counter-offers or rejects your offer, we will help you figure out the next step to take.

How do we arrange financing? 
The majority of buyers secure financing through either local banks or banks they have relationships with back home. Most homes and condominiums valued under $1 million can be financed up to 80% of the purchase price. Terms for loans over $1 million are negotiated individually. With local banks, processing can take just a matter of days. Be prepared to provide three years of tax returns and thorough financial information.

What about closing costs?
In Iowa, buyers pay for a Title Opinion. This will guarantee the seller can convey clear title to you. (In Iowa we have Abstracts, which is a history of the property. The sellers update and pay for the Abstract. The seller also has prepared and pays for the Deed).

Can we do this long distance?
Yes. These days, we handle most closings long distance thanks to FedEx and the wire-transfer system. We will handle all the details of the transaction.

What else will you do for us?
Our culture values loyalty, professionalism, and friendship. In addition to helping you track and find your dream home, we handle all the details, such as:

  • Ordering the appropriate inspections• Working with your lender and the appraiser to make sure your loan is approved in time
  • Conferring with the attorney/closing agent about hundreds of closing details and the preparation of your settlement statement
  • Providing a list of utility numbers for you to call to transfer into your name
  • Making sure you receive a Deed• Remaining your primary source of information and assistance even after closing 

How to Create an Attractive Offer

How to Create an Attractive Offer
Making an offer is probably the most difficult part of the home buying process. You can’t read the seller’s mind and you don't know how much they are willing to negotiate. There is not a magic formula for making a good offer, but these tips will help. 

Make an offer that’s attractive to sellers.
The advice of start low and work up from there is not good advice. You need to make an offer of the highest price you can, back it up with a pre-approval letter for that amount, and make the largest down payment you can afford. A real estate agent should be able to help you figure out the best amounts for each of these depending on the market conditions. Make contingencies you feel are necessary, but don't tack on extras just to have them there.

Let the professionals do the work they are supposed to do.
Whether you are using a real estate agent or not, chances are you have somebody helping you through the negotiation process. Resist the urge to contact the sellers yourself and explain to them personally why they should accept your offer. This is in poor taste and can be counter-productive.

Know how to negotiate.
Keep in mind that buying a house can be a complicated negotiation process. You want to get the best price you can, but not at the expense of any sensitive issues a seller might be facing. If you seem over-aggressive, a seller might reject your offer simply based on attitude. The art of negotiation requires willingness to compromise. Where there are sticking points, sometimes the best strategy is to split the difference down the middle.

Make an equally good counter-offer.
So the seller doesn't like your initial offer but they are making a counter-offer. Very carefully examine the points they want changed and keep in mind that the entire agreement is still negotiable. If they will not yield on the list price, maybe you can compromise by adding the dining room set into the purchase. If they want more time before closing, then maybe you can compromise by having them cover closing costs.

Pay attention to detail.
A purchase agreement comes with a lot of fine print. Ignoring those details can cause a deal to fail, so check everything.

Preparing for Closing

Preparing for Closing
Be careful not to let the excitement of buying a new home distract you from the final stage in the process of buying a property. The closing process can either be a simple procedure or a nightmare depending on your readiness for the day.

An attorney (which we always use), or an escrow company—often your lender—generally executes the closing. Usually 15-30 days before closing, the Abstract will be updated by the seller. Then you will have a Title Opinion prepared by your attorney.

The closing date and time is important because many things are contingent upon it, including your move-in date, closing costs, down payment, tax deductions for annual income tax purposes, and more. Approximately two weeks before your closing date, call all pertinent utility companies. This notice is important to ensure that your service is not interrupted. Ask that the utilities at your old residence are transferred to your new residence or turned off the day of the closing.

After the closing date is set, you should take a pre-closing walk-through. Plan it with enough lead-time to allow the sellers to fix anything unsatisfactory. The house must be in the condition that you agreed to buy it in. 

Approximately two days before the closing, your lender will give you an exact figure, down to the penny, of the funds you will need to bring to closing. This money must be brought in the form or a cashier's check, certified check, or wired from your bank.

The actual closing consists of three parts: reviewing and signing of your loan documents, exchanging of documents, and disbursement of funds. In the first phase when you are signing the documents, be prepared to do a lot of reading and signing. 

The next step involves the signing/exchange of documents by both you and the seller. After both parties have inspected the documents and signed them, the closing agent or attorney provides the final signature.

Finally, the last step is handing over your check. This transfer of funds goes from you, the buyer, to the seller, attorneys, and brokers. 

You have now completed the business of closing. Congratulations on your new home!

Why You Need a Real Estate Agent

Why You Need a Real Estate Agent
The argument that not using an agent saves money is only valid if you can negotiate the price you want without spending countless hours doing so. There are many complexities to buying a home, as well as the liability from overlooked items that can potentially result in costing the buyer or seller thousands of dollars. An agent will do the work on your behalf, including the necessary legal research and house hunting. 

Benefits of an Agent
  • Powerful negotiation skills
  • A good agent can connect you with lenders qualified to meet your specific financial needs and help you determine your range
  • Not every house for sale is actively being advertised
  • An agent has the resources to help you find all available properties
  • Broad understanding of the process of buying a home
  • Sometimes a house can look bad but have lots of potential. Likewise, a house can look nice but contain hidden faults. An experienced agent identifies both.
  • Your real estate agent is the best friend you can have at the closing when papers are exchanged and there is confusion.

Know the difference between a real estate agent and a realtor.A state licensed real estate agent is good, but a realtor licensed by the National Association of Realtors is ideal. Realtors subscribe to a stricter code of ethics and have specialized training by virtue of their national designation.