Why you Need a Realtor To Help Sell Your Home in Dubuque

For a while now you’ve been planning to sell your home. You finished up the remodeling, emptied out many of the rooms, and you’ve put a fresh coat of paint on the outside. You’re anxious to get it sold, but you also want to get as much out of it as you can. So you decide you’re going to sell it on your own and avoid paying a Realtor a commission. It seems like a good idea at first, but over time it might be a decision you regret.

One would think that putting a sign in the yard that says for sale by owner would be easy to do, especially in a city the size of Dubuque.  Or maybe you live in even smaller communities like Dyersville or Peosta. Whatever the case, how hard can it be to get the word out. Yet, pounding the sign into the ground is the easy part. It’s everything else that can be difficult and which a Realtor can make a lot easier for you. And potentially get you a higher price, as well.

Here are some reasons you want to have a Realtor help sell your home instead of doing it on your own.

A Realtor Can Advise You On What You Can Do To Sell Your Home Quicker

One of the first steps a Realtor will do is to tour the house.  One of the main reasons is that they want to determine the price to list your home at. Yet, they’ll also be looking for things you can do to improve the home and also any red flags that might come up during the final inspections.

An experienced Realtor can provide guidance and suggestions on your home that you might not have thought of. And if they discover potential problems that you will need to fix, it’s better to take care of them right away instead of having something derail a sale at the closing. Most likely they have contractors they’ll refer you to if there are problems you need to address that are experienced and affordable.

They’ll also advise you on how to stage the home so that potential buyers will be immediately attracted to it. It could be simple things that will make your house stand out or items that you can eliminate that might have limited your selling options.

Price Your Home To Sell

As mentioned the Realtors tour of the home will be to determine its size, it’s age, what features they have etc. You may have a price already in mind based on homes that have recently sold in your neighborhood. Are their factors in those other homes, however, you didn’t consider or weren’t even aware of? You could be overpricing your home based on limited information or worse, underpricing it. Your goal in selling your home is most likely to sell your home as quickly as possible and at the best price.  This is why the extensive research they do will help you to price your home to sell.

Get Your Home the Most Exposure

The for sale sign might attract the attention of a few passerby’s, but even you know you need more than that. You might consider taking an ad out in the Telegraph Herald, as well, which will also help. Yet, the majority of people today search online for homes. For some it’s because they live out of state and just moving to the Dubuque area.  Yet even locals will look online because its more convenient and time saving.

So you need to get your site on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and maybe directories like Zillow or Trulia.  Some of this you can do on your own, but often it takes time and money to do it. And you’ll also need to have photos to work with, of the rooms in the house and the exterior.

Yet, a Realtor often has access to other ways to get your home found. For example, the American Realty site is on the first page of Google and Bing and it has searches every day for homes for sale on its site. People from all over the country.

Realtors also network with one another and when a house becomes available, the other Realtors in the area soon know about it and can alert their clients who might be in the prime candidates for your home.

Schedule the Showings and Open House

Once the word is out on your house, then it’s time for people to begin going through it. If you’re doing it yourself, then you need to field each and every one of these calls and emails. If you’re working during the day, then you’ll want to get back to them as soon as you can.  Respond too slowly and you might end up losing potential candidates. Or you might schedule a showing with a family and then no one shows up at the scheduled time.

And if you really want to get foot traffic, you’ll want to have an open house.  That means getting the word out and also having flyers for people when they arrive on the home.

Having a Realtor means they do all of the scheduling and marketing. They know you’re schedule and can work around it when they want to show the home. They’ll respond timely to all requests.

Help With Negotiations and the Closing Process.

Bids are starting to come in and you are excited to take offers. Yet, you have to read the fine print of the offers and make sure there aren’t contingencies to the bid. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to get a bid for the full asking price or maybe even higher. Yet, if not, then you want to make a counteroffer, something a Realtor can advise on.

Once you receive and accept an offer it would seem like everything is in the clear. Yet, there is still a lot to do before the paperwork is signed. There are inspections (read our 4-part article just on inspections alone), both on behalf of the buyer and their loaning institution.  If anything major turns up it could impact the sale, but even if there isn’t, there could be requests from the buyers you might not expect.

There are legal aspects, as well. You’ll have to bring an attorney in at some point. You need to have disclosed any potential issues about the home and if you haven’t there could be repercussions later.

Help You With Complications That Arise

Throughout the process things can change or unexpected things occur. Nothing is definite until everything is signed and that can be a month or two down the road. It can be overwhelming for some people, which is why having a Realtor to handle and explain the situation is helpful.

There are many people who successfully sell their homes by themselves, but most likely they’ve done their homework and are willing to put in all the time necessary to learn the process. Yet, a number of them will soon give up at some point and bring in a Realtor.

If you’re looking to sell your home in the Dubuque area and thinking of doing it yourself, you might want to at least schedule an interview with a Realtor. You might realize the value they can bring to the process. Feel free to contact an agent at American Realty to discuss your home.

The Home Inspection Process in Dubuque Part 3

This is the third in a four-part series we’re doing on home inspections. In the first part we focused on all the inspections that take place, while in the second we focused on an actual inspection addendum. in this entry we’ll look at how to review the inspections you receive.

So you have an accepted offer on your dream home and your home inspector sends you his report. First, make sure your Realtor has also received a copy of the report. Sit down with your Realtor and review the report. Bear in mind you are under a time constraint here – you need to respond to the seller within the agreed to time frame.

OK, a number of things showed up on the inspection – as they usually do. I always recommend

Builder And Inspector Looking At New Property

categorizing these issues into two categories – I call them “minor” issues and “major issues”. A minor issue might be a torn screen or a missing window crank etc. and a major issue might be a furnace with a cracked heat exchanger etc.

My advice to my buyers is not to worry too much about the minor issues and address the major issues. Be aware that sometimes major issues pointed out by an inspector turn out to be minor issues. For instance, there might be a small amount of mold in the corner of the basement; about the size of your thumb. The inspector tags the house as “having mold”. Well, most likely the house is not infected with mold (accept for that small spot) and the issue can be remedied easily.

So after your discussion with your Realtor you need to decide how you are going to respond to the seller. If you got a great deal on the house, the seller may not be very willing to make the repairs you request. If not, you will need to decide what direction you wish to take.

That said, you will need to make a written response to the seller. If you are not requesting any repairs that’s what the response should say. Then you might not need to read what follows. If you are requesting the seller to make repairs, then read on.

Take a look at the “Response to inspection” form we us in the Dubuque market – read it over. This form can be used to respond to multiple inspections. Notice under “BUYERS RESPONSE” that it says (2nd paragraph) “In order for the Buyer to proceed with the Purchase contract they require seller to”: – this is where you will list the repairs you are requesting the seller to make. Your realtor will guide you through the proper use of this form. So you list repairs 1. 2., & 3. whatever they might be.

Your Realtor will see that the response form is presented to the seller.

Under “SELLER’S RESPONSE” the seller has 3 options: 1. “To complete the repairs requested”; 2. “Not to complete the repairs you request”; or 3. “Other” – for instance the seller says I will make repairs 1 & 2 but not repair 3. If they choose 1 then no further negotiation is required. If they choose 2 or 3 then the form is returned to you for a decision on how you want to proceed.

Your options will be 1. “Accept the seller’s response” 2. “Reject the seller’s response” or 3. “Submit another response form requesting different procedures for the seller to complete in order for you to move forward with the purchase”. If you select 2 then negotiations end and you go your merry way –without the property. If you select 3 then you are leaving negotiations open and hopefully you can arrive at an agreement with the seller as far as repairs go.

Unless there is an overwhelming reason, I rarely recommend that a buyer not negotiate requested repairs with a seller.

So there you have it!!  At this point, whether or not you move on toward closing on your new home depends on whether or not you are willing to negotiate inspection repairs if the seller is not willing to make the repairs, or is willing to make some of the repairs you request but not all of them.

I have seen many buyers lose their dream home because of requested inspection repairs. Remember, no house is perfect – not even newly constructed homes. It seems the older the house the more apt you are to encounter some issues. Be reasonable in your negotiations and you will usually be successful.

Next time we will wrap up this series with a summary of what we have talked about in regard to inspections.

10 Reasons You’ll Love Moving To Dubuque Iowa

Are you looking to buy a home soon in Dubuque Iowa? Maybe you’re getting transferred here or you just found a new job. Or maybe you are moving to Dubuque because of someone you know. Whatever the reason for moving to Dubuque, you’re going to love it.

If your image of Iowa cities is that they’re flat open areas with a lot of corn you’re going to be in for a surprise. Yes, we have farms in the area and many do grow corn. But Dubuque is anything but flat.  And it has a lot of attractions one wouldn’t expect in a city the size of Dubuque.

Here are 10 Reasons You’ll Love Moving to Dubuque

  1. Its an Award Winning City.

Each year it seems Dubuque is being honored by some national organization.  Last year it was recognized for its cultural diversity and in the past is has been regularly chosen as one of All American City. Its waterfront was chosen by the USA Today as one of the best in the United States.

  1. It has the Mississippi River

What drew early travelers to the area, and which continues to draw tourists, is the Mississippi River. There are paddle-wheels and dinner cruises that take you along the river. In addition to boating you can fish along its shores or go biking. You can walk along the river or take part in dragon boat races. On the 3rd of July you can watch fireworks explode above it. And in the fall you can take in all the bright colors of trees not just in Iowa, but across the way at Illinois and Wisconsin.

  1. It has the Mississippi River Museum

One of the sites that has made Dubuque one of the top tourist attractions in the area is the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. The museum has both indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as 12 aquariums. There are interactive exhibits and a 4D movie theater. It’s also associated with the Smithsonian Museum so it has constantly changing displays from everything from the Titanic to dinosaurs.

  1. It’s a Kid Friendly Environment

In addition to being able to take your children to the museum, there is also much to do to keep them busy. There are baseball, softball, soccer, and basketball programs for boys and girls. In the fall there is Pop Warner for boys.

The Grand Harbor Waterpark and Resort has a 25,000 square foot indoor waterpark that children can enjoy year round. And there are two public pools they can enjoy in the summer.

If your child likes to perform on stage, then there are plenty of opportunities for them to act. There are two summer theater programs that offer a number of musicals that children can try out for.

  1. There are plenty of parks

If you’re looking for a more subdued way to take in the breathtaking scenery there are a number of parks in the city, including Eagle Point which overlooks the river. The Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is such a beautiful location you can almost always find a wedding party using the flower garden as a backdrop for photographs. In the winter, Murphy Park is transformed into a Christmas light display.

  1. It’s a very social city

During the summer there seemingly is an outdoor concert every weekend at which people gather and drink and eat. Four times a year All That Jazz takes place in downtown Dubuque, while the rest of the year various other outdoor concert events occur.

Every Saturday people go to the Farmer’s Market to get locally made produce and goods or have some freshly made breakfast.

  1. It’s a Historic City

Dubuque is the oldest city in Iowa and is named after a French explorer who discovered the city in the 1780s.  Julien Dubuque’s grave is along the bluffs of the river. The Shot Tower dates back to the Civil War, while there are many Victorian homes that date back to 1800’s. The Fenelon Place Elevator is the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway and is over a 100 years old.

  1. Plenty of Outdoor Activities

One of the advantages of there being so many hills in the area, is that Dubuque has one of the best skiing resorts in the Midwest. There are biking and hiking trails in the area, including a 26-mile trail.  There are a number of golf courses in the area that challenge golfers in their own unique way.

  1. Casinos and Gaming

The Diamond Jo Casino has slots and gaming tables, as well as a bar that hosts weekend live entertainment. It also has a 26-lane bowling alley. The Iowa Greyhound Park has live dog racing in the summer, but slots and table games all the year.

  1. Places To Eat

There are many dining opportunities in Dubuque from locally owned restaurants to many popular chains. You can find great Italian food, some delicious Chinese, and some authentic Mexican restaurants.

If you’re moving to Dubuque, then you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised when you get here. In addition to the many things to do in the area, there are many beautiful homes for sale. If you’d like to get a tour of the city and begin looking for a home to buy, then contact one of the Realtors at American Realty. We know the city and its many attractions, as well as the housing market.

9 Decisions to Make When Buying A Home

There are few bigger decisions a person can make than purchasing a home. It’s not just the amount of money you’re investing, but also the impact it will have on you and your family’s life.  If you make the wrong decision it could be something you will have to live with for years or worse end

Home Buying in Dubuque

Buying A Home In Dubuque

up losing because it’s something you couldn’t afford or had issues you were unaware of.

If you’re looking to buy a home soon in Eastern Iowa and in the Dubuque area, in particular, then here are some things to consider before you ever sign a contract. It will help to make the buying process that much easier.

What Can You Afford?

The best option is to meet with a mortgage broker to find out what you can afford. In fact, if you can get pre-approved that will make your home buying process that much smoother. After reviewing your financial data, the mortgage agent will likely give you a price range that you can afford. Consider the number carefully, as even with their recommendation you still want to decide how much you’re comfortable with. Then use this as the top of your price range when searching for a home.

Also when it comes to your mortgage get a few estimates to not just get the best rate, but the best closing costs.

Who do you want as a real estate agent?

This is another big decision, as you want someone you can trust, who is an experienced Realtor, and who knows the area. You might be considering to do this without a Realtor, but the advantages they bring outweigh the costs. They can let you know when a home that meets your criteria is immediately on the market. You could be looking at a home before it’s even in the newspaper. They can also make recommendations as you go through a property and help guide you through the entire process.

Where do you want to live?

This might not be as big an issue in Dubuque as it could be in a major city where your commute time could be lengthy depending on where you work. Still, even in Dubuque, you might want something close to where you work or in a specific school district. Maybe you want something in the city or in one of the many beautiful little towns surrounding Dubuque, like Peosta or Dyersville.

What are you doing with your current home, if you have one.

If you currently have a home, then is the purchase of a new home contingent on the old home being sold first or will you carry a bridge loan for both properties. Either way there are factors to consider, such as where you will stay between homes, if necessary, or how long can you afford to pay two loans. Selling your home might be a contingency on the new home.

How fast do you have to move in?

This could be related to the sale of your home or that you are just moving to the Dubuque area and need something quick.  You might find the home of your dreams only to find that the homeowners may not be ready to move out right away. They could be waiting on their own home purchase. If taking possession of a home in a set time is important, then let your Realtor know this.

What features mean the most for your new home?

You might have a wish list for your new home, but which ones are the most important. Is it a big backyard or an open design in the living quarters? How many bedrooms do you need and do you want a finished basement? Perhaps you find a home that has all the items you wish for, but if not, which ones are the deciding factors if you can’t have everything.

How much work are you willing to do?

Maybe you’re willing to sacrifice some of the items on your list because you can make some of the changes yourself. Or maybe the home’s interior has colors that don’t appeal to you. Will you have time to paint them yourself or to do some remodeling. Also what about the yard work. Is the lawn too big for you to take care of or will getting rid of all the snow on the sidewalk and driveway every winter?

Will your life be different in a few years?

Part of that wish list could be a certain number of bedrooms. Yet, if you’re going to be having more kids in a few years, will the new home be able to accommodate them. Or will people be moving out soon and you’ll be left with a place bigger than you need. Most likely this will be a long term investment so you have to think that way.

Are there any flaws in the homes and if so, what to do about them?

Once you’ve found a home and put in a bid that’s been accepted, there are still a few items to be completed. One of these is an inspection of the home. The home inspector is acting on your behalf and will prepare a report for you to review. Most of the findings might be small things, but some might be more significant. Some the mortgage company might even require to be taken care of before closing. And some could be significant enough to impact your offer. The chances of this happening are small, but if they do occur your Realtor can help you through the process.

Read our series on home inspections to learn more about the process.

If you’re planning to start looking for a home soon, then contact American Realty. We serve Dubuque, as well as Asbury, Bellevue, Guttenberg, Balltown, Holy Cross, Sherrill, Peosta, Dyersville, Farley, Sageville, Rickardsville, Bankston, Bernard, East Dubuque, Galena, and Epworth. We’ll have one of our agents meet you with to go over your list and help you find the home that you want. Call us today at (563) 556-4577.


As I mentioned in the first part of this series, there are a number of documents for both sellers and buyers to review in the home sales process. In this we’ll take a look at an actual inspection addendum we use in our Dubuque market. You can view the document by clicking this sample Addendum

The home addendum covers items that the home inspection revealed which were not disclosed by the owners. If you haven’t already, read the first entry in this series in which I go into more detail about what the addendum is.

If you look at this document you will see some of the verbiage we referred to in the first part of this series. Halfway down the first page, the document begins to recite the various inspections a buyer may ask for. The option for the buyer is to either have a particular inspection or decline that opportunity – the choice is theirs.

You will note that each type of inspection has some kind of time line connected with it. For instance, the home inspection – on or before a certain date or within a certain number of days after a certain event occurs – like acceptance of the buyers offer or arranging financing etc.

Home Inspection

The time line for the pest inspection however is on or before a certain date or no later than a certain number of days prior to closing. You want to be careful when choosing these particular dates.

If you move down to the lead-based paint inspection you will see that it would need to be completed by 9 P.M. on the 10th calendar day after acceptance of the purchase contract by the seller.

The septic inspection, since it is required by state law (in Iowa) for certain properties, has its own timelines depending on circumstances.

Take a look at page 3, number 7 RIGHT TO CURE/REPAIR. If the “no exceptions” (a) box is checked and the inspection points out a defect that the seller is willing to correct, then the buyer cannot terminate the contract because of that defect. However, if the (b) box is checked and there are any conditions noted there – like “structural damage or termite” then the buyer would have the right to terminate the contract, even if the seller is willing to remedy the problem.

Especially take a look at number 8 of page 3. This is extremely important. It deals with a sellers or buyers failure to respond within the required time periods. Be sure to read it over.

This inspection addendum is one of many you might find in use across the country. Inspection agreements, whichever one is used in your market, should be designed to accomplish the same thing – to protect all parties to a transaction.


In the third entry of this series we will talk a bit about how a buyer might respond to a seller if an inspection(s) point out defects in a property.


How Buyers Searching For Homes For Sale In Dubuque Has Changed Dramatically

Selling a home in Dubuque is more than putting a sign out front saying home for sale by owner. That might work if someone happens to drive by that is in the market to buy, is in your price range, and hoping to relocate in your neighborhood. People seldom drive around anymore looking for a home. Instead they do most of their searching from the comfort of their home.

Buyers Search Online

Searching for Homes

The internet has changed the way people search for homes. According to one recent report, 45% of home buyers begin their search online.  And 90% use the internet at some point in their search.

One of the main reasons for the increase in online usage is that there are so many advantages to looking online. Especially compared to a newspaper ad that has a photo of the home’s exterior and a few lines of description about the home. They can scroll through numerous color images of a home and have a detailed description of it. According to Realtor.com, of those that used the internet 89% found photos and 85% found detailed information for sale to be very useful.

When they search on homes, one of the first places they go to is Google to find home listings. The majority of these searches won’t go past the first page. This means that you want your home listed in online tools such as Realtor.com and Zillow. You also want to know that if you do go with a real estate agency, that their site is also on the first page of Google and Bing for Dubuque real estate. This ensures you’re getting the most maximum exposure for your home.

Mobile phones have also impacted how people search for homes. Now they search for homes while they are out going to open houses, looking for real estate listings close to their current location. They can also look up online to see its cost and what the interior looks like. They could fall in love with your home even before they’ve stepped out of their car.

They Still Look To Realtors For Help Searching

Despite the rise in online usage, having a Realtor is still critical to the buying process. Based on a survey by Realtor.com, 17% of home buyers contacted a Realtor even before they started searching.  And 88% of new home buyers purchased their home through a Realtor, with the main reason that they could rely on them to find the right home.

One benefit to using a Realtor is that they can let other Realtors know about your listings the minute it comes on the market. By the time the morning newspaper has come out you might have had 3 showings already.

Yet, its more than just helping with finding a home that people look to Realtors. It’s to help them through the process, from negotiating price to navigating all the paperwork involved.

Finally, they can help with Open Houses, which is still crucial for getting potential buyers into a home.

People Still Rely on The Newspaper, But Not As Much

The importance of print media has dropped over the years. According to Propertiesonly.com only 20% of buyers used the newspaper to look for a home in 2015, down from 48% just seven years ago. While these numbers are down from what they were in the past, they still represent a good number of buyers. Having your home listed in the newspaper still has its benefits, particularly in a community the size of Dubuque.

As you can see from this graphic, potential home buyer use a lot of resources to look for a home and how they search has changed significantly.

If you’re looking to sell a home in the Dubuque area, then consider American Realty. We use a number of sources from online advertising to print ads to get your property exposure. Contact our office today to speak with one of our experienced Realtors.


With the buying or selling of real estate there are a lot of forms to review and activities to be completed before a sale is complete. Among these are a number of inspections. The inspection process is often misunderstood by buyers, sellers, and even sometimes agents. It can also be different from state to state. Some states require some type of inspections in order for title to pass from buyer to seller. For instance, in Iowa there is a state mandated septic inspection.

What a home inspection involves in Dubuque

What a home inspection involves in Dubuque

Since the inspection process is so complex, and yet so important for both buyers and sellers we are doing a four-part series in which we break it down to make it easier for you to understand.

Inspections should not be used as a negotiation ploy to get a lower price. I’ve actually had buyers whose attitudes were; we will make an offer and then beat them down when we get the inspection results. This not only doesn’t work, but can backfire. Many of these buyers lost out on some very nice properties.

Remember, there are different inspection forms used in different parts of the state or country. One of the key things in getting the most out of an inspection is understanding the process and the language used in a particular inspection document. For this discussion I’ll focus on a form that is commonly used in Dubuque. We won’t go over it word for word but will concentrate on important points.

Be aware that any inspections a buyer requires will need to be completed within the required time frame recited on the document. Sellers need to respond to buyer’s requests for repairs within a required time frame as well – “time is of the essence”. If neither buyer nor seller meets these deadlines, they will be out of luck as we’ll see.

One of the first statements in the inspection addendum is “any inspection(s) only cover conditions of the property not previously disclosed”. This means that if the seller or their agent has already disclosed a defect or condition of the property, then the buyer can’t ask for this to be remedied if it shows up in the inspection report. They also can’t void the purchase contract for the same reason. The only way they could remedy a pre-existing problem is if they had made the original offer contingent on the repairs being made.

The document also states that “items that have reached or exceed their normal useful life, so long as they are in working order that is not a basis for finding those items are defective”. For example, the inspector notes that the furnace has reached its normal useful life (it’s old) but that it is in good working order. The buyer can’t require the seller to install a new furnace nor can the buyer void the contract because of that (age) condition.

Both buyers and sellers will be asked to initial the document verifying that they acknowledge the above information.

I can’t emphasize enough that buyers only have a certain time period in which to have the inspection ordered (buyers order their own inspections), completed, and submitted to the seller. Likewise, sellers, when asked by buyers to complete certain repairs etc. will have a similar response requirement.

The document states that if either the buyers, or the sellers, do not respond on a timely basis then each could be impacted. The buyer will be required to take the property in “as is” condition while, if it’s the sellers that is late, then they will be required to make all repairs requested by the buyer.

If an inspection reveals a defect that has not been previously disclosed, and which the buyer considers serious, then the buyer should ask the seller to remedy the problem. Again since “time is of the essence”, the seller only has a certain time period to respond to the buyer’s request. They will have three choices:

  1. Make the repairs as requested
  2. Not make any of the repairs requested
  3. Offer some other solution – like make only some of the repairs, or pay a cash amount at closing to allow the buyer to make the repairs, etc.

If the seller chooses 2 or 3 as their response the buyer can:

  1. Accept that response
  2. Reject the response and declare the purchase contract void
  3. Submit another response requesting different procedures for the seller to complete in order for the buyer to move forward.

The objective of the inspection response form is to keep negotiations open between the buyer and seller until they reach an agreement. Or one of them makes the decision to cease negotiations.

If done right it will work smoothly

In part 2 of this series we will take a look at the addendum


If you finally found the home of your dreams at a price you can afford then congratulations!!  It is an exciting time for you and your family. Even though the seller has accepted your offer remember nothing is final until you go to the closing table and get a deed from the seller and make your final payment to the seller. And just like the seller, you need to jump through a few “hoops” before you Buying A Home - Closingcan make the journey to the closing table.

Pre-approval- Before you even start looking at homes contact your lender and get a pre-approval letter. It is our recommendation to use a local lender. Our experience is that the use of internet lenders or out of state lenders can cause huge problems when it comes time to close.

Disclosures- The seller should supply you with disclosures that are required by law. They should be complete and an honest representation as to the condition of the sellers property. If you don’t get a disclosure from the seller you can demand on at any time. See chapter 558.A of the Iowa code.

Loan application- Unless you are paying cash after you have a signed agreement with a seller immediately contact your lender and make an appointment to make a loan application. After you have made loan application do not make any major purchases (i.e. a car, wedding ring, etc.) and do nothing to jeopardize your credit score.

Pre-Approval For Home Buyers

Pre-Approval For Home Buyers

Appraisal- Unless you are paying cash for your new house your lender will require that you pay for a certified appraisal to determine that the value is in line with the purchase price. If the appraisal is in excess of the purchase price great!! But if it’s less, then you will need to make a decision as to how you want to proceed. You will probably want to negotiate with the seller. Maybe not; but if so (and you want to move forward with the purchase) you should be prepared to pay the difference between the purchase price and the appraised value.

Inspections- Order your inspections early. We always recommend that the buyer make their offers subject to inspections – whichever ones they feel are necessary. The decision is up to you. Most common are home inspection, Radon inspection, Pest inspection, and maybe a water quality (if on a well) and septic (if served by a septic system). By the way, in Iowa septic inspections are mandatory when certain properties are sold. I have yet to see a home inspection (even on new houses) that did not point out some defect or “condition” of the property. As a buyer you need to realize that pre occupied homes are not going to be perfect. What you should be looking for are big ticket items or items of safety. And remember a home inspection is just the inspectors “opinion”. They, like the rest of us, are not infallible. If you think a defect needs to be corrected you can require the seller to do that in order for you to proceed with the purchase. If they won’t, and will not negotiate with you, it will be your option to void the purchase contract.

Subject to sale- So you have found the prefect house but you can’t buy it without first selling your present house!!  Remember you are in a competitive environment. You may be competing with other buyers who don’t have a house to sell and therefore their offer will look better than yours  If you can entice the seller to accept your offer “subject to the sale” of your home most likely they will want to have the right to continue to show their home to other buyers and if they come up with another offer they will want the right to give you notice and then you will have a minimal time (usually a few days) to try to come up with the funds to proceed without having to sell your home. This can be a very involved process and you must exercise extreme caution. You need to make up your mind early in the game that if this happens, that’s just the way it is and then deal with it. You might lose a home or two if you need to make your offer subject to the sale of your house.

Your attorney’s opinion- Once all the contingencies on your purchase contract have been removed your attorney will “read” the abstract for you. He/she will issue a written opinion as to the quality of the title to the property you are buying. Noted on the opinion will be any liens, encumbrances, etc. that are a cloud on the title. You should read the opinion yourself and if you don’t understand anything ask. Any title objections should be cleared up prior to going to closing.

Deed- When you close you will receive a deed from the seller. This is the document that will pass title from the seller to you. The deed must be recorded at the county recorder’s office.

Final walk through- You should do a final walk through of the property just prior to closing. You will want to check the following at a minimum: 1. Is the property in reasonable condition? 2. If the seller agreed to make repairs etc. have they been made? 3. Has all personal property that was not to be left as part of the sale been removed? If he answer to any of these is “no” then contact the seller immediately and inquire as to why.

So there you have it. A synopsis of what is involved in buying and selling a home. For us, taking our buyers to view properties is the easy part. Actually anyone can do that. The critical part of real estate transactions is from the point where an offer is drawn up to the point the buyer & seller walk away from the closing table – both happy.

In this process listen to the advice you will receive from your real estate professional, your lender, your lawyer, and anyone else who might be involved in the process. Even though you hire all of these people to represent your best interests be proactive in the process. It will make for a much smoother transaction from beginning to end.

Are you planning to sell your home in order to purchase your new home. Then read our blog on closing on a home in Dubuque, a seller’s perspective.

If your are planning to buy or sell a home, or both, and looking for help, then contact American Realty of Dubuque. We’ll put you in touch with an experienced Realtor to help you with the process.



Buying/selling a home is a big event for both buyer & seller. It often represents a major change for two families. If you are about to close on a home purchase/sale, then you should be aware of what will take place. There are things both sides should know about closing a home sale in the Dubuque real estate market – and it’s best to know these things before the fact. This is what to know if you’re the seller closing on a home sale. To learn about what to expect when buying a home in Dubuque, click here.


If you have sold your home then congratulations!! And if you have moved out of your home already then most of the work has probably been appropriately done. However, even though you may

Closing On A Home In Dubuque

Closing On A Home In Dubuque

have accepted an offer on your home, remember, nothing is final until you go to the closing table and you give the buyer a deed (which transfers title to your home to the buyer) and the buyer pays you the balance of the agreed upon price for your home. In the meantime there are a number of “hoops” that you will have to jump through in order to get to that point.

Disclosures- Be aware that as a seller you are required by state law to make a disclosure (for certain residential properties) to buyers as to the condition of your property. Also, there is a federal law that requires you to make a lead based paint disclosure if your property is pre 1978. Chapter 558.A of the Iowa code address disclosure.

Appraisal- Unless the buyer has agreed to pay you cash, and will not require that fair market value be established by an appraisal, the sale will most likely be subject to your home appraising at the agreed upon price. The buyer will pay the cost of the appraisal. If the property does not appraise (and the buyer is not willing to pay the difference) then you and the buyer  must negotiate a different price or the transaction will probably fall apart.

Inspections- There is a 99+ percent chance that your buyer will require inspections. Home inspection, radon inspection, pest inspection etc., and if you are on a well & or septic possibly

Closing on a Home In Dubuque

A Home Inspection Is Part of a Home Closing

those inspections also. In Iowa the sale of certain properties require a septic inspection. Without going into too much detail this is how it works. The buyer pays for whatever inspections they feel are necessary. If any of the inspections fail the buyer will probably ask you to make certain repairs etc. in order for the buyer to proceed with the purchase. If you are not willing to make the requested repairs etc., or negotiate them, then it is the buyer’s option to void the purchase contract.

Subject to sale- Sometimes in order for the buyer to proceed with the purchase of your home they need to sell their existing home to release their equity so they will have the down payment in order to obtain a mortgage loan and move forward with the purchase of your home. This can be  very involved and risky. In a nutshell what it means to you is that you will probably have the right to continue to market your home and if you come up with an acceptable offer from another buyer you give the first buyer notice and they have a certain length of time (usually a few days) to come up with the money to move forward with the purchase. If they cannot then your contract with them is terminated and you are free to proceed with the second buyer.

Buyer’s final loan approval- Even though the buyer probably supplied you  with a “pre-approval” letter from their lender before you start to think about closing you need to see a final loan approval (in writing) from the buyers lender. Be aware that in almost all instances the final approval letter will be subject to certain “conditions”.

Attorney’s opinion- Once all the contingencies on the purchase contract have been removed (in writing) then you can think about moving toward closing. The first order of business here is to have the abstract updated and sent to the buyer’s attorney so he/she can render their “opinion” as to the marketability of title. The opinion will point out all liens, encumbrances, etc. against the property. Unexpected liens etc. will have to be worked out to the satisfaction of the buyer’s attorney before you can close. Most sellers think their titles are clean. But, you would be surprised how many title problems come up when the buyer’s attorney reads the abstract. We rarely see cases where title objections prevent closing – but it does happen. Just a side note hereIf you were involved in a divorce and there were child support or separate maintenance payments required in the decree, if they have not been made or not made properly you probably have a potential title problem.

            Deed- Once all the above is taken care of you have your attorney prepare a deed and then you are pretty much ready to go to closing – or are you???

Final walk-through- Be aware that most likely the buyer will do a final walk through just prior to closing.  They do this for a couple reasons. First if you made repairs etc. as a result of an inspection to determine that they were made satisfactorily. Buyers also check to make sure if you were supposed to leave any personal property with the property that you did so. And finally they check to see that all other personal property has been satisfactorily removed as required in the purchase agreement. Can the final walkthrough be a potential problem? Yes it can. Here is an example (true) that happened to me a number of years ago. White or very light carpet. Looked great when the buyer made their offer. On final walkthrough the buyer noticed a rather large red stain (probably wine) in the living room that had been covered up by a rug the seller had down. Problem?? You bet!!  The transaction did not close.

Hopefully everything has gone right with your sale, then its a matter of scheduling a time with the seller’s mortgage company. The papers will be signed and then the process is complete.

If you’re buying a home after the close of your home, then read our next blog on closing a home in Dubuque – a seller’s perspective.

If you’re to the point where you’re ready to sell a home then you want to get a Realtor who can help you get the most value for the sale and knows the Dubuque market. Contact American Realty today to speak to one of our experienced Realtors. They can answer all your questions, including any you might have as you go through the process.

Selling a home In Dubuque – A Seller’s Perspective

Selling a home can be a stressful time for homeowners. You want to get the process over quickly, but you also want to get top value for your home. I recently went through the process and if you’re like me and haven’t sold a home before or at least not for a long time, it can also be a confusing time.  You likely have a lot of questions about the process and what can be done to help it along.

Dubuque home selling

Selling a Home In Dubuque

First of all, a disclaimer. I didn’t have to look for a Realtor like most homeowners would. I help American Realty with their online marketing so when it came time to list the home I reached out to them and asked them to set me up with a Realtor. So your first step would be to hire a Realtor. When you do, you want someone like mine, whose familiar with the Dubuque market and knows how to price a home to sell. And also knows how to get your home the most exposure possible.

We ended up with Ron McCarthy, and between his experience and American Realty’s marketing, we knew our home would be seen by a number of potential buyers.

To sell a home here are some things you can do to help you get the best price for your home and to sell it quickly.

Clean Out Your Home

Even before we contacted American Realty we knew we had to clear out the home so that it would seem larger. Part of this was to haul away any junk we had accumulated over time and look for any items we no longer used. This made a big difference, but we thought there was more we could do. So we rented a storage locker temporarily and cleared out even more furniture and belongings. Renting a storage unit might not be an option for you, but maybe there is another place you could take some items temporarily.

Depersonalize The Home

When Ron toured our house he made suggestions along the way, including areas we should touch up. He also suggested we remove items that might be personal to us, but that might throw off potential buyers. So family photographs, some of our artwork, and even some nick knacks we removed. The idea is to have a blank canvas on which potential buyers could see themselves creating a homey environment.

Staging the Home To Sell

As Ron walked about he also offered suggestions on not just how to make the rooms look better, but to stand out more. We moved things around and made the living room and the master bedroom, for example, seem much larger. Then a family member offered us some of her furnishings to make the home look more modern and stylish.  By the time we were done I didn’t even recognize some of the rooms.

Know the History of Your Home

One of the first steps after signing with the agent will be a questionnaire on your home. Try to have this information ready for when they come. Things like the age of your roof, when the furnace was installed, etc. Also any other additions you made to your home. Do all of this in advance so it makes the process go quicker.

Price It To Sell

After researching homes that had sold in our area, Ron presented us with a detailed proposal on how much we should list our home. It based it on comparable homes that had recently sold. The price he came up with was a little lower than we had hoped for, so after a little discussion, we settled for slightly more than Ron had suggested. When a Realtor suggests a listing price for you, don’t be afraid to counter slightly. Yet, I wouldn’t recommend going too much over the suggested price. Then your listing could be on the market for a while and eventually you’ll have to lower the price.

Prepare To Leave At a Moment’s Notice

Once the house was listed we prepared the family for leaving when a Realtor wanted to show it.  We told our son that most likely we’d have to step out for an hour every once in a while, as the house was shown. The more times it’s shown the better off you’ll be.  That also means you have to keep your home clean and be prepared to store things away quickly.

In our case, however, we just had to show it once. We knew that homes in Dubuque at our price range we’re selling quickly but none of us, Ron included, expected it to sell to the first family through. Ron posted our home online on a Tuesday and we soon had a showing scheduled for that afternoon. By the time we returned we already had two others scheduled for the evening. Yet, Ron called us soon after to tell us the family had made an offer above our asking price and with terms that we were extremely pleased with.

For us, we benefited from having home in a price range that homes were selling quickly.  Depending on the price you’re asking it could take longer. This is why you want to do as much as you can to help your Realtor to sell your home and in our case, begin looking for a new home.

If you’re looking to sell a home in Dubuque, then contact a Realtor at American Realty. They have the experience to help you sell your home and with American Realty marketing campaign, your home will get the exposure it needs to get the best price.