Category Archives: Dubuque real estate

Why the Fall and Winter is Still a Good Time To Buy A Home

Why Buyers In Eastern Iowa Might Want To House Hunt in the Fall or Winter

Most people think of fall and winter as bad times to buy a home. Many prefer to move in the spring and summer when the temperatures are warmer. It can also be an easier time to relocate children who are in school. Yet, despite this, the fall, and even the winter, might in fact be the best time for you to look for a house.

Here are some reasons you might want to look for a home in the fall and winter in Eastern Iowa, even if it means putting up with the cold and even a little snow, while you house hunt.Buying a home in the fall or winter in Iowa might be a good idea.

Waiting To Buy Continues to Cost You Money

If you currently live in an apartment than each month you’re paying a landlord money is another month you’re not seeing any return on your investment. Waiting six months, might seem a short wait, but that’s a lot of money that you could have been put toward a mortgage.

Home interest rates are still low

Home interest rates are still low, but there is no telling when they might go back up.  They very well could be low in a few months, but there is no guarantee. Again, it might be a savings to you to buy a home sooner rather than later.

Fewer Buyers To Compete With

Since many people don’t like to house hunt in the cold, then it means there is less competition for many homes in your price range.  In Dubuque and surrounding communities, houses at certain price range often sell very quickly in the summer. Meaning you must make a decision quick or risk losing out on a property. And even then you might find yourself in a bidding war with someone. In the fall and winter houses can sell slower, meaning you can dictate your price more.

You Don’t Have To Settle

Since homes are often sold faster in the summer you might be tempted to bid on a home that doesn’t quite meet all of your requirements. In the fall, however, with the lower competition, you might be able to hold off making an offer until you’ve looked at a few others. And if your plan is to wait until its warmer you can at least keep an eye on what’s on the market. You might find the home of your dreams has suddenly appeared on the market and might be gone by the spring.

People Might Be Motivated To Sell Quicker

One of the main benefits of looking for a home in the off season is that you have a chance to get a better deal on a property. As mentioned, there are fewer buyers, which means less competition to buy a home.  At the same time, homeowners might be even more motivated to sell.

Some of the homes on the market might have been listed for a while. As a result, the homeowner might have dropped the price on their property a few times already. They just want to get the process over and move onto their next home.

If the home is a new listing, the homeowner might be motivated by time.  They could be moving out of the area and need to sell their home quickly in order to relocate. They might have preferred to wait to sell, but because of circumstances, can’t. So they list their home at a lower price they might have, if they’d had more time.

Finally, they might be motivated by the tax benefits of selling their home before December 31. They’ll see the tax benefits a lot sooner if they close before that date.

Whatever their motivation to sell they might also be willing to move out quicker. You might be able to take possession a lot sooner because of this.

Tax Advantages

Just as the buyer will benefit from selling their home by the end of the year for the taxes, so too will you.  Property taxes and any mortgage payments you make before the end of the year will help to lower your tax bill.

End of year furniture sales.

This may seem like a small thing, but if you’re a first-time home buyer than every little bit of savings can help. According to Consumer Reports, December is the best month to find deals on major appliances. If you’re moving from an apartment you might need a few appliances, even if the home comes with things like refrigerators and microwaves.

If you’re looking for a home, whether it’s in the fall, the winter, the spring or summer, then contact American Realty. Our agents will help you to find your ideal home, all the much sooner. Contact us today and one of our agents will be glad to assist you in the process.

Dubuque Open Houses – What To Know, What To Ask & How To View Them

One of the best ways to look at homes is by going to open houses. In Dubuque, this means touring homes on a Sunday.  On a typical Sunday you can find dozens being held in nearly every price range. Often there is no way to see all of them in your price range. There are ways to get the most out of your time and still see as many as you can.

One of the advantages of an open house is that it’s a little more casual then scheduling a private showing.  You may feel you need to spend more time if you’ve set something up

Guide to Dubuque Open Houses

Open House sign

with your Realtor.  If you arrive at the home and find almost immediately it’s not to your taste, you’ll feel obligated to spend time because you scheduled something. At an open house, if you find it’s not to your taste you can leave relatively quickly..

You can also see more listings in a shorter period of time. When scheduling through a Realtor you have to find times that work for you, the Realtor and the family selling the home. You might be able to schedule a couple at once, but more than that can be tricky.

Here are some ways to get the most out of open houses.

Determine Your Price Range

Hopefully you’re already pre-approved by a mortgage company before you even begin as that will make the process easier. For one, it will give you a price range to work with. Yet, even if you’re just starting out and haven’t even met with anyone you want to have an idea of what type of monthly payment you can afford.

Keep to homes in the price range you set, so you don’t waste time looking at properties you can’t afford.  It doesn’t hurt to go a little outside this range though, as the price could be negotiable. Especially if the property has been on the market for a while.

Have a Game Plan

You’ll find it easier if you have some sort of plan before you even start out. After typing in your price range you’ll likely find there are showings anywhere from 11 to 2. This isn’t a large time frame so try to find showings that are located close together. If you try to go from one end of Dubuque to the other and then back again, you won’t be able to make that many.

Budget Your Time

You might try to get as many open houses as you can in a day, but try not to get to the point that you’re rushing through each home. Better to set aside enough time to really go through each home. You want to check out not just the interior, but the exterior as well. 15 minutes is probably about right. There might be a few homes that you know almost immediately don’t appeal to you so don’t spend too much time with these.

Improvise While Your Touring Houses

Perhaps you gave yourselves longer than you needed to go through the homes and find you have time available.  Jump on your cell phone and look to see what open houses are still going on near your location.  You can quickly scroll through the photos available to get an idea of what the home offers and then punch in the location on your GPS. While out driving you might see signs for open houses you weren’t aware of. Do a quick search to see if they meet your criteria.

Ask The Realtor At The Home Questions.

When you get to the home you’ll be greeted by the Realtor selling the home or someone acting on their behalf. They’ll likely hand you a print out on the home.  It should answer many of the questions you have about the home, but take advantage of having the Realtor there to ask additional questions.

Here are some you might want to ask

  • Do the appliances come with the home? They might not, but it could be something negotiated.
  • How long has the home has been on the market and if the price has dropped at some point.
  • Has the home has received any offers.
  • Are there any contingencies to the buyer selling, such as they’re closing on another home.
  • How soon can you take possession?

Discuss at the End of the Day

If you’re touring the homes with your significant other or maybe your family, you likely talked about each home as you went through it. After you’re completely done, talk about if any of the homes are potential candidates. Also talk about some of the features you liked about some of the homes, even if you weren’t interested in them. It might give you some ideas for telling your Realtor more of what you’re looking for.

Schedule Another Showing

If some of the homes have met your criteria and you’re to the point that you might want to make an offer, then schedule a showing with your realtor. If not everyone in the family went to the open house, then try to get them to come along. It’s a way to get more feedback on the property.

American Realty has a listing of open houses in Dubuque and surrounding areas every week. You can easily sort through it by various criteria, including price. Check out some of the homes in your range and while you’re touring them, introduce yourself to the Realtor. You might find a professional you’re comfortable with and who could eventually be your Realtor.





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.


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.