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Buyers Page

  1. What is a realistic number of homes you should view prior to buying?
  2. Can I be on the title of a home if I am not on the loan?
  3. What do all these terms in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) mean?
  4. Sale pending, AWC, TOM, DOM, etc?
  5. What does DOM mean in the MLS?
  6. What is the MLS?
  7. What is earnest money?
  8. What is an appraisal contingency?
  9. What is the FIRST thing I should do if I want to buy a house?
  10. Should I get a home inspection?
  11. Inspection Period - How long is it?
  12. How long does the Arizona Residential Resale contract allow for an inspection period?
  13. How do I find a good lender?
  14. Do I need a real estate agent if I am buying a new home?
  15. What if the Seller Refuses to Move Out?

What is a realistic number of homes you should view prior to buying?

This is an interesting question and one that is very difficult to answer...
The short answer is "as many as it takes to find a home for you".
The long answer is complicated and will likely change depending on your circumstances.

Purchasing a home will most likely be the single largest investment someone ever makes. As such, it is important to make sure you find a home that meets your current, and future, needs.
We tell our buyers to list home qualities and features into three categories:

  1. Must Haves -- things you simply cannot live without
  2. Nice to Haves -- things that would be nice, but you could do without
  3. Can't Haves -- things you simply cannot live with.

Armed with a detailed list of these three items, a good agent can include and exclude many homes from your potential search. As more homes are visited, it becomes easier (most of the time) to refine the potential homes that may work for you.

Be prepared, sometimes you may find things actually move around in your three categories!
Before you begin viewing homes it is important to discuss in detail with your agent the strategy and approach you will take to find, and view homes.

There are agents out there that limit how many homes they will show someone -- an utterly ridiculous practice in my opinion.
I've heard some agents say "no one should have to look at more than 10 homes before deciding which one to buy".

Everyone is different. We've helped people who bought a home after looking at 3 houses, and have other people we've shown over 100 homes to. It is important not to get into "analysis paralysis" and second-guess everything.

It's also important not to pass up on a home you love "just in case" something better is out there. But by taking a systematic approach to looking at homes, keeping your priorities in order, and working closely with your agent, you can find the home that is perfect for you.

Can I be on the title of a home if I am not on the loan?

The answer to this *might* depend on what state you are in.
In Arizona, you do not have to be on the loan to be on title. I can't say for sure if that holds true in other states.

You might try calling a title/escrow company (if your state uses them) and ask. They should be more than willing to answer you with no cost/obligation.

What do all these terms in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) mean? Sale pending, AWC, TOM, DOM, etc?

This is the terminology currently used in the Phoenix area Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS). They may be different than what is used outside of the Phoenix area, however it is likely that any large MLS will have very similar terminology.

"Active": If a listing is active, then it is available for sale and there has not been an offer accepted. An offer may have been submitted, but it hasn't been accepted by the seller yet.

"Pending": This means an offer has been submitted and accepted, and there are no contingencies in the contract. Basically this means the property has been sold and is waiting for closing (although deals fall apart all the time between contract acceptance and close.) See AWC below for an explanation of contingencies.

"AWC": Stands for Active With Contingencies. This means an offer was submitted and accepted, but there are contingencies that must be settled before the deal can close. There are numerous possible contingencies, but by far the most common one is that the deal is contingent on the buyer's selling an existing property.

The buyer needing to secure financing is also a common contingency. If a listing is in AWC status, additional offers can be submitted, but will be in "second position" to the original offer (ie: a backup offer). If the contingency cannot be met, then the contingent contract would be cancelled and the backup offer moves into first (primary) position.

Once the contingency is met, the listing should be moved to a Pending state, but most agents never seem to do that.
"TOM": Contrary to what a lot of people believe, TOM does not stand for Taken Off Market. It means Temporarily Off Market.

This isn't a widely used category. A property may go TOM if a seller is going to be out of town for an extended period or if the seller decides to do some repairs to the property and doesn't want it shown while repairs are being done.

If you are an agent and you start calling owners who property is in TOM status to try and "relist" their home, then you are violating all kinds of listing and ethical rules and regulations. (And trust me, this happens all the time.)

A property in TOM status is still under a signed listing agreement with the listing agent, hence any solicitation of a TOM property is a serious violation and you can lose your license if you pursue it!
"Sold": This indicates the property has been sold to a buyer.

Sold in this case means the transaction has closed -- title/deed have been transferred to a new owner.

What does DOM mean in the MLS?

"DOM" on an MLS stands for "Days on Market". Day 1 would be the day the listing was taken by the Realtor. Some area MLS's (including the Phoenix metro MLS) split up DOM into "CDOM" or Cumulative Days on Market, and "ADOM" meaning Agent Days on Market.

Most MLS's that use CDOM and ADOM work like this:
Day 1 for CDOM is the day the Realtor takes the listing. ADOM and CDOM are the same, unless the seller changes agents. If that happens, ADOM resets to 1, but CDOM keeps running.

Say a seller uses agent Joe for 10 days, and then switches to Agent Sue and Sue has listed the house for 18 days. Then CDOM = 28, and ADOM = 18. Make sense?

*Generally* speaking, newer listings (lower DOM) get more activity as interest tends to be higher when a home is first listed. The average DOM is a good indicator of market activity. Shorter average DOM means the area is in a seller's market and longer DOM means it's a buyer's market.

It's important to understand that DOM stats really only apply to a local market. You can't (or shouldn't) compare average DOM in Phoenix to say average DOM in Dallas.

Real estate markets are driven by local conditions and situations far more than most people realize.. And different MLS's have different rules and regulations on how long a home has to be off the market before the DOM resets to zero (good rules in this area prevent people from "cheating" and artificially making their listings appear new).

What is the MLS?

MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. This is a system, usually run and supported by the local Real Estate Board that has details of almost every home listed for sale with a real estate agent.

It used to be a big giant notebook with paper printouts but today has been computerized in virtually every real estate market in the country. Licensed agents (who are current on their local board dues) can submit and search the MLS for homes listed for sale.

Just a few years ago, Realtors were the only people with access to the MLS. But now it's possible for anyone with an Internet connection to search the MLS. There are large national websites with MLS listings, but these are typically out of date. Finding a local Realtors web site is usually the best way to search the MLS.

Many Realtors will require you to "register" before you search the MLS. This is a way for the Realtor to capture your name and email address (and maybe more) so they can then "work the lead" that you've just become. Some Realtors do not require registration to search the MLS.

You can search the Phoenix area MLS, without registration on our main site (or search the MLS on our blog too!)
Simply put, a fixture is something that is permanently attached to real property (a house). Things such as ceiling fans, chandeliers, towel racks, built in shelves, carpet etc.

Fixtures are always included in the sale of a home. The owner of a home can’t unbolt everything connected to a home before you take possession.

Granted, a ceiling fan isn’t really “permanent”. It could be uninstalled. But it IS an integral part of the home (unlike say, a piece of furniture) and is included in the sale of a home.

If you want to keep Grandma’s chandelier, you need to either remove it before the home is listed, or have your agent be VERY SPECIFIC in listing the home and their conversations with buyer’s agent that the chandelier does not convey with the sale. (It’d be best to remove it and replace it with another light fixture to avoid any possible hassles.

People HAVE lost Grandma’s chandelier when they sold their home!)
What is and isn’t a fixture confuses a lot of people. One of the biggest questions that comes up frequently is window coverings.

Here’s the scoop…. Curtains are not considered fixtures. Curtains rods however, are. Mini-blinds are fixtures. Screens (and screen doors) are fixtures.
The best way to remember what a fixture is is this: If it’s attached (via screws, nails, glue, etc) to the walls, floors or ceilings, it’s a fixture. When in doubt, ask your agent. Hopefully you have a good one! If not, you know who to call! :-)

Here’s a very detailed explanation of fixtures from What is included in a home's square footage?
Generally speaking, only "livable space" is included in determining the square footage of a home. Garages, unfinished attics and basements for example are not included when calculating square footage.

"Livable space" is a bit tricky though. Hallways and closets are included when determining a home’s square footage and no one really lives in a hall or closet. However it'd be difficult to live in a home that didn't have closets and halls...

Additions to a home often cause a lot of difficulty in calculating square footage. The laws in your area may affect how additions are counted. In the Phoenix area, if a home addition is permitted, then that area can be included in a home’s square footage.

If the addition is not permitted, then it isn't included. Square footage numbers are usually taken from previous sales data, tax records (which are often incorrect) or builder’s plans. An appraiser may be your best bet for determining the true square footage of a home as they are typically skilled in measuring square footage.

Square Footage Misrepresented By Seller
Question: The MLS computer printout states that the home is 2,500 square feet. After the 10-day inspection period the appraisal comes in at 2,000 square feet. Is the buyer entitled to cancel the AAR (Arizona Association of Realtors) Contract based on the misrepresentation by the seller?

Answer: No. The AAR Contract states that, if square footage is material to the buyer, the square footage must be verified during the inspection period. Thus the buyer is not entitled to rely on the square footage set forth in the MLS computer printout.

From Phoenix attorney Christopher  A. Combs. Mr. Combs is a partner with the firm of Combs Law Group, P.C. Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2005, all rights reserved.

What is earnest money?

The "book definition" of earnest money is: "a sum of money given to bind an agreement, such as the sale of real estate, the advance of a loan or some other transaction requiring a deposit. Earnest money is forfeited by the donor if he or she fails to carry out the terms of the contract or agreement."

In other words, earnest money is money applied "up front" from a buyer to show a seller the buyer is serious about the purchase. The money is deposited in an escrow account and held by the escrow company. Usually (but not always) the earnest money is applied toward the buyer's down payment.

We are frequently asked, "How much earnest money do I need?". This is a difficult question to answer. Earnest money is not required, though the vast majority of sellers expect it, and an offer without any earnest money attached will usually be rejected.

There is no "standard amount" for earnest money. The bottom line is the amount required is whatever it takes to convince the seller you're serious about making the purchase. That can be anything... a "typical" suggested amount is 1% of the purchase price, but this varies greatly.
Earnest money is released to the seller if the buyer defaults on the contract after it's accepted.

If the contract fails due to no fault of the buyer, then earnest money is typically returned in full to the buyer.
Earnest money, like virtually any part of a real estate transaction, is a negotiable item.

What is an appraisal contingency?

The Arizona Residential Resale Purchase Contract includes verbiage commonly known as the "appraisal contingency". Simply put, this contingency says that if a home doesn't appraise for the purchase price the buyer may cancel the contract and have their earnest money returned in full.

The buyer doesn't have to cancel the contract if the home doesn't appraise. The buyer and seller can renegotiate the purchase price, or the buyer can provide additional cash to make up for the difference. If however, neither of these are possible, the buyer can cancel the contract with no detrimental effects.

What is the FIRST thing I should do if I want to buy a house?

It's difficult to say exactly what the first thing someone should do is... But a safe bet is understanding how much you can afford.
There are many "calculators" out there that can assist in this.

But the best way to get a complete understanding of how much you can afford (and qualify to borrow) is to talk to a loan officer. Any good one will consult with you for free (If you find a lender that wants to charge you for an initial consultation, RUN, don't walk away).

Should I get a home inspection?

The short answer is: Absolutely.
Home inspections are not required before purchase (at least not in Arizona). At least not contractually. However, in our opinion, every home should have a professional home inspection during the 10 day inspection period.

The cost is dependant on the age and size of the home, but it's probably the best $200 - $400 you'll ever spend.
A good home inspector will be able to tell you many things about the home you are considering purchasing. You'll get maintenance tips, you'll get peace of mind, you'll get a great sense of the condition of the home.

A good inspector can find structural problems, ensure the wiring and plumbing "meet code" and evaluate the condition of all the appliances included in the sale. They will check out the home from top to bottom and you'll walk away with a detailed report on just about everything in your home.

Getting a professional home inspection is one of the most important steps in the purchase of a home, whether it was built 100 years ago or yesterday.

Inspection Period - How long is it?

Question: How long does the Arizona Residential Resale contract allow for an inspection period?

Answer: The "boilerplate" language in the standard Arizona Residential Resale contract allows for a 10 day inspection period. (FYI, Commercial transactions typically have a 30 day "inspection period")

However, there is an area in the boilerplate language where a longer or shorter inspection period can be written into the contract.
As with any other contract provision, the terms must be agreed to by all the parties involved.

So if a buyer requests a 15 day inspection period, the seller has the right to decline the offer, accept it with the 15 day inspection period, or counter the offer with changed provisions.
Likewise, just because the boilerplate language has a 10 day inspection period, that doesn't mean that any party is required to accept that boilerplate language.

How do I find a good lender?

Finding a good lender is as important as finding a good real estate agent. Without a lender on your side buying a home is impossible (unless you stash a BIG wad of cash in your mattress...)
Your real estate agent may be the best source. We deal with lenders every day and we know the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Virtually every agent has their "favorite lender". Use caution though and ask the realtor why they recommend someone. A good agent will recommend the lender for YOU, not for THEM. There are lenders who are great at closing deals (which is good for the agent) but may not always find the best rates for the client. You don't want this lender.

A good agent (like Jay and Francy Thompson!) will provide you a lender good for YOU (who will also close the deal--as that's critical for you too!).
The choice of a lender is ultimately up to you. Look for recommendations from your realtor, and your friends and family.

TALK to the lender--interview them--before you decide. You can tell a lot about a person just by talking to them. And contrary to what some say, lenders are people too (well, most of them...)

Finding info on a neighborhood. If you are considering moving to a new neighborhood, whether it's across the street or across the country, we recommend doing three things:

  1. Use the Internet! You can find almost anything on the Internet....population demographics, crime rates, home sale trends, data on schools, satellite pictures of the area, the list is endless. The Internet is a great place to begin your research. For some tips and tricks on using the Internet to research a home or neighborhood, please visit our Real Estate & The Internet page.

  2. Ask an agent. A good real estate agent knows the area. We drive around neighborhoods, we read the news, we talk to people. A good agent can tell you a lot about a neighborhood. You should know however, that real estate law prohibits us from discussing certain things. We can't tell you if a neighborhood is "good" or "bad". YOU have to decide that. We can't discuss racial, religious or economic status of a neighborhood. But we can point you to places to find answers and can provide you a lot of great info on potential neighborhoods. We just have to stick to facts, not opinions.

  3. Drive around! We strongly encourage our clients to simply drive the neighborhoods they are interested in. (Obviously this may be impossible if you are relocating from a significant distance.) Try to drive the area at different times of day, during the week, and on weekends. Doing this can give you an excellent understanding of what an area is like. Sometimes nothing beats seeing the neighborhood in action...
    If you do all three of these things, you find yourself a neighborhood expert in no time!

Do I need a real estate agent if I am buying a new home?

Given that I am a real estate agent, it's difficult to answer this question without looking biased. But you asked, so here's my opinion...
Yes, you should be represented by an agent if you are buying a new home. And no, I'm not saying that just because I'm a real estate agent...
Consider this.

That smiling, sharp dressed young man or woman that greets you in the builders office is a licensed real estate agent. Who do you think they work for? The builder, that's who. Who's best interest do you think they have in mind, yours, or their employers? I don't believe I need to answer that for you.

No, the builder's agent won't cheat you. But they certainly aren't going to negotiate for you. You're not going to save a nickel by representing yourself, and the builder pays your agent's commission. So why not have professional representation from someone working for you and your interests?

What if the Seller Refuses to Move Out?

The buyer must first furnish a five-day written notice for the seller to move out. If the seller still refuses to move out, the buyer must file an eviction proceeding in Superior Court, not Justice Court.
Provided by Christopher Combs. Phoenix attorney Christopher A. Combs is a partner with the firm of Combs Law Group, P.C. Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2005, all rights reserved.
NOTE: this should not be considered a substitute for legal advice. ALWAYS seek appropriate legal counsel.

Can an HOA prevent a registered sex offender from buying a home?
Homeowners Can Amend CC&Rs to Prohibit Residency to Registered Sex Offenders.

A registered sex offender was recently arrested in our community in North Phoenix. No one had any idea that our neighbor was a registered sex offender. We had an emergency meeting of the homeowners, and we want to amend our CC&Rs to prohibit registered sex offenders from purchasing a home in our community in the future.

We would do a background check on every potential purchaser under the website for registered sex offenders Would this CC&R provision be enforceable?


  • First, registered sex offenders are not a “protected class” such as race or religion under the Fair Housing laws.

  • Second, unless protection under Fair Housing laws is involved, the homeowners in a community can adopt CC&Rs that reasonably restrict ownership.
  • For example, CC&Rs can require approval of new homeowners by the HOA board of directors. Therefore, the provision of the CC&Rs prohibiting registered sex offenders as homeowners is probably enforceable.
  • In 2001 a New Jersey appellate court upheld an HOA by law that prohibited condominium ownership by Tier 3 registered sex offenders. 766 A.2d 1186. In New Jersey, as in Arizona, Tier 3 is reserved for registered sex offenders who are classified as a “high” risk level to the community. Tier 1 and Tier 2 registered sex offenders are not considered as “dangerous” as Tier 3 registered sex offenders.
  • In New Jersey there were only eighty Tier 3 registered sex offenders out of a total of 11,000 registered sex offenders. Inasmuch as there were only eighty Tier 3 registered sex offenders in New Jersey, the New Jersey appellate court had no problem upholding the HOA bylaw.
  • The New Jersey appellate court stated, however, that if the HOA bylaw or similar restriction included all registered sex offenders, there would be stronger arguments that the HOA bylaw or similar restriction would not be upheld.
  • Note: You can search for registered sex offenders in Arizona here.
    This material has been prepared by Combs Law Group, P.C. for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

The information provided is general and is not updated or revised for accuracy as statutory or case law changes following the date of first publication. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION.
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