"Old School" real estate vs “New School" real estate

My buyer wrote an offer 4 days ago and we still don’t have it signed by the sellers.  

The listing agent’s sellers are on vacation and because the agent doesn’t know how to use electronic signing systems, he is taking much more time than is necessary to get this deal in place.

This delay impacts my buyer, the lender, the title company, contract time frames and of course, our confidence in getting the deal done. The seller could have been in jeopardy of losing these buyers due to frustrations and concerns.

 Let’s look at a real life example of the "old school" vs the "new school" way of working.

Imagine that your home is listed for sale and you’re on a vacation you planned months ago. You’re sitting under an umbrella by the ocean, your feet in the sand and a cold drink in your hand. You’re watching your friends and family have fun and it makes you feel happy. You deserve this down time. You glance at your phone and see that you received an email from your agent with paperwork needing your signature. Is your agent “old school” or “new school?"

 The next 3-4 hours of your vacation can play out in two ways:

#1 “Old School" 

The email says you have to print the attachment and sign and then scan back to the agent. Your blood pressure climbs. There is no printer in the vacation house you rented. You’re finally on vacation…one that you more than deserve…and you have to go back to the house, do some research about local Kinkos or UPS stores, call to make sure they are open and get directions, get their email address, send the document to them, go to the store to sign, have them scan back to you and then email it back to your agent. You’re mad. Your family is mad. You missed a great beach day. Tomorrow it will rain and you’ll be even madder.  

#2 “New School”

You gently place your drink in the sand, then click on the link in the email. The link takes you to Dot Loop and it says “click here to start signing.” You click once for each initial and signature and when you’re done, click “confirm signing.” You turn your phone off and pick your drink back up. You realize you’ve been outside for a while and it’s time to reapply your sunscreen.

 “New School” agents help their clients by using the latest technology so that deals are done faster and your life is easier. When you choose your realtor, ask about the systems, processes and technology that your agent is using. Enjoy your vacation and let your “new school” agent do the work for you.

-Wendy Slaughter

Savvy Buyers: Building a house? Here are some some things to add & some things to skip!

Here are some of our recommendations for making selections on new construction or remodeling your home…and some options to skip!

Skip the Following:

Remove oversized/glued-on mirrors in bathrooms.  This is another easy step to make a home look more custom.  Simply ask the builder NOT to install any mirrors and then go shopping for framed mirrors from a discount store like TJMaxx, Home Goods, or Ikea.  If you are remodeling, remove the glued-on mirror, repair walls if necessary, and replace with framed mirrors (or leave the mirror on the wall and have a contractor frame it out with trim wood).


Remove cheap closet organizers.  Remove the cheap wire rack shelves and rods and replace with custom closet organizers you can find at Lowes or Home Depot.  Even IKEA has solid wood closet systems. To save some time and money, ask the builder not to install these if you are building a home.

Delete Drawer Pulls/Knobs and Plumbing and Lighting Fixtures.  Builders often have only a few choices of these and if you do not like them, ask the builder to give you a credit and install the ones that you purchase on your own (that you can find at Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Overstock, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.).

Make Sure to Include the Following:

Add recessed and puck or pot lights as often as possible. Have your framer build braces for future ceiling fans if you choose not to install them right away.   You may want to hire a lighting specialist to help you with this.  If an attic is above the ceiling, the project is pretty straightforward.  But adding lights to finished ceiling areas requires cutting holes in the drywall and drilling through the joists to fish the wire through the framing.

Extend wood flooring into high traffic areas.  Even though it costs more, it is worth it.  Wood floor hallways or family rooms are always desirable, plus, you can throw a rug down if needed.

Add an outlet in the pantry.  Many homeowners keep a toaster oven, blender, and other small appliances (even a Swiffer Vac) in the pantry.  By adding an outlet, these items can be plugged in at all times and don’t take up valuable counter space.

These are just a few ideas that can get your juices flowing when you’re remodeling or building a new home.

- Debbie Gottwals

Did You Ever Wonder What Happens on Closing day at the Settlement Table?

You have made it to the final step in the process of finding your dream home and now what?  It is the day of your closing!  This is the day you close the deal on your home as well as the mortgage to buy that real estate. Essentially it's the transfer of property ownership from the seller to the buyer.  The closing can take place at a title company or at the office of one of the real estate agents involved in the transaction.

Two things take place at the closing and will be described in more detail below: signing documentation and distribution of funds.

Who attends and how long will settlement take?

Most of the time, the sellers, the buyers and both realtors will attend. A settlement officer from the title company will run the settlement. It usually takes about 1-2 hours.

Papers You Will Sign As Buyers

(the first 4 are for purchases involving a loan)

  • Truth in Lending Disclosure – describes the interest rate on your mortgage
  • Note – promises that you will repay the bank
  • Mortgage – states that if you do not pay, the bank can foreclose on your home
  • Escrow paperwork – establishes the process of collecting money from you on a monthly basis so the bank has funds to pay taxes and insurance when those payments are due
  • Deed – states that the sellers are signing the property over to the buyers
  • Tax forms – puts the property taxes in your name
  • Name affidavit – verifies names that the buyers have used over time
  • Corrections agreement – authorizes the title company to resubmit papers for additional signing if mistakes are found
  • HUD-1 Settlement Statement – outlines all of the money that changes hands in the transaction

(This list is a good sample, but there could be additional forms required by your lender)

Distribution of Funds

  • The sellers will receive a check for proceeds they earned from the sale.
  • The real estate agents will receive a check for their commissions.
  • The buyers will provide a cashier's check to cover their down payment, escrow, title insurance policy, and closing costs.

Explanation of Who Pays

Depending upon what is negotiated in the contract of sale, the buyers and/or sellers pay the fees such as real estate commissions, title insurance, and pro-rated property taxes.  In some cases, buyers negotiate to receive money from the sellers that is used to pay some closing costs and fees (some portion or all), or payment of a one-year home warranty.  Some items are pro-rated and some are split between the buyer and seller according to length of use, at closing. Property taxes, insurance, homeowner’s association fees or condo fees, and water bills are the most commonly pro-rated items.  The most common split item is the transfer tax.  The HUD-1 shows line by line each and every expense as well as who is to pay what amount. Therefore, it’s helpful to review the HUD-1 prior to closing if possible.

What Buyers Should Bring to a Closing

As home buyers, your real estate agent and loan officer should provide plenty of coaching on what to bring to your closing. Things you’ll need:

  • A cashier’s check (not a personal check) usually made out to the title company for the total amount due on the HUD-1 Settlement statement. This includes your down payment and any closing costs that are your responsibility.
  • Personal identification with photo – can be your driver’s license or passport

What Buyers Receive at Closing

Lots of paperwork….and a set of keys! Congratulations!

-Debbie Gottwals

Five Things to Consider Before Making an Offer on a Home that has a Well and Septic - Guest Blogger Home Land Septic Consulting, LLC


  • Hire a company that offers the MD 4-step Septic Evaluation procedure.  Home Land Septic Consulting follows all procedures and guidelines in accordance with Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).
  • Avoid a Dye Test Septic test.  Dye Testing finds 5% of the problems, 5% of the time. Dye Testing has never been a practical application for determining the health of a septic system, although they were more successful in years past. Septic systems, in the past, were generally no deeper than 1-2 feet under grade.
  • Understand that all Septic Systems will eventually fail.  A Septic System typically lasts 30-40 years.  The cost to replace the system can range greatly.  After evaluating a system we can give you an idea of what to budget for.


  • Testing the well will require two different tests.  We can test the QUALITY of the water and the QUANITY of the water.  We offer a variety of well yields and can advise on what you need depending on what county the property is located in.  We also can discuss what impurities to consider testing for.  A Buyer may have to follow certain loan requirements depending on what loan product they are using (Conventional, FHA or VA).
  • It is a good practice to obtain County Records from the local Health Department.  Home Land Septic does this as a standard practice; once an appointment is made.  But a buyer can access these records for free (most counties) and obtain pertinent information prior to any home inspections.

Visit our website for more information – and to see some great illustrations. Of course you can also give us a call if you have any questions about well and/or septic testing. We’re happy to help!

Homeland Septic

Savvy Buyers: What’s up with that house?

People are always asking us how they can find more information about a particular property. Of course, the easiest way is to contact your friendly and helpful realtor who can do all of that work for you...but many people like to do their own research. So, for all of you curious people out there, here are some resources that you may find useful in your search:

State Department of Assessments & Taxation

This is the best place to start when you are seeking general information on a property. To pull a property's tax record, first select the county and then search by the address. Want to learn more about reading a tax record?   Check out our blog about it.


Interested in finding out if a house obtained permits before putting up a fence, finishing that basement or obtained a rental license before renting it out? Every county has a different online system for searching for permits. Some of the databases are only for a certain time frame, so it never hurts to call and ask about a particular property. Here are a few (click on the county to go to the website):

Anne Arundel County

Baltimore City

Baltimore County - No online search capabilities, but you can call with an address 410-887-3353

Carroll County - No online search capabilities, but you can call with an address 410-386-2674

Frederick County

Howard County - You have to create an account, it is free. You can also call them at 410-313-2455

Montgomery County

Prince George’s County

Plats & Recorded Deeds

So everyone knows (or at least Tess thinks everyone knows) that Google Maps enables you to see the lot where a property is located (you have to zoom into the map). How would you obtain the actual plat for a property? You would go to your county’s courthouse to the Land Records division (typically overseen by the Clerk of the Court). This magical place gives you the opportunity to pull recorded public information about a property like the deed and plat. Maryland put all of this information online and it can be accessed here. Of course, you can also go to the land records building to do your own search (Quick side note: Tess loves these places because she is a real estate nerd).

Market Value

I wish we could give you a link to a site that would provide accurate home values but the truth is, your best resource is a realtor (or an appraiser – see our awesome blog on how an appraisal works). There are websites that will give you an idea of the value of a home (we’re looking at you Zillow), but as a team, we do not advocate the use of these sites due to the many inaccuracies we’ve seen. Their “Zestimates” may not take into account the upgrades that a home has in comparison to other homes in the neighborhood. We too often see Zestimates that are very far from the true value. Your best bet is to reach out to a professional who knows the area.

Feel free to reach out to us anytime. We’re here to help!

5 Things Every New Homeowner Should Do (within the first week of moving in)

Congratulations! You have finished the settlement process and are given the keys to your new home.  What items should be put on your immediate TO-DO list?  Here are the top 5 items that the Wendy Slaughter Team recommends:

1. Change the Locks

You do not know how many sets of keys have been given to neighbors or contractors who have worked on the home, so to be on the safe side, change your locks.

2. Reprogram Garage Door Openers and Alarm Systems

Many garage door remotes have a reset button that you can hold down to re-program. If you have an exterior garage door keypad, you should change the code as well. You should also reprogram your alarm system keypads with your own codes. Use Google to find the instruction manuals for the systems.

3. Replace the Furnace Filters

If the airflow is blocked, the efficiency of your unit is compromised.  Not only will replacing your filter make your heating bills lower, but it will also make your furnace more efficient.

Replacing an HVAC filter

4. Replace Batteries in Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

There is no way for you to know how old the batteries are in these detectors, so to be safe, you should replace the batteries as soon as you move into your house. Moving forward, it’s recommended you change the batteries twice a year when you change the clocks for daylight savings time.

5. Check the Temperature Setting on the Hot Water Heater

The previous owners may have liked it hot hot hot! Check the settings and make adjustments if needed.

- Debbie Gottwals