Talking Points with an Agent

Talking Points with an Agent

Client – Agent

Even if you only intend to interview one agent and maybe they are a trusted friend, it is appropriate to understand how different issues will be handled.  Professionals should not feel challenged to discuss these important concerns.

1. Tell me about your experience and training.

2. Do you work real estate full-time?

3. Are you a REALTOR® and a member of MLS?

4. What is the average price of the homes you have sold and how many did you sell last year?

5. Which neighborhoods or parts of town do you primarily work?

6. How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood or part of town?

7. What is your list price to sales price ratio?

8. How many buyers and sellers are you currently working with?

9. Tell me about the positives and negatives of my home?

10. Describe your marketing plan for my home and if you will use any outside professionals.

11. Specifically address Internet exposure, open houses and showings.

12. Describe how you’ll keep me informed all along the way.

13. Will I work directly with you or with team members?

14. Can you provide me with three recent references?

You might have noticed that price was not in the list of talking points.  The seller sets the price but the market and the buyer determine the value.  The agent can advise you about the proper range that will insure activity and ultimately affect your final proceeds.  The advice should be based on facts that are available to all agents as well as the prospective buyers and the appraisers.

The decision to list a home with a particular agent and company should never be based on the listing price suggested by the prospective agent.

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Winter Maintenance

With a 2,000+ mile long winter storm affecting much of the country, there are plenty of home owners who wish they were better prepared.  Even when you live in warm climates, some of these things are important to check periodically.

Swinney Sells Helena MT Homes

Preparing for the change of seasons can make your home more comfortable and protect your investment.  Regular maintenance extends the various components of a home and can generate savings in operating costs while avoiding expensive replacements.

  • Weather strips around doors and windows should be checked for possible air leaks.
  • Caulking around windows and doors should seal out moisture and air leaks.
  • HVAC should be inspected and serviced by a professional annually.
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested regularly.
  • Ductwork and supply lines from water heaters should be insulated.
  • Fireplace chimneys should be cleaned regularly and fireplaces should be inspected for cracks in mortar and to see if the damper closes properly.
  • Gutters should be free of leaves and debris to prevent rainwater build-up.
  • Tree branches touching or hanging over your roof should be trimmed.

Please contact us if you need a service provider recommendation.

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Equity Dynamics of your Helena Montana Home

Equity versus Value

Equity is the difference in what your home is worth and what you owe. Ideally, as the value goes up and the unpaid balance goes down with each amortized payment made, the equity grows from two directions.

This dynamic leads to increasing a person’s net worth much faster than many other investments.

A homeowner has minimal control over value. It is necessary to maintain the property to avoid depreciation and make good decisions on capital improvements. After that, appreciation is generally controlled by supply and demand and the economy.

Mortgage management is something that the homeowner does have control. Making the decision to select a shorter term mortgage at a lower interest rate can have an impact on equity build-up. Lower interest rates amortize faster than higher interest rates which will also affect equity growth. Currently, it is possible to get a 1% lower rate on a 15 year mortgage than a 30 year mortgage.

Compare two alternatives of a 30-year and a 15-year mortgage. The payments will definitely be higher on the shorter term because it pays off quicker. However, if a person can afford the higher payments of $362.53 more per month in this example, the equity will be greater. Even after you take into consideration the higher payments, the increased equity is $17,236 at the end of the seven year holding period.

Equity Example

Another decision that can affect equity build-up is making additional principal contributions along with the regular payments. Whether you’re making an occasional lump sum payment toward principal or regular monthly contributions, it will save interest, build equity and shorten the term on a fixed rate mortgage. Estimate your personal savings with this Equity Accelerator.

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Don’t Do It! What NOT to do when purchasing Helena, Montana Real Estate


You’ve seen lists telling buyers what to do to find the right home but knowing what not to do can be just as important.  After finding the right home, negotiating a contract, making a loan application and inspections, buyers, understandably, start making plans to move and put their personal touches on the home.

In today’s tenuous lending environment, little things can derail the process which isn’t over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller. Verifications are made by a lender at the beginning of the loan process to determine if the buyer qualifies for the mortgage. The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower’s credit or income that might disqualify them.

Simply stated:

1. Don’t make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio
2. Don’t apply, co-sign or add any new credit
3. Don’t quit your job or change jobs
4. Don’t change banks
5. Don’t open new credit accounts
6. Don’t close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender
7. Don’t buy things for your new home until after you close
8. Don’t talk to the seller without your agent

Your real estate professional and lender are working together to get you into your new home. It’s understandable to be excited about one of the biggest decisions you’ll make and that you feel you need to be getting ready for the move.

Planning is smart but don’t do anything that would affect your credit or income while you’re waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.

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Find the “Right” Agent Before the “Right” Home

It’s a common practice for buyers to make a list of what they want in a home during the search process and to explain it to their agent. However, maybe the first list they should make would have the skills they want their agent to have.

The Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers identifies what buyers want most from their agents and as you’d expect, help with finding the right home was ranked highest most often. While it is important, it may not be the most unique of the desired area of expertise.

Equally essential to the success of the transaction are the combination of help with price and terms negotiations and assistance with the paperwork, comparable sales, qualifying and financing.

To summarize the responses in the survey, Buyers want help from their agents with two things: to find the right home and to get it at the right price and terms. Some agents are actually better equipped with tools and acquired knowledge to assist buyers with financial advice and negotiations.

Since an owner’s cost of housing is dependent on the price paid for the home and financing, a real estate professional skilled in these specialized areas can be invaluable in finding the “right” home. An agent’s experience and connections to allied professionals and service providers is irreplaceable.

Ask the agent representing you to specifically list the tools and talent they have to address these areas.


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5 tips to help you sell your Helena Home

I was just reading an article this morning on MSNBC – Life Inc.  CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE.   My biggest concern and question is when Pro’s offer insight to how much return on investment you get for your remodel job.  This varies greatly and can be very misleading.  It also depends so much on what you are starting with.  But the article had a great synopsis:  “You want your house to be as good or slightly better than your neighbors’ houses.  But don’t go overboard, the most expensive house on the block is often the hardest to sell.  In this market, a house that appears to be neglected is even worse.”

Here was the rundown and my comments.

1. Paint the place – I agree, this is the best return on investment.  Neutralize colors!  You never know exactly what color the buyers are going to want to paint, but if you have offensive colors it is much worse than having a neutral canvas to start with.

2. Use landscaping to boost curb appeal – I agree with this too!  The author claims a return of 7 – 14% ROI on well-landscaped homes.  I don’t have any evidence of this in Helena, MT.  But, in general, this is accurate.  Just keep it simple, weed flower beds, mow the lawn, fertilize, and put in new mulch or rock.  Any of these will help immensely.

3. Spruce up the kitchen – BE CAREFUL HERE HELENAN’S.  It is NOT my advise to rip out cabinets and counter tops if there is nothing wrong with yours.  The kitchen is the single-most expensive room in the house to remodel!  I do NOT feel it is as important for every buyer to have granite counter tops.  Now, at some price ranges this may be more of an expectation than others, obviously.  But, I have sold several high end homes with nice formica counter tops.  Give us a call and we’d be happy to come by and check out what you have.  Our advise is only worth the experiences we have, but I’d hate to jump on the granite bandwagon and have someone write a big check and not get that money back out when they sell.  If your kitchen is offensive – old, dated, & worn out – fix it up!  That will be necessary.

4. Bathroom Makeover – In my opinion, I’d paint the bathroom, re-caulk everything, clean the heck out of it and call it good.  Now, if you live in a 1950’s home and have the matching pink bathtub, sink, & toilet – you may want to consider getting a bid to replace with more neutral colors.  I do NOT believe you will get 100% ROI but this will help your home sale.  I have never done this, but the author talks about having your tub “re-glazed”  this would be worth checking into with a plumber to see if it is possible, here in Helena, MT.  The bathroom is the second most expensive room in the house to remodel.

5. Clean and Replace Carpets – This would be my number 2!  I think if your carpets are dirty – clean them!  Cleanliness is key when selling your home.  If your carpets are worn or old and dated – get a bid to replace those old carpets.  Keep all carpets in the house in the same color family.  I do hear complaints from buyers when Roy’s room has blue carpet and Jills’ room has pink carpet.  Neutralize!  Start with the first room buyers are going to see first.  If they walk into your living room first, make a big impression there.  This is money best spent, in my opinion.  First impressions are Lasting!

Call Bruce or Ryan Swinney and invite us over if you are thinking about selling.  We’d love to do a walk through and help customize a list of items to repair / replace and give you our two cents worth on the subject.  We also have Kathy Swinney in our office – Kathy is a decorating Guru!  She can decorate on a dime better than any person I have seen.



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Now is the time to buy Helena Real Estate!

I feel like a broken record, sometimes.  But, the more articles I see published by qualified sources like like this one, CLICK HERE TO READ.  The more I have to write on this subject.  There are just so many factors that are playing into the fact that this spring is the best time to purchase real estate, such as interest rates & housing prices.

To insure that you are ready to purchase a home, it would be my recommendation to do the following:

1. Get pre-qualified with a good local lender!  Call me, Ryan Swinney, at 406-442-3616 and I can refer you to one if you do not already have one.  A good place to start is with your local bank, where you have your checking and savings accounts.  They will most likely have a real estate department where you can make an appointment to get pre-qualified.  There are many reasons why to get pre-qualified.  This will be a good second article which I will write soon.

2. Start looking at real estate.  I have heard numerous reports claiming that approximately 90% of home buyers begin their home searches online.  Where would you do this?  Go to and type in your criteria.  Other avenues to begin searching are open houses.  In Helena, Sunday afternoons are the most popular time for open houses.  This is also a great opportunity to begin “interviewing” real estate agents.  Trying to find one that will work well with you!

3. Get ready to move!  Some local Realtors will offer assistance with your moving, albeit, we do not help with the physical loading and unloading, we do offer a FREE Moving Truck for our clients!  Just another benefit to using The Swinney Sells Team.

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Nation-wide Home Prices Hit a 9-year Low. How are Helena, MT’s Home Prices Doing?

I just read an article on stating that US Home Prices hit a 9-year low .  Meaning, nationwide, home values have depreciated to 2002 prices.  This isn’t that alarming to me, most of my take on this is that house values have lost just a bit more than the false appreciation we gained from the boom.  This boom started for most of the nation in 2006 – 2007.  Locally, in Helena, we saw good appreciation in 2006, but it wasn’t crazy like many places saw.   Over the course of 2006, we saw roughly 18% appreciation, for most single family residential homes in the Helena area.  For a comprehensive overview of this click here, Shaun Moore at Moore Appraisal Firm in Helena has been tracking the Helena Real Estate Market carefully for some time.  Our median price in Helena is currently $184,000, lining up with where we were in 2006.  My synopsis of this is that the boom happened and is gone, and now we are back to a more traditional growth pattern of single digit appreciation.  Now, I don’t have a crystal ball, and thus cannot see into the future.  But, the economic signs are showing signs of life, again.

Besides, the semantics of how much or little depreciation we have seen locally, and when.  The major take-away point is that today it is a great time to buy.  This is proven by several indicators: low interest rates, low housing prices, & high rent prices.  Whether you are a current renter, or someone who is thinking about investing in Real Estate, there has been no better time to buy real estate.  If you are a tenant, you are paying top dollar for rents.  This was just cited yesterday in USA Today.  For the article click here.  For investors, there will be plenty of tenants that will not qualify for a mortgage, so it is still a good time to own investment properties.  The caveat is, of course, not everyone is cut out to be a landlord and they should always consult their Attorney’s, Accountants, and trusted Real Estate Professionals to weigh the pros and cons of being a real estate investor.

With interest rates being at historical lows, and prices being at 2006 prices in Helena, there are many opportunities to get in now and make a good purchase.  To see what’s on the current market in Helena go to or give us a call at 406-442-3616.


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What’s going on in Helena today- March 25, 2012?

If you’ve already been to the HBIA Home Show this weekend, and your still in the Real Estate mood, then apply that newly learned knowledge at an open house or three.  Bruce Swinney & Associates, INC is having four open houses today (Sunday March 25, 2012).  And here is the advertisement in the Independent Record.

Bruce Swinney & Associates 3-25-12 Ad

1228 Stetson – Open 1 – 3 March 25 – price $374,900 – link to listing –

3860 Kismet – Open 1 – 3 March 25 – price $194,900 – link to listing –

810 Motsiff – Open 1 – 3 March 25 – price $154,900 – link to listing –

3641 Sly Rd – Open 1 – 3 March 25 – price $284,900 – link to listing –



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Helena Building Industry Association – HBIA – Home Show this weekend

Helena Montana Real Estate

If you are thinking of remodeling your home, or building a new home go to the Helena Fairgrounds this weekend (March 24 – 25).  There will be lots of booths there with everything from builders, obviously, to home decorators.  It is always informative and a great event for the weekend.

If you are interested in an honest opinion on whether or not to remodel – give us a call.  Many home improvement projects do NOT net sellers a positive return on their investment.  This varies depending on the degree of necessity, but if you are ever curious, give us a call at 406-442-3616.


If building a new home is a thought, give us a call to.  We can refer some excellent builders in Helena.  We can also assist you in finding the right piece of dirt to build on too.


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