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frequently asked questions

Real estate is changing - and change often raises some questions.

Here are some of our most commonly asked ones.

 

Contact us if you have a question you don't see here.

questions about buying a home

Can I Use OTTO If I Have An Agent?

Yes. OTTO is open to everyone - even (and especially) agents. Real estate agents can be an important guide throughout the homebuying process, and we've baked in some features that will help your real estate agent guide you during your home search. If you don't have an agent, don't worry. We've built OTTO to be as easy as possible for buyers and sellers who do not have agents, and if you feel it's important to have professional guidance, you can always add one later.

How does OTTO make money without charging commission?

Commissions are outdated and incredibly expensive. Instead of charging commissions, we make a little money whenever we connect a home buyer or seller with a professional service through our marketplace. The big difference here is that the OTTO user doesn't have to pay a penny.  Instead, companies pay OTTO for the introduction. We also charge to get access to some premium features on our site, such as enhanced placement.

Why do I need to be pre-approved to make an offer?

We want all buyers and sellers on OTTO to treat their offers seriously. Verifying that the buyer is pre-approved helps the buyer make offers within their price range, and lets sellers know the buyer can follow through with the offer they've made.

Note: Pre-approval letters are a lender's way of communicating that they've reviewed the buyer's finances and are willing to lend them the money to buy a home up to the purchase price indicated on the letter.

Why don't all homes on OTTO allow showings?

Showings are inconvenient for sellers - especially when they're in person. One of the core parts of our platform is allowing sellers the luxury to simply list their home and accept offers without much inconvenience or commitment. This frictionless listing process is engages a whole new set of potential sellers - the ones who would sell their home for the right price, but who aren't yet willing to jump through hoops to sell their home.

Buyers, in turn, get way more homes to choose from, increasing their chances of finding the perfect home at the perfect price.

Note: Sellers are often much more receptive to showings after the buyer makes an offer or messages the seller with the price they would like to offer after seeing the home.

What happens after my offer is accepted?

Once your offer is accepted, you get to choose the level of support you want for the rest of the process. Though you can buy or sell your home absolutely free, that tends to get messy and more costly down the road. Our recommendation is to opt for your transaction to be managed by OTTO ($495) or by a real estate agent (1%).

 

In either of these cases, a professional will help you with the paperwork and details including executing a purchase and sale contract, scheduling the inspection, buttoning up your mortgage approval, and negotiating any final details before closing.

Why would I opt for premium support after accepting an offer?

Though premium support isn't necessary, it is highly recommended. Without a neutral party or professional involved, little things, such as renegotiation after something unexpected was found in the home inspection, can get out of hand and cause a deal to fall apart. Premium support will significantly increase the chances of a smooth transaction that closes without any stress, delays, or surprises.

How can I find homes for sale near me?

There are plenty of ways to find homes for sale in your area, including Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com. The homes shown on these sites may vary slightly depending on which agents opt to share the details of their listings. There are also smaller sites, such as forsalebyowner.com which allow owners to list their own properties. OTTO takes the best of both worlds and pulls in all homes in an area while also allowing homeowners to add their own properties, resulting in more searchable homes than any other site. OTTO even allows you to make offers directly to the seller or the listing agent on a property with no waiting and no fees.

Is my offer legally binding?

Offers made through OTTO are not legally binding until a full purchase and sale agreement is drafted and signed by both the buyer and the seller. This typically happens after an offer is accepted and a professional draws up the paperwork with the formal terms, including contingencies and exclusions.

What happens when I make an offer on an "off market" home?

When offers are made on off-market homes, OTTO's offer brokering team will personally reach out to the homeowner, present your offer, and encourage the owner to accept or consider it. In some cases where the owner may be difficult to get a hold of, we may need more than the typical 72 hours to deliver you a decision, but we'll keep you updated along the way.

Note: when making offers on off-market houses, we recommend you get more aggressive with both your offer and your deposit. This will show the home owner that you're serious.

How long does a seller get to respond to my offer?

In order to provide the best possible experience to buyers and limit the anxiety on both sides, sellers get 72 hours from the moment an offer is received to make a decision. If they fail to make a decision during that timeframe, we will automatically decline the offer. If this happens more than 3 times in a row, the seller's property may be deactivated from the platform. The anticipation of whether your offer is accepted or not is painful. The offer timers help us limit that pain and give closure to both the buyer and seller as quickly as possible.

How many offers can I make at once?

With the base plan of OTTO, you can only make one offer at a time. Serious buyers may choose to upgrade their account to a premium tier, which will allow for up to 3 offers to be made at once, an increased amount of messages to sellers, and even the ability to download reviews on any house you're interested in.

How can I unlock reviews on homes I'm interested in?

Reviews were first launched on OTTO as a way to help sellers learn what they could fix up in their home to get more offers. We chose to keep them private in order to avoid intentional manipulation of the system and to protect the seller from any embarrassing comments.

 

While we still believe reviews should be kept mostly private, we realized that they could be very useful and informative to interested buyers when making a final decision of how much to offer, so we enabled review downloads for our "Ready to Move" plan. By upgrading to "Ready to Move", you'll gain the ability to view reviews on any home you're interested in.

Why doesn't the home I'm interested in allow showings?

When registering their home on OTTO, sellers may select whether they're willing to allow in-person showings, virtual showings, or no showings at all. Showings are inconvenient for sellers so unless they're looking to move quickly, most sellers typically opt for no showings or only virtual showings.

 

Though it may feel unnatural at first to make an offer on a home without stepping inside in person, remember that all homes sold on OTTO are required to have a home inspection, where a professional inspects every corner of the home looking for defects. Home buyers are encouraged to attend the inspection as well.

What fees can I expect when buying a home?

Buying a home is a complicated process that takes involvement from a team of different professionals. Throughout the process, you can expect to pay for a home inspection, attorney or title fees, and mortgage origination fees which commonly include an appraisal fee, origination points, and an underwriting fee.

 

Depending on your scenario or the lender you choose, these fees may vary, but they often total 2-3% of the home's purchase price. In some circumstances, these fees can be offset by taking a slightly higher interest rate or may even be rolled into the loan.

Why do I need a home inspection?

Conducting a home inspection is a critical step during the home buying process because it ensures that you're buying the home in the condition you expect. Home inspections are even more important when purchasing a home without seeing it in person first.

Common findings in home inspections range from small things like broken outlets or loose fixtures to more serious issues such as contaminated water or faulty wiring. Costs typically range from $700-$1,500 depending on the depth of the inspection and the size of the home.

Questions About Selling a home

How can I earn a "top property" badge for my home?

Top property badges are the highest honor a home can earn. Each quarter, the reviews left on a property will be evaluated, and properties will be ranked by area and price range. The properties with the highest Property Score (our internal metric for most reviews combined with highest average rating) are awarded badges to display on their home's profile, and get featured on our "Top Homes Near Me" articles. Winning a top property badge can drive up the value of a home significantly, so take great pictures and video, fix small issues that can help curb appeal, and make sure to invite as many friends or family as possible to review your home!

What costs can I expect when selling my home?

When selling a home, there are many costs that homeowners often overlook. These costs include title and/or attorney fees, property and transfer taxes, escrow fees, moving costs, and minor repairs resulting from the inspection. You may get a small credit for prepaid utilities, such as any oil that exists in the tank, but all told, these fees typically total 2-4% of the home's sale price.

On top of those costs, real estate agent commission costs usually take another 5%-6% of the sale price. With OTTO, there is no commission to worry about, so you can maximize your profit and keep more money in your pocket for the things that really matter.

How can I unlock reviews on my home?

Every homeowner with an OTTO account can see the reviews their home has received by claiming your profile and clicking on the "reviews" tab. If you wish to unlock the comments and values people left about your home, you will need to upgrade your account. Upgrading your account also comes with a suite of benefits that will give you a leg up on the competition.

Why is OTTO the best way to sell my home?

The best way to sell your home will depend on what is most important to you. For most people, the priority will be maximizing your net profit on the sale of your home. Some sellers may prioritize selling their home quickly, and others may prioritize having an expert to make the process as simple as possible. 

OTTO gives you the best of all worlds, empowering homeowners to sell their home for top dollar with premium options to sell your home more quickly  and enlist expert support - all without having to pay commission to a real estate agent.

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