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Friday, March 29, 2013

Selecting the Right Agent

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All real estate agents are not created equal.  They may have access to the same systems, the same information and market data, similar industry tools used across the board and universal access to government agencies that house important data that may be relevant in helping you sell your home.  So what sets apart the successful ones from the bad apples?  It is how they use the things that are at their disposal – that is what makes all the difference. 

Now, unless you are completely well versed in the process of home selling and real estate, chances are you may not know all the ins and outs of these tools.  So how can you measure the success rate of potential agents you may or may not want to work with?  The answer lies in three important metrics that you can easily employ to help you make that decision.

Does The Agent Have a Proven Track

Anyone can tell you they are good.  They can even show you a few case studies that support their statement.  But the best way to tell whether the performance is up to par is to measure how they do and have done during the good times and the bad.  These days, in light of our challenged market of the past several years, it is the perfect time to assess the track record of agents you may be considering.  Do they have sales that average one every few months?  Is this metric standard for all their years as an agent or reflective of the more recent hard times? 

What Is The Agent’s Marketing Strategy?

In real estate, the marketing has traditionally not been as aggressive as other areas of investment.  Lately, however, there has been an increase in more aggressive techniques that more often than not lead to success for several reasons. Agents typically adopt passive marketing measures – industry standards – such as MLS listings, conducting open houses, using the Internet for localized promotion as well as word of mouth.  However, the newer brand of marketing is active marketing.  This entails a “reach out and grab prospects” approach and while it may seem pushy, the results are worth it.   The difference between an agent opting for both styles versus just the one, traditional method, can be as significant as landing you a better offer in quicker time with a bigger selling price.  The presence of an additional offer on the table raises the stakes, making all these things possible and far more probable than if there was just one offer on the table.

What Does The List of References Look Like?

Of course you will be provided a list of references while shopping for a new agent.  And of course the people on that list will have good things to say about the Realtor.  But consider this: what agent will give you a list of people that don’t have something nice to say?  A good way to approach what could be a gaping hole in this area is to ignore the list provided to you and instead, request a list with names of people the real estate agent is either currently working with or with whom he or she has recently closed a sale.  Then, ask the key questions to help guide you whether this is the right agent for you:  Are they timely?  Is the agent accessible? Do they deliver on the promises they make?  What were the results of each case?

At the end of the day, the goal is that you sell your property and sell it well. Selling it well can translate to a higher price, more efficiently managed procedures, smoother and streamlined process, and an overall quicker turn around time.  By following the suggestions in this article, you will be able to discern the best agent in your area to handle your specific needs.  Half the battle of selling your home is in choosing the right agent to help you achieve your goal.

Monday, March 11, 2013

How to Gain Leverage Over Other Buyers in Today's Competitive Market

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For years now, buyers have been able to come in fairly low and actually get away with offers that sellers would never have accepted just a few years prior to that. But now, things are shifting back to a more balanced marketplace and we are noticing some big changes in the way buyers and sellers are interacting. Here are some ways you can gain the upper hand over other buyers vying for the same (few) properties that are scarcely available in our market today.

Don’t Hold Back When You Find Something You Like
A common mistake made by many buyers in a competitive market is to hold off on making an offer on something they really like. The chance of finding a home that meets every single need is next to impossible, that’s why it is important to recognize your deal breakers and if you like the home for the most part, go ahead and make an offer on it.

If You’re Serious, Present a Serious Offer – The First Time
Now is not the time to be playing games when it comes to trying to get the home of your dreams. With so few homes on the market and so many buyers, there is a good chance you could lose the home altogether if your offer is not strong enough. Carefully consider your offer and act as if that is your only chance.

Engage in the Services of a Local Expert
There is a lot of merit to working with a local real estate agent that knows the area and knows other agents in the area. At times, when all else fails, a seller may opt for your offer just because their agent also knows your agent. Not to mention, the expert advice you can expect from your REALTOR® in being able to recognize a good deal among other things.

Structure An Offer That Makes the Seller Happy
One of the strongest signs of a serious buyer is a large deposit. Though the standard varies from area to area, typically at least 1% is put toward earnest money and it shows some level of seriousness on the buyer’s part when they go above that.
Other things you can do to make sure sellers pay more attention to your offer and less to others include writing a personal letter to share what you love about the home or be willing to waive contingencies or at least shorten contingencies. Savvy buyers also work to keep their offers simple, clean and easy to read plus they don’t hesitate to offer cash if they can do it, shortening the time period between now and closing.
If you don’t need closing cost assistance, don’t ask for it and finally – if you really love the property, do what works best – offer more money.
Contact us today to find your perfect dream home!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Staging Your House Before It's Too Late and You Lose the Sale


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If you’ve shopped for a home, chances are you’ve come across one that you really wish you hadn’t visited in the first place. True, houses for sale ought to have a certain “lived in” quality to them, because they are to be lived in after all, but the art of tactfully balancing just the right amount of hominess with neutrality is not so simple. You need to know what you’re doing when you prepare to set up your house and show it to potential buyers. We’ve put together some great tips for home-sellers so you can get the same results you’d get by hiring a professional staging company.

Fix Up the Place

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make before putting their house up for sale is to neglect areas in the house that need attention. Folks, don’t leave that faulty step unrepaired, only for a potential buyer to step on, slide off of or worse, get injured on – FIX IT! You might think potential buyers won’t notice but they are walking around on your premises like hawks, noticing each little detail. The good news is that they are noticing the first-rate stuff too, so as long as you have the home’s amenities in order and other major areas in tip-top condition, you should be in good shape. Here’s how:

Get Rid of the Clutter

If you want to successfully sell your house, you need to get those potential buyers to imagine they already live there. Too much clutter, hobby-oriented items or personal possessions that most people may not be able to identify with, can easily get in the way of that vision. Organize things in stylish storage bins or better yet, have a garage sale before the open house and get rid of unwanted stuff. You have to move soon anyway, why not kill two birds with one stone? A clean and organized home will seem like a clean slate to buyers, who can then see themselves moving in without much hassle and settle in effortlessly.

Stay Neutral

Skip the tie-dye sofa cushions, shaggy 70s rug and don’t light incense on the day of your open house. While you’re at it, don’t fill the space with gender-specific things either. Buyers should walk into a neutral ground – literally. Light to medium colors, preferably in beige tones, are the simplest way to pull buyers’ attention away from other personal aspects of your home that they may not be able to identify with. Beige goes with almost anything so if someone considering purchasing your home can imagine their things in the space, then you’ve just crossed one of the most major hurdles in home-selling – making a buyer identify with the home.

Make It a Modern, Inviting Environment

If you don’t already have them, invest in a few modern decorative accessories to improve the look of your space while lending an air of style and taste and making it more enticing. It doesn’t have to take much but depending on how you set it up, you can enhance a given space with a few simple additions and deletions. Take your over-crowded study and rearrange the bookshelf to display only a few strategic but essential books, like a leather-bound set of encyclopedia or some literature classics. In the same way, leave a few children’s toys in a child’s room but be sure to display them tastefully.

Put a Few Finishing Touches in Place

The idea is that you want your house to be sold – and you probably want it sold fast. If you are careful to respect the people who are visiting your space to decide whether it’s the right one for them, then you are doing something that a lot of homeowners neglect to consider. Taking down a piece of controversial artwork that may make a potential purchaser uncomfortable could be the one bargaining chip that could make or break the sale. Arranging for all those who currently live in the home to be away during the open house and while showing the house being dressed in a way to present a good impression are also great ways to tip the scales in the right direction.

It’s very simple. You need to make the potential buyer feel right at home from the get-go. If from the moment they walk in and smell cinnamon cookies baking makes them wish this was already home – then you’re already two steps ahead and can call the open house a success! Of course, a signature on the dotted line is where the real success lies and as long as the buyer feels at home, chances are that if everything else lines up – the sale is a winner!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why Short Sales and Foreclosures Have Boosted the Market

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The real estate market is changing quickly.   As your real estate resource center, I’m committed to keeping you up to date on all of these changes—and what they mean to you.  Over the past few years, we’ve seen changes related to short sales and foreclosures.  Because of this, there’s a good opportunity in real estate that most people are not aware of—low inventory along with record-setting low interest rates.  Here’s what’s happening in southwest Florida. 

First, a short sale is a property that sells for less than what the owner owes on the loan, while foreclosure is when the bank takes ownership of the property.  We’re seeing changes in the short sale process and mostly for the better with the process tending to be much more compressed.  We’re also seeing changes in the number of foreclosures.  Comparing December 2012 to December 2011 the number of bank-owned properties decreased by 44%.   Along the same lines, bank-owned properties listed for sale decreased by 62% during the same time period.  As the number of foreclosures and short sales decrease, nicer, higher-priced homes have come on the market. 

This is great news for southwest Florida.  The reason?  It comes down to lower inventory levels pushing prices higher. You can get more for your home when there's less competition. Remember, it's all about supply and demand, and now's the time to get top dollar for your home.

Buyers should also keep in mind that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hovered at a record-low rate during 2012.  Better interest rates not only make your monthly payment lower but translate into more buying power.  These rates have also helped make home-buying affordable, but they won’t last forever.    

As always, you can reach me at 239.300.1427 or  I’d be happy to assist you with buying or selling your home. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Make It the Best—and Safest—Time of the Year

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, many people are checking their to-do lists twice and may not be thinking about how to keep their homes safe for their families.   To keep your holidays holly and jolly, get started with a few simple steps.      

Holiday Glow  
If you like to have the brightest Christmas display known to man like Clark Griswold of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or you prefer minimal lights, you should always take safety precautions.  So when you shop for indoor or outdoor lights, look for a label that indicates that they have been safety tested by an independent laboratory.  Whether your lights are new or old, carefully inspect them for frayed wires, cracked or broken sockets or loose connections, and if you don’t know how to repair them, simply discard them.   Hang the outdoor lights with United Laboratories-rated clips, rather than staples or nails, which can damage the wiring.  To avoid overloading an extension cord, use no more than three standard size sets of lights.  Don’t put lights on a metallic tree because it can electrocute a person who touches it, and keep “bubbling” lights out of the reach of children.  Remember, lights can short and ignite, causing a fire, so be sure to turn them off when you leave or go to bed.    

Candles pose hazards as well and a general rule of thumb is to keep the candle at least one foot away from any item, especially those that can catch on fire, such as a tree or other evergreens, decorations, wrapping paper, etc.  Put them in non-flammable holders in places where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.  

While You Are Away
Before you get on the road for the holidays, make sure your home is secure.  Lock all doors using deadbolts and windows, and don’t forget to lock the door to your attached garage.  Sliding glass doors are another point of entry, so if you put a piece of plywood in the track it will help prevent a burglar from opening the door.  And, most importantly, use your home security system if you have one.  So many people have the alarm systems and just don’t take the time to set them, and then regret it later.  

The last thing you want to do is tempt a burglar, of course.  Before you leave for the holidays, go out near the street and look at your house to ensure you can’t see any valuable electronics, pieces of art, etc., because these items will not only be visible to your neighbors, but potential intruders.  You should also use tips and tricks to make it look like you are home.   To do so, leave a few blinds open and ask a neighbor to collect your newspapers and mail as well as keep an eye on your home.   You should also use timers to turn on lights, radios and TVs.    

As the year ends, I wish you the best during the holidays and success in the coming year.  As always, you can reach me at 239.300.1427 or  I’d be happy to assist you with buying and selling your home.                                                  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

10 Helpful Tips for a Stress-Free Moving Day

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Oh, moving day is exciting, isn’t it? And, sometimes, it’s too darned exciting! After all, you have so many things to remember…worry that the mover will show up on time…fret that things may be lost or get broken…and on and on. But, really, that day doesn’t need to be so stressful!

If you follow the tips below, you can make the day as painless and as enjoyable as possible. The key underlying each of these tips is, of course, proper planning!

Tip 1: Start early!

There are two reasons for starting early. One is psychological. When you start early, you can break the moving task down into smaller steps; that is, you can pack a little at a time. Psychologically, this gives you a great boost because you’re not overwhelming yourself by trying to do everything at once. The second reason relates to the first: packing is harder and more difficult than you think! So, by starting early, you have time to think things through and pack logically and economically!

Tip 2: Weed Out the Unused or Useless!

As I’m sure you know, you’ll be amazed at how much stuff you’ve accumulated that’s either never used or seldom used. So, why take it with you? Sort through everything and get rid of any item you haven’t used for a year or so. Donate it to a charity organization or, if appropriate, throw it into the trash or recycling. Remember, long distance movers charge by weight! So, the equation is simple: less weight = less money out of your bank account! Local movers charge by time! So, less time = less money! Plan on making a couple of passes through your belongings. If possible, take a break of a day or more between passes. That allows you to take a more objective look at everything.

Tip 3: Label Everything in Sight!

This is a real time-saver and stress-reducer. On each box, write down the contents as specifically as possible. At the same time, avoid overdoing the “Miscellaneous” label. If you end up with several boxes with that same label, you won’t have a clue as to what they contain!

Tip 4: Do One Room at a Time!

There’s always the temptation to take items from several rooms and put them in one box. This is a good way to end up with too many “miscellaneous” boxes. Instead, pack one room fully at a time and then move to the next room.

Tip 5: Consolidate!

Since it’s easy for small boxes to get lost or damaged, place smaller items in small boxes and then put those put small boxes into a bigger box.

Tip 6: Take Important Documents with You!

Never pack any personal financial information and important papers and put them on a moving truck. Identify theft is possible, but, equally important, if those documents are lost, it could take you many, many hours to replace such important items as bank statements, passports.

Tip 7: Take Your Valuables with You!

Use common sense and take jewelry, artwork, rare book collections, etc. with you. You don’t want it on a moving truck, and, to be blunt, most moving companies don’t want to ship it for obvious liability reasons. If you absolutely have to ship valuables, get expanded moving insurance through the carrier or a third party.

Tip 8: Plan for Essentials!

Keep a box separate for all the essentials you’ll need in your new home and make sure it’s loaded last onto the truck so you can get at it easily upon arrival. Depending on your needs, “essentials” could include: soap, towels, toilet paper, sheets, coffee maker, drinking cups, paper plates, eating utensils, pencils and paper, etc.

Tip 9: Inventory Everything That Goes on the Van!

List every box or item that goes on the moving van and take the list with you. Once you arrive at your new home, have a family member tick off the boxes and items as they come off the truck. This is vitally important if your belongings are transferred from the truck to storage before being delivered. If a box is missing, lost or left behind, it could be months before you realize it’s gone.

Tip 10: Save Money!

Packing boxes can be expensive. If there are items that will go into plastic storage bins and/or large trash bags (stuffed animals, towels, etc.), then buy the inexpensive bins or bags. This will also save you the time and trouble of unpacking the boxes in your new home.

If you are looking for a local mover, call us because we have recommendations!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama's Real Estate Tax Not as Bad as People Think

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There is a lot of confusion centered on the health care bill’s impact on real estate transactions and the talk is not exactly accurate. Let me first clarify one thing: yes there is a new tax on real estate. But what most people don’t tell you is that the tax is only on applied profits earned above and beyond the capital gains tax limits and this is not a blanket tax applied to all real estate sales.

Additional Taxation Only on Applicable Capital Gains

First, let me explain the capital gains tax limits in most states. Most states have a $250,000 threshold on capital gains for single persons and a $500,000 cap for married couples. What that means is that if you are a single person and after the sale of your home if there is a profit over and beyond $250,000 – that amount will be taxed an additional 3.8%. Let’s go over this with an example. Say you bought a home for $300,000 and then sold it for $375,000. The profit amounts to only $75,000 (well within the $250,000 limit for non-married property owners) so you will not be taxed on that profit.

Now, here is an example of a married couple that sold their lakefront home: Originally bought in 2002 for $100,000. They renovated the home and now it is a gorgeous and very desirable property. Assuming that other homes consistently gained value and sold for a lot more in recent years, the couple in our example sold their home for $650,000 (Wow! Show me an investment opportunity like THAT!). This couple received a total of $550,000 profit on the sale of their home and given the $500,000 married people exemption on capital gains, the taxable amount would be $50,000. How much does it add up to? The total amount of additional tax this couple will pay at 3.8% would be a mere $1,900 – a far cry from the thousands of dollars the rumors would have you believe.

Generous Income Requirements Prior to Tax Imposition

Another important aspect of the new real estate taxes is that the tax only applies to individuals with at least a $200,000 annual income and couples with a joint income of at least $250,000. That automatically eliminates about 97% of the American population right there.
So you see? It’s not all that bad. The only thing I can think of that is important to remember about the capital gains tax exemption is that it must be a primary residence of the person or people filing for the exemption. Here is a document generated by the National Association of Realtors with some more scenarios showing how the real estate tax would impact people.

* Remember I am not a CPA, always consult your tax adviser.