Real Estate Marketing Strategies: Does your “People Pleaser” Pattern Get in The Way?

Posted July 21, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling, Mortgage

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Do you find yourself avoiding certain types of clients? Do you find yourself unable to speak the thru to sellers when their properties are overpriced? If you’re like most real estate professionals, your “people pleaser” pattern often gets in the way of telling the truth. When you’re not able to tell the truth to your sellers, they lose respect for you, and you end up losing the transaction.

This is similar to a client of mine, named Pauline, who was unable to reach her financial goals because she only wanted to work with buyers. When I probed into what was blocking her, she said that she really didn’t like the idea of working with sellers. In fact, her dislike was so great that she actually avoiding speaking with sellers. When I asked her why, she said it was because they would be demanding. They wouldn’t price their homes at the right number; they would expect her to spend a lot of money to sell their house; they would really pressure her and create a lots of stress for her.

I asked her why it was that she gave her power away to these people instead of setting appropriate boundaries. I asked her why she wasn’t able to tell them the truth about the price of their homes. With a little prompting and encouragement, she discovered that she had been suffering from a very strong people pleasing pattern her whole life; it showed up in different areas.

In this case, it showed up whenever she thought about working with a seller. In her interactions with sellers, she gave her power to them; she let them control the situation; she let them set the price; she didn’t set appropriates boundaries. In fact, she ignored one of Stephen Covey’s basic rules, “It’s either win/win or no deal.” For her, in every situation with a seller they won and she lost.

When we explored her people pleasant pattern a little bit deeper to find its origins, we found it began very early in her life. In fact as a very young child, her only way of getting any attention was to be a family “people pleaser.”

I pointed out to her that that was probably a good strategy at the time, but like a program that you install your computer, it will need to be updated or eventually replaced. I asked if she would finally like to change that old “people pleaser” pattern, and she agreed.

Coming back to her current age, she realized that if she kept on being a “people pleaser,” she would not be able to fulfill her potential or make the money she needed, and she would constantly be stressed out.

With a very short technique, I introduced her to the idea of releasing her “people pleaser” pattern once and for all. When she did that, she felt much lighter. And then asked her to come up with a list of empowered beliefs, and she created this list: “I just need to please myself, and no one else.” “I don’t need people to like me; I just need people to respect me.” “It’s either win/win or no deal.” “The only person’s approval I need is my own.”

Those new empowered beliefs allowed her to take her power back. It gave her the ability to tell the truth. My general comment to all real estate professionals in today’s market is that above all, be honest. When you’re working with a prospective client who is a seller, be sure that they are willing to price their home at the price point that you advise them.

If they insist on an unrealistic price, do not work with them; you would only be engaging in an interaction in which they would win and you would lose. Keep in mind Stephen Covey’s famous principle from his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; it’s is either win/win or no deal.

Trust your gut; you’ll know if it’s not a win for you. Your job is to let it go and trust that you’re making room for a wonderful, new, ideal client.

Dr. Maya Bailey, Multiple 6 Figure Income Business Coach for Real Estate Professionals, integrates her 20 years of experience as a psychologist with 14 years of expertise in marketing. Her powerful transformational work creates a Success Formula for Real Estate Professionals ready to create a Multiple 6 Figure Income. To get your free report: ‘7 Simple Strategies to More Clients in 90 Days” and to apply for an initial Complimentary Consultation, go to http://www.90daystomoreclients.com/

More consumers planning to buy as mortgage concerns ease

Posted July 13, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling, Mortgage

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The share of consumers who plan to buy a home rose to 6.9 percent in December, up from 5 percent in November, according to a monthly economic outlook released today by Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group.

Despite concerns about mortgage availability, Fannie Mae economists reported that consumer attitudes about the ease of getting a mortgage are at the highest level in the 3 1/2-year history of its National Housing Survey.

“This result is consistent with the Federal Reserve’s survey of senior loan officers who reported that they have eased lending standards for residential mortgages over the past year and thus should offset some negative impact stemming from the current higher interest rate environment,” Fannie Mae economists said.

Now that some fiscal uncertainty has been resolved at the federal level, Fannie Mae economists predict an increase in consumer and business spending to bolster economic growth this year, with housing’s contribution expected to double.

Gross domestic product (GDP) will likely come in at 2.9 percent for all of 2014, up from an estimated 2.6 percent in 2013. Of that growth, the mortgage giant anticipates 0.6 percent will come from housing — largely due to new homebuilding activity — up from 0.3 percent in 2013.

“Despite the rise in mortgage rates since the spring, many housing indicators posted strong gains at the end of 2013 and consumer housing attitudes are strengthening, all of which bodes well for continued but measured housing recovery in 2014,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan in a statement.

In October, new-home sales rose to their highest level since July 2008, and single-family home permits jumped to their highest level since April 2008. In November, housing starts increased for the second straight month, rising to a recovery high and surpassing the 1 million mark for only the second time in the current recovery, Fannie Mae said.

“The new-home market has benefited from declining competition from foreclosures and distressed sales. With increased  momentum late in 2013, we expect both new-home sales and housing starts to post double-digit rises again this year amid an improving employment picture, rising confidence and high pent-up demand,” Fannie Mae economists said.

While new-home sales are a bright spot in the housing market, existing-home sales are less so. Such sales have not seen a rebound from the increase in mortgage rates starting in May, a development Fannie Mae says is “worrisome.” Since June, existing-home sales have risen only once and fell for the third straight month in November to the lowest level in 2013. Pending home sales declined for the fifth straight month in October, though November’s figures indicate they have stabilized.

Purchase mortgage applications have trended down sharply through the end of the year, however, remaining at 22 percent below a peak achieved in early May before the runup in mortgage rates, Fannie Mae said.

“The continued decline in purchase applications underscores weak organic demand for mortgages in the face of declining  REO and short sales, which are popular among investors,” economists said.

“Until we feel comfortable that organic housing demand from first-time homebuyers and trade-up buyers can step up to replace investor demand as bargain-priced properties are dwindling, we remain cautious on the outlook for existing-home sales this year and expect only a modest rise of about 2 percent.”

Fannie Mae economists project the median price of an existing home will rise 6.7 percent on an annual basis in 2014, to $208,000. They expect the median price of a new home to increase 6.8 percent, to $283,000. Fannie Mae anticipates that median prices of both new and existing homes will rise about 5 percent more in 2015.

Existing-home sales are expected to rise 1.7 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, while new-home sales are expected to see a 20.2 percent rise. Single-family housing starts are projected to jump even more, by 23.6 percent. All three are expected to see further increases in 2015, by 3.3 percent, 30 percent and 29.6 percent, respectively.

After rising to an estimated average 4 percent in 2013, mortgage rates are expected to increase further this year. Rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are projected to average 4.8 percent this year and rise to 5.4 percent in 2015.

After dropping an estimated 15.6 percent in 2013, mortgage originations are expected to fall 30.9 percent this year to $1.26 trillion and decline by 8.8 percent in 2015, largely due to a sharp drop in refinance loans.

Purchase loans rose an estimated 12.2 percent in 2013 from the year before and are projected to rise by 14.2 percent this year to $786 billion and further increase 7.5 percent to $845 billion in 2015.

Refinance loans, on the other hand, fell an estimated 26.7 percent to $1.13 trillion in 2013 and are projected to sink by 58.5 percent in 2014, to $469 billion due to rising mortgage rates. In 2015, economists anticipate another steep drop in refinances: 36 percent.

Fannie Mae anticipates refinancings will drop to 37 percent of mortgage originations this year, down from an estimated 62 percent in 2013, and fall to 26 percent in 2015.

The mortgage giant anticipates an average 6.5 percent unemployment rate this year, followed by an average 6.2 percent rate in 2015.

Source: Inman News

10 Things That Make Buyers Bite

Posted July 11, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling

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A Nice Entryway

Impress buyers right off the bat with a beautiful entrance. “I always tell sellers to put a fresh coat of paint on the front door,” says real estate agent Theresa Evans of Charleston, SC.

And if you don’t have an entrance at all, make one. “A lot of my buyers have mentioned that they don’t like to just go through the front door into the living room,” says Los Angeles-based realtor Rhonda Kohn.

This problem, more common in condos and apartments, is solved by cleverly placing furniture to create more of an entryway. “A console table or demilune chest of drawers with something over it creates a welcoming vignette,” says designer Sue Adams of Andover, Mass.

Hardwood Floors

Realtors agree that most buyers are hunting for hardwood. You can bet that of all types of flooring, hardwood floors will “have the most longevity and will never go out of style,” according to designer Linda Applewhite of Sausalito, Calif.

A synthetic wood floor, like Pergo, “is always a good option for those who can’t afford hardwood,” furthers real estate agent Rhonda Kohn. But know that a laminate floor “won’t fool everyone–it has a hollow thud when you walk on it and it doesn’t look the same,” adds designer Sue Adams.

Fab Fixtures

“Fixtures,” says designer Linda Applewhite, “are the jewelry of the house.” Only the extremely detail-oriented among us will stop to inspect doorknobs, faucets and cabinet knobs, but designers and real estate agents argue that we’ll prefer the look of a place that has coordinated fixtures that are a cut above standard developer grade.

“Newer construction is so chintzy with fixtures and fittings,” observes Miami-based interior designer Simon Temprell. Replacing knobs and drawer pulls “is the quickest way to make over a bathroom or kitchen,” he says. And when it comes to faucets, he adds, “for $60 or $70 you can buy something infinitely better” than what you likely already have.

Beautiful Baths

According to real estate agents, marble counters, whirlpool baths and steam showers up the attractiveness of any bathroom. But if you don’t have these luxury items, it may be more practical to address the unattractive aspects of your existing bath.

“Rip out that big sheet mirror and those globe lights that look like you’re in a theater dressing room,” suggests designer Simon Temprell.

Replace them with an elegant framed mirror (don’t be afraid to look outside the bathroom section, he says) and sconce lighting on either side.

This lighting scheme is also more flattering to the face, observes designer Sue Adams, and making buyers feel pretty will pay off!

 

Countertop Considerations

You’ve probably heard that granite is the secret to a contemporary kitchen, but that’s not necessarily what buyers are after. “It’s really about the slab,” says designer Linda Applewhite. Buyers don’t want to see grout lines on their counters, she explains.

So when it comes to slab countertops, granite is the top pick because it’s hard, nonporous and easy to care for. But then again, so is Corian, so are composite stone surfaces such as Silestone and, she notes, with the help of today’s sophisticated sealants, so are concrete, limestone, soapstone and marble.

Even butcher-block, which is much less expensive than stone, can be a more appealing alternative to tile or laminate countertops. “When it gets funky, you can sand it and oil it and it looks good again,” she says.

Already have granite? Make it cutting edge. “A lot of people are honing their granite now,” adds Applewhite. “What that does is knock it down and make it more matte, so it looks warmer and more inviting. Shiny surfaces can look very cold.”

Steel This Idea

Why do buyers go bananas for stainless-steel appliances? It’s the power of suggestion. “A kitchen with stainless appliances looks like a commercial kitchen. It makes people think that they’re great cooks,” observes designer Sue Adams, “but because the finish shows fingerprints, it’s not for everyone.”

As far as other alternatives go, the designers agree that in general, black fixtures can look dated, while white is okay for a country kitchen. And some people are making appliances blend in beautifully by ordering front panels to match their cabinetry.

Pre-Organized Closets

Just as stainless appliances convince buyers that they are better cooks, closet organizers make buyers believe that they are better homemakers. If your closets are unadorned, don’t underestimate the importance of this easy addition.

“They make you feel secure and calm and people need that,” notes designer Sue Adams. And while you don’t need to use high-end organizers, make sure that the materials are up-to-date. “Twenty years ago, closet organizers meant wire shelves. You can’t slide anything over a wire shelf. You can’t even put a hanger in some of them,” she says. Today’s ideal would be “melamine shelves, in bone or white, with some drawers and metal rods to maximize storage,” she says.

This organization shouldn’t stop in the closet–make sure your kitchen cabinets are orderly, too. “If they open up a door and see a big pantry, but it’s not organized properly, it won’t be as exciting as something already organized with a place for everything,” says real estate agent Theresa Evans.

Light Up

“Floor lamps just don’t cut it these days,” says real estate agent Rhonda Kohn. If your home doesn’t get a lot of natural light, consider installing recessed lighting or new sconces, or both, so the buyer won’t struggle to figure out how to brighten up the space.

“Lighting is probably the most overlooked, yet the most important aspect of interior decoration,” designer Simon Temprell says, adding, “In newer construction, you don’t have sufficient lighting. The reality is that everyone needs three types–task, ambient and decorative lighting–which allow you to change the mood of the room.”

When it comes to recessed lighting, know that the smaller the fixture, the more updated it is. “We used to have six-inch apertures, now we have four-inch openings. And using halogen bulbs gives a cleaner, more modern look,” says designer Sue Adams.

Built-In Bonus

Interior Designer Linda Applewhite observes that many buyers view built-ins as “free furniture.” Well-crafted bookshelves, china cabinets and entertainment units can “make a home stand out as quality,” adds designer Sue Adams.

On the other hand, says designer Simon Temprell, “It can be a catch-22 because some people would rather organize their own furniture. Sometimes it’s better to have freestanding pieces that look like built-ins, that you can give the buyer the option to purchase.”

Grass Is Greener

Are the homebuyers in your area families with young children? If so, they’ll be drawn to spaces with a flat, open lawn.

Were you thinking of putting in a concrete patio or rock garden? Don’t bother if you’re putting your home on the market. “A flat yard is a real plus. Spend some money and put in the grass. It’s a good seller,” says real estate agent Rhonda Kohn.

Bonus Tip: Furnish that house!

Think you’re ready for the open house? Consider this: “Architecturally interesting homes in immaculate shape can be shown empty,” notes designer Applewhite

But in general, “people look for a homey kind of a feel,” adds real estate agent Kohn. And that’s homey, not homely. If the bulk of your furniture isn’t attractive, don’t hesitate to have it staged (propped with attractive rental furniture). “We’re even seeing that done in the inexpensive condo market,” she says.

Source: HGTV.com

 

Seattle predicted to be among hottest home markets in 2014

Posted July 8, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling, Mortgage

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Seattle will be one of the nation’s hottest housing markets next year, real estate website Zillow predicted Thursday.

The Seattle-based company’s crystal ball also reported that:

1. Homes values will raise nationwide by 3 percent in 2014.

This year’s gains of 5 percent nationwide and more than 20 percent in some markets “were also unsustainable and well above historic norms for healthy, balanced markets,” Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said in the report. In 2014, he added, “home value gains will slow down significantly because of higher mortgage rates, more expensive home prices, and more supply created by fewer underwater homeowners and more new construction.”

2. Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates will hit 5 percent for the first time since early 2010, as the economy improves and Federal Reserve’s policies change.

“While this will make homes more expensive to finance – the monthly payment on a $200,000 loan will raise by roughly $160 – it’s important to remember that mortgage rates in the 5 percent range are still very low,” Erin Lantz, Zillow director of mortgages, said in the report. “Because affordability is still high in most areas relative to historical norms, rising rates won’t derail the housing recovery.”

3. Prospective borrowers will have an easier time getting mortgages.

“Rising rates means lender’s refinance business will dwindle, forcing them to compete for buyers by potentially loosening their lending standards,” Lantz said.

4. Homeownership rates will fall below 65 percent for the first time since 1995.

“the housing bubble was fueled by easy lending standards and irrational expectations of home value appreciation, but it put a historically high number of American households – seven out of 10 – in a home, if only temporarily,” Humphries said. “That homeownership level proved unsustainable and during the housing recession and recovery the homeownership rate has floated back down to a more normal level.”

2014’s Hottest Housing Markets:

To determine which will be the hottest in 2014, we combined data on unemployment rates, population growth and the Zillow Home Value Forecast. Markets determined to be “hot” are characterized by lower than average unemployment, population growth of greater than 2 percent during the past two years and are forecasted to have home value growth of more than 2 percent during the next 12 months. The list is intended to give an early view into housing markets that are likely to experience heavy demand for homes, as well as increasing home values

2014’s Hottest Housing Markets:
1 Salt Lake City
2 Seattle
3 Austin, Texas
4 San Jose, California
5 Miami
6 Raleigh, N.C.
7 Jacksonville, Fla
8 San Diego
9 Portland, Oregon
10 Boston

Courtesy of seattlepi.com

Real Estate Matters | What home sellers can expect in the market this year

Posted January 7, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling

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A year ago, we saw far fewer “For Sale” signs. And this year, there are even fewer.

The surprising thing about the real estate market is its resiliency. It never fails to surprise how decisively a market turns. When it’s time, it’s time. And it’s clear to us that 2014 is looking very good for real estate.

There are a few troubled spots on the horizon: Mortgage interest rates are at least one percentage point higher than they were a year ago. And home prices are higher. That means homes are less affordable than they were, particularly since incomes haven’t risen, in real terms, in years.

That’s good news, and not so good news for sellers. It’s great that home prices are rising. In part, homes that were in foreclosure or listed as short sales, have closed and now prices are rising again. But rising interest rates (depending on how high they go) mean fewer buyers can afford to pay those higher prices.

At the end of 2011, mortgage interest rates reached 3.7 percent, before falling back. In 2012, mortgage interest rates were about 3.3 percent on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. We ended the year with mortgage interest rates around 3.5 percent for a 30-year fixed rate loan. In 2013, we ended at 4.3 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. (If you’re wondering, we think these rates are still great from a historical perspective.)

The Federal Reserve has indicated it will now pull back its monthly spend of $85 billion in mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities, which it did to keep interest rates at historic lows through 2015, or when the employment rate falls to 6.5 percent. The economy is improving. Third quarter 2013 GDP numbers were revised upward to 4.1 percent. The economy hasn’t grown that fast in years.

So, with low inventory, still low mortgage interest rates, and modestly rising prices, here’s what you need to do to get your home in selling shape for 2014:

Overcome any possible objections a buyer would have.

Buyers are always looking for a reason not to purchase your house. Your job as a seller is to eliminate any potential objections that would stand in the way for a buyer to make an offer.

If you really want to sell quickly, you’ll work hard to exceed the buyer’s expectation of your home as well. If your home is competitively priced, and your home’s condition exceeds a buyer’s expectations based on other homes in the neighborhood, you’ll get an offer — even if it isn’t the offer you want.

Get your home into selling shape.

Cleaning your home is a must. After that, you should consider hiring a stager to give your home the television-worthy polish so many buyers expect today. (Yes, they want your home to look like something they’d see on HGTV.) Assess what other sort of work needs to be done, such as fixing things that don’t work, touching up paint, or cleaning or replacing your carpets.

Decide if you need to update your landscaping, and paint, clean or tuck point your home’s exterior. And if you’re selling in January, clear out the holiday decorations as quickly as possible.

Invite at least three agents to create a comparative marketing analysis (CMA).

Often, sellers simply call the agent who sold them their home to list it. While you may wind up hiring that person, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you invite a couple of other agents in from different firms. That’s because each will bring different ideas to the table about how much your house is worth and what kind of marketing plan will work. They’ll all have different experiences to draw on and have different buyers in mind who may want to make a quick offer.

Understand what it will take to sell your home.

If you live in an area littered with foreclosures, you may have to meet that price point in order to sell. Is it worth it? Probably not, but you’ll have to really evaluate price and timing in order to get the most for your property. If homes have begun to appreciate, you might be pleasantly surprised. Again, a CMA will be incredibly helpful.

Be realistic about the market.

Find out what types of properties are selling in your area and how many days they’re sitting on the market. Accept the reality of your local market and make sure you price your home realistically.

Don’t blame your broker if you don’t get three offers over your list price within 24 hours of putting your home on the market. Sellers who set sky-high (or even pretty high) prices could wait months or years for an offer (one of my neighbors has been trying to sell his overpriced home for years) and may wind up with the same price they would have had if they’d priced their home correctly the first time — or a lot less.

In this real estate market, one of the worst things you can do is overprice your home from the start. The more realistic you are, the better off you’ll be.

Rent if you can’t sell and buy at the same time.

We don’t recommend putting in an offer on another property until you have some serious interest in your current property or unless you have enough cash to cover the expenses of both properties for six to 12 months.

It’s fine to start researching other neighborhoods, but if you’re not sure what you want to do, consider renting on a short-term or month-to-month lease. While a double move is a pain, and does have some added costs, it’s a lot cheaper than carrying two mortgages for two years.

Read all documents thoroughly before you sign them.

Why would someone sign a legal document he or she hasn’t read? I’m not sure, but home sellers do it every day. If you’re going to sell (or buy) in the coming year, promise yourself that you’ll take the time to read and understand the listing contract, offer to purchase and loan documents for your next purchase.

(If you’re taking back a loan for the home buyer, have an attorney prepare the documents so you are sure to be protected.) Unless you’ve got cash to spare, a mistake in these documents and the warranties they contain could seriously affect your finances.

Don’t be greedy.

One big mistake many sellers make is to get a little greedy, particularly if the first offer is above the minimum acceptable price you’ve set. Then the negotiation becomes a game of how much you can get.

Remember, a successful sale means everyone walks away feeling happy. If you get so greedy that the buyer walks away, you’ve let the deal get the best of you. Resolve to be reasonable and you’ll end up shaking hands with the buyer at the closing. You should also know that there aren’t unlimited buyers out there, and if you lose one it might take you quite some time to find another.

Source: The Washington Post

Invisible Threat: Understanding and Protecting your Family from Radon

Posted January 6, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling

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You can’t see or smell this silent killer. Fortunately, it’s easy to test for radon – and take steps to protect your family from it.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas found all over the U.S. it can seep into any type of building, including your home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the number-one cause of lung cancer among nonsmoker. But how do you know if you and your family are breathing it in? Here is the information that can help:

Why is it harmful?

Radioactive particles are released with the natural decay of uranium found in soil, rock and water. These particles can cause lung cancer. “If the radon level is close to risk level in your home, you have a greater chance of dying than in a car crash,” says James Roache, a Liberty Mutual home inspector who specialize in radon. A radon level above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air is considered dangerous.

How does it get inside buildings?

Radon migrates through soil and enters through cracks in a building’s foundation or baseman floors and walls, opening around sump pumps, drains, pipes and wires, and crawl spaces. As radon seeps in, it can build up in the enclosed living space. Higher levels of radon can enter basements during periods when the ground is waterlogged or frozen. It’s also important to know that radon is considered a pollutant, so losses or damages due to radon may not be covered by your insurance.

Where can you find a radon test?

Low-cost, do-it-yourself test kits can be purchased at your local hardware store or online at www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html. Short term test kits record the level of radon for as few as two days. A long-term test takes at least three months but can give you a more accurate reading. Or you can look for a qualified tester at www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html.

How do you fix the problem?

If you discover a dangerously high radon level, a qualified contractor can help you find a solution. A mitigation system is usually very effective, Roache says. This method, which pulls the gas from the house and vents it outside, is a fairly common installation.

Courtesy of Liberty Mutual

Improve your fire safely by starting in the kitchen

Posted January 4, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling

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Fire is one of the most serious dangers in the m=home, and your kitchen presents the greatest risk. Take these steps to keep fire from taking your home.

Home fires cause a lot of misery in the U.S. – 370,000 fires in 2011 result in $6.9 billion in damages, according to the most recent statics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The good news is that damages that year were the lowest since 2006.

Judy Comoletti, NFPA division manager for public education, credited several factors for the improvement: safer building products, better building codes and safer behaviors by homeowners, including the “near universal” adoption of smoke alarms.

One of the best ways to limit fire risk is simply to be vigilant in the kitchen, where a high proportion of fires occur. Sandy Facinoli, chief of prevention and information programs for the U.S. Fire Administration – part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – notes the importance of “just staying in the kitchen when you’re cooking. There are so many examples of huge fire loss and injury and death when people walked away.”

As winter approaches, it’s an ideal time to take steps to improve your safety using the following important tips from the NFPA.

Kitchen Safety is Key

With 42 percent of home fires originating in the kitchen, it’s the best place to start. When you’re frying, grilling or broiling food, stay in the kitchen. If you’re simmering, baking roasting or boiling, don’t leave the house, and check the kitchen regularly. Keep a lid near stovetop, in case you suddenly need to smother a small grease fire. The area around your stove should be clear of anything that could catch fire. If a fire starts in your oven or microwave, turn the appliance off and keep the door closed to help suffocate the flames. But if a kitchen fire starts spreading, get everyone out of the house immediately.

Sleep safely

It’s important to install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside the sleeping area and on every level of the home. It’s the safe thing to do, and you may rest easier at night. Interconnected some alarms – if one sounds, they all sound – are preferable. You should test smoke alarms every month and replace them after 10 years.

Make sure no one in your home smokes in bed. Smoking should be done outside the home, and smokers must make sure cigarettes and cigars are out before disposing of them. At any time, both night and day, keep smoking materials such as cigarettes, matches and lighters out of the reach of children.

Take extra care with heat and flame

Candles add a relaxing glow to a home, but you need to keep an eye on them. Before leaving a room or going to bed, extinguish candles. Children and pets should never be left alone with a burning candles. Some people keep candles handy in case of power outage, but it’s not a good idea; only battery-powered lighting is safe. If oxygen is in use anywhere in the home, burning materials of any kind, including candles, must not be allowed.

Along with candles, other sources of flame as well as heat require special caution. A furnace, water heather or any heating unit should have at least three feet between in and anything that might burn. If you use an open fireplace, check that the ashes are completely cool before discarding them a safe distance from you home. Maintenance is also important for heating equipment and chimneys, which should be inspected and cleaned yearly. Only system designed for safe heating should be used to warm your home: it’s never safe to use the oven as a heather.

In case of fire – leave.

If a fire breaks out, you need to get out of the house immediately, closing doors behind you to contain the flames. When escaping through smoke keep low so that you inhale as little of the toxic smoke as possible. Once you are out, don’t go back into the burning building for people or pets. Call 911 after – not before – leaving the house.

You can prepare ahead of time so everyone in your home understands what to do in a fire. Start developing a family evacuation plan you can share with every member of your household by going to www.libertymutual.com/evacuation-planning

Courtesy of Liberty Mutual

What’s trending in Real Estate?

Posted January 3, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling, Mortgage

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This six hot topics are gaining traction.

Generation X jumps to the top:

Generation x – those ages 33-47 – made up the largest chunk of home buyers, at least 31 percent, between July 2011 and June 2012, according to the National Association of REALTORS® “Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends” report. Generation Y – those 32 and younger – made up the second largest group, at 28 percent, followed by younger baby boomers (18 percent) and older baby boomers (14 percent).

Mobile real estate search:

Consumers are talking to their mobile devices in droves for real estate searches. According to online marketing firm The Search Agency, real estate ad clicks on smartphones grew 10.7 percent between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. Tablet ad clicks shot up even higher, increasing 20.2 percent quarter over quarter – and 87 percent year over year. It all goes to show that consumers are becoming far more comfortable searching for real estate on mobile devices.

Paperless business:

Want to spend more time helping clients and less time dealing with all paperwork? There’s a plethora of online tools that allow you to file and manage documents electronically. One option is RES.NET. In addition to keeping all his paperwork stored securely online, San Diego sales associate Jesse Zagorsky of SDREOSold likes that it lets him link his profile to all of his transactions. It also allows him to communicate with everyone involved in each transactions. “The system (frees) up my time to spend helping customers,” he says. And don’t forget DocuSign, a program for creating and transmitting documents electronically from any device.

Reversal of fortune in inventory?

The complaint is widespread: Housing inventory has been stubbornly low in the past year. Well, perhaps that’s starting to change. The numbers of listings nationwide ticked up by 4.3 percent to 1.9 million homes on the market in June, according to realtor.com®. That’s the highest monthly jump in a year, and rising homes prices could persuade more sellers to throw their homes on the market in the coming months.

Drone photography:

The use of miniature remote – controlled – helicopters for taking aerial photos and – video of properties is piquing interest among real estate agents. But it’s important to note that this marketing practice currently violates Federal Aviation Authority rules pertaining to the use of drones for commercial purposes. The agency is expected to release proposed rules for such use later this year. Congress has given the FAA until September 2015 to finalize a plan. Six states have put laws on the book restricting the public and private use of drones. NAR recommends that REALTORS ® avoid using drones until the FAA has released clearer rules.

Micro apartments:

In some major metropolitan areas, people are living large in smaller spaces. So-called micro apartments – which are often less than 200 square feet – are becoming popular in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Boston, Providence, R.I., and Portland, Ore., reports CNN Money. But it’s some “micro buildings,’ the average tenant is 33 years old and makes less than $35,000 a year, according to Reuters.

Identity theft

Posted January 3, 2014 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling, Short Sale

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In today’s high-tech, low touch world, ID theft is a sad reality.

Hopefully this is something that never happens to you, but if it does here are three simple steps to follow to begin the process of recovery.

1.       Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report.

Call one of the nationwide reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert on your credit report. The company you call must contact the other two so they can put fraud alerts on your files. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian: 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

2.       Order your credit reports

Each company’s credit report is slightly different, so order a report from each company. Read your reports carefully to see if the information is correct. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company. ID theft victims get a copy of their reports for free.

3.       Create an Identity Theft Report.

An Identity Theft Report can help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stop a company from collecting debts caused by identity theft and get information about accounts a thief opened in your name. To create an Identity Theft Report:

–          File a complaint with the FTC at https://www.ftccomplainassistant.gov/. Your complete complain is called an FTC Affidavit.

–          Take your FTC Affidavit to your local police station (or to the station where the theft occurred) and file a police report. Get a copy of the police report.

These two documents comprise an Identity Theft.

Recovering from identity theft can be very time consuming. It is important to act quickly to complete the steps above.

For more information, log on to the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

What every home seller should know

Posted December 27, 2013 by Brenda Courtade
Categories: Homebuyer, Homeowner, Homeselling

Tags: , , , , , , ,

A lot of planning and preparation go into selling a home.  Here is what local real-estate brokers, mortgage lenders, contractors and other experts cite as the most essential preparations.

Architect Chris French and his wife, Anya Landau French, turned up the volume on their vacant condominium apartment with designer-inspired contemporary furnishings — leather living-room furniture, glass and metal side tables, a black dining-room table and a fake TV.

The aim of the makeover was to draw a buyer who would snap up the property — a person their professional stager imagined would be in his or her late 20s or early 30s, seeking the stability of homeownership.

“It’s a bit of a mad rush,” Chris French said about his efforts to get a head start on the spring market.

There are plenty of good reasons spring is the traditional start of the real-estate season:

• Sellers’ yards look more photogenic.

• Buyers are more apt to take a fall-in-love-with-the-neighborhood walk in warmer weather.

• A summer move is preferable for families with school-age children.

It may be months until most spring listings go up, but local real-estate experts say now is the right time to get ready. The to-do list is long, from researching agents to painting and planting.

“There are so many things, sometimes you kind of freeze,” says Jennifer Nangle, an agent with Re/Max Realty Services, the Nangle Group. “It can seem daunting, but so much of it is tidying.”

To help you manage all the tasks, we’ve consulted with local real-estate brokers, mortgage lenders, contractors and other experts about the most essential preparations.

Choose agents, contractors and other professionals carefully.

Mary Premtaj, a sales associate with Prominent Properties Sotheby’s in Franklin Lakes, N.J., said it is key for sellers to interview many agents, to find the right one for their needs and to ask the right questions.

Sellers should inquire about an agent’s negotiating skills, experience, handling of situations like bidding wars, where the agent lives, what region she covers and her past transactions.

Ask for references, ask how long it takes an agent to complete a sale and if she works full time.

Many agents have preferred professionals they deal with, including mortgage companies, home inspectors, photographers, stagers, professional cleaners and contractors.

“We can save people a lot of headaches,” says Rachel Valentino, an agent with Keller Williams.

Some real-estate teams offer packages of services, which might include professional photographers and designers or discounts on movers and home warranties.

Although buyers generally get home inspections, some sellers also arrange for a prelisting inspection. (Nangle and some other agents recommend it.)

“They don’t want any surprises,” says Joseph Walker, a home inspector and president of Claxton Walker & Associates in Annapolis, Md.

An inspection provides not only important information — how many years left before a roof needs to be replaced, for example — but also a thorough to-do list.

“That way there aren’t a lot of things that could clog up the sale,” Walker says. “The seller isn’t trying to make repairs at a panic pace.”

Gather paperwork and do the math.

Now is the time to crunch numbers. What are the comparable sales? What do you owe on the mortgage? How would making various repairs improve your bottom line?

If you don’t decide to make a particular upgrade — replacing a worn floor, for example — Nangle recommends getting estimates for the work.

“I think it’s a good idea to get photos or illustrations of how it would look, and show the numbers,” she says. “It gives [potential buyers] an idea of what can be done.”

De-clutter

While you’re looking through file cabinets and drawers for tax returns and receipts, you might as well clean them out. “Seventy-five percent is a matter of freshening up and de-cluttering,” says Brian Block, managing broker of Re/Max Allegiance.

You probably know the golden rule about clearing off counters, dressers and tables, but don’t forget inside the refrigerator and inside closets, because potential buyers will look in them.

“No one likes to do it,” Valentino says. “We all procrastinate.”

Once you’ve cleaned out, you may need a storage unit to hold items until moving day, she adds.

You have to be ruthless, says Caroline Carter, owner of Done in a Day, a professional-staging company in Bethesda, Md. Perhaps you have lovely china displayed or a world-class book collection, but chances are “they’re a distraction for buyers.”

It’s important for buyers to be able to see themselves, not the current owner, in the home, Carter says.

Make repairs

The Frenches renovated their one-bedroom den condo when they bought it in 2007. They had reselling in mind, adding a window to give the den a source of natural light, reconfiguring the kitchen and foyer, and adding more storage.

“We wanted to make it as functional as possible, keeping it flexible for the next owner, too,” Anya Landau French says.

But renovations don’t have to be that extensive. Carter says sellers can make easy, quick updates.

Some changes that can have a big impact are installing new carpet, replacing hardware and pulls on kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, reglazing bathtubs and replacing medicine cabinets.

“People tend not to have enough lighting,” says Valentino. Clients may balk at spending several hundred dollars on recessed lighting, “but you get the money back.”

New kitchen appliances are also often a good investment, Carter says.

“Buyers want clean, organized and move-in ready,” she says. “A buyer will often overestimate how much it is to do these repairs.”

Maria Rini of Re/Max Real Estate in Oradell, N.J., said that buyers need to remember that no amount of money they put into the house to fix it up will be fully returned.

This is why homeowners should seek professional advice before throwing money into what may be unnecessary home improvements to sell their home, Rini said.

For example, Rini said she once had a client whose friend told him to spend $4,000 on custom blinds.

“There was no reason for this man to spend a dime in this area,” Rini said.

Some experts say neutral paint and décor are best. But others argue that a little personality goes a long way.

“Another agent might tell you to repaint your red dining-room walls, but I say if it looks good, keep it. At the end of the day, among the three-bedroom town houses, at least you’ll be remembered as the one with the red walls,” says Ray Gernhart, associate broker with Re/Max.

Prepare for rain

Spring is notoriously wet, so pay special attention to rain gutters and downspouts and sump pumps (and battery backups), says Cliff Kornegay, owner of Capitol Hill Home Inspection, who recommends having your roof inspected for storm damage even if it isn’t leaking.

Check the air-conditioning system before you have to turn it on to keep potential buyers comfortable. Kornegay recommends having the evaporator coil cleaned and drains checked, in addition to changing filters.

Landscape

Often an afterthought, landscaping is essential, according to real-estate experts.

“A lot of people make up their mind before they get to the front door,” Thompson says.

If you do nothing else, edge the lawn and mulch flower beds, says Donna-Marie Despres, a landscape architect at Sun Nurseries in Woodbine, Md.

“Everything will look tidy,” she says. For a pop of color, pansies, impatiens and nandina shrubs are particularly hardy. “If there is a frost forecast after you’ve planted, just cover with a sheet at night.”

“Landscaping has one of the biggest returns on the investment,” Valentino says.

Start now

The Frenches rented out their apartment for several years and timed the lease to be able to put it on the market early in the season. Chris French says he wanted to get it on the market “ahead of any rush in inventory.”

Some local sellers were surprised last year when the spring season heated up earlier than normal.

“It depends on the weather,” Valentino says. “Traditionally, ‘spring’ starts in mid-March. But last year, it was unseasonably warm, and we started seeing buyers in mid-February. It catches sellers off guard, because it always takes them longer to get ready than they expected.”

Next steps

The next step is to discuss the bigger picture: Where do the homeowners want to live next?

“Always make sure that the next step is feasible before taking the first step,” said Bill Boswell, a sales associate at Coldwell Banker in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

“There’re people who get caught all the time.”

Before listing their own home on the market, it helps to take a day or two to drive around and see what is out there for them, Boswell said.

“Just so they can feel comfortable to know there is something that they will be comfortable in,” Boswell said.

Then, it may be time to consider setting the asking price.

Marilyn Nuber, a broker associate at Keller Williams in Ridgewood, N.J., said homeowners need to be realistic about the asking price.

This becomes more important for owners looking to sell their properties fast.

“They can’t be emotional about it. They have to look at what other people have received for their home,” Nuber said.

Once the house is fully staged, it is time to schedule a professional photographer, Premtaj said.

“It’s one of the most important aspects,” she said.

“That’s the one way for us to communicate with all these prospective buyers who start their searches on the Internet.”

Rini said Web marketing is crucial. Her brokerage uses about 300 different websites to help sell their homes. Many agents even set up individual websites with video clips, details and photographs to help sell houses.

“It’s supply and demand, so you want to create the biggest demand that you can,” Rini said.

Source: The Seattle Times