It's essential to have the right marketing plan, pricing strategy and real estate agent.
When shopping for a home, it’s not uncommon to come across one that truly stands out. It’s not because the home is an old fixer-upper or that it’s a newly renovated home with a designer kitchen. It’s a home that’s architecturally significant or in some way conveys a “different” attribute. For instance, it might be a castle, a church or even a fire station that has been converted into one or more living spaces.
With an unusual home, pricing and marketing can be a challenge. Here are three things to keep in mind when either buying or selling a truly unique property.
1. Buyers should be cautious
As crazy as it sounds, a would-be buyer may want to reconsider purchasing an offbeat home. While it may be a home you love, it is also an investment. A home with a unique, unchangeable structural feature will likely alienate a large portion of the market.
If you’re faced with the opportunity to purchase a unique home, don’t get caught up in the excitement of it all. Think long term. Understand that when it comes time to sell, it may be a burden, particularly if you try to sell in a slow market.
2. When selling, don’t assume buyers will love what you love
As the owner of an interesting or different home who is considering a sale, be aware that not everyone will have the same feeling about the home as you did when you bought the place. While you’re likely to get lots of activity, showings and excitement over your property, a lot of that may simply be curious buyers, nosy neighbors or tire kickers.
Time after time, sellers with unique homes believe that since they fell head over heels, another buyer who might feel the same. But that person could be hard to find.
3. Hire the right agent and have a serious marketing/pricing discussion
A unique home requires a unique marketing plan and pricing strategy as well as a good agent. The buyer may not even live in your local market, and instead might be an opportunist buyer open to a unique property. So you should consider advertising outside the mainstream circles. Media and press can help get the special home the attention it may need.
The buyer may not want to live in your town but is fascinated by an old church or castle. The more you get this out there, the better your options for finding the specific buyer.
If you get lots of action but few offers, you may need to drop the price below the comparable sales to generate interest, particularly if you really need to sell. Just like a home with a funky floor plan, on a busy intersection or with a tiny backyard, the market for your unique home is simply smaller.
With online home listings, blogging and real estate television shows, unique homes stand out and get more exposure than ever. But selling a distinctive or offbeat property requires out-of-the-box thinking early on, and with a top agent. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Be certain to price the home right, expose it to the masses and have a strategic plan in right from the start.
Five good reasons to have a pro on your side throughout the process.
Buying new construction seems simple, right? Just pick out the floor plan you want, choose the perfect lot, and watch it go up. No sellers to deal with, no unexpected repairs that come up during inspection, no drawn-out negotiations. Right?
Not so fast. In any real estate transaction, it’s important to have a professional on your side, even if the process seems straightforward.
“Having your own agent provides a sense of security,” says Seattle-area homeowner Kristy Weaver, who has bought two new construction homes from two different builders. “It gives you some peace of mind, knowing that someone is looking out for your best interest.”
Peace of mind is just one benefit of having an experienced agent along for the ride. Read on for five more reasons you’ll want a local real estate agent by your side when buying a new construction home.
1. Help you find a reputable builder
“Your agent can rely on their own experience and that of their colleagues to help you find a builder you can trust,” says Portland, OR-based real estate agent Kim Ainge Payne of the Realty Trust Group. “What’s the quality of the workmanship? What kind of warranty do they offer? What’s their track record of resolving issues? Getting a clear understanding in the beginning can alleviate serious headaches down the road.”
2. Go to bat for you
The timeline for purchasing new construction is typically quite a bit longer than buying an existing home. From the first time you visit the sales center, to choosing your layout, construction, inspections, and finally closing, there are ample opportunities for things to go sideways — think construction delays, permit issues, and financing concerns. An experienced buyer’s agent can help you navigate all of these sticky situations.
3. Help you review your contract
Even if you’ve purchased a home before, the contract for new construction is a whole different animal, and an experienced agent can help you make sure you understand everything, from floor plans to earnest money requirements, deadlines for requesting changes, and timelines for completion.
“It’s crucial to have a third party who represents your interests in the transaction,” says Dmitry Yusim, a Seattle-area agent who has represented new construction buyers. “A good agent can add the proper addendums to protect you if something falls through.”
4. Assist with negotiations
Buyers’ agents know the areas where you’ll find the most wiggle room when it comes to negotiations.
“Builders are trying to keep their sales price up so that the next buyers through the door see the higher closing price,” explains agent Britt Wibmer of Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “They’d much rather throw in closing costs or additional upgrade credits.”
5. Point you toward smart upgrade choices
Builders will offer you endless options for finishes and upgrades, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A seasoned real estate agent can recommend the upgrades that will get you the most bang for your buck in resale value, suggest finishes that might be cheaper to do on your own, and help you avoid over-improving, which can jeopardize your appraisal before closing.
Even though a friendly sales representative will greet you with a smile the moment you walk through the door of the sales center, don’t forget that they work for the builder. Bring your own agent with you starting with your first visit — in fact, many builders require your agent to register with them from the very beginning in order for them to be involved in the process and receive their commission.
With a professional you trust by your side, you’ll rest easy knowing someone is there to protect your money, your time, and your new home.
Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.
Do you need one? Do they pocket the whole commission? Let’s set the facts straight.
Buyers and sellers often enter the market with misconceptions about real estate agents — how we work, how the process works and what the agency relationship is all about.
It’s helpful to point out, without getting too far into the weeds, that in any one real estate transaction, there are most likely two agents: one for the buyer and one for the seller.
Here are five myths (and five truths) about working with both buyer’s and seller’s agents.
1. Agents get a 6 percent commission, no matter what
Most people assume that their agent is pocketing the entire commission. That would be nice, but it’s just not accurate.
First, it’s helpful to know that the seller pays the commission, and they split it four ways: between the two brokerages and the two agents.
Finally, the brokerage commission isn’t fixed or set in stone, and sellers can sometimes negotiate it.
2. Once you start with an agent, you’re stuck with them
If you’re a seller, you sign a contract with the real estate agent and their brokerage. That contract includes a term — typically six months to a year. Once you sign the agreement, you could, in fact, be “stuck” with their agent through the term. But that’s not always the case.
If things aren’t working out, it’s possible to ask the agent or the brokerage manager to release you from the agreement early.
Buyers are rarely under a contract. In fact, buyer’s agents work for free until their clients find a home. It can be as quick as a month, or it can take up to a year or more. And sometimes a buyer never purchases a house, and the agent doesn’t get paid.
Before jumping into an agent’s car and asking them to play tour guide, consider a sit-down consultation or a call, and read their online reviews to see if they’re the right fit.
Otherwise, start slow, and if you don’t feel comfortable, let them know early on — it’s more difficult to break up with your agent if too much time passes.
3. It’s OK for buyers to use the home’s selling agent
Today’s buyers get most things on demand, from food to a ride to the airport. When it comes to real estate, buyers now assume they need only their smartphone to purchase a home, since most property listings live online.
First-time buyers or buyers new to an area don’t know what they don’t know, and they need an advocate.
The listing agent represents the seller’s interests and has a fiduciary responsibility to negotiate the best price and terms for the seller. So, working directly with the selling agent presents a conflict of interest — in favor of the seller.
An excellent buyer’s agent lives and breathes their local market. They’ve likely been inside and know the history of dozens of homes nearby. They’re connected to the community, and they know the best inspectors, lenders, architects and attorneys.
They’ve facilitated many transactions, which means they know all the red flags and can tell you when to run away from (or toward) a home.
4. One agent is just as good as the next
Many people think of “agent” as a generic term and that all agents are created equal.
A great local agent can make an incredible difference, so never settle. The right agent can save you time and money, keep you out of trouble and protect you.
Consider an agent who has lived and worked in the same town for ten years. They know the streets like the back of their hand. They have deep relationships with the other local agents. They have the inside track on upcoming deals and past transactions that can’t be explained by looking at data online.
Compare that agent to one who’s visiting an area for the first time and needs their GPS to get around. Some agents aren’t forthright and might be more interested in making a sale. Many others care more about building a long-term relationship with you, because their business is based off referrals.
5. You can’t buy a for sale by owner (FSBO) home if you have an agent
In a previous generation, sellers who wouldn’t deal with any agents tried to sell their home directly to a buyer to save the commission.
Smart sellers understand that real estate is complicated and that most buyers have separate representation. And many FSBO sellers will offer payment to a buyer’s agent as an incentive to bring their buyer clients to the home.
If you see an FSBO, don’t be afraid to ask your agent to step in. Most of the time the seller will compensate them, and you can benefit from their knowledge and experience.
Some homebuyers might like to take matters into their own hands when they go house hunting, opting to forego using a real estate agent to help with the process. After all, the reasoning goes, if you're the person who will be living there, it seems like you should be the one seeking out what you want. Similarly, there's an assumption that eliminating seemingly extraneous people involved, such as the real estate agent, also cuts the overall associated costs and makes the home less expensive.
However, there are many advantages to working with a real estate agent when buying a house. Consider these five benefits:
It's true that anyone can buy a house without an agent's assistance. However, real estate agents bring with them years of experience and expertise, and they utilize this wisdom to get you the best deal possible. In addition to specialized training in buying and selling houses, most real estate agents are also licensed professionals and members of various industry-specific organizations. They have access to and knowledge about comparable houses, local neighborhoods and whether a particular property is over- or under-priced.
Seeking out a new house that meets your specific criteria, including price range, accommodations and amenities can be a time-consuming process. After this long search, you still need to worry about arranging viewing appointments and work out a deal with the seller's agent. All of this requires a lot of leg work, phone tag and email exchanges. A real estate agent, on the other hand, has easy access to all of this information and will serve as your personal liaison between the seller and his or her agent.
3. Negotiation skills
Even after months of market research, house hunting and reviewing your available options, you still might not find the perfect match. For instance, you might find a home that partially fits your criteria, and with a few upgrades or repairs could be perfect. Negotiating a better deal or a discount on the home's price might not necessarily be your strong suit, but it's a skill real estate agents bring to the table during the transaction. In addition, the agent will be able to identify trouble or potential issues you might not notice.
A real estate agent brings knowledgeable and experienced negotiation skills first-time homebuyers might not have.
While you might have a good idea of what kind of house you want and your price range, there are a host of other market conditions that will impact what you buy and how much you want to spend. Some of this information can be difficult to come by without access to benchmark data and other industry-specific reports.
As noted by The Balance, a real estate agent can provide you with the contextual data on market conditions to help guide your decision, such as:
Properly leveraging data on market conditions will help you not only identify the best house at the right price, it can be a significant advantage for your position during negotiations.
5. Tailoring contracts
Although most purchase contracts are fairly standard, there are conditions that can be tweaked, removed or inserted accordingly. Since real estate agents deal with these on a regular basis, they have a familiarity with when a contract should be modified to better suit your specific needs and situation, according to Forbes. This provides you with better protections and puts you in a position to meet the conditions outlined in the contract.
Competition is everywhere. Knowing and understanding your competition is crucial. Knowing the benefits they are offering that you are not, what their reputation is compared to yours, and how they are structuring their deals are all things you need to know. By knowing what your competition is doing, it can help you establish an advantage. One of the best things you can do to gain a competitive edge immediately is research your competition. The old saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” always rings true in this competitive world of real estate investing. I am constantly on the lookout as to what other investors in my area are doing. If you are new to analyzing your competitors, let me tell you it is pretty easy to do. There are a lot of ways to research your competition. Some of these are:
Go to your local REIA and network
Real Estate Investing Tip #1: Study Your Competition
You need to study your competition in order to understand how you can differentiate your marketing and be more appealing to sellers. You are offering a service that people need. And you need to do it in a way that is more attractive to your customers than your competition. Find out what benefits your competitors are offering and then offer better ones. If your competitors aren’t helping people find apartments to move into, you need to make this one of your specialties. If your competition is doing lease backs, then you need to find a better alternative. It is important to find these positive benefits unique to your business that can be easily stated and remembered. That way, when people hear about the benefits or read about them, they always know it is your company.
One of the best ways to find out about what your competition is doing is to ask the sellers that call you and that you meet with. There is no better way to study your competition than going right to the source. Whenever I have a meeting with a seller I always want to know who I am competing with and what they are offering. Many times I have been sitting at the kitchen table with a seller and asked to see what other letters they have received. You will be surprised because most sellers will willingly give you everything that has been mailed to them. I will then take these letters back to my office and read them and compare and contrast what their marketing pieces to what I am sending out. Most of the time I realize how weak most of my competitors are, but there are a few times I have actually gotten a few good ideas from these letters or conversations with these sellers.
Real Estate Investing Tip #2: Know How Your Competitors Structure Deals
Additionally, you always want to know how your competitors are structuring their deals. I have often used this information against them by strengthening my offer. For example, if another investor makes a higher offer “subject to” the existing mortgage, I will let the seller know the risks of subject to deals. If the seller is making a cash offer then I will generally make a higher offer “subject to.” There is nothing wrong with doing this as long as you don’t bad mouth your competition. Bad mouthing your competition is short sighted thinking, as it may get back to them and can only cause trouble.
You should also try and monitor where your competition is spending their marketing money. Investigate and estimate how much money they are spending especially if they are using other forms of marketing you have not yet tried. It is fairly easy to keep tabs on your competitors and you can always use that information to your advantage.
It is important to remember that your customers have options when it comes to buying and selling. Their options are not just your competitors. For instance, a seller in foreclosure has numerous options they can explore. They can:
Those are only a few of their options. Your goal is to show them and convince them that by working with you it is in their best interest. Your marketing should be convincing enough to get them to at least call you before they explore other options. From there it is up to you to convince them that the other options are not in their best interest.
Real Estate Investing Tip #4: Your Marketing Should Never Stop
Realize that your marketing does not stop at the initial contact. It appears in the way you dress when you show up for the appointment, in the marketing materials you bring to the house, and in the way you present yourself during the meeting. It then carries on to your follow-up marketing if you were not able to put the transaction together in the first meeting. Likewise, after the transaction is complete, your referral network grows and your future marketing is positively affected.
The best way to start preparing your marketing is to make a list of all the options a seller has and then bullet point out some advantages of dealing with you instead of going another route. This way, sellers are compelled to call you because you have shown them you can fix their problem. These will most likely be the biggest benefits you will use in your marketing pieces. These will also be the points you use when handling their objections over the phone or in person.
Real Estate Investing Tip #5: Build Your Foundation
If you avoid some of the pitfalls discussed above and apply the principles mentioned, you should be on your way to building a very strong base for your real estate business. Remember, no business can be structurally sound without a proper foundation built on the quality and frequency of sound marketing.
Close friends and relatives should generally be avoided.
Being a real estate agent involves more than just knowing the combination to the lock box. It means having sales and marketing know-how, the diplomatic skills to close a deal and the ability to represent a client’s interests above all else.
So how do you pick the best real estate agent for you? Here are a few things that agents and real estate experts say must be considered:
Real estate is local ― hyper-local, actually. Your agent should be, too.
You want someone who has knowledge of the neighborhood, who understands the housing market there, knows the inventory, is familiar with the schools, local issues, traffic concerns and much, much more, said Tim Freund, an agent with Dilbeck Estates in Thousand Oaks, California.
Your college roommate who sells homes in a town 30 miles away should probably not be your agent ― even if she is the biggest producer in her office. You want someone who knows the specific neighborhood you want to buy in.
So how do you find these agents?
“Pay attention to who sells in your neighborhood,” says Deidre Woollard, a real estate publicist with Lion & Orb, which is headquartered in Los Angeles. That’s right: Drive or walk around and see who has the most signs up. All your neighbors can’t be wrong. And avail yourself of the vast pool of information available online, she told HuffPost.
“Zillow, Homesnap, Realtor.com and others let you see who is most active in your area,” she said. “You don’t always need the top agent but you do need someone who has sold recently.”
Be sure to do a little self-examination as well. You want to be compatible with whichever agent you pick. If you are someone who wants answers ASAP, consider hiring someone who has a support team, Woollard said.
Getting referrals are a big measure of how successful an agent is. “Ask friends who live in your targeted neighborhood for the top local Realtor,” said Maxi Lilley of Red Oak Realty in Oakland, California.
Specifically ask who they would use today. According to the National Association of Realtors, 64 percent of sellers who used an agent found them through a referral by friends or family. And among that group, 70 percent said they would definitely use that agent again.
Your friend or relative may not be the best agent for the job.
Think of it like this: A real estate transaction is likely going to be the biggest money deal you make in your lifetime, and there really is no room for mistakes. It is not the time to toss a bone to your friend or relative who just got a real estate license and lives 20 miles away.
Your newly licensed sister-in-law may be a lovely person, and not giving her your business (and a shot at a hefty commission) is sure to add stress to the Thanksgiving dinner. But in many cases, listing a house for sale or submitting an offer through a relative or close friend isn’t such a hot idea ― especially if that relative or friend doesn’t have much experience or first-hand knowledge of the neighborhood you want to buy or sell in.
Freund has written blogs about the sticky situation of having friends and relatives in the business. He told HuffPost that letting a relative know you are picking another agent can be a tough conversation to have. He suggests that to soften the blow, you spell out your concerns and propose a compromise solution. If inexperience is the concern, ask them if there is a more experienced agent in their office (assuming it’s local) with whom they can co-list your house. And if they aren’t local, ask them to help you find a local agent and make a referral; referring agents are paid a fee when the house sells.
Blood and friendship may run deep, but at the end of the day, you have to hire the most qualified person to represent you because if you don’t, there’s plenty that could go wrong, Freund said.
“Real estate often brings out the worst in people. It’s very stressful,” he said. “It’s a big and expensive life decision. Sometimes you just need the assistance of someone who doesn’t have a personal relationship with you.”
For one thing, if the home-buying process isn’t going well, you need to be able to fire that person, Freund said. And as hard as it may be to tell your friends and relatives you can’t hire them right off the bat, it pales in comparison to when you need to fire them.
The best listing agent is not the one who tells you what you want to hear.
Everyone selling a home hopes it will fetch top dollar, and it’s widely recommended that potential sellers invite at least three agents over before picking one. As human nature would have it, we tend to like the guy who suggests the highest listing price.
That is often a foolish thing to do, Woollard said.
“You want the agent who backs up the price with local data and doesn’t just say what you want to hear,” she said.
An agent who plays along with your pricing fantasy likely isn’t going to produce a sale. More likely, he is pricing it high to curry favor and will come back to you in a few weeks, asking for a price reduction.
There are many strategies to marketing a house for sale. Some agents think pricing low and letting the marketplace drive up the price in a bidding war is the way to go. Others think pricing high and testing the waters will get you more comfortable with the idea that your house isn’t really worth as much as you thought; that’s the agent who tells you what you want to hear.
Go with the agent who actually closes deals.
There are career real estate agents and there are those whom career real estate agents call “hobbyists,” said Freund. Some people get a real estate license just to represent themselves in a transaction. Others do it a few hours a day while their kids are in school. Still others treat real estate as a second job to supplement their “real” occupation.
While some part-time agents do regularly close deals, Alex Newell, a loan officer with GMH Mortgage Services in Nashua, New Hampshire, advises asking potential agents how many transactions they closed in the previous 12 months. “Make sure it’s at least one a month,” Newell said, which is what the National Association of Realtors says is on par with the national average.
Working fewer than 20 hours a week in real estate sales delivers a median gross income of $8,550 a year, according to the 2016 member profile of the National Association of Realtors. In comparison, working 60 hours or more a week produces a median gross income of $93,400, the NAR report shows. The more an agent works, the more transactions they close and the more experience they get.
“This is hard work,” Freund said, reiterating Newell’s advice to ask agents how many deals they’ve closed. “If you are inexperienced, it’s hard to answer that question.”
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator Company
Want to buy or sell a home in 2018? Here’s what agents say you should do to get ready
Tips for Sellers
1. Declutter and Organize
“After the holidays is a great time to clear out all the things you no longer need,” says Charleston agent Tammy Trenholm. “Decide what you want to keep and then pack and store anything you don’t immediately need at your new place. Be sure to organize your closets and pantries so they are tidy. This will help showcase your storage space.”
2. Paint Inside and Out
“First impressions mean everything. Make sure interior rooms are freshly painted with a neutral color,” said Trenholm. “The exterior should be power-washed and painted if needed; often the front door can use a fresh coat of paint or stain, too.”
3. Make Updates to Increase Your Home’s Value
You should talk to your agent about small changes you can make that might have a big impact on buyers, says Washington D.C. agent Chelsea Traylor. Updates like a kitchen backsplash or new hardware throughout the house can leave a lasting impression.
“The more value a buyer sees in a property, the greater the chances that one or more buyers will make an offer at your list price, if not more,” says Traylor.
4. Talk to and Collaborate With Your Neighbors
“If you have nearby neighbors, buyers will likely be curious about how well your neighbors keep up their homes,” says Traylor. “If you share a hallway or lawn, let your neighbors know of your plans to sell and kindly ask them to tidy up. A speedy and profitable sale for you only means great things for your neighbors when they decide to sell.”
5. Figure Out the Right Time to Sell
Sellers tend to think they need to wait until spring in order to sell quickly, but in many markets that’s not the case, says Phoenix agent Raegan Kraft.
“Homes sell well year round in the Phoenix area; there are more sales in the spring and summer months. But because there are more buyers at that time, there are also more sellers and more competition,” she said. “Ultimately, sellers should sell at the time that makes the most sense for them. The beginning of 2018 is a great time to list, as buyers left over from 2017 have exhausted the limited inventory, and new buyers will begin looking as well.”
6. Price Your Home to Sell
“Look at key market indicators such as recent sales, pricing trends and inventory to guide you to the best listing price,” says Traylor. “Be cautious of overpricing and underpricing. Overpricing could scare off potential buyers who may think a seller isn’t being realistic, while underpricing means that you as a seller could leave money on the table. Agents use a tech-powered comparative market analysis tool to help guide sellers to the right price. Work with your agent to develop the right pricing strategy so that your list price is either at or slightly below market value, thereby creating as much interest as possible from the buying community.”
Tips for Buyers
1. Limit Credit Card Spending and New Purchases
“Commit to refining your purchasing habits. Reducing credit card use, not opening new credit cards, and avoiding large purchases can all help improve your credit score,” says Miami agent Jessica Johnson. “Sometimes a difference of a few points can increase your purchase price approval or get you a better rate. What better time to implement new habits than a new year!”
2. Find Out How the New Tax Bill Affects You
“The 2017 tax bill that has been signed into law changes several financial considerations when buying a home, and the conforming loan limit has also been increased,” says Chicago agent Daniel Close. “There are several changes you will want to acquaint yourself with that buyers in 2017 did not have to consider.”
3. Maximize Savings
“Review your finances and set a monthly budget to start saving up for a down payment, if you haven’t already,” says San Francisco agent Miriam Westberg. “If you already have a savings account, think about other ways you can add to it. Can you cut monthly expenses somewhere else to offset more savings? Keep upcoming tax payments and/or refunds in mind too!”
4. Get Pre-approved
Many sellers won’t even entertain an offer without a pre-approval letter, says Redfin agent Danielle Parent in Cleveland. So it’s best to find a local lender who has a reputation for closing on time and get pre-approved before you submit an offer.
“The market has been so competitive that I have had sellers request a pre-approval from a local bank. In multiple offer situations, if you have a pre-approval for an FHA loan with 3.5 percent down, you should see if you can qualify for a conventional loan with 5 percent down, as this will make your offer more competitive.”
5. Set Up a Saved Search
“Once you have a general idea of your borrowing ability, jump onto app and start setting up saved searches; Will send you a smartphone notification or email when a home that meets your criteria is listed,” said Seattle agent Allie Howard.
“You can set a price cap and filter by location. If you want your child to go to a specific school, you can filter by that school etc. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that in a strong seller’s market like we have in Seattle, many of the homes will end up selling above list price. So it can be a good exercise to set your search for approximately 10 percent below your price cap to allow some room to escalate up in price if a home you like ends up receiving multiple offers.”
6. Start Exploring in Person and Online
It’s good to check out different neighborhoods to get an idea of what you’re looking for, says Westberg. Then, look up the neighborhoods you like on Redfin.com and review sold homes to get a sense of sale prices in that area. Once you’re ready, you can start looking at homes.
“We saw a very busy, hot market starting in early 2017, so buyers should plan to hit the ground running,” says Close. “Do your research before February and go see some homes to get the process started. Well-prepared and experienced buyers will have the best chance at success.”
Parent says you should request a tour as soon as you see a home you like hit the market. “The Redfin team can accommodate same-day tours and if it turns out to be ‘the one’, we will be able to place a bid quickly,” she said.
7. Be Creative With Your Search
“While everyone else is looking for the three-bed, two-bath home in the ‘established’ neighborhoods, I believe you can get a better deal on homes that have room to build an extra bedroom or bathroom,” said agent Gus Sanchez in Portland. “Look for the up-and-coming neighborhoods in your area that are expected to improve and appreciate over the next few years. Renovation financing for ‘fix up’ buyers and creative financing for contingent buyers will also be key in obtaining your goals!”
8. Be Flexible With Sellers
You can make yourself more competitive by accommodating the seller’s needs, says Parent. “I will often ask the listing agent what day the seller prefers to close as this can be a consideration when looking over multiple offers. I have won offers because of my buyer’s willingness to close when the seller needs to. The more accommodating you can make your offer, the more appealing it will be to the seller.”
9. Be Patient
“Keep at it!” says Parent. “It will take time to find your perfect home but don’t get discouraged. If you lose out on a home or two, it wasn’t meant to be. In most cases, my buyers end up with a better home than the ones they lost bids on. Be patient. It will happen!”
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
It's been nearly a decade since the Great Recession delivered the worst housing crash in modern memory. But these days, the fallout feels squarely in the rearview mirror. Markets have bounced back with fervor, and confidence is skyrocketing: From Charlotte, NC, to Stockton, CA—and everywhere in between—homes are flying off the market at record prices, and buyers are still clamoring to get in the game.
One thing is clear: It's a great time to be a seller.
It's been nearly a decade since the Great Recession delivered the worst housing crash in modern memory. But these days, the fallout feels squarely in the rearview mirror. Markets have bounced back with fervor, and confidence is skyrocketing: From Charlotte, NC, to Stockton, CA--and everywhere in between—homes are flying off the market at record prices, and buyers are still clamoring to get in the game.
One thing is clear: It's a great time to be a seller.
"We’ve seen two or three years of what could be considered unsustainable levels of price appreciation, as well as an inventory shortage that resulted in a record low number of homes for sale across the country," says Javier Vivas, director of economic research
In other words: Today's buyers are exhausted. And in many cases that means they're willing to sacrifice to get a toehold in the market.
Sounds like the stuff of seller's dreams, right? But know this: If you plan to sell in 2018—and you want to unload your home quickly and for maximum money—your window of opportunity may be rapidly narrowing. Here's why you should get moving ASAP.
1. Rates are still historically low, drawing buyers into the market
We may not be enjoying the rock-bottom interest rates of yore, but by historical standards, today's 30-year mortgage rates—hovering just above 4%—are still low. And experts agree mortgage credit will remain relatively cheap for most of the year.
That means the getting's still good for buyers—and, subsequently, for sellers looking to unload their homes.
But rates are on the rise, and it's been widely predicted that they'll reach 5% before year's end. Buyers know that the longer they wait to buy, the more expensive it will be.
Roughly translated, that means you'd be wise to list your home earlier in the year, before more rate hikes kick in. Not only will you capture the market of buyers scurrying to close a deal, but if you're buying after you sell, you'll also benefit from those lower rates.
2. Inventory remains tight—and demand high
Simply put, there are more buyers than available homes—particularly in red-hot markets where land is scarce and it isn't cheap to build.
And the housing shortage will likely get worse before it gets better: Realtor.com data predict inventory will remain tight in the first part of this year, reaching a 4% year-over-year decline by March.
Sellers, that means this is your opportunity to be wooed. Buyers, their choices limited, are going to great lengths (and making some major concessions) to win the house, says Katie Griswold, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby's in Southern California.
"We're in a very favorable seller's market," she says. "We're seeing bidding wars—which push up prices—and buyers are submitting offers with very pro-seller terms, like forgoing the repair request or waiving the appraisal contingency."
And cash investors are in the mix, too, accounting for 22% of all home sales transactions in November 2017 (up from 20% in October), according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Those cash buyers are snapping up homes in an already tight market and keeping some first-time buyers at bay (sorry, buyers!). But if you're selling, you stand a better shot at an all-cash offer—one you just might be crazy to refuse.
Of course, there's a catch: Inventory levels are predicted to begin rising in the fourth quarter, marking the first inventory gain since 2015 and setting the stage for more dramatic housing gains to come. So if you're thinking of selling, start preparing now in order to walk away with a sweet paycheck.
3. Home prices are still increasing
From coast to coast, home prices continue to rise—which translates to more money in your pocket when you sell.
But the gains are predicted to be more moderate than in years past. Realtor.com data suggest a 3.2% increase year over year, after finishing 2017 with a 5.5% year-over-year increase.
Bottom line: You still stand to make a pretty profit if you sell this year, but the earlier you can list, the better off you'll be.
4. People have more money in their pocket
Record levels of consumer confidence, low unemployment, and stock market surges are setting the stage for high home buyer turnout in 2018. For the first time since the 1960s, the Fed has projected that the unemployment rate will drop below 4%, and the domestic stock market is enjoying a nearly unprecedented rally.
The housing market is already reflecting this boom: Existing-home sales soared 5.6% in November 2017 (the most recent month for which data are available) and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years, according to the NAR.
"Incomes are growing and people are finding better and more stable jobs," Vivas says. Buyers "are feeling pretty good about (their) finances."
And thanks to the GOP tax legislation, which nearly doubles the standard deduction, we'll see fewer people itemizing, says National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz.
"The income effect of that is that most people are getting a tax cut—which should help (buyer) demand," Dietz says.
All of these factors combined mean more buyers could be on the hunt, with more money in their pockets to shell out on a home for sale—possibly yours!
5. Millennials are ready to commit
Millennials, often crippled by student debt, have been especially hampered by rising interest rates and high home prices.
But the aforementioned conditions are ripe in 2018 for these first-time buyers to take the plunge, and experts predict that millennials will make up a vital part of the buyer pool over the coming year: Millennials could account for 43% of home buyers taking out a mortgage in 2018 (a 3% year-over-year increase), according to realtor.com data.
"As people move into their 30s, they're looking to move from renting to homeownership," Dietz says. "And we predict that trend will continue even more this year."
More home buyers flooding the market can only mean good things for sellers—at all price points.
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
From housing inventory to price appreciation to generational and regional shifts, these are the top trends that will shape, and reshape, real estate markets in 2018. Buckle up! It's going to be quite a ride.
Game-changer no. 1: Supply finally catching up with demand
After three years of a crushing shortage of homes for sale, the realtor.com economics team is predicting that the shortfall will finally ease up in the second half of 2018.
“The majority of the year should be challenging for most buyers, but we do expect growth in inventory starting in the fall,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com.
That’s a potentially transformative development for many would-be buyers who've been frustrated in their search for a home that meets their needs—and their budget.
“Once we start to see inventory turn around, there is plenty of demand in the market,” Hale says.
Although for-sale housing inventory is expected to stay tight in the first quarter of the year, reaching a 4% year-over-year decline in March, if it increases as predicted by fall, that will be the first net inventory gain since 2015. Markets such as Boston, Detroit, and Nashville—all of which recently made it onto our monthly list of the nation's hottest real estate markets—may see inventory recover first.
Bullish construction is the engine that’s turning this ship around, bringing new homes to the market and creating opportunity for people to trade up into new homes.
“It’s adding inventory instead of just shuffling people around in existing homes,” Hale says.
But those itching to buy a starter home may have to be patient for a while longer.
“We expect the relief to start in the upper tiers, and it will make its way down to the lower tiers,” Hale says. Specifically, most of the initial inventory growth will be in the mid- and upper-tier price ranges, $350,000 and up.
As the market eases, home prices are expected to slow to 3.2% growth year over year nationally. But again, it’s the higher-priced homes that will be appreciating less. And even slower appreciation still means that prices will continue to rise.
“Overall, prices are expected to increase, and we’re expecting to see more of that in lower-priced homes,” Hale says. “It will get a bit worse before it gets better for buyers of starter and midprice homes.”
Game-changer no. 2: Millennials starting to come into their own
The housing market in 2018 will continue to present challenges for millennials—sorry, all of that student loan debt isn’t just going to disappear—but there are some bright spots on the horizon for these millions of Americans.
Millennials seem to be having more success at taking out mortgages on homes at varying prices, and not just starter homes, Hale says.
“They’re at that point where they’re seeing their incomes grow, and that will help them take on bigger mortgages,” she says. That’s because of both the overall strong economy and their own career development.
And as the largest generation in U.S. history reaches that sweet spot in their 20s to 30s when they're settling down and starting families, they're particularly motivated to buy. Millennials could make up 43% of home buyers taking out a mortgage by the end of 2018, up from an estimated 40% in 2017, based on mortgage originations. That 3% uptick could translate into hundreds of thousands of additional new homes. As inventory starts to rebound in late 2018 and in years to come, first-time home buyers will likely make up an even larger share of the market.
They probably shouldn't wait too long to buy, either—mortgage rates are expected to reach 5% by the end of 2018 due to stronger economic growth, inflationary pressure, and monetary policy normalization.
Game-changer no. 3: Southern homes selling like crazy
When it comes to home sales growth, bet on Southern cities to beat the national average in 2018. We’re especially looking at you, Tulsa, OK; Little Rock, AR; Dallas; and Charlotte, NC. Those markets are expected to see 6% growth or more, compared with 2.5% nationally.
The South has been luring corporations and individuals to its balmy cities with its low costs of real estate, and living in general. The resulting strong economic growth and strong household growth, combined with an accommodating attitude toward builders, is setting the stage for an accelerating boom in home ownership, Hale says.
As soon as there are more homes to sell, these places will be selling strong.
Game-changer no. 4: Tax reform (maybe)
The Republican Party’s proposed changes to the tax system could change everything—but with both the House and Senate versions in limbo, the jury is still out on this one.
If a version of tax reform does pass with the current provisions affecting real estate, Hale says she would expect to see fewer home sales and declining home prices. However, it would be the upper price tiers that would likely be affected the most, in areas with expensive homes and high taxes, such as coastal cities, especially in California.
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
The device includes a rental agent who talks to the prospective renter through the robotic screen and can also move throughout the home.
When Gilbert Serrano opened the door of his potential dream home, a modern, two-bedroom rental on Karen Drive, he was surprised to be greeted not by a real estate agent, but by a robot.
The sleek, 3-foot-tall bot whirred up to the door on small wheels. “Hello, welcome. You must be Gilbert.” An iPad mounted on the machine displayed an agent’s smiling face.
These robots, rolled out last summer in the Bay Area by high-tech property management startup Zenplace, are intended to take the hassle out of coordinating showing times between agents and prospective renters. They’re just one piece of the new wave of technology that’s changing the way we buy, sell and rent homes, as platforms such as Zillow, Redfin and a host of smaller startups have eroded the real estate agent’s importance. These days, clients can use artificial intelligence to comb property data sans realtor, take virtual tours of promising homes from their couches, and even apply for their favorite apartments online.
“We see this whole ecosystem changing,” said Roelof Opperman of Fifth Wall, a Venice-based venture capital firm that invests in real estate tech. “Not only is how they buy and sell homes changing, but getting a mortgage is getting more efficient, how escrow works is getting more efficient, how insurance works is getting more efficient …This whole ecosystem is getting revolutionized.”
Startups like Open Door let property owners sell their homes, online, within days. Others, like Matterport and Transported, offer virtual reality home tours. And many companies are increasingly relying on drones to capture enticing images that will help them market their properties.
But Serrano, who works in sales at a tech startup, wasn’t looking for revolution when he arrived at the newly renovated fourplex in Santa Clara. The 37-year-old San Jose resident was just looking for a new apartment to move into with his fiance.
“I wasn’t expecting a robot,” he said, smiling with amusement as the bot, known as “Zenny,” rolled around the apartment.
“I’m a person too!” countered real estate agent Rabia Levy, who was controlling the bot from Zenplace’s Sunnyvale headquarters. And apart from a glitch that occasionally made her voice cut out, forcing Serrano to ask her to repeat herself, she responded to his questions in real-time, cheerfully whizzing around the apartment via robot and showing off its features.
“There’s lots of light in this place. Beautiful hardwood floors,” she said. She turned into the kitchen, with Serrano following behind. “Gorgeous stainless steel appliances.”
Serrano tested the blinds in the bedroom. He opened one of the cabinets in the kitchen. Before the end of the tour, he was picturing where his L-shaped couch would fit in the living room.
Zenplace, which has a few hundred robots giving tours throughout the Bay Area, wants to make renting a home as easy as summoning an Uber, said CEO Rahul Mewawalla. Prospective tenants upload a copy of their ID, via their smartphone, which Zenplace uses to run a background check. Then Zenplace texts the client a code to get into the property, via a lockbox, on his or her own schedule. After a tour, the client can use the robot to fill out a rental application on the spot.
Serrano found the robot tour convenient, and said he felt less pressure than he might have if a live agent had been in the room. At the end of the tour, Levy used the robot’s iPad screen to show Serrano rents at comparable apartments nearby and a picture of a park around the corner.
Levy, who has been a real estate agent for 11 years, said using the robot saves her time. Pre-robot, between time spent driving and coordinating with her clients’ schedules, she could fit in just one or two showings a day, and often had to wait until the weekend to show a property at an open house.
“It wasn’t physically possible for me to be everywhere at once,” she said.
Now she can do between 15 and 20 showings a day, which is better for her bottom line.
And although the robot has some limitations — it can’t climb stairs, for example — Levy says the experience is so seamless that she sometimes forgets she’s not in the room.
Not all realtors are enthusiastic about the new technology. Rick Smith, a real estate broker since 1986, said nothing — not even a shiny, high-tech robot — can replace meeting a client face-to-face. Building connections with clients, answering their questions and watching their facial expressions are all key ways Smith judges people’s interest in a property, and determines if person and property are a good match.
“When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you often get a gut feeling about someone when you’re sitting across the table from them,” said Smith, president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors.
Mewawalla says his robots can improve a rental experience that, traditionally, “can be pretty frustrating on both sides,” as landlords struggle to coordinate showing times with prospective renters, and spend days sending paperwork back and forth, leading to delays in getting properties rented.
But in this market, where properties are flying off the shelves, Smith says the robots may be a waste of money.
“When we get a vacancy,” he said, “it’s usually days, not weeks, before we fill it.”
Virtual Real Estate Transaction Coordinator
Real Estate Listings
What is a withdrawn listing? It's when home sellers decide they no longer want to sell their home, so they ask their real estate agent to "withdraw" the listing so it's no longer active on the multiple listing service on websites such as CRMLS. Nonetheless, it may still appear when buyers search for homes.
"A withdrawn listing happens when a seller changes their mind," says Aaron Hendon, a Realtor® with Christine & Company in Seattle. "They said, 'I want to sell this house, please help me,' and then usually, shortly later, they say 'well, maybe not.'"
What is a withdrawn listing?
Homeowners may change their mind for any number of reasons, but Michele Lerner, author of "Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time," offers up the following as the most typical reasons for a withdrawal.
Reasons a real estate listing is withdrawn
In other words, a withdrawn listing doesn't mean it's off the market for good. There's a chance it could be relisted, so you should keep your eye on it if it checks every box on your list.
Whom to contact if you're interested in a withdrawn listing
If a listing is withdrawn, the contract between the sellers and their listing agent remains in effect. This means that if you see a withdrawn listing you're interested in, you should "contact the listing agent, and not the seller," says Hendon.
It's important to note that a withdrawn listing is not the same as a cancelled listing—the latter terminates the contract between the sellers and the listing agent
Real Estate Virtual Assistant
It is possible to rest while you work this winter season
Some real estate agents make the mistake of thinking they can’t work during the holiday.
They think that people don’t want to be bothered or that working will interfere with taking some much-needed time off.
That’s simply not true. Here are three things you can do that your clients and sphere will love — all while recharging and getting the rest you deserve.
Sharpen the saw
If you’ve read Dr. Stephen Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you know that sharpening the saw refers to preserving and enhancing yourself physically (eating or resting), socially (making meaningful connections), mentally (learning and reading) and spiritually (being with nature, music, people or quiet).
Let’s say you decide to sharpen the saw mentally by reading or watching videos that help you improve your real estate business. This is something you can do leisurely as you rest over the holiday, while still working on your business.
As you read above, sharpening the saw also includes making meaningful connections.
Picture yourself lounging in the comfort of your home, with a warm cup of your favorite winter beverage, as you make the easiest call of the year — sending warm greetings and catching up with your clients and sphere of influence.
This is another leisurely way to work your business while you rest and make meaningful connections.
Simply take your database list of clients and sphere, search each person on Facebook, and do the following:
As you can see, it is possible to rest during the holiday while you “work.” The truth is, connecting with people, feeding your brain and sharpening the saw in the other above listed ways, will nourish you and contribute to a restful holiday.
The side effect is you’ll be working your business — but it’ll hardly feel like work.
Home repairs are part and parcel of home ownership, but when it comes time to sell, does a home disclosure have to include those repairs?
It can be a conundrum. Buyers want (and deserve to have) a full picture of the house they're buying and the condition it is in. However, disclosing a previous home repair may actually turn off a potential buyer. A foundation that's had repairs for leaks several times over in recent years, for example, may signal to the buyer that they could have a major water problem on their hands. Both legal and ethical considerations come into play when you're debating whether or not to 'fess up to a previous repair. So let's dig in!
What do you have to disclose to the seller?
Federal seller disclosure laws require sellers to be open and honest about the existence of lead-based paint in a home, but most laws regarding what a seller must share with a buyer are made at the state level. That means your state may or may not require that you disclose a previous repair, says Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor® with Keller Williams in Studio City, CA. To find out the laws in your state, do a search online for "[your state] seller disclosure laws."
Does home disclosure include a previous repair?
In Bishop's home state of California, law dictates that every significant repair made since purchasing a property needs to be disclosed. Your real estate agent will be able to advise you on what regulations must be followed in your state, so it's best to disclose a previous repair to them at your first meeting about the sale. And note there are some exceptions to the law. You don't have to share every single fix made in all the years you've lived in a house—just the big ones.
"I don't mean when you've changed a faucet washer," Bishop clarifies. "I mean when you had to repair a plumbing break."
Nor do you technically have to disclose work done by the previous owner, even if they disclosed it to you. That said, many experts advise that sellers share that information too.
Because they might very well find out on their own, anyway. During the home inspection phase, buyers may request a copy of your Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report—a free report that details every claim made to your homeowner's insurance in the past seven years. And even if you paid for a repair without the help of insurance, an eagle-eyed home inspector may note fresh paint on a ceiling repaired after a plumbing leak or start asking why the hot water heater, furnace, and other basement appliances seem to be brand new. Failing to disclose any of these things could put you in serious legal trouble.
The ethical side of seller disclosure
Even when disclosure isn't required by law, or a project was done by a previous owner, Bishop still discusses disclosure with her clients. After all, you don't want the seller caught by surprise with an issue that preceded your home ownership.
"If the previous owner disclosed in writing that they had a serious case of mold and it's been cleaned up, I will advise my client who is now selling to pull out those old papers and disclose," she says. "We know that what typically happens is the new buyer moves in, and the next-door neighbor asks if the mold has been cleaned up!"
The ways seller disclosure helps you
If following the law and being ethical aren't reasons enough to disclose a previous repair, there's are other benefits to doing so, says Michele Lerner, author of "Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time." Among them:
FIRST-TIME HOME BUYER'S GUIDE
You're this close to owning a new home, you can almost taste it. The closing paperwork is prepared, your new digs passed the inspection, and—wonder of wonders—you're even happy with your loan. Home ownership is just on the other side of the hill.
As long as the final walk-through goes all right.
OK, take a breath—there's no need to panic. The vast majority of walk-throughs reveal no problems at all, and even if they do, most issues are easily fixed. Still, it can be an awkward, stressful process that can make you want to reach for the Xanax, especially for first-time buyers. Learn what to look for on your last trip through the house before the sellers hand over the keys. Your new keys!
Create a checklist
Before your walk-through, work with your Realtor® and real estate lawyer to create a comprehensive checklist covering all of your concerns with the home—the items that you'd like to see addressed or fixed, pronto. Look at your notes from previous walk-throughs and the inspection report to determine what areas of the house you should double-check.
“Simply having a checklist during final walk-through can greatly reduce any issues,” says Joe Stanfield, a Realtor in Charlotte, NC.
Other things to add to your inspection list include ensuring that all appliances work—make sure to turn them on while you're in the house—as well as the bathroom plumbing. Check the windows, doors, and all outlets and lights. If anything is amiss, bring it up with the sellers as soon as possible and negotiate a fee the sellers can give you by personal check to cover the costs of fixing it yourself. It's your last chance. Make it count.
Ensure required repairs were completed
Most sellers are good, ethical people, but you never know if you're dealing with a sneak (or at least a transitory case of seller amnesia, whose symptoms include the oft-heard line, “Oh, I meant to get to that”) until the final walk-through. After all, the selling process can be hypercomplicated—leaving required repairs unfinished because priorities have been focused elsewhere.
“Sometimes a seller will have indicated that a repair previously negotiated during the due diligence period was completed, but the buyer finds out during the walk-through that it has not,” says Suzette Gray, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Charlotte, NC.
She recommends asking for copies of paid invoices for all repairs. If it's a simple repair—such as patching up drywall or replacing a faucet—ask them to send you a photo of the completed work before the walk-through, “so there are no surprises.”
And while civility is key, this is not the time for preternatural politeness. If you dofind something wrong that they'd vowed to address, it's worth the awkwardness of bringing it up face to face and demanding compensation—after all, a promise is a promise. Right?
Inspect previously hard-to-reach spots
During your final walk-through, inspect everything you couldn't check out earlier due to lack of time.
“You always want to ensure that you aren't stuck with problems that were previously hidden from view,” says Seth Stisher from the Seth Realty Team in Charleston, SC.
Did an enormous Persian area rug cover the living room floor before? Was the couch pushed flush against the wall? Take a careful look at the hardwood below for any water damage or rot. This goes double if you're buying a home with a basement once filled with boxes or clutter. Basements are ground zero for mold, water damage, and other structural issues, and it's easy for sellers to hide (or miss) problems behind a layer of clutter.
Look for missing items—or secret swaps
Make sure all appliances and fixtures you'd liked during earlier visits are still present—or haven't undergone a subpar substitution.
“If you were promised a chandelier and now there is an empty socket, that's not going to fly,” says Janine Acquafredda, a Realtor in Brooklyn, NY. Basically anything connected to the home by plugs or pipes should stay—or if the sellers intended to keep something other than their furniture and belongings, it should be specified in the contract. Swapping out the bronze cabinet pulls for mediocre chrome replacements isn't OK, either, and you have every right to demand them reinstated before the home changes hands.
Don't panic over a little dirtYou might be expecting a picture-perfect, Architectural Digest–ready home, with polished hardwood floors and shining countertops—but few real estate contracts mandate those expectations, instead asking for the place to be “broom clean.” Which does not mean “scrubbed within an inch of its life.”
Usually that's your job. Sorry.
“Everyone has a different definition of broom clean, and if the place is a little dirty it's not the end of the world,” says Koki Adasi, a Realtor with Koki & Associates in Silver Springs, MD. Don't stress over minor problems such as scratches in the hardwood or marks on the walls. It's certainly not worth raising a fuss over—not only will it annoy the sellers, but chances are you'll cause more damage during move-in.
Speaking of: With your final walk-through completed and closing paperwork signed, you've got only one step left: moving in to your new home. Really.
Are you DELIVERING the right message?
Research indicates that 85% of your customers likely live or work within a five-mile radius of your business. If strong signage is not a part of your overall marketing strategy, you’re probably not attracting as many customers as you could be.
Stop Here Please!
To convince customers to stop at your business instead of driving right on by, your sign must be designed with enough color contrast for the information to be seen or read from a distance. The first time someone reads your sign, he or she should immediately be able to understand the most important information—what you are selling. A brief, simple message, in conjunction with eye-catching visual features one would expect for your particular type of business, is essential.
Of course, the use of your logo, company colors, tagline, etc. on your sign should be consistent with your letterhead, business cards, print ads and more. Coordinated imagery and messaging build recall and recognition and help brand your business in the minds of your customers.
If you’re trying to enhance your brand message and expand its visibility, consider vehicle graphics. Remember the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile? It was first created in 1936 to promote Oscar Mayer’s products at grocery stores across the country. While you might not see very many hot dog-shaped cars on the road today, more and more companies are using vehicle graphics in much the same way to boost their branding efforts.
Vehicle graphics can be placed on a car, truck, van, bus, fleet, motorcycle or just about anything you can think of. From Mary Kay cosmetics pink Cadillacs to local merchants in white vans decorated with logos, photos and contact information, vehicle graphics attract a lot of attention. They also generate millions of impressions over time and garner even more exposure for a longer period of time, especially when the vehicle is driven or parked in a highly visible area.
Different types of businesses need to employ different marketing strategies to attract the right customers. Strong outdoor signage coupled with vehicle graphics will command the attention of your potential customers every time they pass your business—or your vehicle.
Are you on Facebook?
Facebook is one of the most popular websites in the world with upwards of 900 million users. To reach that valuable customer base, many companies have set up a Facebook marketing presence, with branded Facebook pages that attract thousands of what are now considered “friends” who “like” their favorite brands’ pages on the social network.
If your customers are on Facebook, obviously you need to be there, too. But don’t make the mistake of using Facebook as your default website just because it’s popular and free.
Your Facebook page is not really yours
Facebook belongs to Mark Zuckerberg and the company’s shareholders. You don’t own the site or the list of contacts you compile through it.
Facebook also has that annoying habit of changing things around all the time, and not only the look, but even the rules that dictate how you can promote your business. Don’t let another company dictate how you do business.
Own your own piece of the ‘Net
You’re better off buying a domain (a website URL) and getting your own web hosting package to establish your primary online presence. That way, you have your own email address, and all of your online digital “content” (e.g. the text, images, videos and other works published on your site) belongs to you.
Using your website as your Internet marketing “hub”, you’re able build customer and prospect lists in the form of opt-in email subscribers. A subscriber to your company blog is far more valuable than a Facebook “like”.
To borrow another metaphor, if the gold is in your list, isn’t it much better to own it?
Capture your clients’ hearts with cutting-edge closing gifts and smart home tips
The number of smart home devices installed in the United States is expected to increase from 42 million in 2017 to 244 million in 2022, according to a recent Forrester Research report. That’s a 480 percent increase over five years!
Perhaps the greatest advancement of home technology in 2017 is that our homes are transitioning from “smart” to “thoughtful.” Products are communicating with each other to a degree that transcends the novelty gadget label.
Take the smart home company Nest for example. The firm, which made its name off its smart thermostat, now integrates with 119 products.
The increasing number of smart home products that connect to one another have motivated even more people to hop on the smart home bandwagon. You no longer need to be techie to love smart home gadgets. So, based on my geeked-out interest in smart home tech, I’ve come up with three gadgets that work great as closing gifts or client recommendations, no matter how techie your clients are. (Bonus: in the spirit of collaboration, these all integrate with Nest.)
Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug
This plug makes any small appliance “smart,” meaning that it connects outlets, and the appliances they connect to, to the web, which allows you to control devices from the cloud. At only $35, it’s an affordable upgrade and a great gift. One of its best features is that you can control the plug from your phone, without blocking adjacent outlets. WeMo also works with Alexa and Google through voice commands, but we’re still waiting for Siri to catch-up.
Automatic Labs’ Connected Car Adapter
Who says smart home tech has to stay in the home? For just $99.95, you can get an auto adapter that provides auto safety while linking to your home’s smart home products. This adapter not only diagnoses engine issues and helps you remember where you parked, it can also link to your Nest thermostat while you are on your way home and prompt it to turn on your heating or cooling system to cozy up your home for arrival.
Yonomi mobile app
Finally, who doesn’t love a good app? This one rocks, and it’s free. Yonomi allows you to control hundreds of smart home devices from one place. It’s like having a personal assistant who takes care of everything before you wake up or walk in the door.
For example, you can create “routines” such as “work day wake up.” On work days, maybe you want motivational music, for the heat to turn on and coffee to be made — the app can help make that happen! There’s an iOS and Android version and it also has skills for Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
We’ve only scratched the surface, and with the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show coming up Jan. 9 – 12, we’re about to learn about a whole lot more. Find out more about these brands and at CES where you’ll scour the show floor and dig up the best new tech for work and play, and report back to us.
Key Takeaways - Know the FAA’s droning rules and regulations, disclose drone usage to homeowners and neighbors, and have a plan for any shots you intend to capture.
Many online property listings have photos that fail to highlight the positives, often due to limited spatial ability. When trying to sell property with a six-figure value, a drone investment can be extremely worthwhile for real estate agents.
Drones provide elevated imagery, at a much more affordable price than hiring a service. Viable drones start at around $500, with even the barest models providing more of an impression than conventional cameras.
Real estate agents considering employing drone technology for improved listing imagery should consider the six tips below, to take full advantage of the beneficial technology drones have to offer:
1. Learn how to pilot your drone correctly
You can’t simply purchase a drone, receive it and legally begin to fly. You must be at least 16 years old, understand English and be in physical and mental condition to operate the drone. You must also pass an initial aeronautical exam at an FAA-approved testing center.
The test quizzes you on drone knowledge, including regulations, airspace classification, emergency procedures, radio communication procedures, airport operations and general aeronautical judgment and decision-making.
After passing the test, you must fill out FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate through the FAA Integrated Airman Certificate or Rating Application system (IACRA).
2. Get familiar with your drone’s settings and features
Most drone technology is precise, allowing controllers to weave in and out of small spaces. Most drones even have the ability to maneuver around corridors inside a house, providing a virtual tour through various rooms.
However, drone operators should accrue significant experience with flying the drone before bringing it into public, especially in a house you’re trying to sell. The cost of property damage will be your fault and turn off the seller, as well as any potential buyers.
It’s recommended to practice maneuvering your new drone in an open field, after intensely reviewing its manual. Tutorial videos on YouTube are also a good way to get a feel for the drone.
After acquainting yourself with the functions and controls, practice flying the drone in a controlled, open setting. Placing obstacles on the ground, to practice maneuvering through smaller spaces, is also useful.
3. Be aware of droning laws
Drones are still a relatively new technology. The prospect of drones acting as an illegal surveillance tool prompted laws, such as no-drone zones. These include sports events, stadiums and the District of Columbia, as well as keeping drones away from animals and children.
The FAA has a nifty safety mobile app, called B4UFLY, which informs drone operators if there are any requirements or restrictions at the location they wish to fly.
For example, if you’re within five miles of an airport or airspace with required permission, the app will inform you that you are breaking the law if flying an unmanned aircraft without contacting the airport operator or traffic control facility.
Beyond no-drone zones, the drone itself has regulations. The drone must weigh less than 55 pounds while being registered with the FAA.
Registration is only $5 and valid for three years, so make sure to do so. Hobbyists don’t need to register, but if you’re profiting off the drone in any way — which real estate agents are — then registration is necessary.
Additionally, you can only fly the drone during daylight, under 400 feet and at less than 100 mph. You cannot operate a drone from a moving vehicle, and the drone must be in eyesight the entirety of its flight.
Have a firm understanding of these laws and regulations before flying, or you may be liable for hefty penalties that can impact your standing as a real estate agent.
4. Disclose drone usage with the homeowners
Much of the general public is still a bit wary of drones, as they are not exactly commonplace in the skies. As a result, proper etiquette entails asking the homeowners for permission before launching the drone.
Flying over private property without permission can open yourself up to lawsuits and certainly a lost client.
Assure the homeowner that you are familiar with operating the drone and that its usage will only be to take video and photo for the property listing, which will increase the chances of the property selling for the asking price.
Be sure to express that you passed the aeronautical knowledge exam and are a qualified drone pilot in the eyes of the government.
Additionally, it’s good practice to inform immediate neighbors that you will be operating a drone on their neighbor’s property, for the use of taking real estate photography.
Nearby neighbors who see a drone flying by, without notice, may contact authorities. Informing them beforehand can prevent a headache on everyone’s behalf.
5. Consider hiring a professional
Real estate agents can very well do the drone photography and video themselves with proper practice and certification.
There’s nothing wrong with having a professional do it, though, especially if you have no interest in operating a drone. These individuals are experts in aerial photography and maneuvering around tight spaces, which can ensure a safe and quality virtual tour.
Homeowners and neighbors will also likely be more assured, knowing a professional drone operator is handling the drone instead of someone who’s primarily a real estate agent.
6. Form a preliminary plan
If you do fly the drone yourself, make sure to have a preliminary plan, especially because drone flying time is limited. Even the priciest models usually only have 20 minutes of power.
As a result, know what you want to shoot before launching the drone, whether it’s an aerial shot, virtual tour or both.
Also, be aware of wind conditions, to prevent an accident, and allow the drone to move naturally with the air.
With any photography, take several photographs of what you intend to capture, to give yourself options. Your long, steady shots will also require a drone with a gimbal, to keep the camera steady. The add-on is a vital investment.
These six tips provide real estate agents what they need to safely and effectively use drone technology to improve property listings, all while abiding by government regulations and the respect of homeowners and neighbors.
The proliferation of services that help homebuyers and sellers complete their own real estate transactions is relatively recent, and it may have you wondering whether using a real estate agent is becoming a relic of a bygone era. While doing the work yourself can save you the significant commission rates many real estate agents command, for many, flying solo may not be the way to go--and could end up being more costly than a realtor's commission in the long run. Buying or selling a home is a major financial (and emotional) undertaking. Find out why you shouldn't discard the notion of hiring an agent just yet.
1. Better Access/More Convenience
A real estate agent's full-time job is to act as a liaison between buyers and sellers. This means that he or she will have easy access to all other properties listed by other agents. Both the buyer's and seller's agent work full time as real estate agents and they know what needs to be done to get a deal together. For example, if you are looking to buy a home, a real estate agent will track down homes that meet your criteria, get in touch with sellers' agents and make appointments for you to view the homes. If you are buying on your own, you will have to play this telephone tag yourself. This may be especially difficult if you're shopping for homes that are for sale by owner.
Similarly, if you are looking to sell your home yourself, you will have to solicit calls from interested parties, answer questions and make appointments. Keep in mind that potential buyers are likely to move on if you tend to be busy or don't respond quickly enough. Alternatively, you may find yourself making an appointment and rushing home, only to find that no one shows up.
2. Negotiating Is Tricky Business
Many people don't like the idea of doing a real estate deal through an agent and feel that direct negotiation between buyers and sellers is more transparent and allows the parties to better look after their own best interests. This is probably true--assuming that both the buyer and seller in a given transaction are reasonable people who are able to get along. Unfortunately, this isn't always an easy relationship.
What if you, as a buyer, like a home but despise its wood-paneled walls, shag carpet and lurid orange kitchen? If you are working with an agent, you can express your contempt for the current owner's decorating skills and rant about how much it'll cost you to upgrade the home without insulting the owner. For all you know, the owner's late mother may have lovingly chosen the décor. Your real estate agent can convey your concerns to the sellers' agent. Acting as a messenger, the agent may be in a better position to negotiate a discount without ruffling the homeowner's feathers.
A real estate agent can also play the “bad guy” in a transaction, preventing the bad blood between a buyer and seller that can kill a deal. Keep in mind that a seller can reject a potential buyer's offer for any reason--including just because they hate his or her guts. An agent can help by speaking for you in tough transactions and smoothing things over to keep them from getting too personal. This can put you in a better position to get the house you want. The same is true for the seller, who can benefit from a hard-nosed real estate agent who will represent their interests without turning off potential buyers who want to niggle about the price.
3. Contracts Can Be Hard To Handle
If you decide to buy or sell a home, the offer to purchase contract is there to protect you and ensure that you are able to back out of the deal if certain conditions aren't met. For example, if you plan to buy a home with a mortgage but you fail to make financing one of the conditions of the sale--and you aren't approved for the mortgage--you can lose your deposit on the home and could even be sued by the seller for failing to fulfill your end of the contract.
An experienced real estate agent deals with the same contracts and conditions on a regular basis, and is familiar with which conditions should be used, when they can safely be removed and how to use the contract to protect you, whether you're buying or selling your home.
4. Real Estate Agents Can't Lie
Well, OK, actually they can. But because they are licensed professionals there are more repercussions if they do than for a private buyer or seller. If you are working with a licensed real estate agent under an agency agreement, (i.e., a conventional, full-service commission agreement in which the agent agrees to represent you), your agent will be bound by common law (in most states) to a fiduciary relationship. In other words, the agent is bound by license law to act in their clients' best interest (not his or her own).
In addition, most realtors rely on referrals and repeat business to build the kind of clientèle base they'll need to survive in the business. This means that doing what's best for their clients should be as important to them as any individual sale.
Finally, if you do find that your agent has gotten away with lying to you, you will have more avenues for recourse, such as through your agent's broker, professional association (such as the National Association Of Realtors) or possibly even in court if you can prove that your agent has failed to uphold his fiduciary duties.
When a buyer and seller work together directly, they can (and should) seek legal counsel, but because each is expected to act in his or her best interest, there isn't much you can do if you find out later that you've been duped about multiple offers or the home's condition. And having a lawyer on retainer any time you want to talk about potentially buying or selling a house could cost far more than an agent's commissions by the time the transaction is complete.
5. Not Everyone Can Save Money
Many people eschew using a real estate agent to save money, but keep in mind that it is unlikely that both the buyer and seller will reap the benefits of not having to pay commissions. For example, if you are selling your home on your own, you will price it based on the sale prices of other comparable properties in your area. Many of these properties will be sold with the help of an agent. This means that the seller gets the keep the percentage of the home's sale price that might otherwise be paid to the real estate agent.
However, buyers who are looking to purchase a home sold by owners may also believe they can save some money on the home by not having an agent involved. They might even expect it and make an offer accordingly. However, unless buyer and seller agree to split the savings, they can't both save the commission.
The Bottom Line
While there are certainly people who are qualified to sell their own homes, taking a quick look at the long list of frequently asked questions on most “for sale by owner” websites suggests the process isn't as simple as many people assume. And when you get into a difficult situation, it can really pay to have a professional on your side.
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