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5 Useful Tips For Buying Real Estate

5 Useful Tips For Buying Real Estate

How to Hire a Realtor

Scot Ulmer

It’s important to note that buying a home is a process, and there are many steps that you have to take if you want to be as efficient as possible and find the right home for you. Finding a realtor will help make this process easier for you and your family (if you have one). Realtors who work best with your interests in mind will help find your next home, but finding the right realtor is also a process. Here are a few ways you should go about hiring a realtor:

First, check their references. It’s always a good idea to have a realtor that somebody you know personally recommended. But, even if the agent was personally recommended, the best way to approach any hiring situation is to interview the person. According to an article published by The Real Estate Network, “Realtors are going to bolster all of their success stories upon meeting you, but how accurate are those claims? Chat with their co-workers, and ask to speak with their last five clients” (6 Tips for Hiring a Realtor). Once you have a better idea about who the agent is that you will potentially be working with, you’re one step closer to hiring.

Next, you should ask the agent for a CMA (comparative market analysis) before you even begin looking at the housing market. This way, you’ll know if the realtor is trying to sell you homes that are reasonably priced. After you ask the agent for a CMA, check the information that he or she gives you on an authoritative real estate website like Zillow, which will also have the statistics.

Another way to decide on a real estate agent is deciphering how well he or she knows the area you’re searching in. According to The Real Estate Network:

“Discovering if being a real estate agent is this person’s only job, and finding out how well they know your target area is critical. If they’re a full-time realtor, they’re less likely to be distracted and let you slip through the cracks. Also, ask how many sales they’ve done in this specific area and try to get the details of those scenarios” (6 Tips for Hiring a Realtor).

In any real estate endeavor, as you probably have heard by now, location is the most crucial factor. If you’re working with somebody who doesn’t know the area too well, you may want to rethink about hiring a new realtor. Always ask questions like, “What’s the best restaurant?” or “What are some activities the locals do here on weekends?” to get a better sense of what the neighborhood is like.

In conclusion, finding a realtor is not as easy as you may think. It is a process that takes time and effort, but it will all be worth it in the end. Having a great agent makes the home-buying process much more comfortable in the long-run.

 

Selling Your Home

Buying and selling a home is an exciting venture. With the housing market improving from its titanic crash, selling your home isn’t the painful experience it once was. If you’re preparing to sell your property, or just curious about what it would take when the time comes, these tips will surely help you make the most of your home.

When preparing your home for the market, you want to ensure that it looks the best it can. Staging your home is the best way to show newcomers the potential of your space. When you do, remember to focus on areas that receive the most traffic. The living room, kitchen, and master bedroom should be your focal points when preparing a home for staging. Not only does it help your rooms feel alive, but it also encourages potential buyers to feel at home in the space they’re considering.

In this modern age, you’re open to a bevy of options that weren’t available when your parents were selling their homes. Keeping a visual record of the work you’ve done using a digital camera is a great way to show that a home has been well taken care of. Home improvement projects are excellent ways to illustrate not only your dedication to maintaining your property but that more than a little elbow grease went into keeping your home as beautiful as it is.

Light is your friend when beautifying your home. Open blinds, replace bulbs, and, if necessary, install new fixtures. Bringing brightness into the house is a surefire way to add life to space. While doing so, check walls for fading or chipping. If necessary, tidy up your rooms with a fresh coat of paint. You’d be surprised how quickly your home can appear brand new with some minor touches.
Preparing your home for the market can be nerve-wracking, but following these simple steps will keep it from wasting your time and money waiting to be sold. Simple, affordable, and available to any homeowner with the time, these tips will surely bring your home to the top of anyone’s “to buy” list.

5 Useful Tips For Buying Real Estate

1. Ask yourself a lot of questions

The first step in purchasing real estate is knowing what you want! It is imperative that you enter the process knowing yourself, your situation, and what you’re looking for.

A few questions that you should ask yourself before you begin your search are:

-What kind of location do you need?

-What type of property are you looking for?

-Do you need to buy, or could you lease the property?

-What’s your situation regarding cash, financing, and/or ability to make a down payment?

-How much time can you commit to the property?

-How much work are you willing to put into the property?

2. Learn some real estate vocabulary

Here are ten real estate terms you should know and understand before you start looking for a home. Educating yourself on the jargon will not only make you more confident throughout the process, but it can also ensure that you don’t miss the necessary steps that could cost you a fortune in the future.

Here are some standard terms to get started with:

Buyer’s Agent vs. Listing Agent: There are usually two agents involved when you buy a home; the “buyer’s agent,” who represents you, and the “listing agent,” who represents the home seller. One thing many people don’t realize is that when buying a home, you don’t have to pay your real estate agent; they’ll get a commission from the home seller.

Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable Rate Mortgages: A fixed-rate mortgage has a predetermined interest rate throughout the life of the loan; the most common are for 30 years. An adjustable-rate mortgage has a variable interest rate; the most common are for 5, 7, or 10 years.

Pre-approval Letter: Before you apply for a mortgage or even start looking for a home, you should get a pre-approval letter from the bank, which is an estimate of how much they’ll lend you. This letter will help you determine what you can afford and ensures home sellers that you will be able to get a loan when needed.

Appraisal: When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will require an appraisal of the home you want to buy. A licensed appraiser will estimate the home’s value based on comparable homes that have sold in the area and an investigation of the property.

Click here to learn about more real estate vocabulary.

3. Visit and consider many properties.

Do your homework on each! Before you make an offer on the house, it pays to ask a handful of questions. While the answers might scare you off or make you rethink your bid, they could make you feel more confident that you’re making the right move on the right house. Tour as many different properties as possible, and most importantly, don’t rush anything! Figure out what works and what doesn’t about each of them for you. Consider the most important things for each one including price, location and condition. Above all, you’re searching for a “match” with your property. Your situation and needs are unique.

Here is an extensive checklist of helpful questions to ask while touring properties.

4. Find experts.

A professional has the skill and experience to guide you as first time home buyers. They have key relationships with professionals like lenders, home inspectors, contractors, etc. They can guide you from start to finish and answer any questions you may have throughout the home buying process. Their goal is for you to have a smooth real estate transaction and have a positive home buying experience.

5. Figure out your financing

If you’re like most people, you’ll need to get some financing help to be able to purchase the your new home. What type of banks, credit unions, or other home mortgage company could you use? What kind of credit do you have, and what kind of interest rate could they give you? Answering those questions will put you on the right track for the financing process.

Home Renovations That Will Increase Your Property Value

As winter turns to spring, you may be considering not just a cleaning, but a renovation of your home, either in preparation for a sale or improved livability. Here are some general steps to home improvement that will ensure your efforts are adding value to your home, wherever it is.

 

Fixer-Upper

Be sure to address essential maintenance and repairs as the first step of any renovation effort. The fundamental functioning of your home is, aside from the outside appearance, its most significant selling point. Ensure the house is adequately insulated, especially if it has an attic. Inspect and, if necessary, repair the furnace, septic system, and other plumbing, including the gutters. Maintain the lawn or garden plants — necessary weeding improves the look of a house significantly.

 

A New Door

The most significant value-adding renovation is a new front door for the house. Any house benefits from a positive first impression, and a new door ensures that everyone from the new neighbors to potential buyers gets an excellent first look at your home.

 

Make a Plan

The next most valuable improvement is an open floor plan between the kitchen and living room. Buyers and visitors value space in this core interior part of the house, and a few hundred dollars can provide that feeling for your home. The goal should be to create a more spacious kitchen in a way that does not conflict with the existing decor of the room.

 

Put Some Light on the Subject — and Go Green

Especially if you take the opportunity to switch to LED or another eco-conscious lighting such as sub tubs and dimmers, which are both increasingly popular, upgrading your house’s lighting can brighten the mood and add significant appeal to your home. A general upgrade of your house’s energy systems to make them more efficient and eco-conscious nets considerable savings, potentially 30-40% on the heating and cooling systems alone.

 

Under Your Feet

Real estate professionals overwhelmingly recommend assessing and devoting some money to improving your flooring. Simply repairing broken tiles or damaged floorboards, and removing wall-to-wall carpeting could recoup their cost twice over. If complete floor replacement is necessary, engineered hardwood holds the best value.

 

These necessary steps are straightforward ways to improve the look and mood of your home, which will add value if and when you wish to sell.

 

The Best Places to Retire in the United States

When it comes to your retirement, you want to be somewhere you can live out the rest of your days comfortably, both financially and socially. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have the life you desire after leaving the workforce. You deserve it! You’ve been working hard most of your life and adding to your retirement savings plan, so it only makes sense that when you reach retirement age, you would want to move somewhere that will support your desired lifestyle. For most, several vital considerations make the checklist: affordability, access to quality health care facilities, and recreational activities. 

According to CBS News, the baby boomer generation is reaching prime retirement age, with about 10,000 people from that generation turning 65 every day. With the considerations above in mind, as well as surveys of retirees, it’s easy to pick out some of the prime retirement spots in the country. I’ve consulted several sources ranking the best places to retire and put together a list of my own. Here are my picks, in no particular order, of the top five places to retire in the United States. Keep in mind that this list takes into consideration the cost of living and access to hobbies and healthcare, but there may be other things that factor into your decision of where to retire, so use this as a reference but do your research as well. 

1. Orlando, Florida

A lot of these lists I consulted list multiple Florida cities. We get it, Florida is a popular place to retire with its year-round warm weather and abundance of beaches, golf courses, and retirement communities. But this list would be pretty dull if all I did was list cities in Florida, so I’ve picked one that tends to pop up on multiple lists. Orlando is more than just the theme park capital of the world; it is also an all-around great place for retirees, according to WalletHub’s annual analysis. Orlando ranked first overall among all 150 cities evaluated and sixth for activities and seventh for affordability. One thing’s for sure- you won’t run out of things to do with your grandkids!

2. Athens, Georgia

Athens, home to the University of Georgia, is perfect for those seeking a slower, more relaxed way of life. With its bustling, Victorian-era downtown, the city teems with a distinctive Southern charm. According to Forbes’ ranking, Athens has a strong economy, with the cost of living to rank 1% below the national average. It also ranks exceptionally high on the Milken aging index, has good air quality, is walkable, and has a warm climate. The city has an average number of doctors per capita and no negatives. 

3. Colorado Springs, Colorado

The resort town of Colorado Springs is surprisingly affordable, with the cost of living at the national average and the median home price at $243,000. It is easily bikeable, with plenty of recreational activities to keep you busy in retirement. While there are plenty of parks and hiking trails nearby, the only downside is that the city itself is not very walkable.

4. Arlington, Virginia

Located just outside of Washington D.C., Arlington is a pricier place to live, so if affordability is your primary motivation, Arlington may not be the ideal retirement destination. However, it scores well for health care access, walkability, culture, and overall well-being. It is also located on D.C.’s metro line, so it’s just a short ride away from all of the activities the capital has to offer. 

5. Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale consistently ranks high as a retirement destination, with the highest over-65 population percentage on Huffington Post’s list, and according to CBS News, the city scores well for the cost of living and good weather. It also provides a plethora of recreational activities such as golf courses and hiking trails. The downside is that while taxes are very affordable for retirees, housing is not-so-affordable with a median home price of $414,000.

FHA Implements Strict Rules Against New Buyers

Those coming out of college or on their first job will be getting struck again — this time by the Federal Housing Administration. As if student loans aren’t supplying enough stress in young adults’ lives, the FHA has set some new boundaries and rigid barriers. If you’re fresh out of college and looking to purchase your first home, their rules may prevent you from doing so. According to FloridaRealtors, the FHA will no longer allow students’ debt to be deferred for the first year (at the least).

Also, 2% of your outstanding student loan will be taken into your DTI (debt-to-income) when trying to purchase a home and will be accounted for in your monthly payment. The DTI ratio is used to assess whether buyers/borrowers will be able to repay their loans. If you don’t make the cut, you won’t be purchasing a house.

Along with these, another rule that went into effect on September 14th will affect all of those looking for a new home. Borrowers will now need six months working at a job after an extended period of absence before they become eligible. No reason or excuse will be deemed fit enough to get around the rule. This includes raising children, which will not be popular among the public. Previously, children were viewed as an “acceptable employment situation.” The FHA devised the rule to magnify employment gaps and to tighten them.

Although these new rules will be strict on recent graduates and first-time homebuyers, they will help support the housing market overall and are intended to help prevent another crisis from happening like the 2008 housing market collapse.

All of the FHA’s intentions can be seen as necessary precautions, but time will tell if it aids the housing market by keeping it in the green zone or if it only creates more burdens for the new generation. For now, it appears this may mark the start of a more significant influx of grads moving into their parents’ houses. Hopefully, it is only a short delay on their journey.

Developing a Professional Image as a Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents are licensed salespeople who are often obliged to work under a specific broker. The term “agent” means that there is a defined relationship between a real estate salesperson and the buyers and sellers that he or she is doing business with. That being said, each real estate agent has a specific demeanor associated with his or her professional qualities that become vital to his or her success.

Maintaining a professional presence and image is essential for real estate agents on a variety of levels. If you are a real estate agent or are thinking about earning your license, here are a few tips on how to develop a strong professional presence so you too can be successful:

First, it is crucial to pay special attention to your appearance. Though this may seem a bit shallow, not many people will take you seriously if you show clients and open house dressed like you just got back from the gym. Having clean and appropriate work clothes, tidy hair, and wearing certain accessories that are associated with your company or local office are vital when it comes to looking like an expert agent.

scot ulmer real estate agent success tips

Another thing to keep in mind when you are at a meeting with clients or your company is body language. Maintaining eye contact, standing (or sitting) up straight, and using hand gestures when appropriate are great ways to engage the people you are speaking to actively. Along with body language, keep in mind the way you speak – always be courteous, attentive, and confident.

scot ulmer phone presence

Next, master your phone presence. Strive to be the most articulate agent at the office when it comes to speaking on the phone. Many people overlook this aspect of client communication, but it is one of those simple steps that can make a massive difference to your success as a real estate agent.

Another aspect of communications that you should make a note of it when you write. Whether you are writing a letter, sending an email, or even texting a client or coworker, make sure you are using correct grammar and double-check for spelling mistakes. Having a reliable, professional online presence is essential for building your professional image.

For more tips on how to reach success as a real estate agent and more specifically on how to develop and maintain a professional presence, check out this article published by Investopedia.

Getting Value From Your Home Inspection

Though getting a home inspection may sound like an opportunity for buyers to find flaws and decrease the value of a particular piece of property, inspection is vital for any home and should be recognized as a valuable tool for buyers. According to Zillow.com, “While the inspection often results in the second round of negotiations, buyers should view the inspection as the introductions to their potential home,” (4 Tips for Getting Value From Your Home Inspection). Here are ways you can use a home inspection to your advantage:

Scot Ulmer house inspection

The first step towards getting the most from your home inspection is to hire a professional inspector that your agent refers, or that somebody you know from the area has used. Though you may want to save money and hire a relative, getting an inspector who is familiar with the area you’re located in and has a strong background in different types of homes and systems is the best option for getting your house inspected.

Once you’ve hired a professional inspector, make sure you walk around the property with them so you can learn more about your home. According to Zillow.com, “You want to know and see firsthand where your water heater and electrical panel are. It’s easier to understand if you are there, in front of the inspector when he points something out, than to hear about it at the end,” (4 Tips for Getting Value From Your Home Inspection). Knowing the details about your new home is vital because there will not be a landlord or super to call when things go wrong.

Scot Ulmer - getting value from a home inspection

Next, during the home inspection, make sure you have a list of all of the questions and concerns you may have about the house. Writing down these concerns will not only help you remember them, but it will also help you stay organized and prepared as a homeowner so that you can avoid potential mishaps in the future. Also, be sure to bring property disclosure documents to the inspection for information about the property from the local building department.

Lastly, the inspection should be used as a tool to formulate a maintenance plan for the property, especially if the previous owners did not maintain certain parts of the home properly. According to Zillow.com:

“Changing the filter on the HVAC system, replacing old plumbing valves or monitoring leaks will help keep things working. Nobody wants a broken boiler in the middle of January, or their water heater to break mid-week. The inspection is a great way to learn about your home and what it will need going forward” (4 Tips for Getting Value From Your Home Inspection).

Making a maintenance checklist during the inspection will help you get prepared for what to expect while you’re living in your new home.

For more information on how to make the most out of a home inspection, check out Zillow.com’s article here.

Social Media Tips To Grow Your Real Estate Business

scot ulmer - real-estate-marketing-

Social media provides a way to connect with your clients and boost your real estate marketing efforts. Social media can build trust and spread your marketing through friends of friends.

But HOW do you do it?

The world has gone online. The internet has become our largest, most comfortable, and the fastest form of communication that has brought people across the globe together. More than 1 billion people in the world are on Facebook. Twitter recently surpassed 400 million accounts, and LinkedIn isn’t far behind with over 200 million users. Many realtors are trying to take advantage of these trends by using social networks to promote themselves and broadcast their messages, but few are fully reaping the rewards.

If you stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a customer, you’ll understand the secret to social media is in the “social” more than in the “media.” It’s in being human, and being the sort of person who listens attentively, tells great stories, shows interest in others, and is authentic and honest. To put it, the secret is to be likable.

Here are seven tips to ensure great success using social media:

1. Listen first and never stop listening

Before you start tweeting, search Twitter for people talking about your company and your competitors. Hashtags categorize similar tweets together and allow you to search through a page dedicated to people talking about the same thing. Look through hashtags using words that your prospective customers would say as well. For example, realtors should use Twitter and Facebook to search for people using phrases such as “#LookingForARealtor” or “#HouseHunting” in your town. You’ll be surprised how many people are already looking for you.

2. Be authentic 

Be human and be yourself. Are you sponsoring a team in your town? Do you volunteer on the weekends? Share it with your followers! Know a few real estate jokes? Tell them! Imagine how much positive feedback you would get if you asked: “Why didn’t the hipster realtor show the oceanside mansion? – It was too current.” Write posts that show your company’s personality and watch your online community begin to engage and grow.

3. Ask questions 

Wondering why nobody’s responding to your posts on Facebook? It’s probably because you’re not asking questions. Social media is about engagement and having a conversation, not about self-promotion. If a realtor posts on Facebook, “Come in and see what’s on the market today,” there is no reason for a customer or follower to comment, so nobody will call to make an appointment. However, if that realtor posts a question instead, as simple as, “What’s your favorite style windows for your home?” people will be more likely to comment online and engage with the company. Better yet, if the realtor asks, “What’s the best part about home shopping?” think of not only the number of people who will comment on the post and bring attention to the company but also how much you could learn from the market in their responses!

4. Don’t tell your customers to “like” you and “follow” you, tell them why

Everywhere you turn, you see “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter.” But WHY? Give your customers a reason to connect with you on social networks, by answering the question “What’s in it for me?” Note the difference between these two Facebook posts: “Like our page on Facebook” vs. “Get answers to your real estate questions on our Facebook page.” Remember, the key to success on social media is engagement, so give them a reason to like your page.

5. Share pictures and videos to tell stories

People love photos. The biggest reason Facebook went from zero to 1 billion users in nearly ten years is photos. Photos and videos tell stories about you in ways that text alone cannot. Use your phone to take pictures and short videos of customers and cool things around your neighborhoods. A picture of a young couple in front of their new home is Facebook gold. Try a video featuring testimonials from your happy customers!