Scot Ulmer Real Estate

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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 for 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 basic maintenance and repairs as the first step of any renovation effort. The essential functioning of your home is, aside from the major 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 — basic 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 a good 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 other 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. In fact, 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 floor boards, and definitely removing wall-to-wall carpeting could recoup their cost twice over. If complete floor replacement is necessary, engineered hardwood holds the best value.

 

These basic 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, there are several key considerations that 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 aforementioned  considerations 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 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 own 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 boring 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 cost of living ranking 1% below the national average. It also ranks extremely 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 definitely a pricier place to live, so if affordability is your main 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 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.

Seven Real Estate Predictions for the New Year

Every time a new year rolls around, people love to predict what the future will hold. For some, this means setting resolutions that they will (most likely) give up on by the end of the year. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to predict what the future will hold, on both personal and global levels. This year, we have a new president whose choices could have profound impacts on the economy, and the real estate market as a result. The economy is volatile and subject to change… wars could break out, an asteroid could strike the earth, the apocalypse could come. Not saying those last few things are likely, but my point is that anything could happen.

As a real estate professional with over 20 years of experience, I’ve been in the field long enough to know that real estate is one sector of the world that can be fairly easy to predict based on past trends and behaviors. Not only that, but it is important for both real estate agents and buyers/sellers to stay up-to-date on real estate trends, so that they can make informed decisions based on the current market.

If you’re looking to buy and/or sell a home this year or you’re a real estate agent wanting to achieve the best outcomes for your clients, then it pays to do your research. Luckily, I’ve already done some of it for you. Here are some of the top trends to look out for this year, according to industry experts.

1. Housing boom in suburbs and mid-sized cities

The years following the housing crisis saw a rise in the amount of people moving to large cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco because real estate was more affordable. Now, however, as the market is in a gradual state of recovery, home prices are on the rise and buyers are flocking to the suburbs for more affordable housing. While the major cities will always be a hub for jobs, especially for younger people, the suburbs and mid-sized cities are typically the more affordable option. According to Svenja Gudell, chief economist for Zillow, “Now we see people would still like to live clost the city center where they’re close to amenities and in walkable neighborhoods, but for the first time they’re not able to find enough investory that’s affordable for them to buy.” Additionally, many young adults looking to buy their first homes are attracted to mid-sized cities (Raleigh, North Carolina for example) for the cheaper rents and lower housing prices that they offer. 

2. Millennials and baby boomers will take up a large share of the market

As the millennial generation comes of age, more and more will be looking to start families and buy their first homes in 2017. The younger end of this generation may be more attracted to rental properties early in their careers, but the older end (those in their early to mid-thirties) will start to mortgage homes due to a variety of factors including more jobs targeted at workers between the ages of 25 and 34,  and increased wages. On the other end of the spectrum, many baby boomers are reaching retirement age and will be purchasing retirement homes. According to Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of Realtor.com, some retirees will want to downsize to cut back on expenses, but a large proportion (now that their buying power has improved after the housing crisis) are purchasing large homes to accommodate children and grandchildren.

3. Home values will increase, but at a slower rate than last year

Home values will continue to increase, at a rate of about 3.6. This would be a slight decrease from last year, when national home values rose 4.8 percent. As the market recovers from the housing crisis, the increase in home values will start to level off. This slowdown in appreciation rates is an inevitable effect of the housing market normalizing after crisis, according to Gudell and Smoke.

4. Rent affordability will improve

Good news for twenty-somethings struggling to pay rent each month on their entry-level salaries! Real estate experts predict that rent prices will become more affordable across the nation as the rate of income growth is outpacing rental rates.

5. Mortgage rates will increase

While there are some who are fearful that the Trump presidency will lead us back into recession due to his plans to cut government spending, real estate professionals are actually optimistic. Rick Sharga, executive vice president of real-estate auction site Tex-X, believes Trump’s presidency will positively affect the housing and mortgage markets in the long term, and home buying will stay steady throughout 2017. In fact, home prices and mortgage rates are expected to continue to rise after the housing market crash of 2012. From a buyer’s and seller’s perspective, it makes sense to act sooner rather than later if you’re planning on buying/selling a home.

6. More new construction

As home values in general continue to increase, so too will the price of new construction, exacerbated by a shortage of labor in the construction industry forcing contractors to offer higher wages to compete for workers. Prices will increase for buyers to offset these costs. Yet, despite increases in the costs of new construction, the rate of new construction will increase as well based on the trends of the last few years, and the fact that higher wages and more flexible credit are giving home buyers more spending power.

7. Rise of the drones

Advancements in technology are expected to play a part in real estate trends this year as well, in the form of drones. Some real estate agents have already been using drones to capture flyover images of properties, and now (thanks to new regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration) homeowners can use them to take their own images of their homes, even using them as a way to bypass the home inspection.

 

Thicker Than Water: Why More Young Adults Are Living With Parents

A few decades ago, returning home to live with Mom and Dad for an extended period of time after college was not without a certain stigma attached. Young adults were expected to be independent and self-sufficient in older generations, and while that is still largely the case, more and more young Americans are choosing to live with their parents to save money until they have the financial means to provide for themselves.

According to the Washington Post based on data from real estate tracker Trulia,  the percentage of American young adults living with their parents is at a 75-year high, with nearly 40% of the millennial generation (young adults between the ages of 18 and 34) living with their parents or other family members in 2015. This is the largest percentage since 1940.

Even with recent job growth since the economic recession, this trend has been on the rise since 2005, when the number of young adults living with relatives was only one in three. In previous periods of recession, the number of young people living with their parents dropped off as economic conditions improved, but that is not the case anymore, as this all-time-high rate demonstrates.

As a result of more millennials returning to live at home than ever before, millennials are occupying a much smaller share of the housing market than would be expected for the largest generation in U.S. history. According to research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of adults under the age of 30 has increased by 5 million over the last decade, but the number of households for that group did not rise in proportion, growing by just 200,000 over the same period. This could be due, in part, to the fact that the barriers to owning a home are much steeper than they used to be. Even with the job market gradually improving, housing prices are not. Rent prices are on the rise in many cities and mortgage-lending standards are stricter than they used to be.

Additionally, millennials as a whole are getting married and starting families later in life than previous generations. Without a combined income to work with, homeownership is out of reach for many millennials. The Harvard Joint Center found that of those aged 25 to 34, only 40% of those earning less than $25,000 headed their own household. The rate is at 50% for those earning between $25,000 and $50,000 and 58% for those earning more than $50,000 in annual income. These statistics just go to show how inextricably linked income and homeownership are. Even as the millennial generation is expected to double its number of households by 2025, it still begs the question of what the long-term consequences of delayed homeownership will be.

5 Useful Tips For Buying Real Estate

5 Useful Tips For Buying Real Estate

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, easiest and 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 simply, the secret is to be likeable.

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 exact 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 10 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!

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 kind 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 lingo will not only make you more confident throughout the process, it can ensure that you don’t miss important steps that could cost you a fortune in the future.

Here are some common 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 a 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 important, 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 the 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.

How to Hire a Realtor

Scot UlmerIt’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 on you and your family (if you have one). Realtors who work best with your interests in mind will can 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 type of 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 successful 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 house market. This way, you’ll know if the realtor is trying to sell you homes that are fairly 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 very important. 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 important 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 easier in the long-run.

 

FHA Implements Strict Rules Against New Buyers

Those coming out of college or on their first job will be getting hit hard 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).

In addition, 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 loan. If you don’t make the cut, you won’t be purchasing a house.

Scot Ulmer real estateAlong 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 6 months working at a job after an extended period of absence before they become eligible. There is no reason or excuse that 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 been seen as necessary precautions, but time will tell if it actually 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 larger influx of grads moving into their parents’ houses. Hopefully, it is only a short delay on their journey.

Homebuyer Education: Clarity is Key

Scot UlmerEducating your clients, regardless of what field of work you’re in, is vital for the success of any business. If clients do not understand the logistics and reasoning behind why certain things are done or prioritized, they will be confused by the goals of the business. With real estate, and home-buying in particular, working with your clients face-to-face is inevitable, and you will have opportunities to teach them about the buying process, which you should do without hesitation.

The reason why homebuyer education is so important is because it strengthens the willingness of a homebuyer to be a permanent resident of the neighborhood their potential home is in, which thereby stabilizes neighborhoods as a whole. According to an article published by HomePath Agent Matters, “Those who get pre-purchase counseling and education are significantly less likely than other borrowers to become delinquent,” (Homebuyer Education – An Agent’s Best Friend). This will further help the entire homebuying process run more smoothly and effectively.

One vital aspect of educating homebuyers is that it eliminates client confusion. When buyers know what they can afford and they understand the entire process of buying a house (which can be quite lengthy), their confidence levels boost and they will be easier for both loan officers and agents to work alongside. Education in real estate helps clients get a sense of what buying a house entails, and all the finite details that go along with it. If you have a client who doesn’t fully understand the homebuying process, chances are that they will be surprised more than once throughout their experience – and surprise is not always a good thing.

In conclusion, clarity is key when it comes to homebuyer education and the entire process of buying a home. But remember, not all agencies are educated in the same ways – so be sure that everyone involved in your home-buying experience is well educated and are “HUD approved,” which means they pass the HUD’s Office of Housing Counseling requirements.