Don’t Fall For These 6 Real Estate Scams

  By Yazir Phelps Getting involved in real estate can be both rewarding and lucrative. Whether you’re a novice home flipper, a licensed professional or fall somewhere in the middle, real estate done right can be financially life-changing. If you’re looking to rent a property or potentially buy a home, there are countless resources and websites at your disposal to narrow down your search. Just like any industry, there are certain deals you’ll probably want to avoid when deciding how to spend your time and money. Real estate scams can be financially devastating, but there are ways to identify red flags that can alert you of fraud before it’s too late. Beware of These 6 Real Estate Scams If it’s too good to be true…it probably is! Here are six real estate scams not to fall for. 1. Rental Rip-Offs When looking for a rental, you’ll first want to use a reputable website. Facebook postings or ads on Craigslist are often legitimate but aren’t platforms meant for advertising specific real estate listings, which means it can be easier to post fraudulently. Online swindlers have been known to post about a property, ask for money upfront as a security deposit or down payment, and then disappear once they receive money. Young adults are especially susceptible to rental fraud, as scammers often target first-time renters. Beware of this scam, as it’s standard to see a property in person and have the opportunity to ask basic questions before being required to make a deposit. Red Flags The seller demands payment upfront Post from a social media account with no pictures Avoids sending further...

When Selling Your Home (or Just Enjoying It), Lawns Matter

According to recent research from the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), 81 percent of all Americans have a lawn, and a majority—79 percent—say that a lawn is an important feature when renting or buying a home. Respondents to the NALP survey ranked a nice size yard second behind a renovated kitchen when asked to prioritize home features. And for millennials, a good-sized lawn was actually the No. 1 priority, with 82 percent reporting that having a lawn is important when renting or buying a home (compared to 81 percent of Gen Xers and 77 percent of baby boomers). Apparently, respondents value lawns for good reason: they use them regularly. According to the survey: – 47 percent report entertaining in their yards at least once a month – 57 percent use their yards for recreation at least monthly – 77 percent report relaxing in their yards at least once a month – 32 percent garden in their yards multiple times a week But Americans’ love affair with green spaces doesn’t stop at their garden gates. In fact, they are also enjoying grass and green spaces beyond their doorsteps. The NALP research also found that Americans visit public parks and playgrounds more often than movie theaters, pools and beaches, bowling alleys and museums. Whether you plan to list your home soon or just want to maximize the enjoyment of your yard, the NALP recommends the following lawn maintenance best practices: Practice “grass cycling.” Allowing grass clippings to remain on the lawn helps return nitrogen and nutrients to the soil. Water wisely. Provide your lawn a deep watering every few days, not daily....

When It Comes to Selling, It’s All About Location…and Condition

You might’ve heard the classic adage that when it comes to real estate, the three things that matter most are “location, location, location.” While location still trumps most other variables when it comes to selling, the condition of the home frequently plays an equally important role in many areas. Why? Many attribute it to our HGTV-obsessed culture. Today’s buyers not only want to find a home in the neighborhood they want, they expect it to look pretty darn good, too. And, unfortunately, home improvement shows make it look simple to attain a magazine-worthy look no matter what the current condition of your home. Although you probably won’t be able to have Joanna Gaines pop by for a makeover, there are several more realistic options for improving the condition of your home before you list it. Some of these ideas, in fact, should be pursued even if you aren’t planning to sell your home in the near future, as it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your home’s value. Invest in necessary improvements. Your home’s great location at the end of a cul-de-sac or within walking distance to the train station won’t necessarily make up for your outdated kitchen or creaky floorboards, so make the necessary renovations.  According to HomeAdvisor’s 2018 True Cost Report, Americans spent an average of $6,649 on home improvements in the 12 months prior to the research, so don’t skimp, especially if you want to sell. Maintain the exterior. Dilapidated siding, peeling paint, or an aging roof or fence will be big turn-offs to potential buyers, no matter how great your location is. Not...

Home Sellers: 7 Ways to Make Your Landscape Pop This Spring

By Katie Kuchta Homes with great curb appeal typically have a well-maintained yard. Taking the time and energy to create a beautiful garden is one of the best ways to bring the best offer. Draw potential buyers through the door by creating an enticing landscape. Consider these seven ways to make your landscape pop this spring: Plant a Tree It may seem silly to plant a young tree in your yard given the fact that it won’t provide much immediate shade, but homebuyers will see the potential that new trees have. This can help create an idea of what the home will look like years after they purchase it. Trees are also beneficial because they grow deep root systems which help keep water from running off the soil. Add New Color An easy way to make your landscape pop is to plant new colors in your garden. Choose a bloom that will be in season while your home is on the market. Plant larger flowers, but also include some smaller blooms in pots near the entryway or walkway. Adding reds and yellows can help create interest in the home. Tend to the Lawn Dead spots in the lawn can be an eyesore and may deter buyers. Be sure to keep your yard maintained by cutting and watering it often. Feed your lawn with a quick-release fertilizer that’ll provide hardy growth and reseed any visible bare spots. Also, if you don’t have time to maintain the lawn, consider hiring a landscaping company that can bring your yard back to life quickly. Spread Some Mulch Mulch is one of those landscaping elements that...

Pricing a Home Accurately: Mistakes to Avoid

By Bill Gassett Do real estate agents make mistakes when pricing a home? Of course. This is why it’s so important to go with an experienced agent and one you can trust at the same time. Sometimes an agent will make a pricing mistake for no fault of their own. You’d be surprised by how many sellers try hard not to disclose all of the information about a property. An exceptional listing agent needs to be a detective, as well as a salesperson. Finding out what’s wrong with the property is just as important as learning about its top selling points. Here are the most common mistakes to avoid if you want to price a home accurately: Should You Price a Property Using Price-per-Square Foot? Using price-per-square foot to value a home is one of the oldest means of pricing. It’s also one of the least accurate for many reasons. A significant amount of uneducated agents will use this method of valuation. It sounds great, but it may not accurately reflect the true value of the property. For instance, another home in the same neighborhood could be in worse condition. It could require a lot of work and have other problems which need to be addressed. In that case, the price-per-square foot valuation is not a true reflection of the subject property’s value. It’s often worth paying a bit more for a property that’s in better condition. Another example is trying to compare a home in a far superior location. People pay a premium when they’re located in the best area in town. Does the Neighborhood Matter? Most buyers are happy paying a...

Sellers: Get the Most From Home Upgrades

Whether you plan to sell in the summer, spring, or winter, you likely know of the few staple “to-dos” to get your space market-ready: cleaning, painting, decluttering, landscaping, and stripping your home of super personal belongings like family photos. But should you be doing more? Probably. According to Zillow, sellers average 2.2 renovations or improvements to prepare to sell their home, with 79 percent making at least one. And for good reason – nearly a quarter of sellers who make improvements sell above list price, compared with 16 percent of sellers who don’t. But what improvements should you focus on?  Zillow suggests a good rule of thumb: A smaller, inexpensive upgrade typically brings a bigger reward than a more involved and time-consuming one. Here are a few items on Zillow’s “Do” list for sellers looking to pocket the biggest payoff: Dive into the “curb appeal” projects first, and do them smartly. New paint inside and out and basic landscaping and yard care typically runs about $3,000, according to recent research by Zillow and Thumbtack, and are typically the most common and necessary improvements. And choosing the right eye-catching colors can increase a home’s value far beyond just the appeal of new paint. A recent Zillow analysis found that yellow homes sell for nearly $3,500 less than expected, while the right color door can lead to an extra $6,000 in a seller’s pocket. Upgrade the bathrooms (but not too much). A mid-range bathroom remodel – replacing the toilet, tub and light fixtures, adding a double sink, tiling the floor and hanging some wallpaper – typically results in a $1.71 increase in home...

5 Tips for Sellers in a Buyer’s Market

Many real estate markets across the country are starting to regain some balance, with rising prices leveling off just a touch and the number of homes available for sale starting to tick back up. What does this mean if you’re ready to put your home on the market? A slightly adjusted strategy! Here are a few important tips to follow for selling your home as the market swings more to the buyer’s advantage. Pick a good real estate agent. First and foremost, do your homework and pick an experienced agent. When inventory is scarce in a red-hot seller’s market, it doesn’t take much to sell your home. When the opposite is true, you’ll need a savvy agent to help get your home sold in the shortest time for the best price. Price it right. Speaking of price, heed your agent’s advice on how to price your home properly. If your market has shifted, the bidding wars of a few months ago may be a thing of the past. Pricing your home too high could leave your home waning on the market for months on end. Work with your agent to choose a competitive listing price. Step up the marketing. Make sure you’re deploying the very best marketing plan for your home, including professional-quality photos (and plenty of them), videos, social media, and exposure on listing portals. Ask your agent to walk you through the details of the marketing plan so you understand exactly what tactics they have in their arsenal. Set the stage. While you may be able to leave the living room walls turquoise in a seller’s market, when buyers rule the...

What Comes With the House? Negotiating Fixtures

By John Voket After receiving a piece of furniture as a last-minute gift from a friend who was selling and moving, the buyer became upset assuming they would inherit the item even though it had not been agreed upon. Something that should be assumed to come with the house is known as a ‘fixture.’ But what counts as a fixture is the basis for many real estate disputes, according to Elizabeth Weintraub at thealance.com – even when that feature or fixture is outside the building. Generally speaking, she says, a fixture is not required to exist inside the house. Landscaping, or any type of plant with roots firmly ensconced in the ground, is considered a fixture, Weintraub says. Connecticut REALTOR® Kathy Hamilton says determining what will stay with the home and what will go with the previous owner will vary by seller and contract. She first suggests checking the listing, however, because a seller may have already specified any such items included in their asking price. When it comes to any questions about which items will stay, Hamilton advises both sellers and buyers to know the “screwdriver rule.” For the most part, she says, if it takes a screwdriver to remove, it’s considered part of the home – this includes shelves, light fixtures and even curtain rods. But, if it’s hung on a nail, or is a piece of movable furniture – even a grand piano – it’s likely not included in the sale. Devon Thorsby at U.S. News & World Report says states have different standards regarding what things are included in a home sale, but light fixtures...

Selling a Home? Check Your Plumbing

If you’re selling your home, you’re to-do list is likely stacked: find a REALTOR®, get an inspection, make needed improvements, up your curb appeal, and the list goes on. Another important facet to keep in mind before listing is to make sure your plumbing is up-to-date. “When selling a home, you’re going to find each buyer’s home inspector will examine some of the same items,” says Max Rose, owner of Four Seasons Plumbing. “It can be a worthwhile investment to make some repairs to strengthen a home’s appeal to potential buyers and give sellers more negotiating power.” Rose recommends sellers evaluate the state of the following items: Water heater – The water heater is one of the more common big-ticket repairs that can arise from a home inspection. If the water heater is on the older side, a buyer may request it be serviced and flushed, if not replaced entirely, as a condition of going through with the home purchase. Water pressure regulator – One point of a home inspection is to check the water pressure. If the pressure comes back high, that can be indicative of a larger (and costlier) problem. Leaking pipes – If the home has a crawl space, it can be relatively easy to check for leaky plumbing. If there are leaky pipes, that could be a red flag for the seller. Depending on the age and material of the pipes, fixes may range from a patch to whole replacement. Type of piping used – Some older homes are plumbed with piping and/or fittings that have been recalled or had class-action lawsuits filed against the manufacturer. If your home...

Put Your Home Equity to Good Use

With home values enjoying a steady rise over the past several years, most Americans have witnessed a return of home equity, and many are leveraging that equity toward other important financial goals. A recent study by LendingTree, which assessed home equity loan requests since the start of 2018, tracked six uses for home equity loans: home improvement; debt consolidation; retirement income; investment property; emergency funds; and other uses. The research revealed some interesting findings about how homeowners are using their equity: Home improvement is the No. 1 reason for taking a home equity loan. According to the study, 43 percent of respondents reported requesting a home equity loan for home improvement purposes. Real estate investors borrow the largest amount. Borrowers who were looking to invest in another property had the highest property values and requested loan amounts. For property investments, borrowers requested an average of $103,625. For non-property investments, which likely include small businesses, borrowers requested $80,241. Just over 1 percent of requests were to fund retirement. This group had the highest average age of 63, 12 years above the next highest average age. A small share accessed their home equity for emergency expenses. This group had the lowest loan amount requested of $35,747 and kept their (loan to value) LTV low at 51 percent. Debt consolidators push the limits on LTV. Borrowers looking to consolidate debt had the highest LTV of 74 percent. If you’re looking to take advantage of your home equity, talk to a local real estate professional to find out the current value of your home. You may find it’s the right time to put your home on the market...

Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners?

Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners? By Liz Dominguez Glitches of early iterations aside, AI-based technology has come a long way, and has an increasingly active presence in the lives of homeowners who are looking for convenience and savings in a pushed-for-time era. From adaptive thermostats that automatically gauge energy usage and alter temperatures for optimal savings, to smart home speakers that use sophisticated artificial intelligence to provide services and information in real-time, a smart homeowner can now cross off a variety of menial tasks from their daily to-do list without doing more than speaking a phrase out loud or clicking a button on their mobile device. What is the true cost of this convenience? Some gadget adopters are reporting invasion of privacy, security risks, and more. For those who have not yet invested in smart home technology, these factors are largely holding them back; in fact, it is the second-biggest reason for hesitation for 17 percent of non-users, behind price (42 percent), according to a recently released report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), “Smart Home, Seamless Life: Unlocking a Culture of Convenience.” In addition, 56 percent of surveyed individuals stated they would choose encryption to protect their data when creating their own smart home. What are these misuses of technology that could lead to privacy or security risks? These are a few of the reported instances thus far: 1. Gadgets May Be Susceptible to Hacking Last August, Wired published a story about a British security researcher for MWR Labs, Mark Barnes, who was able to install malware on an Amazon Echo device, turning it into a...

5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Moving Company

Moving can be a stressful, time-consuming and frustrating experience. The excitement of relocating to your new home can be quickly perturbed by the annoyances of moving day, which is why most homeowners choose to hire a moving company to do the job for them. However, your personal belongings are important to you, and, as such, it doesn’t do any good to hire a mediocre moving team that might damage your delicate items or break irreplaceable heirlooms. If you’re new to the moving game, here are five important questions to ask any company you’re seeking to employ: Do you have any references? No matter the job, references are a large part of what secures your trust and comfort in the person’s ability to perform the task effectively. When looking for movers, be sure to ask the company if they can provide references or a link to some reviews of their business, just to be sure they’re legit. What specific services do you offer? Moving companies vary in terms of what they’re willing to do for you. There are some companies that might refuse to move large items, and only provide the lifting and packing of smaller items. Before you call a moving company, be sure to know exactly what items you need to have moved. If you ask questions, and the response is anything but what you’re looking for, at the very least, you should look around for better options. Do you offer in-home estimates? Knowing what needs to be moved is one thing, but understanding the cost of labor to get the job done is another. Finding a company...

Adding an Outdoor Family Room Can Increase Your Home’s Value

Whether you’re looking to sell your home, or are just interested in making improvements that offer ROI, an outdoor living space is a great investment. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) shares the top four ways family yards and other living landscapes add value to a property and extend the usefulness of the home. Curb appeal. As you know, curb appeal is an important factor in determining overall property value. After all, the first impression on a home is made before buyers even walk through the door! According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2016 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features study, 99 percent of REALTORS® have suggested that sellers improve their curb appeal before putting their home on the market, and 98 percent think curb appeal is important to potential buyers. That’s good advice. Studies show that improving overall curb appeal, which includes a beautiful lawn and landscape, can boost property values by as much as 17 percent (source: Texas Tech University). Win with trees. Mature trees are often an indicator of an established neighborhood, which can be a positive for buyers looking for an older, classic home. But the value of trees goes beyond perception and preference and right into your pocketbook. According to the International Society of Arboriculture, each front yard tree adds 1 percent to a homeowner’s sale price, while large specimen trees can add as much as 10 percent to property values. Green. Potential buyers often ask about the energy efficiency of a home, and it turns out that living landscapes impact the monthly electric bill. According to the Urban Forest Coalition, 100 million mature trees around U.S....

Surviving a Relocation

Relocating to a new area can be an exciting proposition. It can also be a process that’s full of stress. Here are some tips from relocation pros to help ease the strain and emphasize the positive when moving out of town: 1. Lighten your load. Getting rid of unnecessary paperwork, clothing, knickknacks and furniture is essential with any move, but even more so when you’re relocating out of town or out of state. Not only will this save on moving costs, it will save you unpacking time on the other end, allowing you to focus on that new job that brought you to the area and on getting to know your new community and neighbors—all of which is more important than stacking books you don’t need onto shelves. 2. Hire a pro. While you may have opted for DIY moves in the past, relocating out of the area warrants calling in the pros. If you’re being relocated by your employer, this is probably being covered, but even if you’re not, make room in the budget for moving professionals. Ask for referrals, get at least three quotes, and carefully go over all of their policies, including insurance for damages and loss. 3. Transition kids. Children add a whole new layer to the relocation equation, so make sure you make them top priority. Do your research to find the schools that will be the best fit and set appointments to meet with school counselors as you get to town (or even before you move, if possible). Find out where your kids can resume their favorite activities, whether it’s dance or hockey, and get some...

Creating Appeal: 8 Home Staging Tips That Work

By Barbara Pronin First impressions count – and experienced real estate professionals know that a clean, attractively organized home will pique buyer interest and sell more quickly than its neighbors. “Clients tend to focus not on what the house could potentially become, but on how it looks on their first walk-through,” said Kathy Murphy, a top-performing agent with in Royal Oak, Mich. “If the front door is peeling, or the kitchen is a mess, that’s the way they will remember it.” Staging a home to show at its best can make a remarkable difference. That’s why most agents work with their sellers to help create maximum appeal. Effective home staging can be accomplished without excessive effort or expense. The work should begin before the listing photos are taken, so that buyers are intrigued when they view the home online. Listing agents can broaden their staging know-how with these tips from home staging experts: Start at the street – Curb appeal is more than a catchphrase. Advise your sellers to be sure the lawn is mowed, flowerbeds are neat, bikes and trash cans are stashed away. Paint, replace, or clean the front door as needed, and set off a drab entry area with a potted plant or two. Freshen the entryway – The second most important impression begins just inside the front door. Lights should be on, the area neat, and a vase of fresh flowers on a foyer table is a nice touch. Get rid of clutter – Most homes have too much furniture and far too many accessories. Suggest your seller rearrange the furniture to create better traffic flow, and consider...