Bait and switch tactics by real estate agents

houseThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC.gov) states in its Advertising FAQ’s: A Guide for Small Business, “It’s illegal to advertise a product when the company has no intention of selling that item, but instead plans to sell a consumer something else, usually at a higher price…”, when describing “bait and switch” advertising.

The term “bait and switch” is sometimes bandied about by disgruntled consumers, when referring to their encounters with real estate agents. Although the scenarios depicted by the annoyed consumers require legal scrutiny to determine if the situations meet the definition of bait and switch as described by the FTC, it makes you wonder about what some agents are doing and/or saying to get business.

Bait and switch complaints are often about homes that are advertised for rent or sale, but are found to be off market after calling agent. These listings are often the result of listing syndication gone awry; or worse, “scraped” listing information (Internet scraping is when website data is taken and collected, often without authorization) reposted by an unauthorized website to attract traffic away from the website of origin.

Scraped listing information can float around cyberspace for months or years after a home has sold. Although there has always been an element of out of date listing information found on the internet; sham listings and unauthorized postings of listings used to lure consumers, are frequently cited by both consumers and agents because the information is often misleading or incorrect. And although some responsibility may be placed on the workings of the internet; some real estate agents may be to blame for using questionable advertising practices to get their phone ringing to attract home buyers. Such practices include: advertising other agents’ listings as their own, or advertising homes that are off the market.

The MLS syndicates and distributes home listing information across the internet to authorized websites, and updates the listings to maintain accuracy and integrity of the MLS. Although the internet seemed to coalesce for a brief time to present reliable home listings and other real estate information, while deterring scammers and rogue websites; the recent surge in home sales and other economics may be responsible for a return to a “wild west” atmosphere in cyberspace. This year’s reshuffling of MLS data access to major real estate portals, forcing some sites to find missing information elsewhere, is likely to have added some confusion.

Home buyers aren’t the only ones complaining; as some home sellers have similar complaints, saying they’ve been misled. Sometimes the complaint is that their agent “promised” a high sale price, only to be coerced to reduce the price at a later time; or the agent over-promised services that were never delivered.

It must be said that many buyer and seller complaints stem from their dissatisfaction, rather than an actual breach of ethics; and yet many legitimate ethical breaches go unreported. Regardless, it is unfortunate that some real estate agents resort to questionable sales tactics to attract buyers and sellers; and either learn the tactics from real estate trainers, and/or develop them on their own and share with other agents. Even though a Realtors® Code of Ethics exists to guide professional behavior and business practices, some have a “catch me if you can” attitude.

Due diligence, on your part, can make your home buying or selling experience increasingly trouble free and more enjoyable.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorCopyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Real estate horror stories question the limits of seller disclosure

real estateProperty disclosure laws are mostly straightforward about making known the physical condition of a home that’s for sale. However, whether or not to disclose other material facts, that may include events that occurred in and around the home, is not always clear. Material facts about a home are often described as information that may sway a home buyer’s decision about the purchase or purchase price. Some of the more familiar material fact cases that are typically reported in the news include haunted homes and unruly neighbors. Yet, these two recent accounts have again raised the question and debate about what the seller and the real estate agent is obligated to disclose.

Sounding like a plot of a horror movie, it is the real estate horror story of a New Jersey family. Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV (New Jersey family says they are being stalked at new home; 6abc.com; June 22, 2015) reported on a family that was allegedly stalked through creepy and threatening letters. The new home owners started receiving these letters several days after closing on their million dollar home.

The letters were described as written by the “Watcher,” who claimed to be the latest of his family to watch the home with such statements as the home has been “the subject of my family for decades…” Other letter statements include “Why are you here? I will find out…” And, “I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me.”

According to Tom Haydon, who reported on the lawsuit for NJ Advance Media (Lawsuit: ‘Bring me young blood,’ stalker told Westfield home buyers;nj.com; June 19, 2015), the new owners were so disturbed by the letters that they never moved into their new home; and have been trying to sell it. The family is suing the seller alleging that the seller knew about the “Watcher” because the seller did not disclose that they allegedly received a similar letter prior to closing.

You’ve heard about “Snakes in a Plane?” This next story is about an Annapolis MD family who experienced “snakes in a house.” David Collins reported for Baltimore’s WBAL-TV (Snake-infested Annapolis home rattles owners; wbaltv.com; June 5, 2015) about the snake infested home. Detailing the new owners’ nightmare; they said they used a machete as defense against snakes that reportedly dropped from ceilings, and slithered from the walls.

To rid the home of the snakes, the owners described how they ripped out walls, and tore up the ground around the foundation. However the report indicated that “experts” told the owners gutting the home may not guarantee the snakes would return because the snake pheromones and musk could attract new snakes; and that the home should be left vacant for fifteen years to rid the home of the musky odors.

The new owners allege that their insurance will not cover a claim, nor is their mortgage lender willing to help. The new owners are suing the real estate agent and broker for allegedly not disclosing the snakes; there are also allegations that the tenants who lived in the home prior to the sale, moved out because of snakes.

Legal experts across the country have weighed in on these extraordinary stories, only to illustrate how a seller’s obligation to disclose varies regionally. If you are selling a home and have questions about your obligation to disclose, consult your real estate agent and your attorney.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorCopyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Are you feeling lucky? Belief in luck may boost home sale

houseLuck is not an attribute that real estate agents will talk about during their listing interview. It’s true. Agents are apt to discuss many things, such as their success, their view of the market, and hopefully what they will do for your listing; but they won’t acknowledge that luck, or serendipity, may have had something to do with the success of some of their transactions. Recent research indicates that luck is actually an important characteristic in sales; and some are “luckier” than others.

Joël Le Bon, Professor of Marketing at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business, has been studying the relationship between sales and luck for some time. He recently discussed his research for the Harvard Business Review (Why the Best Salespeople Get So Lucky; hbr.org; April 13, 2015) saying, “…downplaying the power of luck, you stand to fall behind competitors who have learned how to manage it.”

That’s right – managing (or provoking) luck. Even though many “de-emphasize luck” and focus on tangible and measurable actions, Le Bon’s studies show that the combination of the belief in luck and specific sales behaviors have a mutual positive relationship. More precisely: believing in luck has a positive effect on sales behaviors; and exhibiting a specific set of behaviors increases the person’s luck in sales.

Le Bon gives an example how managed or “provoked” luck effects sales. A study of students selling golf tournament sponsorships revealed that those who believed in luck increased their sales 41% over those who relied on “standard sales practices.” And that “76% to 88% of the luck circumstances were incidences of provoked luck.”

Among the luck boosting behaviors that Le Bon listed, includes: competitive intelligence, mindfulness, and change circumstances are relevant to home sales. Those who are luckier tend to be: knowledgeable about the market, competitors, customers and prospects; mindful about their customers’ objectives and open to unexpected opportunities; and thinking outside the box by going outside their comfort zone and seeking new opportunities outside their sphere of influence.

Many successful listing agents also have these traits. Although not attributed to luck, their success could be viewed as “provoked” serendipity. However, they are often able to convert Le Bon’s list of actionable behaviors into successful sales and satisfied clients. Pricing homes accurately requires knowledge of local neighborhood sales trends, not to mention the overall market. Successfully negotiating transactions requires an understanding of buyers and their agents, as well as communication skills. Servicing a listing and being attentive to their clients requires being aware and addressing their needs. And of course, going outside their sphere of influence allows contacting and connecting with more prospective home buyers to sell their listing.

Even though luck, as such, is not recognized as an asset for your listing agent to possess; belief in luck seems to be part of a repertoire of beliefs typically described as a positive attitude – which has been demonstrated time and again as having positive effects on sales outcomes.

However, it’s not just your agent’s beliefs and actions that can affect your home sale. Your attitudes and beliefs can also facilitate or interfere with the sale. If you have a strong emotional attachment to your home, or have unrealistic expectations; your home may not sell, or you may be unsatisfied if it does –regardless of your agent’s skills. But then again, maybe all you need is a little luck.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorCopyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Boomerang buyers return – qualifying after foreclosure or short sale

HomesThere is homeownership after a foreclosure or short sale. Home owners, who lost their homes to foreclosure or short sale during the housing downturn and recession, are apparently returning to the housing market in increasing numbers, such that their home buying activity is attracting economists’ attention.

Ken Fears, the National Association of Realtors® Director of Regional Economics and Housing Finance, wrote for the NAR Economist’s Outlook Blog (Return Buyers Prefer Safe, Affordable Financing; economistsoutlook.blogs.realtor.org; June 25, 2015) about the research and numbers associated with home buyers who previously lost a home. These “boomerang buyers” accounted for about 8% of home sales during 2014. Considering that there were about 9.3 million home owners who lost their homes between 2006 and 2014, the estimated 350,000 boomerang home buyer sales during 2014 may be just the beginning of the “homecoming.”

If you are a boomerang buyer, there may be a home in your future. Conventional, FHA, and VA mortgage underwriting guidelines have typically allowed for foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy with re-established credit and a waiting period. However, easing mortgage requirements may make it easier for you to qualify for a mortgage.

Fannie Mae underwritting guidelines (fanniemae.com) require you to wait at least seven years after a foreclosure, which is typically measured from the reported foreclosure completion date. If you had a short sale, the waiting period is four years. However, if you had a bankruptcy, you’ll have to wait four years after a chapter 7 bankruptcy is discharged; and two years after a chapter 13 is discharged (but four years if the chapter 13 is dismissed). However, if you had multiple bankruptcies within a seven year period, a five year waiting period from the most recent discharge or dismissal date is required.

FHA (hud.gov) has changed significantly in recent years. Besides reducing waiting periods due to extenuating circumstances, there are various caveats that may further reduce your waiting period. Nevertheless, the typical waiting periods include: three years after a foreclosure, two years after a chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, and one year if you are current on a chapter 13 payment plan. The waiting period after a short sale is differentiated depending if the loan was in default: if the loan was not in default at the time of the short sale and your previous 12 months payments were timely, you may be eligible for a FHA mortgage without waiting; however if the loan was in default prior to short sale, you will have to wait three years.

If you are eligible for VA financing (benefits.va.gov), you will have to wait two years after a foreclosure, short sale, and chapter 7 bankruptcy (one year into a chapter 13 payment plan with court approval). However, if your foreclosure or short sale was on a VA mortgage, then your eligibility amount may be reduced.

Waiting periods may be significantly reduced if you can document that your foreclosure, bankruptcy, or short sale resulted from extenuating circumstances. However, such applications are subject to underwriter discretion; and not all lenders grant such exemptions.

If you are a boomerang home buyer, it is crucial that you consult with a lender before embarking on the home buying process. Besides guidance on mortgage eligibility, your lender can help you determine the appropriate mortgage for your circumstances. And as your lender will tell you, timelines and qualifying requirements are subject to change.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorCopyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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EMP’s, solar flares and your home – are you prepared

homesYour home takes on different functions at various times. Maybe you think of your home as place of relaxation and entertainment, or maybe it’s where you create gourmet meals. And although much of the living you anticipate in your home may be for enjoyment – will your home be a suitable shelter to protect you and your family?

To bring attention to preparedness, the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) played on pop-culture in a 2011 posting of a tongue in cheek account of preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. The result of this and other efforts increased awareness of planning for emergencies and severe weather. As a severe weather event might inconvenience you for as much as a day or two, preparedness experts have since turned to preparing for and the aftermath of Katrina-like events, or worse – the takedown of the electric grid.

Preparedness experts have recently brought attention to the electric grid’s vulnerabilities with reports of hacking and alleged terrorist activity. However, one weakness that has been talked about in recent years, although has been known since the cold war, is the electromagnetic pulse (EMP). R. James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry, in their August 12, 2014 Wall Street Journal article (The Growing Threat From an EMP Attack; wsj.com), describe EMP’s, the aftermath, and preparedness. Woolsey and Pry quoted a 2008 EMP Commission report that estimated “within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.”

Alternatively, the effect of a direct hit of a coronal mass ejection (CME) would be very similar to an EMP; causing “widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket…” Although 1859 was the last time a CME hit the Earth (when most of daily life did not depend on electricity), a CME barley missed the Earth (by several days) during July 2012. Scientists estimate a 12% chance of being hit by a CME in the next ten years (Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012; science.nasa.gov; July 23, 2014).

Although discussions about EMP’s and CME’s seem extreme; it should make you think about your preparedness level. If you don’t yet have (or need to update) a plan, preparedness information is available through government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (ready.gov). FEMA’s “Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness” interactive course is “a training program designed to help the citizens of this nation learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards…” and is a comprehensive source on individual, family and community preparedness (www.ready.gov/are-you-ready-guide).

Locally, the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security offers a resource library of information to prepare for and the aftermath of emergencies (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs/).

In addition to having an emergency plan, experts recommend reviewing your homeowners’ insurance policy to ensure of adequate coverage as well as compiling an inventory of your home’s contents; this is supposed to help you recover quicker from disaster. Additional recommendations include (but are not limited to) mitigating weather related damage: making sure your home’s doors and windows are secure and impermeable to weather, and also ensuring your roof and gutter system is well maintained (draining water at least five feet from your home); as well as removing debris and dead trees/shrubs from the home’s perimeter.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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DANGER Report not a mea culpa – but forecasts issues affecting housing market

real estateNews about the D.A.N.G.E.R. Report is making the media rounds, but maybe the excitement is more hyperbole than news. And contrary to the recent hype, the D.A.N.G.E.R. Report is not a mea culpa by the National Association of Realtors®.

D.A.N.G.E.R. is an acronym for “Definitive Analysis of Negative Game changers Emerging in Real estate.” The Report was commissioned by the National Association of REALTORS® as that is part of the NAR Strategic Thinking Advisory Committee’s attempt to identify issues affecting the future of the industry; the Swanepoel | T3 Group researched and authored the Report, which identifies trends and offers the residential real estate industry an impact assessment.

Described as a “…mix of yesterday, today and tomorrow…” the Report is intended to assist those in the industry to “…anticipate the forces taking shape that we can’t yet see;” by pointing out possible challenges, threats, and opportunities. Although the result is meant to “inspire” discourse, the reception has so far been mixed. NAR CEO Dale Stinton was quoted to say, “The D.A.N.G.E.R. Report is like 50 things that could keep you up at night. It isn’t a strategic plan. It isn’t telling you to do anything. It’s 50 potential black swans. It’s for your strategic planning processes. Digest it and cuss and fuss and decide whether it’s right or wrong…” (Anrea V. Brambila; ‘Danger’ report alerts industry to 50 biggest threats; inman.com; May 15, 2015).

One issue highlighted in the Report that has attracted the media attention is agent competency and ethics. The use of Report quotes such as, “the real estate industry is saddled with a large number of part-time, untrained, unethical, and/or incompetent agents…” is as if some in the media are saying “we told you so.” But the truth is that competency does not guarantee ethical behavior, and vice versa; the answers, like the issues, are more complex than you might expect – and do not assure advancement.

Like many of the issues reported in D.A.N.G.E.R., concern about agent competency and ethics is not new. The National Association of Realtors® has for years tried to influence public opinion of Realtors® and the industry by publicly promoting the high ethical standards by which Realtors® are held. Many are unaware that a code of ethics was adopted in 1913 by the association, and has since strived to instill and maintain a high level of integrity in the field. And yet with such emphasis on ethics, you might expect that public opinion would be much higher, but the limited research on consumer perception of ethics is mixed at best. And according to one study, consumers consider price, quality, and value more important than ethical criteria in purchase behavior (The myth of the ethical consumer – do ethics matter in purchase behaviour? The Journal of Consumer Marketing. 2001;18(7),560-577).

The D.A.N.G.E.R. Report may have missed the mark by not acknowledging that the industry’s transformation over many decades has been mainly influenced and driven by market forces, regulation, and technology. Discussing “black swans” with regard to these three areas may have been more valuable and practical to professionals and consumers.

However, as much as we try to identify unforeseen events; they are just that – unexpected and unanticipated. Take for instance the extreme changes that have occurred over the last ten years in the real estate industry – much of which were due to market forces, regulation, and technology.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in housing market, NAR, real estate, Real Estate Market, Realtor | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The cost of doing nothing – deferred maintenance and home values

HousesIf you want to have one of the faster home sales in the area, you’re probably going to have to wait until you die. According to a 2012 study, “estate sales” sell faster than other homes. Benefield, Rutherford, & Allen’s study compared time on market and price of estate sales to regular sales, and quantified what many ostensibly know: estate sales sell about 3.4% faster and about 3.6% less than other homes (Justin, D. Benefield, C. Rutherford Ronald, and T. Allen Marcus. “The Effects of Estate Sales of Residential Real Estate on Price and Marketing Time.” Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 45.4 (2012): 965-81).

Although the study is one of many recent studies raising awareness about real estate outcomes in our aging population, one of the main considerations for the rapid time frame and discounted sale price is deferred maintenance; and the issue of postponing home repairs and updates is prevalent among all age groups.

Before Kermit Baker wrote “The Return of Substandard Housing” for the Harvard Joint Center of Housing Studies, it was not quite known how much less home owners spent on home maintenance during and immediately after the Great Recession. However, the 2012 study indicated that “improvement spending” decreased 28% between 2007 and 2011, which essentially “erased” such spending during the housing boom (housingperspectives.blogspot.com).

And as the economy slowly improves and home prices increase, you might expect that home owners will reduce deferred maintenance and once again spend on home improvements. According to Craig Webb (Remodeling Activity Rose Again in 1Q, RRI Shows Nation remains on track to hit record remodeling pace this fall; May 18, 2015; remodeling.hw.net), the Residential Remodeling Index (RRI) increased 1.4% in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the previous quarter, indicating that improvement spending is indeed on the rise (albeit below the 2007 peak).

But what’s the cost of doing nothing? Deferred home maintenance is cumulative, and its effects can be wide ranging. For many, having put off home maintenance and repairs has impacted home sales in recent years, and may continue to be a factor in years to come. Although average home prices have increased, many home owners have found that a lack of home maintenance, repairs and updates over the years is an impediment to selling their homes at higher prices – or even at all.

A mindset exists among many home owners, and even real estate agents, that years of deferred maintenance can be overcome with some updating and minor repairs just before a home sale. And although improvements will certainly make your home more appealing to home buyers, it won’t necessarily increase your home’s value as much as you think (or as much as you’ve been told).

Before undergoing any project, crunch the numbers and determine the value of your repairs/updates, and how that might realistically affect your estimated sale price. Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report (costvsvalue.com) can give you an idea of the return-on-investment (ROI) for improvement projects. Getting back to your expectation of adding value – most improvement projects will only return a fraction of the cost in today’s market.

If you are making improvements, you should consider hiring reputable, licensed contractors who are familiar with the permitting process and building code requirements; because ROI is not always determined by the amount spent on the project, but on the quality of workmanship as well.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Posted in home condition, home improvement, home maintenance, home remodeling, home renovation, home repairs, home value, home values, real estate, repairs | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Survey may indicate buyers need attentive agents

buyer agentA recent MarketWatch report indicated that the top four reasons why millennials are not buying homes include: lack of down payment; student loan debt; credit card debt; and not knowing where to start. The reasons per se may not surprise you; however, regional differences are interesting.

Daniel Goldstein’s May 30th report (Millennials in Texas and in California reject home ownership for vastly different reasons; marketwatch.com) tries to tie together a recent Carrington Mortgage survey and the lack of homeownership participation among millennials. Since millennials are supposed to be the heir apparent to the U.S. economy; he ponders about why there is only a 38% homeownership rate (according to CoreLogic) among millennials when mortgage interest rates are at record lows. The figure pales in comparison to the homeownership rate of 52% of the same age group in 1980 – at a time of double digit interest rates!

Millennials in the western region of the U.S. seem to be mostly concerned about down payment. This may be due to the region including many high cost metro areas. Additionally, the western region has seen much of the home price growth and hot markets we hear about in the media.

Midwestern region millennials are mostly concerned about student loan debt, which has a direct impact on their debt-to-income ratio. The midwestern region has some of the lowest cost of living areas, which influences wages and ability to qualify for a mortgage.

The top concern for millennials in the northeast is credit card debt. And while having credit card debt is not necessarily a bad thing (as long as credit is not maxed out and payments are timely); many do not understand the general concepts of credit reports, and the relation between credit scores and credit card debt.

Whereas most of the country seems to be concerned about wages, savings, and debt; southern millennials (which includes Maryland, DC, and Virginia) are reported to be generally stumped about the home buying process.

What millennials reported in the survey is what generally daunts first time home buyers – the overwhelming process of buying a home. Although not considered rocket science, buying your first home can be intimidating. And it’s not just because it is one of the most expensive purchases of a lifetime; but also because the process is multifaceted with many possible pitfalls. Recent industry trends have also made the process less personal, leaving many home buyers to “figure it out” on their own.

Millennials’ concern about the home buying process may not necessarily be economics as it is about the industry itself. It may be a telling sign that “continuity of care” in the real estate industry is lacking, and should have many professionals revisit the client centered business model.

Although recent industry trends favor real estate agent teams as a means to high volume home sales; buyers who work with a team may not necessarily be overly satisfied with communication and support. Millennials and other first time home buyers may be seeking seasoned real estate agents and loan officers who are able to listen to their needs and concerns, while being able to educate and provide guidance. Much like having the ability to talk to a physician directly, rather than communicating through messaging services and technicians; having a single Realtor® who can promptly answer phone calls and emails, may greatly increase satisfaction and quality of service.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Hot regional housing markets change reliance on MLS listings

HomesGood news for home sellers, in most US regions. Tuesday’s news release from S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices indicates a nationwide home price gain. The 10-city and 20-city composites continue to show home price gains, as the composites realized a 4.7% and 5.0% year over year gain respectively (month over month gains were 0.8% and 0.9% respectively). The nearby Washington DC region was not as robust as the other US regions in the composite, however, as home prices gained about 1% year over year and about 0.8% month over month (us.spindices.com).

The S&P/Case-Shiller index seems to be in agreement with the U.S. House Price Index Report issued by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (fhfa.gov), which indicated that national home prices gained 1.3% during the first quarter of 2015. However here in Maryland, home prices did not fare as well with a 0.38% decline year over year.

Hot markets in western regions of the US, such as Washington, are making news besides strong home prices. In one of the hottest markets in the nation, a Seattle Washington broker has decided to drop out of their MLS. Counter intuitive to the idea of maximizing listing exposure, Rob Smith of the Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Quill Realty is dropping out of their local MLS (Here’s why this Seattle realty company just ditched the MLS; bizjournals.com, May 18, 2015).

Instead of MLS placement, Quill intends to place listings on a number of websites, including Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com. The rationale is that sellers will save money from the 1% commission that is charged by Quill; while buyers of Quill’s listings “… will become responsible for working out a financial arrangement with their own broker.”

Of course, this is not an entirely new idea. There have been a number of seller oriented business models that have been devised over the years; with new variations popping up during hot markets. Many discount brokers and MLS placement services, which have survived the housing downturn, have continued to market their business model successfully.

Innovative or not, hot markets tend to make brokers become more protective of their listings by seeking ways to make them proprietary. Low housing inventory in some markets, along with increasing home prices and buyer competition can make a home listing a hot commodity. I will remind of the recent report indicating that pocket listings are on the rise. Pocket listings are listings kept out of the MLS and shown only to a select network of contacts and clients. And although pocket listings are often associated with luxury real estate, pocket listings in hot markets can occur across all price ranges because of the increased home buyer competition.

In response to recent trends, several regional Realtor® groups and brokers have been formulating a nationwide consumer MLS to provide the consumer with up to date relevant information (brokerpublicportal.com). Board member of the Broker Public Portal, Robert Moline (Home Services America) stated, “There is a tremendous amount of support and momentum throughout the MLS and brokerage communities to create a new choice for how and where to display their listings…”

And even though many home sellers are taking advantage of a seller’s market in their respective markets, home buyers are becoming increasingly resourceful as well. Many buyers are learning how to find home for sale in places other the MLS. Besides alternative listing websites, many buyers are also relying on neighborhood listservs (internet email lists) and internet groups for home sale notifications.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Don’t skip the home inspection – old, new, or renovated

homesLike the 49ers seeking gold in California, real estate investors have flocked to D.C. in recent years to seek their fortunes. As home values rebounded, many distressed homes were snapped up by investors with the intention of renovating/rehabbing, and then selling them. For many home buyers, these “flipped” houses have become home; however, for a few, the dream has become a nightmare.

Martin Austermuhle reported on WAMU (A Dream Home Becomes a Nightmare; wamu.org) about D.C.’S house flipping environment and highlighted one family’s dream turned nightmare. Characterized as a “cautionary tale of home-buying in a hot real estate market,” the story was basically about how rotted wood in the porch has led to a multimillion dollar law suit between the purchasers and the rehabber.

If you haven’t received the memo, “house flipping” is once again a bad thing – or is it? Unfortunately, “flipping” has become synonymous with fraud and scams because of the attention that it received in the mid 1990’s (as the result of widespread fraud and scams that involved flipped homes). At that time, several cities (Baltimore being one) were known for flipping scams because of the investors’ ability to purchase a home for very little money and turn it around for a big profit.

Although, there should be nothing wrong with buying a distressed property, rehabbing and selling it (aka home flipping); flipping has generally become the term used when there is an accusation of fraud or con involved with a rehabbed home. During the 1990’s, flipped homes were the center of many mortgage fraud cases that took advantage of lenders by providing false income statements, fraudulent credit reports, and/or fraudulent appraisals. In these cases, the investor was not the only scammer; as accomplices often included: loan officers, appraisers, title agents, real estate agents, and even “straw” buyers.

Many home buyers were also scammed into buying homes in disrepair that were represented as being rehabbed. And believe it or not, some of these homes were nothing but shells (e.g., gutted).

In the aftermath of the flipping crisis of the 1990’s: lenders wrote off hundreds of millions of dollars, lawsuits were filed, and a movement grew to educate home buyers about the need to conduct home inspections. Mortgage underwriting changed to safeguard against future scams with the introduction of title seasoning (length of ownership).

Legitimate rehabbing of distressed properties has always been a viable industry; and can transform an eyesore into a livable home. However, just because renovations have been made to an old home doesn’t mean that it is now brand new!

When buying a home, you must do your due diligence regardless of the age of the home. A thorough home inspection should be conducted, even on new homes. Although home inspectors don’t have x-ray vision, the technology they employ can sometimes make it seem as if they do. Besides the routine identification of deferred maintenance, home inspectors can typically identify issues with renovations and can usually identify code violations. Furthermore, you should check permits when considering a home that has been renovated or expanded. Many jurisdictions offer online services to search permits; locally, the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services has such a search portal (permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov).

If you’re buying a home, you might also consider working with an experienced Realtor®. A seasoned professional is not only knowledgeable about neighborhood price trends and disclosures; many are skilled to work in tandem with the home inspector to negotiate repairs.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector Copyright © Dan Krell
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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