Embrace millennials for prosperity

embrace millennials
Generational shifts (infpgraphic from nar.realtor)

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s recent remarks about millennials and housing doesn’t just speak volumes about politics and elected officials, but possibly reveals the future of housing and business in Montgomery County MD.  His “slip of the tongue” opposing building housing for millennials was not taken lightly and received plenty of pushback.  To be fair, Elrich has clarified his statement and is making amends by meeting with millennial activists who reside in the county.  Elrich should consider it a defining moment of his tenure and take the opportunity embrace millennials and the businesses that employ them to address the county’s housing and economic issues.

Millennials shouldn’t be pigeonholed just because their generation is misunderstood.  According to the National Association of Realtors, millennials are the largest segment of home buyers.  They account for more than one third of nationwide home buyers (Millennials Want the ‘Anti-Suburb Suburb’; magazine.realtor; February 26, 2016).  Jessica Lautz, NAR’s managing director of survey research stated, “Their buying power is huge…They are definitely a force in the market. They are overtaking the baby boomers.”

Affordable housing is an issue for every generation, including millennials.  According to the NAR, eighty-six percent of millennials “believe that buying a home is a good financial investment.”  However, like all home buyers, millennials are facing low home sale inventory, increasing home prices, and rising rents.  Additionally, many millennials have the heavy burden of student loan debt, which stifles their ability to rent, as well as save for a down payment to buy a home.  To put this into perspective, consider Zack Friedman’s report for Forbes indicating student loan debt approaches $1.5 trillion (Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2018: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis; forbes.com; June 13, 2018).  This makes student loan debt the “second highest consumer debt category” (mortgage debt is first). 

Embrace millennials to address housing issues

Millennials don’t expect cities to tear down older affordable housing to build new homes for them.  It’s quite the opposite.  As was reported by NAR research cited above (Millennials Want the ‘Anti-Suburb Suburb), many millennials are moving out of the city and opting to live in more affordable suburban neighborhoods. Instead of tearing down homes and disrupting communities, millennials are revitalizing older homes and invigorating forgotten neighborhoods. 

It has been established that millennials are currently driving the economy of housing, and they should not be dismissed.  According to the National Association of Realtors 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study (nar.realtor), millennials have been the most active generation buying homes for the past five years.  Millennials represented more than one-third of all home purchases in 2018.  It was pointed out that the number of millennials buying homes in urban areas is declining.  After peaking at 21 percent in 2015, only 15 percent of millennials purchased in an urban area during 2018 (only 2 percent buying a condo).

Embrace millennials to address economy

The millennial shift toward the suburbs is affecting business too.  Jim Fagan recently wrote about businesses chasing millennial talent (Millennials are re-migrating to the suburbs and their employers are following; westfaironlline.com; September 14, 2018).  He observed that as millennials are moving out of urban areas, their employers are following them.  Just as millennial migration is affecting residential real estate, it is also affecting commercial real estate and the urban landscape .

Demographics are not static and affect housing and the economy.  Millennials are a driving force in today’s housing and labor markets.  If Elrich is to address the county’s economy and housing issues, he should embrace millennials and the businesses that employ them.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/embrace-millennials-economic-prosperity

Copyright© Dan Krell

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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.

Identity protection real estate

identity protection
Be proactive with identity protection (infographic from nsa.gov)

Even with precautions and laws to protect your sensitive data while conducting financial transactions, there can still be a weak link in the chain that can put your personal data at risk.  You may not have heard about the latest data breach, but it involved the potential leaking of over 24 million mortgage documents. Identity Protection during the real estate process takes awareness and vigilance. However, what do you do after the transaction is over?

The data breach to which I refer was discovered and reported by Bob Diachenko, Cyber Threat Intelligence Director of Security Discovery with the assistance of Zack Whitaker of Techcrunch.  This data breach was discovered by Diachenko just by searching public search engines.  According to Diachenko’s report (securitydiscovery.com/document-management-company-leaks-data-online), the unprotected database contained about 51 GB of credit and mortgages information.  The database potentially exposed more than 24 Million files.

Essentially, the over 24 million unprotected records (24,349,524 according to Diachenko) that existed on the database were likely scanned (OCR) from original documents.  Diachenko stated, “These documents contained highly sensitive data, such as social security numbers, names, phones, addresses, credit history, and other details which are usually part of a mortgage or credit report. This information would be a gold mine for cyber criminals who would have everything they need to steal identities, file false tax returns, get loans or credit cards.” 

Diachenko and Whitaker tracked down the owner of the database and found that the exposed database belonged to a third party.  After the database was secured, however, Diachenko found a second vulnerable server that contained original documents.

How is consumer identity protection handled through through institutional real estate transactions?

According to Whitaker, the documents date as far back to 2008, possibly further.  The documents concerned “correspondence from several major financial and lending institutions” including government entities such as HUD.  Whitaker stated that not all data was “sensitive,” however the database included: names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, bank and checking account numbers.  They also found some documents that contained other “sensitive financial information,” such as bankruptcy and tax documents, including W-2 forms. 

To understand the broader implications of identity protection in a real estate transaction, read Diachenko and Whitaker’s first (techcrunch.com/2019/01/23/financial-files) and second (techcrunch.com/2019/01/24/mortgage-loan-leak-gets-worse) report. The reporting of Diachenko and Whitaker is significant because it exposes how your identity and sensitive information can be mishandled in the broader financial transactional process that occurs between entities.  Even though direct correspondence with you may be encrypted and secure, security lapses can occur during the institutional transaction process (such selling and/or transferring a mortgage)

The moral of the story is that once your information is out of your hands, you cannot assume it’s 100 percent secure.  Even blockchain technology, which has been touted as a safe means of digital data management, has weaknesses.  And as governments and financial institutions are looking to blockchain as the “answer” to data security, there are reports of “attacks” of increasing sophistication according to James Risberg (Yes, the Blockchain Can Be Hacked; coincentral.com; May 7, 2018). 

Take your identity protection seriously when buying and selling a home

Be vigilant and proactive to protect your identity and sensitive information.  Be wary of unsolicited requests for information, even if it appears to be from someone with whom you are conducting business. Always make a call to confirm the request. Consider a credit freeze to prevent fraudsters from opening credit accounts in your name.  Check your credit report regularly and dispute errors.  If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov site can help you report it and create a recovery plan.  You can learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft from the FTC (consumer.ftc.gov) and the Federal Reserve (federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov).

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/identity-protection-real-estate

Copyright© Dan Krell

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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.

Buy vs rent market

buy vs rent
Buy vs Rent Housing Market (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

After last year’s active spring, the housing market’s fall home sale decline shocked many.  Although home sales were on target to outpace the previous year’s activity, the slowdown diminished the spring’s impact.  In fact, the National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor) January 22nd press release indicated a sharp decline of home sales during December.  The 6.4 percent month over month nationwide decline should not have been a surprise because of the season.  However, December’s nationwide 10.3 percent sales decline from the previous year is significant.  The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (gcaar.com) indicated that Montgomery County single family home sales decreased 12.2 percent during December. Is this an indication of another buy vs rent market?

Back in August, I predicted and discussed the causes for the fall’s sales slowdown.  Among the issues that contributed to the slowdown include increasing mortgage rates and the continued home sale inventory shortage. However, it’s important to note that although home sales seemed to go to sleep during the early winter, home sale prices continue to increase.  It’s not the 4-5 percent price gain that home owners have become accustomed.  But the 2.9 percent nationwide price increase (2.7 percent increase in Montgomery County) during December is indicative that home ownership is still valued.

Although there are many who are saying it’s now a buyer’s market, it’s not entirely true.  The current housing environment has home buyers under pressure.  Increasing mortgage interest rates are making buying a home more expensive, and there are not many homes from which to choose.  Consequently, motivated home buyers who are eager to buy a home during the winter are pushing back against high home prices.  The reality is that home sellers will remain in the driver’s seat as long as they price their homes correctly.

There is a lot of promise for the spring, but it still depends on many factors (such as inventory).  But the push back on increasing home prices will likely continue, as home buyers are increasingly sensitive to housing costs.  “Buy vs rent” and housing affordability will once again become hot topics this spring. 

Buy vs rent is on the mind of home buyers. Although buyers are in the market to buy, there is no urgency. However, it’s clear that this market is about value.

If you’re a home buyer trying to figure out the market, consulting with a professional Realtor can help you decide if it’s the right time to buy a home.  Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy Calculator (trulia.com) is a tool that compares the cost of buying to renting a home over time in a specific area.  It can estimate the point at which home buying is better than renting.  However, depending on your budget and area, renting may be a better financial option.  Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA) and the Housing Opportunities Commission (hocmc.org) offers affordable housing programs for first time home buyers and renters.

If you’re a home seller, think back to the 2014 spring housing market when home buyers pushed back at the sharp home price gains of 2013.  It’s recommended that you don’t take home buyers for granted, buyers are just as savvy as you.  Keep in mind that buyers are thinking about “buy vs rent.” Don’t over-price your home, however expect to negotiate the price.  Make your home show its best through preparation and staging.  Stay away from cheap renovations meant to look expensive, this can actually decrease your home’s value.  If you’re selling “by owner,” consider consulting a staging professional to help prepare and stage your home.  If you’re listing your home with a Realtor, your agent should have a strategy to sell for top dollar in this market. 

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/01/25/buy-vs-rent-housing-market

Copyright© Dan Krell
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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.

Winter home sale prep

winter home prep
Winter home prep (infographic from cdc.gov)

The winter holidays are over, so there shouldn’t be any more disruption to your winter home sale, right?  A winter home sale may not have much competition during the winter months, but the weather could potentially put a stopper on buyer visits.  And in the aftermath of this week’s snow storm, you might have second thoughts about your winter home sale.  But since you’re one of the savvy home sellers, you know that weather is fleeting and winter home buyers are serious. You know to focus on the winter home sale prep.

Selling during the winter is not much different than selling during any other time of year.  In other words, home sale prep is required.  And just as you would during the summer, you should prepare for home buyers to visit your home during a winter home sale.  Instead of the heat and thunderstorms of summer, you should prepare for the cold and snow of winter.  Your home should be warm enough to make visitors comfortable to help them envision living in your home.  Also, consider having a large mat in the entrance where visitors can wipe their shoes or remove them, so as to help keep your home clean.

Decluttering and maintaining a clutter-free home during a home sale is a challenge.  But during the winter, when we tend to retreat inside and “nest,” maintaining a home ready to view can be a test of your will.  Give yourself more time for home sale prep before a home buyer comes knocking.  Consider a daily quick onceover through the house to help maintain order.  Limiting buyer visits to specific times of day can help you feel in control, as well as designate a daily private time when you can relax.

Weather permitting, winter open houses are still appealing for home buyers.  And during the winter when there are few homes listed for sale, there are even fewer open houses making your open house a destination.  Summer or Winter, an open house is an ideal way to have many home buyers visit your home in a concentrated time period.  You should coordinate visiting times and open houses with your agent to eliminate surprises.

Regardless of how well you care for your home, maintenance issues are always a concern during a home sale.  More so during the winter.  If your HVAC system is not working efficiently, it may not be heating your home evenly and consistently.  Aging shingles can cause of ice dams, and allow water penetration into the home.  Blocked gutters and downspouts can cause safety issues by causing standing water and ice on walkways.  Poorly insulated doors and windows cause drafts and cold spots in the home. 

Prepare your home for a winter sale and address maintenance issues before the house goes on the market.  Have your HVAC system serviced and cleaned.  Have a licensed roofer check your roof for missing or damaged shingles.  Consider having a pre-listing home inspection to spot concerns. 

Recent inventory shortages and buyer demand has made winter a great time to sell your home.  However, some home buyers still believe that they can lowball a winter home sale.  And there is a good chance that you will a receive a lowball offer.  You prepare for these buyers by strategizing with your agent on negotiating tactics.  If you receive a lowball offer, don’t get offended.  Instead, take the opportunity to start a dialogue with the buyer.  If the home buyer is serious, they will negotiate in good faith. 

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/01/19/winter-home-sale-prep

Copyright© Dan Krell
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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.

Occam’s razor home selling

Occam's razor and selling a home
Staging is one of the four basics of home selling. (infographic from nar.realtor)

Many home owners are preparing to sell their homes this year.  And in doing so, home sellers are looking for new and exciting ways to sell their homes fast and for top dollar.  But the reality is that selling a home is not rocket science.  There really isn’t a secret trick or approach to selling a home.  Rather, it’s more like magic, where properly performed fundamental tasks can set the stage for a satisfying experience. If you don’t know how Occam’s razor (or what it is) can help you get the most from your home sale, pay close attention.

Unfortunately, it’s a human trait seek a complex solution to a simple question.  In other words, applying Occam’s razer to your home sale can save you time and allow you to get out of your own way.  Occam’s razer is a tool that is often used to figure out solutions and devise scientific theories.  It has become popularized as the “keep it simple stupid” method.  However, Susan Borowski’s history and explanation of Occam’s razor, written for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, gives it teeth (The Origin and Popular Use of Occam’s Razor; aaas.org; June 12, 2012).  Borowski states, “Occam’s razor doesn’t necessarily go with the simplest theory, whether it’s right or wrong; it is not an example of simplicity for simplicity’s sake. It merely tries to cut through the clutter to find the best theory based on the best scientific principles and knowledge at the time.”

In other words, focus on the tried and true fundamentals of selling a home.  Anything above and beyond may not necessarily help to sell the home faster or for more money, but could help make the process more enjoyable.  That in mind, let’s consider these four basic concepts:

First, consider the condition of your home.  Do you have deferred maintenance issues?  Does your home need a makeover?  Homes that get top dollar are “turnkey.”  Many home buyers are willing to compete and pay more for recently upgraded and renovated homes.  Selling a home with deferred maintenance or lacking recent updates can not only turn off many home buyers, but can encourage low-ball offers.  A pre-listing home inspection can help you identify maintenance issues.  Also, consider consulting with a design professional to help you understand which updates (if any) are necessary to help your home sale.

Next, work on the home’s presentation to give it a clean and spacious feel.  Decluttering is one of those tasks that can be overwhelming, but it’s importance cannot be overstated.  Decluttering will force you to decide which items to keep in the home.  Additionally, staging your home can help balance space, furniture and décor.  This can help home buyers envision living in the home.

Deciding on a list price is often a conundrum.  Although enticing, don’t be seduced by the agent who tells you the highest sales price without understanding their rationale.  The housing market can turn on a dime.  If your home isn’t priced correctly, it can languish on the market.  There are many aspects that go into deciding a price, so work with a respected seasoned agent to go through the market details and scenarios. 

Finally, when the home is ready to list, how is it to be marketed?  Today’s MLS listing syndication takes advantage of the fact that most home buyers actively search homes on the internet. Don’t rely on gimmicks that promise activity on your listing.  A complete marketing plan will take into account the factors we discussed here, and apply strategies to attract motivated home buyers.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/occam’s-razor-home-selling

Copyright© Dan Krell
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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.