Neighbors affect home values

good neighbors
Good Neighbors (infographic from appfolio.com)

The housing market has been fairly good in recent years.  In fact, the shortage of homes for sale has shown how competitive home buyers can be as they try to outbid their cohorts for hot properties.  Even homes that are in need of “tlc” or have been neglected in some way have found new owners too.  But, as I have mentioned in the past, not all homes sell.  And for some home sellers whose homes have not sold, they only need to look their neighbors.

That’s correct.  Your neighbor may have more sway over your home sale and property value than you think.  A 2013 news item from the Appraisal Institute warns home sellers and buyers about the neighbor factor (Bad Neighbors Can Reduce Property Values, Appraisal Institute Warns; appraisalinstitute.org; January 30 2013).  Not only can bad neighbors affect your sale, but can “significantly reduce nearby property values.”

Former Appraisal Institute President Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA stated:

I’ve seen many situations where external factors, such as living near a bad neighbor, can lower home values by more than 5 to 10 percent…Homeowners should be aware of what is going on in their neighborhood and how others’ bad behaviors could affect their home’s value.”

“Bad neighbors” are often characterized as inconsiderate, if not sometimes belligerent.  Typical neighbor complaints stem from pets, excessive noise, and poor exterior home maintenance.  In high density neighborhoods (such as townhomes and condos), parking and trash/recycling debris can also be a source of neighbor conflict.

Neighbor disputes are often resolved by talking it out.  However, if you find that your neighbor is not receptive, you may have other avenues of recourse.  If you live in a Homeowners or Condo Association, your association may offer assistance in resolving your issue.

Montgomery County addressed the issue by enacting “Good Neighbor” ordinances in 2011 “to preserve the quality of life” in the county.  The purpose was to reduce the influx of commercial influences into residential neighborhoods, and maintain their domiciliary character.  These ordnances were directed at home based businesses, parking of commercial vehicles, off street vehicle parking, and paving of front yards.

If you believe your neighbor issue arises from a code violation, you can contact the appropriate county department to investigate a complaint.  For example, Housing Code Enforcement can investigate such things as housing and building standards, overgrown weeds, and excess debris in yards.  Whereas the Department of Police – Animal Services Division can investigate common pet complaints such as an unleashed pet roaming the neighborhood, or a neighbor not cleaning up after their pet does their business on your yard or common areas.

Unfortunately, there are occasions where trying to resolve your neighbor issues civilly comes up short.  In extreme instances, however, you may have to seek legal counsel.

Being a good neighbor is a two-way street, often requiring some compromise and offering assistance.  Housing experts suggest that you can resolve your neighbor issues by talking to them.  All too often, neighbors who seem neglectful of their homes are actually in need of assistance.  Regardless of their issues, they may be too proud to ask for help, they don’t know where to get help, or they are so overwhelmed they don’t know they need help.  Talking to your neighbors and lending a hand can not only mend fences and build a stronger community, but may also increase the value of your home.

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.

Keeping New Year’s home resolution

home resolution
New Year’s home resolution (infographic from lightstream.com)

Your home is an extension of your persona. The condition of your home impacts how you feel. So, what better way to start the new year than making a New Year’s home resolution to improving your living space?

There is disagreement about the need for and impact of New Year’s resolutions.  Many believe that making a conscious and purposeful declaration to better your life can get you on the right path.  However, many mental health professionals believe that making resolutions can be a set up for failure and disappointment if your expectations are too high.

Making a New Year’s home resolution can be achievable if you make it sensible  and meaningful.  Decide on the goal and make a plan detailing how you will accomplish it.  Ask yourself how the project will improve your life.  Sensory prompts, such as a picture of a clutter free family room or a carpet sample, can help you stay focused on the goal and keep you motivated.  You don’t have to go it alone either.  Consider hiring a professional.  If you decide to go the Do-It-Yourself route, make it a bonding opportunity by enlisting friends and/or family to assist you.

Whether you hire a professional or not, you need a plan on how you will actualize your home project.  It’s good to be ambitious with your New Year’s home resolution, but don’t fall into the trap deciding the project can be completed in one or two days.  Instead, be realistic.  After all, your daily routine is probably busy, if not hectic.  Decide on how much time you can realistically devote to the project, and put in on your calendar.

Whatever your New Year’s home resolution is, start with one room.  If need be, break the room down in sections to help organize where in the room you will begin and where to go next.  Collect and organize the materials you need for the project before you begin.  The greatest distraction from achieving your resolution is a trip to the store for extra supplies.

The most likely number one New Year’s resolution for the home is decluttering.  This makes sense because we all lead busy lives and collect stuff throughout the year.  But reducing the clutter in your home doesn’t only improve its appearance, it can also make you more comfortable.  Decluttering may also give a boost to your mental health.  Consider consulting with a professional organizer to help plan the project.

A home makeover is another popular New Year’s resolution project.  Fresh and new is always in.  Whether it’s painting a room or two, or installing new flooring, giving your home a new look can improve its appearance.  A new look can also affect how we feel.  Choose your color scheme carefully, because various colors elicit different responses.  For example, a blue-grays may seem relaxing, while reds are invigorating and exciting.

Catching up on deferred maintenance seems to be the New Year’s resolution that can get overwhelming.  Despite our best intentions, we all have put off some repair or regular upkeep at one time or another.  But repairs and maintenance are not static.  Meaning that over time, issues can get worse, and neglected systems can break down.  Instead of putting off repairs and maintenance, consider hiring a licensed contractor.

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Consumers are devolving real estate

Consumers choose their agents
Consumers directing real estate industry (infographic from househuntnetwork.com)

The National Association of Realtors annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (nar.realtor) reveals insight into consumer real estate trends.  It provides an understanding into home buyers’ and sellers’ experiences and what they want.  One aspect of focus from the Profile is how consumers choose their real estate agent.  The survey consistently indicates that a referral from a friend, neighbor or relative plays a big part in their choice.  But how do buyers and sellers view real estate brands?

There are reams of research about the relationship between brands and consumers.  However, recent data regarding millennials suggest that brand loyalty may be changing.  Jeff Fromm’s article for Forbes (Why Label Transparency Matters When It Comes To Millennial Brand Loyalty; forbes.com; December 13, 2017) points out what consumers are looking for and what they deem important.  Fromm states

If the brand doesn’t provide the information they need, millennials will look elsewhere… when millennials make purchase decisions, they’re considering more than the traditional drivers of taste, price and convenience.  They value authenticity, and make decisions based on the way they perceive brands to impact their quality of life, society as a whole, and how that brand may be contributing positively to the world.”

Real estate brokers and agents should pay close attention to the new consumer research.

This evolution of brand loyalty and how consumers perceive brands may explain the growth of independent brokers.  A 2015 Special Report by Inman Select (inman.com) The Shift Toward Independent Brokerages indicates that the number of real estate agents affiliating with independent brokerages (not affiliated with corporate or franchise real estate companies) grew significantly over the last decade.  The percentage of agents affiliating with independent brokers jumped from about 45 percent in 2006 to about 55 percent in 2015.  About 80 percent of real estate brokerages are independent.  And the trend is expected to continue.

According to the Special Report, the major advantage cited for affiliating with a brand name brokerage is brand awareness.  However, there may be a limit to the influence of a real estate brand.  Unlike retail brands, real estate brands do not have total control over the consistency and quality of the services provided.  That is left to the individual agent.  Independents, on the other hand, cite the ability to quickly adjust to consumers’ needs and being focused on the local real estate market as an advantage.

Yes, the real estate industry appears to be devolving.  Another example of the devolution is a decreasing reliance on the MLS for home listings.  It’s not to say that home sellers are not listing their homes with agents, because an increasing number of sellers are looking to agents for their expertise.  However, brokers and agents are maintaining control over their inventories through alternative means of selling homes, such as pocket listings.  An increasing number of brokers are also restricting their listings from internet syndication to increase the quality of information provided to consumers.  Although it may sound counter-intuitive to not widely broadcast a home for sale on the MLS or internet, however, a lack of transparency remains a problem for some real estate aggregator portals.

Are real estate brokers and agents listening?  The business of real estate is changing and devolving.  Control over the industry has slowly been transferred to real estate consumers.  Real estate consumers are savvy and intelligent.  They know if a broker/agent is really focused on revenue streams, gimmicks and salesy techniques.  Real estate consumers want agents and brokers who are authentic, transparent, and provide a quality service.

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Net neutrality?

net neutrality
Net neutrality (infographic from historymaniacmegan.com)

The National Association of Realtors has always championed net neutrality as a means of internet fairness for small businesses and consumers.  A recent article for Realtor Magazine (the official magazine of the NAR) by Robert Freedman hits the same talking points of many recent NAR articles and statements (How FCC Plan to End Net Neutrality Hurts You; realtormag.realtor.org; November 21, 2017).  Freedman wrote that a reversal of net neutrality rules would “make it harder for real estate companies, multiple listing services, and property data aggregators to provide their services in a cost-effective way.”

The NAR takes the position, like many net neutrality advocates, that net neutrality is good for business and consumers.  A December 15th NAR press release (nar.realtor) stated:

NAR has actively supported net neutrality for years.  We are concerned that a rollback of net neutrality rules could raise costs on business owners, like real estate professionals, who make heavy use of technology and online platforms. In particular, NAR notes that paid-prioritization models and other anti-competitive practices could put small businesses at a significant disadvantage. For example, NAR said, larger companies could pay for internet fast lanes that deliver content to consumers faster on some websites than from others.

But a recent article for the Foundation of Economic Education by Dr. Kyle Swann (Net Neutrality Isn’t Neutral At All; fee.org; December 14, 2017) lays net neutrality’s real issues.  He argues that the growth and innovation of the internet happened during the twenty years prior to FCC regulation.  Prior to the net neutrality rule, internet service providers (ISP’s) and edge providers’ (internet content providers and platforms we use daily) services were offered “subject to mutual agreement.”  He also points out that the FCC’s “primary function” is to regulate media content, and that the FCC’s Open Internet rules “expressly permit ISPs to block, filter and curate content.”  Rolling back the 2015 net neutrality rule shifts ISP oversight from the FCC back to the FTC.  Swann’s answer to an open internet is to promote ISP competition, giving consumers a choice.

During the net neutrality rule, ISP’s were no longer exclusively accused of censorship, fast tracking content, and promotion for payment.  Some content providers were also accused of similar practices.  Rana Foroohar writing for Financial Times (Why Big Tech wants to keep the net neutral; ft.com; December 17, 2017) calls attention to how the larger content providers (FANG) actually benefited from net neutrality.  Some of these FANGs have seen exponential growth in the last several years.  Foroohar, like Swann and others, expresses her opinion that an application of real internet equality and consistency should be consumer driven.

Contrary to NAR’s point that rolling back the 2015 net neutrality rule will make it more expensive to do business on the internet: the cost of doing business on the internet has already become expensive and cost prohibitive for many Realtors.  Some have argued that the prominent real estate content providers have greatly expanded their market share during net neutrality.  These content providers promote the agents who can afford the service the content providers offer.  Needless to say, this paid arrangement does not guarantee home buyers and sellers a competent, ethical or consumer oriented agent.  And it’s not necessarily cost-effective either, because advertising costs are usually passed on to the buyer or seller in the form of admin fees and higher commissions.

The answer may be, as many argue, is competition.  Not just with ISP’s, but with content providers as well. A truly open internet will allow for innovation and increased competition, allowing the consumer to choose the winners and losers.  Dr. Swann is correct in saying in the article mentioned above, Whatever side of this you’re on, it’s quite probable that the people you’re demonizing want the same things you want.

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.

Mortgage lender shell game

mortgage lender
How to choose a mortgage lender (infographic from consumerfinance.gov)

Realtors and other real estate professionals eagerly look forward to the annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.  The Profile, published by the National Association of Realtors, provides insight into the preferences and decisions of home buyers and sellers. After thirty-five years of publication, the Profile has become somewhat of an important contribution to housing trends and economics.  But did you know that the mortgage lender and the mortgage industry has a survey of their own?

The National Mortgage Database (NMDB) is a multiyear project conducted by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (fhfa.gov) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (consumerfinance.gov).  The NMDB project incorporates two consumer surveys, the National Survey of Mortgage Originations and the American Survey of Mortgage Borrowers.  The NMDB is meant to provide statutory guidance and lending policy direction.  The database has yielded interesting data about how and why borrowers choose their mortgage lender, as well as their experiences and interactions during the mortgage process.

The NMDB has produced a colossal amount of data across many aspects of the consumer-mortgage lender relationship.  The preliminary analysis indicated that consumers don’t really shop for a lender.  Many home buyers use the mortgage lender recommended by their agents and others.  Most notable is that about half of the home buyers surveyed only considered one mortgage lender.  Not a surprise is that the small percentage of home buyers who apply to more than one lender are typically motivated by better terms (such as interest rate).

The mortgage lender is an important aspect of the home buying process.  Unfortunately, the NMDB suggests that home buyers are not doing their homework, and possibly choosing their mortgage lenders for the wrong reasons.  The mortgage process is an intricate dance between the buyer, the loan officer/processor and the underwriter.  The mortgage lender can either provide a smooth and “stress free” closing, or a bumpy process that can cause anxiety and delays.

When you’re buying a home, “time is of the essence” (it states that on the first paragraph of your contract).  Choosing the wrong lender can cause delays and potentially cost you money.  Issues can occur with any mortgage lender at any time during the mortgage process.  Problems can sometimes stem from the inexperience of the loan officer/processor, who does a poor job communicating what is needed from you.  More often, issues arise during the underwriting process because of a slow turnaround time.

Believe it or not, many mortgage lenders have their loan officers, processors, and underwriters separated in different offices.  Sometimes the different offices are located in different cities, which can add time to the process.  Sometimes. lenders have their processing and underwriting all in the same office, which helps facilitate communication and a loan approval.

As a home buyer, RESPA gives you the right to choose your mortgage lender.  The process of choosing the best lender for you should not be much different than choosing your Realtor.  Ask your agent and others whom you respect for referrals.  Do your homework and consider at least three of the referrals, if not more.

In addition to comparing interest rates, compare the lender fees.  Lender fees can vary and can add unnecessary cost to your closing.  Since you will be communicating with the loan officer and processor a great deal through the home buying process, talk to them to get a feel for how they interact with you.  Besides to asking about their company, ask the loan officer about their background and experience.  Find out how their underwriter operates and ask about the underwriting turnaround time.  And make sure the lender is licensed.  You can check a lender’s licensing by checking with the consumer portal of the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System  (also known also known as the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System or the NMLS).

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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.