June is National Homeowner Month. Here’s An Interesting Take On It

Are you aware that June is National Homeownership month?

Probably not. Because you’re too busy working to afford the home you live in, whether you rent it or own it.

Why should you care?

If you poke around and read anything you can find about it, you’re being urged to recognize and celebrate the benefits of homeownership.

That seems kind of a weird thing to ask you to do. Do you really have the time or care? What’re you supposed to do, throw a party? Sit alone and contemplate it? Invite some friends out for coffee and chat about it?

You’ve got to figure that the people who actively promote it probably have their reasons and motives for pushing it. (You know, like real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and the government.)

It makes you wonder…

Why do they push it, other than to make money?

Is it really the “American Dream”? Or is it just a packaged ploy?

Is it all it’s cracked up to be? What about all the people who were recently hurt by the housing market and getting in over their heads?

What about the economy and jobs? What about making enough money to even afford a house?

And, what about all the headaches and worries that come with homeownership?

Are you being sold on something unachievable, or not even all that desirable?

Maybe you shouldn’t own a home

OK, first off…

Homeownership is not for everyone.

There always seems to be this push to increase the percentage of homeowners. It gets wrapped in reasons why it’s good for you, your community, the country as a whole…maybe even the whole universe.

Pushing to increase the percentage of homeownership for the sake of statistics and percentages is wrong.

Lots of people shouldn’t own a home. Maybe some people shouldn’t even be allowed to own a home even if they qualify financially. That’s what leads to problems, because it’s a responsibility not everyone can handle.

Besides, if everyone owned property it wouldn’t be as special. As coveted. As much of a dream.

So, if you do question whether homeownership is “worth it”, maybe it isn’t the worst thing. Maybe you shouldn’t own a home.

It’s easy enough to let the people who really want to own property, and believe in the value of it, own all of the real estate.

Just don’t buy any…

Let them enjoy the “pride”

One of the catch phrases you’ve probably heard is, “There’s pride in homeownership.”

That’s kind of the cover-all reason given as to why more and more people should own their own homes.

You can’t entirely diminish the fact that there is pride and value in owning real estate. There is.

Nor can you entirely diminish the actual benefits of ownership, like building wealth, tax incentives, and not throwing money out the window and building someone else’s wealth.

But there’s certainly an inability for some people to buy real estate. Some people will never achieve homeownership.

And there’s certainly risk and worry involved. Not everyone can handle that.

It’s certainly understandable that lots of people shy away from buying real estate so soon after the real estate bubble burst, and the slow recovery. Some people are still recovering financially. Some people watched their parents struggle and worry, only to lose their home.

But for those who can and do own real estate, there is pride. And there’s appreciation.

Because while not everyone should own real estate…at least now everyone can.

You get to choose, not be chosen to own land

It used to be only a select few who could own land.

Now almost everyone has the right to own property…if they want to and have the ability.

This isn’t the feudal system where there are only a handful of Lords who’ve been granted a piece of land to look after by a King. (Side note: Do you think any Lords ever questioned the value of owning land?)

You can choose to be the lord of some land. You just have to want to, and be financially qualified to.

While you don’t have to be “chosen”…nobody’s giving it to you either.

So, if you can financially afford to, there should be some pride and appreciation in owning a little (or large) piece of this planet, with a “castle” to call your own.

So, when you do decide to buy some real estate, you should enjoy the pride, appreciation, and respect for the right and privilege to do so. You are essentially choosing to be your own land Lord.

There are places in this world you still can’t. So, imagine that. Imagine not having the choice.

Is it worth you recognizing and celebrating?

With all that in mind, is National Homeownership Month more meaningful to you?

Does it put homeownership in an objective light? Is it appealing to you? Does it make you want to own real estate? Does it make you want to own more real estate if you already own some?

Don’t get swept up in the hype of homeownership month, or anyone just trying to persuade you of the benefits of homeownership, no matter what month it is.

The best way to figure out if you should be a homeowner is to speak with a serious, objective real estate agent. One who takes counseling clients more seriously than pushing the pride of homeownership, just so they can make a sale.

Give me a ring if you’re looking for some good, objective counsel. I’d love to be part of that round table.

Shopping for a Home? Here’s the Best Day to go Looking

It’s Sunday morning.

You’re scheduled to go out and see houses later on with your real estate agent. But it’s nasty outside. It’s beyond pouring. You can’t even imagine walking from the car into a house. You’d rather just cancel the appointment and hang inside, maybe watch some TV.

You can always go see the house next weekend.

But should you wait for next weekend?

Should you even wait to go see houses only during the weekend?

There’s five weekdays you can go see houses. Is there a better day than a Sunday?

What if someone else scoops up the house before you end up getting out to see it? Right?!

Sure. Totally a possibility. And, totally a reason to motivate and go see that house today in the rain.

But that’s not the point of this article. The point is that the best day to see a house is not necessarily Sunday. It’s also not necessarily <em>not </em>Sunday.

<strong>The best day to go see a house is <em>when it’s raining</em>. Even better if it’s raining heavily. And it’s best if it’s been raining for a few days straight.</strong>

Picture this…

It’s the future. You skipped going to see the house in the rain, but you ended up buying it eventually. Of course you had a home inspection done on the house during the process. But that was a sunny day, and it hadn’t rained in some time.

Then, after you’ve lived in the house for a while, you start to notice a drip in the ceiling. Or some dampness in the basement. Or worse, actual water on the basement floor.

You’d probably be pretty upset. You’d feel like the owner should’ve disclosed it. You feel like there’s no way they didn’t know that this was a problem. And you’d probably be right. But good luck proving it.

Then you think one of the real estate agents should have either noticed the issue, or knew about it and hid it. But, there’s a good chance that the agents truly didn’t have knowledge of it. And frankly, unless the real estate agents are told about an issue, they aren’t qualified to assess issues that a qualified home inspector should pick up on.

Ahhhh…the home inspector. The <em>home inspector</em> should pick up on it! <em>That’s</em> who to blame and go after.

Most likely they would pick up on water related issues. There is usually some sort of evidence they can see.

But sometimes these types of problems aren’t all that obvious. Especially if the inspector is looking through the house after it has been dry weather for some time.

It’s easy to try and place fault, blame, and consequences on others when something goes wrong.

The true enemy, though, is water.

So much damage can be done to a house due to water…
<ul>
<li>From the roof.</li>
<li>To the gutters.</li>
<li>To the windows.</li>
<li>The basement.</li>
<li>And even the landscaping and driveway can be affected by water related issues.</li>
</ul>

<strong>It’s best to take advantage of the moments in the buying process where you can face your potential enemy head on…on a rainy day.</strong>

<strong>You can save yourself a lot of time, money, and aggravation by seeing a house in the rain.</strong> If there are problems, they should show up on a day like that. That doesn’t mean there won’t be in the future of course.

That also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the house of your dreams if there are some water related problems. But at least go forward knowing what you’re dealing with, and ideally getting the owner to own up to and fix any issues before you close on the house. Because once you close on the house, those problems are your problems.

<strong>So, if you wake up and see rain on a day that you’re scheduled to go see a house, don’t cancel. Go.</strong>

Obviously you can’t guarantee it will rain every time you go see houses, or on the day you do a home inspection. It would be impossible to find and purchase a house if you <em>only</em> looked and inspected homes on rainy days. So don’t get too hung up on it.

But if the opportunity arises, certainly don’t overlook the benefits of getting out to see houses in the rain.

A rainy day can be the best day to go see a house.

Why Do Houses “Expire”?

You’ve seen this happen…

A house sits on the market forever, and it doesn’t get sold.

You see an agent’s for sale sign sitting in the yard for months and months. And then, all of a sudden, another one appears.

Sometimes, the new agent will get the house sold.

But sometimes, no matter how many different agents list the house, it just never sells.

You’ve been watching that house “expire”.

That is industry-speak for when a house doesn’t get sold during the time frame an owner has a listing contract with a particular real estate agent.

When a listing expires, it’s not uncommon for the owner to hire someone new to list their home…figuring the first real estate agent just didn’t have what it takes to get their home sold.

But, it usually isn’t the agent that was the problem. There are a few common problems that cause a house to expire.

However, it almost always boils down to one specific issue…and one specific solution.

So, here’s a list of the typical problems that lead to a house “expiring”, so you don’t make the same mistakes when you sell your own house. We’ll end with the one that is the overall problem and solution.

You can’t sell what people can’t see.

Sometimes it just boils down to buyers being unable to get in and see the house easily. Some homeowners make it too difficult for buyers and their agents to come in and view the home.

It’s fine to have some limits. But if a homeowner requests that all buyers give 24-hour notice, and will only allow the house to be shown on Thursdays between 11:30AM and 2:23PM, that makes it pretty tough to go see.

The maid is on permanent vacation.

It can be tough to keep your house spotlessly clean while it’s for sale. People wake up and run out of the house for the day having left some dishes in the sink, or beds unmade. That happens. It isn’t the worst thing in the world.

But some houses are just a mess. Buyers and agents come in wondering how anyone lives there, or even lives like that. There’s stuff everywhere. It smells.

No matter how much imagination a buyer may have, it’s hard to truly look at a house that’s extremely cluttered, or downright dirty, and picture themselves living there.

Location, Location, Location

The location of a house might just be undesirable.

If a home is located on a main road, or under power lines, or train tracks…or across the street from a firehouse…it can be harder to sell and may take some time for the right buyer to come along.

Supply and demand

If the market is “slow”, or a “buyer’s market”, it isn’t uncommon for houses to expire.

Sometimes it’s just a simple matter of supply and demand.

If there are a lot of houses on the market, and only so many buyers buying, there’s only so much you can do.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of buyer preference. A house could be easy to show, clean, and priced well against the competition. But if there’s only one buyer for ten houses that are equal in appeal and priced similarly, there’ll be nine disappointed homeowners, and one happy one. That buyer may have just chosen the house they chose because they knew someone who lived on that street. Or liked the paint color, or layout a little better.

There isn’t much a homeowner or agent can do about this.

To be fair…

It could just be that the real estate agent (or agents) the homeowner hired stink at selling houses.

That could be the case. But that usually isn’t really the problem. And another agent usually isn’t really the solution.

Most of the time agents are advising their client to make the home as easy to show as possible. And to declutter, and keep it as clean as possible.

And they take into account the location of the home and supply and demand.

That doesn’t mean that their clients listen to them in regard to the biggest problem and solution that takes all of the above into account…

Price

You may have heard this before: In real estate, price isn’t always the problem, but it’s always the solution.

Sure, a house could be worth every penny a homeowner is asking. It might very well be justified by recent comparable sales in the area.

But price will always get a home sold. And if a home isn’t selling, it’s almost always due to the price not being appealing enough to overcome any of the above factors.

  • It can overcome having strict showing times. If a homeowner wants to limit their house to being shown one day a week at a certain time… Fine. If you price the house aggressively, buyers will go out of their way to adjust their schedule.
  • It can overcome clutter and messiness. It doesn’t matter how awful the house shows, or how smelly it is…if it’s priced appropriately for the condition.
  • It can overcome supply and demand. If few homes are selling, and there are a lot of similar choices for buyers to choose from, a lower price will certainly make the buyers choice easier.

As much as real estate agents are perceived as being pushy, most are not. And they get blamed for houses not selling — for expiring — when most of the time it’s because the homeowners they represented didn’t listen to their advice about pricing their home. Price takes into consideration every factor.

So, when you see a real estate agent’s sign linger for too long… Or watch their sign disappear, and another one take it’s place…

Don’t be too quick to judge the listing agent for the lack of success.

It’s more than likely due to a homeowner who isn’t listening to good advice, that would help them avoid these common issues, and get their home sold.

Thinking About Selling Your Home?

If you are thinking about selling your home, there are several things to consider working on in your home before listing it. These are typically things I as a REALTOR will go over with you at a pre-listing appointment as well.

This list will serve as a place to start as to ensure that you as a homeowner will be doing things to get the most out of your home when it comes time to sell.

Let’s take a look at several areas for sellers to consider.

Continue reading “Thinking About Selling Your Home?”

Why Do I Need a Preapproval to Look at Houses?

If you have ever been in the market for a house, you are familiar with a preapproval. If not, a preapproval is a letter from a mortgage lender stating that they have reviewed your financial status and have determined that you meet their borrowing guidelines for obtaining a mortgage to purchase a house.

Continue reading “Why Do I Need a Preapproval to Look at Houses?”

I’m sorry, but I just cannot answer that question

I have only been licensed for a few months now and fortunately I have started out with a good number of friends and family wishing to purchase a house or list their current home. Being such a new agent has it’s ups and downs as I have to call and ask my mentor tons of questions all the time. Being around real estate since I was 18 though definitely helps.

As an agent, I want to be as helpful as possible to you and your family so before we look at a house, I generally do a ton of research on it so I can answer your questions before, during and after a showing. I do the same thing for a listing so that it gets listed for the best price and I can accurately market the house to sell it for you.

All of this being said, there are just some questions that I get asked and I simply cannot answer. Below are a couple of examples I have been asked in my short time as a licensee.

“Is this area safe? Would my family and I be safe in this neighborhood?”
I am from Lancaster and Fairfield County. I was born and raised here. I probably have an answer for you but the fact remains that I simply cannot answer this question for you. I can provide you with plenty of resources for doing this research on your own though! There are so many websites that cater to this type of knowledge which is awesome however you much do the research on your own.

So why can I not answer this question? There are a number of reasons but the biggest one is that talking about a neighborhood could be seen as redlining or steering. Both are against the law and prohibited for Fair Housing Law. Steering or redlining is basically where I try and limit you to certain neighborhoods or steer you away from other locations for one reason or another.

“Who lives around here? Are there many “insert some kind of demographic here” around here?”
If you ask a friend or family member who is familiar with the area you are looking at houses in, you may get a very different answer from what I will give you.

So why can I not answer this question? By me answering those types of questions, I could be violating Fair Housing Laws. Simple as that. There are plenty of resources online where you can research the makeup of neighborhoods, areas and entire cities or counties! I would be more than happy to proceed those resources for you.

“Why is the owner selling? Who are they? Do they have kids? Are they old? Are they getting a divorce? I just knew they were getting a divorce!”

When buying a home, I think it is good to do as much research as a buyer as you can. And I will do as much as I can for you as well so you are as informed as you can be. However, I likely will not and cannot answer these questions for you as I simply do not know. And it is very likely that even asking the listing agent for this information ahead of time will not yield much good information simply because the listing agent will not disclose the information without explicit permission from the seller. I would leave this information out of your home buying decision making.

“Is something wrong with the house? I heard “insert rumor here” from the neighbor or a friend that this thing is wrong with the house.”

As your agent, it is my duty to inform you of everything I can. That being said, I am not a home inspector, termite inspector, septic inspector, water inspector, electrician, well inspector, structural engineer, or a contractor. HOWEVER – I will provide you a list of people our brokerage has worked with in the past and you may choose to have any inspection done on the home you would like and I would encourage it!

“How are the schools around here? Please find us a home in the best school district in the area.”

Again, steering you toward particular school districts or schools in a neighborhood is against Fair Housing Law and I cannot do it. I can, again, provide you with resources to do research on area schools. Once you have told me where you would like to be, I can help find a house in that area – no problem at all.

I think that is all for today. Just remember that as your agent, I try to answer all of your questions as we progress through this journey that is finding the next place for you to call home. If I do not know an answer or cannot give you an answer to a question, just know that I will find or help you find an answer!

Fraud in Real Estate – Wire Fraud

It sounds technical, but this topic is not. It is about protecting yourself in the day and age of technology. Fraud can happen anywhere and anyone can be a victim. It would seem that the easiest way to gather information from unsuspecting victims is through a method called social engineering.

Fraud

No – it has nothing to do with engineering. In this context, social engineering is the act of using established trust to gain information about someone in order to exploit their technology in a manner that would harm them.

A good example of this in a real estate transaction is wire fraud. You’re currently in contract to buy a house and you receive an email (seemingly) from your Realtor that instructs you to wire $10,000 to the title company in order for the transaction to proceed. Trusting your agent, you call your bank and have the transfer setup to the account indicated in the email you have received. You call your agent to tell them you have transferred the money at which time they state they have never asked you to transfer any money. At this point, let’s hope that the wire transfer can be stopped.

How did this happen though? Social engineering. Likely in this scenario, someone was able to obtain your email login. They then searched your emails and saw that you were currently involved a real estate transaction and then spoofed an email from your real estate agent. It seems quite elaborate just to trick you, however most of the time, the people trying to steal information and money from you are part of a much larger fraud scheme and likely you are one in a group of thousands or tens of thousands that were frauded at the same time.

So how can we avoid this? Well, that is going to require some cooperation on both your part as a buyer or seller and your agent’s part.

  1. When you begin working with an agent, ensure they lay out a communication plan with you. I am always sure to tell my clients that I use many different methods of communication such as phone calls, email, text, and dotloop. TELL YOUR AGENT which you would prefer. If I am going to be sending documents or anything to my client, I generally send it via dotloop or email and then text or call them and tell them I have sent it.
  2. From the agent stand point, we should all have statements in our signatures warning for the potential of wire fraud. The same goes for a confidentiality statement.
  3. Ensure that you are using strong passwords and change them regularly. In the business world, changing your password at least once every 90 days is a standard practice however for the average at home user, once per year is adequate. Use a combination of letters, numbers, symbols and capitalize letters. This ensure better security and they are harder to guess. If you think your account has been compromised, change your password – do not even hesitate. If there is a chance, it is better to be safe than sorry.
  4. Watch out for emails where the sender does not have very good English or has many spelling or grammar issues. And before you click on a link, look at the domain name (something.com) and see if it’s a site you recognize. If you click on a link and it asks for your username and password, I would suggest closing out of it and then typing the website into your address bar yourself instead of using the link.
  5. While most agents would not be dealing with wire transfer, if it does happen, your agent should contact you prior to initiating the transfer. If you receive something asking you to transfer money and you are not sure what it is, call your agent or your title company to verify its legitimacy.
  6. Stay alert of any strange emails you get. With all of the technology used in real estate including email and document management systems, not to mention all of the people who are actually involved in a transaction, it is not out of the question to get messages from people who you do not recognize asking you for documentation or to verify something. If you are not sure of the validity of a communication, do not be afraid to contact your real estate agent or your title agent.

Guys, the bottom line here is to be hyper vigilant and aware of what is going on. If you have questions, ask someone! As a Realtor, if I do not know, I will find out for you. Do not assume anything.

Small Details – Leaded and Stained Glass

As a new agent, I have been given the opportunity to do open houses for other agents in my office. Twice now, I have held an open house at a home on Forest Rose Avenue in Lancaster for my friend, Jackie.

I love this house. It’s so out of place where it sits but then again, it isn’t. If you have ever taken a look at the architecture in Lancaster, you will see that it changes sometimes by block or even from house to house, depending on who built it and in which part of which decade.

The small details in this home are what make it unique. From the white and burgundy tiled floor in the half bath to the almost flawless woodwork – my favorite are the leaded glass windows in the front entry way and the front windows in the living room. Can you imagine the painstaking attention to detail the artist had to have to complete these windows in the house? Or the sheer cost of having those produced custom for the owner at the time?

The home has been upgraded to newer windows everywhere except for several panes of stained glass as well as these leaded glass windows in the front of the house. It’s these small things that makes my heart happy that in modernizing the house, the owners did not erase those windows from the home but instead kept them and added storm windows to insulate and protect the house and those windows.

This home is truly a hidden gem on a side street in Lancaster. If you are in the market for a historic home that is ready to move into, look this one up!

Open House Tips

An open house sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? There are a lot of things to think of though before you open your home up to potential buyers!

Open Houses are potentially one of the best marketing devices we are Real Estate Agents have in our arsenal. It gives prospective buyers the opportunity to come in, look around, ask questions, and not feel pressured. It also open up the possibility of having people come in and look at your home who may not be working with a Real Estate Agent and therefore would not have ever called and scheduled a showing to see your home.

To make sure each and every open house brings the most potential buyers, try and follow these simple steps.

Continue reading “Open House Tips”

Client vs. Customer

The terms are not interchangeable in Real Estate. 

If you represent the seller, they are your client and their buyer is your customer. Inversely, if you represent the buyer, they are then your client and the seller is your customer. If you represent the seller and the buyer, they are both your client. 

A client is for whom you are working and to whom you owe fiduciary duties. A customer is with whom you are working.