Home Buying

The iPhone® Turned Ten in June and Changed How Real Estate Agents Operate

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Whether you are an AndroidTM fan or an individual like myself who could not bear to part with the iPhone, the disruptive impact that smartphones have had on many industries has been proven time and time again. Steve Jobs described the first iPhone as a “truly magical product.” Looking back, as well as into the future, it’s hard to imagine another device that will ever be more readily used each day by the majority of the population than our smartphones. In 2016, Apple® stated that the average iPhone user unlocked their phone 80 times a day and checked their phone over 150 times a day!

The mobile phone started as a way to increase communication and now the idea of owning just a “mobile phone” is considered ancient. It’s not only mobile phones that were replaced by the invention of the smartphone. Think of cameras, personal computers, GPS devices and even Apple’s own product, the iPod® – all have been replaced by smartphones. It’s not hardware makers alone that have been affected; new industries emerged and disrupted other traditional businesses with the invention of smartphone applications. You now have a computer, video camera, gaming device and movie studio in the palm of your hand. With those capabilities available on our phone, it is easy to get distracted. What are we doing when we constantly check our phones?

Yes, we still spend a lot of time talking and texting on our smartphones, but for many our phones have replaced our computers for website searches, email and have become the main vehicle for interacting on social media and with our community, in general.

A great deal of time and money has been spent by real estate brokers and agents to make their websites mobile friendly and responsive to help facilitate the interaction with buyers and sellers. This shift to mobile responsive websites was caused by the majority of real estate searches being performed on mobile devices. The amount of online research that potential home buyers and sellers conduct continues to increase each year as connectivity and the smartphone ease of use improves. Mobile search and key terms are definitely critical for an agent’s online success. But with the easy access to information and time on our hands, another search category has developed.

Home buyers and sellers are no longer looking at real estate properties, neighborhood demographics and valuation trends alone, they are researching prospective agents extensively too. Two out of three people interested in buying a home are researching prospective agents comprehensively online prior to working with them (see graph below).

It’s no longer enough for a REALTOR© to be proficient at their trade, they now need to pass the Google® test and be seen as the most competent choice online. The first step in this new process is being certain you, as a REALTOR©, dominate a consumer’s search. How do you accomplish this? First, you should own your own website domain with a personal URL and have a website with relevant content. You also need to have a professional profile on dominant national consumer real estate websites, a presence on social media (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook) and participate on consumer review sites.

The next question to ask yourself is, have you shifted your mindset to that of a media company? The reality is that when you are being extensively searched online, you are your own brand! With the mindset of a media company, you move past checking the box and being found on the Internet or social media and move towards properly promoting and managing your brand. This means you have to develop content, distribute content and be readily seen as a market expert – you have to be someone people want to do business with. The impact of the smartphone will continue to be felt by all brands. Take this opportunity to promote your real estate brand beyond what your competition is willing to do. The rules for winning at this brand game have been already determined. You need to fully commit to the new personal promotion strategy to win.

As you finish this article, take a moment to search yourself using your smartphone and see what results appear on the first page. You would be prepared for an in-person meeting with a client – you need to be prepared for the client meetings that are happening online without you. Be certain to be Google and smartphone prepared because your customer base expects it.

Check out the United Intranet for the latest training on building your brand presence.

Peter

A Brief History of National Home Ownership Month

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June is National Home Ownership Month and if you missed it you weren’t the only one. Not only was there a lack of press coverage, there was also a large group of individuals who missed out on the opportunity to buy a home. In 2003, National Home Ownership Month was announced by President George W. Bush to promote awareness and policies to expand home ownership across the country. The awareness campaign and policies were not completely new, but rather an extension of President Bill Clinton’s National Home Ownership Day of 1995 and the Clinton 100-point action plan to increase home ownership to record levels.

Both the Democratic and Republican administrations’ plans had noble intentions, as they both recognized that home ownership is a part of the American dream. Home ownership does, in fact, promote civic responsibility and financial security for most Americans. I experienced this first-hand when I relocated my family to Dallas, Texas. We opted to rent for nearly a year while we learned more about the area. My family’s attitude towards our rental house and neighborhood were different than our current home. Our feelings toward our rental home were not bad or negative, we just did not experience the pride we feel now that we have purchased our own home.

Looking back now, we see that the President’s goal of increasing home ownership to record rates was met. However, it came at a great price as the “bubble” was created and real estate prices came crashing down shortly thereafter. The bubble bursting took most of the economy down with it which is now referred to as the “great recession.” The reality is that while most Americans dream is of owning a home, not everyone should or can afford own a home, due to all different kinds of circumstances.

Homeownership rates are now at the lowest levels in 50 years (see chart below) and there is pent up demand for affordable housing.

The term “home ownership rate” can be misleading. It is defined by the government as “the percentage of homes that are occupied by the owner.” It is not the percentage of adults that own their own home. The problem with this rate is it does not count adult individuals who are neither home owners nor are renters. Since the great recession of 2007, the group of young adults between the ages of 18-34 has increased dramatically. In fact, the individuals in this age group are opting more often to live with their parents than with a spouse, as marriage is being postponed to a later age. See chart below.

The home ownership rate alone can mislead you because if young adults don’t create a new household, then the percentage is skewed. Comparing number of actual historical households, it becomes clear that the number of young adults who are fulfilling the dream of home ownership is significantly less than the current home ownership rate states. Starting a new household is important for many factors, including the overall economic growth of the country. Owning your own home is equally important for most individuals’ financial security.

The month of May reached a new peak in the median price of homes. Unlike in 2007, this peak was not caused by government involvement but rather the laws of supply and demand.  May demonstrated a new low in listing inventory and a new record low of time on the market for a house to sell. The real estate headlines this summer will continue to highlight the shortage of affordable housing. Let’s hope by next June a plan is put into place that will spur new construction of homes that are priced to encourage more young adults to buy and afford buying their first home.

As June ends, it is the true beginning of summer.  Here’s to hoping that you have plans in place to enjoy both the benefits of home ownership, and enjoying the summer.

Peter

The One Chart That Explains Why You Can’t Find a Home to Purchase

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Summer is not only the time every school age child looks forward to, it is also the traditional time of year that many families eagerly look forward to buying a new home. In fact, historical home sales data shows that the month of June is typically the busiest month for buying and selling real estate. As the school year ends, families execute plans they made in the spring to move to a new school district or buy a larger home. This year the challenge that many will face is the shortage of affordable homes available to buy.

This shortage of available housing is not a short term problem. With an ever growing population and housing construction that lags way behind the country’s population growth, the lack of available housing will continue into the foreseeable future. While news headlines have covered the annual increase in housing over the past five years, the actual data shows that the number of homes for sale is still at record lows. When you look at the actual amount of new homes being built and take into consideration the continued population growth, a clear picture comes into view of what challenges still lie ahead for potential homebuyers (refer to graph below).

Keep in mind that the “increase” in new home construction in 2016, compares to the same actual levels of new construction in 1982, when the country was in the midst of a deep recession. However, after the 1982 recession, home construction immediately and significantly rose again in 1983. There is no such increase in new homes being constructed in 2017 and the population of the country has increased by over 100 million people since 1982.

Want to know why home prices keep going up and you can’t find a home to buy? It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. There is an ever increasing demand driven by a growing population and a lack of inventory of homes for those buyers in the market to make offers on.

With the current rate and foreseeable future of new home construction remaining stagnant, this won’t be a short-term problem but rather a systematic long-term challenge for many trying to buy their first home or next home. You can expect home prices will continue to rise and affordable housing options will be in high demand driving up prices to even higher levels. The supply of new and existing homes available for sale across the country will remain very tight.

Homeownership is not just part of the American dream of freedom and independence, but also the number one way for most people to improve their long-term financial security. While it may be costly this year to buy a home, more than most likely it will be even more expensive next year. The law of supply and demand won’t change. Your best bet is to sit down and build a personal plan to achieve your family’s home ownership goals and financial needs and begin to take action to achieve those goals. On this topic, time is of the essence.

Best wishes for a fantastic, fun-filled summer and a successful home buying season!

Peter

Gen X is Turning 50 and They’re Stuck in Their Homes

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The leading headlines on the future of the housing market typically read, “Get ready for the millennials!” If not that, the alternative subject line highlights the number of baby boomers retiring and whether they will move to the coast, move to be close to the grandkids or just stay put. In between the two is a generation of high wage earners that is mostly ignored in the national housing conversation. This doesn’t occur only in the housing market, the majority of news coverage in the last election was given to the, “We don’t want to change” boomers and the idealistic “We want the world to change” millennials. In the middle, described by some authors as the middle child, is Gen X. Once described as slackers, they are now in their prime earnings years and have the highest average income of any other bracket of consumers. Gen X who grew up on grunge music, wearing ripped jeans and flannel shirts has grown up and is very influential in the business world and yes, many are stuck in their homes.

I don’t view Gen X as having a middle child generation syndrome, despite not being written or talked about as much as the older and younger generations they interact with. I view this generation as the link connecting the baby boomers and the millennials. They have an understanding and share interests with both generations. While sociologists and the census bureau will give a different date range for members of this generation, I use the simple definition that identifies Gen X, with individuals born the first year the birth rate in the country began to once again decline after its continuous rise post World War II, 1965 to 1980 and the start of a new decade of patriotism. In all cases, generations are defined by a certain birth date and a general world view outlook.

Gen X understood the values of the baby boomers but challenged them with the indifference that went along with growing up as latchkey kids who either had two working parents or were part of a family separated by divorce. They went to college, got married, had kids, some got divorced and began to change social norms and alter the direction of popular music. It wasn’t the millennials that took the popularity of tattoos away from the exclusivity of bikers, gangs and members of the military. It was Generation X that started that trend, although for most it was more conservative and hidden than you see today. They looked at race differently, birth control was the norm, as was women being in the workplace. They don’t feel ignored like a middle child, but rather are often indifferent and are adept at independently figuring things out, which all goes along with growing up as a latchkey kid. They went to school with computers and are very proficient at technology, and unlike the millennials, can freely turn the technology off.

While the housing shortage across the U.S. appropriately discusses the impact to first-time millennial home buyers, Gen X was hit the hardest during the real estate down-turn that began in 2007. Some still own homes with negative equity and those with equity have the challenge of where will they move to, if they sell their home? The housing shortage has a negative impact on upward mobility for Gen X. With housing construction still below historical rates, and homes available in areas where Gen X want to live, in even shorter supply, balance of lifestyle is not just a millennial desire. The American story of moving and advancing to that next community or larger home every 5 years is gone.

The macro issue of more homes being available is a broader challenge that would require government, new entrepreneurs and businesses working jointly towards a solution. In the interim, what can members of this generation do if they truly want the step-up move? There is a solution that could work in certain markets and that is selling their home and then leasing it back to them for 60-90 days so they have time to search for a home with the money already in hand for the down payment. Under this scenario, a new buyer can purchase a home they want and can afford, and Gen X can have the time and the money to be more diligent about finding the next size home. After all, it is a generation that is accustomed to creatively figuring things out.

To the early Gen Xers, a happy 50th birthday wish to the likes of Dave Matthews, Billy Corgan, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Will Ferrell who are all turning 50 this year. Know someone who is turning 50? Send them a text wishing them Happy Birthday, they are also the generation that texts the most.

Best wishes to all who are pursuing owning their dream home.

Peter

Are Your Home Buyers Looking For You On Video?

 

Vlog to gain access to a younger generation of home buyers that grew up researching and learning through videos on the internet. If you don’t have a presence on the internet, are buyers finding you?

Win three FREE nights in Austin, Texas! Share your prior experience at past conventions and your excitement for this years Unitedpalooza through a short video! Use your phone and start recording, what do you have to lose? The winner of the drawing will recieve three nights paid at The Westin Austin Downtown.

See you online,

Peter

Partner Feature: American Home Shield

When you purchase your home, homeowners insurance is a must. But, what about a home warranty?American Home Shield

A home warranty is a great choice for most homeowners as it covers the repair or replacement of major home systems including HVAC, electrical, plumbing, large appliances, and pools, amongst others. This will give you peace of mind (often for a one-year period before you must renew) that your home is covered should anything break down.

If you’re currently considering a home warranty, American Home Shield is a leader in home warranties and a valued partner of United Real Estate. Check out just some of the major benefits of choosing them for your own warranty below!

 

A Brief History of American Home Shield

Since 1971, American Home Shield (AHS) has been providing home warranties to homeowners just like you. The company serves the needs of homeowners through their network of qualified repair professionals that are ready to help whenever necessary.

Most AHS customers use their plan twice per year, giving them the support and flexibility necessary to keep their homes running. Through their relationship with the ServiceMaster company, AHS offers premier services from well-known names like Terminix, ServiceMaster Clean, Merry Maids, Furniture Medic, and Amerispec (amongst others) to homes across the nation.

 

Major Benefits of Using American Home Shield

There are major benefits of trusting your home to AHS over other potential organizations, including:

  • 24/7 Service – Home repairs don’t happen on a predictable schedule. Open 24/7, AHS is always there when you need them.
  • 90% Responsive – 90% of the time AHS assigns contractors to homes within just 15 minutes, meaning you receive the service you need (and quickly)!
  • 93% Effective – AHS has fulfilled 93% of customer service requests in the past three years. This guarantees they’ll provide the service promised when you need it most.

 

Learn More About American Home Shield for Your Needs

If you’ve been considering a home warranty, American Home Shield is a great resource.

Learn more about their services and pricing today to see if this is the right option to protect your important investment!

Buying Your First Home: How to Get Started

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Have you recently been feeling that now is the “right” time to purchase your first home? If so, it’s an incredibly exciting time in your life. However, there is also a lot of stress and anxiety that can come with the process.

If you’ve never purchased a home before, chances are that you have some questions. The most pressing of which is: “How do I even get started in my search?” And if you’ve been wondering the same thing, you’ve come to the right place.

Start the Process With a Few Key Questions

We’re going to answer your question with another question (or rather, questions). After all, it’s important to ensure you’re really ready to buy rather than doing so on a whim.

Some questions you should consider before going further in the process include:

  • Should I be purchasing a home at this time or is renting a better option/ Am I planning on staying in this area for the next three to five years?
  • What are my reasons for purchasing my home? Am I buying for the “right” reasons?
  • Am I at the right place in my life (relationships, job, financial stability) to purchase a home?

If these questions don’t slow you down or give you pause, it’s time to consider the next part of the process: Financing your home.

 

Get Your Finances in Line

Purchasing a home is one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your lifetime. And as such, it’s important to make sure your finances are in order before beginning the actual house hunt.

When you’re considering financing, it’s important to research available loan programs as well as potential mortgage rates and fees. Often, this means you should order your credit report, correct any errors, and pay down current loan balances before going to a lender.

Once your credit is in order, you can visit multiple lenders (beginning with your own financial institution) to interview mortgage brokers, determine potential loan programs, and figure out your potential monthly mortgage payment (depending on the home you can afford). You will want to get a preapproval letter since doing so will give you more leverage in negotiations with sellers once you find the home you want.

 

Next, the Home Search Can Begin

After these vital preparatory steps, you can begin the home search. It’s best to do so with an experienced real estate agent, helping you avoid common mistakes and get the best value for your money.

The best way to find a qualified agent is to ask for referrals from family members, friends or colleagues. By doing so, you can avoid the headache that comes with choosing an agent whose expertise might not fit your needs.

 

United Real Estate Can Help You Purchase Your First Home

If you’re interested in purchasing your first home and are looking for an agent to help you do so, the team at United Real Estate can help.

With decades of experience in helping individuals just like you, we can help find the perfect first home no matter your budget or needs. Contact us to begin the search for your home, today!

Home Warranties: What You Need to Know

When you purchase a home, your mortgage company requires homeowners insurance. But a home warranty? That’s an entirely different story.

Do home warranties really protect you?

Do home warranties really protect you?

Whereas homeowners insurance protects personal property (i.e. the contents within your home) as well as the structure of your home should an accident or disaster occur, a home warranty is optional insurance that protects major appliances within the home.

So what should you know about a home warranty before deciding whether or not to get one for your home? Read on to find out!

Home Warranties are Valid for a Limited Time

A home warranty typically lasts for just one year. And while it can be renewed, you must track when it expires on your own because a carrier won’t often notify you when it is expiring.

Coverage (and Cost) Varies Depending on Your Warranty

As is the case with standard insurance, warranties differ depending on the level of coverage you want to pay for. If you opt for basic coverage, you may have a few appliances covered like your furnace, heating and air conditioning, and a few other major appliances.

If you upgrade to a premium plan, you’ll enjoy more protection for other appliances in your home. It’s up to you to decide how much coverage you feel comfortable with (and can afford) as most plans will vary from $250 to $600 annually.

You Have to Pay a Deductible When You Make a Claim

Depending on your specific home warranty, you will have to pay a certain amount each time you make a claim. And in most cases, you can’t combine costs if two appliances break down at once; you must pay separate fees for each.

In Most Cases, You Can’t Choose Who Completes the Repairs

If you’re someone who is uncomfortable with being told who can enter your home to make the repairs, a home warranty may not be for you. In almost every case, your home warranty carrier will already have a list of contractors for all repairs, meaning you won’t be able to choose for yourself.

So, Should You Buy a Home Warranty?

Deciding whether or not to purchase a home warranty is a personal decision and one that you must make depending on the appliances in your home and whether or not you’re financially prepared to make major appliance repairs should something happen.

This makes it important to consider your options and make an informed decision when you’re purchasing your home. Many new homeowners don’t invest in a warranty if their home is less than 10 years old but will if it’s more than 10 years old. You may want to use these same guidelines or others as you make the decision for yourself.

If You’re Ready to Purchase a Home, United Real Estate Can Help

If you’re on the hunt for your dream home or have found it and need to take the next step, United Real Estate is here to support you along the way.

As a national leader, we’re able to guide new and experienced homeowners with our expertise. Contact us to find your dream home, today!

Who Should Pay for a Home Inspection?

So you’ve found your dream home and you’re ready to sign the paperwork, but not before getting a home inspection. After all, getting an inspection from a qualified professional is absolutely essential when you want to make sure there are no unwelcome issues with the foundation, electric, plumbing, or other systems in your new home.

But one question remains: Who should pay for the home inspection?

Don’t get caught with surprises, protect yourself with a home inspection.

This is one of the most common questions when it comes to working out the fine details of any home negotiation and below, we have the answers you’ve been searching for to seal the deal on your new home.

In Most Cases, Buyers Pay for the Inspection

While the nationwide average cost of a home inspection is approximately $450, inspections can cost upwards of $1,000 in areas of New York and sometimes less than the average in less populated areas. But no matter the exact cost, a home inspection is a pricey necessity that leaves buyers wondering if they should be stuck with the bill.

However, it is the buyers who traditionally pay for the inspection.

After all, it’s in their best interest to ensure that there are no issues with the home. Or, if the inspection does reveal issues, it gives buyers the ability to negotiate the price on the home due to the cost of any necessary repairs. As such, a home inspection can actually end up saving you money should you find major issues and prevent you from getting stuck with the bill for these repairs.

Sellers Do Pay for Some Inspections

Just like it’s most common for the buyers to pay for the home inspection, it’s also common for sellers to pay for other inspections.

For example, most sellers will pay for termite inspections and sometimes even well, water, or septic inspections if necessary. This alleviates some costs from buyers and gives further reassurance that the home is in proper condition for the next owners.

Everything is Negotiable

If you’re looking for a definitive answer to this question, you’ll probably find the answer “everything is negotiable” on most resources you find. And in fact, everything is negotiable.

In some cases, the sellers will pay for a home inspection. But if you’re looking for ultimate peace of mind in one of the most significant transactions of your life, it’s best to hire your own professional for the inspection.

If You’re Ready to Purchase a Home, United Real Estate Can Help

Whether you’ve found your dream home and need assistance scheduling the inspection or are ready to begin the hunt for your next home, United Real Estate can help.

Our position as a national leader in the real estate industry gives us both the experience and expertise to handle your unique needs. Contact us to find your dream home, today!

How to Win a Bidding War

Now that the housing market is heating back up, you’re likely going face stronger competition from your fellow buyers. So what do you do when you’ve found the perfect home, and it turns out that someone else thinks it’s perfect too?

Here are some expert tips to help you come out on top in a bidding war:

In a competitive market, you might be facing multiple offers on homes.

In a competitive market, you might be facing multiple offers. Be smart and follow our simple tips for success.

Get Your Finances in Order

Getting pre-approved for a loan will go a long way towards winning a bidding war. It shows you’re committed and helps to eliminate any doubts a seller may have about your financial ability. In a competitive market, your offer might not even be considered if you do not have a pre-approval letter.

Master Your Cover Letter

Your offer should contain a cover letter along with a pre-approval letter or a proof-of funds document. Your cover letter should showcase why you want the home, what you do for a living, your interests, and also how you see your future unfolding in this property. If you truly love the home, don’t be afraid to reveal why you and or your family belong there. Creating an emotional connection can help you stand out among the other bidders and give you an added advantage.

Much like a cover letter for a job, your offer cover letter is a pivotal element to getting noticed by the seller and can make or break your chances of getting the home.

Be Swift

As they say, the early bird gets the worm. Be the first with an offer that matches the asking price or comes in slightly below, to increase your chances of winning a bidding war. It shows you’re a serious buyer and that you value the home you’re bidding on. To give your offer some added urgency, put an expiration date on it as well.

Make a clean offer

The simpler the offer, the more likely the seller is to accept it. While you may be tempted to outline all of your “must-haves” upfront, these are better left until after you’ve made it a few steps further in the buying process. You’ll still have an opportunity to negotiate repairs, closing costs, furniture, and any other wants after the inspection.

Keep Your Emotions in Check

Don’t let your emotions over-rule all of that hard work you put into researching asking prices, looking at schools and scoping out the neighborhood.  These are necessary to make a sound decision and sometimes all logic goes out the window when you fall in love with a home. Don’t let yourself step outside your price range in the heat of the moment. There will always be another home but there isn’t always more money.

If you’ve found yourself in the midst of a bidding war and need some expert advice, contact our knowledgeable and friendly team at 855-441-6288.

http://www.realtor.com/advice/how-to-win-a-bidding-war-on-your-dream-house/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102640371