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Homebuyers traditionally face competition at the height of real estate season. Now, with market indicators reaching record post-recession milestones, competition is stiffer than ever.

To gain an edge as a buyer, real estate professionals advise:

Getting Pre-Approved – Getting pre-approved for financing will give you significant leverage in negotiations with the seller – and knowing exactly what you can afford will keep you on track if a bidding war ensues.

Thinking Long-Term – As a homebuyer, your decision regarding which home to purchase should align with your future expectations. Planning to grow your family? Consider a larger house in need of work instead of a completely updated two-bedroom bungalow. Looking to downsize? Consider purchasing a ranch home without stairs.

Researching the Neighborhood – Researching areas in advance can save you time spent hunting for houses that do not suit your needs. Do you need easy access to commuter rail and bus lines? Where will your children attend school? These factors, and more, will influence your home-buying decision.

Keep in mind that in addition to these tips, the best ally in a competitive market is a real estate professional. If you’re ready to purchase a home, contact your local real estate agent for guidance.

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Unless you’re a seasoned real estate buyer and seller, the typical listing presentation can often leave you overwhelmed and dumbstruck. But to really make the right choice when choosing an agent to represent your home, it’s critical that you become an active participant in the listing presentation – it should not be a one-way street! To help glean as much information as possible about a prospective agent’s prowess, be sure to ask him or her the following questions. The responses will provide you with valuable insight into their strategies, professionalism and enthusiasm.

1. What did the last home you sold in this area go for? Not only will this give you a good idea of the going rate in your neighborhood, it will shed some light on how familiar the agent is with your neighborhood and its home values.

2. How will you expose my home…and how will you follow up with leads? A standard part of any good listing presentation will highlight the various ways in which the agent will promote your home online through their own website as well as various real estate portals, such as realtor.com, homes.com and Zillow. While it’s good to know the type of exposure your home will receive, it’s more important to know the agent’s system for following up with leads – some are much better at it than others! Ask them how quickly they respond to leads, how they determine whether a lead is serious or not, how they follow up and keep the lead engaged after initial contact, and what sort of information they provide to pique a lead’s interest. This will give you an idea of not just the quantity of leads you may receive, but the quality of the agent’s follow-up.

3. What’s your opinion on open houses, and how do you make them worthwhile? Believe it or not, open houses are a hot-bed controversy among real estate professionals. Many agents believe they’re not worth it, so ask your prospective agent, a. Will you hold an open house on my property? and b. If so, what will you do to make it worthwhile? An effective open house is dependent on a lot of factors, such as the creative strategies an agent uses to draw people to the event, how they collect information during the event, and how they follow up with attendees afterwards.

4. What can I do to help my home sell for a higher price? A good agent will be able to tell you what enhancements would be worth your while in terms of selling price. You don’t want to invest money on renovations that don’t translate directly to the bottom line. Also ask what changes might help sell your home faster. This could involve simple cosmetic changes like paint and/or some effective staging.

5. What factors will detract from my home’s value? If your home is not going to list at the price you had hoped for, ask the prospective agent why. If there’s some pet damage or a swimming pool that’s going to detract from the selling price, a good agent should let you know that up front.

Be sure to meet with at least three agents prior to choosing one to work with. While their listing presentations will help differentiate them, their responses to the above questions will really seal the deal.

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for top real estate tips and trends

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Drumming up interest in an open house may be about as fun as watching paint dry, but getting people through the front door is a (huge) step in the right direction when it comes to getting your latest listing sold. And with the tools and technology available today, connecting with prospective buyers near and far is easier than ever – provided your willingness to explore new avenues that might not be on everyone’s radar.

For real estate agent Zac McHardy – hailing out of Australia – showing potential buyers through a house via Facebook Live has not only amped up local interest in the home located at 188 Newman Road, Geebung, Queensland, it has also set him on a path of viral fame.

McHardy notes that his experiment of showcasing an open house and Q&A session via Facebook Live was nothing short of a success. In fact, 25 people showed up for the actual open house, in addition to 44 others who watched the live video throughout the 25 minutes.

“We’ve used Skype many times to sell,” McHardy told the Domain Reporter. “Now you’ve got Facebook Live and it’s a little more accountable as they can see how many people are watching the video – and the owners can watch as well.”

While the idea to use Facebook Live was suggested by a friend only three days ahead of the actual event, McHardy explains that there are certain things that need to be tweaked, but most importantly, future live streams are on the horizon for the Raine and Horne Chermside agent.

“I didn’t expect it was going to happen,” added McHardy, who now has five offers on the property – one from the live video.

Check out McHardy’s video here or visit his Facebook page to see more of how he’s using Facebook Live for his real estate business.

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for top real estate tips and trends.

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Home service contracts, or home warranties, are an important consideration in the home-buying process, especially for new homeowners.

“Homes are a major financial investment, and repairs and replacements on appliances and major systems can cost anywhere from $700 to more than $3,500,” explains Tim Meenan, CEO and executive director of the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC). “While new homeowners face numerous expenses, a home service contract can guard against these unexpected pricey repairs and replacements.”

Generally, a home service contract covers repair or replacement costs of major systems or appliances that fail within the contract period – often one year. This may include coverage of the home’s electrical system, HVAC unit and plumbing system. Typically, the contract can be renewed annually. Most contracts come with a nominal service fee, paid at the time of the incident.

Aside from monetary coverage, the home service contract provider will refer the buyer to a vetted contractor who can perform repair or replacement work – a boon to buyers new to an area.

Most homeowners with home service contracts call upon the contract provider two times or more each year.

The SCIC strongly recommends first-time homebuyers negotiate a home service contract before committing to a home. If you’re new to home-buying, discuss your options with your real estate professional – he or she can offer counsel for your circumstances.

The peace of mind, Meenan says, is worth it.

Source: Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC)

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