Twelve Days of Holiday Safety Tips

Tips from the Red Cross

Having a busy time getting ready for the holidays? While you are shopping, baking, gift wrapping, decorating and going to parties, the American Red Cross has holiday safety tips to help keep the season safe, happy and bright.

• Prepare your vehicle for traveling to grandmother’s house. Build an emergency kit and include items such as blankets or sleeping bags, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, compass and road maps, shovel, tire repair kit and pump, extra clothing, flares, and a tow rope.

RELATED: How To Winterize Your Car

• Drive your sleigh and reindeer safely. Avoid driving in a storm. If you must travel, let someone know where you are going, the route you’re taking to get there, and when you expect to arrive. If the car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along their predetermined route.

• Help prevent the spread of the flu. Stay home if you’re sick. Wash hands with soap and water as often as possible, or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands. Learn more about preventing the spread of the flu.

• Follow Santa’s fashion lead – dress in layers. When it’s cold outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.

• Use a Red Cross-trained babysitter when attending holiday festivities. Red Cross-certified babysitters learn to administer basic first aid; properly hold and feed a child; take emergency action when needed and monitor safe play. Some may be certified in Infant and Child CPR.

• Avoid danger while roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

• Be a lifesaver during the holidays. The Red Cross recommends at least one person in every household should take first aid and CPR/AED training.

• Designate a driver or skip the holiday cheer. Buckle up, slow down, don’t drive impaired. If you plan on drinking, designate a driver who won’t drink.

• When the weather outside is frightful, heat your home safely. Never use your stove or oven to heat your home. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Install smoke alarms.

• Cut down on your heating bills without being a Grinch. Get your furnace cleaned and change the filters. Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking the heat vents. Close off any rooms not in use and turn off the heat in those rooms. Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.

• Home for the holidays? Travel safely. Check the air pressure in your tires and make sure you have windshield fluid. Be well rested and alert. Give your full attention to the road – avoid distractions such as cell phones. If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.

• (Bonus!) Resolve to Be Red Cross Ready in the New Year. Get ready now in case you or a member of your household faces an emergency in 2015. Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

YOUR TURN

Have holiday safety tips to add to our list? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or Instagram Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Why the Holidays Are A Great Time to Sell Your Home

When it comes to real estate, many believe the ideal time to sell your home often falls in the spring months. After all, people often hunker down during the winter or are too busy with the holidays to think about purchasing a new home. Not to mention that people like to start shopping in the spring to make sure they are settled in their home before the start of a new school year.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Home Selling Essentials: The Ultimate Guide

But putting your house up for sale around the holidays has its benefits. Sure, you may not get into a bidding war, but you are going to deal with serious buyers who are ready to pull the trigger.

SELL-YOUR-JERSEY-SHORE-HOME

Consider these major benefits to selling your home this holiday season:

1. There’s Less Inventory

Conventional wisdom says people should wait until the spring to get the most from a home sale. But studies have shown that homes listed around the holidays can not only command more money, but can also sell quicker than ones listed in the spring.

One of the reasons is there is less competition during the holidays. For a multitude of reasons people won’t put their houses up for sale when the holidays are coming up, and so the ones shopping aren’t going to have dozens of houses to choose from. In the spring, inventory usually picks up, and price wars break out in coveted neighborhoods. But during the holidays, there will be limited choices which means a homeowner can have a higher asking price.

2. Buyers Are More Serious

Anyone who is shopping for a new home around Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s is undoubtedly going to be a serious buyer. While hitting open houses is a favorite pastime for many Americans, they aren’t going to spend their precious time around the holidays seeing how the other half lives. In the spring, when open houses are a regular occurrence, people may check out homes without a clear plan to buy.

If your house is up for sale in the winter and someone is looking at it, chances are that person is serious and is ready to pull the trigger. That can often result in a quicker sales process.

3. You Can Make the Home Warm and Cozy

The holidays are often a time when people gather around fireplaces, have hot chocolate and make nice smelling cakes and pies. For homeowners who put their house up for sale during the winter months, they can stage their house to give off the comfy and homey vibe that appeals to many home buyers. Some people may argue that showing a house in the winter is hard to do because there’s snow on the ground, the house is drafty and the curb appeal is lacking. But keeping the heat up, having a pie baking in the oven to give off a pleasant smell and keeping the sidewalk and driveway clear of snow and ice can boost a home’s appeal.

Not to mention that buyers tend to be more emotional during the holidays and will make decisions based on the feeling a house conjures up. During the spring there is a lot more foot traffic in homes that are up for sale. Buyers may not be able to do a thorough walk-through, may get frustrated because of the number of people looking at it and can leave with a bad feeling about the home.

4. Timing Is Perfect for Transfers

The end of the year is typically the time when people get notified that they will be moving because of a job transfer. Those people are going to need a house sooner rather than later, and as a result will be hunting for a new home during the holidays. These buyers can’t wait for the spring, which is why listing during the holidays can get the home sold and sold quickly.

5. Your Neighborhood May Look More Appealing

One of the staples of the holiday months, particularly Christmas, is that many people adorn their homes with festive lights and decorations. That is also true of local communities where lit-up snowflakes and wreaths can be found on lamp poles and up and down the main streets. People purchasing a home during that time may see the neighborhood in a different light and may be more willing to consider an area that they may have been on the fence about.

6. End-of-Year Tax Breaks

Reducing the tax bill is not the main reason buyers purchase a new home, but it could be the reason serious buyers make a move during the holidays. That’s because if the home sale closes before Dec. 31, buyers can deduct the mortgage interest, property taxes and interest costs of the loan. The tax deductions can be significant and could prompt a home buyer to move during the holidays instead of waiting until the spring.

YOU TURN

Nobody wants their home to languish on the market nor do they want to have to lower the price they are asking for. And while many fear that will happen if they list their home during the holidays, often that isn’t the case.

Are you planning on selling your home? Contact us to find out why selling your home during the holiday season can mean less competition, more serious buyers and a quicker sale.

Power Outages: Be Prepared

Your electric service is generally very reliable; however, extreme weather conditions and other factors can lead to a temporary loss of power. To keep your family safe and comfortable during an outage or other emergency, it’s important to be prepared.

power outage

Here are some tips:

• Create an emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies.
• Maintain supplies of healthy and filling snacks that don’t require refrigeration, such as dried fruits, nuts and protein bars.
• Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power.
• Purchase ice or freeze water-filled plastic containers to help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
• Learn about the emergency plans established in your area by contacting your state or local emergency management agency.
• If you rely on anything that’s battery-operated or power dependent, such as a medical device, have a backup plan.
• Maintain backup generators according to manufacturers’ recommendations and store an adequate supply of fuel in a safe place.

During an outage, monitor local radio stations or online sources for reports about power restoration. Disconnect or switch off appliances and electronic equipment that were running when the power went out. Avoid opening refrigerators and freezers to save cold air and preserve food longer.

Staying safe

Follow these measures to ensure the safety of you and your family during and after an outage.

Generators. Operate backup generators safely by following manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t attempt to connect your generator to the electrical system; it can backfeed to outdoor utility lines and injure or kill utility service personnel. An automatic transfer switch—installed by a qualified electrician—will help to ensure safe operation.

Refrigerated foods. Discard any perishable items in your refrigerator or freezer that may not be safe to consume. A refrigerator keeps food at a safe temperature for up to four hours during a power outage if it remains closed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends discarding foods such as meat, poultry and eggs if they’ve been above 40°F for more than two hours.

YOUR TURN

For more tips and resources, see Power Outages from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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How to Interview A Listing Agent

Is interviewing a Real Estate Agent such a daunting task?

Not really.

Too many people rush into choosing a Listing Agent. Once the idea of selling pops into their minds, they may choose the first Agent that crosses their path, whether via postcard, a Facebook Ad or billboard. In fact, 72% of home sellers contacted only one Real Estate Agent before deciding on the ‘right Agent’ they like sell their home through.

The big question here is how does one avoid choosing the wrong Real Estate Agent for the job?

Either you interview a Real Estate Agent and decide to hire him right there and then; or you opt to interview a couple of Real Estate Agents. Whichever route you as a home seller decide to take, make sure you have prepared at least a handful of questions, which should quickly determine whether your decision to hire that Real Estate Agent was the good one (or not)!

Most Real Estate Agents will not expect you to be asking these types of questions!

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Home Seller’s Guide

jersey-shore-real-estate-agent

This list of 10 questions to ask when interviewing a Listing Agent will come in handy in separating the wheat from the chaff:

Question #1: How long have you been a Real Estate Agent?

As much as enthusiasm and passion a beginning Real Estate Agent might bring to the table, when it is time for contract negotiation, it will be the (negotiation) experience of the Agent which will bring the deal to a successful close!

The more contracts a Real Estate Agent has written over the years, the more experience he will have in detecting, avoiding, preparing, anticipating potential pitfalls! As any experienced Real Estate Agent can attest, there’s no such thing a ‘simple contract’ – every contract is unique and will require a customized legal frame work, making sure the terms and conditions of the deal are ironclad!

Of course, you’ll always have these superstar Agents who are making a killing in their first year of real estate, but those are the exception to the rule!

The other nine questions below will filter through whether you’re dealing with such a super-talented Agent or just a fly-by-night individual!

Question #2: How many real estate transactions did you close last year?

This might perhaps be seen as a rude or inappropriate question to ask if it were asked in any other field than real estate.

Real Estate Agents are always talking amongst one another about production numbers, as it’s an integrate part of their business models, annual goals, and getting more business!

Whereas the abstract figure won’t necessarily tell you a lot (other than give you a rough idea how much commission the Agent made), it does give you an idea of how active the Real Estate Agent is.

It might be tempting to look at the total number and use it as the sole measuring stick on how successful the Agent was, but one needs to put it into perspective:

The Real Estate Agent who sold the lower number of properties over the past 12 months might not immediately be your first choice, neither should the Agent who sold 50 properties in a particular year.

And why might that be?

Agents who give the highest listing price, do get a lot of business from home sellers, who don’t necessarily know any better, until it’s too late and the property has been exposed to the market for way too long! The overpriced properties you see lingering about for months on end, and plenty of expired listings are proof of that.

In other words, the ratio of houses the Agent eventually sells versus the (overpriced) properties that he still has on the books (which is called the sales-to-listing ratio) will be an important number to watch.

Thus, while not immediately evident by hearing a raw number, put into context, it is very revealing who is the better Agent: a Real Estate Agent who sells 16 out of his 20 listings compared to another Agent who sells 35 out of 70 listings!

Question #3: Is being a Real Estate Agent your full-time job?

There is this misconception that being a Real Estate Agent must be such an easy job, which offers lots of free time, days off, and can make you bundles of money. But if you interview a Real Estate Agent who’s been around the block, you will more than hear something completely different!

While one might initially be going through training and learning the ropes on a part-time basis, providing a professional service to your clients does require a full-time Real Estate Agent.

How is the part-time Agent going to handle all the incoming viewing requests, specific property inquiries by home buyers or property valuations for home sellers if he’s too busy working another job?

Nevermind what might happen if there’s talk of writing an offer at the ‘wrong time’ for this part-time Agent. Time constraint? Availability? Imagine as a home seller to be losing such an interested home buyer because the (part-time) Agent’s agenda can’t accommodate!

Needless to say, hiring a part-time Real Estate Agent is not advisable!

Question #4: How often can we expect feedback from you?

Perhaps the line of questioning ought to go in the direction of who will be providing the feedback!

Is the Real Estate Agent working on his own, together with a personal assistant or is there an entire team behind the scene? And more importantly, who will end up being the person you, as the home seller, will get all the feedback from?

It’s only normal for a home seller wanting to know what the home buyers have been saying about their property during the viewings over the course of the week. Most well-oiled teams have this part covered with a feedback system to make sure the home seller gets proper, timely information about buyer feedback!

Not only before the property is sold, but also during and afterwards, it’s vital for the Agent to keep the home seller in the loop of where they stand in the process: is a home inspection due or is the bank appraisal taking place soon? Plus, will the Agent be present during those activities as well?

RELATED: 10 Ways to Prepare for A Home Showing in Under An Hour

Each of those events, as small or big as they may be, requires feedback to the home seller. This is where a professional Real Estate Agent (and/or team) stands out from the crowd! There’s no such thing as too much feedback!

Question #5: How do you normally communicate with your clients?

Depending on how the Agent responds to the previous question, you’ll lead right into this one.

Once you’ve established the frequency or timing of the feedback, you need to figure out which communication medium your Agent uses with other clients.

When you interview a Real Estate Agent, you need to make sure to inform the Real Estate Agent of your preferred method of communication!

Some people are stuck on a personal phone call following every showing appointment, others might be too busy and rather prefer you to send them a text message or email them a summary of what happened during the viewing.

Having said that, one of the biggest complaints people have against Agents is the lack of communication.

If an Agent happens to be in a client meeting and can’t pick up the phone, we all know that those things happen and a return call afterwards will set everything straight. However, I’m referring to the blatant lack of respect on part of a lot of Real Estate Agents who believe returning phone calls the same day is something of an unnecessary luxury. This Agent is in control of the sale of your life’s most expensive asset, so the least he can do is treat you with respect by returning your call(s) ASAP!

Question #6: Can you provide us with a recent list of client references?

There are pretty much two options you could go with:

(1) ask the Listing Agent for a list of recent client references, which is something he’ll more than likely have written out on a personal testimonial page on his website. You can also check sites like Zillow and Google for online reviews that the Agent cannot filter.

(2) maybe a better option would be to request the details of the last few homes he sold and consequently contact those people yourself. It might take a little bit more time and effort, but the feedback you’ll get from these previous clients will more than likely be quite informative, and more importantly, be unprepared by the Agent!

Question #7: How did you determine the asking price of our home?

Here, you have a couple of popular ways to arrive at the market value:

The most commonly used method (as well as the best one) is the Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which allows the Agent to look at the recently sold properties in your immediate vicinity, as well as the current properties for sale, all within a similar size, look and price range, in order to arrive at a fair market value!

RELATED: The Importance Of Proper Pricing

As you interview a Real Estate Agent, nothing stops you from asking him to show you some proof regarding the CMA’s conclusions.

RELATED: About the Comparative Market Analysis

Question #8: Will you personally be taking pictures of our home?

How often have you browsed a property portal and come across some incredibly bad pictures? What was the Agent thinking? And how did the seller approve that marketing material?

This makes you stop and think who could have possibly have taken those unprofessional photos?

RELATED: Mega Tips for a First-Time Home Seller

Whereas there are Agents who have particularly good photography skills and appropriate equipment to present your home at its best, the majority of Real Estate Agents don’t.

The importance of having great photos as part of your marketing cannot be stressed enough!

Bottom line: unless this Real Estate Agent is half a pro at taking real estate photos himself, insist on a Professional Real Estate Photographer.

Question #9: Which advertising tools will you be using to market our home?

Besides the traditional advertising tools, such as ads in newspapers, magazines, postcards, billboards etc., any decent Real Estate Agents needs to have a strong online presence.

Marketing should be happening all over! Your property needs to get exposed to as many potential home buyers as possible!

As a quick reminder, 90% of the home buyers start their home search online!

RELATED: Your Unique Marketing Plan

The internet is where all the researching and reading up happens, months before the home buyer even contacts the Agent!

Through the Agent’s online activities across many social network platforms, his personal website, and an active blogging calendar, chances are very good that the home buyers will keep running into that Agent’s content during their information-gathering phase. And who will they more than likely be contacting to help them find homes for sale on the Jersey Shore once they’re ready? After all, without even having met the Agent, these home buyers already have quite the impression of him due to this dominant online presence!

Question #10: Do you provide any additional services?

Sometimes it’s nice to know whether the Agent can offer you something different from the other Agents.

Any experienced Agent will immediately suggest helping out with the presentation of your home: from the cleaning & decluttering, to some of the needed repairs to the house, to getting that garden up-to-date, with extra attention pruning the shrubs & trimming the lawn.

Provided that the Agent has been working in the local area for many years, he’ll be able to set you up with a list of vendors as well, ranging from local handymen, attorneys, moving companies, to name but a few.

Keep in mind that the better Agents have your best interest at heart and don’t mean anything personal or hurtful if they point out potential negatives throughout the house.

The Real Estate Agent’s advice shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it is in their interest as well to have a more desirable and saleable product to present to buyers!

YOUR TURN

Have you recently interviewed a Listing Agent to sell your home? What did you learn? Did you rush through the process with regrets? Share your story on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE™ eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

 

What Is a Real Estate Agent’s Commission?

Ever wonder what exactly a Real Estate Agent does? Are they worth the commission? Ever wonder if you’re paying too much for commission? Even consider going it your own via FSBO?

You may have a great Agent and they don’t communicate with you all they’re doing. Or, you may also have a rock star agent and who’s doing so much it hasn’t even occurred to you all the fine details going into your home sale.

Is a Real Estate Agent Worth the Commission

Here are a few facts that might help you sleep at night and have some peace about residential real estate commissions:

1. Real estate agents are sole proprietors

That means that even if they are a part of an agency, they are small business owners and cover all their own costs and carry all the risk. Do you own or have you ever owned your own small business? Then you know you wear ALL the hats and all the responsibility falls to you. Not to mention, your rather high tax rate!

They invest in you and your home. If they take on a listing, that means they’ve calculated the cost of marketing, photos, and time – lots and lots of time. High quality marketing – online and offline – and maybe even virtual tours. All that cost money. There’s considerable overhead if you are active in the field.

They have no salary and no real predictability in income. One deal may have to last them many months or maybe even longer.

2. The sale of your home may be covering for the loss of another

Deals fall through ALL. THE. TIME. Your particular sale may go pretty smoothly – great! I guarantee you it has ended up covering for a major loss on another deal. It’s the nature of business.

3. The real work begins once a contract is accepted

It may feel like all an agent does is show up sometimes for an open house here and there and put a sign in the yard. Or every time they come over, they’re telling you things you need to spend money on. But the real work is done behind the scenes and is intensified once an offer is accepted. Getting to the closing table is more and more challenging.

CASE STUDY

 

Pat Vredevoogd-Combs, a former president of the National Association of REALTORS, testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Housing to stark federal complaints about residential real estate industry pricing.

She submitted a list of 184 things that Listing Agents do in every real estate transaction as a part of her testimony to the committee. She stated, “By all accounts the general public is not aware of all the services that agents provide to sellers and buyers during the course of the transaction, probably because most of the important services are performed behind the scenes.”

Here is the list of (just) 184 things residential real estate agents do:

Pre-Listing Activities

1. Make appointment with seller for listing presentation.

2. Send a written or e-mail confirmation of appointment and call to confirm.

3. Review appointment questions.

4. Research all comparable currently listed properties.

5. Research sales activity for past 18 months from MLS and public databases.

6. Research “average days on market” for properties similar in type, price and location.

7. Download and review property tax roll information.

8. Prepare “comparable market analysis” (CMA) to establish market value.

9. Obtain copy of subdivision plat/complex layout.

10. Research property’s ownership and deed type.

11. Research property’s public record information for lot size and dimensions.

12. Verify legal description.

13. Research property’s land use coding and deed restrictions.

14. Research property’s current use and zoning.

15. Verify legal names of owner(s) in county’s public property records.

16. Prepare listing presentation package with above materials.

17. Perform exterior “curb appeal assessment” of subject property.

18. Compile and assemble formal file on property.

19. Confirm current public schools and explain their impact on market value.

20. Review listing appointment checklist to ensure completion of all tasks.

Listing Appointment Presentation

21. Give seller an overview of current market conditions and projections.

22. Review agent and company credentials and accomplishments.

23. Present company’s profile and position or “niche” in the marketplace.

24. Present CMA results, including comparables, solds, current listings and expireds.

RELATED: Why You Need An Agent To Sell Your Home

25. Offer professional pricing strategy based and interpretation of current market conditions.

26. Discuss goals to market effectively.

27. Explain market power and benefits of multiple listing service.

28. Explain market power of Web marketing, IDX and MLS.

29. Explain the work the broker and agent do “behind the scenes” and agent’s availability on weekends.

30. Explain agent’s role in screening qualified buyers to protect against curiosity seekers.

31. Present and discuss strategic master marketing plan.

32. Explain different agency relationships and determine seller’s preference.

33. Review all clauses in listing contract and obtain seller’s signature.

After Listing Agreement is Signed

34. Review current title information.

35. Measure overall and heated square footage.

36. Measure interior room sizes.

37. Confirm lot size via owner’s copy of certified survey, if available.

38. Note any and all unrecorded property lines, agreements, easements.

39. Obtain house plans, if applicable and available.

40. Review house plans, make copy.

41. Order plat map for retention in property’s listing file.

42. Prepare showing instructions for buyers’ agents and agree on showing time with seller.

43. Obtain current mortgage loan(s) information: companies and account numbers

44. Verify current loan information with lender(s).

45. Check assumability of loan(s) and any special requirements.

46. Discuss possible buyer financing alternatives and options with seller.

47. Review current appraisal if available.

48. Identify Home Owner Association manager is applicable.

49. Verify Home Owner Association fees with manager–mandatory or optional and current annual fee.

50. Order copy of Home Owner Association bylaws, if applicable.

51. Research electricity availability and supplier’s name and phone number.

52. Calculate average utility usage from last 12 months of bills.

53. Research and verify city sewer/septic tank system.

54. Calculate average water system fees or rates from last 12 months of bills.

55. Or confirm well status, depth and output from Well Report.

56. Research/verify natural gas availability, supplier’s name and phone number.

57. Verify security system, term of service and whether owned or leased.

58. Verify if seller has transferable Termite Bond.

59. Ascertain need for lead-based paint disclosure.

60. Prepare detailed list of property amenities and assess market impact.

61. Prepare detailed list of property’s “Inclusions & Conveyances with Sale.”

62. Complete list of completed repairs and maintenance items.

63. Send “Vacancy Checklist” to seller if property is vacant.

64. Explain benefits of Home Owner Warranty to seller.

65. Assist sellers with completion and submission of Home Owner Warranty application.

66. When received, place Home Owner Warranty in property file for conveyance at time of sale.

67. Have extra key made for lockbox.

68. Verify if property has rental units involved. And if so:

69. Make copies of all leases for retention in listing file.

70. Verify all rents and deposits.

71. Inform tenants of listing and discuss how showings will be handled.

72. Arrange for yard sign installation.

73. Assist seller with completion of Seller’s Disclosure form.

74. Complete “new listing checklist.”

75. Review results of Curb Appeal Assessment with seller and suggest improvements for salability.

76. Review results of Interior Decor Assessment and suggest changes to shorten time on market.

77. Load listing time into transaction management software.

Entering Property in MLS Database

78. Prepare MLS Profile Sheet–agent is responsible for “quality control” and accuracy of listing data.

79. Enter property data from Profile Sheet into MLS listing database.

80. Proofread MLS database listing for accuracy, including property placement in mapping function.

81. Add property to company’s Active Listings.

82. Provide seller with signed copies of Listing Agreement and MLS Profile Data Form within 48 hours.

83. Take more photos for upload into MLS and use in flyers. Discuss efficacy of panoramic photography.

Marketing the Listing

84. Create print and Internet ads with seller’s input.

85. Coordinate showings with owners, tenants and other agents. Return all calls–weekends included.

86. Install electronic lockbox. Program with agreed-upon showing time windows.

87. Prepare mailing and contact list.

88. Generate mail-merge letters to contact list.

89. Order “Just Listed” labels and reports.

90. Prepare flyers and feedback forms.

91. Review comparable MLS listings regularly to ensure property remains competitive in price, terms, conditions and availability.

92. Prepare property marketing brochure for seller’s review.

93. Arrange for printing or copying of supply of marketing brochures or flyers.

94. Place marketing brochures in all company agent mailboxes.

95. Upload listing to company and agent Internet sites.

RELATED: Your Custom Home Marketing Plan

96. Mail “Just Listed” notice to all neighborhood residents.

97. Advise Network Referral Program of listing.

98. Provide marketing data to buyers from international relocation networks.

99. Provide marketing data to buyers coming from referral network.

100. Provide “Special Feature” cards for marketing, if applicable/

101. Submit ads to company’s participating Internet real estate sites.

102. Convey price changes promptly to all Internet groups.

103. Reprint/supply brochures promptly as needed.

104. Review and update loan information in MLS as required.

105. Send feedback e-mails/faxes to buyers’ agents after showings.

106. Review weekly Market Study.

107. Discuss feedback from showing agents with seller to determine if changes will accelerate the sale.

108. Place regular weekly update calls to seller to discuss marketing and pricing.

109. Promptly enter price changes in MLS listings database.

The Offer and the Contract

110. Receive and review all Offer to Purchase contracts submitted by buyers or buyers’ agents. 111. Evaluate offer(s) and prepare “net sheet” on each for owner to compare.

112. Counsel seller on offers. Explain merits and weakness of each component of each offer. 113. Contact buyers’ agents to review buyer’s qualifications and discuss offer.

114. Fax/deliver Seller’s Disclosure to buyer’s agent or buyer upon request and prior to offer if possible.

115. Confirm buyer is pre-qualified by calling loan officer.

116. Obtain pre-qualification letter on buyer from loan officer.

117. Negotiate all offers on seller’s behalf, setting time limit for loan approval and closing date.

118. Prepare and convey any counteroffers, acceptance or amendments to buyer’s agent.

119. Fax copies of contract and all addendums to closing attorney or title company.

120. When Offer-to-Purchase contract is accepted and signed by seller, deliver to buyer’s agent.

121. Record and promptly deposit buyer’s money into escrow account.

122. Disseminate “Under-Contract Showing Restrictions” as seller requests.

123. Deliver copies of fully signed Offer to Purchase contract to sellers.

124. Fax/deliver copies of Offer to Purchase contract to selling agent.

125. Fax copies of Offer to Purchase contract to lender.

126. Provide copies of signed Offer to Purchase contract for office file.

127. Advise seller in handling additional offers to purchase submitted between contract and closing.

128. Change MLS status to “Sale Pending.”

129. Update transaction management program to show “Sale Pending.”

130. Review buyer’s credit report results–Advise seller of worst and best case scenarios.

131. Provide credit report information to seller if property is to be seller financed.

132. Assist buyer with obtaining financing and follow up as necessary.

133. Coordinate with lender on discount points being locked in with dates.

134. Deliver unrecorded property information to buyer.

135. Order septic inspection, if applicable.

136. Receive and review septic system report and access any impact on sale.

137. Deliver copy of septic system inspection report to lender and buyer.

138. Deliver well flow test report copies to lender, buyer and listing file.

139. Verify termite inspection ordered.

140. Verify mold inspection ordered, if required.

Tracking the Loan Process

141. Confirm return of verifications of deposit and buyer’s employment.

142. Follow loan processing through to the underwriter.

143. Add lender and other vendors to transaction management program so agents, buyer and seller can track progress of sale.

144. Contact lender weekly to ensure processing is on track.

145. Relay final approval of buyer’s loan application to seller.

Home Inspection

146. Coordinate buyer’s professional home inspection with seller.

147. Review home inspector’s report.

148. Enter completion into transaction management tracking software program.

149. Explain seller’s responsibilities of loan limits and interpret any clauses in the contract.

150. Ensure seller’s compliance with home inspection clause requirements.

151. Assist seller with identifying and negotiating with trustworthy contractors for required repairs.

152. Negotiate payment and oversee completion of all required repairs on seller’s behalf, if needed.

The Appraisal

153. Schedule appraisal.

154. Provide comparable sales used in market pricing to appraiser.

155. Follow up on appraisal.

156. Enter completion into transaction management program.

157. Assist seller in questioning appraisal report if it seems too low.

Closing Preparations and Duties

158. Make sure contract is signed by all parties.

159. Coordinate closing process with buyer’s agent and lender.

160. Update closing forms and files.

161. Ensure all parties have all forms and information needed to close the sale.

162. Select location for closing.

163. Confirm closing date and time and notify all parties.

164. Solve any title problems (boundary disputes, easements, etc.) or in obtaining death certificates.

165. Work with buyer’s agent in scheduling and conducting buyer’s final walkthrough prior to closing.

166. Research all tax, HOA, utility and other applicable prorations.

167. Request final closing figures from closing agent (attorney or title company).

168. Receive and carefully review closing figures to ensure accuracy.

169. Forward verified closing figures to buyer’s agent.

170. Request copy of closing documents from closing agent.

171. Confirm the buyer and buyer’s agent received title insurance commitment.

172. Provide “Home Owners Warranty” for availability at closing.

173. Review all closing documents carefully for errors.

174. Forward closing documents to absentee seller as requested.

175. Review documents with closing agent (attorney).

176. Provide earnest money deposit from escrow account to closing agent.

177. Coordinate closing with seller’s next purchase, resolving timing issues.

178. Have a “no surprises” closing so that seller receives a net proceeds check at closing.

179. Refer sellers to one of the best agents at their destination, if applicable.

180. Change MLS status to Sold. Enter sale date, price, selling broker and agent’s ID numbers, etc.

181. Close out listing in transaction management program.

Follow Up After Closing

182. Answer questions about filing claims with Home Owner Warranty company, if requested.

183. Attempt to clarify and resolve any repair conflicts if buyer is dissatisfied.

184. Respond to any follow-up calls and provide any additional information required from office files.

YOUR TURN

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5 Reasons Why Homeownership Is a Good Financial Investment

According to a recent report by Trulia, “buying is cheaper than renting in 100 of the largest metro areas by an average of 37.7%.”

That may have some thinking about buying a home instead of signing another lease extension, but does that make sense from a financial perspective?

buying-a-home-investment

In the report, Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s Chief Economist explains:

“Owning a home is one of the most common ways households build long-term wealth, as it acts like a forced savings account. Instead of paying your landlord, you can pay yourself in the long run through paying down a mortgage on a house.”

The report listed five reasons why owning a home makes financial sense:

1.  Mortgage payments can be fixed while rents go up.

2.  Equity in your home can be a financial resource later.

3.  You can build wealth without paying capital gains.

4.  A mortgage can act as a forced savings account.

5.  Overall, homeowners can enjoy greater wealth growth than renters.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Buyer A Home

YOUR TURN

Are you a first-time home-buyer reaping the rewards of homeownership? Or are you a renter looking to better understand your options surrounding homeownership? What questions or concerns do you have? We want to hear from you!

You can contact one of our expert Buyer’s Agents and sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn profiles. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICE™ email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

27 New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

Heading into a new year, we feel an obligation to make resolutions.

Personal resolutions can be motivating, exciting or just plain silly. This year I will… eat healthier, save money, run the Long Branch 5K, learn to surf in Monmouth Beach, do the Asbury Park Polar Bear Plunge.

As a homeowner, resolutions can also be empowering. Some are mission-critical for a solid financial year, others maybe fall in the wish list.

homeowners-new-years-resolutions

Need ideas?  This list should get you started:

1. “Lose weight.”
Losing the weight of excess possessions save time (you know, like looking everywhere for your shoes in a cluttered bedroom), money (where did I put that bill?) and your mind (psychologists agree that clutter and stress go hand-in-hand).

2. Get organized.
The logical next step to decluttering is to find a logical place for what’s left.

Need inspiration? Walk through a home storage store or get yourself on Pinterest for some seriously clever organizational ideas.

RELATED: 7 Clever Weighs to Hide Things in Plain Sight

3. Save energy.
Saving energy is good for the planet and it’s also great for your pocketbook. EnergyStar appliances are just the start.

• LED bulbs are much more efficient and now come in warmer tones and dimmable options for a more homey feel. Use a lighting calculator to measure energy and cost savings.
• Water heaters expend energy storing hot water. The Department of Energy says tankless water heaters are 8 percent to 34 percent more energy efficient than standard water heaters, depending on usage.
• Going solar no longer has to be ugly roof additions. Have you seen the new Tesla solar tiles?

Saving on energy can even have some great tax implications! Check out our article on the best energy enhancements for optimal tax write-offs.

4. Build green.
Going green is more than energy usage. It’s also about sustainability and healthful choices in finishes.

• Change out laminates and carpets for natural hard surfaces.
• Remove asbestos (with a professional).
• Use sustainable and recycled materials like bamboo, cork and Vetrazzo.
• Need to paint? Go with a low- or no-VOC non-toxic paint.
• If you’re texturizing a wall, try Earth plaster instead of gypsum.

5. Get healthy.
Create a workout space, so there’s no excuse when the weather turns. If you’re looking to move, check out neighborhoods with nearby trails, fitness centers and amenities.

RELATED: How to Choose the Perfect Neighborhood for you and your Family

6. Just fix it.
You’ve walked by that broken switch plate how many times?

Go through the house like a home inspector and create a checklist of repairs that need to be done. When it comes time to sell and appraise your house, you’ll be glad these were done.

RELATED: The Benefit of An Advance Home Inspection

7. Set yourself (debt) free.
Those who carry debt and struggle to pay it off are twice as likely to develop mental health problems, according to a study by John Gathergood of the University of Nottingham.

Paying off debt sets you free in so many ways, plus it’s great for your credit score. Think of all the things you could do in the future with the money you save on payments and interest (maybe even pay off your home early — see #20).

8. Remodel right.
Is it time to update a dated bathroom? Replace the garage door?

If you’re wondering what improvements will lead to a better return on investment when you sell, check out our article on which home renovations offer the greatest return on investment. Our Agent’s can also tell you what improvements are best for your neighborhood and house type.

9. Maximize your mortgage.
A recent Zillow study showed that Americans spent more time researching a car purchase than their home loan. Since the Fed announced that it’s planning three rate hikes in 2017, it’s wise to refi sooner than later.

Have you reached the loan-to-value needed to remove your mortgage insurance? Make an appointment to talk to a lender for a mortgage checkup.

10. Learn to DIY.
The more minor fixes (and if you’re really skilled, major fixes) you can do yourself, the more money you save.

Thanks to YouTube, there are a lot of great how-tos. Other great sites include Instructables, How Stuff Works, Do It Yourself and myriad home improvement shows/channels.

11. Plan to maintain.
Create a maintenance calendar to remember those routine maintenance tasks, such as replacing furnace air filters, changing smoke detector batteries and winterizing sprinklers.

Whether it’s a paper calendar or your iCal on your phone, plan out scheduled maintenance so you won’t hear that relentless beeping of the smoke detector in the middle of the night — or run out of propane before the steaks are done (tragedy!).

12. Invest.
Is this the year to buy a rental property? Or a vacation home?

This will really require you to understand your financial situation, so talk to your financial advisor and an Agent who understands investment properties.

13. Take an inventory.
That new flat screen television and 360 viewer you got for Christmas are going to need coverage. If disaster happens, do you really know what’s in your house?

At minimum, make a list and save it on the cloud. Sites like Know Your Stuff and DocuHome help you document items in a room by tagging pics.

14. Do the double check.
The Insurance Information Institute says a standard policy covers the structure and possessions against fire, hurricanes, wind, hail, lightning, theft and vandalism.

Most other disasters are add-ons. Talk to your insurance agent and make sure you have not only enough property coverage but also enough liability coverage.

15. Get a “CLUE”.
Your homeowners’ insurance premiums are dependent on a number of factors, such as credit score and the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report of claim history.

You can request a free report from LexisNexis.

16. Make your neighborhood better.
Get involved with your local HOA, neighborhood watch or community events. The first step to a better neighborhood is your personal involvement.

For news, information about issues that effect your community and to keep in touch with your neighbors; you can also join the Community Facebook Pages and Group we maintain. Like the Bradley Beach, New Jersey Facebook Page or join the Groups for Bradley Beach, NJ Residents, Ocean Township, NJ Residents or our Jersey Shore and Monmouth County Lifestyle Group.

17. Save water.
Dry climate areas struggle for water in dense population centers. Watering restrictions can turn your grass brown and overuse can cost you with tiered billing. Even the New Jersey climates experience seasonal droughts or below average reservoir levels.

Xeriscape what you can outside and look for indoor appliances that use less water. If you live in a state with conservation legislation, get those regulators on your shower heads and hoses.

18. Get dirty.
Landscaping is essential to curb appeal. So this year, really plan to keep up with it or think about going to a more easy-care style.

RELATED: Enhance the Value of Your Home with Landscaping

Out back, consider a garden to save money on better produce. Get a composter for garden and food waste.

19. Plan for emergencies.
Natural disasters and social disruptions are unwanted, but they happen. To be ready, you actually need to prepare!

Do you have a family evacuation plan? Emergency supplies? Go to ready.gov for a ton of ideas on prevention and disaster preparedness.

20. Get smart.
Smart home features make your home more efficient and easy to use, even remotely. Look for these to be the “wow” factor that could make your house stand out. Who doesn’t love Alexa-enabled appliances?

RELATED: Increasing the Value of Your Home with These Most Popular Smart Home Accessories

21. Make extra mortgage payments.
You can take thousands of dollars and years off your mortgage by putting an extra amount towards the principal each month. For a $400,000 at 4.25 percent interest with 25 of its 30 years left, you could save $21,107 and take two years off by paying an extra $100 per month.

RELATED: How To Pay Your Mortgage Off Early

What could you save? Try Bankrate’s handy extra payment calculator.

22. Pay off your second mortgage.
Whether it’s a one- or multiple-year plan, it won’t happen if you don’t budget for it.

23. Scrutinize your property tax.
If you live in an area where your home value has dropped since the last assessment, you need to really look at that bill.

Is the assessment correct? Is it going up faster than the sale prices of comparable homes? You can appeal via your local appraisal review board.

24. Optimize your withholding.
If you’re a first-time homeowner, you’re going to enjoy those new deductions. Be sure to talk to your tax advisor about adjusting your paycheck withholding accordingly (unless you like Uncle Sam making money off your income instead of you!).

RELATED: Check Out Patrick Parker Realty’s Annual Tax Season Blog Series Articles and Resources

25. Pay bills, especially your mortgage, on time.
It goes a long way to improving your credit. “The longer bills are paid on time, the higher the FICO Score should rise,” says myFICO. “That’s because as recent “good payment” patterns appear on a credit report, the impact of past credit problems on a FICO Score fade.”

26. Cook dinner.
You know that fabulous kitchen you had to have when you bought your home? Use it!

The USDA’s 2016-17 Food Price Outlook shows the price of groceries decreased in 2016, with a less than 1.5 percent increase in 2017, but restaurants will continue to climb beyond 2016’s 2.4 percent increase.

You’ll also eat healthier at home by controlling what goes into your body. If you own a home with a less-than-stellar kitchen, cooking will probably motivate you to make some appliance and feature upgrades that will pay off when you sell.

27. Get hip.
Dated cabinets and 1980s fixtures don’t help your resale value. Evaluate your style and start looking at upcoming (not past) trends.

Although we’re still in a “sellers’ market” that will likely change in the next few years. A modern home (unless it’s a historic property) is simply more appealing and makes the buyer feel like it’s move-in ready.

YOUR TURN

Your house is your biggest asset. While not all of these resolutions are essential, aim to start out by focusing on your mortgage and personal finances. What do you have to add? Where might you start? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

Here’s to a healthier, happier and successful New Year!

Zillow’s 6 Housing Market Predictions for 2017

Well, as many had been wishing for, 2016 is officially behind us. And as the year came to a close, predictions for the 2017 housing market came pouring in.

housing-market-2017-new-jersey

It’s hard to say what the new year will bring with the newly-elected President-elect Donald Trump. Zillow points out in its predictions how some of his policies could affect housing next year.

Here are Zillow’s six predictions for 2017:

1. Cities will focus on denser development of smaller homes close to public transit and urban centers.

2. More millennials will become homeowners, driving up the homeownership rate. Millennials are also more racially diverse, so more homeowners will be people of color, reflecting the changing demographics of the United States.

3. Rental affordability will improve as incomes rise and growth in rents slows.

4. Buyers of new homes will have to spend more as builders cover the cost of rising construction wages, driven even higher in 2017 by continued labor shortages (this could be worsened by tougher immigration policies under President-elect Trump).

5. The percentage of people who drive to work will rise for the first time in a decade as homeowners move further into the suburbs seeking affordable housing – putting them further from adequate public transit options.

6. Home values will grow 3.6 percent in 2017, according to more than 100 economic and housing experts surveyed in the latest Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey. National home values have risen 4.8 percent so far in 2016.

Other predictions for next year include this one from Redfin, predicting the fastest real estate market ever, this one from Kroll Bond Rating Agency, this one from Realtor.com and this one from Bank of America.

Like Patrick Parker Realty on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

9 Home Safety Tips for the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time full of food, family get-togethers and traditions, but the holidays can also pose many safety concerns, so it’s best to be cautious. From lighting candles to hanging Christmas lights, there are plenty of safety hazards that can occur during the holidays. Let’s take a look at nine home safety tips for the holidays to keep you and your family safe.

holiday-safety-tips

1. Inspect Lights
Carefully look at your holiday light strings every year, and be sure to throw away any cracked lamp holders, frayed cords or loose connections. When you replace bulbs, you need to unplug the lights and match the voltage and wattage to the original bulb.

2. Buy a Fresh Tree
If you buy a live Christmas tree for your home, try to purchase a fresh tree since they are more fire resistant. Always keep your tree watered, and keep open flames away from it.

3. Lights Out
When you leave your house or go to sleep, make sure to turn off your holiday lights.

4. Timed Lights
Use a certified CSA International outdoor timer to switch on and off your holiday lights. Your lights should be turned on after 7:00 p.m. to avoid the electricity “rush hour.”

5. Check for Certification
Your holiday lights, extension cords, spotlights, carbon monoxide alarms, gas appliances and electrical decorations should be certified by an accredited certification organization like CSA International, UL or ELT to make sure they comply with safety standards and performance. Look for the certification mark on the product package to ensure you are making a safe purchase.

6. Don’t Connect Extension Cords
You should never connect two or more extension cords together. Only use a single cord that is long enough to reach to the outlet you need without stretching.

7. Keep Electrical Connectors Off the Ground
If you are hanging lights outside, keep electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal gutters. Also use insulated tape or plastic clips to keep lights secure.

8. Choose the Right Ladder
Make sure you select the right ladder size for the job if you are putting up lights on your house. Check for a certification mark to make sure the ladder complies with safety standards.

9. Check Your Furnace
Prevent CO hazards in your home by hiring a professional heating contractor to do a maintenance checkup of your furnace and ventilation system. You will want to clean or replace your furnace filter often during the winter months.

YOUR TURN

How will you keep your home safe during the holidays?  Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter feed or on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox.

How Do You Find a Real Estate Agent?

There are NO standards for Real Estate Agents. GOOGLE every Agent considered and verify everything they say

Hiring a Real Estate Agent is a job interview – someone is going to be responsible for one of the largest transactions in your life. Incredibly, studies consistently show that the majority of buyers and sellers fail to treat Agent selection seriously.

In a field with few to no established performance standards, ridiculous self-aggrandizement and bogus production reporting, how are the qualified and high producing Agents found? In about 15 minutes with Google search and seven direct questions.

Before anything, GOOGLE every New Jersey Real Estate Agent that you are considering. Real Estate has exploded with the internet; any productive Agent understands and embraces this. Examine reviews, their website, articles, social media…they will be your representative. After that, a few simple and very direct questions will narrow the pool. It’s possible Uncle Jack or Aunt Cathy won’t make the cut.

1. Are you a full-time Agent?
This question must be asked because so many Agents are not, Real Estate is a second, third or fourth job. It is impossible to effectively work part time; the speed of transactions, increased legal requirements and fluid market mandate full attention. Society has been conditioned to expect answers quickly, at all times. Agents that can’t or won’t pay attention cost clients money and opportunity.

2. How long have you been actively selling Real Estate and for whom?
Two years of full time work or about 20 personal transactions is a recommended minimum. The skills required for contracts, data collection, negotiation etc., cannot be taught in a class room. Many “discount” firms exist often housing Agents that want to hang their license at a place that doesn’t charge full fees. Research into the firm is as important as that for the Agent.

3. What are your personal production levels over the last three years?
If an Agent can’t live off their earnings, they are not producers. A full-time Agent should have at least 10-12 transactions per year personally completed, not as part of a team, an office or some other entity. Some Agents tie into office or team production – focus on their production only and be certain to verify this.

4. Verify the figure you are provided and request a copy of their report.
Personal stats must be for the Agent only – not a team or office. Request a copy of their personal production; this can be pulled off the MLS or from their Brokerage firm.

5. Is your managing Broker on site at your office and responsible for it?
Many discount firms have “Broker pools” – not specific managing Brokers that guide Agents. When things go bad and that Agent is clueless, will the Broker step up?

6. Please provide five references over the last year that I can call.
This will verify experience with past clients and by keeping the date within a year; it will demonstrate experience in the current market. Call the references and ask questions.

patrick-parker-realty-reviews

Also understand the difference between Real Estate Agent references and testimonials vs. reviews. References and testimonials you receive from your prospective next Agent will always present that Agent in the most positive light. Unsolicited reviews, however, are more honest. Websites like Zillow and Trulia are great resources for Jersey Shore Real Estate Agent reviews.

7. Please provide a copy of your resume.
Every Agent likely has an alphabet of nonsensical designations; most are obtained by writing a check. Many Real Estate designations were invented during the crash as a way of generating income for various associations – don’t fall for the nonsense.

These are reasonable, direct questions; others can be added as needed. This type of pre-screening should be completed ahead of any listing appointments or before meaningful meetings begin. Obviously, there are a plethora of additional, more specific questions depending on the circumstances, but a few minutes spent ahead of time will save time and money down the road.

Selection of a Real Estate Agent is arguably the single most important decision a buyer or seller makes. Until consumers demand high standards, the problem of inept and incompetent Real Estate Agents will remain.

YOUR TURN

How did you successfully interview your last Agent? Or, did you fall just short of all due diligence an end up in a nightmare scenario? Sound of on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds, and don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.


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