10 Things a Burglar Doesn’t Want You to Know
You come home to an open front door, a ransacked house, and missing valuables. How did a burglar know you’d be gone? How did they get in?
Successful burglars have lots in common — home owners who unwittingly give invitations to robbery. In these 10 thank-you notes, your friendly neighborhood burglars share advice on how to stop lending them a helping hand.
1. Thanks for the Ladder!
Call me a social climber if you will, but I did discover a ladder in your back yard. Thank you for leaving it where I could lean it against your home and easily reach a second-story window. I really love it when upper story openings aren’t wired to a home security system!
So, if you want to keep me out, store your ladder in the basement or a locked garage. And call your security company to wire upper-story windows into your alarm system.
A rising star
2. Loved Your Trash
Can’t tell you how much fun I have driving around neighborhoods on trash day (especially after big gift holidays) when the empty boxes on the curb reveal what wonderful new toys you have. Your thoughtfulness made it possible for me to land a new laptop and a flat-screen television in one easy trip to your home!
Next time, break down the boxes and conceal them in the recycling or trash bins.
3. Dear Can’t-Get-Around-to-It
Recently, I noticed you hadn’t trimmed trees and shrubs around your home, so I knew I’d have a wonderful place to hide while I worked to break into your home. I really can’t thank you enough for all the great new things I grabbed.
Next time, trim back bushes and trees near windows and doors. Make sure entry points to your home are easily visible from the street — I much prefer to work in private! While you’re at it, install motion-sensor lighting. I’m scared of bright lights!
The Tree Lover
4. Su Casa Es Mi Casa!
I was sincerely relieved to find your back door was a plain wood-panel door. I had no trouble kicking it in (my knees appreciate how easy that was!) Imagine how silly I felt when I discovered that your windows weren’t locked anyway.
You may want to take a cue from your neighbor and install steel-wrapped exterior doors with deadbolts on all your entries. And be sure your windows are locked when you’re away.
All the best,
5. Bad Reflection on You
You’d be surprised how many home owners position a mirror in their entry hall so I can see from a window if the alarm system is armed. (Yours wasn’t, but I’m guessing you know that by now!) Thanks for taking a lot of pressure off of me.
A little free advice: Relocate the mirror so your alarm system isn’t visible if someone else would peer through a window.
6. The Telltale Grass
Wow, isn’t it amazing how fast the grass grows these days? I swung by now and then and noticed your lawn was uncut, newspapers were piling up on the front steps, and your shades were always closed. To me, that’s an open invitation.
Next time, hire someone you trust to mow regularly, pick up around the doorstep, open and close various window shades, and turn different lights on and off (or put a few on timers). One more thing: Lock any car you leave in the driveway, or I can use your garage door opener to get in quickly.
Your Trip Advisor
7. Getting Carried Away
Many thanks for putting your valuables into an easy-to-carry safe that I could carry right out your back door. (Nice jewelry, and thank you for the cash!)
You may want to invest in a wall safe, which I rarely attempt to open. Or, rent a lock box at your bank.
Mr. Safe and Not-So-Sound
8. Dear BFF
Thanks for alerting a professional acquaintance of mine via your social network that you were away for the week in Puerto Vallarta, having the time of your life. Me? I enjoyed a very relaxing visit to your home with no pressure of being caught.
If only you had known that posting comments and photos of your trip on social networks is fine — but do that after you return so you won’t broadcast your absence!
9. Tag, You’re It!
Where are you? When you use popular geo-tracking apps, such as FourSquare and Glympse, I might know if you’re not home. Web sites such as www.pleaserobme.com help me keep track of your whereabouts.
If you prefer that I not visit your home, be careful about geo-tagging. But, otherwise, thank you for the loot!
– Just Tagging Along
10. Thanks for the Appointment
Thanks for inviting me into your home to view the laptop you wanted to sell. I do apologize for the scare I gave you when I took it (and your purse).
Did you know that some large U.S. cities are averaging one so-called “robbery by appointment” per day? If you want to sell high-ticket items to strangers, I suggest you arrange to meet at the parking lot of your local police station. I definitely won’t show up, and you’ll still have your valuables (and your purse!)
A Tough Sell
Following these tips will help you find a house that’s best-suited to your needs and one that you will be able to comfortably pay for in the long term. Do you have any tips for first-time homebuyers? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, or our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
Top 10 Native Plants that will Thrive in Your New Jersey Garden
The key to gardening success in the northeast, with its variably cold, snowy winters and short, humid summers, is choosing plants already adapted to the local climate and soils, as well as the specific conditions in your yard.
By learning to read the varied conditions of your landscape — and you may have multiple habitats that are very different from one another — you can then look for plants that grow naturally in those conditions without needing water over the average 40 to 60 inches of annual precipitation in this region.
Instead of impulse-buying plants that strike your fancy in bloom at the nursery, first take a good look at what you have to work with.
Here are 10 plants, from herbaceous perennials to woody vines, shrubs and trees, chosen for their multiseason beauty and interest, wildlife value and adaptability to a variety of garden conditions found across the Northeast, from dry sun to moist shade. Other than irrigation in their first year or two and an annual weeding, once these plants are established in conditions to their liking, they should require little else to thrive in your Northeast landscape.
Native to rich Eastern forests and woodlands
Best shade perennial. Foamflower, shown here, is a beautiful semievergreen ground cover that blooms in a sea of pink and white foamy flowers in spring. Fairly deer resistant (definitely not a deer’s first choice), it is perfect for growing in shady areas underneath trees or in the shade of a house. In rich soil, foamflower can spread annually a few feet in each direction from stolons (underground roots), but it is never invasive like Vinca and Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), commonly planted ground covers that can escape into nearby woodlands.
Choose spreading varieties if you’re looking for a ground cover effect. Named cultivars found in nurseries are often labeled incorrectly as Tiarella cordifolia and are actually the clumping Appalachian species, Tiarella wherryi. These don’t spread from underground stolons, so read labels carefully if you prefer a spreading plant to fill an area.
2. Butterfly Milkweed
Native to open, sandy soils and uplands across eastern North America, but a rare species in most New England states
Best full-sun perennial for sandy or well-drained soil. This gorgeous native plant sports neon-orange blooms in early summer, attracting many butterflies and pollinators to its sweet nectar. Butterfly milkweed thrives in any sunny spot with well-draining soil, especially sand. As a milkweed, it’s an occasional food plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, although swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), which leafs out and blooms later than the orange milkweed, is preferred as a host plant.
3. New England Aster
Native to moist meadows and fields on the East Coast and south to Virginia
Best full-sun perennial for moist soil and late-season blooms. The purple flowers of New England aster, along with goldenrod (Solidago spp), signal the summer’s end here in the Northeast. An important nectar and host plant for butterflies and late-season beneficial insects, it loves full sun and moist soil, but it will put on a great show in any reasonable garden soil. Allow it to self-seed and create large drifts of fall color, and watch for monarch butterflies drinking nectar from the flowers, essential fuel for their long flight south to Mexico.
Some species are native to low woods and swamps, and others are adapted to high and dry exposed areas
Most adaptable flowering shrub. Serviceberry, also called shadbush, shadblow and juneberry, is a beautiful multistemmed shrub or small tree that grows in sun or the understory of larger trees. Clouds of white flowers cover serviceberry in April, and the early-season nectar is valuable forage for many pollinators. Birds flock to feed on the pink and purple edible berries that ripen in June. The fall foliage is a striking orange and yellow, especially when grown in the sun. Plants sold in nurseries are usually natural hybrids of local species.
5. New Jersey Tea
Native to sandy pine barrens and rocky soils of eastern North America
Best full-sun shrub for dry soils. This shrub makes it into the top 10 for its ability to thrive in the leanest and driest soils without wanting or needing fertilizer or watering. Planted in these conditions, it’s as close to a zero-maintenance flowering shrub that exists in the north. Billowy, white early-summer blooms attract hordes of pollinators and beneficial predatory insects that help control garden pests. New Jersey tea is hard to find for sale; look for it at native-plant nurseries in your region.
6. Highbush Blueberry or Lowbush Blueberry
(Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium angustifolium)
Native to a variety of habitats, ranging from swamps and bogs to woods, fields and rocky outcrops
Best edible plant. Blueberry is an essential Northern garden plant because of its delicious berries, fiery fall foliage and, depending on the species, ability to grow just about anywhere with some sun.
7. Trumpet Honeysuckle
Native to forest edges, woodlands and ledges in southern New England and south
Best flowering vine. Trumpet honeysuckle, also called coral honeysuckle, is a well-behaved flowering vine that attracts hummingbirds and won’t take over your house or yard the way Asian wisteria (Wisteria sinensis or W. floribunda) or English ivy (Hedera helix) can. Trumpet honeysuckle is perfect for twining up an arbor or along a fence line.
Important note: Don’t confuse trumpet honeysuckle with trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) or crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), which are also vines with trumpet-shaped flowers but should be avoided, due to their aggressive spreading through underground runners.
8. Gray Birch
Grows wild in abandoned fields and disturbed areas of the East
Most adaptable small tree. Gray birch is an attractive and fast-growing tree for sun or shade, wet or dry soil. It’s more resistant than other birches to the bronze birch borer pest. Grow gray birch to add quick and easy wildlife habitat to your property — its seeds and catkins feed birds, and its foliage hosts many butterfly and moth caterpillars, which in turn become a protein-rich food that birds use to feed their babies in the nest.
9. Red Maple
Native to swamps, forests, fields, and river and wetland edges
Most adaptable large tree. Grow red maple, also called swamp maple, for its fast growth when young and its multiseason interest. Its red flowers in early spring feed native bees, and its brilliant orange and red fall foliage rivals the iconic colored foliage of sugar maples, which are beginning to die out due to a warming climate.
10. Creeping Juniper
Native to dunes and sandy, gravelly or rocky outcrops, often seen growing on highway embankments
Best evergreen ground cover for full sun and dry soil. What it lacks in showy blooms, juniper makes up for with its tough disposition, growing in the toughest, driest soils. Its low, spreading habit creeps nicely around rocks and into awkward spaces, highlighting nearby showy plants and unifying landscape designs large and small. Easily the most drought-tolerant evergreen ground cover for Eastern gardens, juniper grows in any well-drained soil in full sun, including sand and on steep slopes.
Do you have a Jersey Green Thumb? What can you share about the plants thriving in your garden? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Instagram or Twitter Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
How to Meet Your Neighbors: Icebreakers Even Introverts Can Pull Off
Want to know the secret of how to meet your neighbors? It’s this: Stop waiting for people to swing by with an apple pie. These days you have to be proactive and get out there yourself!
So how do you do that?
Granted, whether you’ve just moved in or lived someplace for eons, many find this simple act of reaching out amazingly hard. If that sounds like you, it’s OK: It’s all about knowing a few icebreakers. Here are a few that even the shyest of shy can try.
1. Hold A Garage Sale
This project doubles as decluttering—and works whether you’ve lived in a place for years or just moved in and didn’t get a chance to fully purge before you packed up for your new digs.
Not only will a garage sale provide you with a clean slate, it’s also a low-key way to meet your neighbors. Even if you don’t make a sale, you might be meeting your new best friend for the first time.
2. Ask To Borrow Something
Tools are one of the more popular items you may not have dug out of the box yet but find you’ll need right away. Don’t be too shy to ring the neighbors door and ask to borrow that hammer or screwdriver.
And remember, this is an equal opportunity endeavor: Sooner or later you’re bound to have something a neighbor might need, from a rake to cup of sugar. Go ahead and let your neighbors know to stop by “if you need anything”.
3. Do A Good Deed
Sometimes the best way to break the ice is to look for a way to pull someone out of it.
Three years ago, during an East Coast polar vortex, one of our client’s was leaving their home at 4 a.m. to attempt to get to work when he happened to see water gushing out of his neighbor’s garage. No one was home, so he called the fire department.
A sprinkler system had burst on the third floor and was destroying their home. Our client ultimately broke into the home but only to turn off the water and managed to save the home in the process.
Once his neighbors returned from their vacation they were very appreciative and are close friends to this day.
Not that you have to wait for disaster to strike. There are opportunities year-round; from plant-sitting during Spring Break and Summer Vacation to offering to clear leaves from gutters in the Fall or shovel snow in the winter. Who could refuse? And now you’ve got a friend whom, odds are, you can depend on in a pinch, too.
4. Find A Common Cause
Last summer a feral cat had a litter of kittens in the yard of one of our client’s homes. Concerned about their welfare—not to mention the number of cats already roaming her neighborhood—our client went door to door to bring the issue to her neighbors’ attention. Ten houses down, she found a neighbor eager to help the free-range cats. Today, cats in their community are well cared for—and these two neighbors are fast friends.
When you work together toward something that matters to you, you can’t help but bond.
Don’t have a passionate cause of your own? Then get involved in an HOA or local community group.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to get to know people because you move quickly past small talk.
5. Sometimes, Going Online Is A Good Idea
So maybe you want to be part of your community but work crazy hours. Or you’re always shuttling your kids from one after school activity to another and your schedule looks like that of an air traffic controller.
Maybe your nearest neighbor is a mile (or more) away. If meeting your neighbors “IRL” is a challenge, then maybe you do need to pick up that tablet or smartphone and join a local online group.
Have a goal though. Try and build relationships online that will lead to offline interactions.
You hear that? Your iPhone addiction actually can lead to meaningful connections outside your front door.
How did you break the ice with your neighbors? Do you have any tips to add to our list? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
What is the Cost of Waiting Until Next Year to Buy a Home?
Over the course of the last 12 months, home prices have appreciated by 7.0%. Over the same amount of time, interest rates have remained historically low which has allowed many buyers to enter the market.
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The Most Critical Steps To Take When Buying Your Dream Home
As a seller, you will likely be most concerned about ‘short-term price’ – where home values are headed over the next six months. As a buyer, however, you must not be concerned about price, but instead about the ‘long-term cost’ of the home.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae all project that mortgage interest rates will increase by this time next year. According to CoreLogic’s most recent Home Price Index Report, home prices will appreciate by 4.7% over the next 12 months.
What Does This Mean as a Buyer?
If home prices appreciate by 4.7% over the next twelve months as predicted by CoreLogic, here is a simple demonstration of the impact that an increase in interest rate would have on the mortgage payment of a home selling for approximately $250,000 today:
If buying a home is in your plan for 2018, doing it sooner rather than later could save you thousands of dollars over the terms of your loan.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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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?
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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?
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
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.
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