Archive for the ‘Real Estate Articles’ Category

What Does It Really Mean To Be “Represented” by a REALTOR®?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Loved this article!  I  hope you do too!  We, as Realtors, really DO work hard and care about your home purchase or sale.  Have a great week!  Julie

What Does It Really Mean To Be “Represented” By A REALTOR®?

Posted by Andrew Fortune on Monday, January 26th, 2015 at 8:05am.

When I started the home buying process for the first time, my wife and I found a home that we wanted to see fairly early on. We called the number listed and talked to someone who said that they would meet us at the property. This was a Realtor. I had no idea what a Realtor actually did. I just knew that they had the keys to the property and I had to contact them to see it in person. My wife was more familiar with real estate at the time, having had a career in the Title Insurance Industry. She explained to me that a Realtor would “represent” us and help us look at all the homes that we were interested in. I never fully understood what the benefit of being “represented” meant.

What does Having a realtor represent you really mean?

Years later I would decide to get my real estate license and pursue a career in real estate. I soon realized that buying and selling real estate can feel like walking through a mine field as a Realtor. There are 99 problems that can go wrong in a real estate transaction. Good Realtors predict problems ahead of time and take care of them so that they never impact their clients. It’s a part of “representing” people. It’s a unique job that requires strong work ethics and a true heart for our clients.

When a Realtor represents you, it means that they put your interests above their own. They use their knowledge and skills to help you in every way that they can. One of the ways that Realtors help consumers is by simplify the process. If a Realtor told you everything that they do behind the scenes, you would get exhausted listening to them. You would be bored half way through as well. We do a lot of researching, coordinating, communicating, and planning behind the scenes. I spend far more time working behind the scenes for my clients than I do when I when I meet with them. I don’t talk to my clients about everything that I do because it’s not about me. It’s about them, 100%. I want to listen to what they have to say and I only interject when I have useful information that may help them.

A good Realtor will make the home buying and selling process feel easy. They will shield you from the internal drama involved with negotiations, inspections, mortgage issues, title issues, and so on. For this reason, some people do not know how well they are being “represented” because it’s all being taken care of for them. That’s why I wanted to write this article. I want to put the spotlight on “representation” by covering some major benefits that are important to understand. It’s a topic that is at the heart of the client/Realtor relationship.

I understand that not all Realtors do a good job of “representing” their clients. I got into this business after having a few bad Realtor experiences myself. The truth is that there are some wonderful Realtors out there. When I had my bad Realtor experiences, it was because I didn’t do my homework and I just settled for the first Realtor that I met. It a common rookie home buyer mistake. In this article, I am going to focus on the traits and characteristics of a GOOD Realtor. There are plenty of good Realtors in your area. You can use this article as a guide to help you determine how good your Realtor is, if you’re not sure. Are you experiencing these 4 benefits mentioned below?

4 Main Benefits of being represented by a realtor

1.) Being Understood

Being Understood By Your Realtor or Real Estate AgentBeing “represented” by a Realtor means that you
have an advocate who is putting themselves in your shoes. They will listen intently to you. They want as much information about your situation as possible so that they can best help you. Good Realtors are competitious. They will do everything they can to earn your respect and win you over so that you will use them again in the future. Understanding our clients needs and wants is essential for success in this business.

We work hard to understand you and your needs. Each of my home buying and selling clients are different. Some may want to list their house for sale and need advice on staging and adding upgrades to get the best value. Others may be relocating due to military orders and need to find a house in the next 7 days. Everyones situation is different. They all require special attention to make sure that their needs are met and their expectations are exceeded. If your Realtor truly understands you and your situation, you are in good hands!


2.) Being Protected

Being Protected By Your RealtorBeing “represented” by a Realtor means that your interests are being protected. If you tell your Realtor that you want a house within a certain price range, they’ll make sure to keep you grounded if you start to venture off looking at higher priced homes. They will also remind you of your main home search criteria points if you start to get distracted by less practical homes. They will protect your information and only communicate details to other 3rd parties as you direct them. They will step in anytime there is a problem and resolve it as you advise, protecting you from direct conflict.

I was recently working with some home buyer clients and we were at a builders office. This builder was being pushy and trying to extract too much information from my clients. I stepped in and asked the builder to submit her questions to me in writing and we would go through and answer them as needed later on. Later, my buyers thanked me for doing that. They said they felt cornered and didn’t know how to respond. Good Realtors dedicate their time to learn about their clients. They are serious about protecting them when any threats or complications arise. This allows our clients to feel empowered and confident in the marketplace.


3.) Insider Knowledge

Your Realtor is a Library of Local KnowledgeA good Realtor is an experienced professional with many years of insider knowledge. If you have already bought and sold a home before, then you probably learned a lot about the real estate process. Imagine doing that over 50 times every year. Can you image the amount of knowledge you would acquire with each transaction? This is the benefit of having an experienced Realtor. They have insider knowledge from helping hundreds of home buyers and sellers. Ask as many questions as possible and utilize this resource as much as you can. It’s one of the greatest benefits to hiring a good Realtor.

Many think of “insider knowledge” as knowing which neighborhoods have the lowest crime rates, or which schools are best. This is a common misconception. Realtors are not supposed to comment on their opinions of neighborhoods or schools. It’s considered “steering” by the Federal Fair Housing Act. We can direct you to resources to find all the information that you would need to best answer those questions. Our knowledge of the transaction processes, contract preparation, and local real estate statistics are our most valuable assets to you. Understanding how to put a fair offer together to get the best deal is invaluable. Knowing how to negotiate specific details into a transaction are essential. Helping our clients understand current market statistics and what it means for their situation is much appreciated by consumers.


4.) Mediator Leverage

Realtor Negotiating LeverageHaving someone “represent” you means that you can sit back and direct them as you choose during negotiations. It’s much easier to make important real estate decisions when you don’t have to deal with the stress and emotion of delivering the information. This is your negotiating leverage when you have a Realtor representing you. Your Realtor will be delivering all the details as you direct them to, using their experience to gain you the best outcome. They are your personal spokesperson for your negotiations and transaction details.

Realtors will also prepare you for the different scenarios that you might expect from the other party, based on your requests. As a home buyer, it’s easy to get greedy and want the best price possible, along with other items in the property that belong to the sellers. As a seller, it’s easy to give in and accept the first offer that comes out of pure exhaustion form the home selling process. A good Realtor will keep you grounded and help you understand your true negotiating position. They will help you to predict how the other party will respond to your requests. They will also package and deliver your requests in such a way that will yield the highest likelyhood of being accepted. It’s a delicate balance that takes years to perfect. Having the leverage of a good Realtor to mediate your transaction can save you thousands of dollars and some unnecessary lost sleep.


Final Thoughts

Realtor “representation” was created because people both needed and wanted the service. It will always be a service that people need, whether they know it, or not. Like many consumers, I did not know that I needed these things when I first worked with a Realtor.  Real estate is a tricky business that requires constant learning, serious dedication, and a true heart for the people we work with. If you are being represented by a Realtor, take notice of the four benefits mentioned above. It will help you to know how to best respond to your Realtor throughout the process. When you know what our job is all about, you can use us to your greatest advantage.

Realtors are people just like you. We are happy beyond description when we have raving clients. We are wounded to the core when our clients do not feel like they are getting the best service. We spend a lot of time thinking about consumer needs and how we can better serve them. We are also consumers ourselves and pay attention to business details everywhere we go. Many of us are pillars of the community, serving on local boards and helping to further our areas. Real estate is the most “local” industry that I can think of. It’s all about our area and our city. Realtors who understand this usually collaborate well with each other and enjoy the challenge of this rewarding career. Hiring a good Realtor to “represent” your interests is the greatest resource you have to achieve your real estate goals.

Yes, Buyers DO Need to Talk with a Lender

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

imagesI have had several first-time home buyers call me lately wanting to go look at homes.  Great!  I’ll go show a home, meet the potential buyers, get to know them, discuss what they really want in a new home, and get excited with them about finding a new place to live.  Then I ask them if they’ve talked with a lender.  Most have not.

I know it’s exciting to look at homes.  I know that it’s fun to imagine your furniture in the rooms and think about moving your family to a new place.  But…you have to know what you can afford, and you have to be able to PAY for the house!  And…if you ever want to make an offer on a home, you need a pre-approval letter from a lender accompanying your offer.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard for new potential buyers to make a phone call or two and talk with a lender, but apparently it is.  Maybe they don’t know the questions to ask, or maybe they don’t want to be told that they can’t get pre-approved for a loan.  Getting pre-qualified takes about 20 minutes with a lender.  They’ll ask about your savings, your debts, your employment status and they will run a credit check.  I usually advise talking with at least 2-3 different lenders to compare rates and fees.  I suggest the Buyers call their personal bank, and I’ll recommend a couple of other reputable lenders if they don’t know who to call.  But getting them to make that call or set the appointment to go see the loan officer is like pulling teeth!  Why?

Here is an example of what seems to be happening a lot lately….I showed homes one night and the buyer found one he liked.  I asked him to talk with a lender if he’d like to make an offer as we would need the pre-approval letter if the offer was going to be seriously considered.  He said okay.  A few days later I hadn’t heard from him, so I called and he wanted to look at a few more homes.  I agreed and when we met I asked if he had spoken with a lender.  He had not.  I asked if he was serious about writing an offer on a home when he found ‘the one’.  He assured me he was.   Well, another week went by and he called about seeing a few more homes.  Again I asked if he had seen a loan officer and he had not.  This time I told him that he needed to have that talk, and get pre-qualified, or he was wasting my time and his time, and putting out the home owners who were allowing us to see their homes for showings.  I may have lost a potential buyer, but I’ve come to the conclusion that someone who is serious about buying a home will make the effort needed to get things in place to make it happen.

I can show homes until we’ve seen every house in town, but unless the Buyer can get pre-approved for a mortgage loan, or come up with the cash, we are all just wasting our time.

Get pre-approved, Buyers!!


I Can’t Find a Home to Rent!

Monday, February 17th, 2014

imagesCAS4ZWL8I’ve been working lately to find a family of 4, two adults, two kids and a small dog, a place to rent here in Atlantic.  I don’t normally handle rentals (A Realtor doesn’t get paid to help someone rent a house), but I know these folks want to buy a house here within the year.   So I have been making phone calls, calling on signs that I see as I drive around town and asking everyone I meet if they know someone who knows of any homes for rent.  I am truly surprised that there isn’t much available!  There are a limited number of apartment buildings in town, and although I didn’t call on the apartments, I have been told that it’s hard to find a vacant one of those as well.  Who is living in all of these rental properties and why aren’t they buying?  I’m just not sure.

So I’m thinking to myself…maybe I should buy some of these homes that have been on the market (for sale) for awhile, and become a landlord myself.  There is obviously a need here for rental homes.  I could create some cash flow to supplement my income!  But…I’m just not sure I want to be a landlord again.  My ex-husband and I took a stab at it in Omaha about 12 years ago and neither one of us cared for the late night phone calls about plumbing or heating issues.  Nor did we care for collecting rent when it wasn’t paid on time, or feeling awful about evicting a tenant with children.  Being a landlord just isn’t a fun job.   No…it’s not for me.  Maybe more people should jump on that bandwagon though.  It’s a lesson of supply and demand.  Supply is low and demand is high, at least here in Atlantic.

I got off track … so back to my clients coming into town wanting to rent a home.  How am I going to find them a home?

There are several homes to purchase in town.    You can buy a house of say $100,000 and have a payment of about $700/month, but you will need money to put down and to use for closing costs, etc.  You also need good credit scores and a solid employment history.  Long gone are the days when anyone could apply for a mortgage loan and get it.   But, you’ll get tax benefits, you’ll have ownership of the home and over time, gain equity.  You can rent that same house for about $700/month or more and never build any equity…basically throwing your money away each month.  But for those who don’t have stellar credit scores or money for a down payment, or for those people who won’t be staying in the area for very long, renting may be the best option.

I don’t have an answer for this family coming to town.   I will try to find them a rental house for the time being.  They may have to stay with friends or family for awhile until something becomes available.  They could borrow from family to put a down payment on a house and buy one of the available homes in Atlantic.  It’ll be a decision I’ll help them through and hopefully they’ll find a great family home.

I would love feedback from anyone on this topic!  Please let me know your thoughts on the rental vs. buying housing market here in Atlantic or any parts of the US!


What Do the Letters After Your Name Mean?

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Over the years you’ve probably received a few business cards from real estate agents, or have seen their ads in newspapers or online. Most agents who have been in the business for awhile have several letters or acronyms after their names. Have you ever wondered what they mean?

In addition to belonging to organizations such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and local organizations like the Iowa Associate of Realtors (IAR) and the West Central Iowa Board of Realtors (WCIBR), real estate agents in Iowa are required to take 36 hours of continuing education classes every 3 years. As part of this education, most agents will acquire certificates or designations relating to the industry.

Some of the most common designations include:

GRI- Graduate Realtor Institute — Developed for members of the National Association of REALTORS® and offered through State REALTOR® Associations, the GRI program includes 90 hours of coursework on topics from marketing and servicing listed properties to real estate law.

CRS- Certified Residential Specialist – Offered by the Council of Residential Specialists, this course requires 60-90 hours of classroom instruction in a variety of real estate topics as well as field experience working with Buyers and Sellers.

ABR- Accredited Buyer’s Representative – Developed by the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Countil (REBAC), this designation involves a 2 day intensive course, as well as one elective class and actual experience with Buyers in the field.

e-PRO- Developed ten years ago by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) the e-PRO® certification program teaches members how to effectively use real estate technology to grow their business and help their clients.

CSP- Certified New Home Sales Professional – Offered by the National Association of Home Builders, this course is designed for specialists in new home sales to increase their knowledge and marketability.

There are others, but this gives you a general idea of the education most experienced agents have. We don’t just get our license and do nothing! We stay educated within our industry with required continuing education classes and designations. We strive to learn more, be a better resource and keep you, our clients, informed.

Julie May, ABR, GRI

Top-10 List of New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

This is a great article about taking care of your home this year! Enjoy!

HouseLogic’s Top-10 List of New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

By: John Riha

Published: December 30, 2011

When the new year arrives, promises and resolutions abound. Here’s the top-10 list of what the resolute home owner should accomplish this year.

Ready for 2012? Here it comes:

1. Lose weight (cut energy use)
2. Quit smoking (purify indoor air)
3. Get out of debt (budget for improvements)
4. Learn something new (educate yourself on home finances)
5. Get organized (de-clutter)
6. Volunteer (support your community)
7. Drink less (curb home water use)
8. Spend more time with the family (share home improvement projects)
9. Get fit (exercise your DIY skills)
10. Be less stressed (use maintenance-free materials)

1. Lose weight (cut energy use)

Your house is a glutton, gobbling energy like a starved elephant. Gain control by trimming energy use.

A good place to start is your HVAC ductwork. Ducts are notorious energy-wasters, leaking your heating and cooling air through holes and loose connections.

Sealing and insulating your ductwork can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20%, saving you $200 per year or more, according to Energy Star. You’ll make your home more comfortable, and a more-efficient system helps extend the life of your furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump.

Because ducts are usually hidden inside walls, ceilings, attics, and crawl spaces, sealing and insulating them may be a difficult and time-consuming DIY job. If you can’t reach all your ducts, concentrate on those that are accessible.

Use duct sealant — called mastic — or metal-backed tape to seal the seams, holes, and connections. Don’t use the confusingly named “duct tape,” which won’t provide a permanent solution. Be sure to seal connections at vents and floor registers — these are likely places for leaks to occur.

After sealing your ducts, wrap them in fiberglass insulation. Most hardware stores and home improvement centers have insulation wrap products made for ducts.

A professional heating and cooling contractor will charge $1,000 to $4,000 for the work, including materials, depending on the size of your home and accessibility to your ducts.

Insulating your ductwork may qualify for a rebate from your state or local municipality. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

2. Quit smoking (purify indoor air)

The EPA lists indoor air quality as one of the top environmental health hazards. That’s because indoor air is full of potential contaminants, such as dust, mold spores, pollen, and viruses. The problem is at its worst during winter, when windows and doors are shut tight.

You can help eliminate harmful lung irritants in your home with these maintenance and improvement tips:
Maintain your HVAC system and change furnace filters regularly. Use the highest-quality filters you can afford ($10-$20) and change every month during peak heating and cooling seasons.
Keep indoor air pristine by using low-VOC paints when you remodel your rooms.
Use localized ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms to remove cooking fumes, smoke, and excess humidity. Make sure ventilation systems exhaust air to the outside of your home, rather than your attic crawl space or between ceiling joists.
In fireplaces and wood stoves, burn real firewood rather than pressed wood products that may contain formaldehyde.
Use a portable air cleaner to help cleanse the air in single rooms. Portable air cleaner types include mechanical air filters, electrostatic precipitators, ion generators, and ultraviolet lamps.

Note that each type of air cleaner is designed to remove specific pollutants; no portable air cleaner removes all pollutants. Be wary of air cleaners that generate ozone — a known lung irritant.

3. Get out of debt (budget for improvements)

Creating a yearly budget for home improvement and maintenance helps prevent overspending, and encourages you to put aside money for major replacements — such as new roofing or a kitchen appliance — that come up every few years.

Protect your home finances by knowing how much you’ll probably spend each year. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau says that average annual maintenance and home improvement expenditures are about $3,300 per household. Leading lending institutions agree; HSH Associates and place average costs of yearly maintenance and upkeep at 1% to 3% of your home’s initial price.

That means the owner of a $250,000 home should budget between $2,500 to $7,500 each year for upkeep and replacements. Have extra at the end of the year? Save it for more costly upkeep and replacement items down the road — you’ll probably need it then.

4. Learn something new (educate yourself on home finances)

Want a little education that goes a long way toward your financial health? Learning how to improve your insurance score can help you keep your home insurance premiums from getting out of hand. Here are a couple of easy lessons:
Letting credit card debt build up is a black mark on your credit history — and an indicator that you’re likely to file an insurance claim. The more claims, the higher risk you appear to be to insurance agencies, which lowers your insurance score. Low scores mean higher rates for home insurance.
Keep payments on loans up-to-date. Don’t miss payment deadlines; if you do, notify your lender that your payment is forthcoming. Delinquent payments signal insurers that you can’t manage your money — resulting in a lower insurance score.

Need some Home Owner 101? Any time is a good time to bone up on basic home maintenance skills.

5. Get organized (de-clutter)

No excuses — that clutter has got to go! Start by creating more storage space so you can stash stuff easily.

At wit’s end for new storage space? You’ve probably got storage solutions you didn’t know you had. Put up a high shelf between the walls of a narrow hallway, and tuck storage in out-of-the-way nooks, such as under-stairs spaces and between wall studs.

If your small home is pinched for space, don’t despair: There’s still room for storage. Shoe organizers ($20) do more than hold shoes — use them to store keys, notepads, and cell phones. At about $300 per drawer, have a cabinetmaker install drawers in the toe kicks of your kitchen cabinets for napkins, cookie sheets, and appliance manuals.

More: Resolution: Put Your House on a Diet

6. Volunteer (support your community)

In a world that often seems topsy-turvy, a little altruism helps restore balance. You can volunteer your time and energy to help others, and at the same time help promote safety and preserve the value of your neighborhood.
A neighborhood watch program fosters a sense of community and helps stop crime. Set up a meeting with neighbors to discuss concerns and priorities. Gather facts to present at the meeting: What kinds of crimes happen nearby? Are there patterns? Ask a local police representative to come to your first meeting to answer questions.
Start a community garden. Bring together neighbors for bonding, eating healthier, and saving on groceries. A 4-by-16-foot raised bed garden plot provides $200-$600 worth of food annually. As the organizer, you can expect to spend 20-30 per month for six months getting your community garden going.

7. Drink less (curb home water use)

Our houses are thirsty. The average household uses about 400 gallons of water each day, or almost $700 per year in water and sewer costs. Making a few simple changes, such as installing EPA-certified WaterSense products, could trim up to $200 from your annual water bill. Add to that energy savings from reduced costs to heat water, and your yearly savings could reach $300 or more per year.
Low-flow showerheads include technology that reduces the amount of flow yet keeps pressure up, resulting in shower streams that are powerful and satisfying. They cost from $10 to $150, and installation is an easy DIY job that takes only minutes.
Replacing your pre-1994, water-guzzling toilet with a low-flow toilet prevents $90 worth of water costs from being flushed away. HE (high-efficiency) toilets use compressed air and electric water pumps to flush with less than 1 gallon of water; older models required up to 8 gallons.

8. Spend more time with family (share home improvement projects)

Spending quality time with your family takes quality planning — but it’s worth the effort. Rally your family around these fun-to-do projects to make every minute count:
Plant a tree. Pile the clan into the family wagon and shop for a tree that’ll become a new member of your family. Have your kids name it and help care for it. You might have to dig the hole, but everyone can take turns adding mulch and watering it. A bonus: planted where its shade will protect your house from summer sun, a $50-$100 tree cuts your yearly energy bill by $100 to $250.
Make a home emergency preparedness kit. Make a scavenger hunt of gathering up all the necessary supplies, such as flashlights, toilet paper, and duct tape, and assemble your kit during an evening together. It’s a good, non-scary way to teach small children about what to do if there’s an emergency.

9. Get fit (exercise your DIY skills)

Looking to trim a little of the old spare tire? Routine home maintenance and repair is a double win — you’ll burn calories while keeping your house in tip-top shape. Try these essential fix-ups and improvements from CalorieLab:
Building a fence: 340 calories per hour
Caulking windows and doors: 280 calories per hour
Cleaning rain gutters: 272 calories per hour
Installing ceramic tile: 238 calories per hour
Interior painting: 136 calories per hour
Chopping firewood: 340 calories per hour
Mowing the lawn: 306 calories per hour
Planting shrubs: 238 calories per hour
General gardening: 204 calories per hour

10. Be less stressed (use maintenance-free materials)

If you want less to worry about, install low-maintenance materials and products designed for durability and long, trouble-free service.
Fiber-cement siding lasts for 50 years or more. It’s weather-proof, and resists dents, fire, insects, and rot. It’s exceptionally stable, even with changes in humidity, so that paint jobs last longer than on wood and wood-fiber siding products.
LED bulbs last a phenomenal 20,000 to 50,000 hours between changes, or about 18 to 46 years when used for 3 hours each day. Although the initial cost is high (about $40 per bulb), LED bulbs pay for themselves in energy savings in about 10 years.
Classic ceramic tile comes in many colors and textures, but at its heart it’s incredibly tough, stain-resistant, and impervious to moisture. You can count on ceramic tile’s good looks to last for decades on floors and walls without needing repair or replacement.

Home Inspections give Sense of Security

Monday, June 14th, 2010

When buying a home, an inspection is a critical step when deciding if a home is right for you. A home inspection will give you a sense of security by knowing exactly what you are getting in a home, both good and bad. This is not to say that, as the buyer, you should complain about the pink fuzzy wall paper in the master bathroom or the orange shag carpet. The issues looked for in an inspection include those that are health and safety concerns, or major repairs.

Home inspections require a professional – not your best friend who once re-did their kitchen. I would recommend an ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) certified inspector to do the job. They’ve gone through training and have to adhere to specific guidelines when performing home inspections.

Here is a short list of things that are of high importance when inspecting a home –

Roof and attic – construction, structure and gutters

Furnace and Air Conditioner units – age, condition, lifespan expectancy

Structural – construction of walls, ceiling and foundation

Plumbing – drainage, waste and vent pipes and water heater

Electrical – main panel, circuit breaker and types of wiring

Appliances – dishwasher, smoke detectors and garbage disposal

Again, this is a brief list and a home inspector would know all the specifics and details of what needs to be looked over. The best idea for a buyer is to hire their own home inspector and have the inspection done within a few days of an accepted offer on a house. If safety issues arise, or major repairs are needed, the buyer can ask the seller to make the repairs, or the buyer and seller can negotiate the cost of repairs together.

It’s important to remember that no home is perfect and each buyer and seller should expect to have to repair something when purchasing a home. Buyers can also ask sellers for a home warranty to ensure that any major issues will be taken care of, at least for a short period of time.

So even for you do-it-yourselfers, a professional home inspection is highly encouraged when purchasing a home. A home shouldn’t be an impulse buy and should be handled by taking each necessary step to ensure a quality and comfortable purchase.

Fresh Scents for a Fast Home Sale

Monday, May 10th, 2010

People selling their home often spend a significant amount of time cleaning and decorating for a showing, making sure everything LOOKS great. But just because they’ve vacuumed up all the dust bunnies and washed all the dishes doesn’t mean there isn’t a lingering odor that could deter a potential buyer from closing.

According to the Sense of Smell Institute, odor recognition is linked to memory and moods. So while a seller cannot make every potential buyer fall in love with a home based on a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie scent that reminds them of grandma, it is sure worth a try.

Here are a few basic tips to keep a home smelling fresh for a showing –
• Take out the trash
• Definitely don’t smoke in your house, but avoid smoking outside the house, as well
• Avoid cooking anything that may leave a lingering smell
• Set up a couple potpourri pots around the house or heat some apple juice in a pot on the stove and throw in apple slices, orange slices, lemon slices or lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg
• Run some lemon wedges down the garbage disposal
• Odor eliminators are good to just cover-up smells, but consider investing in carpet, furniture and drape cleaners
• Burn a candle or use an electric ceramic crock to keep the scent without the flame
• Smear a drop of real vanilla extract on all the light bulbs – this will smells like cookies
• Use a dehumidifier in the basement to eliminate a damp smell
• Open the windows and let the air circulate

These are just a few short suggestions; a detailed list is at the National Realtor Magazine.

Your Realtor, of course, will be more than happy to help you set up a successful home sale. However, these small, often overlooked, details you can do personally are what can really make the difference for a fast home sale.

Nebraska Property Tax – Why is it so High? What are you paying for?

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

One of the biggest concerns for people moving into Nebraska from out of state is the high property taxes. Many current Nebraska residents even consider property taxes a huge burden and the excessive costs are often considered unreasonable.

The biggest question is why? Why are Nebraska’s property taxes so much higher than everywhere else?

Essentially, towns collect most of their operating revenue from property taxes and, therefore, establish a local rate, determining the tax levy.

Just to give you an idea of the Omaha property taxes, a $146,000 home, which was recently sold, will include a yearly payment of $3,258 per year in property taxes. And a $200,000 home in West Omaha has a yearly property tax of $4052.88 attached. In Council Bluffs, Iowa, a similar $200,000 home would cost around $500 less per year in property taxes.

In comparison, a house on the North Fork of Long Island in the Town of Riverhead, priced at $200,000, would have an approximate $3,705 property tax. Meaning, you will pay around $300 less per year in taxes for a home on the coast.

The catch here, however, is that in on Long Island, $200,000 would get you something equivalent to a tool shed. The cost of living is certainly a factor when purchasing a home. You’d have to consider how much more or less the market value of the home is, what your cost of groceries would be and even the possible cost of insurance.

The question of “why?” still remains. Consider the services you receive from the town in which you live. Are you satisfied with the fire department, community colleges, school districts and the work of your town employees? Essentially, this is what your high property taxes pay for.

Create Curb Appeal for a Quick Home Sale

Friday, April 9th, 2010

The warmer weather has finally melted the 46-plus inches of snow and is now exposing the matted-down grass, sand covered driveways, snowplow-mangled curbs and rusted garden decorations.

And if you’re trying to sell your home you may not have even considered the fact that your curb appeal could be driving prospective buyers away; and a touch of Miracle Grow and a pink-flowering bush may increase the chance of selling your home 100-fold.

In all seriousness, you probably need more than flowers to give your house that little extra pizazz to sell, but sprucing up your yard can make all the difference. After all, springtime is a sellers market.

Let’s start with grass –
You first need to start with a consistent effort to cut it – obvious, yes, but difficult for many. If all you have is a push mower and time is an issue, then get little Johnny down the street to do it for $20. Also, mow diagonally and edge the lawn along driveway and sidewalks – this shows you pay attention to small details. Early spring is also a great time to begin the first round of fertilization and to begin weed prevention.

Yard Debris –
Don’t let overgrown vegetation block the windows or path to the entrance. By cutting bushes and tree limbs and cleaning out all the soggy leaves you can showcase the exterior of your home.

Planting –
Though perennials are best planted in May through June, it’s never too early to start planning. When the ground is warm enough, start planning by removing large rocks, old roots and dead plant material from your garden. Then loosen the soil and add two to three inches of well-composted organic matter to get your beds ready for planting. Spring is also a great time to plant rose bushes, berry bushes or fruit trees so they can begin their spring growth.

Driveway and sidewalk repair –
Primarily, you want to start by repairing any cracks or uneven cement that may cause potential buyers to trip as they are coming in for your open house. But small potholes and numerous patchy repair jobs in your driveway won’t flatter the exterior of your home.

If need be, calling a landscaper to improve the appearance of your home is always an option. However, these are just a few easy tips you can do yourself. So grab your kids and some gardening gloves and get your yard in shape for a quick sale!

Realtors – Not Your Typical Salesman

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Many people use the terms Realtor and real estate agent interchangeably, not knowing there is a significant difference between the two.

Realtors are members of The National Association of Realtors, and therefore adhere to its Code of Ethics. Most people are not even aware that such a code exists, and in fact consider Realtors to be glorified used car salesmen who are just trying to sell something. But the importance of The Code of Ethics should not be undermined. It enforces lawful and quality practices that clients consider essential when trusting someone to assume the responsibilities related to buying and selling a home. This is not to say that real estate agents do not strive to observe these same practices, but there is no “higher power” that holds them responsible.

If buyers and sellers know and understand this Code of Ethics, they can better understand their Realtor’s practices and establish trust in the quality work they contend with. Clients can ask their Realtor about the Code of Ethics at any time and failure to comply with the code will result in disciplinary action toward the Realtor.

The seventeen articles in the code were created to ensure that the client’s best interest is at heart in all business dealings either with the client or with real estate agents. Duties to customers and clients include disclosure of any fee or financial benefit from a recommended product or service, integrity when dealing with funds and contracts and honesty with all facts relating to property or transactions.

To the general public, Realtors must maintain equal and professional service despite age, race, religion or handicap and be honest about their knowledge base, consistently striving to keep up-to-date on real estate trends. The code also enforces truthful advertising and representation of themselves and their properties.

Finally, the Realtors have a responsibility to one another, outlined in the code as speaking well of one another, respecting the exclusive representation of brokerage relationships of other Realtors and to mediate financial disagreements.

Take a look at a summary of the code yourself. Everything outlined in this document is most likely what the general public hopes and expects of their Realtor or real estate agent.

Knowing a Realtor is held to these standards should give clients a sense of security as they make important decisions concerning their home; and trusting in a Realtor – in their guidance and value of moral law – buyers and sellers should truly know they are in good hands.