The Consumer’s Guide to Hiring an Amazing Real Estate Agent

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When you’re buying or selling a home, it’s crucial to work with a qualified real estate agent. Not just a professional, but an amazing agent and a market expert. So how do you ensure you’re hiring an amazing real estate agent?

There are currently more than two million real estate professionals in North America.1,2 With so many options to choose from, how does a prospective home buyer or seller choose the right agent or broker? According to the National Association of Realtors®, trust and reputation are the top deciding factors consumers use when hiring an agent.3

But how do you measure trust and reputation … and what criteria can be used to help you make your decision?

In this guide, we’ve outlined the top attributes that amazing agents possess, as well as the questions you can ask to make sure you’re working with the right market expert to achieve your real estate goals.

5 ATTRIBUTES OF AN AMAZING AGENT

Not all real estate professionals are the same. Following are five key attributes of amazing agents to help you understand what makes top agents and market experts stand apart from the competition:

1. A Pricing Specialist: For buyers, amazing agents have a strong understanding of market trends to help you identify and secure a deal to ensure you get the home you want, within your desired budget, and at a reasonable price. For sellers, market experts have experience pricing homes optimally for the market, helping you sell for your desired price, and avoid costs like additional mortgage and utility payments.  

Takeaway: Whether buying or selling a home, pricing can be tricky. Market experts can help navigate best-possible pricing strategies, and also secure the home you want within your budget.

2. An Effective Time Manager: The average agent may not be utilizing the latest tools and technology to make the transaction easier and more cost effective for you. Market experts have tools and strategies at their disposal to minimize the amount of time you spend on the process. For sellers, they can also ensure you only deal with qualified buyers, not “window shoppers” who waste your time. For buyers, a market expert knows how to prioritize your needs and wants to find you the ideal home within your budget, without wasting your time on houses that aren’t a fit or are likely turn up major issues in an inspection.

Takeaway: Even a well-intentioned agent may not have the skills, tools or technology to make the experience easy for you. There are lots of hidden activities that may take up unexpected time, and a market expert will save you time and energy.

3. A Market Insider: While most agents can pull market stats about a neighborhood, community or city, they may not understand important trends or developments that would affect your transaction. Market experts live and breathe local real estate and know the trigger points for buying and selling in your market. We also stay current on effective marketing and negotiation practices, resulting in our track record of success.

Takeaway: An experienced real estate agent is often the best source of information about a city, neighborhood, or even street … we’re literally conducting market research every day.

4. A Strong Negotiator: Amazing agents truly set themselves apart in their ability to negotiate. Real estate negotiations take skill, experience and a knowledge of how to fight for your client’s best interests. While any agent can enter negotiations to buy or sell a home, experienced Realtors understand what to do before entering negotiations (establishing the upper hand), as well as during the process (when to offer or accept concessions) in order to set up the best outcome to represent your interests.

Takeaway: Working with a market expert will help ensure you get the best deal on your terms, not just the fastest deal.

5. An Effective Closer: Closing a deal fast is often a good thing. However, top real estate professionals know how to not only achieve your real estate goals quickly, but in the right way to avoid pitfalls. Just like negotiations, the paperwork and process of closing a real estate transaction are complicated. Market experts have a strong understanding of the contracts, timelines, clauses and contingencies within the closing process.

Takeaway: Real estate transactions often involve a significant investment, so even a small mistake can mean serious trouble. With that in mind, it’s best to work with a true market expert.

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT

The first step would be to “shop around.” Many people work with the first agent they come across without a firm understanding of their level of experience or education. It’s always a good idea to interview a number of agents before selecting one. If you’ve gotten referrals from people you trust, then you may only need to interview 2-3 agents.

However, it can be tough to know what to ask in the interview process. Here are some questions that can help you qualify the best agent to help you achieve your real estate goals:

1.     Can you send me some information about yourself? Look for professionalism and consistency. What are their accomplishments? See how they approach their work. If they’re a newer agent, that’s ok, ask about their specialized training, previous relevant work accomplishments, and their team’s dynamic and accomplishments.

2.     How long have you been in real estate? While longevity can be important, don’t be fooled by just sticking with the status quo.  It is more important to be up-to-date.  Also, consider the quality of transactions they have closed or been involved in.  So feel free to also ask: “What’s your track record?”

3.     What will you do to keep me informed? Will the agent be able to meet your expectations? Determine how much communication you want, and then find an agent who will give you the attention and time you deserve.

4.     Can you provide me with further resources I may need? From market reports and pricing trends to lenders, inspectors, and reference materials on school performance and crime statistics, top agents should have resources at their disposal … or know where to find them.

5.     Seller only: Can you share with me your plan to market my property? Many agents will simply put your home in the MLS and wait for it to sell. An amazing agent should have a detailed plan of how to get your home exposure on social media, to their local networks, and more.

GET STARTED

Now that you’re armed with the 5 Attributes of Amazing Agents and the Top Questions to ensure you work with the best possible real estate agent, you’re ready to start interviewing agents.

We’d love an opportunity to win your business. Schedule a free consultation with us to find out how true market experts can help you achieve your real estate goals!

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Sources:

  1. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/field-guides/field-guide-to-quick-real-estate-statistics
  2. Financial Post – http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/canada-housing-bubble-agents/wcm/b49d4e3a-bd8d-4d1c-9566-bd3d80c8e23a
  3. National Association of REALTORS –https://www.nar.realtor/reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers

5 Reasons to Sell Before the Selling Season Picks Up

A common thought in real estate is never list your home in the winter offseason. Perpetuated by industry experts, agents and repeat sellers alike, this saying encourages many would-be sellers to wait until the spring peak to list their homes. However, studies show that homes listed in the winter offseason not only sell faster than those in the spring, but sellers also net more above asking price at this time.1 Don’t wait until spring to sell. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, here are five reasons to list now.

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1.    Take advantage of low inventory. Since most sellers are waiting until spring to list, local inventory falls during the offseason. However, there are still motivated buyers who are ready to buy now and don’t want to wait that long to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time.”2 While you’ll likely have fewer showings in the offseason, buyers who do visit will be more serious about writing an offer. As a result, your home will likely sell faster than it would have during the peak season.

2.    Set a higher listing price. Homes sold during the offseason sell at a higher price, on average, than those sold during the spring and summer peak. There are many reasons for this. First, motivated buyers are willing to pay closer to the asking price for a home. Second, homes are more likely to be priced right and reflect the economics of not only the local market, but the neighborhood as well.

3.    You’ll receive more attention. While I always strive to give you the personal attention you deserve, when you list during the offseason, I’m able to work more closely with you to ensure your home is prepared for its debut on the market. We can also take more time to answer your questions, address your concerns and prepare you and your home for the sale.

Additionally, if you’d like to hire a tradesperson to handle routine maintenance or undertake a minor home renovation before you list, you may be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling and cheaper rates. Many of these professionals experience a winter offseason, and will be able to focus their time and attention on you and your project.

4.    Easier to maintain curb appeal. Curb appeal sets the stage for what interested buyers can expect when they step foot in the home during a showing or open house. If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, you may exhaust your time your energy maintaining a lush landscape that will attract potential buyers and set your home apart from other similar homes in the area.

The offseason eliminates the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect front landscape. Since most grass, shrubs and plants go dormant at this time of year, you’ll have less to maintain.  Those of us who live in a milder climate, may not have to mow as often, if at all. It’s still important to ensure your exterior appears well-tended, so make sure your walkway and front porch remains free of leaves and debris.

5.    Tap into the life changes of buyers. Many buyers receive employee raises and bonuses at the end of the year. If they’ve been saving to buy a home, this extra money may allow them to reach their goal for a down payment and put them on the path to becoming a homeowner. Additionally, companies often hire new employees and relocate current ones during the first quarter of the year, creating a strong demand for housing. If you live in an area that’s home to a large company or has a strong corporate presence, this may be the perfect time to list.

If you’re thinking of selling, contact me! I’d love to help you position your home to sell in our market.

Sources:  1. Time, October 30, 2015   2. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Military Relocation Professional (MRP) Certification

I am happy to announce I have been awarded the nationally recognized Military Relocation Professional Certification.  The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) awards the MRP certification to Realtors® who help military personnel, Veterans and their families sell their homes and to find housing that lets them make the best use of their benefits and serves the unique needs of military life.mrp_logo

When military staff and their families relocate, the services of a real estate professional who understands their needs and timetables can make the transfer easier, faster and less stressful.  Realtors® who earn this certification know to work with active duty military buyers and sellers, as well as Veterans.  

The certification provides NAR’s members with resources to accommodate current and former military service members at any stage of their military career.  “Service members may only have a couple of days to view properties and make an offer, and others might be deployed at the time and need someone who can represent them while they’re away. Working with a Realtor® who understands the singular complications that arise with military service can help make the home buying process simpler, faster and less stressful,” said National Association of Realtors® President Tom Salomone,  broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida. “The MRP certification lets home buyers and sellers know that a Realtor® knows the ins and outs of military housing benefits, such as zero-down payment loans, and the specific needs service members and veterans have when searching for their new home.”  

Click here for more info  MRP BROCHURE, then Contact me to help you.

 

8 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

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The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds, unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to-person scams. By the end of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to the tune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to have gone up in 2016.

Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for your credit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how to protect yourself from the eight most common scams.

Big Data Breeds Data Breaches

Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it’s a bonanza of consumer information to use to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle in the chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company’s cyber-security. According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during the holidays.” In fact, 25% more consumers were affected by identity theft during the holidays in 2015 than in 2014!

The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases. According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay with cash. If you’re part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card. You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breach occurs or fraud happens.

Other protections from data breaches include:

  • Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.
  • Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at the retailer.

Package Theft

E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it’s also great for thieves. Last year, Insurancequotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!

To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office or delivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker.  You can also set up tracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.

And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on the front door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to a pricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phone rates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify your identity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found, don’t get involved.

Online Shopping Scams

The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lure shoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items. These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulent transaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information, they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your online bank.

To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you know and trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site for reviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-check that “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent security compliance standards.

Not-So-Cheerful Holiday E-Cards

E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch up with friends and family members. But beware because it’s just as easy for scammers to use fake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are from your hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance, the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you’ve been phished.

The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell of a fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or your friend’s name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number: T1msmith@comcast.net for instance.

Fake Apps

ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail and product apps found in Apple’s App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers’ financial information. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app look real. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it’s legit.

Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details. Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for the following:

  • A nonsensical description
  • No reviews
  • No history of previous versions

Gift Card Scammers

Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they’re bought. After the card has been activated, the scammers drain the card’s funds.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cards displayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make sure the protective scratch-off strip is flawless.

Malicious Charities

During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play on this sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in your e-mail inbox.

There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operating throughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities is through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

Corrupted Wi-Fi

You’ll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you’ll probably have your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful because skimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffee shops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic the signal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.

To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don’t make online purchases with your credit or debit card when you’re in a public space.

Who Should You Turn To?

If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If you don’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone bought an appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then you might not get approved for the loan!

If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair and need help fixing it, please let me know so I can send you a list of qualified professionals.

Buying or Selling outside the Central Alabama area?

If you own property or live outside the Central Alabama area, I can still help you find an agent who can assist you in your home sale–at no additional cost to you.  Also, if you are purchasing a home just about anywhere nationwide, I can assist you in finding a Real Estate Agent who can serve you–at no additional cost to you!

Let me now how I can help you by either Contacting Me OR you may go directly to my National Network to find an available agent to assist you!

Find Your Real Estate Agent with Referz.