Author: C21Discovery Guest Blogger

Closing on a home? Don’t Forget the Insurance

By Michael Williams
April 29, 2016

Congratulations! You found your clients perfect dream home. You used your years of experience, professional expertise and pockets full of patience to satisfy every one of their unique requests. So, why it is still stuck in escrow? Your client is saying it’s that pesky insurance agent!

InsuranceBlogimage1… But the real holdup might be that “perfect home”….

Below is a 3 part checklist that will help you identify potential hang-ups with your client’s home insurance.­­

1.      Location, Location, Location.
It’s not just important to REALTORS®. Insurance companies have three main location related exposures that can complicate securing a policy. Distance from Brush, proximity to Coastline or placement in a Flood Zone.

  • In wonderfully sunny Southern California, we don’t have to worry too much about wind or hail, but we can never forget about brush. A good rule of thumb is to use an online map service such as Google or Bing and measure the distance from open land to the home. A standard acceptable measurement for brush exposure is 1500 ft.
  • For our lucky friends on the coast, the average rule is 500 ft from the shore. Again, the best course of action here is to measure with an online map.
  • Finally, the wild card is a Flood Zone. Because you often cannot visually predict where a flood zone will be, a helpful site is FEMA’s mapping tool. Simply type in the address and it will return a flood zone score.

2.      The claim history matters: both buyers and the home.
This section often surprises many people. But the ability to insure the home is based off the loss history of both the buyer and the home itself. Insurance companies split blame for losses between the owner of the home and the structure itself. For example, when a water loss occurs, a point is assigned to the address and the owners. Getting as complete of a disclosure list as possible can help determine whether that home has a history of losses. In the state of California, water losses are the number one cause of loss and it is now almost universal for preferred market insurers to deny a home because of 2 or more water losses. If this is the case you can assume that insurance will double in cost and take a minimum of one week to place.

3. Good Bones vs. New Homes.
Age of the house is big player in acceptability. Some buyers want new construction and that’s great! But, others want classic charm. That beautiful home built in the 1920’s comes with its own host of potential hiccups. Many insurance companies won’t even write a home built prior to 1950. But the ones that do, require proof of complete upgrades to plumbing, heating, wiring and roofing. And it’s not just the cute cottage that could be a problem. Many Carriers are looking for upgrades on any home older than 20 years! So find out if the bones of that house beyond their useful life.

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As every realtor knows, no two purchases are the same. And while the client should always get the house they want, it’s best to build in that little bit of extra time should one of the items above be a potential problem. Simply call the insurance agent a bit early. A little planning can make for a much smoother escrow.

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About the Author: Michael Williams is Chief Operating Officer at Williams Insurance Company in Fullerton, CA. If you would like more information about insuring a home please call him at 714.526.5588 or visit the website at www.williamsinsurancefullerton.com

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Unique Benefits of a Property Management Company

By Blake Borowski
March 8, 2016

Owning a rental property and being the landlord comes with a unique and challenging opportunity. Some individuals might decide to give the landlord responsibility at least one try, and while it might work for them, there are some benefits that a property management company can provide that a landlord lacks.

HouseinHands

Numerous Rental Payment Options

Although it is possible for landlords to set up numerous payment options, it makes sense for property management companies to do so as they will end up accommodating a large number of tenants. For instance, while most landlords accept money orders and checks, property managers are accustomed to accepting online payments and direct deposits through a bank or credit union.

An Emergency Line

The ability for maintenance requests to be made in an online form is unique, but a special line for emergency maintenance or repairs is highly valuable and a great way to provide tenant solutions.

Established Vendors

As a landlord that manages one or two properties, it is just not possible for a vendor to make it their top priority to provide your properties with maintenance and repairs. However, some property management companies have plenty of work and use the same vendors on just about every occasion.

A Systematic Approach

Landlords that are still learning how to manage their property will likely be taking each day and responsibility one step at a time. However, property managers have a systematic approach to managing a property, which means your property will get managed in an effective manner, no matter what.

BlakeBorowski

About the Author: Blake Borowski is the Founder of White Glove Property Management in Fullerton, CA. If you would like more information about the unique benefits of using a property management company call him at 714.515.3395 or visit the website www.whiteglovepm.com.

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Know Your Negotiation: Tips for Real Estate Agents

By Guest Blogger
March 1, 2016
This was originally published on the official blog of Century 21® on February 17, 2016*

NegotiationSkills

One of the many reasons a home buyer or seller turns to you, the real estate agent, is for negotiation help. They might lack experience and feel insecure when it comes time to talk about money and their potential purchase or sale. While you may have already brushed up on some tactics, realize that negotiating in real estate presents a unique situation. Here are some tips that may help.

Check Your Emotions, Not Theirs
Common advice recommends negotiators to remain unbiased and objective — strong emotions can potentially hurt your deal. However, as a real estate agent, it’s important to remember that emotions do play a part in your business. A home may often be the largest investment in a client’s life. Acknowledge and understand that clients might have a lot at stake, while continuing to remain unemotional during negotiation. Your clients may appreciate that you understand their point of view while maintaining a professional demeanor.

Prepare Your Clients
Whether your clients are the ones buying or the ones selling, get them up to speed on how a typical negotiation occurs. Although you may be responsible for leading the process, you can still make your client feel like a participant. Lay out the procedural steps for them, so there are no surprises or unexpected obstacles. Answer as many questions as possible beforehand so they don’t feel out of the loop or overwhelmed when the negotiation occurs.

Manage Expectations
While you may have good intentions to get your client the best deal possible, don’t promise it. After all, you can’t. A negotiation is a live, working discussion that can take many turns. Make sure your clients understand the worst case scenario by talking to them beforehand about all potential outcomes. As mentioned before, buying or selling a home may be an emotional endeavor for them. Mentally preparing them for less than favorable outcomes takes the shock out of the situation and may reduce mental stress.

Discuss Alternatives
The “worst case scenario” conversation shouldn’t end with a simple acknowledgment of potential outcomes. Create a plan of action just in case those outcomes are realized. What would your client like to do if the buyer won’t budge on an asking price? What would the buyer like to do with certain home inspection results? Deciding on an action beforehand can reduce the time and effort of decision making in the moment, which may lead to more objective, unemotional choices.

Report Facts Only
Since it’s your job to remain detached during this process, make sure you remain that way when reporting negotiation outcomes to your client. If a seller is angered by an asking price, but accepts it anyway, you may want to leave out their emotional response when reporting the offer acceptance. Their reaction is unnecessary to the business transaction, and can only add superfluous feelings of attachment to the process.

Negotiating in real estate can be a high stakes game, but these tips may help you to remain calm while you work out the best deal for your client.

*Article reprinted with permission of Century 21 Real Estate LLC.

Escrow and How It Works

By Nancy Mattaliano-Castaneda
February 2, 2016

Buying a home is a huge undertaking and requires a good understanding of the process. In California, once a buyer and seller agree to the terms of the sale the next step is to open escrow. First time buyers or people who have not bought or sold a home in awhile may not know what escrow is.

Couple taking a break from unpacking

Here is a brief overview of what escrow is and how it works.

What is Escrow?

Escrow is a process that protects the interest of all parties in a real estate transaction, ensuring that all the conditions of the sale have been met before property and money change hands.

Why Do I Need One?

You need escrow to ensure that all parties have complied with the escrow instructions before any funds are disbursed or title is transferred. The escrow company has an obligation to safeguard the funds and/or documents while they are in the officer’s possession and to disburse funds and/or convey title only when all parties have met the terms of the escrow instructions.

What is the Escrow process?

Once a purchase contract has been negotiated to the satisfaction of both the seller and buyer, a legible fully-signed copy is forwarded to the escrow company. The escrow officer will then prepare supplemental instructions and place the earnest money deposit into a trust account. The buyer and seller can move forward separately, but simultaneously, in obtaining inspections, reports, loan commitments, funds, deeds and many other items using escrow as the central depositing point.

Who to Contact with Questions:

Your REALTOR® will answer questions about your purchase contract agreement. Your loan officer will answer all questions about your loan status, conditions of your loan and the loan process. Your escrow officer will help or direct you with any other questions. A good escrow officer understands you will have questions and should be willing to answer them or direct you to the person who can.

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About the Author: Nancy Mattaliano-Castaneda is an Escrow Officer at Equity Escrow Group, Ltd. in Fullerton, California. For more information about Equity Escrow Group, Ltd. call 714.626.2095 or visit the website www.equityescrow.net.

Investing In Your Resale by Staging Your Home

By Mary Sauer of Modernize
December 8, 2015

In most regions of the country, it is a seller’s market. In previous years, sellers were doing just about anything they could to get an offer—sometimes even selling their home for less than it was worth. Now things have turned around and homes are selling within days of going on the market. It is definitely a new time for real estate, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. But when it is a seller’s market, that doesn’t mean you can relax your selling strategies. Instead, it is vital you take advantage of the high demand for homes by doing everything possible to attract the highest offer on your home. One way this can be done is by using a professional stager to prepare your home for photos and staging.

Via Modernize

Via Modernize

What is Home Staging?

There are many ways to invest in the resale of your home, but one strategy is to stage your home with the help of a professional. While most homeowners know to declutter their home or move larger items to storage, many do not have the design knowledge it takes to stage their home without assistance. This is where a professional home stage becomes incredibly valuable to the home selling process. A professional home stager is similar to an interior designer, except they specialize in creating a simple space where potential buyers can imagine their own furniture and belongings.

How do I Find a Home Stager?

If you are looking for a professional home stager, asking for a recommendation from your realtor is a great place to start. Many realtors, including Century21, offer home staging services to their clients. Their experiences realtors can work with you to create a beautiful and simple space before you place it for sale.

If your realtor does not offer specialized home staging services, they will most likely be able to recommend a professional they trust to stage your home. The average home staging service costs $625, and this number can vary greatly based on the size of your home and how much work must be done to prepare your home for walk-throughs.

Via Modernize

Via Modernize

Is Home Staging Really Worth it?

In some cases, homeowners wonder if home staging really worth the extra expense. The truth is, staging is vital to attracting the right buyer to your home. According to buyers surveyed by Realtor.com, as many as 46 percent of families who first look at homes online are more likely to schedule a walk through if the pictures are staged. In addition to this, 81 percent of buyers revealed they had a much easier time imagining their family and their belongings in a home when it had been professionally staged.

Getting buyers in the door and peaking their interest aren’t the only benefits to home staging—it also seems to increase the dollar amount of offers. The average increase in selling price is between 1 and 5 percent, which greatly exceeds the money spent on staging.

At Modernize, we know how small changes can make a big impact on the appearance of your home. Because of this, we encourage our readers who are selling their homes to consider working with a professional home stager who can help them get more potential buyers in the door and increase the selling price of their homes.

About the Author: Mary Sauer is our Guest Blogger who works at Modernize. Modernize is where you come to get inspired, see what’s possible, and connect with a professional who will make your dream home a reality.

How to Stage Your House Over the Holidays

By Guest Blogger
November 11, 2015
This was originally published on the official blog of Century 21® on November 3, 2015 *

Selling your home during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to hold back on the festivities. Let your home shine while attracting buyers during the most wonderful time of the year with these seasonal touches.

HolidayStagingBlogPic

Deck the halls:

Don’t let selling your home stop you from spreading the holiday cheer. Subtle hints like a welcoming evergreen wreath at the front door, mulled cider brewing on the stovetop or hand-sewn stockings hanging from the fireplace awning gives the space a jolt of spirit.

Trim the tree:

Usually the most eye-catching piece of the living room during the holiday season, make sure your spruced-up Christmas tree matches the aesthetic you want to sell to potential buyers. If your living room has a clean-cut scheme with ivories and whites, for example, make sure your baubles fall under the same color palette.

Tone it down:

As tempting as it is to blow up some lawn ornaments to celebrate the season, it’s best to go for a minimalist approach during this crucial selling time. Neatly highlight the defining elements of your home’s exterior with snow-white lights or hang a fresh garland with bright red bows from your rooftop or mailbox.

Warm up:

Before open houses, make sure your home feels as cozy as possible. Now’s the perfect time to light a fire in your fireplace and warm up your home. If your home is lacking the fiery centerpiece, turning up the thermostat to a comfortably toasty level gives potential buyers extra incentive to linger for a while to escape the brutal cold outside—and allows them to fully digest the best qualities of your home.

Tune up:

Fill up the hallways with contemporary holiday classics while potential buyers are roaming the halls. Make a mix of festive favorites: go old-school with Frank Sinatra’s “White Christmas” or Natalie Cole’s take on “The Christmas Song”…or just play Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas (Is You)” on a loop.

Feed the masses:

The best way to make somebody feel at home—potentially at their future home—is through their stomach. Whip up some holiday-themed cookies and mocktails to serve during your open house; the extra hint of hospitality will keep you in the mind of prospective buyers even after the last present is unwrapped during the holidays.

*Article reprinted with permission of Century 21 Real Estate LLC.

5 Places You Forgot Potential Buyers Will Check

By Guest Blogger
October 15, 2015
This was originally published on the official blog of Century 21® on October 14, 2015 *

An open house is a crucial component of the home sale process. Start with these tips for staging an open house, but don’t stop there. Potential buyers are likely to inspect all areas of the house. Yes, even your “junk drawer” and closets. Here’s a list of five often forgotten places that potential homeowners may check.

C21_Oct_Batch1_Blog-Closet

The sides of your house

When you spruce up your front yard and backyard, pay attention the sides of your home as well. Potential buyers will likely look at the exterior of your house from all angles. One unkempt side may turn them off from the rest of the home. Make sure the paint and landscaping is in good condition from all angles.

Inside your closets

Don’t stuff everything in your closets and hope no one will open them. Even if the potential buyers aren’t fashionistas, they may still care about closet space. Show it off by organizing it. You wouldn’t want a potential buyer to open a closet just to find a hodgepodge of the belongings you stashed there.

Under your bed

Removing the bulk of storage from your closets is a great way to make closet space appear bigger, but that doesn’t mean your stuff should be shoved under the bed. Not only is it an eyesore, but the potential homebuyer might also see it as a sign that there is not enough storage space. Your best bet is to invest in temporary external storage space so that your open house has all the space it needs.

Inside the shower

Chances are no one wants a small, cramped bathroom. Create storage solutions that may make your space appear bigger and brighter to buyers. For example, stash toiletries and cleaning supplies in a separate closet, a dresser, or under the sink.

Your drawers and cabinets

Potential buyers will probably open drawers and cabinets. Spend time getting inspired by these home organizers. Think about all of the details like your spice rack, whether your dishes match, and finally taming your “junk drawer.” In need of more inspiration? Our Pins may help!

Go the extra mile, and don’t get caught off guard. You wouldn’t want to scream a slow motion “nooooo” as a potential buyer innocently reaches to open a closet.

*Article reprinted with permission of Century 21 Real Estate LLC.

Dealing With Multiple Offers

By Jim Stearman, Attorney at Law
August 27, 2015

In a hot real estate market, it is not uncommon for multiple offers to flood into the listing agent’s inbox. Effectively dealing with multiple offers is the sign of a good agent who is looking out for the best interests of his or her sellers. When you receive multiple offers, it is wise to get your manager involved. If a mistake is made, your clients may be put in the position of selling their house twice so you should take the extra step of protecting you and your clients before they start making phone calls to you to find out what went wrong.

By making a counter offer to all offers received, accusations of discrimination or unfairness can be avoided. The sellers, of course, have the option of accepting one of the offers or negotiating with only one or two of the buyers but, in most cases, issuing a counter offer to all prospective purchasers will usually result in a better price for the sellers.

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To avoid selling the house twice, it is recommended that you use C.A.R. Form SMCO, Seller Multiple Counter Offer, when counter offers are going to be made to multiple offers. This form contains the necessary language to protect the sellers by informing the buyer that sellers are making multiple counter offers to other prospective buyers and that certain conditions must be met by the buyers for the counter offer to be deemed accepted. Many agents feel that you should not counter back on price but, instead, should ask all buyers to bring back their “best offer”. At that point, the sellers would hopefully be in a position to accept at least one of the multiple counteroffers. You can always negotiate upon terms other than price but you may lose buyers if your sellers counter with another price in response to the buyer’s “best offer” price.

When you’re representing the sellers of a home that will likely receive multiple offers, you can really help them out by getting them ready to make a good decision. Some of the things that could help them would be a review of their financial situation and to find out what is important to them. It could be that your clients would rather receive a lower offer with no contingencies that will close quicker than a higher priced offer that won’t close for several months. Just remember to tell your clients that you are there to guide them through the process and to help them get the result that is best for them but that they are the ones that will ultimately make the decision on which offer is best for their needs.

DISCLAIMER: This article has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information in this article is not legal advice. Since legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation, please contact an attorney for a consultation on your matter if you have any questions.

About the author: Jim Stearman is an attorney in North Orange County, California with over 35 years of experience. His areas of expertise include real estate transactions, general civil law disputes, business and commercial transactions, partnership law, corporate law and enforcement of judgments and collections. For more information about Mr. Stearman please visit his website www.jamesstearmanlaw.com.

Busted: Energy Saving Myths

By Courtney Lynch of New American Funding*
August 19, 2015
Originally Published on August 18, 2015

Know which energy savings tips are myths before deciding to implement them. Everyone wants to save money on their heating and cooling bill. And with the emphasis on going green, there is a wealth of information out there that suggests various ways to cut down on energy use. However, some of those tips might not always provide the best solution for decreasing overall energy consumption.

If you have been looking to cut down your monthly energy bill, it is especially useful to also know which energy saving tips can actually work against you in addition to knowing how you can effectively conserve more energy throughout the entire year.

Here are some myths about energy-efficiency that actually cost you more:

Switching your HVAC system off while out

According to Sears Heating and Cooling, turning your HVAC system off while you are at work only to come home and blast the AC to try and bring the temperature down can actually cost you more money than just leaving the temperature at 75 degrees throughout the day.

Instead, change the thermostat a few degrees in favor of the weather to help cut down on the energy used without shutting the system off.

Keeping lights on rather than turning them on and off

While small changes in your indoor temperature are more conducive to saving energy than turning your system off and on whenever you leave and come back, leaving a lamp on all day is not energy efficient. Energy Egg, an energy-efficiency company, noted it is better to only use lamps when you need them because it does not require any extra energy to turn them on again. Leaving them on will continue to drain power and leave you with a more substantial bill.

Turn off electronics

Simply switching off your electronic devices does not mean they will stop using energy. They will continue to consume energy while still plugged into the outlet.

Consider unplugging your devices to ensure the discontinue using energy. This will decrease your monthly energy bill.

Investing in appliance updates

While Energy Star appliances help cut down on overall energy consumption, your old system might also be sufficient if properly maintained, according to Sears Heating and Cooling. Sometimes new HVAC systems can actually use a substantial amount of power.

If your old system cannot be salvaged, it is likely worthwhile to replace. However, if it still works well and just needs a tune up don’t invest in an expensive new system.

Closing HVAC system air vents

Another common misconception is closing the air vents of your HVAC unit will help improve energy-efficiency. However, this will actually force the system to work harder and drive up your energy bill.

Make sure you always keep vents open and don’t allow anything to block them while they are operating.

There are plenty of ways to help lower the cost of your monthly energy bill and become a little more eco-friendly. However, always do a little research beforehand to ensure you don’t wind up paying more.

*Article reprinted with permission from New American Funding. Licensed by the California Department of Business Oversight under the Residential Mortgage Lending Act – License #4131117 Broker Solutions Inc. dba New American Funding (NMLS #6606) Corporate Office is located at 14511 Myford Road, Suite 100, Tustin, CA 92780. 800.450.2010

Equal_Housing_OpportunityNAFlogoCorpNMLS#

 

 

For more information about loan options contact
Chris Smith NMLS# 253394 at Chris.Smith@nafinc.com
Bill FitzMaurice NMLS# 290216 Bill.Fitzmaurice@nafinc.com

 

Creatively Saving For A Down Payment For Your First Home

By Shantell Lorraine Nicole Russell of New American Funding*
June 8, 2015
Originally Published on June 4, 2015

moneyNAFblogRental rates are quickly rising making it more difficult to continue affording an apartment. While purchasing a home might seem like a less expensive option, saving for a down payment on a house is likely one of the more difficult aspects of becoming a home owner. One of the common standards for a down payment is 20 percent of the total value of the home. This can add up quickly and between mountains of student debt and the entry level job market, setting aside funds can be a challenge. However, with more lenient lending standards and a few tricks, you can start saving and become one step closer to owning a home of your own.

Understand the importance of a down payment
Before you begin planning to save up some extra cash, know how a down payment impacts your ability to become a homeowner. A down payment is the money you put toward a home right away. Zillow noted that the amount you can contribute upfront can impact the type of home mortgage you qualify for and ultimately how much house you can afford. In addition, your credit score and income also contribute to the home loan you ultimately receive.

This can help you determine how much you want to save for your future home. If you would like to purchase a more expensive home, but do not have the credit score or annual income to support higher monthly mortgage payments, providing a larger down payment can help ensure you still can afford a home more congruent to your preferences. Additionally, paying less than 20 percent of the total value of the home may mean that you need to also pay mortgage insurance on a regular basis.

Mortgage insurance is a way to back up a loan in case you are unable to make payments due to your financial circumstances.

Options for low down payments
If you are interested in acquiring a home without spending a great deal of money up front, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, government-backed lenders, both offer loans with 3 percent down payment options.

First-time homebuyers may qualify for these affordable options depending on their ability to provide specific information and meet certain standards to avoid underwriting mortgages. For example, Freddie Mac mandates that applicants can cover the closing costs as well as the full down payment agreement. Additionally, homebuyers must enroll in a borrower education program similar to the one offered by Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae also implemented similar requirements to combat lending money to an unsuitable candidate who is unable to afford a home.

Techniques for saving money 
After deciding how much money you wish to save for a down payment, USA Today recommended setting up automatic contributions to your savings account every pay period. This ensures that you are not tempted to dip into your pot and spend any of your money before putting it into your savings account. In addition, automatically sending money to your savings account is a great idea as long as you have properly budgeted for a specific amount to be contributed regularly.

Developing an adjusted budget to accommodate your new efforts is an important step to the process. Decide how much money you need for your expenses, like rent, bills, food and any debt. Then allot additional money for recreational spending.

The Daily Finance also noted it might be a smart idea to keep your savings safely stored away somewhere that it is more difficult for you to access. Consider starting a high-yield savings account or CD.

Know where to make cuts
There are a number of frivolous expenses that can add up and prevent you from saving for a down payment on a house. Below are some extra expenses you might consider reducing to help increase your savings:

  • Making daily coffee shop runs
  • Eating out regularly
  • Going out to the bars
  • Going to the movies
  • Taking weekend trips
  • Having regular manicures or pedicures
  • Attending concerts, plays and other performances


Add additional income

If you are ready to purchase your first home as soon as possible, you may want to increase your annual income. Consider picking up a weekend job or increasing your overtime hours at your current job. Automatically put all extra incoming money into your savings account to help quicken the growth of your future down payment. Think about doing a little freelance work to increase your total income as well.

Additionally, if you receive any extra cash, such as a tax return or birthday money from a family member, contribute that toward your savings. Money Manifesto recommended pretending that this extra income does not exist and automatically depositing the extra funds to help with your down payment fund.

Becoming a homeowner is a substantial milestone. Start saving for your down payment if you are interested in making the step toward owning your very own property.

*Article reprinted with permission from New American Funding. Licensed by the California Department of Business Oversight under the Residential Mortgage Lending Act – License #4131117 Broker Solutions Inc. dba New American Funding (NMLS #6606) Corporate Office is located at 14511 Myford Road, Suite 100, Tustin, CA 92780. 800.450.2010

Equal_Housing_OpportunityNAFlogoCorpNMLS#

For more information about loan options contact
Chris Smith NMLS# 253394 at Chris.Smith@nafinc.com
Bill FitzMaurice NMLS# 290216 Bill.Fitzmaurice@nafinc.com