The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, H.R. 3370 passed overwhelmingly this week in the U.S. House of Representatives. If signed into law this bill would provide relief from the drastic premium increases that went into effect October 1, 2013 to the National Flood Insurance Program, triggered by the Biggert-Waters reforms to NFIP. H.R. 3370 removes FEMA’s authority to increase premium rates to unjustified levels at the time of a property’s sale, which will stabilize local real estate markets and ensure that both property owners and prospective buyers are treated equally. NAR data shows that through January 2014, four months into the implementation of Biggert-Waters, about 40,000 home sales were estimated to be either delayed or canceled because of increases and confusion over flood insurance rates. We hope the Senate will take action soon and pass this important bill.
United States House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp released a tax reform draft that places limits on the mortgage interest deduction and capital gains, and eliminates the ability to deduct state and local property taxes. The mortgage interest deduction is an essential part of the American tax system, and helps families afford the dream of homeownership.
National Association of REALTORS® President Steve Brown gave the following statement: “NAR supports reforms that promote economic growth, but we strongly oppose severely altering the rules that govern ownership and investment in real estate. Real estate powers almost one-fifth of the U.S. economy, employs more than 17 million Americans, and contributes a quarter of all federal and state revenue and as much as 70 percent of local taxes.”
The current document put out by Representative Camp is a discussion draft, which could eventually turn into legislation. This draft proposes to limit the mortgage interest deduction to $500,000 in 2018 and eliminate the deduction for state and local property taxes. We will keep you up to date as this proposal moves forward.
Even those who have previously resisted learning how to stay up-to-date on all of society’s technological advances are now coming to terms with the fact that technology is quickly taking over most industries. However hesitant you are to try new things, there’s no denying that technology has improved the way business is conducted, and this can be said about real estate transactions, especially. Agents are finding new and improved ways to connect with buyers and sellers and spend more time getting results out in the field while still staying in contact with the office. Here are a few technology tools that every real estate company should utilize if they want to perform at the top of their game.
Mobile Electronic Devices
Computers are great, but they simply aren’t enough anymore and can tie an agent down to their desk for long periods of time. Smartphones, laptops and tablets are essential for communicating with clients and managing listings on the go. These mobile electronic devices allow agents to be more readily available and provide quick responses to any requests. It also eliminates the need for traveling around with mounds of paperwork since any of these gadgets can organize everything in one easily accessible spot.
A picture says a thousand words, and no one should know this better than a top-notch real estate company. Photos are generally the first thing to grab a buyer’s attention, and bad ones have the potential to turn people away before they even take the time to find out anything about a property. MLS listings should come complete with plenty of professional looking photos, and oftentimes, it’s up to the agent to make sure images are up to par. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest in a camera (cell phone cameras won’t cut it) that will capture the features of a home in the best way possible, which can lead to a faster sale.
Cloud storage gives real estate agents the advantage of file sharing and the convenience of locating documents in a timely manner from any remote location. This avoids having to wait on fax machines or emails to obtain the information that’s needed. Cloud storage also provides a safe place for client details to be backed up and stored in the event that a real estate company gets hit with a security breach of some kind.
Digital Signature Mobile App
There are numerous mobile applications that real estate agents can benefit from, but one that offers digital signatures is a must-have. Imagine all the paperwork that has to be completed during a home buying or selling transaction, and then think about all the time that could be saved if clients had the ability to securely sign documents wherever they are without having to schedule more face-time. That’s exactly what digital signature apps do, and your clients are sure to love you for it.
Adorning your fliers, lawn signs and business cards with quick response codes enables potential buyers to be directly linked to a property of interest for further details. In using QR codes, agents are able to track visitors and reach out to them shortly thereafter, making it simple to follow up on hot leads. QR codes generate the most positive feedback when they lead to a website that is informative, engaging and mobile-friendly.
Any real estate company who is looking to be more efficient and rise above their competitors should consider implementing the use of these technology tools.
About the Author
Tiffany Olson is a full-time professional blogger and real estate enthusiast from Northern California. When she’s not blogging you will usually find her traveling, cooking or making art.
The California Association of REALTORS® announced yesterday it received a letter from the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), obtained by Board of Equalization (BOE) member George Runner, clarifying that California families who lost their home in a short sale are not subject to state income tax liability on debt forgiveness “phantom income” they never received in a short sale.
Last month, in a letter to California Senator Barbara Boxer, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognized that the debt written off in a short sale does not constitute recourse debt under California law, and thus does not create so called “cancellation of debt” income to the underwater home seller for federal income tax purposes. Following the IRS’s clarification, C.A.R. sought a similar ruling by the California FTB. Now with the FTB’s clarification, underwater home sellers are also assured that they are not subject to state income tax liability, rescuing tens of thousands distressed home sellers from California tax liability for debt written off by lenders in short sales.
“We are pleased with the recent clarifications issued by the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board, which protect distressed homeowners from debt relief income tax associated with a short sale in California,” said C.A.R. President Kevin Brown. “We would like to thank Senator Boxer and BOE member Runner for their leadership in obtaining this guidance from the IRS and FTB. Distressed California homeowners can now avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy and can opt for a short sale instead, without incurring federal and state tax liability, even after the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 expires at the end of the year.”
This is wonderful news for California families still struggling with an underwater home. We still recommend all REALTORS® encourage their clients to speak with a tax professional who can advise them on their specific situation. This information in no way should be taken as either legal or tax advice.
Advancements in technology are everywhere we look these days, affecting virtually every part of our lives, including home buying. Despite the ups and downs of the economy, it remains the American dream to one day own a home and know that your future is stable. So, the real estate market, in particular, is finding more and more ways to apply innovative technologies to the industry and stay successful while transforming the way realtors are doing business.
Different technologies are allowing real estate agents to become closer than ever to their home buying clients and helping them to better assist buyers in reaching their ultimate goal. Below are some of the ways Shasta County realtors are adopting the latest technology tools and trends in an effort to provide their clients with up-to-date information and quality service.
Smartphones and the growth of mobile applications are making it possible for consumers to get whatever they want on the go. Like many other businesses, Al Naticchioni and the rest of the team at RE/MAX of Redding understand the value in mobile apps and had one developed to offer existing and potential clients the most current details on residential and commercial properties in the Northstate. Available on Google play and in the iTunes App Store, the RE/MAX app presents features that allow users to easily and immediately access listings complete with photos, information on the neighborhood, school district, nearby entertainment and property specifics (i.e. number of bedrooms and bathrooms, amenities, parking, etc.).
Text Message Marketing and 24-Hour Property Information
A lot of house hunters still take it upon themselves to begin a search the old-fashioned way and drive around on their own seeking out “for sale” signs. However, realtors are finding that it isn’t always enough just to have their phone number printed on the sign anymore. Serious buyers often want all the details of a property right away, no matter what time it is, and having to wait to contact or hear back from an agent isn’t always accommodating. Nate Molter from Venture Properties has found a way to stay connected with Northern California buyers through a system that delivers information on a home promptly and then allows him to call them back and set up appointments or answer any questions they may have. Without ever having to leave the car or talk to an agent, those interested in a particular property may call an 800 number or text a code listed on the sign to instantly get all the details about a home for sale.
Good working relationships between a client and their realtor are essential for successful transactions. Redding’s Real Living agents make certain they engage customers from the first moment they land on their website by making use of a live chat feature. This ensures that no website visitor goes unnoticed or neglected and allows them to establish contact in the very beginning when agents are still being chosen. Real Living realtors are given the opportunity to introduce themselves so that all-important relationship can start to develop. Live chats can make a vital first impression of the company and gives agents the chance to respond to leads and questions right away.
There is no doubt that realtors who wish to improve their business will be required to continue to evolve along with technology in order to ensure that they are well-suited enough to meet the needs of their tech savvy clients.
About the Author
Tiffany Olson is a writer/blogger from Northern California who has a special passion for real estate and home related topics. She loves sharing information with the public in the hopes of being helpful and informative. In her down time she loves to make homemade products, travel, and cook.
Real estate investors have to be careful when putting together their list of repairs on a potential re-ha property. In order to be a successful re-habber, you have to know what repairs or improvements will give you the best return on your money. Rookie investors will tend to make a few mistakes when it comes to this. They will make decisions on what improvements to make based on their personal taste… BIG MISTAKE! Remember, you’re not the one that’s going to live there so what you like doesn’t really matter. The last thing you want to do when re-habbing a property is to spend your budget on things that fail to increase the home’s after repaired value [ARV].
As an Orlando real estate agent I’ve re-habbed over three hundred homes in the Orlando area and in that time I’ve learned what repairs not to make when re-habbing a house with the intention of selling it for a profit.
Here’s a list of home renovations that won’t pay back your investment.
Buyers will appreciate a nice looking lawn with trimmed up shrubs and even a few flower beds to make it all pop, but spending too much in the yard isn’t worth it as it won’t increase the value of the home. Not only that, but to some buyers it could be a deal killer, many people want low maintenance and have absolutely no desire to spend hours a week of their time maintaining an elaborate landscape design. It’s best to keep it simple and try to use what’s already there. Sometimes all a yard needs is some TLC to bring it back to life.
Building a Pool
Building a pool on a re-hab property is just crazy in my opinion. Not only is it expensive [about $3.00 per gallon] but building a pool can take months to complete and the worst part is that you won’t even recover half of what you spent to build it. If there’s room for a pool in the backyard, then great! You should mention that in your marketing efforts. Let the new Owner build a pool if they wish, don’t make this your problem. The average buyer actually looks at a pool as being a major expense in addition to being a potential liability if someone gets hurt.
Personalized Colors on the walls
Don’t make the mistake of hiring a designer to create some elaborate color scheme with several different colors on all the walls. Remember, just because you think you have good taste…doesn’t mean that it’s true. As a matter of fact, this could be a huge turn off for a potential buyer. The best thing to do is to stick with either one color throughout the whole house or one color for the trim and another for the walls. When I re-hab a property, I use off-white on the walls and pure white on the trim. This way the house looks clean, elegant and can easily be painted over if the new owner wishes to do so.
Making it the best house on the block
One of the number one rules when it comes to flipping a house, is to find a house that blends in with the rest of the neighborhood. You should never buy the biggest house on the block nor the smallest for that matter, they will typically be harder to sell. The same thinking holds true when making the renovations to a house. It’s best to stick with the norm for the neighborhood and stay away from making big changes to the house that make it vastly different from other properties in the neighborhood. Your goal as an investor is to get the repairs done quickly and get it sold so that you can get to work on the next one.
Expensive fixtures and features
Some investors like to brag about the European tile in the kitchen or the gold plated fixtures in the bathrooms when they’re doing a re-hab. I think this is insane. Not only do these kind of improvements add no value to the home but it may be a turn off to some potential home buyers. It’s always best to stay neutral when it comes to fixtures, tile, lighting, etc. Expensive add-ons are never a good idea and should be an investment made by the new owners.
The best investments that can be made to an investment home is Kitchen and bathroom updating, [when needed] fresh paint and new floors if needed. These items will provide you with the best return on your money and anything else will just be for show and can easily cause you to go over budget if you’re not careful.
About the author: John Conde is an Orlando Realtor/ Investor. He has been buying and selling Orlando real estate since 2004. He is now working as a real estate agent devoted to helping people that are facing foreclosure and financial hardship to find solutions to their real estate needs.
Have you heard from clients who report their flood insurance rates are going up? NAR currently has a call to action to support recently introduced legislation to delay these increases. And on November 19th, NAR past president Moe Veissi testified against further implementation of rate increases until FEMA can report to Congress as required by the Biggert-Waters law.
Biggert-Waters was signed into law last summer and provided a reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years. This was very important to homeowners and REALTORS®, particularly in an area like Sacramento where flood insurance is so important. The numerous lapses in the availability of flood insurance before this caused significant market uncertainty for those buying a home or that live in a flood prone area.
Biggert-Waters also had provisions to attempt to make NFIP more financially stable. Biggert-Waters was not implemented as originally intended, and many homeowners are facing rate increases that were not the target of Congress. Work is now being done to delay the implementation of Biggert-Waters and the flood insurance rate increases. H.R. 1610, Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act was introduced recently which seeks to delay and clarify the increases.
If you have not already done so, and would like to respond to NAR’s call to action supporting H.R. 1610 which would delay the implementation of flood insurance rate hikes, you can click here. Responding takes only moments and is done via email.
No matter how big or small your real estate company is, the role of technology has significantly changed and improved the way we conduct business. As the general rule, for a company to now be successful they must evolve with the times and embrace technological advances and begin to apply them as a strategy towards meeting their ultimate goals. This especially applies to modern communication technology as it relates to both internal and external connections. From advanced business phone systems to the development of mobile applications, companies are using sophisticated, quality equipment and making innovative technology available to their employees, which is boosting efficiency and profits.
Business Phone Systems
Telephones have always been of significant importance to company communications, but business phone systems are able to do much more these days than they ever were before. Employees are no longer sitting at their desks for the duration of an eight-hour work day, so as they continue to stay on the move, the ability to communicate must go with them. Newer phone systems can be connected to mobile devices and tablets so that client and customer calls virtually never go unanswered. Modern business phone systems are also equipped with features that can include call recording, conferencing, fax to email, voicemail transcription and call management.
Business Internet Services
The Internet has a major impact on the way a company functions. It’s used for numerous operations that vary from simple research and emails to more complex things like file sharing and e-commerce. Most businesses can’t even really compete in their market without a strong online presence and user-friendly website. Companies are also seeing the value in internet marketing and social media continue to rise and allow them direct interaction with potential customers. In addition, the Internet can be used to answer questions promptly, hold webinars and provide education on products and services. Business internet providers understand the need for a high-caliber network service that comes with fast speeds and a secure connection.
Videoconferencing has made great strides towards effective business communication. Important business meetings can be conducted involving all the necessary people despite how many miles apart everyone may be. The ability to have this virtual face time with partners and clients has proven to be more valuable and engaging than a typical phone call as well as cuts back on travel expenses immensely. Videoconferencing software frequently allows for meetings to be taped and saved for future trainings and reference points.
Since today’s consumers are constantly looking for products and services while they’re on the move and already out and about running errands, it’s crucial for businesses to keep up and cater to this new way of customer/company interaction. One technique of doing this is to create mobile applications that can be accessed from any compatible mobile device at any time. This allows the customer to quickly find a business’s contact information and have direct and engaging communication with a company representative.
Service providers have made the transition to modern business phone systems and other communication technologies seamless so that business owners can effortlessly begin to reap the rewards of efficient company communication.
About the Author
Tiffany Olson is a full-time blogger from Northern California who writes on real estate, business communication and home improvement. One of her favorite things is to share information and research online in order to help others succeed. When she’s not blogging she loves to read, cook, and make art.
Deciding to finally start on those building improvements or that remodeling project you’ve been talking about and considering for awhile can be both exciting and overwhelming. Before construction can actually get underway, there are several things that must fall into place, and one of those is enlisting the assistance of a general contractor. Finding one that suits the needs of the job, does quality work and is affordable all at the same time can seem like a challenge, but it is possible to do so, and here are a few pointers on how to accomplish the task.
Significance of Hiring a General Contractor
It’s important for home and business owners to first understand the value in hiring a general contractor. Many people often try to take control of renovation projects themselves, but that isn’t always the best or most beneficial way to go. There will be a variety of trade professionals required to work on your improvement or new construction, and appointing one contractor to be in charge will allow you to sit back while they access their own network to put together a team of reliable experts. General contractors will also manage all paperwork involved and supervise and coordinate all work done out in the field.
What to Look For in a Credible General Contractor
A credible general contractor will preferably be well-known among others in the same industry and come with a good list of references from satisfied customers on previous jobs they have completed. They should also have relationships with several subcontractors in all fields of construction to be able to organize the professionals needed to do the project. You should be able to obtain a warranty for the services provided and be given helpful advice on the construction design and materials to be used.
Red Flags of a Disreputable General Contractor
On the other hand, watching out for signs of a disreputable general contractor is just as important. Red flags that this probably isn’t the contractor for you include an unwillingness to offer a warranty on services provided, inability to show proof of current licenses and insurance, only accepts cash to do the job, a reluctancy to commit to a timeline for completion and an objection to providing a clear-cut bill. No references for subcontractors, suppliers or past customers are also not a good sign.
Assessing General Contractor Bids
Most home and business owners know how crucial it is to collect several bids from general contractors for a project before deciding which one they’ll accept. Assessing those bids are vital to determining the best person for the job. The lowest bid shouldn’t automatically be granted the winner since you often get what you pay for, and a verbal quote doesn’t carry the same weight as a written one that includes a full breakdown of costs.
Final Steps Before Committing to a General Contractor
Before making a final decision on the general contractor you’ll be working with on your home or business project, be sure to look closer into their background and qualifications, check on all references provided (even asking to visit some of the sites they’ve worked on) and take special note of how they handle themselves at each of your meetings since this is someone you will have close contact with for the duration of the job.
Selecting a general contractor will be significant to the overall outcome of your construction project. Keeping these tips in mind while you search for the one that will compliment your job the most should help guide you in making the right decision.
About the Author
Tiffany Olson is an avid home and real estate blogger who lives in Northern California. She loves sharing knowledge and information with others via guest blogging and social media. In her off time she loves to read, cook, and travel.
As a first-time homebuyer, you will have a lot to learn when it comes to your financial planning before entering the real estate market. Working with a good mortgage broker can make all the difference in the world whether you have a smooth and pleasant experience during the lending process or one that makes you want to forget you ever had the dream of buying a home. Though you can try your hand at applying for a home loan directly with a lender on your own, there are several advantages to having an experienced and reputable mortgage broker there to guide you through the complicated task of securing a loan.
Evidence of a Top-Notch Mortgage Broker
The job of a mortgage broker is to find their clients the best possible deals on home loans without applying pressure in the direction of any one lender in particular. Recommendations from friends, family and co-workers are always one of the best ways to find a service provider, and mortgage brokers are no exception. Find out what their experiences were like and compile a list of the few brokers you’re especially interested in meeting with.
A credible mortgage broker will work with you to understand your financial plan and answer all questions you have about which loan will fit in with that plan. Keeping you informed, communicating effectively with you about the process, staying on top of all required paperwork, providing you with a good faith estimate in writing and acting quickly to lock in your rate are all indicators of a mortgage broker worth their commission.
Benefits of Enlisting the Services of a Mortgage Broker
One of the biggest benefits of working with a mortgage broker is having access to a greater number of lenders, which will give you more options to choose from. They should also be able to connect you with special rates and programs that lenders don’t generally offer individual applicants. The experience and knowledge of a mortgage broker will come in handy when it comes time to start shopping around and comparing quotes for the best deal. Not only will they save you time and research, but also handle all of the paperwork involved and assist you in getting flexible closing times and leniency for any credit concerns. In addition, there’s a chance that a broker can save you a large amount of money in fees that lenders frequently tack on to a new loan.
How to Spot a Questionable Mortgage Broker
A mortgage broker that sidesteps questions or answers them without taking the time to learn anything about your finances or goals should be approached with caution. Presenting you with a deal that just seems too good to be true is another bad sign. Brokers should be able to tell you the positives and negatives of each loan term they go over with you and be patient in explaining the commitments and fees you would be making to the lender. It’s time to walk away if a broker ever tries to talk you into falsifying any part of your application.
Choosing the right mortgage broker can help you find the perfect home loan offering out there to fit your financial plan and have you moving into your ideal home in no time.
About the Author
Tiffany Olson is an avid blogger from Redding, CA who loves to write on all things home and real estate. In her spare time she loves to travel, make art, and cook.
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