3 Things to Do When Your Neighbors List Their Home for Sale

The sign just went up next door. How does your neighbor’s impending sale affect you?

Most people think their real estate concerns end once they’ve closed on and moved into their new homes. But when a neighbor’s house goes on the market, there can be some important implications for you.

Here are some tips for staying real estate aware.

1. Document important disclosure items

For the most part, good fences make good neighbors. But sometimes the folks on the other side of the fence don’t cooperate, and unresolved neighbor conflicts tend to arise when one of the homes goes on the market.

Have a property line dispute? Or an issue with a broken fence and you want the new buyer to know about it? While sellers in most states have a duty to disclose issues to potential buyers, not all areas require this.

Do your new neighbor-to-be a favor and alert the seller’s agent to anything the buyer needs to know about your neighbor’s property.

2. See things differently

Open houses allow buyers to spend some time exploring a home, but these events also present you with a chance to see your home from your neighbor’s perspective.

Once at a busy open house in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, an open house visitor made a somewhat obvious beeline for the back of the house. He immediately got on the phone and started talking with someone about where he was standing, giving orders to move left and right.

It turned out this visitor lived in the home behind, and he was checking to see the neighbor’s view into his home.

The open house is your chance to check your home’s paint job from the neighbor’s yard or simply to see your home from a different perspective.

3. Know and learn the market in real time

Typical sellers claim and save their home online, but they also keep searches going after the fact. Why? To keep tabs on the market, see the comps and have a real-time sense of what’s happening nearby.

Just like when you were a buyer, knowing about the area and types of homes in the market is a good move for any homeowner. Take a neighboring home for sale as an opportunity to see what the market bears. You can also learn about the latest trends in home design.

Speaking to a real estate agent can keep you informed of changes to property taxes or how assessments are changing in your town. A smart real estate agent, working their listing, will be an incredible resource to would-be clients down the road. Leverage their experience when your neighbor sells.

Take note when your neighbor goes to sell their home. It’s not just a time to nose around, but to document, inspect or learn from the home sale. Some homes get listed once in a lifetime — take advantage of the opportunity.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 31, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

Renters Beware: These Hidden Costs May Be in Your Lease

Utilities, pets, parking, amenities — there may be more to your rent payment than you thought.

By Leigh Raper

The rental market is extremely competitive in many urban markets right now. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, renters account for 37 percent of all households in America — or just over 43.7 million homes, up more than 6.9 million since 2005.

This jump in the number of renters has put pressure on both tenants and landlords. Tenants are scrambling to find the right place, while landlords are trying to find the right price. And both parties are getting creative about how and when to spend their money.

Renters sometimes forget their landlord is running a business too — until they sign a new or renewed lease, that is. Renters may discover that while the rent seems reasonable, the landlord has included itemized charges for utilities or other amenities that add up to a sizable bottom-line difference.

Power play

Utilities are not exactly a hidden cost, but they’re often overlooked by tenants eager to move into a new apartment or renew their current lease.

Always factor utilities into the overall cost of the property. Landlord-tenant laws in each state govern how utilities can be billed, along with what recourse either party has in the case of missed payments or shutoffs.

Sometimes utilities are in the landlord’s name and included in the overall rent charge. Other times, tenants are required to place the electric or gas bills in their names. (Many municipalities require the water and/or sewer accounts to stay in the landlord’s name.)

Then there’s third-party billing: situations where master meters serve an entire building, in which case the landlord splits the charges among all the tenants and bills them individually. Third-party billing makes sense for the landlord, who can advertise a base rental price but charge the utilities as an add-on.

City ordinances

Certain cities have clamped down on third-party billing, which they view as deceptive. In Seattle, for example, the third-party billing ordinance covers all residents living in buildings with three or more units. The ordinance was written to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords who were fraudulently overcharging them.

The Tenants Union of Washington State, a nonprofit dedicated to education, organizing and advocacy for tenants, provides detailed information for renters about third-party billing and other important issues related to utility costs.

Many of the best practices they recommend apply to all tenants, regardless of location:

  • Ask questions about utility service before you sign a lease.
  • Set up your utility accounts quickly.
  • Pay utility bills promptly and keep documentation of all payments.
  • Take steps to protect yourself with the landlord.
  • Act immediately to resolve utility disputes.

Other “hidden” charges

There are other fees, besides utilities, that your landlord might charge. Some of these are optional add-ons determined by a certain tenant’s particular situation, but others apply to everyone. Landlords in a competitive rental market might even increase these fees based on supply and demand.

The add-ons can include pet fees or a separate charge for parking. Some properties charge an application fee — whether or not the prospective renter is approved.

Other properties, particularly condos or developments subject to homeowners associations (HOAs), charge move-in fees for tenant-occupied units. Amenities, such as cable TV or internet access, which are not considered utilities under most ordinances, might also be billed through an HOA or the landlord.

Of course, this is all in addition to a security deposit and any rent you might have to prepay, like first and last month’s rent due upon move in.

Have questions? Need help?

Advocacy organizations, like the Tenants Union in Seattle, operate around the country. These nonprofits offer help and information to renters.

State agencies also provide information for both tenants and landlords. For example, Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs publishes a Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook on its website. A quick internet search will yield similar results in most states.

Sometimes, though, problems and questions can’t be resolved with online information. That’s where consulting an expert can be a smart solution.

Lawyers who specialize in landlord-tenant law not only are familiar with the underlying law in a given geographic region, but also have experience with the systems and processes that can efficiently and economically resolve disputes. Often, spending money for expert advice early on can yield big savings in the long run.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published April 8, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

4 Ways to Ensure Your Pet Is a Good Rental Resident

Yapping, chewing, howling, scratching … not in this home!

Nobody likes living next to a yappy dog — or even a howling cat. And while a growing number of rental properties specialize in pet-friendly apartments and homes, it’s understandable why both property owners and their leasing agents are skeptical about pets.

Here are some quick tips to help your pet be a neighborly renter.

1. Get them certified

To really show your future landlord that your dog is a good resident, consider getting a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate. Offered by the American Kennel Association (AKC), this certification proves that a dog has received basic training and is well socialized around both people and other dogs — thus, less likely to cause disturbances.

If your dog is currently working with a trainer, ask about this certification, as many trainers are also CGC certified. The AKC provides details about groups in various states that also offer this certification.

Additionally, get a letter of recommendation from a previous landlord about your pet’s behavior. It can put you in a strong position to look at a wider variety of pet-friendly properties.

2. Keep them busy

Take your dog for a long walk or run before you go to work to leave them tired and happy — and content to snooze instead of scratching the front door or annoying the neighbors by howling nonstop.

Separation anxiety and stress often lead to bad behavior in your absence. Give your pets distraction toys to keep them busy, or leave on a TV or radio for a sense of companionship.

Consider employing a dog walker to come once a day, or send your pup to day care. Even if it’s only one day a week, it’s one day less of them being stressed because they’re home alone.

A variety of calming products — such as plug-in pheromone diffusers and anxiety wraps like the ThunderShirt — may help reduce your pet’s anxiety levels and prevent nonstop barking throughout the day.

3. Mind the felines

If you have a cat, get a large litter box and scoop it daily. Cats will go outside the litter box and pee on carpets if their box is dirty.

Similarly, keep a variety of scratchers around the home. Cats usually like to scratch soon after they wake up from a nap, so place scratching posts close to a favorite sleeping spot. This will deter them from permanently damaging your woodwork and carpets.

4. Prevent pests

Summer is the height of flea and tick season. Make sure your pet has the necessary protection so they don’t bring fleas indoors to infest your home.

Interestingly, fleas only spend 20 percent of their life span on a pet. They spend the rest of their time in your carpeting and furnishings — and they can be difficult to eradicate quickly. Plus, landlords will charge for this kind of pest control.

Like with so many other things in life, prevention is key.

Looking for more information about renting? Check out our Renters Guide

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Originally published July 13, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

7 Places in America That Will Pay You to Move There

From cash grants to free lots of land, these incentives are luring city dwellers to rural America.

If you’re willing to move and if you meet the qualifications, many rural American towns are offering incentives aimed at attracting new residents and reviving their communities.

At the beginning of the 20th century, rural America housed more than half the country’s entire population. While the number of Americans living in rural areas has been roughly stable over the past century — as urban and suburban America have boomed — its share of the total population has declined, falling from 54 percent in 1910 to just 19 percent in 2010.

This is due, in part, to migration to urban cores, especially by younger generations and the middle class.

This decline in population — and the accompanying social and economic challenges — is forcing rural America to come up with incentives to attract new residents back to rural communities.

Tribune, Kansas, offers such a program. “If you move here, we will pay down your student debt,” explains Christy Hopkins, community development director for Kansas’ least populated county, Greeley (in which Tribune sits).

This program, called the Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) program, offers perks to grads from big cities for moving to underpopulated towns in one of 77 participating Kansas counties. One of the incentives? They’ll help you pay off your student loans — up to $15,000 over the course of five years.

And it seems to be working — for both the town and its new residents.

“We’re the least populated county — we’re 105th in population for counties in Kansas, and now we’re eighth in college degrees per capita. There’s a correlation to draw,” says Hopkins.

Here are five towns and three states that offer a robust set of loans, programs and/or assistance for those seeking to become homeowners:

Curtis, Nebraska

Population: 891
Median home value: $79,000

Dream of building your own home from the ground up? Curtis, Nebraska, has a sweet deal for you. If you construct a single-family home within a specified time period,  you’ll receive the lot of land it sits on for free.

Marne, Iowa

Population: 115
Median home value: $75,300

Just 45 minutes east of Omaha, Marne will give you a lot of land for free — all you have to do is build the house (conventional construction or modular) and meet program requirements. Houses must be a minimum of 1,200 square feet, and the average lot size is approximately 80 feet by 120 feet.  

Harmony, Minnesota

Population: 999
Median home value: $93,900

Dreaming of a a newly built home in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Good news: Your dream comes with a cash rebate.

The Harmony Economic Development Authority offers a cash rebate program to incentivize new home construction. Based on the final estimated market value of the new home, rebates range from $5,000 to $12,000, and there are no restrictions on the applicant’s age, income level or current residency.

Baltimore, Maryland

Population: 616,958
Median home value: $116,300

Definitively not a rural town, Baltimore offers homeowners incentives that are too appealing to leave off this list.

Baltimore has two programs offering robust incentives for buying a home in the city. Buying Into Baltimore offers a $5,000 forgivable loan (forgiven by 20 percent each year so that by the end of five years, you no longer have a balance) if you meet certain qualifications.

The city’s second solution is a brilliant one. The Vacants to Value Booster program offers $10,000 toward down payment and closing costs when you buy one of the program’s distressed or formerly distressed properties.

New Haven, Connecticut

Population: 131,014
Median home value: $168,400

Also not a rural area, but offering an incredibly generous package of homeowner incentives, New Haven offers a suite of programs totaling up to $80,000 for new homeowners, including a $10,000 forgivable five-year loan to first-time home buyers, $30,000 renovation assistance and/or up to $40,000 for college tuition.   

Alaska

Population: 739,795
Median home value: $310,200

Alaska offers incentives for veterans and live-in caretakers of physically or mentally disabled residents. They even have a manufactured home program and a rural owner-occupied loan program. See the full list of programs here.

Colorado

Population: 5.6 million
Median home value: $368,100

Colorado offers traditional programs that assist with down payments and low interest rates, but it also has a disability program that helps first-time buyers who have a permanent disability finance their home.

The state also has a down payment assistance grant that provides recipients with up to 4 percent of their first mortgage, which doesn’t require repayment.


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Originally published October 2017. Information updated October 2018.

Source: zillow.com

The Do’s and Don’ts of Home Equity Loans

Home equity burning a hole in your pocket? You may want to think twice about that boat.

Home equity is a valued resource, and if you have it, you might be tempted to tap that wealth for other purposes. A home equity loan, which allows you to use your home’s equity as collateral, is a great way to do this. But depending on your personal situation, it may not be the right thing to do.

Here’s when a home equity loan makes sense — and when it doesn’t.

DON’T: Fund a lifestyle

Remember when homeowners yanked cash out of their homes to fund affluent lifestyles they couldn’t really afford? These reckless borrowers, with their boats, fancy cars, lavish vacations and other luxury items, paid the price when the housing bubble burst. Property values plunged, and they lost their homes.

Lesson learned: Don’t squander your equity! Look at a home equity loan as an investment — not as extra cash when making spending decisions.

DO: Make home improvements

The safest use of home equity funds is for home improvements that will add to the home’s value. If you have a one-time project (e.g., a new roof), then a home equity loan might make sense.

If you need money over time to fund ongoing home improvement projects, then a home equity line of credit (HELOC) would make more sense. HELOCs let you pay as you go and usually have a variable rate that’s tied to the prime rate, plus or minus some percentage.

DON’T: Pay for basic expenses or bills

This is a no-brainer, but it’s always worth reiterating: Basic expenses like groceries, clothing, utilities and phone bills should be a part of your household budget.

If your budget doesn’t cover these and you’re thinking of borrowing money to afford them, it’s time to rework your budget and cut some of the excess.

DO: Consolidate debt

Consolidating multiple balances, including your high-interest credit card debts, will make perfect sense when you run the numbers. Who doesn’t want to save potentially thousands of dollars in interest?

Debt consolidation will simplify your life, too, but beware: It only works if you have discipline. If you don’t, you’ll likely run all your balances back up again and end up in even worse shape.

DON’T: Finance college

If you have college-age children, this may seem like a great use of home equity. However, the potential consequences down the road could be significant. And risky.

Remember, tapping into your home equity may mean it takes longer to pay off the loan. It also may delay your retirement or put you even deeper in debt. And as you get older, it will likely be more difficult to earn the money to pay back the loan, so don’t jeopardize your financial security.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published February 23, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

When Selling a Home, the Neighbors Matter

Getting on the neighbors’ good side can be an essential part of your sales strategy.

Few sellers consider their neighbor’s home when preparing to sell their own. Why would they? Their biggest concern is getting the soon-to-be-listed home painted, cleaned and landscaped for great curb appeal.

But all that effort could be for nothing, if just one of your neighbors doesn’t care much for appearances.

If you find the neighbor’s home unappealing, imagine your potential buyer’s first impression. The fact is, your neighbor’s unsightly property can diminish your own home’s curb appeal, no matter how much you’ve done to improve it.

The good news is, you have options — you’ll just have to plan ahead a bit. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your neighbors don’t cost you money when you sell your home.

Build good relationships

Even if you don’t have a plan to sell now, it’s good practice to maintain a friendly relationship with the neighbors. You never know when you’ll need them.

It’s not uncommon for issues to come up during a sale. Problems regarding fence repair, retaining walls or easements can often bring a neighbor into your home sale process.

Having a good relationship with your neighbor from the beginning will help to ensure their cooperation when you need them at a critical time in the home sale.

Keep them in the loop

If you plan to sell your home in the near future, it’s a good idea to give the neighbors a heads-up well in advance.

If you think you’ll need assistance from a neighbor for whatever reason, it will be easier to approach them if you’ve given them notice. Knocking on their door to tell them you’re selling and then requesting their cooperation right away won’t help.

Offer to pay for improvements

It will be difficult to ask your neighbors to reseed their lawn, pull their weeds, change their fence or paint their door to help your sale. Ask them to pay for it, and you can expect resistance.

If you need your neighbor to do some curb appeal work to help your sale, the money should come out of your pocket.

On top of that, you can’t force the neighbor to use your landscaper, painter or contractor, even if you’re paying for it. It’s their home, not yours, and you need to tread lightly.

Although many neighbors will appreciate the offer to spruce up their home on your dime, others may be hesitant. Bullying them to work on your timeframe or within your rules won’t help, and it could backfire once your home lists publicly.

With luck, a home sale can proceed smoothly without the need to involve neighbors. But if you hope to sell in the future, understand that your neighbors’ cooperation may be necessary.

If you plan in advance, open the doors of communication and offer to make things easy, you’re more likely to get what you want.

Ready to put your home on the market? Check out our Home Sellers Guide for tips and resources.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published March 20, 2017.

Source: zillow.com

How to Choose the Right School: 6 Tips for Parents

Find a school that makes the grade — all it takes is a little homework.

If you’re a parent, buying or renting a new home isn’t just about where you’ll tuck the kids into bed at night — it’s also about where you’ll send them off to school in the morning.

So, how can you be sure your dream house feeds into your child’s dream school? You’re going to have to do some homework.

1. Go beyond the numbers

Every state’s education department publishes an online “report card” for each district and school. But just as you wouldn’t buy a house based solely on square footage or listing photos, you shouldn’t select a school just for its test scores and teacher-to-student ratios.

Dr. Steve McCammon, chief operating officer at Schlechty Center, a nonprofit that helps school districts improve student engagement and learning, cautions that most reported test scores are for English and math. They don’t provide insight into arts or music programs or how well a school teaches critical thinking skills.

The right school isn’t something you can determine based on any statistics, numbers or even reputation, says Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners and writer for the Eduwonk blog.

“Don’t go where the highest test scores are or where everybody else says you should go,” he says. “Different kids want different things. Go to the school that fits your kid.”

Adds Rotherham: “The most important things are what does your kid need and what does the school do to meet those needs. Whether you’re talking public, private or charter, you can find excellence and mediocrity in all of those sectors.”

2. Take a school tour

Just as you’d look around potential homes before signing a contract, you’ll want to do the same with potential schools. Call and arrange to tour the school and observe.

“Be suspicious of any school that isn’t into letting you visit,” says Rotherham. Some schools may say visitors are too disruptive, but he calls that a cop-out. “With some fairly basic norms, you can have parents and other visitors around without disrupting learning.”

Sit in on a class or two and take notes. You want to see students who are genuinely engaged, not wasting time or bored. It’s OK for a classroom to have lots of talk and movement if it’s all directed toward a learning goal.

Schools should be relatively noisy places. McCammon says, “If you go into a middle school, and you hear no noises, I would be concerned that the principal is more interested in keeping order than in making sure kids are learning.”

Observe how teachers and administrators interact with the students and vice versa. Do they display mutual respect? “You don’t need to be an education expert,” says Rotherham.

See if student work is on display. “A good school is a school where, regardless of grade level, student work is everywhere,” McCammon says. “It means that place is about kids and their work.”

Talk to kids, too — they’re the subject matter experts on their school. And if you have friends with kids in schools you’re considering, ask them what they like and don’t like about their schools. Kids won’t try to feed you a line. “They’re pretty unfiltered,” Rotherham says.

Check out the physical space, suggests National PTA President Jim Accomando. However, don’t get caught up on the building’s age and overlook the quality of the programs going on inside.

Look for signs that the school community takes pride in the facility. It might not be pristine, but trash on the floors or signs of rampant vandalism are red flags. If you see something that seems off or odd, ask if there’s a plan to address it.

3. Check out the community

Go to a school board meeting for clues about the district. Are parents there because their children are being honored or their work is being showcased? Or are they there because of a problem? Likewise, attend a PTA or PTO meeting, and chat with the parents there. They are likely the most involved “outsiders” and can share school challenges and successes.

Another consideration: the makeup of the students. Chances are, if you opt for a neighborhood school, you’ll find a certain similarity between your kids and their classmates, because there are probably a lot of similarities between you and your neighbors. But a school that has a diverse student body offers a big benefit.

“We live in a diverse society,” Rotherham says. “If you want to prepare your kids for what their lives are going to be like in this country going forward, it’s important for them to have experience with diverse groups.”

Even if your child’s school isn’t particularly diverse, avenues like sports and music give them a chance to interact with students from different backgrounds.

4. Think long term

Today’s first-grader will be heading to middle school before you know it. Unless you plan on moving relatively soon, be aware of the middle and high schools in your district.

“If you pick a house because you love the elementary school, you’d better be psyched by the middle school and high school,” Rotherham says. “Or have some kind of a plan” for post-elementary years.

Of course, there is such a thing as planning too far ahead. The music prodigy wowing your friends at her third-grade recorder performance may decide she hates band and wants to focus on soccer by the time she hits middle school. Rest assured: If upper-level schools in your prospective district are about kids doing great work, they’ll likely be a good fit.

5. Watch for boundary issues

Pay attention to the boundaries of prospective school districts. The houses across the cul-de-sac could be in a different school service area or even a different school district. And boundaries often change. To be sure, call the school district and give them the specific address you’re interested in.

Don’t assume you can fudge an address or get a waiver to enroll your children in a school or a district that doesn’t match your address. Things that were allowed last year may not be this year. If an individual school or district is at capacity, they will get very picky about enrollment outside of the school assigned to your home, which can lead to heartbreak if you find yourself on the wrong side of that boundary line.

6. Look for a place where you feel welcome

Whatever involvement you put into your child’s school will pay off, says Accomando. “If you can be engaged at school, you will understand the pulse of what’s happening there.”

He also says that doesn’t mean getting sucked into a huge commitment. “You can read in your child’s first-grade class. You can hand out water at a fun run or contribute something for a teacher appreciation party at the high school. And when you do, walk the halls and see what’s happening.”

McCammon says good schools should welcome parents as volunteers and visitors. “Look for evidence of parents feeling comfortable and engaging with the school,” he says. The principal should be someone you feel comfortable talking with if there’s a problem.

No matter how welcoming the school, it’s natural to have some butterflies on the first day in a new school. Just as it takes time for a new house to feel like home, it takes time for kids to settle into a new school.

Once they’ve found their way to the restroom without asking directions, made some friends and gotten to know their teacher, they’ll be comfortable with their new learning home. And your research will have been well worth the effort.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Originally published January 17, 2018.

Source: zillow.com

5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Lackluster listings abound — learn to cut through the clutter and spot the keepers.

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome — and whether you’re in a city, the suburbs or a small town — be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.

If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don’t fit your criteria (wait, Fido’s not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord — something every renter wants.

As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.

Avoid listings with vague terms like “junior one bedroom” or “open one bedroom.” According to Zillow research, 65 percent of renters require their preferred number of bedrooms. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.

Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 75 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have. Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you’re new to the area.

Speaking of being new — if you’re moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities — all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.

The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.

Shared amenities should be included in the listing too — things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and — most importantly — lease terms and length.

Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they’ll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:

  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?

These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos — and lots of them.

Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit — not the one that’s actually for rent — you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.

Once you find a few listings that include these details, you’re off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

Related:

Originally published June 2018. Statistics updated January 2019.

Source: zillow.com

5 Ways to Win in a Purchase Money Market in the New Reality

During my recent conversations with sales leaders, managers across the board expressed concern about their originators adapting to the new environment of rising interest rates and the shift to purchase money.

Sherlock: not having an accurate view of sales performance is a recipe for disaster
Pat Sherlock

The decline in refinance business is a reality with mortgage applications dropping 43% in the last week, according to the MBA. This raises a critical question: how many lenders and originators will be able to transition to a purchase money marketplace when the easy money of refinancing is replaced by the hard work of finding customers who want to purchase and finance a home?

Every experienced mortgage lender has certainly witnessed big changes in interest rates over the last 20 years. Sometimes it happens quickly. Other times it can be a slow climb to higher interest rates. This time, it is a little of both. The global pandemic caused the Fed to drop interest rates to historic lows and now, with the end in sight, rates are inching back up.

The real question for lenders and originators that have 90%+ refinance business is: can they switch to the traditional purchase money market that still depends on local relationships or will they decide to sell out to other, better structured lenders? Frankly, the selling out strategy has likely already run its course, leaving lenders that have not invested in digital technology or sales training with few alternatives.

5 Steps to Success

That said, what changes should originators who have been living off of refinance lending make to succeed in a purchase money environment? Here are five recommendations:

  1. Develop a marketing plan. Yes, I know having a plan doesn’t seem like the right strategy when a loan officer is panicked and needs income. But, setting aside some time to analyze the market and identifying underserved opportunities is a worthwhile activity because where producers commit their time and marketing resources is always a balancing act. There are only so many hours in a day and spending them correctly matters a lot.
  2. Understand growth in the local area. An originator’s marketing plan should determine what home building activities in their local market are driving growth. Is it new construction, retirement homes, second homes, etc.? Every market is different and understanding where growth will be coming from is critical. Looking at the research the local municipality has already done is a good start.
  3. Identify underserved market opportunities and the people associated with them. Every market has underserved opportunities that some individuals have already recognized—you want to know these professionals. Rarely is an underserved market completely void of participants. An originator’s job is to develop relationships with the parties in the market before other loan officers decide to market to them. Building relationships takes time and requires originators to form relationships with builders, attorneys, real estate agents and other professionals.
  4. Don’t forget about previous customers. Since developing and building relationships is time-consuming, originators must also work their database of closed loans over the last several years. Former customers are already familiar with an originator’s service levels and a certain percentage might be interested in purchasing a second home or investment property. Some clients might be receptive to listening to a webinar on the latest trends in the local real estate market. This is a great opportunity for originators to partner with a realtor to target a particular audience. The real estate agent can provide his or her perspective as part of the webinar or live stream event. However originators reach out, they should avoid sending mass emails and direct mail. Consumers want a more personal, customized approach.
  5. Rekindle referral business. Originators who have a plan, determine their niche and develop relationships with referral sources and customers in an underserved marketplace are on the path to success in a purchase money environment. Working former customers is a smart way for producers to generate current business while establishing relationships with new referral sources.

Implementing all five strategies is a great way for originators to position themselves for robust performance in a purchase money market.

Pat Sherlock is the founder of QFS Sales Solutions, an organization that helps organizations improve their sales talent management and performance. For more information, visit https://patsherlock.com.

Source: themortgageleader.com

5 Things to Do Before and After Closing

Your journey doesn’t end on closing day. Here are some next steps to consider before you actually move in.

You’ve been house shopping for months or even years. You’ve endured a series of offers, property disclosures, inspections and reports. Finally, after so much excitement, stress and anxiety, the house hunt has come to an end.

But the story isn’t over yet. Here are some next steps to consider before you actually move in.

1. Plan renovations well in advance

Rarely does a buyer get a place that’s move-in ready. By the time you’ve signed a contract, you have lots of ideas about how you’ll live in the home, how you’ll customize it and what work needs to be done.

If the place needs work, don’t wait until you’ve closed to engage a professional. Either at your final walkthrough or during a private appointment, get the proper contractors in the house and start collecting bids for necessary work. If possible, have floor sanding, painting or small fix-it work done before you move in. Real estate agents work with all kinds of tradespeople, so they’re often a great resource for referrals. 

2. Set up the utilities

Some people assume the utilities will work once they walk in. While many utility companies have grace periods (the days between when the seller cancels service and the new owner calls), you can’t always assume this will be the case. If you have an out-of-town seller, they may have canceled services the day they knew all contingencies were removed. In this instance, the grace period likely lapsed, and you may be stuck dealing with the electric company, waiting for an appointment or just being without power when you really want to start painting, fixing or cleaning.

The best plan is to call the utility companies and get service set up well before closing. If they haven’t received cancellation notice from the seller, let the seller know to take care of that.

3. Change the locks

Assume that everyone has a set of keys to your new home. The seller’s real estate agent likely gave copies to their assistant, a painter, a stager or even another agent at some point during the listing period. That’s why the first person you should call after getting the keys is a locksmith.

4. Hire a cleaning crew

There’s nothing worse than showing up with the movers, dozens of boxes and your personal belongings only to discover the seller hasn’t had the place cleaned.

Assume the worst and get a professional cleaning crew in there the minute after closing. Even if the seller did clean, they may have done a poor job. You want to start life in your new home with a clean slate. The bones of the place will be sparkling clean, and you won’t be scrambling to get cleaners in while the home is in a state of unpacking disarray.

5. Have a handyperson, contractor or designer on call

Moving involves the kind of stuff you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Things like aligning your framed artwork, centering the couch in the living room or getting the large rug set up in the master bedroom can drive you crazy.

While it may seem like a luxury, investing a few hundred dollars in hiring someone to help with these tasks will save time and potentially relieve you of a giant headache.

Thinking ahead is the way to go

As your closing date draws near, you’re probably exhausted. But taking a little extra time to plan ahead will save you time, money and stress — and make the move into your new home so much more satisfying.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow. Originally published February 2013.

Source: zillow.com