Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Buying in Miami

Sunny Miami Florida is without a doubt one of the hottest real estate markets in the world. Over the years, Miami has noticed a lot of changes in it’s real estate market. Miami Florida has always been known for it’s pristine beaches and activities, making it perfect for a vacation home or a permanent home for anyone wanting to live close to one of the best cities in the world.

In the past, Southern Florida was known to be a realtor’s dream of a real estate market with extremely explosive growth potential. During the beginning of the year 2000, Florida noticed some high rises in real estate. In most areas, including Sunny Isle Beach, the prices of real estate went up as much as 250% in some areas. This was a drastic change in price, making real estate in Florida very hard to afford.

This change in price let the world know that Florida was very sought after for real estate. Although the prices were very high, this also changed the entire economic structure throughout Florida, resulting in more businesses, work opportunities, and a lot more income. Even though it brought more opportunities, the economic growth also helped to make Florida a very expensive city to reside in.

Miami Florida is the second largest city in the state, making it a great choice for real estate. These days, the homes here aren’t very expensive. If you are interested in renting a home or apartment here, you may find it to be moderate to high priced. Miami has long been known for sunshine and fun, which is one of the reasons why so many people decide to purchase real estate there.

Although the past has noticed a lot of interest in real estate for Miami, the future will always be in question. Homes and housing units will always be built here, although real estate agents have found it increasingly difficult to sell homes. Even though some homes will sell a lot faster than others, there are some homes that remain on the market for months and months at a time.

As you may have guessed, Miami Florida has noticed a bit of a drop in real estate price and transactions over the years. Although past years have noticed Miami real estate to skyrocket in both price and appeal, the future makes many wonder. A lot of areas here are harder to sell now days, with many sellers having to lower their prices just to make a sell.

In the future, Miami real estate will continue to be popular, although the trend of high and low will always be there. Miami is still one of the best cities in the world to live in, no matter how much the real estate trend fluctuates.

Source: New Home Programs

Thursday, January 10, 2013

10 Powerful Words to Use When Listing Your Home

Trulia shares more wisdom on listing your home. Of course, I'll help you write your listing, but these guidelines may spark ideas for us both!

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” the age-old adage goes. And this is particularly true in real estate, which is why it’s so critical for sellers to make sure their agents post polished photos that tell an accurate story about their home, while showing it in its best light. That said, in most listing systems and property flyers, you don’t have the opportunity to post a thousand words’ worth of text describing your home: you might get 100 words, at best - and many systems limit you to just a couple of hundredcharacters in total.

To market your home like a pro, you’ve got to make sure that every single one of these precious characters counts, adding something powerful to the picture that your home’s listing photos have already created. Here’s a double-digit list of words, phrases and word families that you and your listing agent can use to craft a vivid listing description of your home - and the lifestyle you want buyers to visualize living in it.

1. “Walkable to. . .” Listen, I’m aware that some people feel the phrase “walk to” is fraught with political correctness pitfalls, from possible insensitivities to our friends and relatives who cannot walk due to a physical disability to vagaries and confusion presented by wide variances in what you and I might consider “walkable.” But the concept is valid: home buyers have a soft spot in their hearts for homes that are highly accessible to the shops, parks, cafes and cultural amenities they want to make a part of their everyday lives.

The results of a study by bears this out: buyers are simply willing to pay more for homes with high “walkability” rankings, compared with homes in sprawling neighborhoods where cars are necessary to get to and from essentials.

Accordingly, if your home is within walking distance or otherwise well-located vis-a-vis nearby conveniences, you should shout it from the rooftops. I mean, include it in your listing description.

To do this, you might actually include the hot spots and major employers your home is “walkable to” if you and your agent agree that it’s the best way to paint the picture of your home’s proximity to desirable amenities and community resources. Alternatively, consider strategies like giving a precise distance, number of blocks or length of the drive (at the legal speed limit) it would take to get from your home to the target amenities, on average.

2. Feel, floor plan and flow. Words which indicate that a home is characterized by stretches of clean, clear space, light, flow and openness of floor plan are generally attractive to buyers, and can trigger their interest in coming to see your home. However, what is even more important in a listing description is that you avoid the temptation to flat-out manipulate buyers/readers by inaccurately describing your home in an effort to get them there at any cost!

If your home has a darker, more compartmentalized floor plan, don’t say it’s bright and open - instead, reference it as offering a more formal style of living, or leave the ‘flow’ descriptions out entirely and let the pictures do that work instead.

3. Lifestyle upgrades for first-time buyers. If your home is in an area, a price range or has other characteristics that are treasured by first-time buyers, you can get major bang out of every listing description word by simply mentioning the ways in which life in your home would represent a big lifestyle upgrade compared to living in an apartment or a rental. For example, dropping verbal clues that your home has ample storage spaces, offers exceptional privacy and quiet, or has uniquely usable furnished or otherwise ready-to-enjoy outdoor living spaces are all mentions that can capture the attention of even the most bargain-hungry first-time buyers.

4. Materials. If your home’s finishes include materials that your agent feels are particularly desired by buyers in your area, you might want to call those materials out in your home’s listing. In fact, in their 2005 book Freakonomics, economists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner ran some numbers and found five words which, when present in listings, were positively correlated with higher purchase prices - and three of the five were finish materials: granite, Corian and maple. (The other two? State-of-the-art and gourmet.)

As you explore whether you should be calling out your home’s finish materials in your listing description, keep in mind two things: (1) what buyers prefer changes over time, and (2) different buyers prefer different materials. So, while granite counters and hardwood floors were the materials du jour a couple of years back, buyers are increasingly responsive to mentions of more avant garde materials like concrete countertops and cork floors.

5. Brand names. Describing your home’s style or design aesthetic with reference to brand names is a pithy, yet power-packed, way to communicate a great deal of information and paint a contextual and stylistic picture, with very few words. For example, describing a home as Pottery Barn chic sparks images of family-style living spaces that are well-coordinated and comfortable. While declaring that your home’s decor or fittings are styled after a Restoration Hardware aesthetic creates images of upscale, polished and modern takes on vintage-inspired looks. You’d better believe that people in the market for homes are also in the market for designs and furnishings, a truth you can use to create a quick mental image of your home by evoking any brand with a particularly strong aesthetic, from Crate and Barrel to Neiman Marcus.

Another way brand names can be powerfully included in your home’s listing is joint with #1, by indicating the popular stores and shopping corridors that are conveniently accessible from the property. Mentioning the home’s proximity to “shopping and dining” is good; detailing that it is less than a half-mile from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and the Elmwood shops is great.

And, of course, if your kitchen appliances are Wolf, Viking or Miele, your closets were custom-designed by California Closets or your home has other name-brand built-ins or items you’re including in the sale that are valuable and sought-after, drop those brand names, too!

6. Neighborhood names. If your home is in a desirable or up-and-coming neighborhood, don’t just assume that buyers are going to find it by searching for listings on a map, within a certain radius or within a particular zip code. Including the actual name of your district or neighborhood allows your home’s listing to become searchable for that term.

In particular, if your home typifies a style of home for which your area is well-known, dropping the names of both the neighborhood and the style can pack a one-two punch with just a couple of words, e.g. Westbrook Victorian, Broadmoor Tudor and Rockridge Craftsman.

7. “Built-in” or “custom.” Caveat: throwing a custom hot rod tricycle, bonsai tree trimming workshop or other arcane “value-adds” into the deal is not necessarily a compelling proposition for buyers. But if you have had custom features with wide appeal built into your home, you should definitely consider mentioning them.

Some that fit the bill include:
• Custom desks and bookcases
• Built-in closet organizers and garage storage systems
• Customized recycling centers or backyard composters
• Custom, artisan-built wood doors, windows and cabinetry
• Built-in furniture like breakfast nook banquettes and window seats.

8. On trend features. I’m not suggesting that you stage or change your home to make it line up with short-lived trends, but I am suggesting that you work with your agent to keep your finger on the pulse of current shifts in what buyers like and make sure to trigger those preferences with mentions of your home’s features that map to buyer’s wish lists.

For example, urban farming is hot right now - if you have a kitchen garden, a chicken coop or an in-ground composter, make mention of them in your listing. In the same vein, buyers are looking for home with features that are both environmentally and financially responsible, so if your home has solar panels, dual-paned windows, low-flow shower heads or was recently remodeled with low-VOC paints and no-emission/sustainable flooring, these green features should also be considered for inclusion in your home’s listing description.

9. Little kitchen luxuries. Buyers like food prep space, plentiful counter space, professional-grade appliances and - that Holy Grail of kitchen features: islands. Other mention-worthy kitchen features that can change a buyer from indifferent to interested in a viewing include breakfast nooks, vegetable sinks and pot-fillers (a plumbed-in faucet right over the stove) and stoves that run on gas (vs. electric).

10. Differentiators from the competition. Think of your home’s listing description as a luxury chauffeur that escorts prospective buyers right to the very best features of your home. Don’t make buyers have to hunt around for the reasons why they should see your home instead of the one across the street! If your home is on a premium lot, or has an extra bathroom or a mother-in-law unit compared to the others for sale in your subdivision or town at the same price range - mention it. And same goes for pricing, condition or incentives you’re offering, like prepaid HOA dues or closing cost credits: whatever your home has going for it that others lack should be front and center in your listing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Resolve to Buy

Realtor shares some information on making the house of your dreams a reality this year:

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to move into your own home in 2013? One of the keys to making the home-buying process easier and more understandable is planning. In doing so, you’ll be able to anticipate requests from lenders, lawyers and a host of other professionals. Furthermore, planning will help you discover valuable shortcuts in the home-buying process. Follow these steps to achieve your goal of home ownership in 2013.

Resolution #1: Decide What You Want
Let’s start with the fun part. The first step is to decide what you are looking for. You need to determine the what, where, and when of your purchase. What kind of house are you looking for? Where would you like to live? When would you like to buy? Spend a lot of time thinking about this, a new home is a serious commitment and you want to choose somewhere where you can happily live for several years.

It can be helpful to write down all the information you have gathered. Be sure to take note of other important factors such as whether or not you hope to expand your family or if you plan to remain at your job for a long period of time. Consider such things as pricing, location, size, amenities (extras such as a pool or extra-large kitchen) and design (one floor or two, colonial or modern, etc.). You may want to order your priorities so that you will be prepared to make difficult decisions quickly. If you can’t get a home at your price with all the features you want, then what features are most important? For instance, would you trade fewer bedrooms for a larger kitchen? How about a longer commute for a bigger lot and lower cost?

Resolution #2: Get Your Financial House in Order
Once you have an idea of what you are looking for it’s time to get realistic and determine what you can afford. How much do you have available for a down payment? What is your monthly budget for a mortgage payment? Do you have money for closing costs and taxes? Is your financial house in order? Few people can buy a home for cash. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), nearly nine out of 10 buyers finance their purchase, which means that virtually all buyers — especially first-time purchasers — required a loan. You should start the mortgage process before bidding on a home. By meeting with lenders — either online or face to face — and looking at loan options, you will find which programs best meet your needs and how much you can afford.

Resolution #3: Get Your Pre-Approval Before House Hunting
“Pre-approval” means you have met with a loan officer, your credit files have been reviewed and the loan officer believes you can readily qualify for a given loan amount with one or more specific mortgage programs. Based on this information, the lender will provide a pre-approval letter, which shows your borrowing power. You can visit as many lenders as you like and get several pre-approvals, but keep in mind that each one carries with it a new credit check, which will show up on future credit reports.

Although not a final loan commitment, the pre-approval letter can be shown to listing brokers when bidding on a home. It demonstrates your financial strength and shows that you have the ability to go through with a purchase. This information is important to owners since they do not want to accept an offer that is likely to fail because financing cannot be obtained. The loan officer will carefully review your financial situation, including your credit report and other information. The lender will then suggest programs which most-closely meet your needs.

Resolution #4: Find Your Realtor
Buying and selling real estate is a complex matter. At first it might seem that by checking local picture books or online sites you could quickly find the right home at the right price. But no two properties — even two identical models on the same street — are precisely and exactly alike. Homes differ and so do contract terms, financing options, inspection requirements and closing costs. In this maze of forms, financing, inspections, marketing, pricing and negotiating, it makes sense to work with professionals who know the community and much more.

Resolution #5: Find Your New Home 
Now we are back into the fun stuff. A home is more than just a collection of bedrooms and bathrooms. Several properties — each with four bedrooms, three baths, and the same price — may well represent radically different designs, commuting distances, lot sizes, tax costs, interior dimensions, and exterior finishes. Here’s where the information you gathered in Resolution #1 comes into play. You already know what you want.

Resolution #6: Understand Your Mortgage Options
Financing is routinely greater than the original purchase price of a home (after including interest and closing costs). Because financing is so important, buyers should have as much information as possible regarding mortgage options and costs.

How much down? Loans with 5 percent down or less are available — in fact, loans from major lenders with no money down have appeared in recent years. If you place less than 20 percent down, lenders will want the mortgage guaranteed by an outside third party such as the Veterans Administration (VA), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or a private mortgage insurer (PMI, or private mortgage insurance, is required by lender to protect against any mortgage defaults).

The best rates and terms are only available to those with solid credit. To get the best loans, make a point of paying credit cards, installment payments, rent and mortgage bills in full and on time.To obtain a loan you must complete a written loan application and provide supporting documentation. Specific documents include recent pay stubs, rental checks and tax returns for the past two or three years if you are self-employed. During the pre-qualification procedure, the loan officer will describe the type of paperwork required. Mortgage financing can be obtained from mortgage bankers, mortgage brokers, savings and loan associations, mutual savings banks, commercial banks, credit unions, and insurance companies.

Resolution #7: Make An Offer
Once you have found a home you want to make an offer on you have three choices: accept the listed price and create a contract; reject it and not make an offer; or suggest different terms and make a counter-offer. If you choose this last option, the seller may accept, reject or make a counter-offer. You sometimes hear that the amount of your offer should be x percent below the seller’s asking price or y percent less than you’re really willing to pay. In practice, the offer depends on the basic laws of supply and demand: If many buyers are competing for homes, then sellers will likely get full-price offers and sometimes even more. If demand is weak, then offers below the asking price may be in order. The process of making offers varies around the country. In a typical situation, you will complete an offer that the Realtor will present to the owner and the owner’s representative.

A number of inspections are common in residential realty transactions. They include checks for termites, surveys to determine boundaries, appraisals to determine value for lenders, title reviews and structural inspections. During these examinations, an inspector comes to the property to determine if there are material physical defects and whether expensive repairs and replacements are likely to be required in the next few years. This is an opportunity to examine the property’s mechanics and structure, ask questions and learn far more about the property than is possible with an informal walk-through.

Resolution #8: Protect Yourself With Insurance
No one would drive a car without insurance, so it figures that no homeowner should be without insurance. Title insurance is purchased with a one-time fee at closing, title insurance protects owners in the event that title to the property is found to be invalid. Coverage includes “lenders” policies, which protect buyers up to the mortgage value of the property, and “owners” coverage, which protects owners up to the purchase price. In other words, “owners” coverage protects both the mortgage amount and the value of the down payment.

Homeowner’s insurance provides fire, theft and liability coverage. Homeowners’ policies are required by lenders and often cover a surprising number of items, including in some cases such personal property as wedding rings, furniture and home office equipment. In high-risk flood-prone areas, flood insurance may be required. This insurance is issued by the federal government and provides as much as $250,000 in coverage for a single-family home plus $100,000 for contents.

For new homes, home warranties bought from third parties by home builders are generally designed to provide several forms of protection: workmanship for the first year, mechanical problems such as plumbing and wiring for the first two years, and structural defects for up to 10 years. Home warranties for existing homes are typically one-year service agreements purchased by sellers. In the event of a covered defect or breakdown, the warranty firm will step in and make the repair or cover its cost.

Resolution #9: Close On Your New Home
The closing process, which in different parts of the country is also known as “settlement” or “escrow,” is increasingly computerized and automated. In many cases, buyers and sellers don’t need to attend a specific event; signed paperwork can be sent to the closing agent via overnight delivery.

Settlement is a brief process where all of the necessary paperwork needed to complete the transaction is signed. Title to the property is transferred from seller to buyer. The buyer receives the keys and the seller receives payment for the home. From the amount credited to the seller, the closing agent subtracts money to pay off the existing mortgage and other transaction costs. Deeds, loan papers, and other documents are prepared, signed and filed with local property record offices.

Before closing, buyers typically have a final opportunity to walk through the property to assure that its condition has not materially changed since the sale agreement was signed. At closing itself, all papers have been prepared by closing agents, title companies, lenders and lawyers. This paperwork reflects the sale agreement and allows all parties to the transaction to verify their interests. For instance, buyers get the title to the property, lenders have their loans recorded in the public records and state governments collect their transfer taxes.

Resolution #10: Tie Up Loose Ends
You've done it. You've looked at properties, made an offer, obtained financing and gone to closing. What’s next?

Those papers you received at settlement are extremely valuable, so hold on to them! In the short-term they can help establish tax deductions for the year in which the property was purchased. In the future, such papers will be important for tax purposes when the property is sold, and in some cases, for calculating estate taxes.

Also at closing, determine the status of the utilities required by the home, items such as water, sewage, gas, electric and oil service. You want utility bills to be paid in full by owners as of closing and you also want services transferred to your name for billing. Usually such transfers can be done without turning off utilities. About two weeks after closing, contact your local property records office and confirm that your deed has been officially recorded. Such records are public notices that show your interest in the property.

When you move in, you may want to replace all locks just to be safe. Many owners make a photo or video record of the home and their possessions for insurance purposes and then keep the records in a safety deposit box. Your insurance provider can recommend what to photograph and how to secure it. You want to maintain fire, theft and liability insurance. As the value of your property increases such coverage should also rise.

Enjoy your home. Owning real estate involves contracts, loans, and taxes, but ultimately what’s most important is that home ownership should be a wonderful experience.