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April 2020

buying a house during coronavirus

Purchasing a Home Sight Unseen: Pros and Cons

1000 500 Sam Radbil

While most people are staying put during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may actually have to think of buying a house during coronavirus. Maybe you actually got a new job in another part of the country, or possibly you just want to get out of a hotspot area like New York City. Or, a once-in-a-lifetime deal has been presented to you, but you would have to move on it quickly.

 While you have always been conservative in all facets of previous home purchasing, you may really feel that you have to buy a property that you will not have the ability to personally and carefully inspect. What are the pros and cons of making such a move and buying a home during coronavirus?

The Potential Problems

The main issue with buying a house you have only viewed on various real estate is that those beautiful sky blue and orange-lit pics have been photoshopped to represent the home in the best possible manner.

kitchen with island and table

Careful use of photo editing techniques can hide a lot of flaws, and if you just depend on website home pictures, you might be seriously disappointed when you finally arrive at your new house. To avoid these problems that can occur when buying a house during coronavirus, check out the following things you can do to avoid costly disappointment.

Check Out a Lot of Online Listings

When attempting to go through the process of buying a house during coronavirus, get familiar with the online shopping process. First, type in the address of the property and see how many different listings you can find.

Sometimes you can find a generic older listing that will give you a different property view. Also, try to find the addresses of the properties on either side of the one you are interested in as locating these may show you additional views.

Video Tour

Demand a video tour. Or some type of virtual tour, at the least. If the sellers are not set up to do this professionally, they can do a FaceTime version where you could ask questions as the tour happens. The sellers could also take smartphone videos and email them to you.

Check Out the Neighborhood

A free-standing single-family home might look great, but if it is located next to a used tire shop, for example, you may not want to purchase that home.

top view photo of houses

Aerial Google views will be a great help here as you can scope out the area that surrounds the home you are thinking of purchasing.

Get the Best inspector You Can Find

Sure, a picky home inspector can kill a deal, but some deals need to be killed. If there are glaring difficulties, maybe like a roof issue, that could cause your lender to back out, or worse, could cost you thousands of dollars after the sale has been completed, you want these issues out in the open before you even think of closing the deal. A good home inspection can cost at least $500, and even though you as the buyer must pay for this, it’s worth it.

Find a Friend

If there is any way you can locate a friend or acquaintance in the general area of your proposed home purchase, it’s possible that they can take a look for you. The more people you can find to check out your property, the better off you’ll be.

Use a Lawyer 

We realize that there are excellent state-approved forms that are a great help to those that want to use DIY paperwork. Also, the lender’s attorneys will carefully look at closing documents since it’s in their interest to protect you.

person holding pencil near laptop computer

That said, there are protections that can be afforded you in any offer to purchase, but you have to know how to correctly word these documents. For example, a financing contingency can expire, and you can unknowingly obligate yourself to purchase a property even if you think you could get out of the deal if your loan falls through. Therefore, especially when buying a home during coronavirus, use the services of a good real estate attorney.

Real Estate Agent

Be sure to find a top-quality Realtor or real estate agent that will represent you as the buyer.

selective photo of gray key with heart key chain

A hard-working real estate professional can view the home, write up an offer to purchase that will be ready for your attorney’s review and will be someone that will protect your interest—not the seller.

Take the Surprises in Stride

Finally, remember that no matter how much diligence you do, you still will probably find an issue that has eluded you. Maybe there will be a tiny mold spot above the shower or previously unseen crack in an inconspicuous window. These issues can be minor, so don’t sweat the small stuff when you finally are able to move in.

red blocks on brown wooden table

Buying a house during coronavirus definitely presents unique challenges, but if you systematically and diligently evaluate a property, and if you are sure to pay attention to the tips we have mentioned, you can successfully buy a house sight unseen.

real estate virtual tours

Selling Homes During Coronavirus: 7 Tips for Virtual Tours

1000 500 Taylor Witt

It’s no secret that the nation’s housing market has ground to halt. Sellers are wary of letting strangers into their homes, and buyers are afraid to venture out. In fact, many sellers have simply removed their homes from the market as they are waiting for things to improve before relisting; or they’ve opened up to the idea of real estate virtual tours.

That said, mortgage rates, however, are at historic lows, and buyers with safe jobs and excellent credit scores are in a great position to acquire the property. If you do need to sell your home during this unprecedented time, this is an excellent target market, and by using virtual tour real estate technology, you can move your property. We’ve compiled seven tips that will help you go virtual, so let’s take a look:

Facetime

The time for real estate virtual tours is now. Anyone that is interested in buying your home will have a cell phone, and the easiest way to do a virtual tour real estate showing is by utilizing Facetime. The prospective buyer can not only have an up-close and personal look at your property, but any questions that arise can be instantly answered. And, since no Internet connection is required—although Wi-Fi calling may make for a more seamless presentation—Facetime has been shown to be a great—and free—resource.

two men in suit sitting on sofa

Skype

Facetime is great for real estate virtual tours, but what else? Think of Skype as enhanced Facetime. You do need to download the app, but you can have multiple parties on the phone, and they can be located anywhere. While facetime is very easy to use, first-time Skype users are encouraged to view a short explanatory video.

man and woman siting on sofa chair inside room

Facebook Live

Facebook is continuously trying to monetize its platform (great for real estate virtual tours), and for many years the company has been striving to create a useful home sellers’ marketplace. Prospective buyers have been able to use private messaging to contact real estate agents regarding showings, and now sellers’ agents can put together a nice video that does a great job of showing a home.

person holding gray video camera near green leaf plant during daytime

Facebook Live also allows Realtors to save their virtual tour real estate videos, and these can be shown on their company websites and distributed on social media networks. Some agents are also using these videos to help qualify prospective buyers.

YouTube

YouTube has come a long way form the platform that enabled silly home videos. YouTube is now the second-largest search engine in the world with over three billion monthly searches, and in addition to allowing buyers to find properties for sale by search, savvy Realtors craft great videos that showcase homes for sale. Buyers are then emailed or texted a link that puts the property for sale right in front of them instantly.

Youtube in smartphone

Periscope

This is another virtual streaming app like YouTube, but video creators sometimes take this a step further and add local neighborhood points of interest that can give the prospective buyer an intimate feel for the surrounding area even though they may be thousands of miles away.

shallow focus photography of man holding video camera

Don’t Forget the Landscaping

Curb appeal is still very important, and even more so if would-be buyers are looking at your property virtually. Why? Because they can still do a drive-by:

  • Without putting themselves at risk,
  • without even getting out of the car,
  • and without you even knowing it.

You don’t want to have spent time, effort and dollars to make a great interior video and have your work negated by a scraggly weed-filled lawn accompanied by overgrown foundation plantings. Therefore, take some time to work on the landscaping, and if you can’t do it yourself, search online and find a company that is still doing outside work. You can pay with a credit card and you don’t have to meet anyone in person.

black pruning shears beside green gloves

Do Some Research

Finally, before blindly picking a virtual tour option, do some work and find out what methods have worked best for sellers that have unloaded a home during the coronavirus pandemic. What worked for them could work for you, so again, get into it and do some research!

Again, this is a crazy time, but it doesn’t mean that homes will not sell. Buyers are out there looking for bargains and mortgage rates are at historic lows. Do everything you can to make sure that anyone that is looking to buy a house is aware that your property could be a great option.

4 Little Known Benefits of Owning a Credit Card 

1000 500 Sam Radbil

Hopeful homeowners know that credit is a huge piece of the mortgage puzzle. To ensure that you have a great credit score and the ability to get a traditional loan from the bank, you must start, at an early age, building credit for your future purchases — home loans, car leases, and many other purchases require a great credit score.

To increase your score, you should start by learning about credit cards, how they help raise your score and additional benefits of having your own credit card.

Let’s get into the benefits.

Through exploring the vast credit card options, you get to compare various offers. There’s more to what meets the eye when you are aiming for a specific credit card. Most of the time, there are benefits that anti-credit card individuals overlook.  

However, if you intend to evade the financial headaches, you need to know the valuable hidden offers that come with credit cards. Are you curious to find out? Here are little known benefits of owning a credit card.

Fraud protection 

Cyber attacks keep on happening each day, as the criminals seek to find vulnerable loopholes to swipe right in. At times it’s challenging to determine with a data breach has taken place where your financial info gets stolen. 

However, with a credit card, you don’t have to worry much. Most credit card organizations strive to build client profiling as well as risk preventing algorithms. Thus, you are likely to receive notification of any fraudulent transaction that you can report to the relevant authorities in no time.

As you seek to use the credit cards to build credit, you need to have an in-depth look at your credit report. It’s a chance to dispute any unauthorized expense and get the charges reversed. It’s because such a minor detail can negatively affect your credit card score.

Extended warranties 

There exist some retailers who’ll want to upsell you with an extended warranty. It often comes at a cost that you have to pay. However, you can skip this hassle by having credit cards that offer you the very same extended warranty. These are often benefits that get charged on the credit card. To know more about the extended warranty, you need to check in with your credit card issuer and understand the various goods categories that get covered.  

Concierge services 

Each passing day comes with its specific challenges. You might be using your credit card and experience some difficulties, which are often frustrating. However, you don’t need to beat yourself up while you can check to see if the credit card has a toll-free number.  

It’s a unique chance to make a call each time you are under distress while using the credit card. Thus, you can communicate to the agency’s representative and straighten out any issue that you might be undergoing through at that particular time. 

Foreign transaction charges protection 

Traveling abroad is an exciting time to broaden your horizons. You’ll need some of the local currency to enable you to buy souvenirs, pay for services, among other things.

In addition to carrying petty cash, you can have several internationally accepted credit cards with you. It’s a chance to use the credit cards that have zero foreign transaction charges. It’s a unique chance to ensure you don’t become a currency scam victim. However, you must be extra careful and ensure all your purchases get rung up in the local money.

Credit cards are quite impressive. However, the credit debt numbers and improper usage keep pilling up each day. It thus tends to overshadow the least known benefits of the credit cards. But with responsible usage, you can use Credit cards to build credit, enjoy the numerous rewards, and qualify for loans, among other things. 

How Technology Can Help Improve Your Rental Property Business  

1000 500 Sam Radbil

Regardless of the type of investment property that you are renting, there’s a lot to think about when you are a landlord. Luckily, there are a number of technological advances that are here to help.

Rather than attempting to do everything alone and risking something being missed, you can rely on technology to help streamline things. Here are three of the key ways you can boost your rental property business with the help of modern technology. 

By Going Paperless

There’s no denying that paperwork takes up a lot of space and there’s a fair amount of paperwork that comes with a rental property. Not only do you need to store the hard copies but you also need to find time to file, organize, and locate the paperwork when the time comes.

That’s not including the likelihood of irreplaceable paperwork going missing, something that all landlords dread. This is why a lot of landlords are choosing to go paperless.

There’s also the major benefit that by going paperless and using better real estate software, you immediately reduce the costs that come with paperwork. Don’t forget, the cost of paper and printing ink soon adds up.

You are likely to find that going paperless is a budget-friendly option. There are a number of other benefits that come with going paperless as a rental landlord, for example:

  • There is no need to worry about storing paperwork.
  • There is no need to worry about paperwork becoming accidentally damaged. For example, a leak or fire may occur at any time.
  • When documents are cloud-based, they can be accessed from anywhere.
  • You won’t find yourself faced with hard to read handwriting and illegible applications from tenants.
  • It’s very easy to send paperless documents to tenants. 

By Handling Maintenance Requests Online

As a landlord, you are sure to have a fair amount of tenant maintenance requests to deal with. These can be hard to manage if they are done via telephone or in-person. To avoid forgetting about an important request, everything can be handled online. There are online systems that allow tenants to log maintenance requests with ease, while also allowing you to track and manage them.

As a landlord, it’s a lot easier to prioritize the importance of requests when they are all in an easy to manage the system; urgent ones can be handled first, with others being dealt with a little later.

It’s also very helpful when it comes to deciding whether or not to renew someone’s lease.

If the tenant has made a lot of complaints and required a lot of maintenance, are they someone you want to continue renting to?

Not only does it simplify the way you handle requests as a landlord, it simplifies the way tenants make them. Tenants are able to log a request at any time and from the convenience of their own home, something that is a huge selling point when it comes to marketing a rental property.

By Offering Online Payments to Tenants

When it comes to property management, there are certainly a number of benefits that come with the development of technology. One of the main benefits is online payments for tenants.

There’s no need for tenants to worry about sending a check on time or worrying about late payment fees if the office closes, as paying online is hugely convenient and can be done at any time. You could make it even easier by putting an app into place, allowing tenants to pay from their smartphones wherever they are. There are few things more convenient for tenants than allowing them to pay their rent online, but it’s also a major convenience for you. Even if you have landlord insurance in place, rent arrears are common and a headache for landlords, so making it easy for your tenants to pay you is win-win.

Think about the time and money that comes with managing rent and accounting – a lot of these are reduced when you take things online. There’s also the benefit of being able to quickly check to see who has paid and when, making handling payment disputes a lot simpler.

Landlords and tenants are all privy to the same information, meaning that arguments are unlikely.

 Thanks to technology, you can improve your rental property business by boosting production and efficiency. This will save you time and money in the long run, while also reducing stress. 

5 Tips to Recruit and Retain Skilled Real Estate Agents

1000 500 Sam Radbil

One of the most crucial elements for ensuring your real estate brokerage can steadily generate revenue is agent productivity. Indeed, it can be argued that real estate agents are the main income generators of a brokerage. At the same time, however, it’s not enough to rely on your current lineup of skilled, veteran agents.

You have to consider recruiting real estate agents who are still starting out, yet possess a desire to prove themselves. This can help your company earn more and sustain its growth. With fresh perspectives and a drive to succeed, young and skilled real estate agents can push your brokerage into greater heights.

The question is: how do you recruit and, more importantly, retain these young and skilled real estate agents? Here are some tips you might want to consider:

Be a Mentor

Young professionals, no matter the industry, and eager and hungry to learn from the best. They’re constantly looking for individuals and companies that can help them achieve their goals. If you can provide knowledge and training for young agents, they’re most likely to join you. Make sure to come up with programs that enhance your new recruits’ skill sets or even teach them new ones. When these young talents know that they are constantly growing with your brokerage, they will be more likely to stay.

Don’t be afraid that your new recruits will leave after they’ve received mentorship. Rather, focus on cultivating an environment suitable for their growth. Remember the quote from Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.”

Build a Strong Online Presence

Young millennials and Gen Z-ers are digital natives. They are always online reading real estate blogs and thus expect brands and companies to be online as well. As such, make sure that your brokerage not only has an online presence but a strong and streamlined one. Don’t just post on social media; engage!

Get to know your potential new recruits instead of just posting for likes, shares, and retweets. More importantly, study how you can use each social media site effectively. For example, LinkedIn is ideal for knowledge sharing aside from being a recruitment platform.

You should also keep your website sleek and easy to use, not to mention mobile-friendly. Don’t forget to provide helpful content in the form of articles or videos. Use a sound SEO strategy; in fact, hire an SEO company to ensure that your brokerage will appear in relevant searches as one of the top results for potential brokers and customers alike.

Don’t Just Hound Social Media

It’s true that most young candidates spend a lot of time online and on social media. However, when actually recruiting candidates, it’s best to combine techniques. Use online platforms and at the same time consider more personal methods to really connect. One good way is to host industry events.

This is a perfect venue for networking, not to mention learning (which, again, young real estate agents are keen about). Think of recruitment as a form of dating. It’s not enough to create a dating profile and meet people online. After you get to know them digitally, it’s time to meet on an actual “date.” This shows sincerity and creativity on your end, and seriousness on the candidates’ ends.

Compensation Beyond Money

Everyone has to make a living.

However, for many young and talented candidates, compensation is more than just about money. While you have to think about providing just and livable wages, you also have to think about offering something unique to your recruits. In particular, young professionals are looking for companies with cultures and values that echo their own. Training and networking opportunities are also crucial since, as earlier mentioned, young recruits are always looking for ways to improve themselves. 

You should also think about providing and encouraging activities outside real estate. Indeed, there is life outside of work and you should be promoting this as part of your company culture. If you can provide other benefits such as health insurance and paid time off, then all the better.

Use Data to Monitor Progress

If you’re recruiting real estate agents, you need actionable data on two fronts. First, you need to track the performance of every recruiting activity you conduct. If something doesn’t work, then you either need to think about a new activity or optimize based on your data. Ideally, you should conduct a week-on-week analysis. 

Second, you should monitor the performance of your potential recruits. Ask them the same interview questions for a balanced result. Once they make the cut, you should have a standardized criteria to measure their effectiveness. If they’re lagging, make it your mission to find out why and initiate ways to help them improve.

Recruitment is not an easy process, especially if you’re looking for true talent. Every brokerage is after top-tier candidates, after all. Consider these tips to find and retain real estate agents that will help steer your company to greater success. Good luck!

What are the Pros and Cons of a Real Estate Lockbox?

1000 500 Sam Radbil

It’s really no surprise that the use of lockboxes is so prevalent in the real estate industry.

It solves a very specific issue that probably doesn’t even cross the minds of agents and brokers anymore. From its humble beginnings in the 1970s, the lockbox has been continuously improved throughout the years. It is now a feature-packed tool that every serious real estate agent should be using to its full advantage. Here are the pros and cons of a real estate lockbox:

History of the Real Estate Lockbox

The very first real estate lockbox was invented in 1955 by a man named Delbert Williams. Mr. Williams was a real estate professional himself; he wanted to solve a common inefficiency in the system that was also bogging his colleagues down at the time. Before lockboxes, agents, brokers, and realtors would have to first chase down the keys to the properties they were selling if they wanted to conduct a showing for a prospective buyer. Since leaving the key in an insecure location could leave the property vulnerable, Mr. Williams solved the problem directly: he made a secure location for the key. 

That first lockbox was only a container made of sand-cast aluminum, secured with a standard bicycle lock. While primitive, it served its purpose so well that other real estate agencies began to use lockboxes themselves. After his invention became a success, Mr. Williams went on to establish Supra Products Inc., now known simply as Supra, one of the leading global providers of key management solutions geared especially towards the real estate industry. To learn more about Supra lockboxes, visit this website.

By the 1970s, real estate lockboxes had become an industry standard. The basic design has been reimagined and improved upon in the intervening years, but the concept remains the same. Lockboxes are secure locations for keys to the listing so that realtors can come by and conduct showings or tours for interested parties without having to trouble the seller. 

The Pros

The main function of a lockbox is its foremost advantage. It was invented as a time-saving measure for real estate professionals by a real estate professional. By using lockboxes, an agent or realtor spends less time hunting down the listing keys, giving him more time to do his actual job, which is selling the property. 

Properties that have a lockbox get more showings, simply because they can be accessed more easily. The keys are often kept right on the property, eliminating the confusion of having to match keys to their respective properties. There’s no need to travel to the listing office, coordinate schedules, or inconvenience the seller. 

Lockboxes also offer convenient access to the property to individuals who aren’t real estate agents or buyers. For instance, workers performing improvements and renovations can simply let themselves in. The same goes for inspectors, as well as any prospective buyer’s agents. 

Real estate lockboxes also address some other minor issues. Having a lockbox on hand allows a seller to vacate the property quickly if an agent wants to drop in with an interested party. Why would a seller want to do that? Buyers can feel as though they’re intruding when they’re shown around an occupied property. That discomfort can make them less likely to speak their minds freely, and even make it difficult for them to envision themselves in the home. In most cases, sellers shouldn’t be underfoot while a showing is going on.

The Cons

Lockboxes wouldn’t be used so prevalently if there were glaring issues about their security. However, while most lockboxes are secure, some types can still be vulnerable to burglars, vandals, and other malicious actors. Mechanical lockboxes that make use of a spin dial or combination can be broken into using brute force. There’s also the danger of having one too many people knowing the code or combination.

Electronic lockboxes are equipped with advanced technology and more robust security features such as Bluetooth connectivity, two-factor authentication, infrared, or proximity sensors. Some models are even able to send usage data, such as the identity of who used it last and when, to an off-site location such as a security server. Certain lockbox models can be programmed to notify the listing office every time it is accessed; some can be programmed to work only during times set by the seller or the real estate agency.

However, the main issue with electronics is that they are not immune to human error. Lockboxes that require authentication from a salesperson’s smartphone, for instance, won’t be able to receive signals if cellular service in the area is poor, too.  

Overall, lockboxes are convenient for sellers who aren’t keen on being present for every tour or showing of the property, as well as real estate agents. Like every tool, though, they should be used carefully and responsibly.