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March 2021

5 Tips for New Real Estate Agents

1000 500 Sam Radbil

You finally got your license to work as a real estate agent. For many new agents, they entered the industry due to their love for meeting and interacting with new people. If you are a “people person,” there might not be a better career than an agent.

selective photo of gray key with heart key chain

But, be warned. For most real estate agents, the first two years are the most crucial. Even worse, you might get very little interaction with people…despite that being the reason many new agents enter real estate. The reality is that most new agents struggle to find clients and need to find a way to grow their client list to use their people skills. 

For this reason, new agents should recognize that the first 24 months in the industry can make or break your career because these are the formative stages where you build habits and patterns that you carry on for the rest of your journey as an agent.

Thus, it is vital that you start your journey off on the right foot; many new agents, unfortunately, believe that this career means easy money, but that’s not entirely true. You have to put in the work, so here are some tips for you to kickstart your real estate journey towards financial success.

Don’t Be Afraid to Spend for Leads

As a new real estate agent, you might have plenty of hesitations when it comes to spending any money yet. After all, you are new to the business, and you might not have much money to spend in the first place. Even spending $20 a month is well worth it; you can sign that $10,000/month Zillow contract down the line!

This applies especially when you’re thinking about leads, which are not guaranteed clients or sales. However, as a real estate agent, one of the first things you have to learn is that all leads are essential.

It’s imperative as a new agent that you get as many “reps” as possible talking with potentially interested buyers and sellers. It almost matters less than if the lead turns into paying customers. What does matter is that you learn how to talk with, and add value to, a lead.

In short, take all the leads that come your way and use them to hone your skills as a real estate agent. Spend money, even if it’s just $20 a month, to get that practice in.

Utilize Your Network

Like most starting entrepreneurs, one of the earliest challenges you will have to face is getting clients first. Although it might be tempting to pour all your money into paid advertising (it’s vital for the practice you’ll receive), at this stage, you’re best off focusing on what we like to call your sphere of influence.

Simply put, your sphere of influence is that close network of relationships that you have a degree of influence over. This includes your friends, families, coworkers, and whomever you are in close touch with. Let them know of your new career venture as a real estate agent and that if they are looking to buy or sell at any time, they can contact you.

The main benefit of starting with your sphere of influence is your relationship with them already establishes an initial layer of trust, making it easy to jumpstart your career with them. However, make sure you practice as much as you can with the paid leads!

Cultivate Relationships

As a real estate agent, you should strive to be more than just a middleman between the buyer and the seller. With that in mind, you should realign your mindset towards cultivating relationships as much as you work for sales.

As a real estate agent, you are in constant communication with your clients throughout a prolonged period, and if you want to work your way up towards the ranks of being one of the top agents in your area, you will do well to be known not just by how much homes you sell, but by how trustworthy and reliable you are in the eyes of your clients.

Trustworthy, reliable agents start to get referral clients. Middleman agents do not.

Keep Learning

The journey towards success as a real estate agent is an ongoing one. You don’t stop becoming a student once you receive your license; in fact, real learning only begins once you start communicating with and working for clients.

The industry’s best agents didn’t get to where they are just by increasing the number of their sales. They got there because they constantly worked on their craft, treating every step as a learning process.

Throughout your career, you will hit slumps that will force you to reassess your strategies even though those same strategies have brought you success for years. Most real estate agents fail because they stubbornly stick to the systems they have grown accustomed to, even though those systems no longer brought them the expected success.

On the other hand, the top real estate agents are the ones who consistently reevaluated their approaches and applied whatever new knowledge they gained to their careers. No matter how long they have been in the industry, they are still changing and adapting.

Revenue-Generating Tasks

As a realtor, there is much potential competition for your time. In any one day, agents can be closing new leads, following up with past leads, working with existing clients, communicating with other agents, and the formal paperwork associated with an offer.

All of those tasks are revenue-generating and should be done by you as the agent.

However, there are plenty of daily tasks that can absorb your time that does not generate revenue. Transaction coordination, the dozens of tasks that must be completed between a signed PSA & closing, is one of those non-revenue generating time sucks.

That’s why more and more agents are outsourcing transaction coordination to a company like Close Concierge. That way, agents can instead spend their time with clients instead of spending ~15 hours per transaction on administrative tasks like scheduling inspections and documenting receipt of earnest money.

As a real estate agent, you will find yourself needing to be in multiple places at once, so efficiency is critical. Cultivate a mindset of efficiency, and investing in efficiency, while you’re still starting means building a solid foundation within your business. That way, when your business eventually grows, you won’t find yourself swamped with deadlines from all over the place.

property management tips

7 Tips for Effective Property Management in 2021

1000 500 Sam Radbil

Property managers are jacks of all trades. From screening tenants to addressing concerns and managing maintenance, there are no two days alike in the life of a property manager.

The past year has introduced new challenges in areas like social distancing, sanitation, and higher delinquency rates for unpaid rent. Here are some property management tips in 2021 to help you navigate a post-COVID-19 world.

Communication is Key

selective focus photography of person using smartphone

Communication is a crucial skill for a good property manager. Your role is to communicate with tenants to keep them up to date with new policies and simply to create a sense of community.

Keeping lines of communication open also gives tenants an opportunity to express their concerns or submit complaints. Listening to concerns and suggestions for improvement is something that helps you provide more value for your tenants.

If there is one piece of property management advice in 2021 that you need to apply, it’s seeking new ways to communicate. Here are some options to explore:

  • Keep regular office hours so tenants know when and where they can find you.
  • Upgrade your bulletin board with a color-coded system to improve visibility.
  • Use social media to share updates and create a sense of community on digital platforms.
  • Create an email list or use text alerts to share important information.
  • Develop a set of best practices for handling conflicts and complaints.
  • Think about automating some communication. You can, for instance, use a digital platform to collect rent and send automated reminders.

Presentation is Everything

Tenants have different priorities in a post-COVID-19 world. You should prepare for new questions and concerns about things like cleaning, sanitation, and social distancing.

Remember that presentation is a key element for attracting new tenants and keeping current tenants satisfied. Look for ways to make the property look cleaner, and don’t hesitate to make sanitation efforts more visible to tenants.

Don’t neglect things like decor, art, or a fresh coat of paint to keep up with new home design trends and make units more appealing to potential tenants.

Get Your Listings Noticed

gray steel 3-door refrigerator near modular kitchen

Getting your listings noticed is one of the top property management tips in 2021. Here are some methods you can use to fill vacancies quickly:

  • Craft eye-catching titles that highlight the unique perks your property offers.
  • Hire a professional photographer to take high-quality photos of your property.
  • Keep your description short and straight to the point. Use bullet points and white space to help users who are on mobile read this content.
  • Update your listings to discuss new concerns and discuss the measures you’re taking to protect tenants from COVID-19.
  • Make your listing unique by using an engaging tone and letting your personality shine through.
  • Identify the best platforms for getting your listings in front of potential tenants. Ask how new tenants found your listing to get a better idea of which platforms generate the most leads.
  • You can create different versions of a listing and use A/B testing to see which title or which copy results in the most leads reaching out to you.

Create a Process for Screening Tenants

Screening tenants can reduce turnover and lower your delinquency rate. One of the most important property management tips in 2021 is to develop a well-documented process you can use to screen tenants.

Here are some of the steps to follow to screen tenants:

  • Ask the tenants to fill out an application. Include personal information, details about employment, and financial information.
  • Find out who will live with the applicant. These people are co-applicants and should pass a background check.
  • Obtain a written authorization to perform a background and credit check.
  • Ask for referrals, ideally from previous landlords. You should also contact the tenant’s employer.
  • Schedule an interview. Prepare a list of questions to get a better idea of the tenant’s personality and lifestyle.
  • It’s best to document this process so you can be consistent with the questions you ask. Fair Housing rules require you to treat every tenant equally.

Use Data for Better Property Management

graphs of performance analytics on a laptop screen

Data is a valuable tool for property management. It can give you better visibility over processes like marketing or customer satisfaction. Here are a few ideas for using data:

  • Invest in an analytics solution to monitor the results of your different marketing campaigns and calculate their ROI.
  • Track costs with accuracy. Reviewing costs linked to maintenance and other activities can help you spot areas where you could reduce spending.
  • You can use data to screen tenants. Look at some data points for tenants with the best longevity to figure out the ideal income requirement for your screening process.
  • Use qualitative data by creating a feedback survey. It’s a great way to assess whether tenants are satisfied with the property and identify areas that you need to improve.

It’s Time for a Skills Assessment

You’re no stranger to the fact that property managers need to possess a wide range of skills. With technology becoming more common in property management, it can be difficult to keep up with all the skills you need to master.

It’s time to perform a thorough assessment of your skills. Be honest with yourself and list the things you’re good at. Identify the areas where developing your skills would be useful and think about outsourcing some tasks so you can focus on the things you do best.

Document Everything

You need to develop an effective system for documenting all your activities. Documenting everything can come in handy in situations like legal proceedings, and having well-documented processes will make you more reactive when you need to adapt to a changing situation.

We recommend creating a detailed maintenance plan, a roadmap for growth, a tenant screening process, a tenant transfer policy, and a framework for dealing with delinquent tenants and evictions.

 If there are important tips for property management we learned from 2020, it’s that you need to turn sanitation into a well-documented process and have a go-to plan for possible future lockdowns.

Final Thoughts

These property management tips in 2021 will help you keep up with new trends and adapt to the new expectations and concerns of your tenants.

Extra Costs of Buying a Home in 2021: What You MUST Know

1000 500 Sam Radbil

When buying a new home, it’s essential to factor in all the possible additional costs. These can add up quickly, so you should familiarize yourself with them as soon as you decide to search for a new home. Accounting for additional expenses in your budget will make the already stressful process of buying a home a bit easier. These are the extra costs of buying a new home that you need to know about. 

Property taxes

person holding paper near pen and calculator

As a homeowner, you’re required to pay property taxes. The property tax is determined by the city, township, or country where your new property is located (the effective average rate is 1.1% of the home’s assessed value).

Sometimes property taxes are easy to forget to include in your budget calculations as they’re often rolled in with your mortgage. 

Closing Costs

When the real estate transaction comes to an end, you’re required to pay a plethora of fees known as closing costs. To avoid unpleasant surprises, you should talk to your realtor and ask them about the specific closing costs. They usually include:

  • Lawyer fees
  • Cost of inspection
  • Document fees
  • Appraisal fees
  • Surveyance fee
  • Sales brokerage commission
  • Title cost
  • Mortgage application
  • Home warranty

Paying For The Escrow

Making escrow is an important part of the budget you need to buy a new home. Generally, buyers are asked to pay for escrow upfront to cover some costs (insurance, property taxes, etc.). 

Earnest Money

Earnest money, a form of security deposit made in large transactions such as real estate dealings, is paid upfront before filling out the paperwork. Since it’s a deposit, home buyers will receive the money-back once the transaction goes through. If the buyer should back out of the deal, they probably won’t get their deposit back. 

The amount of earnest money ranges from a few hundred to thousands of dollars; the precise amount ought to be listed in the contract. 

School Taxes

Homebuyers that have children who go to or about to start school are probably happy to pay more in school taxes if it ensures high-quality education for their children. Those who don’t have school-age children might want to look into what school taxes they’re expected to pay because it could be a deal-breaker. The amount of school taxes varies from district to district. 

Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is not that much of a surprise expense since banks and mortgage companies require it before issuing a loan.

Oftentimes homeowner’s insurance is included in monthly mortgage rates. It’s essential not to overlook this expense as it could go up or down depending on your needs. For instance, most basic homeowner’s policies don’t provide coverage against natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes. If you’re buying a house in an area prone to disasters, you’ll probably want to pay for extra insurance.

Interest Rates

There is no way around interest rates – they’re the inevitable part of buying a new home. The good news is that having a good credit card rating will get you a lower interest rate. 

Moving Costs

Don’t forget to account for all the moving costs. Moving vans are usually expensive, depending on how far your new home is. If you’re making a long-distance move, you have to think about moving costs upfront as they will likely cost you an arm and a leg. 

Utilities

Those who are moving to a bigger home need to consider that the utilities might cost a lot more than they’re used to. It’s important to consider costs for: 

  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Sewer
  • Water
  • Cable 
  • Internet

Costs for installing Internet, cable, and other services can add up quickly, so you need to be aware of these expenses beforehand and make sure to include them when you’re planning your budget. 

Home Maintenance and Repairs

Depending on the state of the home you’re buying, you will need to invest a substantial amount into repairs and renovations. This is particularly true if you’ve purchased a fixer-upper. Even if your new home is in somewhat good condition, never underestimate the possibility of an extra cost appearing out of nowhere.

Some repair costs are not so expensive, while some might require you to cough up thousands of dollars. Furthermore, some are not that urgent, and some require immediate renovation, for example, if the roof is in poor condition, you will need to get on that as soon as possible. Repairs that cannot wait can end up costing you a lot more than you’ve hoped. 

That’s why it’s smart to always have a portion of your budget dedicated to the expenses that cover home maintenance and repairs. 

The Takeaway

Buying a new home will undoubtedly carry a myriad of unplanned expenses. By doing research and preparing yourself for additional costs, you’re staying ahead of things.

If you hadn’t thought about all the extra costs and how much they will take out of your pocket, perhaps you’re not quite ready to buy a new home yet. While you’re saving up more money, looking at homes in Minnesota, New York City or Las Vegas it’s the perfect time to take a look at some homes for rent.

Forever Home: A First-Timers Guide to Understanding Home Loans

1000 500 Sam Radbil

If you are considering buying your first home and have no or low credit, you may still be able to procure financing. This article will explain five loan programs for first-time buyers. Read on to find out whether you qualify!

Federal Housing Administration Loan

housing loan blocks on brown wooden surface

First-time homebuyers and those with no or low credit may be eligible for a loan that is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The FHA program was created in 1934 to allow lenders to relax certain criteria to broaden the pool of eligible home loan borrowers. 

Borrowers must have a steady income and provide proof of employment for the last two years to qualify for an FHA loan. That proof may take the form of pay stubs, income tax returns, and bank statements.

Currently, those with a credit score of at least 580 can qualify for an FHA loan with as little as 3.5% or the purchase price as a down payment. Those with a credit score between 500 and 579 will still qualify for an FHA loan but must come up with 10% of the purchase price as a down payment. All borrowers regardless of credit score must have less than a 43% debt-to-income ratio.

While the FHA makes mortgages available to more people, it imposes more requirements on the property purchased. For example, the property must be inspected and meet certain standards. It also must appraise for the purchase price. The borrower must certify that the property will be their primary residence. The FHA will not guarantee loans to purchase rentals or vacation homes.

There is an additional cost for those with low or no credit to procure a loan through the FHA. The FHA requires that borrowers purchase and maintain mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance pays the loan should the borrower default. 

Veterans Administration Loan

A borrower who is serving or has served in any branch of the military and their eligible spouses may qualify for a home loan through the Veterans Administration (VA). 

Like FHA loans, VA loans are provided by private lenders such as banks and mortgage companies. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide eligible borrowers with more favorable terms such as a lower interest rate or a low or no down payment.

Home Purchase Loans through the VA

VA-guaranteed loans are available for homes for a service member’s or a veteran’s occupancy, as well as for the occupancy of an eligible spouse and/or dependent of active duty service members. 

To be eligible for a VA home purchase loan, a borrower must have a satisfactory credit score, sufficient income to meet their mortgage payments and other monthly obligations, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Borrowers can apply for a COE here.

VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan 

An Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL), also called a Streamline Refinance Loan, helps current VA borrowers obtain a lower interest rate by refinancing their existing VA loan. 

Native American Direct Loan Through the VA

The Native American Direct Loan (NADL) Program helps eligible Native American Veterans finance the purchase, building, or renovation or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land. NADL also can reduce the interest rate on an existing VA loan for eligible Native American Veteran borrowers. 

Adapted Housing Grants through the VA

The VA’s Adapted Housing Grants help veterans with a permanent and total disability incurred while in service to purchase, build, or adapt an existing home to assist them in living with their disability more independently. Common modifications to homes include building ramps and widening doorways to accommodate wheelchairs. 

In 2021, veterans with qualifying service-connected disabilities can get up to $100,896 through a Specially Adapted Housing Grant. Qualifying injuries include:

  • The loss or loss of use of more than one limb
  • The loss or loss of use of a lower leg;
  • Blindness in both eyes (with 20/200 visual acuity or less)
  • Certain severe burns
  • The loss or loss of use of one lower extremity (foot or leg) causing the inability to walk without the help of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair

Only 120 veterans and service members can qualify for an Adapted Housing Grant based on the loss of one extremity each fiscal year. Those who apply but are turned down because the quota was met are encouraged to reapply the following year.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Loan 

According to David Offen, Esq., bankruptcy lawyer in Philadelphia, “The USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program was created in 2017 to develop, maintain, and occupy eligible rural properties. Urban properties are not eligible, but there may be some opportunity in some suburban areas.”

The USDA issues mortgages to low- and very-low-income applicants purchasing eligible properties at interest rates as low as 1%. The income threshold for eligibility for direct loans from the USDA varies by region.

The USDA also guarantees mortgages issued by participating local lenders, similar to the way the FHA and VA guarantee home loans. The interest rate will be low as will the required down payment, however, those putting little to no money down will have to purchase and maintain mortgage insurance. 

Federal Home Purchase and Renovation Loans

There are four federal programs that allow borrowers, even first-time home buyers, to extend the amount they could otherwise borrow by the amount needed to renovate or improve the property.

The Energy Efficient Mortgage Program

The Energy Efficient Mortgage Program (EEM) allows a borrower to borrow more to purchase a home with energy-saving upgrades and green renovations.

203(k) Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration

The FHA backs loans to borrowers who want to purchase a fixer-upper. 203(k) Loans are guaranteed in the amount the property will be worth once improvements have been made.

CHOICE Renovation Loan

Guaranteed by Freddie Mac, this conventional loan program allows borrowers to finance both the purchase and renovation of a property with a low down payment.

HomeStyle Loan

This is a conventional loan offered through Fannie Mae to finance the purchase of a fixer-upper as well as needed improvements with just 3% down for first-time buyers.

Visit the websites of the programs you may be eligible for, and talk with a local lender. Obtaining financing through one of these programs may allow you to purchase the home of your dreams.

3 Tips for Designing an Outdoor Entertainment Area

1000 500 Sam Radbil

Are you a homeowner with a bunch of extra outdoor space?

Do you love to entertain?

Are you a fan of longer nights and warmer, summery weather?

Then combining the two and building an outdoor entertainment area for you and your friends and family to enjoy this coming summer can be a great little renovation project for all to enjoy. What’s more, an outdoor entertainment area can increase your property’s value! It’s a win-win!

Party, Emotions, Sommerfest, Grill Party, Barbecue

Before you start the project, however, you will need to take a moment to decide on the aesthetic of your outdoor entertainment area as well as its purpose. For instance, do you want a place to cook and eat? Or would you prefer a little corner for you and your loved ones to cozy up and talk with a few cocktails? Either way, this needs to be decided before the building work commences. 

Read on for a few useful tips on how to design an outdoor entertainment area you will truly enjoy and get use out of.

Decide on the Outdoor Entertainment Area’s Main Function

As previously mentioned, you will want to decide what it is you wish to get out of your entertainment area. How can you do this? Well, you can do this by taking a moment to truly think about what it is that you enjoy doing the most. For instance, do you host a lot of BBQs? Do you like to make cocktails with your friends? Do you typically have your friends over or are you someone who invites family round for relaxed afternoon beers in the sun? There are a lot of ideas and potential, so think this one through so that you settle on the function that suits you best. 

Look Online for Inspiration

Once you have decided on what it is you wish to do to your outdoor area, it is time to head online for inspiration. By doing so, you can unlock your outdoor area’s potential and see how other homeowners have pulled off their entertainment area. Furthermore, if you have a small space to work with, then you could find useful tips on how you can make the most out of the space provided and utilize everything to the max. Check out these outdoor living area designs; they might just spark your imagination. 

Speak to Contractor and Landscape Designers

Make sure you find a reliable and trustworthy contractor and landscape designer who can help you create your dream outdoor entertainment area. They will be able to work with you in designing, building, and curating your backyard so that you get the most out of it, but also creating the aesthetic that you desire. They may also make suggestions that are better than your previous thoughts and plans. When deciding on a contractor, builder or landscape designer, make sure to read testimonials.

Summer is fast approaching, so be ready to bask in the sun and enjoy the outdoors with your loved ones. By doing so, you can have a fun and relaxing summer with those who matter the most to you.