Those who consistently make money in real estate know the market. They know the location and the history. They know what new developments are planned. They know the transportation and the schools. They know everything about the area where they invest. They have to know it all.
Staying ahead of the competition in real estate investment means doing your homework. If you are new to the business, it can be daunting, but in this article we’ll teach you six tricks that the old pros use to get ahead of the trends instead of chasing them.
- Study Local Pricing
The first things to study are the current price trends in the area. For example, a potential investor should look to see if the price of homes is accelerating faster in one area than in others. Next, check to see if the average home price is more than in other neighboring towns. This will provide an idea of where the biggest demand is. Another reason to study these trends is that, over time, you will start to develop a sense for which prices are “fair” for certain properties and which are overpriced. For individuals looking to buy properties at the lowest cost possible, this knowledge can be invaluable.
Realtors and real estate agents are a terrific source for this information given their access to the Multiple Listing Service (or MLS). The local newspaper, the internet, and the town hall may have a record of recent sale prices as well.
- Get Pre-approved for a Mortgage
There is a host of benefits you can enjoy by getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Chief among them are financial benefits. For example, most lenders will lock in an interest rate for you once you are pre-approved for a mortgage. This let’s you enjoy the benefits of a lower interest rate if interest rates rise while you’re house hunting. Further, if you are able to be pre-approved for a mortgage prior to finding your dream home then you become a preferred buyer in the eyes of the seller because you’ve demonstrated you have serious financial backing.
- Look for a Catalyst
One sign that an area is up-and-coming and that it will be desirable in the future is the development of new infrastructure. When you see new roads and schools being built, it’s a sign that the community is set for a growth spurt. Investing in a growing community can be very profitable. In addition, certain types of development, like new shopping centers, may be extremely attractive to homebuyers, and may also help keep the tax base low.
Spotting new developments can be as easy as looking out your car window as you drive by. Telltale signs of land clearing, surveying or the beginnings of construction in and around major roadways are pretty big tip-offs. Also, look for widening of traffic lanes, the installation of turnaround lanes and the erection of new traffic lights. All suggest the possibility of increased traffic flow.
Next, visit town hall at the municipality or the county level, and speak with the road and the building departments. They should be aware of any major projects slated to begin in the area, and they may even be able to provide you with a connection at the state level so you can find out if any state-owned roads or properties are slated for development as well. Real estate agents also have a general idea of what new projects are about to be undertaken. (For added insight, see Profit With Real Estate Land Speculation.)
- Explore Low-Tax Alternatives
If there are two towns side by side – one with high property taxes (or with progressively rising property taxes) and the other with low property taxes – the one with the lower taxes will usually be more in demand.
Real estate agents can help you determine which areas have the best and worst tax structures. In addition, a simple call to the local tax assessor can reveal how much the town charges in taxes per $100 of house. The assessor can also let you know when the last time the area was evaluated by the township. Also watch to see if a reassessment is set to take place in the near future, as it may mean that property taxes are about to go up. Beware of towns and communities that are becoming overcrowded. Signs include schools filled to capacity and inferior roadways. This could mean the town will have to do some major construction to accommodate the influx of people. And how do they pay for that construction? Tax dollars. (For more on property tax, see Five Tricks For Lowering Your Property Tax and Tax Tips For The Individual Investor.)
- Check the School Rankings
Nearly every state ranks its schools by how well students in each district fare on tests in math and English. Sharp-eyed investors should look for schools that are moving up or are atop the list. These areas are often desirable to parents. Access to quality education is a big selling point to new home buyers.
There are several ways to find this information. Check our your state’s board of education website. Also, PSK12.com has public school rankings for most states in its free section. Visiting the schools yourself is also a good idea. Schools that rank the highest are usually quite eager to provide information.
- Watch the Outskirts
If the properties in a major city or town have become overpriced, the areas on the outer fringes most likely will soon be in demand. Areas in close to major bus and rail transportation are even more desirable Nearly any area that is about to install a major train stop or a new major bus route will see its proverbial stock go up in value.
To find out what’s planned, you can check with the local railroad or bus company to see if they will be expanding service in the area. The local town hall or planning department will also have this information.
The Bottom Line
It pays to do your homework and to tap local resources to determine which areas are hot now and, more importantly, which ones will be hot in the future. Much of the information is out there and free for the taking. You just have to be willing to do the leg work. Source: Investopedia.com By Glenn Curtis
Your Loan in the Valley
Here are four tips for increasing your annual income over the next 12 months:
First, have a plan. If you were driving across the United States to visit a friend who lived somewhere you had never been, chances are you would look up directions on how to get to your friend’s city, specifically the home address. Without a map or GPS device in your vehicle, it may be difficult to navigate.
Unfortunately, many real estate pros enter the business with no plan. Worst yet, most experienced practitioners we know have no plan! After investing hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars, valuable time, and a grueling examination, many new recruits end up with a real estate firm that has no plan for the next 30, 60, or 90 days.
A business plan is essential in real estate. Without a solid plan, you’ll probably end up spinning your wheels.
Here are a few things your business plan should address:
What is your monthly budget? How much money do you need to earn to pay your expenses each month?
Who and what is your competition, and how do you plan to differentiate yourself from your competitors in your marketplace?
Take time to perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What new opportunities can you capitalize on during the coming months, and more specifically, what threats might you need to plan for? This is an excellent way to help you build an essential game plan, gain vision, and accomplish your mission.
What are your goals for the next 30 days, six months, and full year from your start date or from the date of your business plan? Make sure your goals are measurable. Though your goals should be challenging, don’t make them too difficult to reach.
Do you have a vision statement for your business? Where do you see yourself in the next year as a real estate professional? If we asked you to look into the future, where do you want to be in three years in the real estate industry?
Do you have “action plans” in place for your real estate business? In other words, what programs do you have ready to implement when you begin to meet new customers, enter into contractual agreements with clients, and more? Top agents have a systematic plan of action for every facet of their business. If you have not taken the time to develop a detailed plan of action for each area of your business, then do it today.
When building your action plan, use an outline and list all the items that you plan to do for each new listing you take. One good way to build action plans is to copy or print out three or four calendar pages and determine when and how often you would like to communicate with your clients. What marketing endeavors do you need to implement over the course of the agreement? Just as you need a “business plan” for your business, each new listing and every new buyer you take on needs a separate business plan.
Work Your Sphere
According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2010 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 57 percent of first-time home buyers found their real estate agent through the recommendation of a friend, family member, or coworker. Thirty-nine percent of all buyers and sellers said they found their agent through this process.
If this data does not reinforce the fact that you need friends and family members recommending your services, then please reread those statistics above. Working your sphere of influence is one of the best things a real estate pro can do regularly. Send cards and letters each month, make phone calls, and, if the opportunity arises, stop by and make a personal visit.
If we asked when you last went out and canvased a neighborhood handing out cards or providing information about your real estate services, what would your answer be? How many for-sale-by-owners have you visited or sent letters to in the last 30 days? Whatever method you prefer regarding prospecting as a real estate professional, it should be one of your most important daily tasks.
Prospecting is the lifeblood of a successful sales career: Without new business, you’ll eventually go out of business. Make it a point to set goals on what types of prospecting you’ll do for the day, week, or month. Keep track of your schedule and determine where you’re wasting time, and make any necessary changes to accomplish your prospecting goals. Also, be sure to write your prospecting goals down where you can see them and be reminded of your tasks at hand.
Finally, don’t get discouraged or have a pity party if things aren’t going as planned. Difficult days and trying times will affect everyone. Even when you have a map or printed directions, wrong turns, bad decisions, and other factors can cause you to get off course.
However, the key to increasing your income as a real estate professional is to remain diligent and do the right things. When you have a solid written business plan, set goals, prospect daily, and have a good attitude, you’re sure to succeed. Remember what author E.D. Martin said, “It is easier to believe than to doubt.” Source: Realtor.com
Your Loan in the Valley
Here are 10 tactics small business owners use to keep their businesses afloat during slow seasons…
- Cement every client relationship. Conducting one-on-one meetings with every customer to ensure complete customer satisfaction and to renegotiate temporary rates to keep the business where necessary has been a key strategic move during this season.
- Focus on advertising. My best tip for keeping business afloat during slow season is to focus on advertising, and actually invest and spend on advertising. In other words, take a counter-intuitive approach to advertising. Why? Because in the summer season for instance, advertising is a lot less competitive as most businesses (with the exception of travel) spend less during the summer. You can buy advertising cheaper, and you can also make your business stand out because of less competition. Consumers don’t just “shut off” in the summer, and in fact most consumers are predisposed to spend more money in the summer months, which can make advertising pay off.
- Get active. When things are slow, I have a number of actions to take to get myself in action again. You can’t rely just on online sales. I participate in craft fairs and flea markets and will often set up a sale to bring in new customers. I am also approaching stores to talk to the owners or managers about wholesaling my work. Finally, I do custom work. I have done a few pieces for people in my building and that leads to others who want jewelry made just for them.
- Recharge your business. As my company experiences slower moments, we leverage those opportunities to concentrate on ways to recharge and grow the business. So often, we are so busy serving clients that we often do not take sufficient time to organize ourselves, come up with new ideas and processes, and to shine the light on our own company. Thus, we change the emphasis at those times to truly working on our business, instead of solely in it, which recharges, educates, trains, and connects us. Further, as a marketing company, we brainstorm and work on our own marketing initiatives, as they seem to fall by the wayside in favor of our clients’ marketing.
- Produce more sales. This is the highest and best use of my time as without new sales the business will certainly fail. Spending two full days per week in the field with the sales team is an absolute must for the remainder of this year to ensure our revenues. , CEO of Estrada Strategies, a CEO coaching firm based in Southern California.
- Take your business online. We shut down the brick and mortar side of the business to preserve cash and save the business and operated solely online, leveraging top organic search placement in the search engines, in addition to paid search strategies. Everything online is trackable and measurable–there’s no fat. The online marketing emphasis helped us survive, preserve cash and reach a national client base.
- Do “good” work. When things are slow in my business, I find myself taking on more pro-bono work and volunteering. It not only allows me to use my time and talents for the greater good, but it also provides a platform me to try out new ideas or tools that have been wanting to implement. I volunteer because I am passionate about the cause, but it generally leads to more business opportunities as well!
- Adapt to the season. Some seasons are slower than others but if you keep your business relevant to what’s currently going on, your customers will appreciate the sentiment. Offer deals, contests, and giveaways pertaining to the holidays. Another appreciative notion your customers will take positive notice of is giving a nice ‘thank you shout out’ to all of your loyal supporters in your newsletter. Around the winter months remind your customers they are all priceless presents to your company.
- Improve efficiency. We’ve always tried to make sure that we keep on improving the efficiency of our operation. When we say we make our operation more efficient, it means we try to scale well when business grows. When we first began, our focus was obviously to grow the sales / revenue. However, as we grew, we made sure that our revenue / employee ratio continued to increase instead of decrease.
- Manage the bottom line. Cutting out all luxury expenses and managing the numbers month-by-month to maintain profitability and positive cash flow has been the most difficult thing to do. We get comfortable justifying many expenses in our business that are not operational critical and can be either completely eliminated, differed for a future date or cut back. Source: brandmakernews.com
Your Loan in the Valley
While it’s important to do your research during the home-buying process, you can’t believe everything you hear.
We’ll help you spot the popular mortgage myths and reveal the truth behind them.
Myth 1: Once you’re pre-qualified, you’re guaranteed the loan amount.
If you are thinking about purchasing a home, getting pre-qualified is essential to give you a general idea of your budget.
But it’s important to remember that you haven’t been officially approved for that amount yet.
During pre-qualification, your lender looks at your assets and credit report to determine how much you can reasonably expect to be approved for. This doesn’t entail a deep dive into your finances, so the lender isn’t making any commitment at this point — it’s simply a ballpark figure with which to begin your house hunt.
A pre-approval, on the other hand, is much more comprehensive. Your lender will find out everything that they need to know about your financial well-being to approve you for a loan amount.
Note: Once you get pre-approved, it doesn’t mean you can stop worrying about your credit.
Lenders still have the right to check your credit at any time before your mortgage closes, and any additional credit obtained before you close on your home will have to be counted in your debt to income ratio. Depending on the amount of the increased credit, you could nullify your pre-approval.
Myth 2: Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages are always the best.
When people think of a traditional mortgage, it’s a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that comes to mind.
While these mortgages are a common and popular option, they aren’t necessarily the best choice for everyone. Today, conventional wisdom maintains that the average homebuyer lives in his or her home for around 7 years. This makes potential fluctuations in adjustable-rate mortgages a less important factor.
Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) have a stigma attached to them because the interest can fluctuate. What people fail to consider is that these types of loans have interest rate caps to limit how high the rate is able to go. If you’re looking to stay in your home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage may be a great option. If not, some ARMs may be more suitable.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each lender and mortgage is different, so it’s important to read the fine print and understand all of the terms before deciding which type of loan is right for you.
Myth 3: If you’re looking to save money, it’s better to rent.
People often think that renting is less expensive than owning a home.
The fact is, it’s almost always less expensive to pay a mortgage than to rent a comparable home. When you rent, the landlord, real estate company, or apartment complex is responsible for maintenance.
Of course, this convenience is baked into the price you pay each month for rent. As a homeowner, these expenses are your responsibility, but if you are prepared for them, it will almost always cost less than the premium you will pay to rent.
Another perk of owning a home is that it gives you the opportunity to build equity. When the lease is up on your rented apartment, you are free to leave, but the money you paid throughout your lease term is gone.
Owning a home allows you to build wealth slowly over time instead of throwing your hard-earned money away every month.
Myth 4: You should always pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible.
While it’s natural to assume that you want to pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible, it may not be the best use of your money.
Paying down your mortgage may lower your principal but it’s not the same as instant equity. When you pay your mortgage, the only guarantee is that you’re lowering your overall loan balance.
Rather than paying more into your mortgage each month to pay it off sooner, consider investing that extra money.
The interest you earn on these investments may be higher than the interest you pay on your mortgage. Also, keep in mind that the interest you pay on your mortgage may be deductible at tax time.
Myth 5: You can’t get a good loan unless you have a 20% down payment
The old rule of thumb used to be that you needed to put at least 20% down on a home. If you put down less, your interest rate would be worse and you’d have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).
Today, there are many more options out there for mortgages. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers mortgages with as little as 3.5% down.
In addition, “piggyback” mortgages have become more popular in recent years. These loans enable the borrower to take out a second mortgage in order to lower their loan-to-value ratio under 20%. By doing this, the borrower is no longer required to get private mortgage insurance.
Now that you know the truth about these mortgage myths, you may be ready start the home-buying process.
This article originally appeared in Homestead, our home-buying and personal finance magazine. Source: localfirstbank.com
Your Loan in the Valley
“Why should we hire you instead of another real estate agent?” Do you fear this question? If so, you probably have not identified your unique value proposition (UVP). Some people call it the unique selling proposition (they say toe-may-toe; I say toe-mah-toe).
Regardless of what you call it, your unique proposition is what makes you different. It is why someone should hire you and not someone else. Based on our experience, it is hard for many of us to confidently state what we do differently — which is pretty scary, considering that we need to convince people of our value in order to earn new business. But each one of us has several qualities that makes us exceptional at what we do. We just need to discover them.
We have come up with a simple exercise to help you identify your UVP in fewer than 20 minutes. Grab a pen and piece of paper. Write down a list of answers to these questions. Just write. Don’t edit. It’s OK if you repeat yourself. Give yourself three minutes for each question.
- What are the skills for which you are known? Your friends, family and colleagues probably call you for help or advice with these projects. Maybe you are handy with technology. Perhaps you are a creative problem-solver. It could be that you have a great eye for design.
- What are your favorite parts of this business? This is what you spend time doing because you enjoy it — not because you are struggling with it. Maybe you love the marketing element of the job. Perhaps you enjoy collaborating with other people. Or maybe you have fun tinkering with market numbers and statistics.
- What are your past career accomplishments? Whatever you did before this career is likely reflected in your way of helping clients. Former financial advisers or accountants have a facility for numbers and an understanding of a property as an asset. Former customer service people understand the importance of listening and addressing concerns. Former teachers spend time educating their clients to help them in their decision-making processes.
- What are your personal interests? Whether you like taking photographs, walking around your neighborhood or watching home improvement shows, there may be a relevant interest there.
Take a look at the list you just wrote. I bet your answers represent a benefit (or several) for your clients.
Now let’s reduce this list to something usable. Here is how we do it in fewer than 10 minutes:
- Select the three skills or interests on your list that are the most relevant to your business. (It’s OK if there are fewer than three.)
- Write one concise sentence for each skill, communicating how it benefits your clients. Here’s an example: “My love of architecture helps me to sell your home more quickly because I can identify and market the stylistic qualities that attract buyers.”
- Be sure the benefit is something that matters to your clients. Clients are most often concerned about saving (or yielding) the most money, completing the sale quickly and alleviating stress in the process. The goal is to tie your skill, experience or interest back to one of those concerns.
You should now have a better idea of what makes you unique — and you should feel more comfortable about answering the dreaded question, “Why should we hire you and not another real estate agent?”
Use your unique value proposition in your listing presentations, bio, social media posts, marketing pieces — heck, shout it from the mountaintops! Once you have these differentiators committed to memory, you will be more successful at winning new business. Source: inman.com
Your Loan in the Valley
Here are tips to improve the odds your house will sell at an open:
- Map Your Open House Signs.
- Attach strings of balloons to each open house sign.
- Find the busiest intersection closest to your home and put an open house sign at that corner.
- The arrows should point buyers in the right direction.
- Place a sign every few blocks until you end up at your house.
- Remove all vehicles from the driveway. Ask your neighbors to help out by not parking in front of your house.
- Open all the drapes, blinds and window coverings –– let in that light.
- Do not put spices on the stove to simmer without offering cookies, and do not, under any circumstances, use an air freshener because many people are allergic to synthetic odors.
- Turn on every light in the house, except lights that produce noise such as exhaust fans without separate on / off switches.
- Turn on soft music on each floor to help set a mood.
- Have available four-color flyers filled with quality photos and reasons for a buyer to purchase your home.
- Put out flyers that contain financing options so buyers can readily determine their monthly mortgage payment.
- Serve refreshments and snacks or, depending on your budget, maybe a catered lunch.
- Create a bulletin board of seasonal house photographs so buyers can see what the home would look like at another time of the year. This is especially helpful to showcase gardens during the winter.
- Set out all documents pertaining to the house:
- Inspection reports
- Appraisal or comps
- Major repairs & warranties
- Blueprints for additions or future possible improvements
Be upbeat, cheery and greet each buyer who enters the home. Find out what the buyers are looking for and, if possible, show them why your home fits those requirements.
And finally, ask for feedback. Ask each buyer what they thought of your home and would they consider buying it. Agents and sellers are hesitant to ask for a buyer’s opinion, so just grit your teeth and ask. It’s the only way you’re going to get a direct answer, and the answer just might astonish you. They might decide to sit at the kitchen table and write an offer. It happens more often than you would think! Source: about.com
Your Loan in the Valley