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Lockboxes Provide Unique Advantage in Today's Competitive Market

July 5, 2012 4:14 pm

When it comes to getting your home sold, agents across the board agree that utilizing a lockbox can make a big difference between whether or not your home sells, and how quickly. In fact, real estate professionals go as far as saying that lockbox codes and lockboxes allow for quicker sales and more views by qualified buyers.

In its simplest definition, a lockbox is a metal box that literally attaches to the front doorknob or other secure part of the home. Inside the lockbox is a smaller box that contains the key to the house, so when an agent opens the lockbox, the smaller container slides out, providing easy access to the home.

Since the majority of today’s real estate listings are entered into a Multiple Listing Service, your home is getting more exposure as more real estate agents than ever before can show your home to prospective buyers.

This means that real estate professionals need access to your home on fairly short notice, however, you and your agent can control when prospective buyers have access to your home by setting the lockbox hours.

Without a lockbox, sellers have to plan accordingly so that they are present when prospective buyers come to see the home with their agent. In addition, if you simply leave your house key out for your agent, he or she might have to rush off to another showing across town, leaving your home unavailable to other interested buyers.

Lockboxes are also much more advanced than they used to be. Unlike the lockboxes of a decade ago, today’s lockboxes are mostly electronic and record the time and date as well as which agent showed your home. They even notify your listing agent immediately so that he or she can quickly get to work on your behalf.

For those worried about security issues, a stranger cannot come by, open the box, get the key and gain entry to the house. The only way to open a lockbox is with an electronic key, and the only way to get a key is to become a member of the local MLS. Each key has a unique identifier and agents are forbidden to let another agent use their electronic key.

If your agent doesn’t recommend using a lockbox, don’t be afraid to ask for one. It’s your home and you can certainly call the shots.

To learn more about taking advantage of lockboxes when selling your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Going Once, Going Twice...Sold! Put Together an Offer the Seller Won't Refuse

July 5, 2012 4:14 pm

Submitting an offer on a home and waiting to hear back is one of the most stressful parts of the home-buying process. Since there is always room to negotiate when it comes to price, you want to be sure to put in an offer that the seller can’t refuse or you risk losing your dream home to someone with a higher bid.

While prospective homebuyers are often unaware of current trends in the real estate market, many typically rely on advice and guidance from their parents, friends and coworkers who don’t necessarily have a good pulse on the real estate market.

That’s why educated buyers who have spoken with their agent about an acceptable offer will have a better chance of hearing “sold” when the phone rings. Not only will a good agent offer valuable information, they can also help you buy the home you want at the price you want to pay.

Real estate agents have access to statistics and trend information that others don’t, so their advice is invaluable. But when it comes to submitting an offer, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s about more than just the money. In fact, there are several things you can include in the bid to help foster a successful deal.

When it comes to getting a bid accepted, first-time homebuyers often have a significant advantage over repeat buyers because their agent is instrumental in advising them to not only take the time to get pre-qualified, but to also be pre-approved for a mortgage before they even begin looking for a home. And since they don’t have to wait for another house to sell, their offer will be attractive to someone looking to sell a home.

Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that sellers are typically attracted to “clean” bids. A clean bid is one in which the buyer doesn’t ask for any contingencies, repairs or updates to be done. In the end, sellers are happiest when they can simply collect their money and move out quietly.

Buyers should also plan in advance to have funds available for a fast closing. Many agents will tell you that even if you’re not the highest bidder, your bid may still be accepted because you are willing to close right away.

Before making an offer, be sure to talk with your agent and decide what you’re willing to give up in order to have your bid accepted, as it could be the most important bid you ever place in your life.

For more information on increasing your chances of having your offer selected, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Money Matters: Financial Commitments Extend Beyond Price of Home

July 5, 2012 4:14 pm

When you begin searching for a home, most prospective buyers go into the process with an idea regarding the price range they can afford, however, according to many real estate experts, people often forget to factor in all the costs involved.

In order to make sure you’ve accounted for everything, it’s important for buyers to make a list of all the expenses associated with purchasing a home and prepare themselves ahead of time for the money that is required once a new home is purchased.

When it comes to buying a house, there’s a lot more to worry about than just the price of the home. In addition to the mortgage and the interest that comes with it, buyers need to be ready for everything from taxes to insurance to the cost of maintaining the yard.

When preparing a list of financial commitments, you should always begin with taxes. Property taxes can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly mortgage payment and can increase depending on school and town budgets. A home is normally taxed on its assessed value, an amount equal to a fraction of its appraised value.

Homeowners insurance is another necessary item that can’t be overlooked. Buyers need to insure the value of the home against fire, theft and perhaps flood damage, which must be purchased separately. Be sure to take the time to shop around for the best price and remember that this cost can go up each year, especially if you file a claim.

Although private mortgage insurance isn’t something everyone has, more and more homebuyers are turning to this and need to factor this in to their monthly payments. If a homebuyer puts less than 20 percent down on a mortgage, they’ll need to pay PMI, which protects the lender against one defaulting on the loan. Again, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars each month.

For those moving from an apartment or a home they’ve been living in with their parents, things like water, gas, electricity and oil may not have been a concern, but when you move into a new house, you need to pay for all of these things, plus cable, phone and Internet service. It may be beneficial to ask the seller for their average monthly cost over the last year so you know how much you should be putting aside.

You may love a property because of its large yard and beautiful landscaping, but unless you have a green thumb and the time to dedicate to maintaining it, you’re going to need someone to come in and mow, weed and take care of those flowers and shrubs. The last thing you want is for that picturesque outside looking like a jungle. Check with local yard contractors to see what a service like this will cost.

Also, don’t forget that you’re most likely going to want to make some changes or upgrades within the home, so be sure to make a list of all the projects you’re considering—such as adding new carpeting, drapes or appliances—and leave room in your budget for some of these costs each month.

You may need to adjust the cost of the home you’re looking to buy, but in the long run, it will make for a less stressful life once you move in.

To learn more about all the costs associated with buying a home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tackle Projects Around the Home with Your Own Two Hands

July 5, 2012 4:14 pm

Purchasing and moving into your dream home is one of the most exciting times of your life, but it’s important for homeowners—especially first timers—to take into consideration the upkeep that comes with owning a home. If you’re leaving behind a condo, rental building or even your childhood home, you need to have the proper tools at your disposal so that you can take care of projects on your own.

While you may need to call in the professionals for big projects like electrical work or roofing (although even a savvy self-made handyman could figure this out with the right book), when it comes to wall hangings, painting, fixtures and other small projects, having the proper tools will enable you to get things done quickly and efficiently.

The first thing every new homeowner should have is a toolbox in order to keep everything organized and in one location. Even if you have a designated “tool drawer,” it will most likely become jammed with non-tool items, making it hard to find exactly what you’re looking for when a new project gets added to the list. Keeping all your tools together is a simple way to save time and eliminate stress when it comes to completing tasks around the house.

Once you’ve purchased a tool box, take a trip to your local hardware store and buy the standard tools that everyone should have—screwdrivers (multiple sizes of both Phillips- and flat-heads), a hammer, wrench, saw and pliers. Then start adding to your collection so that your toolbox includes everything you could possibly need for whatever project you’re tackling.

One important addition that shouldn’t be overlooked is a tape measure. Not only will you need to measure for curtains and new furniture, you’ll also be glad you have a tape measure when it comes to hanging photos and completing a plethora of other home fixing activities.

In addition, don’t forget to pick up a drill and the bits that go with it. Sure, you can accomplish most of the screwing and unscrewing with a screwdriver, but a drill will save you a lot of time and effort. Plus, when you start buying things that need to be put together at home (bookcases, beds, shelves, etc.), you’ll be happy you made the investment.

If you plan on hanging pictures or shelves in your new home, a level is a must for any handyman. This is another tool that will get a lot more use than you think.

Wire cutters are also important for those who plan on connecting surround sound or doing something with their stereo or television equipment. They can even be put to use for attaching a ceiling fan or performing other small-scale electrical projects.

Other items to start with include different sized nails and screws, wall hangers, blades, a utility knife, clamps and duct tape. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t be afraid to ask the experts at your local hardware store what they recommend.

For more tips on how to tackle projects on your own, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Financial Commitments, Short Sales

July 5, 2012 4:14 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how homeowners can tackle projects around the home quickly and efficiently by investing in the right tools. Other topics covered this month include putting together an offer the seller won't refuse and how lockboxes provide a unique advantage in today's market. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Ways to Maximize a Small Kitchen

July 5, 2012 2:06 am

A small kitchen can quickly become cluttered and feel cramped. According to Consumer Reports, a few small upgrades can make a big improvement. To maximize the space you have, rethink where you store things, especially if counter space is at a premium. Here are five additional ways to make every available inch count:
  1. Place your dishwasher strategically. Choose a location near the sink but where the dishwasher won't stop traffic when the door is open. Remember to think about access to other appliances, too. You don't want the dishwasher door to block the refrigerator door, for example.
  2. Incorporate a landing spot for food by the refrigerator and for pots and pans on at least one side of the stove. These small details can easily improve your kitchen's efficiency.
  3. Install roll-out cabinets where possible. A roll-out spice rack near the range is a great use of space and eliminates clutter on the countertop or in a cabinet.
  4. Drawers and pull-out shelves can make a big difference. They're a perfect way to store pots, pans, kitchen tools and even dishware. Most commercial cabinets can be outfitted with pull-out shelves and other organizers.
  5. Before making any updates, take an inventory of everything you need and use in your kitchen and where it's kept. Remember to plan storage for small, easily overlooked items such as pot holders and plastic bags.
Source: Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Job Openings Increase in Top 50 Metro Areas, Says New Report

July 5, 2012 2:06 am

The July 2012 Employment Outlook from job search engine Simply Hired®, reports a 9.2 percent increase in nationwide job openings month-over-month and a 13.3 percent increase year-over-year. Job competition held steady at a nationwide ratio of three unemployed persons for every one job opening.

"For the second month in a row we're seeing positive growth in job openings nationwide," says Gautam Godhwani, Co-founder and CEO of Simply Hired. "This steady increase is reflected across all the major metro areas, showing that employers have a confidence in today's economy, which is very encouraging as we head towards the fall hiring season."

Job openings increased in all 50 of the major metros, with Boston and Pittsburgh (both 16 percent, respectively) and Salt Lake City (15 percent) showing the largest increases. While nationwide job competition held steady, regional competition eased up slightly. Job seekers in a number of metro areas are facing improved conditions, including those in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle & Tacoma, Tampa & St. Petersburg, Denver, Sacramento, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Raleigh & Durham, Greenville (S.C.), and Las Vegas.

Job openings in all 18 industries increased in June, with agriculture (31.6 percent) and non-profit (18.2 percent) showing the largest amount of growth. Financial services (11.5 percent) and real estate (11.5 percent) also saw noticeable increases.

With nearly two-thirds of all occupation categories experiencing growth in job openings, office and administrative workers (15.3 percent) and food workers (8.7 percent) saw the largest increases. Occupations experiencing the largest declines month-over-month included financial specialists and accountants (-23.2 percent) and military personnel (-9.1 percent).

Source: Simply Hired

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Reduce Wildfire Risk

July 5, 2012 2:06 am

Few homeowners prepare for a wildfire or take steps to reduce wildfire risk unless one is threatening their home. However, according to Allstate, the fires raging in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, along with the dry, drought-like conditions across the country should have every homeowner taking steps to reduce wildfire risk.

Allstate recommends homeowners reduce wildfire hazards by taking a few simple steps that can make a big difference if a wildfire threatens your community.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), homeowners should remove potential fuel sources and create a defensible zone around a home which will dramatically reduce wildfire hazards. This may help slow flames or help direct the flames away from your home during a wildfire. Allstate and IBHS also recommend homeowners do the following within 30 feet of most houses to reduce wildfire risk:
  • Eliminate fuel sources like dry landscaping, woodpiles and decks.
  • Prune trees and shrubs.
  • Trim taller trees so lowest branch is no less than six feet from the ground.
  • Remove dead leaves and branches from the yard.
  • Clear branches from around the roof and chimney.
  • Mow lawn regularly and dispose cuttings and debris promptly.
  • Clear roof, gutters and eaves of debris.
  • Maintain your irrigation system.
  • Move firewood and storage tanks at least 50 feet away from the home.
  • Store flammable liquids properly.
Source: The Allstate Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fourth of July Grilling Tradition Continues

July 3, 2012 2:04 am

According to the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch™ Survey, a whopping 90 percent of American grill owners fire up their backyard grill on the Fourth of July, a nine percent jump from last year.

Weber commissioned Toluna to field the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch Survey. A total of 1,000 grill owners throughout the United States completed the online survey. All respondents were 21 years of age or older and currently own a charcoal, gas or electric outdoor grill or smoker. The sample was divided between 50 percent males and 50 percent females and was balanced demographically to represent households across the U.S.

The survey revealed the following fun grilling facts:
  • Independence Day remains the most popular "grilling holiday" of the year, followed by Labor Day (77 percent); birthdays (76 percent); Memorial Day (71 percent) and Father's Day (53 percent).
  • The three foods grilled most often are hamburgers (73 percent), chicken (41 percent) and steak (40 percent).
  • Hot dogs and burgers remain the top two foods considered easiest to grill (78 percent and 72 percent, respectively; followed by steak (49 percent), brats (43 percent) and chicken (38 percent).
  • Three in 10 grill owners feel that grilling is an extremely important activity when entertaining guests in their home (30 percent); with 77 percent say grilling is an important activity when entertaining.
  • The grill brings people together. During grill parties, more than one-half of grill owners (59 percent) say their guests tend to congregate outside—of those, 26 percent enjoy "hanging out" exclusively by the grill.
  • On average, grill owners host approximately 2.8 barbecues during the summer; nearly 19 percent say they hosted at least five barbecues during the summer months.
Source: Weber-StephenProducts LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Tips for Effective Retirement Planning

July 3, 2012 2:04 am

Planning for retirement can be a time of great anticipation as well as great anxiety. And, given the current economic climate, many individuals have changed their plans for retirement by either pushing back their retirement date or have considered working part time during their retirement to supplement their fixed incomes.

According to Jim Cantrell, a certified financial planner and owner of Financial Strategies, Inc. in Brookfield, Wis., while some people close to retirement have changed their goals or approach, others simply don't know what to do.

He provides the following five tips to help create a solid financial plan for the future:
  • Know what you are going to do. If you have grandiose thoughts of spending months in exotic destinations, you will need to put a bit more into your retirement fund than if your goal is to do volunteer work and stay close to home. One of the best ways to ensure that your future plans are appropriate for you is to get involved in activities that are of interest before you retire. For example, if you plan to spend your time volunteering, consider giving a few hours a week before retirement to see if this will work with your future plans. Additionally, if relocation is part of your retirement goal, spend time vacationing in the areas you could potentially call your future home.
  • Know your benefits. It is important to talk to your organization's human resources department well before you plan to retire. Consider items such as health insurance, pension and stock options. Each of these things could have a big impact on your finances once you are retired.
  • Diversify your stock options. As you approach retirement, it is important to ensure that you do not have an over concentration of stock positions. Sometimes senior management and upper level executives have a lot of their portfolio tied up in their company; however, once they retire, they will not have the same level of control in the direction the company takes. Having all your eggs in one basket (or a lot of them) is never a good idea, this is why it is important to consider diversifying your investment portfolio.
  • Move to stable investments. As you approach retirement (approximately five to seven years prior), consider shifting your investment portfolio from a higher percentage of equities to less risky, fixed or stable investments. This will make your portfolio a much safer place to go and get your money when you need it.
  • Have a solid plan. How much will you need to put away to live the lifestyle you currently enjoy, or what things do you plan to cut out? Know what you currently have available and what you will need and put it all down in a solid and workable plan. One of the best ways to ensure that you have a solid plan is to meet with a certified financial planning practitioner (a fee-only advisor is recommended) to create a program that meets all your future needs.
Source: Financial Strategies, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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