November 4, 2011 3:02 pm
Choosing a real estate agent to represent you throughout the home-buying or -selling process can often be time-consuming and challenging, especially for first-timers who may not know where to begin. With so many real estate agents and companies to choose from, it’s crucial that you pay attention to factors such as designations and certifications that help real estate professionals stand out amongst the competition.
The following list offers seven of the more popular designations and certifications that agents hold in order to help better serve today’s consumer.
Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR): Agents with this designation have met specific educational and practical experience criteria, including the completion of a two-day Real Estate Buyer’s Agents Council core course, the REBAC Web course, satellite television education programming, and one elective course. Agents must have also passed a written exam on the legal and practical aspects of agency representation, have proven through five documented sources that they have met the practical experience requirements, and are a member in good standing with both REBAC and The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).
Certified Residential Specialist (CRS): This is the highest designation awarded to sales associates, with less than 5% of REALTORS® holding this certification. The CRS has been awarded since 1977 and recognizes agents who meet stringent requirements, including 75 transactions within five years or $25,000,000 in sales in five years.
e-PRO Internet Professional: To help REALTORS® navigate the Internet waters, NAR developed the e-PRO® certification about a decade ago. The curriculum was updated last year to include taking advantage of social media platforms and helping agents create an online presence vital to reaching today’s hyper-connected consumers. An agent who has this designation has gone through a series of courses that cover topics such as how to effectively use social media technologies such as Facebook and Twitter to create an online presence, and how to take advantage of rich media and e-office strategies to run their businesses more efficiently.
Certified Property Manager (CPM): For an agent to receive this accreditation, they must have passed 10 courses given by the Institute of Real Estate Management on topics including marketing, human resources, asset management and ethics. Agents must also have done work on a management plan for a subject building and provided three professorial references.
NAR’s Green Designations: As more home buyers have become concerned with energy efficiency and the environment as a whole, this is perhaps the most popular designation in the past few years. REALTORS® with this designation have completed 12 core course hours and six elective hours in either residential, commercial, or property management. These agents are considered community leaders and resources for sustainability issues and understand how to seek out and market properties with green features.
Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES): Agents who hold the SRES designation are trained to address the needs of those ages 50 and above. These REALTORS® have been educated on topics such as housing, finance, and retirement income considerations, as well as the differences in housing options from age-restricted communities to age-in-place to assisted living. They know about reverse mortgages, pensions, 401k accounts, and IRAs. They can also tell you how real estate decisions can be made by Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Counselor of Real Estate (CRE): The Counselor of Real Estate is an international group of recognized professionals who provide seasoned, objective advice on real property and land-related matters. Membership in the organization is invitation-only and is awarded through peer, employer and client reviews. To be considered for membership, applicants must demonstrate that they provide valuable and meaningful real estate counseling services to their clients or employer; they hold a senior position in a firm; are recognized for their excellence, knowledge, integrity, and judgment; plus have at least 10 years of experience in real estate and three in counseling.
For more information regarding real estate designations, contact our office today.
November 4, 2011 3:02 pm
While today’s economy has caused homeowners to re-prioritize their spending habits, game rooms, complete with billiard tables and video games have been toned down and revamped in the past few years. These new media or “leisure” rooms, however, are an area that can’t be overlooked when it comes time to put your home on the market.
If you’re in the process of preparing your home for sale, be sure to take the time to update your home’s leisure room with eye-catching furniture, top-of-the-line gadgets and accessories that stand out.
“I continue to see electronics driving home-leisure activities,” said David Start, vice president of California House, a 58-year-old furniture manufacturer based in Sacramento, Calif. “Whether it is Apple TV, Roku, Netflix, the re-invented Blockbuster or Amazon, there are tremendous companies out there gobbling up a lot of dollars.”
Start believes that home theaters will attract buyers as more people yearn to own a fully-integrated media room.
“At California House, we continue to do well with our Home Entertainment program,” he said. “It taps into the electronic lifestyle a little bit and allows the homeowner to wrap their technology in a beautiful piece of furniture.”
When people hear “home theater room,” they immediately think of something big and elaborate and expensive, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
“With the technology available today, you can have a fantastic, world class video and sound system for about $6,000,” Start said. “Add $3,000 to $4,000 worth of cabinetry to tie it all in, and families can enjoy a cinema experience right in their own home, every night.”
In fact, Audio Visions has recently been advocating a room where you can sit at the bar, play pool and watch the game—all in the same room.
Paul Darafeev of Darafeev Resort Furniture expects home theater/billiard multi-purpose rooms to gain popularity again in 2012.
“The new Darafeev concept in theater seating is revolutionary, in that it accommodates all of that, and allows for true theater type seating, for 12 to 20 people, in a space that would barely fit three or four overstuffed Lay-Z-Boy type recliners,” he said. “It’s also about style. The mid-century-modern look is a throwback to the ‘Good old days’ of watching “The Jetsons” cartoon on Saturday morning, then going to your buddy’s home to play pool. In fact, we are working with an artist who is coming up with fabrics inspired by “The Jetsons” in bright, up-to-date colors.”
Arash Amini, CEO of Amini’s Galleria, Inc. in Chesterfield, Mo., expects one product to be a huge hit in 2012.
“The MegaSofa by American Treasures will be on everyone’s wish list,” he said. “It seats so many people, is the most comfortable sofa you will ever sit on and it angles towards the TV. It’s a complete winner.”
When staging your home for sale, be sure to complement the theater room with movie accessories to create something people will want to come home to.
“Framed movie posters are popular for the entry into the room and vintage popcorn makers are great as well,” said Eileen Wheeler, a designer with The Asheville Home Staging Company. “You want to create an experience.”
For additional staging tips, contact our office today.
November 4, 2011 3:02 pm
President Barack Obama’s administration recently launched a new plan designed to help struggling homeowners refinance underwater mortgage loans at today’s historically low interest rates.
On October 24, President Obama announced that the government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) was being modified to make refinancing at these current low interest rates easier for borrowers, in hopes of saving Americans thousands of dollars a year.
The real estate industry has had mixed reaction to the plan, with some praising the initiative while others say it doesn't go far enough.
“Over the past two years, we’ve already taken some steps to help folks refinance their mortgages,” Obama announced, listing a series of measures his administration had enacted. “But we can do more.”
Obama’s new plan calls for a sweeping overhaul of the 2-and-a-half-year-old HARP program, easing rules and reducing fees. The revisions include lifting a ceiling that barred participation by borrowers who owed more than 125% of the value of their homes, and using a controversial modeling method to replace costly appraisals that are among the fees that have kept some homeowners from refinancing.
The HARP program cuts red tape, gives banks an incentive to participate and lowers the usual fees paid for refinancing. It also encourages borrowers to switch from 30-year mortgages to those of shorter durations, which would reduce the overall risk for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans.
Currently, Americans hold about 11 million underwater mortgages, where the loan amount exceeds the home value. However, only a fraction of those will qualify for refinancing under the new plan.
Those eligible include homeowners who have kept up their loan payments for at least six months, have loans guaranteed by the housing agencies and owe more than 125% of their home’s value.
Many analysts are uncertain as to whether this will solve the problem since the program won’t help the 3.5 million borrowers who are seriously delinquent on their loans or are already in default.
“It’s a step forward, but what we need is a leap forward,” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, an association of organizations that promote access to affordable housing.
Terry Green, a broker with Allied Mortgage Corporation in Annandale, Va., and the President of the National Lenders Alliance is critical of the changes.
“The housing market should seek its own bottom and it will repair itself,” he said. “Every time the government gets involved and intervenes, all it does is delay the ultimate repair of the housing market. I think it’s a bad move.”
Still, the plan could help one to two million people get significantly lower monthly payments in hopes of stabilizing the real estate market.
The President himself acknowledged that this latest proposal will not do all that’s needed to get the housing market back on its feet, but he believes it will help.
“These are important steps that will help more homeowners refinance at lower rates, enable consumers to save money and help get folks spending again,” Obama said.
For more information about HARP, contact our office today.
November 4, 2011 3:02 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 struggling homeowners will be affected by the planned overhaul of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). Other topics covered this month include the importance of designations, the resurgence of home theaters, how to spruce up your home with area rugs, and more. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!
November 3, 2011 9:14 pm
In the unfortunate event of a fire in your home, every second counts when trying to get your family to safety. In mere minutes, a house can be filled with thick, suffocating smoke and engulfed in flames. Having a fire escape plan for your family is crucial to your survival should tragedy strike. Follow these tips in case a fire should occur in your home.
Start exiting immediately as soon as there's evidence of a fire. Do not waste time trying to save property. Depending on the circumstance, you may need to crawl low under the smoke. Remember to keep your mouth covered as smoke inhalation can disorient or even cause you to faint. The quicker you start exiting, the better.
Never open doors with hot door knobs. Using the back of your hand, test each knob before opening doors. You can also check for heat through the cracks of the doors. If you don't feel any warmth, open the entry carefully, but if there is evidence of a fire on the other side, use another alternative.
Once your family reaches safety, stay out. Escaping is your first priority. Choose a spot outside away from the home where your entire family can meet. Designate one family member to find a phone and call 911. Never go back into your home for any reason. Teach children not to hide from firefighters. If firemen need to do an emergency rescue, children need to know to trust them.
By practicing your escape plan with your family, you can ensure that every member knows multiple routes out of the home in case a fire wreaks havoc. Secondary routes can be created using collapsible ladders to escape from upper stories. Keep spare ladders on each floor of the home, and make sure the ladders fit your windows before purchasing them. Periodically check your windows to make sure none are jammed and that they open easily.
You can never be over-prepared for an emergency like a house fire. By mapping out your exit strategy, educating family members and purchasing escape ladders for worst-case-scenarios, you can keep your entire family safe in the wake of an unpredictable fire in your home.
November 3, 2011 9:14 pm
Fewer Americans are heading south to warmer temperatures than they did prior to the recession, according to a new study by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Researchers evaluated three years' worth of data to reveal this new trend in U.S. migration patterns.
Due to factors like the slowly-recovering housing market and a weakened employment picture, Americans are fonder of staying put rather than moving south. Although states such as Nevada, Arizona and Florida have had fewer residents enter their state since the beginning of the recession, experts say this decline will soon start to level off. State such as Massachusetts, California and New York, states whose residents had been packing up and moving, are now seeing far fewer declines in population throughout colder months.
For example, Florida had a net migration gain of 209,000 in 2005, but a loss of 30,000 in 2009, according to the study. On the other hand, New York had a net loss of 71,000 migrants in 2009, a drastic shift from the 170,000 migrants it lost in 2005. Likewise, California saw its loss of migrants shrink to 71,000 in 2009 from 201,000 in 2005.
November 3, 2011 9:14 pm
Homeowners tend to have conflicting emotions regarding their homes during economically challenging times. Wanting to embrace their need for change and feel positive about their living space, homeowners frequently want to purchase new products, while remaining financially and environmentally responsible. The marketplace is now seeing a shift to homeowners looking for items that have high value and a long lifespan.
“People are educating themselves more these days on the impact a single purchase will have on thems and on the environment,” says Kate Smith, president of Sensational Color. “For example, a homeowner may desire real wood shake shingles on a roof, but they understand the lifespan of those roofing shingles is extremely limited. They’re thinking twice about how many trees would need to be harvested to make those wood shingles.
Smith has identified several key trends related to exterior home products and colors, including:
Trend #1 – Living Simply in a Complex World –The desire for a more streamlined life motivates people to select modern technology, products and materials that make our complex lives easier.
Trend #2 – Give Me More “Me Time” – Younger buyers are now changing their home buying strategies. These individuals are embracing older homes that they can personalize by adding newer products that require minimal maintenance. They’re looking for products that help blend the older bones of a home with their modern sensibilities in order to provide a sense of connection to history and their community.
Trend #3 – Rules are Made to be Broken – Today’s homeowners are making their own rules. In the coming years, look for unusual mixing of materials and colors in ways communities haven’t previously seen. Homeowners want their homes to reflect their personalities, but they also want to express themselves on the exterior of the home.
Trend #4 – Naturally Inspired and Improved – Colors and materials that harmonize with the natural surroundings of a home are increasingly important to homeowners. Homeowners are basing their purchasing decisions on their increased understanding that the manufactured products they select will have a longer life span, thus reducing the need for replacement. And, in many situations, these man-made products that look, feel and have natural colors incorporated, require less maintenance and reduce the negative impact on the environment.
Trend #5 – Inside Out Harmony –Regional colors and materials on a home exterior help anchor people to their community, providing a unity within a neighborhood or subdivision. In many cases, homeowners are also bringing the outside indoors by adding plant walls, gardens and water features into the home. On the exterior, they’re adding fire pit areas, and outdoor living and dining room spaces that blur the boundaries of the living both inside and outside the home.
Smith predicts that many of these trends will take off between 2012-2015. For more on color selection for the home, visit www.sensationalcolor.com.
November 2, 2011 9:14 pm
By Nick Caruso
Whether you're moving in state or across the country, there are many different options for those seeking professional moving help. For those on a budget, full-service moves may be too pricey, while doing everything yourself is back-breaking and tiresome without an army of friends bribed by beer and pizza. Fortunately, there is a middle ground—moving labor services.
Halfway between full service and DIY, moving labor services allow you to hire and pay only for the services you need and want. Relocation breaks down these services into the following three options: rental trucks, portable storage containers and space rental in commercial trailers.
For in-state moves, a rental truck might be all you need. For a couple hundred dollars (depending on the company), you might be able to complete your move with a single truck and a couple of hours. After renting the vehicle, you can hire moving labor to load and unload it for you. You can even hire them for additional services, such as driving the rental truck for you for an additional fee. For short moves, hired help and a rental truck may be all you need to get the job done.
For temporary storage, you may want to consider renting a portable service container. The container company delivers a container for you to fill up however you'd like. They then pick it up and store it for however long you need and then deliver it back to you at your new address. With this option, you can either load it yourself or hire help to do it for you. You can even split the labor between hired help and your own hard work. These containers are a great option—the company takes care of the entire method of transportation and you only worry about loading and unloading.
What many movers fail to utilize is rented space in commercial trailers. For long-distance moves, you can rent part of a trailer to move your belongings. Trailers are split up and shared amongst many customers so that the cost is shared and cheaper for all involved. Moving labor can be hired to help you unload your share, providing you with a cost effective way to transport your things and preventing you from having to drive cross-country yourself.
There are many different options available to you when planning for your next big move. With hired moving labor and a variety of transportation options, any mover can find a method that suits his or her specific needs and budget.
November 2, 2011 9:14 pm
Home defects come in all shapes and sizes. From structural problems to air flow and ventilation issues, a lot of things can go wrong with your home. Whether you're buying or selling your home, or simply staying put, you should be aware of some of the common home defects that abound so you can fix them quickly and easily before they become catastrophes.
Poor drainage is the most common problem found by home inspectors. To improve your drainage, you may have to install a new system of eaves, troughs and downspouts to better aim water away from the house. Inadequate drainage can be a devastating defect. Water can damage basements, garages and crawl spaces, compromising the foundation of the home and creating mold. Taking care of this issue is of dire importance, and buyers should avoid purchasing homes that may have drainage problems.
Another important defect to watch out for is rotted wood, both inside and outside the home. Wood exposed to excess moisture is bound to rot. This can happen in bathrooms, on flooring or even in the kitchen. Find these problem areas in your home and protect them with a special paint or finish. Don't forget to check your deck and outside trim as well.
Always be attentive of a structure's roof. Damaged shingles or improperly installed flashing are severe warning signs that trouble lurks ahead. Check for leaky ceilings as a sign of a damaged roof. Repairing the roof is crucial in order to prevent further damage later. Although it may be an expensive repair, it's always best to take care of it before it affects other parts of the home.
Without proper ventilation, a build-up of moisture can attack a home's interior walls and structural components. Ventilation fans are a good idea for bathrooms without windows, and opening all of the home's windows during bouts of good weather also helps keep the air moving. Doing so can help prevent drywall replacements or other more expensive structural replacements. Find out the best way to keep your house ventilated and keep that air flowing.
Poor Overall Maintenance
Has the house been properly maintained over the years? How confident are you in the previous owner's repair skills? Sometimes improper maintenance can affect many parts of the home, such as the plumbing and electrical systems. Scope out any makeshift repairs and have a professional take a look, if necessary. Faulty wiring jobs and plumbing situations are not cases to be taken lightly. If a house doesn't look well-kept, this may be reason enough to send buyers running.
With the proper maintenance, any home defect can be righted to ensure a safe living environment for any family.
For more information, visit http://www.elsahomeinspections.com and http://www.hometeaminspection.com/.
November 2, 2011 9:14 pm
In commemoration of National Family Caregiver’s Month beginning November 1, the CareGiver Partnership will Tweet daily healthy tips for caregivers throughout the month.
“Because being a family caregiver requires a high level of compassion and personal sacrifice, it’s easy to neglect one’s own health and interests, and that can lead to burn-out,” says Lynn Wilson, co-founder of The CareGiver Partnership.
To remind caregivers to take care of themselves in order to effectively care for others, the Partnership offers the following tips as a starting point:
• Keep a journal in which you can acknowledge your feelings and plan the week’s activities.
• Stay connected through online resources, such as forums, Facebook communities and Twitter feeds.
• Spend unhurried quality time with your loved one. Look at photos, read or just talk.
• Tell family members you may need help at some point and you expect them to pitch in.
• Strike a balance between caring for your loved one and caring for yourself. Make sure to set aside alone time to unwind.
• Utilize respite care services for short-term needs. Doing so will give you time for errands or caring for your own family.
When caring for others, caregivers sometimes neglect their own health. It is vital for caregivers to take steps to make time to care for themselves. Follow Caregiver Tweets (www.twitter.com/CaregiverTweets) for daily help and inspiration, or visit www.caregiverpartnership.com for more information.