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Updated: Friday, July 03, 2015

Become The Real Estate Agent of Choice For Prospective Homebuyers

Being a convenient and efficient real estate agent is a critical part of staying competitive in the industry. There are a lot of agents out there your clients could use instead of you in fact, The National Associaiton of REALTORS reports there are currently more than one million member realtors across 1,341 local associations. If you want to win clients over, you need to make their experience easy and pleasant. The following tips will help you become the most convenient and >

Pick up the Phone

Return client calls as quickly as possible. People who are in the market for a new home are going through a stressful time, and if they cant get a hold of you, they will abandon you for someone they can reach. Make contact with your clients a priority.

Staying in contact is about more than just answering the phone, though; you must be just as quick with email, text and any other means of communication your client chooses to use. If they want to use Skype, get Skype in fact, those dealing with clients from out of state or country should be using Skype to keep that face-to-face interaction going over a great distance.

Chauffeur Convenience

Not all your clients are going to be able to drive from location to location looking at homes, and you should be able to drive them. In the long run, having a larger vehicle like an SUV is handy for you as an agent, because you can easily and comfortably shuttle prospective home buyers from location to location. Those in the market for this form of convenience should visit DriveTime and look for a deal on a used SUV in good condition that can serve as the work car. Having a car large enough for your clients to share a back seat comfortably also gives them a sense of privacy, which many first time home owners desperately need when discussing their future, their dreams and their misgivings about a property.

One final advantage of playing the role of chauffeur to your clients is that it is easier to keep them there, engaged in the prospect of buying a house with you after all, youre the one with the car

Know the Neighborhood

Neighborhoods should be one of your most important collections of knowledge. From where you are standing on a property, you should always be able to point to where the nearest cultural and educational sites are, as well as the best restaurants and social spots. In many cases, your clients are going to be totally unfamiliar with a neighborhood and your job is to make them feel at home without them having to do any work at all. If they have to ask around and cruise the neighborhood to see if there is a grocery store within a couple blocks, than you have failed to provide them with the convenience that another agent su>
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Ask the HOA Expert: Without Living Here, Can Individuals Remain On The Board?

Question: I am an owner in a rather small condominium complex. The board is made up of five individuals. We have now learned that two of the officers of the board, the president and vice-president, are planning to rent their units and live elsewhere, one of them to another state. My question is, without living here, can these individuals remain on the board?

Answer: There are two issues. The board is composed of directors, some who are officers. As directors, they are entitled to remain on the board although doing so may not be practical or fair to those members that voted them in. Not living at or in close proximity to the HOA clearly compromises a directors ability to attend meetings and be directly informed of the physical condition of the property.

A director that also serves as an officer has even a higher responsibility to those that elected them since the officers direct the day to day business of the HOA. Having a local president, in particular, is extremely important. However, officers are selected by the board itself so this can be changed when circumstances dictate. If the two top officers are no longer local, I recommend that other directors assume these duties.

It makes sense that the non-local directors tender their resignations if they are no longer able to attend the board meetings. That said, the board has no authority to remove directors, even for just cause. They were elected by the members and can only be removed from the board by the members.

Question: Our new board is preparing our Annual Calendar. How many board meetings a year should we hold?

Answer: The answer is directly >

If the HOA is self-managed, the board usually meets at least every two months or even monthly if the common elements are extensive.

Keep in mind that board meetings are for the benefit of the general membership as well who have the right to attend and petition the board. Board meetings should be scheduled a year in advance in a location that is guest friendly. Scheduling months in advance ensures that there will be no scheduling conflicts.

Question: Our board has been advised to steer clear of Neighborhood Watch type programs due to potential liability. Your opinion?

Answer: While an HOA needs to be careful not to boast of being "secure", the board needs to take reasonable precautions to make sure the common area is not attractive to criminals. This includes making sure there is adequate night light, landscaping and trees are trimmed to allow light to disperse and not conceal criminal activity. If there is entry access control gates, doors, they should be maintained in good repair.

Participating in a criminal watch program not only makes sense, every HOA should encourage it. It does not mean iron clad security, only improved self-help vigilance by the HOA members. Participation in such programs should be broadcast to members and criminals alike by notices and signs. Each year, a special meeting should be held to reacquaint the members with the program and renew heightened awareness.

Question: Our current board is considering enforcing long standing architectural restrictions that previous boards failed to enforce. Should we grandfather existing violations or enforce the restrictions retroactively?

Answer: There is no "one answer fits all". There is never any automatic "grandfathering". The board needs to weigh each violation and its importance. The big ones may be worth fighting for while minor ones are not. The board can compromise when its in the best interest of the HOA and too expensive to litigate.

Question: When our HOA was developed years ago, the board allowed unit owners to customize the landscaping around their units even though the land was common area.. Some have done it well while others not so well or at all. Our current board is debating whether to return all landscape maintenance to the landscape contractor. What are the challenges?

Answer: Having professional landscape maintenance of landscaping installed by owners simply wont work. For the contractor to maintain the new area would require replacing the custom landscaping with a standardized maintenance plan.

One fundamental principle that will help guide your board in the future: The board has no authority to grant exclusive use of the general common area to any owner for any reason. This always must be approved by an appropriate vote of the members which could be 100 depending on how your governing documents read.

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When Is A Real Estate Commission Earned?

Question: I have a problem, which may turn into a lawsuit. A month ago, I listed my home for sale with a real estate broker. He agreed to charge four percent of the selling price if he was the only broker involved, or six percent if he had to cooperate with another company or agent. A couple of weeks after the listing, the broker presented me with a full price offer, but the buyer wanted 8,000 in "sellers costs." I counter-offered, and the final contract requires that I give a 5,000 credit to the purchaser. Settlement is scheduled for mid-May. The broker has advised me that all is going well, but reminded me that I will owe a real estate commission of four percent based on the full selling price.

I do not think this is fair, since I will not get the full selling price. I believe that the commission should be based on the selling price minus the 5,000 which I will be giving to the purchasers at settlement. Am I correct? Furthermore, what happens if the buyers do not go to settlement? Am I still liable for the commission?

Answer: The simple answers are "no, you are not correct" and "yes, you will probably still be liable to pay the commission."

Lets step back a bit and review some basics. When a homeowner decides to sell his/her house, there are several options. The most common approaches are to try to sell it by yourself,

without using a real estate agent or a broker, or to engage the services of a real estate company.

If you opt for the latter approach, you should make sure that you are satisfied with the person who will be your specific agent. Just because you may have selected a large brokerage firm does not mean that the entire company will be working for you. Inquire of that person as to his/her experience, and knowledge about the area where your house is located.

Once you have selected a real estate agent to help you sell your house, you must sign a "listing agreement" with that person or company. There are different kinds of listing contracts:

1. Open listing -- this means that you agree to pay a real estate commission only to the broker or agent who finds a buyer for you. If you personally sell your house by yourself -- or through some other agent -- the holder of the open listing is not entitled to any commission.

2. Exclusive listing -- this means that you have given the exclusive right to an agent or broker to sell your house. Regardless of who sells the property, the person holding the exclusive listing is entitled to a commission.

While brokers periodically do enter into open listings, the exclusive listing is most commonly used. Brokers and agents do not want to spend a lot of time -- and money -- marketing your house, only to learn that no commission will be earned because you or someone else has sold it.

A signed listing contract is a binding, legal document. You should read it carefully before it is signed. Most standard form listing agreements provide that the commission is earned when the broker presents a ready, willing and able purchaser to the seller and a real estate contract is entered into. Accordingly, whether or not the buyer actually goes to settlement, the real estate agent is entitled to his/her commission.

As a practical matter, it is my experience that many agents will waive their right to a commission should settlement not take place. However, this is not universal. Accordingly, it is recommended that you add the following language into the basic listing agreement: The commission will not be earned until and unless settlement actually takes place.

Without this language, since the agent found you a person who signed a real estate contract with you, that agent could legally claim a commission, even though you have not sold your house.

Turning to your other question about the amount of the commission you will owe, the standard listing agreement obligates the seller to pay the commission on the full selling price. This is not mandatory, however. You have every right to negotiate different terms -- and different commission arrangements -- with the broker, but only if you do so before you sign the listing contract.

Make sure that all >

However, since you signed the listing agreement without making any changes, you are legally obligated to pay a commission on the full selling price -- regardless of the amount of seller concessions you have given your buyer.

While I appreciate your concerns, the amount in question is -- after all -- only 200 4 percent of 5,000. Perhaps you should raise your concerns with the broker, who may be willing to reduce the commission by this amount -- or at least split the difference with you. Good will is a very important element of any business, and they want your business -- or referrals from you -- in the future.

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Millennial Homebuyers: From Limp to Standing at Attention

Limp. Flat. Flaccid. Thats how millennial homebuying has been described over the last few years. But a new wave of young buyers has pumped some testosterone into a real estate market that needed it.

"Despite the economic and financial challenges young adults have braved since the recession, the millennial generation represented the largest share of recent buyers, according to a report from the National Association of REALTORS NAR.

Surging forward after many years of just lying there, millennial homebuyers have now become the hottest segment of the buyer market for a number of reasons:

An improved job outlook - "The job market was particularly unkind to young adults during the recession. Between 2007 and 2010, the unemployment rate within this group soared to 14 percent from 7.8 percent, compared with 9.6 percent for the population as a whole, said the NY Times, quoting corporate economist Alan MacEachin. This year, "the millennial unemployment rate was down to 9.3 percent."

Rising rents - "Americans in their 20s and early 30s are getting a nudge toward homeownership a decade after sales peaked during the housing bubble," said Bloomberg Business. "Its not their nagging parents. Its rents. Theyve risen so much that buying is making more sense."

In fact, rents in many areas now exceed the recommended monthly expenditure for housing. "Nationally, half of all renters are now spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to a comprehensive Harvard study, up from 38 percent of renters in 2000," said the New York Times. In December, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan declared the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known."

World Property Journal

Being stressed out about constantly increasing financial obligations is not sexy. Especially when those financial obligations are tied to something that isnt even yours.

Mortgage rates - Near-historic low mortgage rates are the ripped abs of homeownership, seducing buyers with the promise of affordability, especially when compared to those out-of-control rents.

Down payments - Also helping to get buyers over the hump are lower down payment requirements. "Saving enough for a down payment is often the biggest challenge for first-time homebuyers," said the NY Times. "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have lowered that bar, however, with new conforming loan programs requiring as little as 3 percent down. Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration are also more affordable, thanks to recent reductions in mortgage insurance premiums. The easing is reflected in Januarys 1.8 percent increase in the mortgage credit availability index published by the Mortgage Bankers Association."

Indeed, the feds insurance premium adjustment, while somewhat financially unsubstantial since it represents a small percentage of the overall monthly payment, may just have been the last push millennials needed to get their groove back.

Making homeownership sexy again

First Option Mortgage

CNN Money said last year that "The great American Dream is dying. Even though many Americans still desire to own a home, they are losing faith in homeownership as a key to prosperity."

But that proclamation may have been premature. Pride of ownership is alive and well, and may just be most fervent among the group that once rejected the idea. Especially those who are looking to get a little on the sidea little added sexiness borne out of the financial benefits of homeownership, that is.

"It sounds crazy but owning your own home is not only financially beneficial but it may improve your sex life as well," said Lifehacker Australia. "Who else is more >

Among their musings on "How Being A Home Owner Improves Your Sex Life," Lifehacker suggests, "You can install a pole or a swing." And you can say goodbye to sex in the backset of your car.

Those Aussies make a lot of sense.

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The Top Three Reasons Buyers Choose The Homes They Buy

You may think buyers will love your home because of your extraordinary taste in home furnishings or the incredible job you did with your home addition. Nope, its not the dcor or the vast add-on that gets them to commit, although they may help. There are three top reasons a buyer chooses to buy a home -- price, condition, and location.

Lets start with Price. To choose the right asking price for your home, you need to know if your neighborhood is in a buyers market or sellers market. A buyers market is characterized by large inventories of six months supply or higher, few buyers making offers, low offers, and many other concessions asked of sellers. A sellers market is characterized by low supply of six months on hand or less, heavy buyer traffic, multiple offers, and close to full price or full price offers.

Bankers, buyers agents and buyers all have access to the same market information that your agent has given you. If you overprice for the current market, your potential buyers wont get to see your home, and even if they do, they wont get their loans approved.


Allow your real estate agent to help you market your home by putting it in the best condition possible. Buyers pet peeves may be easy items to fix, but you dont want your house to go to the bottom of their list because you failed to paint, mow, replace the carpet, etc. Sometimes you have to invest a little money to make money.

Remember, todays buyers are more skeptical about buying a home, so creaky steps, dripping faucets, and outdated wallpaper just give buyers a reason to skip your home.


You cant do much about your homes location, but you can make your home more attractive with lovely landscaping, fences to block out ugly views and sounds, a lower price and immaculate condition.

If you do have a great location, dont overprice. People expect to pay more for a great location next to schools, transportation, shopping and restaurants, but if you overprice, they will scrutinize the price and the condition.

Its hard not to be sentimental about the home youve lived in for years, but to buyers, your home is a commodity. Like you, they simply want to make a good deal on a home they love.

Youll quickly find out what real estate agents and their buyers think of your home. If you get a quick offer, you know you priced it right for the location, condition, and the current market.

If you dont get an offer within a couple of weeks, or whatever period is normal for your area, theres something wrong. Look at your price and condition and see if you can make your home a little more desirable.

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Finding The Best Mover

Moving to a new home can be an exciting journey. Whether youre changing cities or moving to a new neighborhood, a move is not only a change of scene, its the start of a new chapter in your life.

Yet, moving can also be very stressful, often seeming like one thing after another has to be done. By finding the right moving service, you can avoid most of the common moving headaches.

Get referrals

According to, finding a good moving service begins with asking someone you know - a family member, coworker or a friend about their moving experiences, good or bad.

Your real estate professional can also be an excellent source of information. And if youre being transferred, ask your >

Large industry organizations such as American Moving and Storage Association have associate members listed on their Web sites. These associate moving company members must agree to abide by the terms of the organizations published tariffs and to participate in the Arbitration Program sponsored by the organization, which may be positive for consumers.

Although the AMSA doesnt recommend movers, a list of members is posted on the site, along with helpful hints. The AMSA does suggest getting several estimates in order to compare cost and range of services.

Consumer organizations such as the Better Business Bureau can give you additional insights. If the company is registered through BBB, then you can find all >

Comparing movers

From planning your move, to storing your things, to packing and unpacking, to decorating and organizing your belongings in your new home, you can choose the extent of services you require and have them tailored to suit your moving budget.

When you compare price and service estimates from several moving companies, you will find that estimates are based on the weight of your household items, the distance they will be moved, and the amount of packing and other services you will require.

Be sure to show the estimator every single item that will be moved. Find out if your mover accepts credit cards, third- party payments from your company, and whether the mover operates by cash only.

Negotiations with your mover should include a clear understanding of rates and charges that will apply, the movers liability for your belongings, pick-up and delivery schedules, and claims protection. If your estimate is binding, it will not cover non-itemized items. Non-binding estimates are not guaranteed rates, and only cover the weight of your shipment and the cost of the moving services. An estimate still has to be performed before a mover will provide you with a binding contract.

If youre moving interstate, you should read and understand all of the information you will receive. In addition to brochures explaining their various services, moving companies should give you a copy of a consumer booklet entitled "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" and information regarding the movers participation in a Dispute Settlement Program. Distribution of the consumer booklet and the requirement that movers must offer shippers neutral arbitration as a means of settling disputes that may arise concerning loss or damage on household goods shipments are requirements of the Federal Highway Administration FHWA.

Start planning your move

Deciding what to pack isnt as simple as it sounds, particularly if youre downsizing, but the amount of goods as well as the type of goods youre moving can make a big difference in which mover you choose and how much youll spend.

A good rule of thumb is to group items into no more than three categories - Keep, Donate, Throw Away. Label your things according to the rooms where theyll be moved -- bedroom 2, first floor powder bath by stairs, etc. Provide your movers with copies of the floorplan of your new home, so they can move more efficiently without having to stop and ask you where things go.

Lastly, remember that the movers, though they are professionals, will get tired. On the Chicago-based Bernard Movers website, the movers advise keeping boxes under 50 pounds whenever possible. They also strongly recommend putting heavier items in smaller boxes to reduce bulkiness, and lighter items in larger boxes with proper labeling like "topload."

Be prepared

Even in the most well-planned moves, something can happen.

Insurance is crucial. Check with your homeowners insurance carrier about coverage for your belongings while moving. Your mover will provide either >

If you are not sure how to estimate the value of your belongings for insurance purposes, your insurance carrier may provide suggestions, such as 10,000 per room or half the value of the new home. Items of special value such as heirlooms, paintings, or collectibles can be insured under separate riders.

In the event of damage to an item, file a claim immediately. Be sure to save the packing materials to show to the adjuster, should there be any problems.

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Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Porch

If you want to amp up your curb appeal before you go on the market or simply want to make guests feel more at home, adding a few special touches to your front porch can go a long way. Its a way to show your personality and >

Dont try to reinvent your >

Here a few ideas for creating a porch worthy of time alone with iced tea and a good book:

Paint Your Front Door

You dont have to totally remodel your porch or even buy furniture to give it a face lift. Just buy a can of paint and call it a day Painting a door a bright color is like smiling at your neighbors. It can show openness and express personality. Just make sure the color you choose isnt more like a smirk--no one wants to live next to the house with the fuchsia or chartreuse door. This is the perfect solution for people with small porches who dont have a lot of room to work with when it comes to decorating.

Via Modernize

Create a Custom House Number

This ones a fun one because they are so many ways to make your house numbers more than just a few black or gold digits glued above the door. You can stencil your house numbers on a wooden planter holding flowers. Try making a numbers out of nails hammered into a piece of wood, or gluing pretty numbers to the hanging wreath on your door. You could even stitch your house number onto a big pillow that sits on top of your yard furniture.

Ample Lighting

If your porch is a hub of activity day and night, one garish yellow-orange porchlight just wont do. Make sure your sitting and/or eating areas are well lit, and go the extra mile by adding lights in your garden or on the steps leading up to your front porch. Just make sure to stock up on citronella candles or tiki torches to keep bugs out of the picture

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Welcome Sign

Few things make people feel quite as welcome as being told that theyre welcome every time they come over. There are plenty of ways to say this, of course, and you should feel free to get creative with the message. Stencil your welcome sign on canvas, or doodle it on a chalkboard that guests can write messages on. You can even get a fancy decal to stick right on your door.


If you have a big front porch, the best part about it is probably the fact that it acts like a whole other room in your house. Maybe your family takes the occasional meal onto the porch, or your neighbors like to stop over for a drink and a chat. If you have a get-together sized porch, make it get-together friendly Dont just slap a few iron chairs and a wobbly table out there and expect people to make themselves at home. Opt for cushy but still weather resistant furniture that lends itself to a few hours of lingering. While seating isnt a must for a small porch, a quality rocking chair might motivate you to spend more time on your porch, and will definitely add to your porchs picturesque quality.

Via Modernize

Seasonal Decorations

Other than tasty treats and fun family events, the best way to welcome a new season is to show all of your neighbors and guests your sense of spring/fall/Christmas spirit. Decorating for a holiday or season helps us slow down and appreciate the sentiments that that particular time evokes. Just make sure to change decorations in a timely manner so you dont go from being the enthusiastic neighbor to the annoying neighbor whose adorable Halloween ghosts are still lingering in the yard at Thanksgiving.

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For more ideas and inspiration for your next home project, head to

Bryn Huntpalmer is a mother of two young children living in Austin, Texas where she currently works as an Editor for and nurtures her HGTV obsession. In addition to regularly contributing to Home Decor and Design websites around the web, her writing can be found on Lifehacker, and on her personal blog Her Own Wings.

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Updated: Friday, July 03, 2015

Millennial Homebuyers: From Limp to Standing at Attention

Limp. Flat. Flaccid. Thats how millennial homebuying has been described over the last few ye...
> Full Story

The Top Three Reasons Buyers Choose The Homes They Buy

You may think buyers will love your home because of your extraordinary taste in home furnish...
> Full Story

Finding The Best Mover

Moving to a new home can be an exciting journey. Whether youre changing cities or moving to ...
> Full Story

Copyright © 2015 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved

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