Category Archives: Success

What is an MLS?

Odds are you’ve spent a little time online searching for homes. After all, most home searches begin online. You may have even used a broker’s website or a site like Trulia or Zillow to help you browse listings.

But where does listing information come from?

Way back in the day, prior to the Information Age revolution, brokers used to gather and exchange information about their properties. The idea was fairly straightforward: I’ll help you sell your properties if you help me sell mine. It’s a “private offer of cooperation and compensation.” Cooperation meant the real estate industry could thrive and buyers and sellers could enjoy smoother transactions.

This spirit of cooperation gave rise to Multiple Listing Service(s) (MLS). By consolidating information about housing inventory in an MLS, listing brokers and buyers’ brokers can easily share up-to-date information about homes on the market. Though an MLS is typically a private database available to brokers, much of the information is syndicated to outside sites in the interest of casting wider net for buyers and sellers.

As an MLS is the primary source of information about a property, it tends to be the most accurate. It may also contain private information for use by brokers only, such as times the home is available for showings and seller contact information.

There are upwards of 850 MLS databases in the U.S. alone, and to a certain extent, there is market pressure to centralize these into a national MLS database. We’re sure to see changes in how Multiple Listing Services are used in the future, but the core benefits to home sellers and buyers is sure to remain.

Ready to put the power of an MLS to work for you? Search with me today for homes on the market right now. I’d be happy to help you find your next home:

Retirement strategy? Relocate!

Unlike earlier generations of retirees who paid off their mortgages and retired in their family home, today’s Baby Boomers are looking to capitalize on home equity to enhance their retirement savings. If you’re thinking how relocating might stretch your retirement dollar, below are a few points you should consider before relocating, downsizing, or trading up:

 

  1. Speak with your spouse or partner first, even if you think you’re both of the same mind. Don’t assume that you’re in agreement. When the moment to make the leap comes, feelings may change.

 

  1. Consider the cost-of-living in a different part of the country. There’s a pretty big swing between rural Florida and urban San Francisco, for example. This might also mean factoring fuel costs if you’re moving into an area where you’re likely to spend more time driving.

 

  1. Consider whether your plans are realistic. For example, could you really live in a 1-bedroom condo after spreading out for years in your present 4-bed/3-bath?

 

  1. How much will the ease and pleasure of retirement depend on family and friends? What are the pros/cons of moving nearer/farther away? Conversely: Are there any detriments to moving closer to younger family members? (I.e. are you ready to open a free grandkid-sitting service?)

 

  1. Consider the potential impact of capital gains if you have substantial equity in your home— speak with a tax professional. This is especially true if you’re downshifting from ownership into a rental market.

 

Relocating to a more affordable area as well as to a smaller home is a strong strategy. But real estate values and property taxes can vary immensely by locale, even within the same state. Research thoroughly. Also, you want to spend significant time in the location to make sure its compatible with your lifestyle, pace, and interests.

 

If you’re thinking about relocating or know someone who would like to speak to a local agent about relocation plans, please pass along my information. I would be honored to serve your friends and family:

5 Things to Think About for Your Vacation Home

With favorable interest rates still at hand, you may be considering the possibility of a vacation home. A vacation home can be an excellent investment, providing you with a tangible asset you can also enjoy when you want to take a little time off.

 

Here are some tips to keep in mind before you start your search for the ideal vacation home:

 

  1. How far do you want to travel? A remote cabin in an unspoiled wilderness might be a lifelong fantasy, but how much fun will it be if it takes half your vacation time to get there? Ask yourself how often you might use this vacation home and how much time you’re willing to spend to get there.

 

  1. Have you spent time there before? Don’t buy before you try. Certain locales may sound romantic or exotic, but if your only experience with the place is on the Travel Channel, do yourself a favor and spend some time there first. Choose a living arrangement for your visit which will be most like the sort of home you’re looking to buy (i.e a condo, in a neighborhood, etc.).

 

  1. Understand “the high season.” Almost every vacation destination will have a time of year where crowds flock. Ask yourself if you want to be there during this season or if you’re more interested in the lucrative potential of renting out your property.

 

  1. Build in a renter’s mindset. A significant way to offset expenses and build equity is planning to rent your vacation home out when you’re not around. Talking to local property managers can help you understand the seasons, occupancy rates, and the market for rentals. It will help inform your financial picture.

 

  1. Understand total expenses, not just the mortgage. There will be costs, and you need to see the big picture before you commit. This includes utilities, maintenance, property taxes, and insurance for starters. You want to invest in what you can actually afford.

 

Proper planning can make owning a vacation home a profitable joy. I’m happy to help you plan for your first vacation home. Let me represent your interests as you search for that perfect “getaway investment”: christierobertson@realestatelinks.com

Why you need a final walk-through

When I’m representing buyers in a deal, I always like to be sure a “final walk-through” is included prior to closing. This is especially true in a market where desperate and less-than-reputable sellers may try and walk out with the fixtures. While that may sound a little extreme, the final walk-through can head-off conflict before closing.

The final walk-through allows us to address common issues such as:

• If the current owner is on schedule to move out
• That the property is in the same condition it was when shown
• That any repairs required have been completed

In a best-case scenario, a final walk-through is also a good time to have the sellers explain details about the house that the buyer may need to know, especially tricky pool heaters, access to attics, funny light switches, and sprinkler timers.

The final walk-through also a great time to put together a list of companies who have serviced the house in the past.

I like to schedule final walk-throughs at least 4 – 7 days before closing, as this is often enough time to resolve any outstanding issues before paperwork must be signed. (The walk-through itself may happen within 24 hours of closing.)

I’m dedicated to protecting my clients from the beginning through the end of the home buying experience. If you want to work with someone who pays attention to the details, give me a call today: [YOUR CONTACT INFO.]

Is it Time to Upgrade?

Sometimes a perfectly nice home in fine shape simply won’t sell. Fresh paint, fine curb appeal, a solid neighborhood… and no offers. Sellers are baffled and irritated. “But I’ve been living in this home ten years! There’s nothing wrong with it!”

Often the culprit is “functional obsolescence.”

Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Investopedia defines it this way: “A reduction in the usefulness or desirability of an object because of an outdated design feature, usually one that cannot be easily changed. The term is commonly used in real estate, but has a wide application.”

Functional obsolescence can creep up on a home owner, as when a built-in technological feature is no longer useful. Some homes in the 1970s and 80s had old solid-state intercom systems for communicating between rooms. What was cutting edge then is a retro eyesore now. Built-in entertainment center kiosks or furniture are also a good example of this.

Home owners can introduce functional obsolescence with poor renovation choices. Renovations should always be made with an eye on the possibility that a home will be sold down the line, but occasionally an owner will ignore this. Take, for example, the massive kitchen renovation which takes an unreasonable bite out of the living room.

Inconveniences an owner has put up with over the years can be classified as functional obsolescence as well. If you have a second floor without bathrooms or a bedroom which must be accessed by walking through another bedroom? That’s a design flaw that can bite you when it’s time to sell.

Neighborhoods can introduce a degree of functional obsolescence as well. When an smaller, older home on a large lot is dwarfed by modern homes with more space, the home itself may lose appeal or value in buyers’ eyes.

If you’re thinking of selling or buying, you should be familiar with the idea of functional obsolescence. Either you’ll want to eliminate the problem or you’ll need to realize the problem will be an issue for you should you choose to sell one day.

I can help buyers and sellers see homes with an objective perspective. If you’re curious about where your home fits in this market, contact me today:

Attention investors: New rules for deducting home improvements

Investment property owners and landlords know that tax deductions are a crucial component of making sure they maximize their returns. In January of 2014 the IRS in the U.S. implemented a somewhat complex distinction as to what constitutes a repair versus improvement.

Why does it matter? Well, repairs can be deducted in a single year. So if you have a $1,000 qualifying repair, you can deduct it at one time. If it’s an improvement, however, the $1,000 worth of work may need to be depreciated over several years. (In some cases, more than 27 years!)

One useful test for understanding if a deduction can be taken in a single year is whether or not it falls outside of the “Betterment, Adaptation, or Restoration” assessment. If the work falls under these categories, they’ll need to be depreciated, not deducted in a lump sum.

There are some subtle considerations for each case. For a detailed look at what constitutes a betterment, adaptation, or restoration, take a look at this handy article:

Repairs vs. Improvements: Complicated New IRS Rules
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/repairs-vs-improvements-how-tax-deductions-differ-landlords.html

Granted, this blog post shouldn’t be taken in lieu of the advice of a trained tax professional, but I hope you find it helpful as it pertains to your investments.

Looking for a new investment property? I can be of great assistance when it comes to identifying overlooked opportunities in the market. Get in touch today and let’s discuss what might fit your criteria:

Invest in Your Dream

Which do you think is more dangerous? A lack of knowledge, or mistaken knowledge?

Daniel J. Boorstin, the historian, professor, writer, and former U.S. Librarian of Congress once wrote, “The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.”

Some of the world’s most important revelations have depended on the exploration and adoption of a more complex understanding of our universe. A round planet? The sun at the center of our galaxy? Heresy, once upon a time. But science eventually told the true story.

A lack of knowledge leaves the search open to us all. When we admit what we don’t know, we can at least seek answers. But what about when we think we know? What happens when we are certain in our misunderstanding?

Many people I talk to believe they can’t afford to buy a home, that now is the wrong time to sell, or they won’t be able to secure a mortgage. Many of these beliefs are assumptions based on past experiences, generalized market information which doesn’t look at trends in specific neighborhoods, and media headlines about tight lending conditions.

Unfortunately, many people are held back from their dream of homeownership because they haven’t investigated the possibility for themselves recently. If you’ve put buying or selling out of your mind, I urge you to contact me at any of the methods below to explore your options. Much has changed recently, and I’d be happy to investigate the facts of the market as they pertain to your situation. At the very least, I can help you plan for your future.