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There can be a fine line between doing something yourself and entrusting your goals to an expert.  While there are a number of experts in a wide variety of fields, there are still somethings we prefer to do on our own.  Oftentimes these tasks can be achieved with little to no consequence.  However, there are those times, situations, and parts of life where the risk may not be worth the reward.  Whether it’s working on your car, diagnosing your symptoms, or planning your retirement, at some point it will be a good idea to leverage the expertise of a professional. 

Where that line sits is different for everyone.  But there is a big difference between changing your oil in your garage and replacing a transmission; taking aspirin every few hours and doing surgery; monitoring your 401(k) and deciding which mutual funds will make your retirement dreams happen.  The same is true when you are buying or selling your home.  Looking online and doing your own research is one thing, but have a fiduciary representative looking after your best interests can save you a lot of headaches and a lot of money.

Just like a financial planner, your REALTOR®, whether you are buying or selling, has a fiduciary responsibility to you as their client.  This responsibility, coupled with NAR’s strict Code of Ethics, means that you can have the peace of mind that your best interests and goals are at the forefront of every decision.  While a REALTOR’S® fiduciary duty is the overarching benefit of your relationship, here are some more specific benefits of working with a REALTOR.

Contracts and Negotiations

Real estate transactions include complex and complicated legal processes.  Having someone represent you that not only understands these processes, but that can inform, advise, and negotiate to ensure that your investment is as successful as possible.

Real Estate Regulations

Staying current on changing real estate laws can be a full-time job in itself.  If you are moving from state-to-state or simply across town, there can be a wide array of laws and regulations that you need to be aware of.  This is your REALTOR’S® job.  They are a well versed, and immersed in real estate regulations and will be aware of any and all pertinent information for your transaction.

Market Expertise and Consultation

If you’re shopping for a new house, your job is to know what you want; your REALTOR’S® job is to know where to find it.  If you’re selling your home, it is their job to get you the best price possible in a timely manner.  Both sides of this transaction are improved when you have someone on your side that understands the market.  There are a lot of other factors that go into the purchase or sale of home other than the number of bedrooms and total square feet.  Being familiar with property tax regulations, school districts, nearby amenities, and many other elements all provide a much clearer picture for you as a client.

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Buying a home can be one of the most exciting, and stressful experiences you can have.  This is the largest purchase that you’ll ever make, and there can be pitfalls along the way if you aren’t careful.  However, partnering with a REALTOR® cannot only make this a smooth transaction but an enjoyable one as well.  Here are three mistakes that are easy for first-time homebuyer mistakes, and how your REALTOR® can help you avoid.

Don’t Begin Shopping Without Being Pre-Qualified

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when is to begin shopping for a home without having your financing lined up.  This can be a tremendous waste of time and energy for you and everyone involved.  Your REALTOR ® can be a great resource for helping you find a lender.  It is also important to know that once you are pre-approved that you should not take on any new financial obligations like a new car or credit card.  This can change the terms of your mortgage or even forfeit it.

Consider All of the Costs, Not Just Your Mortgage Payment

While your monthly mortgage should be a key concern, there are many other financial considerations to be made.  Insurance, taxes, home maintenance costs, and more can all add up quickly.  Other factors like a new commute to work, schools, and more are all directly influenced by the location you choose.  This is where a REALTOR® can be invaluable.  Your REALTOR® can give you a clear picture of what these costs will look like, helping you plan accordingly, and make the best decision possible.

Not Using a REALTOR®

This may have been implied as the expertise of a REALTOR® has been demonstrated throughout this list, but this is an all-too-common mistake made by first-time homebuyers.  Your REALTOR® has the experience and expertise that will not only help you find the perfect home but will be a tremendous resource in negotiations and see the transaction successfully through.    

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Over the past several years homebuyers have enjoyed record low mortgage rates.  As the economy continues to recover and thrive after the recession, the threat of increasing interest rates has grown.  While the escalation has been small, it doesn’t take much of a change on either side of the decimal point to mean big dollars over the next 30 years.  So what does the mortgage rate landscape have in store for 2018?

Simply put, rates will be increasing.  In 2017 there was a slight increase in March when rates peaked at 4.44%, before ending the year at 4.15%.  This year they are expected to increase by about one half of one percent.  With this forecasted rate hike, securing a mortgage now, before the increase, could save you thousands of dollars.

Here are a few predictions for 2018:

Mortgage Bankers Association: 4.6%

National Association of REALTORS®: 4.5%

REALTOR®.com: 4.6% average, reaching 5% by the end of 2018.

If you are considering purchasing a new home this year, there is no time like the present to take advantage of these historically low rates.  It’s always a good idea to secure your financing before you begin shopping ; and trusting a REALTOR® to help you through this process can ensure a smooth transaction.

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When it comes to buying a home one of the most important steps is the home inspection.  The items discovered during this process can be the difference in you purchasing or passing on a property.  It can also be the difference in saving or spending thousands of dollars.  So when the time comes for your prospective home to be inspected how can you be sure that you’re getting best inspection possible?  Here are a few questions to ask.

“What are you going to check?”

Understanding what is going to be checked will give you a clear picture of what to pay attention, as well as what to expect.

“What aren’t you going to check?”

This is another important question that can help you avoid any surprises.  It is also good information to have so that if you have any other concerns that won’t be addressed during the inspection, you can do your own due diligence to see to them.

“Can I join you during the inspection?”

The answer to this question should always be, “yes”.  Having the opportunity to see the inner workings of your home’s different systems can be an invaluable experience.  You can learn how things work and why things don’t work.

“Can I see a sample report?”

A sample report can provide great perspective into what takes place during a home inspection.  You’ll be able to see how the inspector communicates, how problems are indicated, and more valuable info.

“Will you inspect any negotiated repairs?”

The point of the inspection is to help you understand the full picture of what you are about to purchase.  Many repairs can be negotiated with the buyers.  Having these repairs reinspected, ideally by the original inspector is a good idea.  This will ensure that not only have all of the repairs were made, but they were done correctly.

These are just some basic questions that can provide you with good insight into the quality of the inspector and their inspection.  Of course, relying on the expertise of your REALTOR® can go a long way when it comes to quality recommendations and actions before and after the inspection.

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There are some common new year’s resolutions that tend to garner our attention this time of the year.  Save money, get in shape, etc.  This year there may be a new one to add to your list; buy a home.  While this is an important goal to have no matter the time of the year, there are some other factors in 2018 that can make this an ideal time to seriously considering purchasing a new home.  Here are a few reasons why this year should be your year.

Home Prices are Rising

Of course, the golden rule of the stock market is to buy low and sell high.  As a homeowner and home seller, ideally, your house will also be worth more in the future.  As a homebuyer, this means that a new home will cost more.  2017 finished with home prices growing at a rate of 5.5% year-over-year.  Forecasts call for a more moderate 3.2% increase in 2018.  So while prices are increasing, they are doing so at a slower rate.  It also means that the sooner you purchase, the sooner you can partake in this equity growth.

Interest Rates are Going Up

It’s bound to happen eventually and the recovering economy, as well as other factors, mean that it will occur sooner than later.  As interest rates begin to rise it will be more expensive to finance your new home.  However, beginning from record low-interest rates means that the expected increases will still be very affordable.  Last year a 30-year fixed rate mortgage crept above 4% and is expected to hit 5% in 2018.  So by shopping now and securing your rate, you can save thousands over the life of your loan.

Increased Competition

Of course, both of the aforementioned items are driven by the market.  Simple supply and demand.  Today more people are in a position to buy a home, meaning that there is a higher level of competition which will drive up prices.  By beginning now you can have a leg up on this competition, saving you time and money down the road.

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Every year there are new technological developments that change how we live and work.  Today these developments are happening more quickly than ever before, and they are having sweeping changes how real estate is bought and sold.  2018 will be no different.  Here are 3 big trends for 2018.

Augmented Reality

Augmented, or virtual, reality is a growing across applications but can be especially helpful when it comes to showing a prospective client a new property.  Imagine being able to create an immersive experience with the capability to show what furniture and other items would look like in a space. 

Automation

As technology, social media, and other communication platforms continue to play a larger role in your day-to-day tasks, automation will become a more useful tool.  Common, routine tasks can now put on autopilot a number of different ways.  Follow up emails, appointment confirmations, and more can now be set up.  These automations will not only free up time but improve the quality of the output you generate.

Big Data 

We have more information on just about anything than we’ve ever had before.  This is especially true in the real estate world.  Leveraging big data and machine learning opens up many new opportunities.  Not only can you be more prepared as you show a new property or meet a new client, but you can completely revolutionize your strategy and implement new and improved best practices.

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We all have apps on our phones and mobile devices that simply our lives, provide entertainment, and keep us organized.  While scrolling through the App Store or Google Play Store it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  There are a huge number of apps for a huge number of purposes.  Here are 5 apps that can streamline your day-to-day professional life as a REALTOR®.

RPR Mobile

The RPR mobile app was designed exclusively for REALTORS®.  It allows you to easily search properties, create reports, and observe market activity, all while you’re on the go.  Using your phone’s location technology, local sales activity and pertinent property information like taxes and other historical data can all be accessed from anywhere.

Cloze

One telltale sign of a busy professional is an overflowing inbox, and a crowded calendar.  Cloze is available to simplify this overwhelming issue.  Cloze is designed to integrate all of your email accounts, calendars, and contacts; providing you with an organized, easy-to-use and understand dashboard.  It is also designed to scan through emails looking for keywords like, “follow-up” so that no appointments get buried in your email. 

DocuSign

Docusign is an app that allows for electronic signatures.  This can help to alleviate the costs and hassles associated with paper-based transactions.  Approvals and agreements can be completed in a matter of hours instead of days, allowing you and your clients to complete the documents on their own schedule.  This app also allows you to check the status of a document, and even send reminders.

Taxbot

Taxbot is an app that puts your mileage and expense reporting on cruise control.  With your phone’s GPS, your driving is automatically tracked.  For your expenses, simply take a picture of your receipts and Taxbot will automatically categorize them and automate your report.  This app can also identify expenses in emailed receipts and credit card statements. 

Facebook Ad Manager

If you are leveraging the targeting power of social media, then the Facebook Ad Manager app is a must-have.  This app allows you to access, edit, and control all of your ads and campaigns from the palm of your hand.  You can even create new ads, adjust budgets, and track results so that you are always getting the optimum performance for you and your clients. 

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The holidays are hectic.  From shopping to decorating to traveling there is always a lot to do.  Winding down the year with all of these festivities combined with the thought that spring is the ideal time to list your home, makes putting your home on the market right after New Year’s a tough decision to make; but maybe it shouldn’t be.

While spring may still be the peak home shopping season, as people want to be able to move while their kids are out of school; selling your home in the winter does offer some competitive advantages.

·         Less competition: With spring being the most popular time to list a home, getting a head start in January means that you’ll have fewer homes to compete with. 

·         Preparation time: Planning with your REALTOR can take time for getting your home ready to sell.  Even if you don’t put your home on the market it January, beginning earlier in the year will put you ahead of the curve.

·         Buyers are looking all day, every day:  With the limitless number of resources available now, potential home buyers are looking year round.  You now have a captive audience, and listing your home in a quieter time of the year will give you more exposure.

If you are considering selling your home, the most important step is to find a REALTOR.  A REALTOR’S experience, expertise, and resources will give you the best opportunity to quickly, efficiently, and successfully sell your home, no matter what the calendar says. 

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68% percent of millennials, ages 18-34, state that the home they currently own is a temporary stop.  Compare this to 36% across all other generations, and the opportunity to upgrade these buyers is immense.  But how? 

There is no denying that technology is changing the way home buyers shop for houses, as well as the way that sellers market their property.  Specifically, social media has played a significant role.  The way you leverage the power of social media can go a long way in your success with millennial home buyers. This again begs the question, “but how?”  Here are a few social media tips to help you reach and engage with millennial home buyers.

Don’t limit yourself to Facebook.  Facebook is the poster child for social media.  Everyone has a page, there was a movie made about it, it garners most of the attention when it comes to marketing.  However, you should put just as much effort into Instagram and Snapchat branded accounts to reach your millennial audience. Photos are huge in this demographic and both of these platforms offer enhanced features for posting and sharing. 

Focus on fans, not followers.  What’s the difference?  Followers simply have to click a button on your page, but fans will share and promote your content and in turn, your services.  Leverage the power of hastags, share tips, stories, and useful information that former clients and new prospects can not only use, but pass along, expanding your social footprint.  Engaging your followers is what separates fans from followers.

Keep an eye out for what is coming next.  While building a passionate following on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram is important; it’s just as important to be aware of what is coming up next.  By checking out the app store, following social trends, and testing out new platforms is a great way to stay ahead of the curve and be positioned for the next big thing.

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We’ve never had more access to information when it comes to making a new purchase than we do today.  Whether it’s a new phone, TV, or even a new car; we are now able to essentially make up our mind before we ever see the product.  While this access to information is great, it can also force us into a decision we may not be ready to make or understand.  Of course the larger the purchase, the more there is to consider, and this couldn’t be truer than when buying a new home. 

This is where the expertise and experience of a REALTOR® can really pay off. You may have your mind set on a certain size, floor plan, and amenities; but are you positive that these features will meet your needs and wants?  Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for a new home.

Don’t get hung up on square footage

It’s easy to get a number stuck in your head when it comes to square footage.  However, there are many other things to consider.  How tall are the ceilings?  Are there granite countertops?  You can look at two identically sized homes and they can vary drastically in amenities and price.  So be sure to have some other objectives in mind and don’t focus solely on size.

Focus on the floorplan

The floorplan in the home you choose is pretty much permanent; short of a major renovation.  So even if you aren’t wild about the finishes, floors, or colors, choose a home with the right living room, kitchen, and bedrooms, and you can inexpensively update and upgrade the aesthetics.

Consider the neighborhood

Remember that you are going to be joining a community, not just buying a house.  Understanding the values, interests, and ages of your new neighbors should be a key consideration; even if the house isn’t what you imagined, but the neighborhood is.  Accounting for schools, proximity to resources, transportation, and infrastructure should all by key metrics in your decision making process.

Stick with what’s important to you in a home

While a lot of what has been mentioned above urges you to keep an open mind, it is just as important to stick with the items that are non-negotiable.  Does the sound of traffic bother you?  Then don’t compromise on size and don’t accept a lower price if you still have to listen to it.  Does a long commute not work for you?  Stick to your guns and keep looking for something that meets these needs.

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