Why home inspections aren’t only for buyers

Most people associate inspections with buying a house, but sellers can benefit from them, too. Before you go live with your listing, consider advising your clients about the potential benefits to having a pre-sale inspection on their property.

Why? Because a home inspection identifies deficiencies with a property, some of which the seller may not be aware of. This can ease the stress burden on the seller; once the house is listed, the seller will know what to expect and won’t be as likely to be hit with nasty surprises.

Get there first

An inspection will give your client a better understanding of conditions that may be discovered by the buyer's inspector. It allows you a chance to review potential issues with them and it gives them time to correct conditions before a buyer has a chance to ask for a concession. Eliminating problems ahead of time, even minor ones, also lets potential buyers focus on what’s right about the property instead of what needs repair. A house that has been tightened up by fixing a handful of little things can give a better impression of pride in ownership.

Know exactly what to fix

Inspection reports explain the nature of needed repairs, often with photographs that show the problem. If your seller decides to correct a condition, the detail found in the report can be of great assistance whether they’re fixing it themselves or explaining to the plumber what needs to be done. Fixing minor defects are as important as good staging in any market. In a seller’s market like we have now, people know they are likely paying top dollar. Buyers want a certain assurance that they are not going to be immediately saddled with a lot of repairs – especially if they’ve just put all of their cash into the purchase.

“I have nothing to hide”

Providing potential buyers with a recent inspection of the home is a good-faith gesture that shows forthrightness. Such a gesture might make buyers more comfortable submitting an offer, knowing their own inspection won’t likely discover hazards or major systems in need of immediate repair.

Inspectors are neutral

You can tell buyers that the home is in good shape, or you can show them a report from a licensed inspector that tells them your home’s in good shape. Which source will they trust more?

Make sure the price is right

A thorough inspection and report regarding the condition of your home can help you and your Texas Realtor arrive at a fair asking price—and defend it. Plus, knowing about major defects and pricing accordingly can smooth the way in a challenging transaction.

If they decide to get a seller’s inspection …

Be ready to refer a licensed inspector. Give them an idea of the fee, and what is included and what is excluded. Also make sure to explain disclosure requirements before the inspection is performed. If they’re leery of having a current inspection, ask them if they still have the report from when they bought the house (if it was fairly recently) and review it with them to see if there are some honey do’s on that report that should be addressed.

Whether or not your seller decides to have a pre-sale inspection, when you explain the pros and cons of an inspection, you demonstrate that you have their best interest in mind, and that you want to make the process as smooth as possible. Your sellers will appreciate it when you demonstrate that you are mindful of their time, money, and stress level. 

A Solution for Rising Property Taxes?

With property tax protest season in full swing, Realtors all over the Metroplex are busy running comps and offering advice to homeowners who are headed into their tax protest hearings. And no wonder. With property values rising quickly, many homeowners are finding themselves paying more and more taxes every year. Unfortunately, salaries are not rising as quickly as tax bills. As Realtors, we need to stay active and advocate property tax reform to protect our clients and the health of the market. That’s why we supported Proposition 1 to increase the homestead exemption and prevent sales tax on homes. As it is, Texans pay some of the highest property taxes in the country; many are being forced out of their homes as values rise.

In Dallas County, Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins and others are considering cutting the property tax rate. That’s a great start. But we’d like to see more. Judge Jenkins’ proposal to lower the property tax rate is not ultimately is not a proposal to lower taxes. Rather, his proposal would equate to a smaller annual tax increase. Lowering the property tax rate still allow the amount of tax that homeowners pay to increase every year as long a property values are on the rise.

Currently, property taxes are calculated by multiplying property values by the tax rate. When value rise, so do your taxes. When property values rise every year, as they have done lately, that means your tax bill gets bigger every year, too.

We’d like to see a more predictable model for homeowners and offer some relief from large tax bills. First, we’d like to see a local homestead exemption by county. This proposal would offer immediate tax relief to homeowners. Additionally, we advocate an effective tax rate. An effective tax rate will fluctuate with the market so that homeowners will have a predictable, stable tax bill regardless of how the market is doing. Local governments will know how much they are going to collect from homeowners, and any additional revenue will only be derived from new and omitted properties. Texas state law requires property taxes to be based on property value, but the law does not require the rate to be set. By using an effective tax rate we can satisfy Texas state law and can offer homeowners a predictable way to plan their budgets.

We’d like your help to advocate for responsible taxing policy. Please visit http://www.thehiddenpropertytax.com/ to learn more about the effective tax rate and how you can help make this happen.

AFFORDABLE SENIOR HOUSING RESOURCES

There is a quickly growing population of folks over the age of 50 in the housing market these days. Known as senior buyers, this huge segment of the population is as widely varied and diverse as you can get. But it does take a certain know-how to handle the concerns of the 50+ market. 


For instance, many elder seniors who have retired want to sell their homes to reduce their costs and capitalize on the equity in their current homes. REALTORS who assist them must remember to counsel them about the hidden costs that may exist some of the housing choices they are considering.  For instance, if they buy a condo with the proceeds from the sale of their home, they may still have substantial HOA dues, fees for assisted care, or monthly fees for offsite storage if they don’t purge their belongings when they downsize. 


REALTORS should also be prepared to be pulled into the issues involved when their sellers are purging. Adult family members might create havoc arguing about who gets certain heirlooms. Sellers may not have time or interest in going through old boxes that have been in storage for years. It’s a good idea to have some good references for senior movers handy to help in these situations.


When affordability is a concern, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does fund a variety of programs that provide rent assistance, home ownership, and assistive services for seniors and the disabled. Keep in mind that these programs often have waiting lists that can be years long, so you’ll have to plan ahead and be patient. HUD programs are primarily focused on independent seniors, and are limited when it comes to assisted living programs. 


One of the largest HUD programs is the Housing Choice Voucher Program. HCVP provides rent vouchers for low income individuals, families, the elderly and the disabled. There are two types of voucher. Tenant-based vouchers move with the renter, while project-based vouchers are assigned to a particular property and stay with the unit. Note that any income from pensions, retirement accounts, etc. are counted when assessing eligibility for these programs. 


For first time home buyers, HUD can provide home-buying vouchers to help cover monthly expenses. There are also programs for current homeowners in need of assistance through HUD and the Department of Treasury. These programs can be used to lower monthly payments, lower interest rates, help with a second mortgage and avoiding foreclosure, among other things.


These are just a few of many assistance programs available for seniors. For a more complete list of resources, go to https://www.usa.gov/housing-help-audiences. If you’re interested in working more effectively with this growing market, it’s a good idea to earn your Senior Seniors Real Estate Specialist Designation. Watch the MetroTex course calendar for upcoming dates. 

 

 

How to Use DFWRealEstate.com to Grow Your Business

Attention agents! Right now there’s a free online tool that gives you leads off your listings and helps you capture the activity of your database. And it’s exclusively available to MetroTex members.

DFWRealEstate.com is a user-friendly portal that is pleasing to the eye and is a powerful tool for consumers, agents and brokers. It’s not an app – it’s a mobile-ready website that performs beautifully no matter what kind of device you use to access it.

Get Started: Register with DFWRealEstate.com, go to Settings, and request to Upgrade your membership to professional status. Once you’re approved, you can go back to your Settings and explore the tools you have available. You’ll be able to update your account profile picture, contact information, and password. And most importantly, you’ll be able to capture and keep leads. To capture the activity of your existing client database, Go to Agent Tools to see your unique Agent Code. Once you have it, encourage everyone in your database to register with DFWRealEstate.com using your Agent Code.

Agent Code: When your clients register with your Agent Code, they can save and share collections of their favorite properties, design ideas, school districts - you name it. As their agent, you’ll be able to track dozens of your clients’ clicking behaviors so you can be more responsive. You’ll see the traffic analytics of their saved collections on your own dashboard. Share data exclusively with them, if you like. And remember, all of your client’s listing inquiries are sent directly to you. Your clients will love the easy-to use platform, access to school rankings, maps and updated status on available properties. And they’ll have fun saving collections and sharing them through their social media – whether it’s sharing design ideas, drooling over dream houses, or finding their new home, they’ll be able to interact with their family and friends through the portal.

Dashboard: You’ll get leads on your listings and be able to track their online activity through your private dashboard. Here you’ll capture powerful data on active listings – how many views they’ve had, clicks and leads they’ve generated. While you’re on the Dashboard, check out the inventory snapshot to see how the market is performing this month compared to last year, and check out the Year-to-Date statistics. There is full data here for all types of property status. If you haven’t won that listing yet, you can use this data to demonstrate how market-savvy you are.

Listing Analytics Is your listing not getting enough showings? Take a look to see if people are looking at it online. Maybe you need to change up the listing photo, or re-word the description if it’s getting impressions but not clicks. Or, maybe it’s time to take the statistics to your seller and use them to help you make your point about reconsidering the listing price.

Lead Management: See which listings have generated leads and who wants to see them.

Lead Pools: If your office is sharing leads, you can look here to see if there are any from your office that are available. Your broker will let you know how many leads you can grab and how often. Once you’ve captured a lead, respond to it and track the results in the palm of your hand or on your desktop.

Leads Report: Here you’ll see which leads have been generated, who the listing agent is, whether the lead was claimed and when.

Prospects: Once you’ve captured a lead and turned it into a prospect, you’ll be able to track and manage their data here.

NAR Report: Information junkies rejoice! The latest market data from NAR is available at your fingertips in a date-customizable format. You’ll also find the most recent data on Sales & Inventory – where you can generate charts to look at trends. Or if you’re curious about how your company stacks up, check out the Market Penetration by Company report. Market Comparisons looks at how the market is performing over time.

DFWRealEstate.com is a robust member benefit. It’s got powerful data and lead generation tools to grow your business. Let DFWRealEstate.com fill your pipeline so you can spend more time working in your business. It’s free, it’s exclusive, and it’s only brought to you by MetroTex.

How about that Texas Market?

How long will this booming market last? Are we in a bubble? Is it a good time to buy or sell? These are questions we are all hearing a lot these days. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a working crystal ball anywhere in the Metroplex. However, we do have something better. Hard data from the experts. The folks at the Texas A&M Real Estate Center regularly publish data about the Texas economy. Here are the highlights from their latest report, boiled down to facts you can use when answering questions from the public.

The Texas economy is robust. Employment is the state is strong and growing. More people are re-entering the job market. The biggest gains in employment recently have been in the services sectors, (financial services, education, health services, professional and business services) as well as in trade, leisure, and hospitality. Analyses of the business cycle and current economic activity point to positive trends in the state.

Texas housing sales appear to be accelerating. Demand for housing is strong in most areas, although Houston is lagging somewhat. Across the state, housing sales increased 7.8 percent in April. Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio all experienced an increase in sales. Houston dropped 0.2 percent as the impact of the energy sector decline plays out in the Houston economy.

Home building activity is brisk. Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth led the nation in the number of single-family permits issued followed by Atlanta, Phoenix, and Austin in April. That said, Dallas-Fort Worth issued fewer permits than its peak rate in December 2015.

Inventory of available housing is low. Dallas-Fort Worth inventory levels were estimated at 2.2 months in both April and May, compared to 3.7 months statewide, and 5.6 months nationwide. Low inventory levels are contributing to rapid price growth in housing.

Incomes are not following pace with the housing price increase. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, real earning levels have not increased above January 2007 levels.

Avoiding Scams

Among the legislative sweep going on in Austin this week is House Bill 2590, a bill which would impose significant penalties on scammers who are claiming vacant houses that don’t belong to them through fraudulent adverse possession claims often known as “squatter’s rights.”

Unfortunately, there are a number of other housing schemes happening around the country right now. With prices on the rise and houses in short supply, the Dallas area could also become a target for these scams.

So what are these scams and how can you protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming a victim? First and foremost, whenever you enter into a real estate transaction, consult a MetroTex REALTOR. Aside from being licensed professionals, REALTORS use standardized contracts which protect both buyers and sellers. Further, REALTORS will advise their clients to use title companies to help ensure that the property is actually owned by the seller without disputes or claims on the title from third parties. If you aren’t sure whether the person selling the house is a REALTOR, you can check for licensee information online at trec.state.tx.us. Remember, the reason we have REALTORS is largely to protect consumers against unscrupulous real estate bandits.

The FBI warns about a number of scams currently being reported across the country. Here’s a run down of the most common schemes and specific steps you can take to protect yourself.

Reverse Mortgage Scams

Reverse Mortgages can be a legitimate option for senior citizens to benefit from equity in their homes without having to move or sell. Legitimate reverse mortgages are insured by the FHA and have specific age, residency and mortgage balance requirements.

Unfortunately, fraudsters are using the legitimate programs as a springboard for some very unscrupulous practices. Basically, they either steal the equity from property of unsuspecting seniors, or use seniors’ good credit and identities to steal equity from other properties. In many cases, people are offered fake foreclosure or refinance help, free homes, or shady investment opportunities.

FBI Tips for Avoiding Reverse Mortgage Scams:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited advertisements.
  • Be suspicious of anyone claiming that you can own a home with no down payment, unless it is a specifically insured mortgage program, like USDA or VA.
  • Do not sign anything that you do not fully understand.
  • Do not accept payment from individuals for a home you did not purchase.
  • Seek out your own licensed reverse mortgage counselor.

Phony Online Rental Ads

Online ads for finding rentals can lead to consumers losing thousands of dollars and ending up without a place to live. In these scams, people will post a classified ad with a great looking house most often at a relatively low rent. The landlord –who is leaving the country quickly, often for business or on a mission trip - will accept your application and will ask you to wire a couple of month’s rent to his account. But when you show up at the house to move in, the house isn’t available and the owners have nothing to do with your agreement. Not only are you out two months’ rent, you might also find that your identity has been stolen.

FBI Tips to Avoid Rental Scams:

  • Only deal with landlords or renters who are local;
  • Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service;
  • Beware of e-mail correspondence from the “landlord” that’s written in poor or broken English;
  • Research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower;
  • Don’t agree to accept a larger payment than is needed and refund the remaining balance.

Foreclosure Fraud

Unfortunately, scammers find a big target in people who are desperate to stay in their homes. Distressed homeowners can be presented with offers that allow them to stay in their homes at half their current mortgage payment so long as they sign over title to their homes and pay an upfront fee. In reality, these schemes are run by people who never pay off the existing loans, instead pocketing the money for themselves and causing the unwitting homeowners to ruin their credit and eventually wind up evicted from their homes.

FTC Tips to Avoid Foreclosure Help Fraud

  • Avoid offers that guarantee to get you a loan modification or stop the foreclosure process;
  • Only use people who advise you to contact your lender, lawyer, or a housing counselor;
  • Deny requests for upfront fees before providing you with any services;
  • Do not transfer your property deed or title to others;
  • Be suspicious of people who only accept payments by cashier’s check or wire transfer
  • Don’t sign anything you haven’t read or don’t understand.

House Stealing

This scam is a variation of the adverse possession schemes being addressed by the Texas Legislature. Basically, scammers steal your identity, forge sales documents and register deed transfer paperwork with the county. Then they claim to own the house and sell it. This often happens with unoccupied or vacation homes. Untangling this mess can be costly and difficult.

Avoid House Stealing

  • Check your property records. When you get your tax bill for the year, verify information pertaining to your property. If you see any changes to title or names you don’t recognize, ask for more information from the deeds office.
  • If you receive correspondence or a payment book from a mortgage company that’s not yours, whether your name is on the envelope or not, don’t throw it away. Read it and if seems suspicious or you don’t understand what it means, follow up with the company that sent it.

For more information on buying or selling a home in Texas, visit dfwrealestate.com