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Updated: 47 min 47 sec ago

Relocating? Best Cities for Buyers

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 13:00

While homebuyers can’t always relocate to enjoy the best market advantages, if you’re looking to buy in a new locale, the financial site WalletHub.com published a list of communities where new homebuyers might want to consider as their newest “home town.”

According to WalletHub, nearly 40 percent of 2018’s single-family home purchases were made by first-time buyers. Researchers at the site point out that all homebuyers must balance what they want and need with what they can afford. All too often, WalletHub says, people begin searching for their dream homes without a realistic idea of market prices, interest rates or even their eligibility to get a mortgage.

To simplify the process, WalletHub compared 300 cities of varying sizes across 27 key indicators of market attractiveness, affordability and quality of life, and qualified affordability as the median house price divided by median annual household income.

Among some of the findings are: 

  • Akron, Ohio,has the most affordable housing (median house price divided by median annual household income), with a ratio of 1.83, which is 8.2 times cheaper than in Berkeley, Calif., the city with the least affordable housing, with a ratio of 15.04.
  • Honolulu has the lowest real estate tax rate, 0.29 percent, which is 12.9 times lower than in Waterbury, Conn., the city with the highest, at 3.74 percent.
  • Cleveland, Ohio, has the highest rent-to-price ratio, 16 percent, which is 6.1 times higher than in Sunnyvale, Calif., the city with the lowest, at 2.61 percent.
  • Shreveport, La., has the lowest average energy cost per household, $93.58, which is 4.2 times lower than in Honolulu, the city with the highest, at $388.65.

WalletHub’s overall top five best cities for first-time buyers are: Tampa, Fla.; Overland Park, Kan.; Thornton, Colo.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Boise, Idaho. When it comes to quality of life, the study says Colorado hits the jackpot with Fort Collins, Boulder, Greeley, Thornton and Centennial dominating the top five positions.

John Voket is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Now, a New Way to Estimate Next Year’s Tax Refund

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 13:04

(TNS)—Summer will soon be fading out of view and, like it or not, 2019 will move toward a close.

So what exactly have you done to withhold more money out of your paycheck to cover that 2019 tax bill?

If you need a motivator, the Internal Revenue Service has launched its much-anticipated new Tax Withholding Estimator. The calculator reportedly makes it “easier to enter wages and withholding for each job held by the taxpayer and their spouse, as well as separately entering pensions and other sources of income.”

Stepping back to fine-tune how much money you’re withholding in taxes now can make a huge difference between dreading having to write a big check to pay taxes in April or actually looking forward to getting a tax refund.

The estimator, which replaces the old IRS online tax withholding calculator, should help you see how on track you are right now. If necessary, you could make adjustments and dedicate more or less money toward federal income taxes out of your paycheck, and your spouse’s paycheck, too.

Many people found the old calculator to be a more than a bit cumbersome, but the new estimator is getting some good reviews. So it’s clearly worth a look.

See www.irs.gov and click on “Tax Withholding Estimator.”

Why do I need to think about taxes now?
Getting your withholding right, of course, takes on greater importance after a rather unsettling tax season earlier this year when many taxpayers ended up paying more than expected or took home far smaller tax refunds than usual.

If you’re working in the gig economy and juggling more than one job, the new program can take that into account, too.

Remember, take-home pay went up in 2018 once withholding tables were adjusted to reflect the lower tax rates in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

For some tax filers, though, the extra money that ended up in their paychecks turned out to be even more than the amount their taxes would have gone down under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to H&R Block data.

Were you upset by a smaller tax refund?
Under the new tax rules, some people lost key tax benefits. Maybe your children are 17 or older and you don’t get as big of a tax break. Maybe you now can only deduct up to $10,000—and no more—for the money paid for state income taxes, local taxes and property taxes.

If your tax story fell into one of those buckets, you could have faced more significant swings than the averages would indicate.

The average tax refund was $2,729 this year through May 10. That’s down 1.7 percent from a year earlier. The total amount of refunds was down 2.7 percent for that same time frame, totaling $277.26 billion through May 10. That’s the latest IRS information available; other statistics will be released later in the year.

While only a few months remain in 2019, it is still possible to have more money taken out of your paycheck to cover income taxes now to avoid unwelcome surprises in 2020.

How does this estimator work?
The IRS online estimator is broken into six sections: information about your household, income, adjustments to your income, deductions from income, tax credits and your results.

You need some paperwork on hand, such as your most recent pay stub and pay information for your spouse. You must know how much in taxes has been withheld already and how much you plan to contribute to your tax-deferred 401(k) plans this year.

You can be more detailed by entering any adjustments to income, but that’s not required. The IRS site notes that most taxpayers don’t have a large enough adjustment to have a significant impact on their tax obligation. Adjustments could include a student loan interest deduction, alimony paid that could be deductible for some in many cases and other factors.

What do you do next to update your W-4?
The online tool gives you step-by-step instructions for how to fill out a W-4, and you’re easily able to download a blank W-4 to give to your employer. If you want to withhold more money in taxes, you need to fill out that W-4 and give it to your employer.

Will this exercise even be worthwhile?
The more willing you are to dig for your real numbers, the better your odds for a clear tax picture.

Amazingly, the format of the new estimator is extremely straightforward. To get more comfortable with it, I played around by plugging in some random numbers to see how you move from one point to the next.

The only challenge, as I see it, will be getting your correct paperwork in order. It’s important to know information about your tax situation, such as if you’re going to claim deductions or take the standard deduction.

If you can do that, well, a clear graphic pops up at the end to spell out what kind of refund you might expect after you file your tax return in 2020.

You’ll be shown an estimate for how much you might owe in taxes or the size of you estimated tax refund.

And there’s a bar to show you how to make adjustments—even now. There’s process to follow if you want to get a refund and another if you want to owe as little as possible.

“Just as before, the more detail you put in the calculator, the more accurate the outcome will be,” said Nathan Rigney, who is a lead tax research analyst at H&R Block’s Tax Institute. “Unfortunately, we know that most people aren’t comfortable updating their W-4 on their own and that very few did, even after tax reform.”

So it’s important that the IRS took the step to make it as easy as possible for people. What’s attractive about the online format is that it’s not intimidating and you’re not handing over anything personal like a Social Security number or your bank account information.

“It’s easy if you’re sophisticated enough and organized enough to use it correctly,” said George W. Smith, a certified public account in Southfield. “Do I like and support it? Yes, definitely.”

Some tax experts say they’d view the new estimator as a much more helpful tool than previous online calculators at www.irs.gov.

“It’s user-friendly and takes a more comprehensive look at a person’s overall tax picture,” said Patricia A. Bojanic, a certified public accountant at Gordon Advisors in Troy, Mich.

One highlight: A married couple has a simpler time taking into account the wages, as well as the taxes being withheld, for both spouses.

“If used with the right information, it should result in much more accurate withholding,” Bojanic said.

Maybe it won’t turn out exactly on the money—but even if you make a good faith effort, things could turn out far better than if you simply kicked next year’s tax return down the road and totally ignored the potential problems.

©2019 Detroit Free Press
Visit Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Buy or Sell Without an Agent? No Thanks!

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 13:04

Although the vast majority of U.S. home sales involve real estate agents, the notion in the industry that consumers would be fine buying or selling a home without one is not really a new one. After all, the for-sale-by-owner route has been an option forever, and other industries have shifted to a “buy-it-now” mentality that some suggest will fit real estate, too.

But with all due respect to consumers who try to go it alone—and those in the industry who encourage consumers to go it alone—it’s a terrible idea.

DIY real estate is on par with DIY surgery or DIY legal defense. When so much is at stake, it’s always best to have a professional on your side. Period. That certainly applies to the largest financial transaction of a person’s life.

The good news is that most buyers and sellers agree.

Most People Agree
The National Association of REALTORS®’ 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report notes that 87 percent of the buyers in the survey used an agent or broker, while another 6 percent purchased directly from a builder or builder’s agent. That leaves only 7 percent who made their purchase without the guidance of a professional.

The figure on the selling side is similar: 91 percent of the surveyed sellers worked with an agent. For-sale-by-owner properties accounted for just 7 percent—the lowest share since the annual study began in 1981.

Gen Z Weighs In
It’s worth noting that the value of an agent crosses generational lines. A recent Homes.com survey of more than 1,000 adult Gen Zers (aged 18-24) showed that nine in 10 plan to use an agent when the time comes to house-hunt. It’s telling that this group—the most digitally inclined generation yet—understands that buying a house isn’t as simple as purchasing a commodity, arranging a ride or planning a trip. The risks are exponentially higher.

The fact is, there’s much more to a successful transaction than meets the eye. It can all seem so simple, especially with online home search being what it is today, but there’s a big difference between seeing a great home online and walking in the front door as its new owner. An expert real estate agent can provide guidance an app can’t touch—and, at the same time, provide all the value and data that can be found on the app.

In the Right Hands
Technology provides all sorts of advantages, but in the end, it’s a tool. Technology in the hands of an expert agent, though, becomes much more. That’s when data meets real-life instinct, insight and local knowledge. That’s when agents deliver their irreplaceable value by negotiating, working through contingencies, being a voice of reason and guiding clients through a long, complicated process.

The real estate industry is clearly targeted for disruption, and we should all celebrate innovation that elevates the customer experience and raises the standard. At the same time, make no mistake—nothing in practice or on the horizon matches the value delivered by a great agent who’s armed with great technology. That remains an unbeatable combo. 

Adam Contos is CEO of RE/MAX, LLC. For more information, please visit www.remax.com.

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See Opportunity Zones in Action

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 13:03

NAR PULSE—Watch this how-to video on revealing Opportunity Zones within RPR®. Opportunity Zones are federally appointed areas that present opportunities for real estate investment and development in economically disadvantaged communities.

Are Your Agents Juggling Their Finances?
The Center for REALTOR® Financial Wellness provides online tools and calculators to help your agents keep all their financial balls in the air—from savings and expenses to budgeting and retirement. They can even practice decision-making skills with the interactive Financial Journey tool. Learn more. 

New MVP Offer for Members!
Earn The Little Red Book: Safety Rules to Live By for REALTORS® – Download, along with a chance to win a Guard Llama Personal Protection Kit when you register for NAR’s REALTOR® Safety webinar, taking place Tuesday, September 17 at 1:00 p.m. CT. Act now—this MVP offer expires August 31!

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Dispelling the Myth of the 20 Percent Down Payment

Sun, 08/25/2019 - 10:04

Since hitting a low point of 63 percent in 2016, the homeownership rate has rebounded, largely driven by millennial households purchasing their first homes. Many surveys, like one by Bank of the West, indicate that millennials are no different from previous generations—they view homeownership as a main tenet of the American Dream.

Yet, millennial homeownership rates continue to lag those of their predecessors. In 2015, the millennial homeownership share was lower than that of the two previous generations when they were the same age, according to the Urban Institute. One reason for the gap is that millennials have largely delayed important life choices, such as getting married and having kids, in favor of pursuing higher education. Common misconceptions held by many about what is needed to qualify for a mortgage are also holding back homeownership.

According to the 2018 Barriers to Accessing Homeownership report from the Urban Institute, approximately 19 million millennials in the 31 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are qualified and able to afford a home, but are not buying one. Surveys, like those conducted by Fannie Mae, reveal that many Americans still overestimate the qualifications needed to get a mortgage, resulting in qualified potential buyers not even considering homeownership. Indeed, the Urban Institute report revealed that 16 percent of consumers believed that the minimum down payment required by lenders is 20 percent or more, and another 40 percent didn’t know at all.

The actual minimum down payment required to buy a home is only 3 percent. Down payment assistance programs providing grants or loans to potential homebuyers exist in every state, while government-backed loans from the FHA and lower down payment conventional loans allow many more potential homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage with only 3 percent down. The median down payment has decreased significantly in recent years, from 20 percent in 2006 to 5 percent in 2017.

Who Is Making Low Down Payments?
Unsurprisingly, millennials are much more likely to get a mortgage with a lower down payment (3-5 percent). According to data from the 2017 American Housing Survey, approximately 20 percent of millennials opt to do so, double the rate of all homeowners. By comparison, older generations tend to make a larger down payment, with only 13.6 percent of Gen Xers and 7.3 percent of baby boomers putting down the minimum amount.

Credit: First American

Millennials are more likely to be first-time homebuyers, which partially explains why they don’t have the same amount of equity as older generations to use for a down payment. In 2017, 73 percent of homebuyers were first-time buyers in 2017, comprising the majority in every down payment bucket in the chart above. Though they are likely to gravitate to lower down payments, nearly 10 percent of first-time millennial buyers still put down 16-20 percent.

Survey results like those from Fannie suggest many of them may be unaware of lower down payment options, believing they need 20 percent down to qualify for a mortgage. The Barriers to Accessing Homeownership report reveals that, in the 31 MSAs under consideration, at least 28 percent of mortgages would be eligible for down payment assistance. With such assistance programs, millennials could achieve homeownership sooner and start reaping the benefits it provides for longer.

Bottom Line
Saving for a down payment is one of the biggest obstacles faced by first-time homebuyers. Dispelling the 20 percent down payment myth could open the path to homeownership for many more.

As millennials continue to form households and age into their 30s, their demand for housing will continue to rise. While many are already becoming homeowners, dispelling the misconceptions about the qualifications needed for a mortgage may boost homeownership and better position the housing market to reap the benefit of the millennial demographic tailwind.

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The U.S. Is Going Green: The Top 10 States With LEED-Certified Residential Homes

Sun, 08/25/2019 - 10:03

Living an eco-friendly life is a priority for many U.S. homeowners, and so LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications are rapidly growing in popularity.

What does it mean to be certified? According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), green building means “designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity,” while utilizing fewer resources, lessening negative environmental impacts and reducing waste. LEED is the most widely used ranking system in the country, states USGBC.

According to a new report by the USGBC, LEED in Motion: Residential, these certified homes have increased by 19 percent since 2017, currently at a historic high. Over 400,000 units in the U.S. and almost 500,000 single-family, multifamily and affordable housing properties are certified.

“One of the most important investments a person will make is in their home, and the quality of these spaces can have a direct impact on an individual’s health and well-being,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC, in a statement. “As an industry, we want to find ways to raise everyone’s living standard, so we need to prioritize the construction and remodeling of homes so that they are not only environmentally-friendly, but they also have the power to improve the quality of life for all human beings.”

The top 10 states with LEED-certified residential units are:

  1. California
    Number of certified residential units: 39,296
    Gross square footage: 46,252,746
  1. Texas
    Number of certified residential units: 24,598
    Gross square footage: 41,425,633
  1. New York
    Number of certified residential units: 10,876
    Gross square footage: 12,700,343
  1. Washington
    Number of certified residential units: 10,521
    Gross square footage: 11,856,316
  1. Colorado
    Number of certified residential units: 8,091
    Gross square footage: 9,870,645
  1. New Jersey
    Number of certified residential units: 7,646
    Gross square footage: 8,790,645
  1. Ohio
    Number of certified residential units: 7,402
    Gross square footage: 9,755,348
  1. Oregon
    Number of certified residential units: 6,729
    Gross square footage: 7,961,683
  1. Maryland
    Number of certified residential units: 5,966
    Gross square footage: 9,019,059
  1. Georgia
    Number of certified residential units: 5,891
    Gross square footage: 7,299,589

According to the USGBC, certified homes typically use up 20 to 30 percent less energy than traditional homes—but some homeowners have reportedly seen up to 60 percent in savings. This certification is said to reduce exposure to toxins and pollutants, which can often lead to health concerns related to asthma, allergies and other respiratory issues.

Many builders steer clear from green construction due to a fear of cost increases; however, the USGBC reports that these homes can typically be built for the same cost or for less, and can even sell more quickly and at higher price points than traditional homes.

Efforts for LEED certification include: enhanced ventilation, garage pollutant protection, radon-resistant construction, enhanced compartmentalization and low-emitting products.

What is the process for certifying a new-construction home? Builders must first register the project as Single Family, Multifamily or Multifamily Core and Shell. Then they must choose the “green” priorities for their project, such as energy efficiency, carbon reduction, etc. Builders can then review what tools and resources are available for LEED projects and must document their progress in meeting the rating system requirements before submitting for review.

LEED-certified buildings often come with an added bonus: more affordable monthly utility costs. And for buyers that are concerned about pricing, the USGBC states that over 78,000 certified units are categorized as affordable housing.

“It can be difficult to see why prioritizing a green home is important, but the environmental and personal health outcomes are very real,” said Ramanujam. “Our own research tells us people understand reducing waste, conserving energy and water, and limiting our carbon footprint are important, but it can feel too daunting. By building and buying green homes we make those actions easier to do, while also creating a healthier, more sustainable environment for ourselves and future generations.” 

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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Larry Rideout: A Luxury Leader in the Northeast

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 21:01

Vitals: Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty
Years in Business: 13
Size: 17 offices, 300 agents
Regions Served: Eastern Massachusetts
2018 Sales Volume: $2.4 billion
2018 Transactions: 2,350
www.gibsonsothebysrealty.com

Larry Rideout—chairman and founder of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty—has been in the real estate game since 1984. Starting out as an agent, Rideout went on to become the SVP of Business Growth for Realogy before owning one of the top real estate companies in Massachusetts, serving the Eastern part of the state. Since acquiring a 45-year-old company in the South End of Boston in December 2016 with three offices, 55 associates and $250 million in sales volume, he has transformed the business into a 17-office firm with 300 associates and $2.4 billion in sales volume.

How would you characterize your market through the first half of 2019?
Larry Rideout: Massachusetts is still a strong market, though not at all like our previous two years. I like to think of it as a normalizing market. The competition in the marketplace is allowing us to be more desirable in the eyes of the consumer. There seems to be a race to the bottom, and we stand apart from that.

Do you have plans to grow your firm in the upcoming months?
LR: We started expanding our company in the fourth quarter of 2018 and will continue to grow strategically as needed. We’re always looking for experienced luxury associates in all of our markets.

What most sets your firm apart in the marketplace?
LR: I think the Sotheby’s brand raises the threshold for us and we strive every day to meet our clients’ and customers’ expectations of the service behind that brand. Our luxury brand isn’t about price points, but more about service.

How are you attracting agents to your firm and retaining top producers?
LR: Our philosophy from the beginning was to provide enough support for our associates that their main job was to do what they do best: list and sell. We also provide a culture of collaboration throughout our company. This culture and support are critical when it comes to retaining our existing associates and attracting experienced associates.

What do you look for in someone new coming into the company?
LR: They first need to fit our company culture. Then they need to be experienced and able to represent our luxury brand in the manner of our existing associates. When we’re comfortable with that, they meet at least two members of our leadership team, and after a discussion, we will offer them a position—or not.

How do your agents handle the new millennial buyer?
LR: We’re aware of the changing demographics and offer courses to all our agents to keep them abreast of those changes. We also hire from the demographics we serve, giving us an advantage.

What are the biggest challenges you’re currently facing?
LR: Every real estate market over the years has brought its own set of challenges and competitors. Each challenge and competitor must be acknowledged, but we should never stray from what has made us so strong.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Introducing Generation Z: Part 1

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 13:29

Move over millennials, there’s a new buyer in town. Generation Z buyers are the newest group to hit the market.

Even though they are the first group that has never known a world without technology, their buying trends may be a bit surprising. While many may believe that this generation will turn more to technology for their home-buying and -selling needs, it turns out that this isn’t the case. According to a recent Homes.com survey, nine out of 10 Generation Z adults plan to use an agent to buy a home.

Before finding the best ways to work with this new age group, let’s break down what they want when it comes to real estate.

Who Are They?
Generation Z is classified as those born between 1995 and 2012. Currently, the oldest members of this group are entering their 20s and are beginning to think about homeownership. Because this group has never known what it’s like to live without “digital connectivity,” they are tech-savvy.

According to PRSA, members of Generation Z are more independent, educated and have an entrepreneurial drive after seeing their parents or older siblings struggle. They’re concerned about getting a college education, especially in an increasing income gap and dwindling middle class.

Another interesting factor of this group is that they are the most diverse group. In fact, 48 percent of Generation Z are members of racial and ethnic minorities. This means that they’ll likely be interested in living in a more diverse community.

Gen Z and Real Estate
When asked, almost 86 percent of Generation Z members stated that they planned to buy a home. This exceeds the current national homeownership rate, which is at 64 percent. In addition to this, they plan to purchase their first home earlier than previous groups. While many millennial buyers chose to postpone buying their first home due to financial stress, 62 percent of Generation Z buyers plan to purchase their first home before they’re 30.

When considering an agent, 27 percent of Generation Z most valued an agent who would understand them. Since there is so much information available to them online, much of this group is more interested in finding someone who can help them through the process and find a home that will best fit their needs.

It also turns out that this generation is very practical when it comes to their home-buying needs. Overwhelmingly, 71 percent stated that their top priority was the home’s proximity to work. Secondary to this was proximity to family and friends, and then followed closely by an area with a low crime rate. Also, because it is such a diverse population, 58 percent have a strong desire to live in a culturally diverse community.

Their Concerns
While Generation Z is generally committed to buying a home, they also face struggles. In a struggling economy, while millennials focused on the difficulty of saving for a down payment, the main concern of Generation Z buyers is making enough income to afford a home. This is especially true, since the cost of homes is increasing at a faster rate than entry-level job salaries. This generation also seems unaware of government assistance programs, as many expect to save for about three years to make a down payment. The majority also believes that they need to have at least 11-19 percent of the home’s price for their down payment, which may end up slowing down their home search.

If you’re interested in pursuing this group of homebuyers, be sure to catch our next article, where we’ll detail the best ways to work with Generation Z buyers. While those Generation Z buyers are looking for their future homes, they’re going to need an agent. Programs such as Homes.com’s City Sponsor Ads allow active buyers searching for a home online to interact with you. By prominently displaying your listings among the first search results in your city, your listings will be in a great position to sell.

Patty McNease is vice president of Brand Marketing for Homes.com. For more information, please visit marketing.homes.com.

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ERA’s Local Market Understanding Translates Into Global Growth

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 13:18

While ERA Real Estate was founded in the United States, it has become a global brand. Today, the company has a presence in 34 countries and territories throughout the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In 1981, it became the first real estate network to franchise outside North America with the opening of ERA Japan. In 1993, it launched its first European master franchise with ERA France.

Jack Chua, CEO, ERA Singapore; Head of ERA Asia Pacific

ERA Asia Pacific
Headquartered in Singapore, ERA Asia Pacific has been pioneering real estate concepts, technologies and services in Asia since its inception.

ERA Asia Pacific now has a vast network of offices throughout the region, composed of 17,818 associates spanning nine other countries: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In Singapore alone, ERA boasts a large real estate presence, with more than 6,800 sales associates who provide a diverse range of professional services and solutions.

This past May, ERA Asia Pacific was awarded the Asia Pacific Property Awards highest industry honor—the 5-Star Distinction in the “Real Estate Agency Single Office” category. But Jack Chua, CEO of ERA Singapore and head of ERA Asia Pacific, isn’t done yet.

“Our objective is to grow our number of franchises, the number of sales associates, and, most important, the number of transactions. We want to establish ERA in more countries in the Asia Pacific region and strengthen our reputation as the real estate leader in Asia.”

Through its extensive network, specially curated training courses, innovative technological tools and refinement of the Ultimate Agent Training Programme, ERA Asia Pacific has been able to revolutionize associates’ skills, equip them with the latest trends and market insights, and help them stay ahead of the competition.

Francois Gagnon, President, ERA Europe and ERA France

ERA Europe
Francois Gagnon’s commute is sometimes eight hours—by plane. The president of ERA Europe and ERA France, Gagnon is currently based in the U.S. and spends at least two weeks each month in Europe. “I typically spend one week in France, where I’m heavily involved in day-to-day operations, and then I’ll go to other countries depending on my meetings or where I’m needed.”

Established in 1993, ERA France was the first master franchise established in Europe. In the years since, ERA France grew from five offices to over 400 offices with nearly 2,500 sales agents and brokers. ERA Europe now comprises 1,108 offices with 17 European member countries.

“You have to take into consideration the cultural differences, along with legal differences and licensing requirements,” explains Gagnon. “Where some countries have very strict licensing requirements, others have none. That plays into development strategies, and who you choose to move forward with from a development perspective.”

Understanding the culture of each franchise has helped Gagnon navigate the challenges of developing business in vastly different cultures and countries.

A major example Gagnon points to is ERA’s Commitment to Service, which he calls “a genius idea.” Essentially a written assurance of what services will be performed during the sale of a property, the Commitment to Service stipulates that if those duties aren’t performed as promised, the seller has the right to cancel the listing.

“It’s a very important tool for us because in most of the European countries, securing exclusive listings is challenging,” Gagnon explains.

Both Chua and Gagnon will tell you that translating the educational materials is the easiest part of developing business in foreign markets. The real challenge is adapting materials so they address the unique cultural norms and laws of a given region. ERA, a company built on its ability to create change, has enabled leaders like Chua and Gagnon to “grow their way with ERA” all over the globe.

For more information, please visit www.era.com.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

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6 Health and Wellness Trends in High-End Real Estate

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 12:52

The luxury lifestyle isn’t just about looking great anymore. It’s about feeling great, too. Of course, the world’s affluent still want jaw-dropping properties with inspiring views, but they’re also looking for more substance. In today’s fast-paced world, they also want homes that can challenge them physically, calm them mentally and keep them centered.

As a result, wellness-related amenities have exploded in recent years. In fact, according to a report from ONE Sotheby’s International, properties with wellness-focused amenities sell for anywhere between 10 percent to 25 percent more than traditional luxury properties. In the luxury world, that can mean a significant sum of cash.

But what exactly are these amenities that today’s luxe buyers are looking for? The following are just some of the health and wellness features today’s top-tier buyers have on top of their wish lists.

  1. Meditation Rooms
    Meditation rooms—quiet, peaceful spots dedicated to self-reflection—are quickly becoming a hot commodity for the world’s elite. Tech-driven virtual mediation spaces are even hotter. These use a combination of virtual reality technology and tranquil design to enhance the owner’s meditative practices.
  1. Saunas and Massage Rooms
    Dedicated places to unwind and relax are also high on the list for top-tier buyers. They want saunas that can remove all the toxins of the day, private massage rooms where their on-call masseuse can get to work, and in-home spa stations, where they can enjoy a facial, get a Botox treatment or have their hair done without ever leaving the comfort of their own home.
  1. On-Site Organic Meals
    Access to fast, healthy and sustainably-sourced meals is important to the world’s elite, and many luxury developers are finding ways to cater to this need. From bringing in five-star restaurants to deliver door-side organic meals to on-site nutritionists to rooftop vegetable gardens, luxe real estate is offering buyers their pick of healthy at-home dining options.
  1. Yoga and Pilates Studios
    Those dedicated to the art of yoga or Pilates often seek out properties with in-house studios—places they can hone their craft or enjoy one-on-one sessions with their trainer. In high-rise buildings or condos, these might even take the shape of outdoor yoga decks or private rooftop studios.
  1. Tranquility Gardens
    These gatherings of greenery bring peace to the busy lives of affluent clients. Typically situated on high-rise rooftops in gritty, concrete-filled urban centers, they’re a haven of natural foliage to the affluent city dwellers who call these spots home. Some developers are even taking this trend to the next level and offering full on-site private parks.
  1. Oxygen Chamber Pods and Cryotherapy Booths
    One of the perks of affluence is getting to enjoy the latest technologies and products before they become publicly widespread. In the wellness world, you can count cryotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy among these. Many of today’s top-tier clients are looking to bring these new and evolving approaches into their homes to improve their health and increase their longevity. They’re especially popular with athletes, runners and fitness enthusiasts, as these high-tech amenities are known to increase blood flow and improve energy.

What Do Your Buyers Want?
Knowing what the buyers are currently looking for in your local market—whether that is health and wellness or the latest interior decor trend—is critically important in today’s market, which is predominantly controlled by the purchaser. It can help you understand the value of your property and determine whether or not adjustments, renovations or changes need to be made in order to achieve your desired goals, or more importantly help you stand out from your competition!

Want to learn more about what today’s luxe buyers and sellers are looking for? Consider working with one of our members, Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialists, who offer a deep understanding of this niche market.

Diane Hartley is the president of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, a premier independent authority in training and designation for real estate agents working in the upper-tier residential market. Hartley brings her passion for luxury marketing and more than 20 years of experience growing and leading businesses to her role as president of the Institute.   

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Staying Focused and Working Hard

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 12:43

In the following interview, Phil Sheridan, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties in Dubai, discusses the firm, the local market, and more.

Region Served: United Arab Emirates
Years in Real Estate: 20
Number of Offices: 1
Number of Agents: 20

Please describe some of the current trends you’re seeing in your market.
One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is an increase in the number of tenants converting to acquisition. At the same time, Chinese buyers have become the No. 1 nationality buying property in Dubai. We’re also seeing affordable housing—properties priced at $300,000 USD—as the sweet spot for investors. Another significant trend has to do with the government of Dubai offering visas with the purchase of a home.

You recently affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. What makes the network the best fit for you?
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is an iconic real estate brand inspired by one of the world’s most trusted and respected corporations, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The brand is incredibly supportive, committed to innovation, and we find real joy in being part of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices family. We believe the brand will be warmly embraced in Dubai and the UAE, as residents and property investors will appreciate the brand’s reputation and marketing potential.

How does your company make its agents’ jobs easier?
Through our affiliation with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, our agents benefit from best-in-class marketing resources and learning center modules, in addition to having an iconic brand backing them up.

Our brokerage will emphasize ongoing professional development and will provide its advisors with top-shelf tools and resources. Our agents will be annually accredited and accountable to processes, standards and client satisfaction. There is no room for mediocrity at Gulf Properties. Differentiation will be key in this industry. We want to be the best in the market, and we’ll train to be the best.

We’ll also use the practice of exclusive listings, similar to what we see in more developed markets, to provide a streamlined process for clients. The process of investing in real estate can be complicated, and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties will eliminate that stress.

How do you stay ahead of the competition?
By onboarding the best agents and support staff in the market. We also stay ahead of the competition thanks to a company culture that enhances the working experience associated with a long-term career journey.

What sets Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties apart from other brokerages?
Our affiliation with the iconic mother brand coupled with the sheer scale of expertise within are two things that set us apart.

Where do you see your business in five years?
I see Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties as the most successful brokerage in the UAE based on industry accolades and exceptional client service.

Final Questions…

What is your favorite thing about working in real estate?
The fact that there’s no upper earnings limit.

What is your key to staying profile?
Stay focused and work hard.

Who has most influenced your success?
My father.

For more information, please visit www.berkshirehathawayhs.com.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

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5 Things Retirees Should Do With Their Credit

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 12:39

(TNS)—Whether or not you’re one of the 147 million consumers affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach—which resulted in a Federal Trade Commission settlement of up to $700 million—retirees need to stay vigilant about their credit profiles, experts say.

That may seem counterintuitive, particularly to those who pay off their homes, cars and other debt by the time retirement is on the horizon. Retirement itself, in fact, doesn’t hurt a credit score directly.

But the absence of credit can, indeed, torpedo a pristine credit score because payment history over the past two years—or the lack thereof—is the biggest determinant of a credit score. The length of credit history, where most retirees can really shine, carries less than half the weight of the overall payment record.

And a credit score dive can be trouble, even for retirees.

“It’s an important tool to have available and to protect,” said Rod Griffin, director of Public Education for Experian, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies.

A later-life move, purchases of items like cars, cell phones or insurance, even an application for a reverse mortgage may require a strong credit score. What to do?

Consider these five moves:

Leverage the positive. Retirees who’ve experienced a dip in their credit scores could be ideal candidates for Experian Boost, a program that lets consumers give the agency a look into their checking accounts to verify positive track records on paying utility and cell phone bills.

Two-thirds of the customers who try the Boost program see a rise in their scores, Griffin said, with an average increase of 12 points. Note that it can’t negate bad credit behavior; it simply can help consumers with thin credit records beef up their profiles.

“When you think about people heading into retirement, if they are adding recurring on-time utility payments, that could help maintain activity” on their reports, he said. The program is most helpful for people who started with scores below 680. (Scores range from 300 to 850.)

Embrace the freeze. If you’re retired and don’t plan to move or buy a car in the near term, this may be a good time to put a freeze on your credit with the three main bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. If you do this, creditors can’t access your information until you remove the freeze with a PIN number. So, keep that number in a safe place. For a fee, the bureaus offer a credit lock, which can be removed without a PIN, but may not carry all the protections of a true freeze.

Clean up. A lot of credit experts tell consumers never to close credit accounts because it can hurt scores, but Griffin says any dip is typically short-lived.

“If you close an account your scores will dip, but they usually recover within two or three months,” he said. If you’re not planning to buy a house or a car in the next six months, cleaning up orphan accounts may be a good idea now, he said.

Be ready. If you’re thinking about a reverse mortgage, where a lender provides funds to homeowners 62 and older that are tied to home equity, be aware that your credit history is now part of the equation. Since 2015, these lenders have been required to assess whether a borrower has the ability to continue making home improvements and tax payments on the property, and credit reports are a key part of the equation.

Check for a windfall. If you want to check your potential eligibility to claim part of the Equifax settlement, go here: https://eligibility.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/en/eligibility. To file a claim, go here: https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/file-a-claim.

“You should always be diligent about managing your credit history,” Griffin said. “It can affect a wide range of financial transactions and you want it to be there to work for you when it is needed.”

©2019 Tribune Content Agency
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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NAR’s C2EX Program Wins National Learning Award

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 13:38

NAR PULSE—NAR’s Commitment to Excellence (C2EX) program has been selected as a 2019 Learning! 100 award winner, joining past winners such as Amazon, AT&T and the American Heart Association. This award honors organizations for fostering a culture of professional growth, innovation and organizational performance. Encourage your agents to join the 26,000-plus members who are working toward their C2EX Endorsement by logging in to C2EX.realtor today!

Announcing NAR’s New Emerging Technology Team!
With a goal to help REALTORS® navigate new technology, this expert team will identify, research and analyze emerging technologies and their potential impact on real estate. Look for blog and video updates from the Emerging Technology team at NAR.realtor/technology.

Using RPR to Wow Your Clients
Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®) helps REALTORS® wow their clients and close more deals. It puts data, tools and reports at their fingertips so they can respond to questions and requests instantly, while positioning themselves as real estate data experts.

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High Cost of Housing Cuts Into Food, Utilities Study Says

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 13:25

(TNS)—More than a third of Americans have been forced to cut spending on essential items like food and utilities to afford housing, according to a Freddie Mac study.

About 42 percent of renters and 33 percent of homeowners have had to reduce the money spent on essentials to cover the cost of housing during the prior two years, the report said. Overall, 62 percent of renters and 47 percent of owners reported struggling to afford housing.

“Our research confirms much of what we see in our business every day: Affordability remains the essential factor when it comes to determining whether to rent or purchase a home, and the cost of housing is having a significant impact on households of every age, size and location,” said David Brickman, president and incoming CEO of Freddie Mac, as Yahoo reports. “For millennials and many Gen Xers, buying a home is no longer just a decision based on housing and housing costs—increasing pressure from student loans and the rising cost of child care are having a significant impact.”

Freddie Mac conducted the online survey over a four-day period. The poll collected data from 4,040 respondents over the age of 18, including 2,864 homeowners, 1,119 renters and 57 others.

“While we tend to focus primarily on wages not keeping up with house prices and misperceptions of down payments, we should also recognize that for many millennials and Gen Xers, the basic cost of living has gone up,” says Brickman, as Yahoo cited. “Heavy burdens from student loans and the rapidly rising cost of childcare are clearly affecting the housing decisions of these individuals.”

Student debt has more than doubled over the past decade to more than $1.6 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. Of millennials who rent, 51 percent said they based their choice of housing on their student loan payments.

The cost of childcare has also risen over the past 30 years, according to the report. About 31 percent of renters and 45 percent of homeowners reported choosing cheaper housing to afford daycare, according to Freddie Mac.

Over half of workers employed in such vital positions as healthcare, education and law enforcement have made housing decisions with their student loan repayment obligations in mind, the report noted.

About 35 percent of homeowners who reported trouble affording housing in the last two years had to move to find a more affordable place to live, an increase of 9 percent since last August.

©2019 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Commentary: The Ridiculousness of the NAR Antitrust Lawsuit

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 10:04

Listen, I’m no attorney, but what I can tell you is that this antitrust lawsuit recently brought against the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) makes zero sense when you break it down to common sense.

The filing of the lawsuit basically says that NAR violated federal antitrust laws by conspiring to require home sellers to pay buyer’s commissions at inflated rates.

That’s not at all accurate.

Let’s start with the “conspiring” part of that statement. There is no conspiracy. All the agents around the country didn’t get together and say, “Hey, let’s all charge the same amount of money for our services.” NAR didn’t put in the rules and regulations that an agent has to charge a specific amount or percentage to sell a home. The market bears what the market bears. Right now, the average commission is 6 percent because that’s what the market bears. Back when I first started selling real estate, it was 7 – 8 percent, because that was what the market would bear at that time.

Have certain disruptors and changes in our industry caused agents to be more flexible with their commissions? Sure, but there’s no more conspiracy in that than there is in the price of pizza. (I love a good analogy!)

Here’s what I mean. I live in Long Island. In my immediate area, there are five great pizzerias from which I can order a pie and pay somewhere around $12 – $14. Now, did those five shop owners get together and “price-fix” pizza purchases? Of course not. Those prices are just what the market here will bear. It’s the same with real estate.

If you really want to look at conspiracy stuff, turn the table on this legal lens and look at attorney practices. According to the American Bar Association website, attorneys traditionally get paid one of two ways: They can charge an hourly rate or a contingency fee—which is essentially a commission—based on an amount won in a lawsuit. Here’s what their site says: “In a contingent fee arrangement, the lawyer agrees to accept a fixed percentage, often one-third of the recovery.” Essentially, they’re saying that attorneys who base fees on contingency charge 33 percent. So, if they want to look at the National Association of REALTORS® and whether or not they’re price-fixing fees, we should be looking at the American Bar Association and how attorneys are collectively charging 33 percent. I’m not saying they’re conspiring; I’m just stating what it says on their site.

Next, let’s look at the “require home sellers” portion of their allegation. There’s no requirement. We don’t have the monopoly on real estate. Just because agents charge a fee for the work they do doesn’t make it a requirement. Home sellers have choices. They can go to a flat-fee broker, a discount broker, an online service (where they’ll get less by way of marketing and representation), or they can sell themselves.

Do REALTORS® get a large percentage of the business in this industry? Yes. But no one is forcing homeowners to use an agent. Think of it like the Coca-Cola brand. Coke has a large part of their marketshare, but they’re not the only soda game in town. People have options such as Pepsi, in addition to a wide spectrum of other sodas. Consumers aren’t required to buy Coke any more than they’re required to use a REALTOR®. An agent charges what they charge for the myriad services they provide. A seller can choose to use an agent or any of the other options available to get their home sold. No requirement necessary.

Finally, let’s take on the “to pay buyer’s commissions at inflated rates” part of legal-speak. That’s not what happens at all. What really happens is a homeowner interviews agents and then decides to hire one and pay them a fee for their work based on their skills and services. Once a homeowner agrees to hire that agent and pay a commission, that agent then gets to decide how much of that commission they’re willing to give to a buyer’s agent. While some may decide to pay out half, some might pay less if the home doesn’t need a lot of work to sell, and more if it does. The point is that what the listing agent decides to pay out is based on what’s best for the homeowner to get the place sold in the timeframe they need or want.

You have to ask the question: “Why is this lawsuit happening?” There are several reasons. Most importantly, as an industry, we’re starting to falter in establishing and communicating our value and justifying the fees we charge. It’s one reason there are so many new disruptors in the marketplace. That’s why in all the webinars and workshops I’ve done this year, I’m teaching a lot of techniques to help agents communicate just how valuable they are.

Darryl Davis has spoken to, trained and coached more than 100,000 real estate professionals around the globe. He is a best-selling author for McGraw-Hill Publishing, and his book, “How to Become a Power Agent in Real Estate,” tops Amazon’s charts for most sold book to real estate agents. He is the founder of the Next Level® real estate training system The Power Program®, which has proven to help agents double their production over their previous year. Davis earned the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, held by less than 2 percent of all speakers worldwide. To learn more, visit www.ThePowerProgram.com.

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If You’re a Homebuyer, Pay Attention to Which Grocery Stores Are Nearby

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 10:02

(TNS)—The old real estate adage of “location, location, location” could be changed to “Trader Joe’s, Trader Joe’s, Trader Joe’s,” if recent analysis is any indication. A report by ATTOM Data looked at how home values were affected by proximity to different grocery stores, and the results are eye-opening.

It turns out that if Trader Joe’s is nearby, your house might be worth more than if it were close to other grocery chains. The average return on investment, or ROI, for Trader Joe’s-adjacent homes is 51 percent, 10 percentage points more than the runner-up, Whole Foods (41 percent), and almost 20 percentage points more than Aldi (34 percent).

The results were based on an analysis of 1,859 zip codes with at least one of each of these grocery stores: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Aldi. ATTOM, a property data company, looked at current average home values from 2014 to 2019, current average home equity, home seller profits and home-flipping rates to learn whether these stores had any impact on equity, home-flipping returns and price appreciation.

Homeowners near the famous “Two-Buck Chuck” retailer, i.e., Trader Joe’s, also had more equity in their homes, with an average of 37 percent ($247,445). The runners-up were Whole Foods with 31 percent ($187,035) and Aldi with an average 20 percent equity ($53,650).

Aldi came in first place in the gross flipping ROI contest, however, with an average of 61 percent—almost double the second-place store, Whole Foods, which had a 35 percent ROI, trailed by Trader Joe’s with a 31 percent ROI.

Aldi also had the best five-year price appreciation: 42 percent, more than 10 percentage points ahead of Trader Joe’s, which had 33 percent. Whole Foods came in last place with an average five-year, home-price appreciation of 31 percent.

What Your House Is Near Today Might Predict Its Value Later
A popular grocery store is not the only neighborhood amenity that can increase your home’s value, according to experts.

Where you live can impact your investment as much—or even more—as your actual house, so it’s important to know what makes a location desirable, says James Marshall, director of Real Estate Analytics Products at Clear Capital.

Clear Capital’s automated valuation model, called ClearAVM, uses machine learning to predict the values of residential properties across the U.S. One of its findings is that desirable locations can predict home values.

“When we overlay points of interest (like transit, shopping and amenities) on top of prices, we see trends in the distance to these features,” Marshall says. “In urban areas, ClearAVM has found that access to public transit has a large correlation with higher property prices. We have found the same with access to restaurants, coffee shops and groceries in urban and suburban areas.”

While different folks will place more or less value on certain things—one person might love their craft brewery neighbor while another would prefer a yoga studio—there are universally positive (and negative) elements, says Chris Hunt, chief appraiser at Clear Capital.

Some of the positive location amenities that can impact home values and equity include high-ranking schools, hospitals, shopping centers, green spaces and being near the waterfront (think oceans and lakes), as well as access to highways and main thoroughfares.

Negative location markers include things like high-traffic and high-noise areas, crowded commercial properties, high-tension power lines or other utility easements, a poorly maintained home or neighborhood, and not being near the appealing attractions mentioned earlier, Hunt says.

Scope Out the Location Before You Buy the Home
Since buying a home is a major decision that can have serious financial consequences, both good and bad, buyers should think beyond the four walls. A solid investment strategy includes looking at the home’s surrounding location.

Whether you plan to sell your house in a few years or stay put for a lifetime, location will have a bearing on both your wallet and long-term satisfaction.

Take the time to get to know the neighborhood. Do people tend to stay, or is there a lot of turnover in sales? It’s important to get an idea of how a neighborhood might age based on community involvement, how long businesses have stayed there and what locals have to say.

“The beneficial amenities listed previously are those that, over time, tend to hold up as positively, adding to the home’s appeal and overall value impact in the market,” Hunt says. “That said, as neighborhoods mature and homes trade in the market, amenities and influences change, as well.”

Buyers should also consider where they’re buying in order to measure the long-term impacts of certain amenities. For instance, in urban areas, transportation is king, Marshall says. Likewise, in coastal markets, the distance to water is the largest driver of desirability.

“On a more micro level, a property that backs up to green space or has a slight view can fluctuate values on homes that may be next to each other,” Marshall points out.

©2019 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Buyers Jump on Low Rates, Putting Strain on Supply

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 21:01

Boosted by historically low mortgage rates, buyer demand is picking up, and inventory is tightening, according to data from realtor.com® released this week.

Compared to July of last year, there were 7 percent fewer listings new to realtor.com this year, and entry-level inventory—homes priced under $200,000—slid 9.9 percent. In July, inventory in the $750,000-plus tier tracked up 6.6 percent year-over-year.

Meanwhile, the median national price was $315,000, an increase of 5.5 percent year-over-year, but down from an 8.7 percent gain the prior year. Below-$200,000 homes moved in 56 days, while homes priced $750,000-plus sold in 81.

“July’s data highlight tension in the housing markets between buyers eager to take advantage of lower mortgage rates and potential sellers concerned about slowing price growth,” says George Ratiu, realtor.com senior economist. “The decline in newly listed properties suggests that some would-be sellers are stepping back from the market during the peak buying season, when most people are searching for their next home.”

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

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Marsha Rand: Mastering the Art of the Family Business

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 21:00

Vitals: Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty
Years in Business: 35
Size: 27 offices, 1,069 agents
Regions Served: Northern New Jersey, Westchester, the Bronx, Rockland, Dutchess, Putnam and Orange Counties
2018 Sales Volume: $2,295,000
2018 Transactions: 6,415
www.randrealty.com

Since 1984, Marsha Rand—founder and president of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty—has transformed the business from one office in a small town in New York’s Hudson Valley to offices throughout Northern New Jersey, Westchester, the Bronx, Rockland, Dutchess, Putnam and Orange Counties. A registered nurse, Rand entered the real estate business part-time in the ’70s, and has since learned to love the industry, finding it both stimulating and rewarding.

What’s happening in your markets in 2019? How are things shaking out in Upper New York and New Jersey?
Marsha Rand: It depends on the price point in the different towns we’re in. The medium and lower price points are moving, while the upper price points are moving more slowly. To me, there’s no such thing as a good market or bad market. It’s just the market, and that’s what you have to work in, so we don’t worry about what it’s like. All in all, our listings are up and we’re ahead of last year.

Do you have a growth strategy for 2019?
MR: It’s the same one I have every year, which is to take every opportunity and look at it seriously as it comes our way. It could be an agent, a team, a company, mortgage or insurance. I love expanding the company and having new people involved. We’re very proud of what we’ve established, and it’s wonderful to be able to introduce it to people.

What do you consider the biggest challenges facing the industry today?
MR: It would have to be commission splits—to have enough money on the broker side to be able to continue to provide the things we provide. The Northeast hasn’t really gone to a model where the agent pays for everything, so we’re an old-fashioned company that still does most of the marketing for the agents.

This is a family business. Why is that important?
MR: Right now, we’re the only large, family-owned company in our marketplace. Four of us work in the company, and while we’re all different ages, I think that gives us a lot of creativity. I have a son who is an attorney who has written several real estate books. There’s enough of us, and we all have different talents. Putting that together in a family business makes us unique.

How do you prepare your agents for the customers of 2019—the millennials and those who may be purchasing homes for the first time?
MR: The people we’re preparing for are either of that age group or have children that fall into that age group, and, truthfully, I don’t think it’s that different. Yes, they may want to communicate differently, but you have to match your rhythm to the rhythm of buyers and sellers. If they want a text, you text them back; if they want a call, you call them.

What do agents like about working for the firm?
MR: I think they like the style of the company and the culture we’ve developed. When people come to us from other places, they comment that it’s truly a “family business” and that the family is visible around the office.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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In Condominium Rule, FHA Extends Financing to Tens of Thousands of Units

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 13:03

In assistance to condominium homebuyers, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) finalized new regulation this week, expanding FHA financing to individual units, among other provisions. According to FHA, 20,000 – 60,000 condominiums could become eligible for FHA financing as a result of the rule, which “is part of a broader Administration objective to reduce regulatory barriers that currently restrict affordable homeownership opportunities.”

“Condominiums have increasingly become a source of affordable, sustainable homeownership for many families, and it’s critical that FHA be there to help them,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in a statement. “Today, we take an important step to open more doors to homeownership for younger, first-time American buyers as well as seniors hoping to age-in-place.”

“This new rule allows FHA to meet its core mission to support eligible borrowers who are ready for homeownership and are most likely to enter the market with the purchase of a condominium,” said HUD Acting Deputy Secretary and FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery.

Beginning October 15, FHA can consider condominiums for financing individually, even if the agency has not approved the condominium development overall. If the development has 10 or more units, FHA caps eligibility at 10 percent; in developments with less than 10 units, the FHA maximum is two.

For approved condominium developments, the recertification requirement is stretching to three years, instead of the current two. Additionally, FHA changed its owner-occupancy ratio requirements, allowing for more opportunities.

“The condominium market is a critical gateway to affordable homeownership, and MBA applauds the steps FHA has taken to increase borrowers’ accessibility to quality housing,” said Pete Mill, Mortgage Bankers Association senior vice president for Residential Policy and Member Engagement, in a statement. “The new guidelines, many of which MBA advocated for, will create more financing options that will help first-time homebuyers and low- to moderate-income borrowers. It will also provide lenders with much-needed clarity to promote safe, sustainable and affordable lending.”

“We are thrilled that Secretary Carson has taken this much-needed step to put the American Dream within reach for thousands of additional families,” said John Smaby, National Association of REALTORS® president, in a statement. “It goes without saying that condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time homebuyers, small families and those in urban areas. This ruling, which culminates years of collaboration between HUD and NAR, will help reverse recent declines in condo sales and ensure the FHA is fulfilling its primary mission to the American people.”

According to June NAR statistics, condominium sales sunk 6.5 percent year-over-year. Prior to the regulation, 6.5 percent of condo developments were eligible for FHA financing.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Online Sources of Capital for Women Entrepreneurs

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 13:33

Capital is pivotal for the success of any entrepreneur to launch a sustainable and lucrative business. Traditional routes of access to capital are changing as technological development creates new avenues and the distance between entrepreneur and investor decreases due to an increase in fast and efficient communication.

Women entrepreneurs have notoriously faced hardships in gaining access to capital, from lack of information and resources and local and state government assistance, to facing cultural biases from investors. Without adequate capital, women cannot make their creative ideas a reality, nor can they afford to maintain the businesses that provide jobs for a significant portion of the population.

U.S. Census Bureau data reveals that women own 36 percent of privately-held businesses and contribute $3 trillion to the economy due to job creation—creating 16 percent of jobs in the nation. As more women become their own bosses, they compose a larger share of small businesses, of which 80 percent have no employees other than the owner. In 2013, there were 28.8 million small businesses in the U.S.

Traditional means of gaining access to capital, which typically involved a long and cost-intensive process, are being expanded with online options, which provide smaller loan amounts faster and at lower costs.

Here are some new, innovative tools for women entrepreneurs seeking financing:

Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is an efficient way to gain capital from many individuals through small donations, and is low risk compared to venture angels and banks. A 2015 Massolution report estimates that $17.2 billion was invested in North America through crowdfunding websites, a number that’s increasing each year. Top crowdfunding platforms include Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, CircleUp, Patreon, Crowdrise, Razoo, AngelList, and many more.

Gender Lens Investment
According to Veris Wealth Partners, investment of this type has risen 41 percent in the past year, up to $910 million. In addition, the number of mandated publicly traded gender lens investment strategies has reached a total of 22, after five years of steady growth. This is an incredible increase from 1993 to 2012, when there were only five strategies for gender lens investing.

Online Lending Tools
An emerging means for access to capital for small businesses in particular are online lending tools. The 2017 Kauffman Foundation report states that many businesses are in need of funds to manage cash flow and to access short-term financing, and the most commonly used tools are loans and lines of credit. Fintech companies like OnDeck and Kabbage are facilitating small businesses’ access to credit in online lending by providing fast online vetting for small business loans, utilizing personal data and credit scores.

Whether they decide to leverage crowdfunding, merchant cash advances or sector-focused angel syndicates like gender lens investment, women entrepreneurs in need of funds for their startup—or capital for their business—have new tools at their disposal.

Desirée Patno is the CEO and president of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE), as well as chairwoman of NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC). With 30 years of experience in housing, Patno is a champion for women’s economic growth and independence. In 2017, Entrepreneur.com named her the Highest-Ranking Woman and 4th Overall Top Real Estate Influencer to Follow. For more information, please visit www.nawrb.com.

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