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Updated: 46 min 16 sec ago

New Home Trends: Dome Lights, ‘Maximalism’ and More

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 13:28

So you’re all fired up to make some changes around the house this season? Good! In the following rundown, you’ll hear from a bunch of worthy experts pointing to some of the hottest design and decorating trends that everybody will be gabbing about.

Gabrielle Savoie at says you’ll have the coolest place on the block when you light up your guests with retro dome or mushroom lamps. Maybe match that with a hot new plinth table. Savoie says coupled with the recent hype over colored marble and other stone finishes, these low and heavy tables are expected to have a moment in 2019.

The folks at say 2019 is ushering in a return to “maximalism”—a natural evolution from the more minimalist design trends over the past few seasons. They say maximalism provides even experimental decorators much more freedom to follow their instinct. The key to getting maximalism right, Decor Aid says, is to maintain a well-judged edit and visual consistency so your efforts don’t appear as heavy-handed or overstimulating. Instead, stick to no more than three contrasting colors, patterns and finishes for a more timeless take on maximalism that won’t feel dated.

At, Lucia Tonelli rounded up a slew of tips from her deck of design sources:

Warm Colors – Katharine Pooley of Katharine Pooley London says colors she is seeing for 2019 are blush, dusty pink and bronze—warm colors and feminine tones for the walls and dashes of soft pinks to break up expanses of taupe or neutrals will instantly update a tired room.

Florals – Erin Gates of Erin Gates Design touts the traditional beauty of floral patterns, either abstracted or straight-up chintz, according to Tonelli.

Graphics – Amy Sklar of Sklar Design is gravitating toward making a little more impact in kitchens with bolder color choices or graphic tiles with a lot more pop and punch.

Spa Vibes – Kesha Franklin of Halden Interiors reports with relief that the spa-inspired bathroom trend has officially returned. These days, she says it’s all about bold, dark, sultry bathroom designs that evoke an indulgent high-end experience, Tonelli reports.

If you’re going DIY with a project, do your research and learn how these and other top designers are advising their own clients to embrace these trends.

John Voket is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Where Are We Now? Data Shows Substantial Housing Progress Post-Recession

Sun, 07/28/2019 - 10:07

Since the recession, the U.S. real estate housing markets have undergone a significant transformation, creating a booming real estate industry that is almost unrecognizable to the one we had just a decade ago.

June marked the longest period of economic expansion for the country, reaching 121 months. What’s happened in that time? According to a CoreLogic report, “The Role of Housing in the Longest Economic Expansion,” the housing flip rate and home prices and rents are up. One of the biggest indicators of change, however, is the drastic dip in homes with negative equity. All of these improvements have been driven by several economic factors, such as low unemployment and rising GDP growth rates.

“During the last nine years, the expansion has created more than 20 million jobs, raised family incomes and rebuilt consumer confidence,” says Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. “The longest stretch of mortgage rates below 5 percent in more than 60 years has supplemented these factors. These economic forces have driven a recovery in home sales, construction, prices and home equity wealth.”

Home Equity Rates Have Drastically Improved
Negative equity no more. In the first quarter of 2010, the percentage of underwater homes sat at a dismal 25.9 percent. Fast-forward to earlier this year, and that number has significantly dropped to a mere 4.1 percent.

Homeowners are in a more profitable space. In the first quarter of 2019, home equity across the nation totaled $15.8 trillion, a vast improvement over the $6.1 trillion in early 2009. Additionally, per homeowner, average equity increased from $75,000 to $171,000 in that time period.

According to the report, several factors contributed to this equity growth, including home price appreciation and foreclosure- and short sale-motivated debt cancellation and principal paydown.

“Home prices have increased steadily since 2011, creating record amounts of home equity and putting homeowners in a good position to weather future downturns,” said Molly Boesel, principal economist for CoreLogic, in the report.

Home Prices and Rents Have Grown
There’s been continued growth in this segment of the market. Since June 2009, U.S. home prices increased 50 percent while single-family rents got a 33 percent boost. While the homeowner households decreased by 1.1 million between 2014 and 2015, CoreLogic attributes the gap being filled in 2019 to a boost in millennial buyers. According to the report, millennials accounted for 44 percent of home-purchase mortgage applications during that time.

A rising cost of labor and materials could also be driving up home prices. The report found that in June 2018, the cost of materials increased 7.3 percent year-over-year in response to new steel and aluminum tariffs. Additionally, labor costs increased 2.3 percent year-over-year due to a low supply of construction workers. 

House-Flipping Bounced Back and Remains Stable
Going into the last housing bubble, investors worked quick to turn a profit before the real estate markets tumbled. At the peak, in the first quarter of 2006, flips made up a high 11.3 percent of homes. Post-recession, that rate dropped to 4.9 percent, bouncing back by 2018 to an even higher 11.4 percent. This may not be a sign of an upcoming recession, however. CoreLogic reports that the flipping space has widely changed, with investors making more sustainable decisions and professionals replacing the novice flippers of the past.

A Thriving Economy?
Several economic elements could be at play, shows the report. Rising employment rates could be helping with the increase in potential homebuyers and in decreasing negative equity rates. Additionally, housing is tied to wealth creation, correlating with the increase in home flips.

With steady continued growth and inflation rates below the 2 percent target set by the Federal Reserve Board, the question arises: When will the U.S. market hit its peak? According to CoreLogic, stock market bumps and drops in the 10-Year Treasury Yield are causing concerns. Data shows, however, that growth is happening at a slower pace, with mortgage delinquency rates reaching a record low of 3.6 percent in April 2019.

“We expect the housing market to enter a normalcy phase over the next 24 months,” said Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic, in the report. “With prices neither rising too fast nor too slow, and with a growing stream of young households looking to buy homes over the next two decades, the long-term view looks healthy.” 

For more information, visit  

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

The post Where Are We Now? Data Shows Substantial Housing Progress Post-Recession appeared first on RISMedia.

Claudia Stallings: Keeping Agents One Step Ahead

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 21:01

Vitals: Coldwell Banker Wallace & Wallace, REALTORS®
Years in Business: 83
Size: 6 offices, 365 agents
Regions Served: East Tennessee, Knoxville and surrounding areas
2018 Sales Volume: $694,780,290
2018 Transactions: 3,284

Claudia Stallings entered the real estate field in 2004, though her firm, Coldwell Banker Wallace & Wallace, REALTORS® has been around locally since 1936. After finding success in careers such as advertising and marketing, Stallings got her real estate license 15 years ago and today serves as vice president of Residential Sales for the East Tennessee-based firm, which ranked No. 252 in sales volume in RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Report.

How is your firm unique?
Claudia Stallings: We remain a full-service brokerage for both clients and our agents. We believe that clients are best served when their agents are well-trained and have a complete marketing package provided to them. We believe agents are most productive when they have ample access to education, to tools that automate their processes and to staff who support their administrative, marketing and technology needs.

Please describe what you saw in the East Tennessee market last year.
CS: Our market spent most of the year with less than four months of supply. Buyers were often in a race to get in to see the homes and found themselves in multiple-offer situations. We saw a steady increase in price as the year went on, which is a typical supply/demand issue. I believe that there was—and continues to be—pent-up demand. Millennials are ready to buy, baby boomers are ready to downsize and both are after the homes that are in the middle of our price point.

What is your growth strategy for this year?
CS: In 2018, we opened a new café-style office in an area that’s seen steady population growth and a good level of appreciation, but was lacking a strong brokerage presence. We hope to grow that office in 2019 by increasing agent count and marketshare.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re currently facing?
CS: There’s a lot of competition for agents among brokerages in our market, and there are more agents than there have ever been. It’s typical for people to decide that they want to “dabble” in real estate when in the midst of a seller’s market, so they get their license and try to do this job on a part-time basis with little training or experience. As a full-service brokerage, we want full-time agents who are not only dedicated to our initial training, but also care about the ongoing quality of their work, and value learning about the newest rules, marketing strategies and technology. We have minimum standards that we enforce, which sometimes creates a barrier to our hiring and retention process. Having agents who are among the most professional in the business makes our agents a recruiting target.

What are the biggest opportunities for increasing business right now?
CS: There’s room for new-construction growth right now from an inventory perspective. For us, there’s opportunity to grow our luxury marketshare due to the unique marketing package we provide to our sellers. There’s also opportunity to leverage technology to streamline and automate our processes, leaving agents more time to do what they do best, which is work with clients. The seller’s market will shift, and we may have started to see that happen a little bit already. When it does, sellers will demand more from their agents for a longer period of time. Those agents who are equipped for this level of service will grow their business.

How are you preparing your sales force to meet the expectations of today’s consumer?
CS: Today’s consumer comes to their agent armed with more knowledge than ever before. It’s our job to make sure our agents stay several steps ahead of the information available to the general public. We provide our sales force with timely market statistics and analyses on a regular basis to give them a stronger market understanding and negotiating position. We create training to address the items facing our agents at the moment, and we prepare them for what’s ahead by having workshops on the latest apps, tax laws, contract changes, etc. Many first-time homebuyers and millennials hire agents because they want the guidance of an experienced professional, so we make sure to provide them with agents armed with knowledge.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

The post Claudia Stallings: Keeping Agents One Step Ahead appeared first on RISMedia.

Fostering a Positive, Proactive Culture

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 12:09

In the following interview, Virginia Rose, broker/owner, Lewith & Freeman Real Estate, Inc., a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® in Kingston, Pa., discusses the firm’s legacy in the region, recruitment, and more.

Region Served: Northeastern Pennsylvania, including the Greater Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area
Years in Real Estate: 33
Number of Offices: 6
Number of Agents: 120

Lewith & Freeman has a long history in the area. How do you stay ahead of the competition?
Lewith & Freeman has been in business since 1921 in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Our brand and team truly understand the pulse of our community, its needs and all the benefits that come along with relocating to our region. There are many national brokerages in our area, but what makes us different is our willingness to embrace the newest technologies while staying true to our roots. There’s no substitute for an organization that has a legacy of 98 years of success that’s poised for decades to come with a forward-thinking management and marketing team. We all share a vision of local service coupled with the most advanced and innovative capabilities that our industry has to offer, as well as our global connections through Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®. In creating centers of excellence, our leadership team keeps a close eye on local and national trends so that our REALTORS® can focus on their clients and continue to excel.

What is the key to your success?
“Lead. Connect. Succeed.” is a theme that drives our firm’s model and elevates all of us to a higher standard, reminding our Lewith & Freeman REALTORS® that we need to connect on a human level with our clients to succeed. As an independent company, we have the advantage of embracing innovation in real-time based on market reaction and directed by what we see as immediate client needs. Our technology, tools and training give us an advantage and play a huge part when it comes to connecting with clients.

In what ways do you and your agents go the extra mile for your clients?
I can recall agents staging homes with personal items, cleaning windows, painting doors and even mowing the lawn right before a photographer arrived to ensure beautiful listing photos. Our REALTORS® are woven into the fabric of our region. The Wilkes-Barre area recently had a tornado destroy part of our Valley, leading to local businesses and homes being damaged and destroyed. Our REALTORS® were able to raise funds and volunteer, while our commercial department quickly placed businesses that had been affected. We believe that when we support local business, we enrich the region, which benefits everyone.

Please describe your philosophy when it comes to recruiting the best agents.
The most important reason REALTORS® choose Lewith & Freeman is because of our positive, proactive culture. REALTORS® see the advantage in our unique career-enhanced platform that includes exceptional tools, a virtual desk, marketing, service, training and innovation, as well as an aggressive commission structure. Locally, REALTORS® see that Lewith & Freeman provides more training, marketing, tools, analytics, social support, print and digital marketing.

For more information, please visit

Lesley Grand is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Rents on Rising Streak: Zillow

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 12:05

In June, the median national rent rose 3 percent year-over-year, continuing a nine-month rising streak, according to the latest Zillow Real Estate Market Report. With a median national rent of $1,483, all but one of the 50 largest markets posted pricier rents, the report shows.

“As much as record numbers of new apartments led many to believe that rental markets might have become oversaturated with new supply, the reality is that demographics and general economic health continue to keep the pressure on,” says Skylar Olsen, director of Economic Research at Zillow.

According to Olsen, affordable apartments are highly in-demand, driving monthly payments up.

“Yes, we saw rents fall in 2018, but that was driven by the concentration of supply in urban areas and large buildings at higher-end price points competing against each other,” Olsen says. “What the rental market still craves are affordable units spread across the landscape. Show me a three-bedroom apartment in a small building located near good schools and I’ll show you an older millennial with kids ready to move in.”

On the homeownership side, home prices rose 5.2 percent year-over-year, downshifting to a more normalized pace from 7.6 percent the prior year, the report shows. The median value was $227,700. A backtrack dragged down inventory overall 0.8 percent, but for-sale homes sprouted up in San Jose and Vegas.

Breaking down the largest markets:

Zillow Real Estate Market Report, June 2019 (Credit: Zillow)

For more information, please visit

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Putting $0 Down on a Home Was Big Right Before the Housing Crisis—It’s Getting Popular Again

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 12:00

(TNS)—More Americans are taking out zero-down loans to buy a home, but not at the rate or with the risk that helped bring on the U.S. recession a decade ago.

Experts say zero-down programs, through which people can purchase a house without a down payment, have become more popular since the 2008 housing crisis, creating an easier path to homeownership but posing risks if the market takes an unexpected downturn.

“We didn’t have to put $30,000 down on a house, but you still get the house you want,” says Christina Martinez, whose family bought a home in Kissimmee, Fla., a few months ago with a zero-down loan through Veterans Affairs. “We could have put (something) down, but since we didn’t have to, we just didn’t.”

In April, zero-down payment loans accounted for 3.6 percent of loans nationally, according to data from®, compared with 2 percent nationally in 2008 when they hit a low.

But zero-down loans are still nowhere near as popular as they were pre-recession, when they made up 12.7 percent of loans nationally.

“As people have recovered, now banks are becoming a little bit looser with their lending standards,” says Jason Martin, a financial adviser with Allgen Financial.

Economists say it’s a relatively safe time to use zero-down programs, as home values continue to rise and the labor market remains strong. But some urged caution, pointing out the programs usually have high interest rates and high monthly mortgage payments.

In the past year, home values in the United States have shot up 5.2 percent, and Zillow predicts they will rise another 2.2 percent within the next year.

Martin says typically people who can’t afford to save enough for a down payment are not ready to buy a home, and most people who lost their homes in 2008 were those who put little down.

If the home’s value drops, buyers wind up owing more than the houses are worth.

“Why take the risk? You don’t want to get yourself into a position where, if the market does top, you’re way underwater on your home,” Martin says. “It’s very dangerous for someone to buy a home when they’re not ready to buy a home.”

Stacy Luna, a lender with Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, says buyers who don’t make much of a down payment are more likely to lose their homes to their lenders.

“Unfortunately, what we do find with people with less skin in the game, those are the people who end up in foreclosure,” Luna says. “Maybe they lose their job, or maybe they had a roommate and now the roommate’s gone, something breaks on the house. All they know is I only had $1,000 in it so why should I stay?”

Some experts say the zero-down programs themselves are much safer than in the early 2000s, when applicants in some cases didn’t even have to prove income.

The most popular zero-down loans are for former military through the Veterans Affairs and people living in rural areas through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Federal Housing Commission requires buyers to put 3 percent down.

“We certainly are not back in the freewheeling days of 2006 where anyone could get a half-million dollar mortgage,” says University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith. “Availability to mortgage credit was beyond easy.”

For Dana Signore, a single mother who recently bought a house in Clermont, Fla., the only way she could afford to buy a home was if she didn’t put anything down. She qualified for a zero-down loan through the USDA for her $230,000 home.

“That was really the only option,” Signore says. “The money wasn’t there.”

If her clients qualify and are comfortable with the monthly mortgage payments, Annie Amalfitano, a manager and loan originator for Motto Mortgage Exclusive, encourages them to utilize the VA and USDA programs. It’s better than renting, she says.

“Why would you pay $1,200, $1,500, $1,600 a month…when you can get into a home for that much? Why would you?” Amalfitano says. “You’re just lining somebody else’s pockets and you’re not building any equity yourself. Your rent is going out the window.”

©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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Women in Real Estate: Leadership Restructuring at Title Alliance Creates Majority Female C-Suite

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 15:38

Women are taking on leadership positions at a steadier pace than ever before, according to the Pew Research Center. The statistics point to growth across several segments—state government, Fortune 500 companies and universities—but where does that leave the real estate industry?

Majority female leadership in real estate is becoming more commonplace, as exemplified by a recent leadership restructuring at Title Alliance, a family of full-service title insurance and escrow agencies. Over the last few months, Lindsay Smith, Sharon Lontoc and Maria Deligiorgis have assumed their respective positions as chief strategy officer, chief human resources officer, and general counsel and compliance officer, rounding out a majority female C-Suite that already included Lillian ReDavid in the position of chief financial officer.

“The passion and energy from the C-Suite is integral to Title Alliance’s expansive growth,” said Jim Campbell, CEO, in a statement. “It’s inspiring to see women from different career paths pushing Title Alliance forward with strategic mindsets and unique approaches.”

Here, Lontoc, Deligiorgis and Smith tell RISMedia why advancing women within the industry is so important, and how other real estate professionals can find success in leadership roles.

Sharon Lontoc

Sharon Lontoc

Chief Human Resources Officer

A graduate of Christopher Newport University and Old Dominion University, Lontoc has held positions including vice president of Employee Relations and director of Human Resources for a top financial services firm. As chief human resources officer at Title Aliance, Lontoc is responsible for developing and executing the human resource strategy and innovative operating models in support of the overall business plan and strategic direction of Title Alliance, with a focus on succession planning, talent management and training and development.

Maria Deligiorgis


 Maria Deligiorgis

General Counsel and Compliance Officer

A graduate of American University Washington School of Law and the University of Iowa, Deligiorgis has spent her entire career in the real estate and title insurance industries working with small and large companies. Deligiorgis focuses on overseeing the business and legal practices of Title Alliance and all its entities, in all operations and in all states. Deligiorgis also supervises and directs underwriting, compliance reports and best practices, along with overseeing SOC 1 and SOC 2 reporting and other compliance endeavors.

Lindsay Smith

Lindsay Smith

Chief Strategy Officer

A graduate of LaSalle University, Smith joined Title Alliance in 2005 and has held multiple roles throughout her tenure with the company, ranging from project manager to director of Sales and Marketing. As chief strategy officer, Smith is responsible for assisting Title Alliance’s CEO, Campbell, in developing, communicating and executing both corporate and JV strategic initiatives as the company continues to move forward with a significant growth trajectory.

Can you talk about the gender gap in leadership roles and how it may be bridged?

Sharon Lontoc: One of my jobs as CHRO is to promote work and learning environments that encourage and support diversity. Merit is the foundation of hires and promotions, but it’s also important to provide the tools and opportunities to support everyone’s career goals and aspirations within our company as well as the industry. Not only can my work in the company and industry support other women in the field, but hopefully serve as a source of inspiration and empowerment.

Maria Deligiorgis: Top executive women can continue to send a strong message that diversity and inclusion are a strategic priority for their company and for the industry. A public presence for women leaders and members of the C-Suite exemplifies a corporate and industry mindset and position of an organization’s commitment to promoting cultural change. To help eliminate continued underrepresentation of women in the C-Suite, implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives will be a start, but the imagination of top executive women in our industry will also be needed to engage in open, in-depth conversations and stories about experiences and challenges with key men.

My leadership experience is intentional in setting clear expectations enterprise-wide of all managers, mentors and sponsors, and our company is committed to providing the tools to support women effectively. Leadership by top women executives is also a transfer of belief—to inspire all women professionals.

Lindsay Smith: Truthfully, I never looked at it that way. In our company, over 90 percent of our employees are female, so there wasn’t a gender battle to be fought. To that point, I always believed that regardless of gender, the very best person for the job should have it to bring the most value to the organization. I think as a leader you need to focus of having integrity in everything that you do; representing the company’s brand and values; and on uplifting, motivating and encouraging in a positive way those around you.

What is your strategy for continued business growth and what motivates you?

SL: I am very fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly smart, strategic and dynamic colleagues at Title Alliance. They are empowering and encouraging, as well as supportive of each other’s pursuits. Each of them set the bar so high, it shows me that we can have it all.

MD: Certainly, profit and loss accountability and results are motivating, as is skill development. Every handful of years, we speak about the transformation of our industry, and as a strategist and visionary, I want to help toward the development of the next generation of industry professionals—both women and men.

LS: Personally, my “why” is and has always been to make a difference. In our business, we are fortunate enough to be able to form partnerships in states across the country with real estate agents. Through those partnerships, we provide the agents with opportunities to compliantly grow their horizontal income stream through equity. We are able to impact employees in these areas by providing them with a different way of doing business and to give them a platform to expand their worlds—personally and professionally—holding true to our mission. Lastly, as an ESOP company, the strategies set forth and growth achieved impacts every single employee in our family of companies through the ESOP Growth. Continuing to push for excellence and opportunity, for myself and those around me, allows for fulfillment of my “why” at a very high level.

What would you say to other females looking to advance to a leadership position in real estate?

SL: As much as it might sound like a cliché, I think the main thing is to reinforce that there is nothing out of reach. Women and girls can be anything, and we are not limited by our gender. Explore any opportunity, including those in real estate or title, and find what truly interests and inspires you.

MD: While it is aspirational to believe that meritocracy is the determiner of criteria for leadership roles, there are multiple paths to top executive leadership positions, and women could focus their efforts on roles that lead to those paths. Reach out to women leaders and start a conversation.

LS: Be certain that you work for a company that demonstrates the willingness to empower and to grow their employees. Consistently hold yourself (and others) to high standards. Focus on how you can make a difference to impact others. Stay out of drama and don’t ever tear people down. Finally, the best leaders are anything but self-serving. When you demonstrate how what you bring to the table impacts the company, the employees and the clients in a positive way consistently through measurable success and track records, you will have the greatest level of personal and professional satisfaction. And when you’re satisfied in your job, amazing things happen.

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

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Amazon HQ2 Reshapes Local Markets Before It’s Even Been Built

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 15:27

Over the past year, the suburbs of Washington, D.C. have seen an obvious shift in the housing space, and all it took was Amazon announcing National Landing as the future home of HQ2.

The massive undertaking—encompassing two 22-story, 2.1 million-square-foot buildings at Metropolitan Park and situated on a 16-acre lot—is still in the initial development stage, but the real estate industry is already feeling the impact.

Inventory Was Low to Begin With

According to two industry experts who service the Greater D.C. Metro area, John Eric and Kara Chaffin Donofrio, inventory supply was dangerously low even before the announcement—the most challenging factor thus far.

“Northern Virginia was already low in inventory, and the HQ2 announcement caused a further shrinkage of available properties for sale,” says Chaffin Donofrio, managing broker of the Long & Foster, Christie’s International Real Estate office in Arlington, Va.

Eric, senior vice president and senior advisor at Compass, agrees, stating the biggest market shift has been in the decrease of inventory across the board, but especially in the cities of Alexandria and Arlington.

In fact, according to data from Bright MLS, the zip code 22202, belonging to Arlington, Va., has experienced the most dramatic changes, with the number of new listings decreasing 85.3 percent around the time Amazon made its announcement in November 2018. Inventory in June 2019 was down 70.2 percent year-over-year.

“This severe lack of inventory in 22202 could be the result of homeowners waiting for their property values to peak as the official opening of HQ2 grows closer,” said Chris Finnegan, vice president of Marketing and Communications for Bright MLS, in a statement.

Residents Holding Out for Major Profits

Eric has it witnessed firsthand: Consumers are holding onto their property in hopes that it becomes more valuable.

“A huge chunk of my listing appointments were initially calls to sell and have turned into rental listings,” says Eric. “Many are holding real estate instead of selling based upon the HQ2 announcement…it’s been prolific.”

Chaffin Donofrio says that conversations with sellers are focusing on whether they should hold their property for the time being or sell now.

“Some sellers want to keep their properties for a few more years in hopes of increased appreciation. It’s very situational as to what is truly in the best interest of the client,” says Chaffin Donofrio. “For some, now may be the right time to sell their larger home at a great profit and downsize by purchasing another home while interest rates are still at all-time lows.”

Buyers Being Priced Out

Those that have chosen to sell, however, have largely listed their homes at inflated prices, according to Bright MLS. The median asking price of single-family homes spiked 99.9 percent year-over-year in June 2019, and shot up 56.6 percent between November 2018 and December 2018—an increase of 75.5 percent ($780,000 to $1,369,900).

Chaffin Donofrio has found that the combination of tightening supply and an increase in prices has put a strain on would-be buyers.

“It’s made an already hot market even more competitive,” she says. “Our team has experienced an even greater challenge in finding properties closer to the HQ2 proximity, specifically in Del Ray and communities around the 22202 zip code.”

Navigating a Challenged Market

Real estate professionals are taking these challenges in stride, coming up with innovative ways to help renters, buyers and sellers. Chaffin Donofrio, for example, is looking to develop more creative and proactive approaches to helping clients find homes by identifying “off-market opportunities.”

“At our office, we have developed several unique approaches to help buyers find homes before they go on the market,” she says.

Eric says the biggest thing is just setting expectations.

“Sellers are under the assumption that their houses are worth double after the Amazon announcement, and that’s just not true. And buyers don’t want to pay double,” he says. “We have to do a lot of research and delve deep into Amazon’s impact to know what to expect.”

Despite inventory limitations and pricing-related obstacles, the industry is hopeful that Amazon HQ2 will be a lucrative addition to the area and a positive influence on the homeownership rate.

“We’re certainly excited that Amazon is coming,” says Eric. “We’ve already sold three homes to Amazon folks that are heading this way to set up the environment.”

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

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Existing-Home Sales: Hello, 2015…

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 13:31

With inventory still stubbornly tight, existing-home sales sank 1.7 percent, according to the June National Association of REALTORS® report, newly released. Compared to June of last year, sales underwhelmed, down 2.2 percent.

Credit: National Association of REALTORS®

We’re in familiar territory, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR.

“Home sales are running at a pace similar to 2015 levels—even with exceptionally low mortgage rates, a record number of jobs and a record high net worth in the country,” says Yun. “Imbalance persists for mid- to lower-priced homes with solid demand and insufficient supply, which is consequently pushing up home prices.”

Although inventory in June picked up—1.93 million, according to NAR’s report—the amount of for-sale homes has not materially risen year-over-year.

“Either a strong pent-up demand will show in the upcoming months, or there is a lack of confidence that is keeping buyers from this major expenditure,” Yun says. “It’s too soon to know how much of a pullback is related to the reduction in the homeowner tax incentive.”

Across all house types (single-family, condo, co-op and townhome), June’s median price was $285,700—a new record, and a 4.3 percent increase year-over-year, the report shows. The median price for sales in the single-family space was $288,900; the condo median was $260,100. By region:

Existing-Home Sales: 1.25 million (-1.6% YoY)
Median Price: $230,400 (+6.7% YoY)

Existing-Home Sales: 680,000 (-4.2% YoY)
Median Price: $321,200 (+4.8% YoY)

Existing-Home Sales: 2.25 million million (-0.4% YoY)
Median Price: $248,600 (+4.9% YoY)

Existing-Home Sales: 1.09 million (-5.2% YoY)
Median Price: $410,400 (+2.3% YoY)

Currently, inventory is at a 4.4-month supply, the report shows. In June, the average listing was on the market for 27 days, one day longer than the prior year. Fifty-six percent of homes were on the market for less than one month.

Of June’s sales, 4.69 million were single-family—a decline from 4.67 million the month prior, and from 4.77 million year-over-year. Condo and co-op sales totaled 580,000, a 6.5 percent drop year-over-year. Sixteen percent of sales were all-cash, and 10 percent by individual investors. Two percent were distressed. First-time homebuyers comprised 35 percent of sales.

“Historically, [today’s] rates are incredibly attractive,” says NAR President John Smaby. “Securing and locking in on a mortgage now—given the current, favorable conditions—is a decision that will pay off for years to come.”

For more information, please visit

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Limited-Time, Exclusive Offer for Jeep Wrangler

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 13:28

NAR PULSE—Say hello to a new adventure. For the first time ever, the FCA US LLC offer includes the award-winning 2018 Jeep® Wrangler. This offer is ONLY available through NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program and ends 8/31. Reminder, that’s a $500 cash allowance on top of national incentives and an exclusive maintenance package.

Clients Want the Highest Level of Service
The Commitment to Excellence Program helps your agents build client service skills through self-assessments, customized learning paths and assigned tasks. Remind them to log in now to take the Client Service assessment and begin the journey to their C2EX Endorsement.

Stay Safe Year-Round With NAR’s REALTOR® Safety Program
The REALTOR® Safety Program provides free resources, including safety tips, articles, videos and more, to help brokers and agents develop smart safety practices to use with every client, every time. Visit to access these great resources.

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Real Estate Webmasters Bringing RESO Standards to the World

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 13:26

Vy Luu, Director of Product Development, Real Estate Webmasters

Real Estate Webmasters is investing millions into a brand-new data infrastructure. Their goal? To be the global leader in real estate data standards.

It’s well-known that a lack of data standards presents a significant hurdle for the entire real estate industry. For technology providers, differences between the 700-plus MLS boards across North America can cause significant performance and reliability challenges—not to mention a total lack of MLS data in most international markets.

But with RESO (the Real Estate Standards Organization) bringing in new data standards, tech providers have the chance to make big waves. Vy Luu, director of product development at Real Estate Webmasters (REW), plans to lead that charge on the international scale.

Luu, who has previous experience in data-driven industries like telecom, travel and finance, sees nothing but opportunity. “Everyone knows real estate data is well behind other industries, but that doesn’t mean we have to be.”

In 2017, REW became one of Canada’s largest Google Partners by migrating their data infrastructure to the Google Cloud Platform. A year later, an RFP resulted in a new partnership with Slalom, a billion-dollar consulting firm with 6,500-plus employees globally and a track record of bringing data solutions to finance, telecom and technology giants.

In partnership with Google and Slalom, and backed by REW CEO and founder Morgan Carey, Luu is pioneering a state-of-the-art data solution that not only makes use of world-class database and search technologies like Cloud Spanner and Elasticsearch, but also adopts RESO data standards.

How will this impact the industry? Luu sees three major benefits.

The first is a major boost in performance. “REW’s new listing data structure will be really fast, extremely reliable and scalable in ways previously unavailable.” Faster home search algorithms, servers that automatically scale in size with the number of website visitors, and monitoring tools that proactively detect changes from MLS boards are all potential realities in this new world.

The second impact comes in the form of new analytics and data queries. “This isn’t just about improving speed. This opens up entirely new capabilities for the types of home searches we can perform and the products we can create.” Luu provided an example from Chinese culture. “Homes with red doors, or homes with the No. 8 in the address, are considered symbols of prosperity and good luck. These types of previously unimaginable home searches are now a possibility.”

Third, adopting RESO standards allows Real Estate Webmasters to take their first-class real estate technology to the world stage. In the current landscape, listings data is even more disparate outside of the United States and Canada. “Removing barriers relating to unstructured data allows us to bring powerful home search technology to the entire world,” says Luu.

“This is a fantastic example of what leadership on data standards can do to improve technology for international marketplaces,” says Sam DeBord, CEO of RESO. “Local differences are what make real estate so interesting and valuable, but technology is global. Providing this essential common language of data standards to the marketplace shows great vision and commitment by Real Estate Webmasters to the global real estate technology community.

Starting with Europe, Real Estate Webmasters’ goal is to bring reliable listings data to previously untapped international markets, reshaping the international real estate market as a whole.

For more information, please visit

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

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Concerned About Climate Change? Plant a Victory Garden

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 13:19

(TNS)—Catherine McDonnell-Forney has been growing food at her Minneapolis home for the entire decade that she’s lived there. But now she tends a registered Climate Victory Garden.

“Climate change is one of the top issues for me,” she said. “It affects all of us, and our ability to live happy, healthy lives. One way we can help is growing our own food and making healthier soil.”

Last year, she saw an online ad for the Climate Victory Garden initiative developed by Green America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. On its website, a YouTube video starring fashion designer/”Gangsta Gardener” Ron Finley and actress Rosario Dawson outlines basic steps for regenerative gardening that restores soil and captures carbon, including “Ditch Chemicals,” “Keep Soil Covered,” “Encourage Biodiversity,” “Grow Food” and “Compost.”

“I was totally sucked in,” said McDonnell-Forney. “It’s a positive call-to-action, presented in a way to get more people on board and excited—not doom and gloom.”

At 39, she’s too young to remember the original Victory Gardens, part of the war effort during World War I and II. “But my dad remembers that his parents had a Victory Garden,” she said.

During those conflicts, food was rationed. In addition, labor and transportation shortages made it more difficult to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market. So the government encouraged citizens to plant “Victory Gardens” to provide their own fruit and vegetables.

By 1944, nearly 20 million Americans had answered the call, planting gardens that produced 8 million tons of food that year alone. But when World War II ended, so did government promotion of Victory Gardens.

About a year and a half ago, Green America decided the time was ripe to reboot the concept, this time in service to planet Earth.

“We wanted a campaign that addressed the climate issue—using gardens as part of the solution,” said Jillian Semaan, food campaign director for Green America. “Bring them back but this time for the climate and the environment. People want to help but they don’t know how.”

The initiative offers gardeners a tool kit with step-by-step instructions for planting a Climate Victory Garden and 10 carbon-capturing practices. There’s also an online community where gardeners can swap information and advice.

So far, it’s a small community—413 people have registered their gardens nationwide, including 43 in Minnesota, according to Semaan.

“It would take a lot of people doing this to make a significant difference,” said Paula Westmoreland, owner of Ecological Design, Minneapolis and vice president of the Permaculture Institute of North America. “On the other hand, it’s important that people have tangible things they can do. It’s much better than just having a lawn. Gardens that sequester carbon are generally multifunctional and good for pollinators.”

Yard to Table
McDonnell-Forney, a Hennepin County, Minn., Master Gardener, was already growing fruits, vegetables and herbs at her home long before registering as a Climate Victory Garden.

When she and her husband, Nick Schroetter, bought the house 10 years ago, the yard was mostly lawn. Over the years they’ve replaced much of it with fruit trees, shrubs and native plants for pollinators in front. On their south-facing side yard, they’ve added five raised beds where they grow tomatoes, onions, garlic, lettuce, peas, beans, potatoes, peppers and squash.

Every year, she experiments with a few new crops. “I finally got asparagus to take—I’m very excited,” she said.

The couple also are trying their hand at growing mushrooms on inoculated logs, and have converted their backyard into a bee lawn, planted with a mixture of fescue, white clover and creeping thyme. “When I mow, it smells like thyme,” she said.

They produce enough food to put something homegrown on the table for just about every meal during the growing season, she said.

That’s good for their family (they have two young daughters) as well as the environment because they’re not shipping produce from across the country, and they know it’s healthy and organic.

“I could get E. coli from my own lettuce, but it’s much less likely,” she said.

As an experienced gardener, McDonnell-Forney views the Climate Victory Garden initiative as “permaculture lite—easily digestible stuff.”

But that’s important because many enthusiastic would-be gardeners lack know-how and are intimidated.

“A lot of us, like city kids, didn’t grow up growing our own vegetables,” she said. “It’s a skill that a lot of us have lost, one that’s important to learn.

“Gardening seems overwhelming to some people,” she added. “But it’s easier than people think it is. Plants just grow. It’s what they do.”

Her advice to newbies? “Start small. It’s really rewarding.”

©2019 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Don’t Retire…Reconsider

Sun, 07/21/2019 - 10:07

In pursuit of his record-setting, 21st masters championship, Roger Federer, the third-ranked tennis player in the world, recently lost an epic and grueling five-hour, five-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon finals.

After the celebrated match, Federer was asked by one reporter, “Are you considering retiring?”

Well, if the third highest-ranked and, to some, the greatest tennis player of all time, encounters pressure to retire as he nears the age of 38, or at least consider packing in his tennis racquet, then what should those in real estate who are in their 50s and 60s and who are in the 50,000th place in productivity rankings be thinking?

You can take it from this 70-year-old, grizzled industry veteran, and I am sure from your deeply appreciative broker as well, along with your many clients, that you should not even think about the possibility of retiring…too soon!

Listings expire, but you cannot prematurely afford to! Especially those of you who have enjoyed success for years—and here is why.

According to social scientist Arthur Brooks, there is a phenomenon that he refers to as the principle of psychoprofessional gravitation. This, according to Brooks, is how, “the agony of professional oblivion is directly related to height of professional prestige achieved.”

Each week, I am on an accountability call led by Gino Blefari, CEO of HomeServices of America. On our calls, after making our business reports, we are all asked by Gino to announce what we are doing to improve that week. Not wanting to call unwarranted attention to myself, I too mention my diet and exercise, but what I don’t mention is that I am really asking myself, as a former Boston Celtics draft choice, what I will need to do that week to slow my decline.

Therefore, to both you legendary brokers and iconic community real estate professionals, I respectfully suggest that you take a page out of the world of politics regarding how one’s inevitable declining years can be managed. Nobody works harder at managing their decline than our highest-rated presidential candidates. This is not to say that you should seek to emulate them in all ways – unless you want to become duplicitous, conniving and self-promoting.

Instead, I do suggest that you look to emulate the geriatric galaxy of presidential contenders in how they validate the fact that society values experience, resilience, career stability and longevity. Remarkably, our leading presidential contenders from both sides of the proverbial aisle, are of the following eye-popping ages: 77, 76, 73 and 70…according to 71-year-old cable news anchor Wolf Blitzer.

Clearly, our political aspirants, who like real estate professionals, must rely on brains versus brawn, did not receive or pay attention to society’s collective email delivered to all of we who are aging!

Accordingly, why would a professional REALTOR® who has spent decades developing experiential knowledge, invaluable skills, a considerable real estate retinue, and widespread admiration for their resilience and how they have withstood numerous watershed industry changes, retire now at the peak of his or her real estate powers?

Moreover, what an opportunity they have to engage in so-called reverse mentoring – that is, accepting technology advice from younger (and based on evolution) more intelligent generations to come.

My advice for our much younger agents is, rather than mocking your older counterparts for not being as adaptive regarding emerging technologies as you are, why not offer your more contemporaneous grasp of our digital world to them? They can then reciprocate through providing meaningful career and life lessons.

Given the importance of not only developing spheres of influence, but actually influencing spheres, our industry might not be able to withstand a massive exodus of long-tenured agents. This is due to how new-business-modeled entrants will at the same time seek to dislodge the relationships that many real estate professionals have built with home sellers. Indeed, if selecting a so-called listing agent now becomes as random as how buyers select an agent when they buy, then “industry beware.”

The most effective way for us to generationally move forward, as I stated, would be through the formation of symbiotic relationships. This is where in exchange for tech support from younger agents, aging agents can turn over or sell their career “book of business” to a younger agent who was helpful in its sustenance.

This transition, however, in my view, should only happen when our top and more seasoned agents are ready to retire and on their terms. This is in contest to being rushed to retire, based upon society’s pressure to speed up the beginning of the so-called golden years. Doing well in real estate and making a major difference in the lives of those you serve are your golden years.

Thus, I fervently hope that whether you are a broker, manger or agent, that you get to enjoy your real estate golden years for years, if not decades to come.

Allan Dalton is CEO, Real Living Real Estate and senior vice president, Research & Development, HSF Affiliates. For more information about Real Living Real Estate visit

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Consumers Lose Thousands to Fake Credit Repair Scheme

Sun, 07/21/2019 - 10:03

(TNS)—No doubt, it’s tempting to sign up for a “quick fix” to clean up your credit. Who wouldn’t want to instantly find a way to add 100 or more points to a credit score to qualify for a rewards-packed credit card? Or maybe, finally, qualify for a great deal on a car loan?

But the Federal Trade Commission and others are warning that any company that charges money in advance for credit repair is going against the law.

The federal Credit Repair Organizations Act, which was enacted in 1996, makes it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about what they can do to clear up a clouded credit report, or charge upfront fees before they do the job they promised to do.

Things can go really bad when consumers latch onto ridiculous claims, such as that somehow you can piggyback on a stranger’s good credit to shore up your credit history. Yes, there are even a string of YouTube videos to convince you this is brilliant idea. Some outfits have said things like: “From 620 to 780+ in 3 Weeks? Yes!”

The Federal Trade Commission took action in late June to stop an operator called Grand Teton Professionals that pitched fake credit repair services via various websites, including, and The FTC complaint alleges the defendants bilked consumers out of $6.2 million. Since at least 2014, the FTC claimed, the company and its websites operated an unlawful credit repair scam that deceived consumers across the country.

Don’t Bet Negative Marks Will Disappear
The egregious claims included falsely promising that they could remove negative marks on a consumer’s credit report as well as extracting thousands of dollars in illegal advance fees, according to Gregory Ashe, senior staff attorney for the FTC in Washington, D.C.

Negative marks could be removed in the case of ID theft, he said, such as if someone opened a credit card using your Social Security number. But otherwise, a credit repair outfit cannot remove legitimate negative remarks. Various negative marks, such as a car repossession, would last seven years on your report and then fall off. You can, of course, dispute any errors on your own.

In addition, the websites actually went as far as including terms that would prohibit a consumer from making disparaging comments online about the companies. Somehow the consumer could face a $25,000 charge for making negative remarks.

Really? The threat alone, though, meant some consumers wouldn’t take a chance saying a negative word, according to regulators.

“It’s enough to chill a consumer who believes it means what it says,” Ashe said.

As a result, many consumers said they couldn’t find complaints online about the credit repair sites so they thought it was OK to send thousands of dollars, Ashe said.

Some consumers, though, did reach out and complain to the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and their state attorney general. Such data is gathered and monitored by the Consumer Sentinel Network, an online investigative tool of the FTC. And those complaints helped the FTC in its case.

Ashe said the hope is that others engaging in wrongful practices will take notice of the action against Grand Teton Professionals. (No one answered calls to the company last week. Only recorded music played on the line.)

Consumers Paid Thousands for Nothing
Having bad credit can mean that you aren’t able to take out a loan because lenders don’t want to deal with high-risk borrowers. And when consumers are in a bind, they don’t always think clearly when they see a possible quick fix to their troubles.

Complaints found on the Better Business Bureau site, for example, indicated that consumers paid anywhere from $1,100 to $4,000 to Top Tradelines to piggyback on someone’s credit card accounts to build their own credit history.

“For a fee, defendants offer to register consumers as ‘additional authorized users’ on one or several credit cards or line of credit accounts held by unrelated account holders with long-standing positive payment histories (a practice also known as ‘piggybacking’ credit),” the FTC said in its complaint.

We’re not talking here about the long practice of making a son or daughter an authorized user on a parent’s credit card. That’s a legitimate strategy for building credit. Instead, we’re talking about an outside company cooking up a deal that involves paying someone with great credit to give someone with bad credit a shot as being an authorized user to build up a credit history.

“They almost act like online companies that set up blind dates,” said John Ulzheimer, a credit expert who formerly worked for credit-scoring company FICO.

Like online dating, you’re not always talking about a happy ending, either.

“The reality is making the person an authorized user is a sham,” said the FTC’s Ashe.

The person with a low credit score is not truly an authorized user; they can’t charge anything on the card. So they would be artificially raising a score, not accurately reflecting their creditworthiness and actual ability to pay their bills, if it worked, he said. And it doesn’t always work in someone’s favor.

FICO has known about such shenanigans and long ago took steps to make sure that nefarious authorized user accounts would not have any or much impact on your credit score, Ulzheimer said.

Regular authorized user accounts—say between a parent and a child—would still have an impact, he said.

In general, consumers should limit authorized users on their credit cards to their family members or friends. And even then, Ulzheimer said, a significantly higher credit score isn’t guaranteed as a result for someone with less-than-perfect credit or a younger consumer with little credit history.

“It’s not going to turn FICO 500 into FICO 800,” Ulzheimer said.

Here’s a Legitimate Way to Build Credit
Ulzheimer said he built up his own credit history as a young man as an authorized user on his father’s credit card. And plenty of people do the same.

About 15 percent of consumers opened their earliest reported credit account with a co-borrower, according to June 2017 report called “Becoming Credit Visible” by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“The credit records of an additional 9.6 percent of consumers were created when the consumer became an authorized user on someone else’s credit account,” the report stated.

Such data would imply that about one in four consumers first acquire their credit history from an account for which others were also responsible. But such usage is less common in lower-income neighborhoods, the report said.

Beware of Some Credit Tips on YouTube
Some pretty kooky claims are being made on YouTube these days, including videos on how consumers with great credit can make thousands of dollars just sitting around in an ugly recliner.

“I can actually make quite a bit of money every week by letting CreditCardCashFlow add people to my credit card,” says Charles from New York on one YouTube video.

The FTC complaint also pointed out that CreditCardCashFlow solicited consumers with long-standing, positive payment histories to add outsiders as authorized users to their accounts. The third party is not able to use the card to charge anything.

“Defendants offer to pay these account holders to add other consumers as authorized users to their accounts, including third parties who are not family members or otherwise in close personal relationship with the account holder,” the FTC complaint stated.

But someone with good credit could still be at risk if their information gets into the wrong hands and fraud is later involved. You’re also taking part in making false statements to lenders.

What Are the Signs of a Scam?
As with most questionable deals, there are many red flags when it comes to fixing your credit. Here are some to watch:

  • You’re asked to pay a fee upfront before any of your debts are settled. Or some outfits require that you pay fees masquerading as “contributions.” It’s illegal to require an upfront fee in order to fix your credit.
  • The so-called credit repair company tries to look like an official government program.
  • There are so-called guarantees to make the debt go away or improve your credit score.
  • There are promises that the company can erase your bad credit or remove information from your credit reports.

“The chances credit repair companies can do anything you couldn’t do on your own are very unlikely,” said Laura Blankenship, director of Marketing for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

One huge problem: It’s not uncommon that the person ends up paying a hefty fee to the credit repair company—and then many still have bad credit or owe money for old loans once the company is unable to deliver its promises.

“Before signing any contracts, it’s important to look at the success rate of the company and research reviews online,” Blankenship said.

You also have the right to cancel your contract with any credit repair organization for any reason within three business days from the date you signed it. Remember, a credit repair organization cannot charge you until it has completed the promised services.

What Are Some Real Ways to Fix Your Credit?
Take time to rebuild your credit by paying bills on time, paying off debt and avoiding taking on new debt. Pay extra close attention to the limits on your credit cards and avoid charging more than 25 percent of the available line of credit on each card. This is true even if you pay off the bill each month.

Get a free copy of your credit report to review—and if necessary, dispute any mistakes. See

You can dispute inaccurate information on your own. You should not have to pay anyone to do this for you. It’s also possible to get a co-signer with good credit on a car loan to get a lower interest rate. Or you may want to see if your landlord will report rent payments to credit bureaus.

©2019 Detroit Free Press
Visit Detroit Free Press at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Car Rental Deals Add Dash of Magic to NAR Members’ Summer Vacations

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 21:03

An ideal summer vacation involves a mix of indulgence, relaxation and rejuvenation. A fun or stylish car just adds a touch of magic to the experience.

Speedy Check-Ins, Deep Discounts
Members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) can find that perfect vacation ride at a discount, thanks to NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program. When they rent from Avis®, Budget® and Hertz®, NAR members can save up to 25 percent on car rental base rates. Members benefit too with special limited-time promotional coupons that can be combined with the NAR member discount, where savings can really add up and further reduce costs. For those interested in eco-friendly cars, hybrid or electric options are offered at select locations.

The Member Benefit and Additional Perks
Each car company offers exclusive member perks and discounts all year long:

By signing up with a complimentary AVIS Preferred account and storing their personal car rental preferences, NAR members can expedite the entire process of renting a car, skipping the lines and the check-in counter. NAR members must use the Avis Worldwide Discount (AWD) code when making reservations to access the discount benefit. At reservation time, it’s also necessary to include any applicable promotion coupons found at to maximize savings.

Special Avis® offers, good through Dec. 31, 2019, include:

  • A weekend away, plus a day
  • Complimentary upgrade
  • Additional $10-$25 savings off car rental base rates

Advance reservations are required, and terms and conditions apply. Explore additional promotions at

Budget® provides a Budget Customer Discount (BCD) code unique to NAR members, which must be used in order to receive the discount benefit. To maximize savings, Budget coupons can be combined with the regular NAR discount. By enrolling in Budget Fastbreak, NAR members can escape the lines and speed through both check-ins and returns.

NAR members may tap into some special offers good through Dec. 31, 2019. They include:

  • Free upgrade
  • 10 percent savings off base rates on long-term rental

See details about Budget’s offers and its coupon codes at

Get in the car, not the line. With Hertz, NAR members may sign up for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® and access an array of premium perks, including the ability to bypass the counter for a faster checkout. NAR members can enroll for free to save time and:

  • Save up to 25 percent on base rates at participating locations worldwide
  • Add a free additional driver for a spouse or domestic partner in the U.S.
  • Choose what they drive with Ultimate Choice®
  • Earn points toward free rental days or more

Plus, NAR members can take advantage of promotional coupons available online. Terms and conditions apply. See site for full details. Learn more about current coupons and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® at

For complete information on the car rental discounts available through the REALTOR Benefits® Program, see

Summer Driving, Arriving in Style
The Alfa Romeo brand immediately brings to mind style, performance and craftsmanship. Summer is the perfect time to splurge and take advantage of special deals on the Giulia, a luxury sedan, or the Stelvio, a high-performance SUV, both available through the REALTOR Benefits® Program.

FCA US LLC, the Official Automobile Manufacturer of NAR, is extending to NAR members an exclusive $500 cash allowance and an exclusive maintenance package (including oil changes) on the purchase or lease of the Alfa Romeo Giulia (excluding Quadrifoglio) and Stelvio (excluding Quadrifoglio). Valued up to $1,000, when combined, this member benefit equals the value of NAR membership dues for more than six years. Alfa Romeo offers a world-class driving experience that ensures that drivers of the Giulia and Stelvio always arrive at their destination in style.

NAR members can visit a local Alfa Romeo dealer to test drive a car and learn more about the offer, which is also available for additional select vehicle brands, including Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep®, Ram and FIAT®. For eligibility and details, see

Need auto insurance? Liberty Mutual is NAR’s exclusive auto, home and renter’s insurance provider offering special savings for REALTORS®. Learn more at

The REALTOR Benefits® Program is the exclusive member benefits program of the National Association of REALTORS®, bringing savings and special offers just for NAR members. Program partners are carefully selected and understand the unique needs of real estate professionals. Learn more and save by visiting

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Committed to Success

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 21:02

In the following interview, Darren Johnson, designated broker of HomeSmart One Realty in Bellingham, Wash., discusses navigating negotiations, profit strategies, and more.

Region Served: Northwest Washington State
Years in Real Estate: 6
Number of Offices: 2
Number of Agents: 70 

How would you advise agents to maintain a balanced personal budget given the up-and-down flow of real estate commissions?
One area that we can control is our expenses. Most of what I’ve learned is because of mistakes I’ve made in terms of getting caught up in the moment after having some great months and overcommitting myself to ongoing expenses. But then the good months go away, and you’re still left with those expenses. Therefore, I try not to make any commitments that are six months or longer. I know there are some long-term commitments we have to make, so that’s when I commit to long-term planning while building in an out just in case I need it.

What is your best tip for getting a buyer and seller to work together?
Too many times people try to ignore the situation thinking it will go away, but it doesn’t. By confronting disagreements, they often aren’t as difficult as they seem, and we can usually help work things out. For newer agents, it’s a fear of the unknown, but if we jump in and deal with these situations as soon as they present themselves, we can often turn challenging clients into those who provide some of our best referrals.

In what ways does your company engage itself in the communities you serve?
This past winter, we headed up a sock drive and donated the items we collected to one of the missions we have up here. Some of our agents are currently putting together a project where we’ll be providing meals for the homeless. I’m also on the local rotary board, so our company has a big presence supporting their service projects.

What made you decide to affiliate with HomeSmart?
I started as an agent at a HomeSmart office in Phoenix before deciding to open an office up here in Bellingham, where I’m from. I loved the HomeSmart technology, paperless transaction system, broker and agent dashboard, free marketing, robust training, and, most importantly, the 100-percent commission transaction fee model. In 2017, I opened the office on my own, without engaging any agents at first. Today, we’re up to about 70 agents, and we’re the fastest-growing real estate company in our region of Washington. We’re adding five to eight new agents a month, most of whom are attracted to our 100-percent commission model, nice office environment, weekly training and incredible support from HomeSmart corporate.

Final Questions… 

What is your best time management tip?
Take half an hour every Sunday night and plan your week. Also, take some time every night to reflect on the day and adjust your plan as needed for the next day.

What is your key to staying profitable?
Work on your pipeline to make sure you’re putting yourself in the best position to maximize your income.

What is your best recruiting technique?
Send prospects a copy of an actual order to pay commission so they can easily see the commissions your agents make on actual transactions. Since our HomeSmart agents only have a small transaction fee instead of a big broker split, the OTP commission is often a great deal more to the agent, so it really gets their attention and often starts a great conversation.

What is your best tip for dealing with difficult clients?
Face difficult situations head-on. If we ignore the issues, the problems usually get bigger.

For more information, please visit

John Voket is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Jennifer Shemwell: Honing in on Winning Markets

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 21:00

Vitals: Phyllis Browning Company
Years in Business: 30
Size: 4 offices, 223 agents, 28 staff members
Regions Served: San Antonio, New Braunfels, Boerne, Port Aransas, South Texas
2018 Sales Volume: $740 million
2018 Transactions: 1,528

Over the next two decades, San Antonio is expected to see an influx of more than 1 million people to the city, and Jennifer Shemwell, president of Phyllis Browning Company (PBC)—ranked No. 412 in sales volume in RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Report—is ready to help them find homes. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Phyllis Browning, Shemwell has been a leader in the San Antonio real estate market for more than 25 years, where she’s had a hand in hundreds of transactions and spent copious time mentoring agents to be their very best.

What makes your firm stand out in the marketplace?
Jennifer Shemwell: Our commitment to excellence and staying on the cutting edge really sets us apart. We also have a very strong culture for helping others, starting with the way we treat each other. Following in the footsteps of my mother, I’ve dedicated my career to establishing the PBC brand as one of professionalism, elegance and respect.

What are the firm’s growth plans for the year ahead?
JS: We’re actively recruiting top agents. We’ve moved into four new offices within the last few years and are expanding into Boerne and New Braunfels, Texas, both of which are growing quite rapidly. Our New Braunfels agents are passionate about growing our marketshare within the waterfront market found in the surrounding areas, and our management and marketing team are both invested in encouraging and growing that market segment, as well. Our Boerne office is focused on dominating Hill Country luxury homes, ranches and estates. With these segments identified, our marketing and management teams have clear goals to hone in on throughout 2019.

What are the biggest challenges you’re currently facing?
JS: Technology changes every year, so we’re constantly reinventing, hosting training seminars and mentoring agents regarding our new cloud-based transaction technology. We’re also developing a well-rounded sphere of influence and providing our REALTORS® with access to science-based Ninja training techniques.

What are some of the biggest opportunities for increasing business in 2019?
JS: We’re excited to expand our land and ranch segment, as well as our commercial brand. We’re thrilled to continue emerging into both of these vibrant sectors of realty, building up both teams with leaders who have years of experience within their respective fields. Additionally, agents are focused on reaching buyers and sellers of waterfront property in the areas surrounding our New Braunfels office.

How are you attracting new agents to your firm and retaining top producers?
JS: We think of our agents as clients and offer them concierge-level service. New agents continually share that they were led to our company based on the strength of our brand. With our tagline in mind—”The Very Best”—a credo of our brand is, “Premier Properties, Singular Service and Exceptional Agents.” We seek to weave that motto into all of our new agent recruiting materials.

What do you look for in someone new coming into the company?
JS: We look for people who are self-starters and highly motivated, who understand and appreciate our culture and brand. We’re constantly seeking individuals with experience, high levels of competency and an understanding of customer service.

How are you preparing your salesforce to meet the expectations of today’s millennial consumers?
JS: To start, I’ve built up a superb marketing team and cherry-picked management focused on digital trends, reaching millennials and the future of real estate. With a strong emphasis on social media and Google ads, the team is more focused than ever on growing the PBC consumer base and increasing brand awareness online. We also understand that for a majority of millennials, social media is their go-to customer service resource.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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Foreign Home-Buying Plummets as Chinese Dollars Dwindle

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 13:41

Amid declining economic gains globally in the past year, the amount of foreign investor money in the nation’s real estate sank, with collective dollars diving 36 percent, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Profile of International Transactions in U.S. Residential Real Estate, newly released.

From April 2018 to March 2019, foreign investment in real estate shrunk to $77.9 billion, the research shows, an abrupt fall from $121 billion the prior year. According to NAR, economic gains globally slowed to 3.6 percent, driving the losses, along with fewer homes on the market. In the 2018-2019 period, foreign homebuyers purchased 183,100 units, compared to 266,800 the prior year.

In a repeat trend, Chinese homebuyers made the most purchases in terms of volume, at $13.4 billion, but dialed down spending by a steep 56 percent. According to NAR, Chinese economic growth has slowed to 6.3 percent. Additionally, the country enacted outflow restrictions in 2016, which impacted investors.

“A confluence of many factors—slower economic growth abroad, tighter capital controls in China, a stronger U.S. dollar and a low inventory of homes for sale—contributed to the pullback of foreign buyers,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. “However, the magnitude of the decline is quite striking, implying less confidence in owning a property in the U.S.”

However, in perspective, foreign investment in real estate is still strong, according to John Smaby, NAR president.

“Even though numbers were lower this year than during the previous 12 months, international investors and buyers still spent and invested a great deal of money in U.S. real estate,” says Smaby. “Homebuyers from across the globe know that the U.S. market is still a safe, secure and promising place to invest.”

According to Carrie Law, CEO of, China’s largest property site, certain factors have influenced the market, but concerns were largely overridden by the stability in the U.S.

“It turns out that Chinese demand for U.S. real estate cannot be killed—not by the trade war, not by ‘the Trump Effect,’ not by visa restrictions and not by capital controls,” Law said in a statement. “There is very little chance that Trump will spell the end of Chinese investment. In fact, Chinese buyers are probably more likely to maintain strong levels of buying despite the Trump Effect than are buyers from India, Mexico and the UK. For many Chinese buyers, U.S. real estate is not a luxury, but a necessity. They are highly motivated to hedge the risks to their wealth by owning real estate in the world’s most developed economy.”

Of the $77.9 billion foreign homebuyers parked in real estate, $44.7 billion came from immigrants new to the U.S., and $33.2 billion came from non-residents, NAR’s research shows. Both demographics dropped off significantly year-over-year, with deficits of 37 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

After China, the biggest foreign home-buying nations were: Canada ($8 billion); India ($6.9 million); the United Kingdom ($3.8 billion); and Mexico ($2.3 billion). Overall, foreign homebuyers looked to the Sunshine State, with Florida garnering 20 percent of purchases.

“Many Canadians and other foreigners found Florida so enticing because of its lenient tax laws,” Yun says. “Additionally, many Florida metro areas have an inventory of cheaper properties, relatively speaking—a combination which makes the state a very popular destination.”

California came in second, with 12 percent of purchases, followed by Texas at 10 percent, Arizona at 5 percent and New Jersey at 4 percent, the research shows.

Of foreign homebuyers in the past year, 76 percent purchased single-family or townhouses, and 44 percent purchased in the suburbs. Their median price was $280,600, and all-cash was common, at 41 percent of investors.

Credit: National Association of REALTORS®

For more information, please visit  

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

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Speed Up Your Business by Going Digital

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 13:46

NAR PULSE—DocuSign customers experience 25 times faster turnaround time on agreements. Are you looking to speed up your business? See how you can do just that with DocuSign. Check out the plans available through NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program or take a test drive with DocuSign’s 30-day free trial option. Learn more!

Go GREEN and Earn BIG With MVP
Increase your knowledge of resource-efficient, smart and certified homes by purchasing NAR’s GREEN Designation online course bundle. Build your skills and get rewarded with The Little Green Book: Green Rules to Live By for REALTORS®-Download when you purchase the course by July 31 through NAR’s MVP Program. Plus, receive 10 percent off of your purchase when you use coupon code GREENNOW at checkout. Act now!

That’s Who We R Now in Spanish!
That’s Who We R print ads have been translated to Spanish and are now available for download at! Add your company branding to one of the new Spanish print ads from NAR’s national ad campaign to highlight your expertise as a REALTOR® in your market. You can also download the That’s Who We R logo to add to your already-created advertising and listing materials. Click here!

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Upstream Set to Launch

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 13:37

Early in 2019, Upstream and CoreLogic announced the intent to work together to rethink the Upstream technology platform. By February, we had a solid development plan in place. This summer, we’re set to launch the first phase of Upstream.

If you aren’t already familiar with Upstream, it’s a company founded by brokers and franchises to create a data platform for entering, storing, securing and safely distributing broker data and media. Data management is common to all firms, but the systems they use are often incompatible or redundant. Upstream aims to fix that.

It’s tempting to think about broker data with a narrow focus on listings, but with Upstream, listings are only one part of the full complement of broker data in the system. A primary unfulfilled need for brokers is the ability to create, store and distribute the firm record. The firm record is pretty broad and includes the:

  • Broker name
  • Broker ID
  • Office names
  • Office IDs
  • Agent names
  • Agent IDs
  • Team IDs
  • Staff names
  • Office images
  • Company biography
  • Office biography
  • Agent biographies
  • Team biographies
  • Agent headshots
  • Team headshots
  • and so much more

If you think about all the information other than listings that’s needed for any technology deployed at a brokerage—like a broker website, an agent website, or to brand a CRM—you begin to understand the amount of data in the firm record that needs to be keyed into every application used by the broker.

The average broker in America is maintaining the firm record across 15 or more applications, and this has nothing to do with listings. Missing bios and contact information often result in missed opportunities because the data isn’t available, or hasn’t been entered. Upstream will resolve much of that by giving participating firms a universal place to maintain this information. In addition, the broker will have a dashboard to authorize anyone they choose to access it. When a firm adds or removes an agent in Upstream, the firm record is quickly updated across all systems used by the broker.

Of course, Upstream will also provide brokers the ability to manage their listings. In the first release, brokers will have the ability to enhance listings that are being pulled from the MLS. They can add high-resolution branded images or other multimedia to Upstream, along with additional information that’s important to the broker’s business. The broker, and only the broker, will be able to authorize technology providers to access their data.

To stay current on Upstream releases, subscribe to updates at Be sure to send this article to your technology vendors to make sure they’re in the process of connecting to Upstream so that your business can take advantage of this improved efficiency.

Amy Gorce is principal, Business Development at CoreLogic. For more information, please visit

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