Agents: A Real Estate Scam Focused on YOU

Oftentimes when we talk about real estate scams, we talk about potential buyers, sellers, or renters being targeted,

[Read more…]

Chinese Drywall in the News

There’s been a phrase popping up in the news lately that many people outside the construction and home inspection worlds may not be very familiar with: Chinese drywall.

[Read more…]

Average vs. Median: Understanding Real Estate Statistics

There’s an old quote that floats around about how statistics are one of the three kinds of lies.

[Read more…]

The Power of Coopetition

Yes, that’s right, coopetition. It’s a phrase used by SEO expert Eric Blackwell when describing how agents here at TREG work together to educate both themselves and each other.

[Read more…]

Help for Tornado Victims in Indiana and Across the U.S.

Many of you TREG Insiders know Eric Blackwell, our dynamic SEO consultant who works very hard on TREG’s behalf to make sure we are on the leading edge of all things technology, social media, and SEO. Many of you have taken webinars with Eric and know his voice well, and for many of us, he is more than a business partner—he is a friend.

While Eric works with TREG, he actually lives in the Midwest, just north of Louisville, Kentucky. As you probably saw on the news, Eric’s community of southern Indiana was hit very hard by multiple tornadoes that touched down this past Friday. While Eric and his family are safe, a monster EF-4 tornado narrowly missed his parents’ house and devastated many of their neighbors’ homes, schools, and businesses. Eric spent his entire weekend helping kick-start the cleanup, working to clear away debris and give tornado victims much-needed assistance. The Red Cross was also on the scene, showing up mere minutes after the storms passed and immediately reaching out to victims with crucial assistance in the form of food, water, shelter, clothing, counseling, and more.

Courtesy Eric Blackwell

As you can see from the pictures Eric took this weekend and was kind enough to share with us, the destruction is massive. Those piles of siding, wood, and metal were once someone’s home and haven. Those of us in real estate understand to our core how painful the loss of a home can be; the juxtaposition of being grateful for still being alive and yet mourning the loss of something you’ve worked most of your life to achieve is at once both wrenching and confusing. This is where the work of the Red Cross is so crucial: supporting victims after the initial shock and need is over with long-term housing placement, the essentials needed to function, and counseling on how to deal with loss and starting the healing process.

Courtesy Eric Blackwell

We’re asking everyone to give whatever you can to the Red Cross to help. Last week’s tornado outbreak across the country was unprecedented, with an estimated 74 tornadoes spawned and tens of thousands of lives impacted. Consequently, Red Cross resources are stretched to the limit trying to address the needs of so many hard-hit communities all across the central U.S. Please give to Eric’s community and all of those around the country who need our help right now. To help, you can visit the Red Cross online donation page, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You may also donate by mailing a check to American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

When talking with Eric about the disaster, he told us that while it was horrible for so many people, it was great to see the communities in southern Indiana come together to support those who had suffered so great a loss. We’re hoping that all TREG agents will reach out and demonstrate that Eric’s community extends far beyond Indiana and that we here in Hampton Roads will come together to be there for those in need.

 

Thank you for reading our blog.  If you like what you’ve read, then please :
Follow, Connect, Watch, Subscribe
           
If you plan to purchase or sell a home in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area,
you can visit our Hampton Roads Real Estate website at www.RealEstateGrp.com

Owning a Home is Still a Great Idea

A lot of eyes are on the real estate market right now, from economists to politicians, investors to homeowners. Everyone wants to know what’s next, where the market is headed, who’s buying, and what’s selling. The whirlwind of discussion about economic factors and national trends can often overshadow the fact that, quite simply, owning a home is still one of the best investments you can make, both financially and emotionally. There are a number of reasons that support this claim, which can be divided into two categories:

  1. Reasons that have been proven, over time, why it’s good to own a home.
  2. Reasons why now might a good time for you to take the step into home ownership.

Let’s start with several historically sound arguments about the advantages of home ownership. First, the financials:

  • Tax writeoffs. A significant portion of the cost of paying for and owning a home is actually tax-deductible. The interest on your mortgage payments? Deductible. So are the property taxes you pay every year, as are the points you may have paid to bring down your loan’s interest rate (points are, however, only deductible in the year you purchased the home).
  • Access, over time, to equity. As you pay down the balance of your mortgage loan each month, you build equity in your home. This equity can then be used as collateral against a home equity loan or line of credit, which can be tapped for emergencies, remodels, or any time cash is needed.
  • Long-term investment. Notice the phrase “long-term.” According to NAR, since 1968, home prices have grown an average of 5.5% a year, regularly outpacing inflation. For those who plan to be in their homes for many years, the slow growth of the value of the home is considered a solid investment.

Now, the more esoteric:

  • Your home is your canvas. Want pink-and-purple striped walls? You can do that. Think each room should have a different color and feel? Go right ahead. Your home is yours to furnish, decorate, remodel, and alter as you wish—no landlord approval needed.
  • Your home gives you roots. Once you choose a home and make it your own, it becomes part of who you are. Memories are created there. Friendships are formed with neighbors. You become part of the community with your home as your base.

Finally, let’s look at how the current economic situation is providing reasons why now may be a good time to take the home ownership plunge:

  • Historically low mortgage rates. If you have the good financial standing to qualify, mortgage rates right now are unbelievably low. Locking in to one of these very low rates—as of today’s writing, averaging around a 3.85% interest rate on a standard 30-year fixed loan—can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. (Current homeowners should note that it’s also a fantastic time to refinance if you are locked in at a much higher rate.)
  • Low house prices. Along with mortgage rates, housing prices have also tumbled during the recession, causing frustration for sellers but opening up some great opportunities for buyers. Houses that may have been out of reach a few years ago may now fall squarely within your budget.
  • Many choices available. The high number of properties available for sale in our area means buyers have a lot of choices in terms of location, price, and style of home. This availability of choice often gives the buyer some negotiating power when it comes time to make an offer. In some parts of the country, the market is already balancing out, but Hampton Roads still favors the buyer overall right now.

Keep this in mind: all the reasons in the world to buy are invalid if you’re not ready. When contemplating any major life change, always do your research and find out if you’re in a position financially to do so. If you’re not sure where to start, contact a TREG agent. He or she will walk you through the process and help you decide if you’re ready to buy!

 

Thank you for reading our blog.  If you like what you’ve read, then please :
Follow, Connect, Watch, Subscribe
           
If you plan to purchase or sell a home in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area,
you can visit our Hampton Roads Real Estate website at www.RealEstateGrp.com

A Timely Warning about Rental Scams

A local agent recently found herself handling the fallout from an online rental scam, and we thought we’d share the story and some tips so you and your clients can be better prepared to spot, avoid, or deal with possible scams in the future.

Let’s set the scene: In December 2011, a local agent closed the sale on a property she had listed. In early January 2012, the agent began receiving calls from people inquiring about a rental property of hers they had found online. Upon investigating, the agent discovered that the “rental property” was actually her sold listing from December 2011, which was most definitely not for rent. Unfortunately, the agent soon discovered that the clients who had purchased the home were also receiving phone calls and visits from people wanting to rent the home.

Photo by Simon Howden

It turns out that somewhere along the way a scammer had captured some of the images and information from the online listing. That material was then used to create a Postlet showcasing the large house with many amenities for an extremely low and unrealistic rental price. The scammer even went so far as to include the original brokerage’s name as the brokerage for the listing, purportedly to give the listing increased credence. Unlike many scams of this type, the phone number listed did not work, so interested parties did some research and consequently began contacting the aforementioned agent and the new owners. Those callers were fortunate: if the number had worked, the scammer most likely at some point would have tried to obtain money or bank account information from the caller.

Online rental scams are unfortunately becoming increasingly common as the world grows more reliant on digital communication, so it’s up to agents, brokers, and consumers to educate themselves on known scams and how to recognize a suspicious listing. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are a few key indicators that raise a red flag on a possible scam:

  • They want you to wire money. Wiring money is the same as handing someone cash; there’s no way to get it back once it disappears. Thus it’s the preferred method of down payment by scammers.
  • They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease. A way for out-of-towners (who sometimes do have to rent a place sight unseen) to double-check the legitimacy of a listing is to do an internet search on the landlord and the listing. If the same ad comes up under a different name, be suspicious.
  • They claim to be out of the country. Some of these will go so far as to have plans in place to get you the keys (which are usually fake) despite their supposed absence. A safe rule of thumb is to never send money overseas when renting a U.S. property.
  • The rent listed is much lower than other similar properties in the area. The old rule of thumb applies: if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you find that one of your properties has been the subject of a scam, the Better Business Bureau suggests following these procedures to handle it:

  1. Depending on your location, file a police or sheriff’s report as soon as possible.
  2. File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Center at www.ic3.gov.
  3. If posted through Postlets, contact Zillow, who owns Postlets, immediately via Zillow’s customer service page at www.zillow.com. You can also flag the Postlet listing by going to the listing, opening the property details page, scrolling down to “Edit”, and selecting “Report problem with listing”. Also, be aware that Postlets populates many other websites, so do your due diligence to make sure the listing has been removed in all possible locations.
  4. If posted on Craigslist, flag the post as Prohibited and then email abuse@craigslist.org.
  5. Call the FTC hotline at 877-382-4357 and report the violation.
  6. Post a sign on the door of the property explaining that the property is not for rent.
  7. Double-check that all websites you may have created for the property are deleted.

Rental scams are an unfortunate part of today’s online real estate world. While they are often difficult to prosecute, rental scammers can be stopped, so be proactive: check Craigslist and Postlets periodically for unauthorized listings of your properties; educate yourself and your clients on how to recognize and deal with a scam; and take swift action if you see a potential scam.

 

Thank you for reading our blog.  If you like what you’ve read, then please :
Follow, Connect, Watch, Subscribe
           
If you plan to purchase or sell a home in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area,
you can visit our Hampton Roads Real Estate website at www.RealEstateGrp.com