Time-Savers for Buying a House in SW Florida! Naples, Ft. Myers, Golden Gate, Lehigh Acres, Cape Coral. According to last month’s National Association of REALTORS® announcement, existing home sales are up across the U.S., at the same time that home inventories are on the rise. In SW Florida, it may point to a brisk fall market, with more prospective buyers deciding the time is right for buying a house.
It’s true that a few lucky prospects will find the perfect home after just an afternoon or two. But that’s not often the case: for most people, buying a house requires a good deal more shoe leather. Buyers who aren’t really certain of what they want in their future house may have to visit a few…or 40! But if you and/or your Significant Other can’t spend months touring houses, you’ll need to pin down the factors that are most important to you. It’s the most direct way to avoid wasting time on houses that don’t measure up.
So that makes the most important time-saver this—make a list!
• First, narrow down the features you absolutely must have in a new home. You might decide you need a minimum of four bedrooms, a family room, and a two-car garage. You might also want a house that’s no more than 30 minutes from the office. It’s best if you keep the “must-haves” to no more than 3 to 5 non-negotiable elements.
• Next, add features that would be nice to have, but aren’t absolutely essential. You might prefer a house with a fenced yard for your dog, but would be willing to build your own fence if the price were right.
• Finally, add your deal-breakers. These might include a location on a busy street, a small kitchen, or the absence of a garage.
When it’s finished, the full list will help you and your REALTOR eliminate many of the homes that aren’t appropriate for you.
Everyone who is buying a house in SW Florida today has another tool—a new one—that can further narrow the field: Google Earth. The traditional photos in the SW Florida real estate listings focus on the house itself, rarely showing much of the neighborhood. Although the house might be attractive, it may lose some of its luster if you discover it’s next to a gas station or an on a street full of ill-kept homes. Use Google Earth’s Satellite and Street Views to virtually visit the neighborhood. It’s a truly efficient way to make a first pass at determining if the area looks promising.
Weekends are prime time for home touring, but since many homeowners require an advance appointment so they can vacate their houses for showings, scheduling consecutive time-slots can be problematic. You’ll see more houses efficiently if you take a weekday morning or afternoon off, taking advantage of a low-traffic day to schedule back-to-back showings.
Time-Savers for Buying a House in SW Florida! Naples, Ft. Myers, Golden Gate, Lehigh Acres, Cape Coral. For most of us, buying a house is most critical shopping we ever do—but that doesn’t mean it has to be endlessly time-consuming. If you are considering buying a house in SW Florida this fall, contact me today to discuss which of SW Florida’s upcoming properties best fit your wish list. Then let’s go take a look!
Using an iPhone to Create a SW Florida Virtual Tour. Naples, Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Captiva Island. A newly-updated NAR survey confirms that 51% of agents with smartphones use iPhones. This fact is hardly startling, since these phones have been such a boon to the real estate business. Today’s agent can use apps to quickly scan and electronically sign documents, instantly get property details for clients, access key boxes—it’s almost hard to remember how we got along before!
But what about the 9% of homeowners who choose to go the FSBO (For Sale by Owner) route? As many a do-it-yourself home seller has learned, just planting a sign in the front yard does not constitute much of a marketing campaign. For those who will be selling an SW Florida home this fall, creating a virtual tour is an all-but-indispensable way to take advantage of all an iPhone has to offer. For anyone who would like to shoot a virtual tour as a market aid, here’s the lay of the land:
• A SW Florida virtual tour doesn’t need to be an all-out professional Hollywood production. You can keep matters as simple as possible using nothing more than your iPhone’s camera.
• More ambitious self-producers can invest in devices like the GoPano. This attaches to your phone: its curved mirror collects light and streams it into the camera as you walk. The free app converts the image into a moving scene which allows viewers to pan in any direction.
• If your SW Florida virtual tour will be assembled without any add-on equipment, it’s still possible to meld your photos into panoramas using one of the many apps devised for that purpose. Just make sure the results meet your quality standards—not all apps are created equal.
• Follow the conventional tips for video shooting: in motion, walk slowly, keeping the iPhone as steady as possible. For stills, an iPhone tripod is a valuable addition. Not only does it prevent hand motion blurring; it also allows you to rotate the camera for a 360-degree view.
• Free or low-cost apps allow you to assemble your virtual tour from stills and video. Search for “real estate virtual tours” in the app store for a comprehensive list. Look for apps that have high ratings—especially those that score well on the ‘user-friendly’ scale. You can also find services through the app store that will take your uploaded images and create the tour for you.
• After you have made your SW Florida virtual tour, if at all possible, preview the result on an iPhone, iPad, PC, and an Android device. It’s an unfortunate fact that a virtual tour that plays well on one device does not necessarily display the same way on the others. If you used an app to create panoramas, you should definitely watch it on a PC before releasing it to be sure the image quality is adequate on a larger screen.
Virtual tours in SW Florida listings are just one part of an effective SW Florida real estate marketing effort. Using an iPhone to Create a SW Florida Virtual Tour. Naples, Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Captiva Island. Of course, the easiest way to have a professional-looking production is to forget about FSBO altogether and just call me! After all, it’s my full-time job to create and assemble a comprehensive marketing plan that gets your home sold for top dollar.
Fall Prospects Quicken for SW Florida Luxury Home Sales! Naples, Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Marco Island. With summer drawing to a close (say it isn’t so!), it’s time to cast an eye towards the prospects for this year’s fall home sales market. Fall can be a great time to list a home, but it can be especially opportune for luxury home sales in SW Florida. It’s a season that traditionally brings out serious buyers—those looking to find a home and complete the move before the holidays. If you are selling a property that falls into the luxury home category, before you roll up your sleeves and get to work in earnest, here are some broad-brush pointers real estate writers cite most often:
Make Sure You Work With the Right Agent
Before you even begin other preparations, you can make the most efficient use of your time by first being sure you have recruited the right agent. Aim for a professional who has earned a reputation for successful luxury home sales in SW Florida. A solid portfolio is the best demonstration that you’ve identified someone with the know-how (and the right contacts) that so often make the difference in luxury home sales.
Even more than with an average listing, SW Florida luxury home sales depend on every detail being well handled. Don’t just have the windows cleaned—scour the screens, too. Don’t just put out a vase of flowers in the dining room—where tasteful, think about placing them by the beds; in the bathrooms, too. Make sure the entryway is always clear at every showing. In short, sell the dream of the picture-perfect luxury home. By treating every detail with care, you validate your luxury-level asking price!
You know your property best—which gives you valuable insight into the features that make your home a standout. Make a list of additions, enhancements and luxury touches you have added, and other elements that would make any new owner proud. Where is the light most magical? When do the gardens burst with color? Your agent can determine which details will have the most impact in the each of the marketing media.
Know What to Expect
With luxury home sales, it’s a good idea to always keep the nature of the market in mind. Luxury home sales in SW Florida can happen quickly, but more often than with an average property, success can take a little longer. A good agent will let you know how long similar homes have taken to sell in your price range—it’s useful background knowledge. Most often, the key to luxury home sales is the quality of showings rather than the quantity.
Fall Prospects Quicken for SW Florida Luxury Home Sales! Naples, Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Marco Island. If you’d care to hear more about what we can expect for this fall’s luxury home sales in SW Florida, contact me today. I’ll be happy to share an up-to-the-minute market analysis—the best way to project the outlook for the upcoming market.
SW Florida First Time Buyers Find Multiple Funding Resources. Naples, Ft. Myers, Sanibel Island, Lehigh Acres, Bonita Springs. In an improving residential real estate market, first time buyers may flinch at the greater loan amounts that accompany larger price tags. Lending standards have also put some first time buyers through a tougher gauntlet than faced during many previous eras. Although some easing is now beginning to take place, some SW Florida first time buyers can still find it difficult to secure the level of funding they seek. For them, there are a number of alternative funding possibilities that first time home buyers in SW Florida may wish to explore. Here are some of the assistance programs that can serve buyers as they go about buying that first home:
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Service is the most well-known of the programs, providing government guarantees for loans to service veterans and those on active or reserve duty. It also provides assistance to widows or widowers of veterans. Some VA loans require no deposit, and although the size of loans are limited and vary by area, the limits aim to make possible purchase of a mid-sized home. The actual loans are made by private lenders; the portion that is guaranteed by the VA protects the lender from losses should the veteran prove unable to repay the loan.
The HUD Basic Home Mortgage Loan 203(b) is a program that provides mortgage insurance to purchase or refinance one-to-four unit principal residences. Applicants who meet standard FHA credit standards and who pay the insurance premiums are eligible for approximately 96.5% financing provided by FHA-approved lenders.
The USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program is a rural development grant designed to help low- and moderate-income rural applicants purchase a home. The rural development program works with local lenders to provide 100% financing for eligible home buyers. In order to qualify for the program, an applicant must live within one of the eligible rural areas and have a total household income that does not exceed the established limits for that area.
The Community Development Block Grant is one of the nation’s oldest housing assistance programs. The goal of the CDBG is to make funds available to urban communities to be disbursed to citizens in the low and moderate income range. The money allocated to the CDBG is provided to local government authorities, who have broad latitude in how they allocate the funds to create and upgrade local housing conditions. Examples are shown in the video Role of the CDBG.
Each program has its own specific application format, which may involve completing a grant application package or simply applying for a loan from an approved lender. More detailed information can be found on each relevant agency’s website.
SW Florida First Time Buyers Find Multiple Funding Resources. Naples, Ft. Myers, Sanibel Island, Lehigh Acres, Bonita Springs. Securing financing is just one step of the home-buying process—though a first time buyer may be excused if they find it an intimidating one. Whether you are a first time buyer in SW Florida or a seasoned homeowner, give me a call: I’m here to help every step of the way!
Credit Score Changes Could Spur SW Florida Mortgage Activity. Naples, Ft. Myers, Marco Island, Isles Of Capri, Cape Coral. For any SW Florida resident who has ever been stymied by seemingly arbitrary (or, put another way, nutty) lowering of his or her all-important credit score, next month’s beginning rollout of Fair Isaac’s new credit score model should be welcome news. It will be known as “FICO 9”—and promises to correct a few of the previous model’s inadequacies.
Why now? It’s been six years since San Jose’s Fair Isaac Co. last tinkered with their credit score methodology. Hmmmm…it’s been six years, too since the financial crisis of 2007-08, which Wikipedia correctly describes as “a major global recession characterized by various systemic imbalances…including high levels of household debt…”
You might expect that the accuracy of many a SW Florida credit score could have been thrown off-kilter during the crisis—if not throughout the painfully slow recovery that’s followed. If, for example, someone is laid off, then suffers a sudden medical emergency, a formerly spotless credit history would be seriously distorted. Add in regulatory pressure on the banks, and many truly responsible individuals could suffer unfairly. As The Wall Street Journal summarized in a recent article: “Since the recession, many lenders have approved only the best borrowers, usually those with few or no blemishes on their credit report.”
Keep in mind that the whole purpose of a FICO credit score is to help lenders predict the likelihood that an individual will repay a debt. Lenders pay for accuracy in credit scores—and last year they bought 10 billion of them!
BUT…because of two specific problem areas, the scores gradually were becoming less reliable as predictors. First, there was the fact that once a bill was sent to collection, it showed as a black mark—one that could lower a credit score by as much as 100 points—even after it was paid. For as long as seven years after it was paid! So FICO 9 will not penalize borrowers with a collection on their report once no balance remains.
Then there was a problem with medical debt scoring. According to WSJ, as of last month, more than 64 million consumers had a medical collection on their credit report. That would account for many a SW Florida credit score being adversely affected—sometimes even when it had been an insurance company which rejected the charge…and sometimes when the consumer wasn’t even notified of the situation! Worse yet, when a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report came out in May, it found that many borrowers’ credit scores weren’t being raised even after they repaid such a debt. FICO 9 will count medical debt sent to collections as less important than other kinds of debt.
Credit Score Changes Could Spur SW Florida Mortgage Activity. Naples, Ft. Myers, Marco Island, Isles Of Capri, Cape Coral. The new scoring changes are expected to ease access to loans—SW Florida mortgage loans included—without materially raising the risk exposure to lenders. But if history is any indicator, wholesale rejoicing may have to hold off for a while, because mortgage lenders can be slow to adopt changes in credit scoring. Nevertheless, if you are soon to start looking for a new SW Florida home, I’d recommend checking your current credit report to be sure all is accurate. Then call me!
Rental Homes in SW Florida Adopt More Pet-Friendly Attitudes. Naples, Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Isles Of Capri, Estero, Cape Coral. Owning rental homes in SW Florida may be a profitable venture, but sometimes the image of a landlord could use a little public relations boost. For instance, the cartoon version of a landlord is the opposite of pet-friendly. Lassie or Puff? Fuhgeddaboudit!
That parody landlord attitude might once have been pretty much on target—even in rental homes in SW Florida—because many landlords have traditionally been automatically against pet ownership in their SW Florida rental homes.
The legit reasons to exercise caution are real enough. Possible stains on carpets, scratched hardwood floors or doors, improperly disposed kitty litter clogging plumbing, dogs barking all day while the tenant is at work—all that can happen. Despite the bad press, though, today’s landlord is much more likely to recognize the benefits that argue for opening their rental homes to pet-doting tenants:
1. Reduced Vacancy Rates
The numbers are undeniable. There is the group of potential tenants with pets, and those without. When a rental is open to pets, the applicant pool includes…well, everyone! More prospective interested tenants decreases the likely downtime for the investment—and the difference hits the bottom line.
2. Higher Quality Applicants
If a rental home’s applicant pool is greater, the landlord’s selection of tenants expands, increasing the likelihood of landing a higher quality tenant. A top notch tenant (with Fifi) who pays her rent on time is by most counts a better selection than a so-so tenant (without Fifi) who costs time and money to track down for the rent check.
3. Respectful Tenants
It was a surprise to many when a FIREPAW.org survey on pet-friendly housing showed that, on average, damage done to rental properties is about equal between pet-owning and non-pet-owning tenants. It seems that grateful pet-loving renters try harder to keep their rental homes in good condition (or perhaps they have a greater security deposit at risk).
4. Increased Stability
The same survey is clear: statistically, “tenants tend to stay longer in pet-friendly rental units.”
For my clients who decide to accept pets in their SW Florida rental homes, I recommend taking a few extra preparatory steps. In addition the usual reference verification, asking for a maximum security deposit and the boiler-plate Pet Addendum are in order—and usually readily accepted. Of course, it’s also necessary to check with the insurance company for breed restrictions, and a good idea to fully document the condition of the property at move-in with photos. If you use a smart phone, email yourself copies of the pictures (and preserve them in a safe format). If you hire a property management company, they will also help you set guidelines and terms surrounding pets.
Rental Homes in SW Florida Adopt More Pet-Friendly Attitudes. Naples, Ft. Myers, Bonita Springs, Isles Of Capri, Estero, Cape Coral. Looking to buy or sell a SW Florida investment property in this fall? Then now’s the time to give me a call!
SW Florida Property Type Wording Shapes Buyer Expectations. Naples, Ft. Myers, Estero, Golden Gate, Captiva Island. If you are preparing to sell your property in SW Florida this fall, it’s worth considering what the marketing angle will be: how to characterize it most accurately—and appealingly. It starts with the choice of wording for your home’s property type, which will set up prospective buyers’ expectations before they come upon the more detailed description.
Cottage or Bungalow This property description instantly conjures up images of a small, cozy, picturesque SW Florida property. Buyers attracted to a cottage are likely to appreciate features that indicate economy and efficiency. The marketing message can emphasize practicality and the charms of a compact, tidy, easily maintained living space.
Penthouse This type of condo or co-op once indicated position on the upper floor of a tall building, usually set back from the outer walls—but today, any top floor unit can be considered a penthouse. Buyers attracted to penthouse living are luxury-minded: in the market for the best of the best. Marketing materials should emphasize luxury additions and upscale neighborhood features: everything that sets the property above the crowd. If your penthouse has a great view, it might be appropriate to consider hosting a twilight open house (cocktails optional!).
Condo Condos can be smaller and less expensive than single-family homes, though depending on location, finish and amenities, today that’s not always the case. With the lion’s share of maintenance taken care of by the monthly condo fees, this type of property can be marketed to appeal to first-time buyers; to homeowners who are downsizing; to those with multiple residences; or to anyone who’s simply had it with yard work! One of the main advantages of condo living is also its strongest selling point: convenience.
Cabin A property in town that fits the “cabin” description should be in large part rustic and suited to relaxed, informal living. Its marketing can be geared to buyers looking for a SW Florida property without many of the bells and whistles expected in other kinds of single family dwellings. A cabin can actually have luxurious features–if so, the key will be presenting them without overplaying the home’s true atmosphere.
Townhome A typical SW Florida townhome incorporates more square footage of living space than does a condo. It tends to appeal to budget-conscious prospects who desire for independence falls midway between single family dwelling and condo. Townhomes can really appeal to a wide variety of buyers in different life stages, so a more neutral lifestyle message is usually appropriate…townhomes can be just as attractive to a single empty nester as to a newly married couple expecting their first baby.
Estate All by itself, the word “estate” summonses mental images of the Gilded Age—or Jay Gatsby’s layout. While not every estate looks like the late John Denver’s $10.75 million spread (it just listed in Aspen this month), SW Florida does have its share of luxury listings. If you will be marketing your SW Florida property as an estate, do plan to wow your buyers—they’re likely to expect it. Staging, well-designed high-end marketing, catered open houses and discreet private showings can all be part of a successful estate marketing campaign.
SW Florida Property Type Wording Shapes Buyer Expectations. Naples, Ft. Myers, Estero, Golden Gate, Captiva Island. Whether your home falls into one of these categories or not, my job as your agent is to figure out how to most attractively market and pitch the property. If you’re looking for an agent to devise the plan that sells your SW Florida property for top dollar, contact me today for a complimentary consultation.