Tag Archives: real-estate

How to Buy a Home Using Technology

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Can new media help the real estate industry? Years ago, you used to be able to place an ad in the paper and receive almost guaranteed results. At the time, that’s where people’s eyes were. Now, potential home buyers are spending their time on social networks like Facebook and Twitter instead of reading the local newspaper. It’s for this reason that companies like Century 21 have expanded their public reach in to the realm of new media.

Just like many of you out there, I happen to own a house. While visiting BlogWorld, I noticed a booth from a real estate company. That shocked me, since this venue is not normally a place you’d see this type of business having a booth at.

Century 21 is still a real estate company, yes. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way they talk to consumers. By visiting conferences such as BlogWorld, Century 21 and other businesses are able to connect with people face-to-face in a relaxed atmosphere in ways they couldn’t otherwise.

This is a much different type of scale for the companies. Part of the effort is to let people know of all of the social media properties out there, so that they can get involved with the brand.

When I bought my first house back in the late 90s, it was so difficult to find information online. Blogging as it is now didn’t really exist. Forget “social media” as you use it today. None of that was around. I wanted to do things though when researching that the Internet simply wasn’t ready to do.

The second time I bought a home a few years ago, I was able to learn everything I could possibly want – and then some – just by logging in to my computer. I found blogs and podcasts and tools and ways to connect with my realtor, my company and my own mind.

I’ve always trusted technology to help me make decisions. Talking with Matt from Century 21 helped me realize exactly how much more my beloved tech is being ingrained into every aspect of our lives.

This video was filmed during a live broadcast from the BlogWorld & New Media EXPO 2011 in New York.

How to Get Cash Back on Real Estate With Redfin

This is a guest post written by Matt Gamboa.

Redfin is a real estate site with the unique ability to empower the user in the home buying market. Like its main competitor and fellow Seattle startup Zillow, Redfin is a prime online resource with an intuitive interface to look up what real estate is available on the market and gather its details. But there are two things that make this service unique; the ability to schedule tours of up to 6 homes with a Redfin tour agent, and the option to bypass the traditional real estate agent and purchase directly from the Redfin website.

As mentioned above, two features make this site stand out from its competitors. Through the service, you can schedule home tours. You can select up to six properties you’d like to view, and schedule a time slot to view those houses. After receiving appointment confirmation, a Redfin “field agent” will meet you at your first home and give you a tour. The tour experience is the same as if you were to go with an agent, but the difference is that these field agents don’t work on commission. Because of this, you won’t get hounded or pressured to buy. This makes it a much more pleasant and comfortable experience.

The second unique feature is the ability to purchase directly through Redfin’s website. Much like airline travel sites take out the middleman when buying plane tickets, Redfin has developed a process for submitting an offer through its service. You write up the offer, and Redfin has licensed real estate agents on its payroll to serve as professional medium. The agent is still involved. Since you provided the offer, there is not much more work to do except review and present to the seller. Now, you must understand that because of this, the help and knowledge you’d normally receive from a personal real estate agent won’t be there. You’re pretty much on your own to make sure you know everything you want to about the property, so use this service cautiously! I’d recommend you not actually buy through Redfin if you’re a first time home-buyer. The perk? Instead of the agent receiving a commission, you receive that percentage back in your pocket! So it’s a good option to use if you want to get some kickback.

Do You Zleep on Your Zillow?

This is a guest post written by Matt Gamboa.

Are zou looking for zee house? Or perhapz zee zestimate on what zee home would zell for? Zillow looks to help the real estate savvy consumer with all things related to the market.

Co-created by Microsoft all-star and Expedia brain-child Rich Barton, Zillow looks to empower all parties in the real estate system with the knowledge needed to make their real estate search or sale easy as can be. The site is largely community-driven, there is an “Advice” area where users seeking some answers can post questions and get answers from other users who’ve been through the same situation, or from mortgage and real estate agents who have professional knowledge. This bringing together of all parties into one online community helps bridge the gap between seller and buyer.

Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink were looking for a new house around the same time and found it extremely difficult to find the information they were looking for. They felt it should not be so hard to buy a house, and decided to make a service specifically for that. The name Zillow came from the concept of zillions of data points for homes. Your home is also where you sleep every night on a pillow… Zillow. This is also where the term “Zestimate,” a term coined by Zillow to give an analytical prediction of what a home is worth, comes from.

Along with home information placed interactively on a map, Zillow also offers some unique, useful resources such as Dueling Digs; which shows the same area in two different houses and lets you vote for which is better. There’s also a Make Me Move option, where you can set a price that would make you sell your house. Users can see that price an act upon it if you’re lucky! If you’re looking for or a cool, fun way to search for real estate, Zillow offers that environment.

If you’re a developer, you should check out Deploy 2010 on Monday, November 08, 2010 from 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM (PT). Deploy 2010 is an all-inclusive conference for technology builders to give you new tools to create the applications of tomorrow. The conference will be held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle.

Is Real Estate Possible without an Agent?

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Many people in the country have been hurt by the mortgage crisis. People are getting foreclosed upon; they can’t make their payments. Because of this, we are all feeling the pinch and we are tumbling into recession. Many people are trying to sell their homes themselves. Here are some tips to work without a Realtor, sent in by JcGeekGirl.

  • YOU DON’T HAVE TO USE AN AGENT! I cannot stress this enough. Agents have made the process of buying/selling property such a mystery, many people are afraid to embark on this journey without one. However there are instances where an agent is a good idea – such as:
    • You live in another state from the property and need someone to show it
    • You don’t have the time to hit the pavement and do the work of a real estate agent to sell on your own.

    There are many reasons to try and get the “by owner” thing to work for you. If you are willing to act as your own agent, and do the work of one, you can save thousands in commission fees – which in some cases, means the difference in selling the property and getting stuck with it.

  • You still need to advertise! There isn’t an agent doing the work for you. Place ads in the local paper, “for sale” magazines, put signs up where you are allowed to post handbills… and hold an open house as often as possible. The more people you advertise to, the more people will see the property, increasing your chances of selling (and possibly the length of time in which you sell).
  • The MLS is your friend – use it. MLS is the Multiple Listing Service – the database realtors use to search out homes for buyers. For years, “by owner” sellers have not been able to use it, but things are different now. Many agents across the country will offer you an MLS and/or Realtor listing for a flat rate. It may be the only service they provide at that low, flat rate. That potentially puts your property in front of millions of people that wouldn’t otherwise see it. You do need to offer a commission rate for a buyer’s agent though (it’s only fair, if you’re using the realtor database to advertise). With some slight negotiating room, the standard rate is 3%.
  • Not all “By Owner” websites are the same. Each one is owned by a different company. When a friend refers you, find out exactly what the address is, so you know where you are really getting referred to. When you place an ad, write down the company name, address, phone number, email addresses and your specific ad information. This is very helpful to have so you can come back to it later. Many companies take advantage of the play on words – different angles of “For Sale By Owner”. Some charge more than others, too. Before using one of these sites, research all of your options carefully. Check the traffic history of the site. Unless the Terms and Conditions of Use on the site (or any contracts state it), you can put your property out there for as many people to see it as you can afford to advertise. There are many who list their property on more than one of these websites. Craigslist is also a popular place to list property for sale. Some auction their homes on eBay. You have many options available to you when you’re not bound by an “exclusive listing rights” contract.
  • Now that you’ve listed your property somewhere, it’s time for the contacts and inquiries to roll in, right? Are you prepared to sell to the first person that calls, or visits the property? One way to be prepared is to ask all interested parties to bring a “mortgage pre-qualification letter” from their lender, stating that yes they can afford this house. I mean, what is the point in showing the home to someone who can’t buy it? It wastes everyone’s time. You can even offer the services of a lender you’ve lined up, and put that information in your ad or your open house invitation.
  • Times are tough. Scammers are getting more aggressive as the days progress. You need to be careful and research your contacts, and the people sending you emails regarding the property. If they are out of the country on assignment and their wife is really interested in the property, what is your bottom price? Think twice about it – it might be the difference between parting with $8,000 (give or take) with nothing to show for it, and a legitimate inquiry about the property. The biggest tip about anything on the internet – if it SOUNDS too good to be true, it probably is. Contact your local Consumer Protection office if you get a fishy email, and report it to the service where you’ve listed your property as well.
  • There is no shame in admitting you can’t handle the closing of the sale. Some people can do this process entirely on their own – but many use the services of a real estate attorney and a title company to handle all the legal aspects of the sale, disclosures that need to be made about the property, the list goes on. If the closing process sounds overwhelming, don’t be afraid to call someone.
  • Google is your friend… as always. Use Google to find out those real estate terms you don’t understand. Research what “staging” and “short sale” and “lien” mean. There are thousands of articles online to help you through this process from beginning to end. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel by braving it on your own. The information is there – utilize it.
  • Nobody wants to buy property they haven’t seen. Properties listed on the Internet get viewed more if they have a photo or two. Better yet, have a lot of photos and use as many as you can. This doesn’t mean have 6 shots of the tub all online – this means let your house tell it’s story…. “I have 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a pool, Jacuzzi, and a handmade brick barbeque area.” The goal of the photos is to take the personality out – take the photo of the room, the area, not the stuff that’s in it. An empty room in a photo can be good and bad. It may show “immediate move in condition” but it may also show that the property has been on the market for so long, the owner has already moved out and moved on. Even if you have to borrow or rent furniture to take pictures – it’s better than no pictures or an empty-room photo.
  • Lastly, have patience. It takes realtors a while to sell houses these days – you can be just as lucky trying to sell it yourself. Make sure you’ve had a physical appraisal done on your property to find out the value, find out what comparable homes have sold for in the area (you can search online for services that offer that information in a quick and easy digestible format, or you can take a day trip to the county office). Current national trends put the average time to sell a home (agent or not) at 4-6 months – some areas longer due to the market being saturated with soooo many properties for sale.

This advice is just that… advice. It in no way replaces the professional advice of a lawyer or Realtor. Please be sure to seek proper legal advice in your area, to cover all of your bases.


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Valuable Real Estate Information

Stan (the man) is back. This time, he’s writing about budgets for new homeowners:

I wanted to touch base and make sure everything is going well with you in your new home. I am always here to answer any questions that may come up. I also want to make sure I am always providing you with valuable real estate information.

When people buy and sell, they often use their cash reserves for the down payment and closing costs. After making a move, many people want to go out and buy new furniture, plants, window coverings, and other things to make their new house a home. But this sometimes can be a real strain on the budget.

Here are some tangible tips from the experts to help you balance your new budget:

  • Set aside at least six months’ living expenses.
  • Think about automatic payments for your mortgage. That way you’ll never be late. You can usually select the date you’d like to have the payment deducted.
  • Plan and budget for major repairs, remodeling, or decorating projects. Shop around for the best prices and get references if you are hiring a contractor for major projects.
  • Keep all of your receipts for home improvement projects.

If you have questions about this or any other real estate topic, please call or email me. I am available to you anytime you need me. If you know of anyone who is thinking of buying or selling a home, please forward their name and number to me. I will be happy to follow up and take care of their real estate needs.

Yeah, I can’t tell you just how helpful it’s been to get our own personal finances set up through Microsoft Money 2007. We’ve still got a few things that need finishing around here, as far as the house is concerned…

  • Entertainment center (or electronics-friendly shelves), sofa and loveseat, light-blocking drapes for the media room
  • A handyman to help us fix the fans in our master bathroom
  • Roofing specialists to get our roof banged into shape
  • A carpenter to help us create screens (out of speaker grill fabric) for our den
  • We need to either rent a power washer or find someone who has one, as our deck and patio need a good water-wooshing

I guess that short list was for my own sanity more than anything else – and I suppose that means we’re taking qualified leads for any contractor who might be able to help with the general handiwork.

Glossary of Real Estate Terms

Ya gotta love Stan (our Real Estate agent, referred to us by Scoble). He’s sending emails out to active and former clients at two in the morning. Well, there’s no telling where he scored this small list of definitions, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy for those of us who aren’t necessarily hip to the real estate lingo.

So, here’s the jargon directly from Mr. Mackey, m’kay?

The words and expressions used by doctors, lawyers, and other professionals may sometimes sound like a foreign language. Because real estate terms also can be confusing, here is a mini-glossary of some of the most common ones:

  • Agency: The relationship that a real estate agent has with a client.
  • CMA: Comparable Market Analysis, a home evaluation based on properties that have sold in the neighborhood similar to the property being priced.
  • Disclosure: An oral and/or written communication about agency, property condition, or other key factors.
  • Earnest Money: A good-faith deposit provided as consideration when a buyer offers to the seller of a property a contract to purchase the property.
  • MLS: Multiple Listing Service, information on properties that is shared among brokers belonging to a specific multiple listing organization.
  • Purchase and Sale Agreement: A contract from the buyer to the seller offering to purchase the property for a certain price.

When you’re ready to sell your home, I’ll be happy to explain all the terms and transaction details and walk you through the entire process. Please don’t hesitate to email or call me if I can help you or answer any questions.

And speaking of experts and expertise – apparently, I overstepped my bounds a while ago with claiming that my wife knew everything about the mortgage industry – she’s my wife, after all (she DOES know everything – even though she may not know everything about the mortgage industry). Oh, and my unscientific claim that a majority of those professionals are not trustworthy was also uncertifiably off-base (even though personal experiences have always illustrated that when any kind of financial incentive or commission is involved, it’s in the other party’s best interest to make as much money as they can from an underinformed, disconnected individual).

House Hunting

Ponzi and I have hit the housing market three times over the past couple of years, but it’s just now starting to favor buyers (“us”) over sellers (“them”). We’ve been working with Stan – who is quickly becoming the blogger’s choice for real estate agents in the Seattle area. Last night, I scribbled a list of personal home search guidelines:

Newer is Better – Classic charm is classy, so long as you don’t mind performing random updates throughout the years. “Home repairâ€Â? is a given for any building, but I think the various problems we’ve experienced in our current rental house has made us a bit gunshy in wanting to buy a structure that’s more than five years old.

I’ve shared nine other house hunt honing points inside the “new” Lockergnome Nexus (expect a separate post on that effort soon, as we’re looking for countless WordPress knowledgeers). Finding a house is… stressful.