Drivers, start your engines

Dear Visitor,

Last weekend marked the 10th Anniversary of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The city was brimming with race teams, fast cars, sponsors and fans. It was, in the Mayor’s words, the “fastest spring break party on the streets of St. Petersburg”. We had the honor of hosting the first of the IndyCar races of the season this year. The down town race track is situated in beautiful surroundings, brings plenty of excitement, and allows for great entertainment during and after the races. Throughout the weekend visitors were able to enjoy the beaches, the multitude of restaurants, our many art galleries and the general flair of a city that has been named one of the premier Grand Prix cities of the world.
At Global Lifestyle we were proud to say that we participated in the fun by giving of our time, and volunteering all three days of the event.
Race fans, we will see you again next year,

Sincerely,

Your team at Global Lifestyle

25% of Consumers Have Errors on their Credit Report

Dear Buyer,

Banks are a lot stricter with their qualifying criteria for loan approvals.  Low credit scores keep some potential home buyers without the necessary purchasing power to fulfill their dream of home ownership. Often times credit issues could be resolved rather quickly if the consumer was more aware of the current status of their credit.

Consumers need to be extra vigilant about checking for any errors on their credit reports, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

One in four Americans report they’ve found an error on their credit report, according to a study conducted by the FTC, which analyzed 1,001 consumers’ credit reports from the three major agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Researchers helped the consumers spot potential errors on their reports.

Five percent of the consumers found such large errors on their report that they could have gotten stuck paying more for mortgages or other financial products, if they hadn’t taken steps to correct it before applying, according to the study.

Twenty percent of the credit reports studied that were found to have errors in it were ultimately corrected after the consumer took steps to dispute it, which resulted in about 10 percent of consumers receiving a higher credit score, according to the study.

Consumers are entitled to receive a free copy of their credit report each year from the three reporting agencies.

Life is a lot less expensive with a higher credit score. Stay on top of your credit, check your report frequently, and maintain your credit worthiness along with the assurance that you will detect abuse of your credit or identity theft early.

Yours truly,

The team at Global Lifestyle 

Source: “Study: 1 In 4 Consumers Had Error In Credit Report,” The Associated Press (Feb. 11, 2013)

Changes in the Market

Dear Buyer,

earlier this month CNN Money reported that McMansions are back and noted a rise in consumer spending on luxury items such as SUVs. In early May, TIME magazine stated: ” Wealthy Americans don’t really think that good times are here again for the economy. But they’re going on shopping sprees anyway…”. First statistics supports the fact that wealthier consumers are ready to spend. Closed sales in the $600,000 to $1,000,000 price range are up 92.3% for town homes/condos and 92.6% for single family residences.

Active inventory for town homes/condos is down 10.8% and for single family residences is down 15.3% from last June. We remain in a seller’s market with inventory below 5.5 months for single family residences and town homes/condos. The lack of inventory continues to frustrate potential home buyers seeking the American Dream of home ownership. Many potential buyers are losing out to wealthier cash buyers and investment organizations.
Median sales price for town homes/condos are up 11.2% and median sales price for single family residences is up 18.7% from last year June.
The number of short sales is down by over 30%, which may be partially attributed to the fact that fewer people are so far “under water” that they can’t see a way out. With prices increasing their home loans may soon be in balance with market value again.
The market is very active, a lot of the “good deals” are no longer, seller concessions are not freely offered any more, and buyers have to be patient yet decisive in their search.
Please, call a member of our dedicated brokerage to help you find your dream. We work hard for you and go above and beyond for our customers.

Sincerely,

Your Global Lifestyle Team

Home buying

Dear Buyer,

inventory is going down and buyers are having a much harder time finding a home they can buy. Many houses are selling for more than asking price.
Home buyers are saying they’re willing to pay more for a residential property due to concerns over low inventory. In the second quarter of 2013, 41 percent of buyers said they’re willing to offer more, up from 34 percent in the first quarter, according to a survey of more than 1,300 home buyers in 22 major markets. The number of buyers who say they’re concerned about rising home prices has more than doubled in the past year, according to the survey. Seventy-nine percent of home buyers say they believe prices will increase in the next 12 months—with 23 percent of that group saying by “a lot.”

“Home buyers are accepting the reality of a seller’s market and expressing a willingness to pay more,” according to the brokerage’s survey.
Source: Redfin

The days of offering 60 or 70% of asking price are definitely over. Not even cash in hand changes the fact that sellers are firming up on their negotiations.

If you are serious about a house, you will need to make a serious offer.
We will gladly help you in your pursuit of the right house at the right price.

Sincerely,

your Global Lifestyle team

 

Five things buyers need to know

Dear Buyer,

here are five very important things to know when it comes to buying real estate in today’s market.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. What they don’t say is that prevention is also less painful, less costly and more efficient, especially when it comes to preventing the deal-destroying misconceptions and decision traps that plague hot market home buyers.

Often, the only ‘cures’ for these house hunt ailments involve letting the market educate your buyer client, as it does when they lose one or more “dream homes” before they are able to fully absorb and align their strategies to your advice. This cure not only costs them properties, it can cost them money if home values are increasing in your market. Plus, it certainly costs you hours and hours of your most precious business asset: your time.

So let’s circle back to prevention. There are five critical categories of preventive messages you can – and should – deliver to your buyer clients before you even kick off their house hunts. Here they are:

1. How to fill in the blank.
Buyers come to the house hunting process full of questions, wonder, and often even some level of disbelief in their ability to actually become home owners. The process itself seems overwhelming and full of uncertainty, even in the calmest of markets. And the more the market heats up, the more difficult it seems like buying a home can be, logistically speaking.

Buyers crave to understand just how all these pieces of the puzzle will fall into place, in terms of the basic logistics of going from house hunter to home owner. To that end, you should brief them on the basic flow of a transaction, from mortgage pre-approval to close, including things like contingencies, inspections, underwriting and the actual closing and funding ritual.

But they also have questions they might not be able to articulate in the realm of how they can make a smart decision and be successful in a competitive seller’s market. Buyers often come into the transaction with a great deal of unstated internal panic on issues like:

- How they’ll decide how much to offer for a home?
– How they’ll ever be able to compete without throwing too much money on the bargaining table?
– How will they know if a property is a lemon?

If you, as their agent, get out ahead of these questions and proactively provide them with a primer on the steps of the house hunt, today’s market dynamics, and all the tricks, insider secrets and experience-based systems you will offer to help them get to closing, you will save them (and yourself) a great deal of angst. You’ll also avoid having to constantly respond and react to the advice they’ve been given by some relative, friend or random newspaper article they read – and you’ll gain trust and credibility points, all in one fell swoop.

2. What to Expect.
You’ve done many a deal. And surely you’ve spotted patterns around the things that occur in a transaction that catch buyers by surprise, cause them shock or even dismay them to the point that the deal is threatened or derailed. These are the sorts of things you can and should take the time to address and deactivate before you put a buyer in the car.

One rule of thumb is, as you walk through your flowchart or briefing about the steps of the house hunt, to point out all the moments in time where the buyer will be required to (a) come up with cash (e.g., earnest money deposit, inspections, removal of contingencies, prior to funding and close) and/or (b) show up in person during the business day (e.g., inspections, closing, etc.). Mentioning these before the house hunt even starts up in earnest empowers your buyer to plan for these things, and be poised to transfer cash or take a half-day off work more easily when the actual day comes.

Prevention-minded agents also take care to address and manage buyers’ expectations around the market dynamics they will undoubtedly face. If multiple offers are common, let them know that up front. If most buyers have to make offers on 3, 5 or 10 homes before they are successful, telling your buyers that before they begin viewing homes reduces the sting of losing a home. It also builds your credibility and minimizes their resistance to your aggressive offer-price recommendations if and when they do lose a home after making what they thought was a good offer.

3. Mindset Management.
Buyers look to us to help them understand the various angles and smart ways they should be thinking about and approaching the multiple tough decisions they will have to make between the time we first meet them and close of escrow. We also hold a unique level of insight into the decision traps and flawed thinking we’ve seen other buyers apply to their real estate decision-making; sharing common pitfalls with incoming buyers in advance can help them avoid errors that often cost buyers properties, time and money.

4. Freak-out prevention.
A freak-out predicted is a freak-out avoided, in my experience. At least a small segment of your pre-house hunt briefing should be dedicated to helping your buyers understand that it is completely normal for a smart buyer to panic at various points of the transaction. In fact, it might even be slightly abnormal or concerning for a buyer not to have any trepidation, nervousness or anxiety as they move through such a major purchase!

People who are generally calm can sometimes misinterpret fear or anxiety as a sign that they shouldn’t proceed with the transaction or that something is gravely wrong with the deal. Letting buyers know up front that these emotions are completely normal and even a good signal that they understand the gravitas of the commitment they are making can deactivate the derailing power of the freak-out.

I go so far as to tell buyers the precise points in the transaction when they can expect to feel super-jitters, like the moment before they sign the offer, the night they get into contract, the moment they lock in their loan and the day they remove contingencies, to name a few. Then, I share with them any checks and balances I have built into the system to help them make sure their rights, wants and needs are covered before they make these increasing levels of investment and commitment. This solves for and eliminates many a freak-out before it ever rears its ugly head.

5. Data.
As a rule, we brokers and agents are very comfortable using data with sellers during a listing interview, and even with buyers who have found a house and need to understand the comps in the process of deciding how much to offer. I submit that it is just as essential, just as powerful, to back yourself up with data during your pre-house hunt briefings.

Don’t just tell buyers that homes are flying off the market, so that they must make an offer quickly on a home they love – tell them that, and then give them the average number of days homes in their target areas are actually on the market before they go pending. Don’t just tell them that most homes in your area are selling for over asking; given them a list price-to-sale price ratio to render this information more concrete and help them truly wrap their heads around it.

Then, make the data applicable by showing and telling them how you can help them use this data to power a successful house hunt. For example, if the list price-to-sale price ratio is running at 110% and your buyer is looking at homes in the $300,000 range, tell them: “that means that the average home listed at $300,000 is actually selling for $330,000. So, I suggest we actually start searching for homes listed as low as $250,000 so you can make a successful offer without going over your $300,000 limit.”

Your buyer might follow your advice – or they might keep asking to see homes listed at $300,000. But in either event, you deliver on the promise of having an experienced, professional real estate pro in the buyer’s corner when you serve up the market data that should matter to them, and help them understand how to use it to level-up their approach and minimize the common frictions of the house hunt.

 

Sincerely,

Your Global Lifestyle Team

 

 

WRITTEN BY
Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Choose your colors wisely

Dear Homeowner,

Emerald may be this year’s color of the year and hot hue, but which colors should you avoid?

Color research tells us some colors to avoid. Colors that can be considered, as some researchers note, “eye irritants” and can even cause headaches or mess with your vision.

According to color research, the worst offending color:

Yellow as a “pure bright lemon.”

“More light is reflected by bright colors, resulting in excessive stimulation of the eyes,” researchers note. “Yellow is an eye irritant. Babies cry more in yellow rooms, husbands and wives fight more in yellow kitchens, and opera singers throw more tantrums in yellow dressing rooms.”

That said, yellow is the first color the human eye tends to notice so in small doses it may be effective. It can help you draw attention to an item when used as an accent color. Also, using yellow in softer tints or in small quantities may not be such a turn-off.

A recent article at Homesessive.com (“Paint Color Trends to Avoid”) pinpointed trendy color combos that may have once been a turn-on that are now becoming a turn-off in home interiors. San Francisco color expert Kelly Berg recently weighed in at Homesessive.com about some trendy color combinations to avoid, such as:

“Greige”: The gray and beige combo in a space to create a monochromatic effect. Instead, Berg recommends pulling in some accent colors, likegrassy greens, to make the space more warm and inviting. She also recommends mixing in reflective surfaces, such as glass and metal, to lighten up the room since gray tends to absorb more light than other hues.
Chocolate brown and blue: This trendy color combo of a chocolate brown and Tiffany’s blue may be growing tiresome in home interiors. Berg recommends freshening up the look by adding a third color to the mix, such as hot pink, coral, or metallics in silver or gold.
Red, Gold and Green: This go-to rustic color pattern also may be beginning to grow stale in interiors. Berg recommends avoiding using all three colors in equal portions when you have a tri-color scheme in a home. She also recommends keeping the saturation levels of the color similar, but not exactly the same to liven up the look.
The all white kitchen: A kitchen all in white can look fresh and clean, but the look may be getting overdone and growing dull. Liven it up by pulling in some color from an adjacent space or pull a color from the dishes, Berg says. For example, if the home owner has blue dishes, you might try using deep indigo as an accent color.
Have you found any color combos that are big turn-offs in a space? Weigh in on what you think works–and doesn’t–with color!

Best regards,

Your Global Lifestyle Team

 

 

Credit for this article goes to
Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

Younger Generations Rate Home Ownership Higher

DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2013
Younger Americans place more importance and hold more favorable views toward home ownership than older generations, according to a new survey of about 5,000 potential buyers and sellers.

About 77 percent of those aged 25-34 and 78 percent of those aged 35 to 44 rate home ownership as “very important.” The millennials and Generation X age group represent the ages between 25 and 44.

“Millennials and Generation X — about 85 million people strong — face a unique opportunity in U.S. housing, they are generally optimistic about home ownership and, by nature, share a strong sense of community. As important, many were not impacted by the real estate downturn and are looking at today’s buying opportunities with keen interest.”

Seventy-four percent of all survey respondents say that interest rates at historically low levels make it a great time to purchase a home. The primary drivers for owning a home, according to the survey, were for more control over space, safety, and as an investment.

Still, consumers are cautious about the real estate process. Sixty-two percent of respondents say that obtaining financing is more challenging, and 72 percent say that having a trusted partner as a reliable source of information is important to them.

“It’s been a tough road but the momentum we are seeing across the economy and real estate market appears sustainable,” says Stephen Phillips, chief operating officer for HSF Affiliates LLC. “Real estate agents have a real opportunity to develop new relations with a younger generation ready to invest in a home, and with others who are returning to the market thanks to improving conditions.”

DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2013

What do Singles really want…in housing?

U.S. Census data show that since 2000 there have been more single-adult households than those consisting of a married couple with children. Does this mean the social stigma of being single has evaporated?

Not yet. We are still a society obsessed with coupling. It’s what drives popular culture. Look at the popularity of TV shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” that exist to exalt the importance of finding the perfect mate. We live in a time of what I call “matrimania.” It seems even more pronounced than in the past. Back in the 1970s, Mary Tyler Moore was a symbol of the independent single woman who showed no particular interest in being married.
Does your research on discrimination suggest any misconceptions about singles?

The assumption persists that what people want more than anything else is a soul mate. A major real estate company a few years back suggested in its advertising that a single woman buyer might be more interested in a particular house because of the single man living next door than because of the features of the home. It’s a mistake to assume that single ­people are more concerned about getting married or remarried than anything else. My latest book, Singlism (Double Door Books, 2011), points out how stereotypes about what it means to be single have gone unrecognized and unnamed. These beliefs encompass the idea that people couldn’t possibly live joyful lives if they aren’t part of a couple.

One of the largest segments of home buyers is single women, accounting for 16 percent of sales in 2012. What should real estate practitioners keep in mind when working with unmarried clients?
If unmarried clients, men or women, say they want a house, show them a house and don’t try to talk them into a townhome or condo. The statistics are a wonderful indicator of how single women see themselves. They’’e not just marking time until a man comes along, storing their belongings in orange crates, and making do with hand-me-down kitchenware.

As a single woman, have you had any notable experiences working with a real estate agent?

When I was buying a home in the early 1990s in Charlottesville, Va., I was a tenured professor, but I found that agents wouldn’t take me seriously. I’d ask agents to show me the most expensive properties that fit my criteria, and they’d show me the least expensive. They were acting against their own interest. The underlying assumption is that if you’re single, you don’t need all that space.

What other housing trends reflect the new ways that people want to live?

More men and women are sharing homes with friends. These are not roommate situations or ­people just trying to save money. In these situations, they want to live with others they have a real connection with. These do make for more complex real estate transactions legally, so it’s especially important for these clients to consult a real estate attorney for advice on their particular situation. But fundamentally, agents should hear what these clients need and want in a home. The right mix is different for different people.

Author: Bella DePaulo

Technology tidbit

Dear Customer and fellow agent,

have you noticed how quickly your online conversations go into the ether once they’re finished? You might remember that one of your friends had a brilliant idea about how to convert first-time buyers or a witty comment on the latest Fed pronouncement, but retracing that message involves scrolling through old posts—a tedious, time-sucking pursuit.

On Thursday, at Real Estate Connect in New York, real estate tech bloggers Chris Smith and Jimmy Mackin will announce a solution—a way to tag, track, and search Facebook conversations. The new tool, Curaytor, plugs Facebook’s Group API into a WordPress backend, making conversations in groups searchable. Setting aside my personal bias against creative spellings, Curaytor looks to be a neat tool for getting at the best content in Facebook groups you’re following.

As proof of concept, Smith and Mackin have started with content from open real estate groups like Michael McClure’s Raise the Bar in Real Estate discussion. With Facebook groups that are tracked in Curaytor, anyone can quickly see what others are saying or view content from the discussion by topic. Smith says open Facebook groups were the ideal place to start with curating online discussions because Facebook has become the online water cooler with 1 million new status updates posted every minute. Eventually, he says, Curaytor could include conversations form other forums, such as Twitter and Google+. Unlike Google search, for example, Curaytor searches what your friends and colleagues are saying about the latest gadgets, business strategies, and news.

Currently, the site doesn’t pull in an individual’s groups, only the open groups that Curaytor has added, so for now at least, everyone who goes to the site sees the same information.

The launch of Curaytor was in some ways tempered by Facebook’s own announcement yesterday of Graph Search, a technology that lets you search friends’ activities on Facebook. (Here’s a CNNMoney article on Graph Search). What the Facebook tool seems to lack, however, is the curation part. Curaytor promises to organize social conversations in real time so that you can view them in categories like trending, popular, and recent. Using WordPress enables Curaytor to tag posts and populate a “Staff Picks” feature. You can search Curaytor by keyword, user profile picture, company name, or news source.

And while Smith and Mackin are focused on the real estate market today, there’s no reason Curaytor couldn’t be used to track and search conversations on any topic that’s actively discussed on Facebook, Smith says.

Sincerely,

Your Global LifeStyle Team

 

 

P.S. Article written by Stacey Moncrieff

8 Tips to make your remodel more energy efficient and your home healthier

Dear Home owner,

as long as you’re remodeling, why not cut your utility bill and make your home a bit healthier?

Saving energy wasn’t on the list of reasons we’re finally ripping out the kitchen in our mid-century home (green-veined, imitation marble laminate countertops figured much more prominently). But, a session at the recent 2012 Remodeling Show in Baltimore clued me in as to why adding a few simple tasks to our remodeling plan could lower our home’s energy bill, get rid of some of the annoying hot and cold spots in our house, and make our home less hospitable to mold and other allergens.

Carl Seville, author of Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction, shared some simple, inexpensive ways to make remodels and additions more energy efficient from the standpoint of energy usage and conservation of resources.

Try these eight tips from Seville:

1. Check for water intrusion, condensation, and excess moisture before you begin the project. Fixing those issues during remodeling can improve your home’s indoor air quality (excess moisture encourages mold).

2. Use the least amount of framing allowed by your building code when adding walls. Not only will you have to pay for less lumber and fewer nails, the contractor will have more room to put insulation in your walls, making your home more energy efficient.

3. Resist the urge to splurge on multiple shower heads. Opt for a single low-flow shower head rather than installing a car wash-style plethora of shower heads.

4. If possible, add new HVAC ducts to parts of your home that are heated and cooled, rather than placing them in a space with unconditioned air (like the attic). If that’s not possible, insulate the ducts. Have an HVAC diagnostician analyze your system to make sure it’s sized correctly and balanced to properly exchange old and new air.

5. Be sure to insulate around recessed lights that protrude into un-insulated attic spaces — these are major sources of air leaks.

6. If you’re wasting water, you’re wasting energy. Look at high-efficiency or solar water heaters, and insulate your water pipes. If you want hot water faster, move the water heater closer to the faucet or install demand pumps to drive hot water to the fixture.

7. Install wall-mounted efficiency toggle switch plates for the outlets where you plug in your televisions and computers to make it easy to cut off the power to electronics you’re not using.

8. A humidistat that automatically turns on the bathroom fan when moisture rises beats depending on teenagers or tenants remembering to use the fan. Reducing bathroom moisture reduces the chances you’ll have mold.

When I pull the kitchen cabinets off the wall, I’m going to use caulk to seal between the wallboards and the floorboards before I put down new flooring and install the new cabinets. And since I’ll have the caulk out, I’m going to seal the top of window trim, something my home’s builder didn’t do.

What are your tips for smart energy savings during a remodel?

By: Dona DeZube

Most sincerely,

 

Your Global Lifestyle team.