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4 Things to Know About the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics

Looking for a house, not to mention a Realtor, can be overwhelming. However, these four things to know about the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics will help you see the benefits of working with one from the beginning!

But before we delve into the main things to know about the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics, let’s first review what it is and why it was created.

What is the Code of Ethics, and why was it created?

In a nutshell, the NAR’s Code of Ethics is a self-improving guide for all real estate professionals. It was created to guarantee clients are served fairly by requiring Realtors to work together in promoting the clients’ best interests at all times.

Required continuing education courses ensure that Realtors stay up-to-date on the Code and any changes it undergoes year to year.

It was established over 100 years ago.

Did you know the NAR’s Code of Ethics was adopted in 1913? According to the NAR website, it was “one of the first codifications of ethical duties adopted by any business group.”

It embodies the Golden Rule.

Simply put, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Realtors apply this guiding principle to all their activities, from personal to professional.

There are three main sections.

There are three main sections outlined in the Realtors’ Code of Ethics.

Duties to Clients and Customers

When it comes to things to know about the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics, know that the client is always the number one priority. But Realtors remain obligated to treat all parties honestly, even while promoting and protecting their clients’ best interests.

Duties to the Public

This section includes everything from equal professional services for all to truthfulness in all communications—from emails to advertising.

Duties to Realtors

Once again, the Golden Rule is a guiding principle in this case. Under the Code of Ethics, Realtors promise to be fair, honest and supportive of other real estate professionals.

It gives you—the client—peace of mind.

Knowing your Realtor has taken an oath to protect and promote your best interests in all transactions is comforting. Understanding your Realtor is obligated to disclose pertinent facts about the property is comforting.

Realizing your Realtor works diligently to promote a healthy, competitive marketplace is comforting. And, last but not least, knowing your Realtor is committed to staying current on issues affecting real estate gives you peace of mind.

Summary

Now that you have a better understanding of why “Realtor” has come to mean “competency, fairness and high integrity,” are you ready to connect with a local expert? We can help! Search for Lee County Realtors here. For more industry news and tips, keep reading our blogs.

5 Potential Homeowner Tax Breaks for 2022

The due date for taxes is April 18, 2023. But before you file, be sure you are aware of the tax perks of homeownership. Check out these five potential homeowner tax breaks for 2022.

Mortgage interest 

The mortgage interest deduction is an itemized deduction. This means that for it to work in your favor, all your itemized deductions need to be greater than the standard deduction.

Note that for the 2022 tax year, those standard deduction amounts increased. For individuals, this deduction is now $12,950, and for married couples filing jointly, it is now $25,900. For the head of household, this deduction went up to $19,400. And if you are 65 or older, you can add on an extra $1,400 per person if you are married and filing jointly or an extra $1,750 if you are a single filer.

And remember—the more recent your mortgage, the greater your tax savings will be.

Property taxes

Property taxes are on that itemized list of all your deductions that must add up to more than your standard deduction.

Taxpayers can take one $10,000 deduction. This deduction is capped at $10,000 for those who are married and filing jointly.

Note: If you have a mortgage, your property taxes are built into your monthly payment.

Interest on a home equity line of credit

If you have a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, the interest you pay on that loan is deductible only if that loan is used specifically to “buy, build or improve a property.”

Essentially, you will have some cash if your home needs repairs or upgrades. But you cannot use that money for things such as weddings or college tuition.

You can deduct up to the $750,000 cap—this is for the amount you pay in interest on your HELOC and mortgage combined. But note, if you took out a HELOC before the new 2018 tax plan for anything other than improvements to your home, you cannot deduct the interest.

Home offices

Are you self-employed, with your home office being your principal place of work? Good news! You can deduct $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet, of office space. The maximum deduction your home office can receive is $1,500.

For those taking this deduction, know that there are very strict rules on what constitutes fully-deductible home office space.

In addition, understand that if you are still working remotely, you are still a W-2 employee and are not eligible for this deduction under the CARES Act.

Home improvements

To receive the home improvement tax break, your improvements have to exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

Deductible improvements can include widening doorways, lowering cabinets, fixing electrical or adding stairlifts. For some homeowners who plan to add renovations such as wheelchair ramps and grab bars in the bathrooms, for example, the cost of improvements can result in a nice tax break.

You will need a letter from your doctor to prove that these changes were medically necessary.

Summary

Be sure you keep these potential homeowner tax breaks for 2022 in mind when filing your taxes in 2023. These breaks and homeownership tax perks can save you money!

Finally, continue reading our blogs for more real estate tips and news.

9 Factors to Consider When Determining an Offer Price on a Home

You finally found it—the home of your dreams! Now what? It’s time to make an offer. Your buyer’s agent will guide you through the entire process, including sharing these nine factors to consider when determining an offer price on a home.

Making an offer

Before you can make an offer, there are several factors to consider when determining an offer price on a home. Are you ready to figure out where to start? Now is the time to ask your REALTOR® about the following.

The home’s current list price.

For starters, what is the home’s list price? Is the asking price in line with the fair market value? If so, is it within your overall budget?

The sold price of similar homes in your area.

Your buyer’s agent can provide you with valuable information, including what similar homes in your area recently sold for. Commonly referred to as “comps,” this information offers you a reasonable baseline in terms of a starting offer.

How long has the house been on the market?

In a nutshell, if the home has been available for longer than average, sellers may be more willing to negotiate or accept a lower offer.

On the other hand, if the property is new to the market, the offer may need to be higher.

Look at the condition of the home.

Before you make an offer, take the time to learn about the home’s history and pay attention to its details. When was the house built, what types of building materials were used, what is the square footage?

What are the home’s top features and amenities? Is it in need of repairs or is it move-in ready?

Consider seller concessions.

And the questions to ask yourself continue. Will you be asking the seller to make any last-minute improvements?

Or, would you want them to cover the closing costs? These are the sorts of questions to review with your agent.

Outline exactly what’s included with the home.

Make sure the agreement and offer clearly define what is included with the home, such as appliances or window treatments.

Add in the earnest money.

When you get ready to make your offer, remember to add in the earnest, or deposit, money.

Factor in home inspection contingencies.

It may be a good idea to consider the unknowns that could be uncovered during the home inspection. Leave room in your budget for any potential updates or repairs.

Is there flexibility in your offer?

Finally, when it comes to factors to consider when determining an offer price on a home, did you give yourself some wiggle room? Is your offer going to fall at the top, middle or low end of your budget?

If the price point is firm, can you sweeten your offer in other ways? Consider being flexible when it comes to requested repairs, the closing date or the closing costs, for instance.

Summary

Bottom line: even after doing your research and carefully considering several factors to determine your offer price, the sellers could turn it down. But, remember, your trusted local REALTOR® is on your side and ready to negotiate on your behalf!

Are you looking for additional real estate tips? Keep reading our blogs for more!

Real Estate Defined: Home Inspections and What to Expect

When purchasing a home, a home inspection can save you thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs. It’s important to know exactly what you are getting into. Let’s take a closer look at home inspections and what to expect.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is a visual assessment of a home’s physical condition and mechanical systems, including the roof, ceilings, walls, floors, windows, doors, plumbing and more.

An inspector helps make sure there are no hidden issues in a house before the buyer commits. It is important to know about home inspections and what to expect in order to do your due diligence before purchasing a home.

In addition to the home’s physical condition and mechanical systems, inspectors will also check major appliances and the heating and air.

What happens during a home inspection?

During a home inspection, the inspector has three main tasks.

  1. Identify any possible issues with the house.
  2. Suggest fixes.
  3. Write a report, including photos, noting all observed concerns.

This report is vital for the buyer and agent. Based on this report, a buyer can request repairs from the seller.

Things to look out for that home inspectors won’t check

While inspectors assist in determining physical and mechanical issues, they typically only address issues that can be seen with the naked eye.

Inspectors will not put themselves in danger. For example, if a roof is too steep, they will not climb up to check for missing shingles. Instead, they’ll try and use binoculars.

Basic home inspections do not include any of the following:

  • Swimming pools
  • Wells
  • Septic systems
  • Structural engineering work
  • Fireplaces or chimneys

For wood-burning fireplaces, many inspectors will open and close the dampers to make sure they’re working and look up chimneys for obstructions, but that is all.

Summary

Now that you know about home inspections and what to expect, make sure you show up with your agent on the day of the inspection. This allows you to ask questions, review the inspection report and prepare to negotiate repairs.

For more industry insights, continue reading our blogs.

3 Tips for Selling Your Home During the Holiday Season

Selling your home takes work, and during the holiday season, unique circumstances could come up. However, buyers during this time are often more serious, and typically there are fewer homes being listed to compete with. Check out these tips for selling your home during the holiday season.

Make your home cozy.

It is important your home feels inviting during showings; that’s why decorating is vital. Homes often look their best during the holiday season, but be careful not to overdo the seasonal decorations.

As buyers tour homes, they will want to be welcomed by an inviting environment. Add décor pieces such as candles, throw blankets, traditional holiday patterns, and even foliage when styling your home. Avoid using personalized holiday décor, such as stockings with names and personal holiday cards.

Take good listing photos. 

While these holiday decorations make buyers touring your home feel welcome, your listing photos should have a timeless feel. Make sure the photos on your listing aren’t just a snapshot of a moment in time during a holiday.

Using a holiday photo on your listing may remind buyers that your home has been sitting on the market for some time.  

Hire a dependable real estate agent.

A good real estate agent will help guide you through the process of selling your home. It is important you hire an agent who won’t disappear during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the New Year.

Find a reliable agent by asking your friends and family if they have any recommendations. Ease your stress by doing this and utilizing other tips for selling your home during the holiday season.

Summary

Are you thinking about selling your home? Keep in mind these tips for selling your home during the holiday season. These strategies will be sure to help you prepare to list your home and get it sold as quickly as possible.

Continue reading our blogs for more real estate news and tips!

The Benefits of Getting Pre-Approved as a Buyer

Buying a home is a process. Part of the process is preparing to purchase a new home. The benefits of getting pre-approved as a buyer start by giving you, the buyer, a clear financial picture.

Find out what you can afford.

One of the biggest benefits of getting pre-approved as a buyer is that it eliminates doubt. The pre-approval letter shows the maximum amount you can borrow plus a specific interest rate and the loan terms.

Understanding what you can afford is a good first step when starting your search for a new home. Armed with a budget, you can now talk to your Realtor about what you are looking for in a home.

Pre-approval could give you an edge.

Depending on what type of market we’re in, having a pre-approval letter in-hand can give buyers an advantage. More specifically, this is true in a seller’s market where inventory is low and demand is high.

Sometimes two buyers could make an offer simultaneously. Typically, if one potential buyer has mortgage pre-approval and the other doesn’t, sellers tend to favor those who are pre-approved.

It provides bargaining power.

Next on the list of benefits of getting pre-approved as a buyer is flexibility. Being pre-approved may give you more wiggle room when it comes to negotiations.

When sellers know a buyer is pre-approved, they may be more willing to compromise on certain things to ensure the sale happens.

Being pre-approved saves time.

Closing on a new home takes time. On average, according to Forbes Advisor, the closing process can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days.

But if you have a pre-approval letter, it speeds up the process. You may be moving into your new home sooner than you think!

Pre-approval gives a buyer confidence.

Last but not least, being pre-approved as a buyer gives you confidence. When you are pre-approved, a lender has determined that you are qualified for a home loan.

Being pre-approved upfront gives buyers peace of mind from the start.

Summary

To summarize, there are two main takeaways. First, getting pre-approved as a buyer gives you a better understanding of what you can afford. Second of all, it shows sellers you are serious about buying a home. But, remember, pre-approval letters are usually only valid for 60 to 90 days. Talk to your Realtor more about your budget and what you are looking for in your new home. Keep reading our blogs for more industry insights!

8 Things to Keep In Mind When Buying a Home in the Fall

Just as the seasons change, so do peak real estate times. That means now is the ideal time to share eight things to keep in mind when buying a home in the fall that may work to a buyer’s advantage!

Less competition.

Fall is typically considered the off-season in real estate. Therefore, buyers may have less competition.

What’s more, inventory more often than not tends to stay the same, which means there are still plenty of homes available.

Buyers have time to negotiate.

Less competition also means the odds of getting caught in a bidding war go down. Hence, buyers can take back a little more control.

This includes everything from negotiating the price to asking for your preferred closing date.

More available help.

In general, since it’s slower, real estate professionals and other service workers have more time on their hands. Thus, they have more time to focus on you!

Expect prompt responses from your Realtor, lenders, contractors, inspectors and more this time of year.

Sellers are motivated.

Some sellers may have come on strong in the peak spring and summer months. They may have overpriced their properties or struggled to find the right buyers.

New sellers usually have a good reason for listing their homes this time of year. In the end, all signs point to motivated sellers, which is good news for buyers!

You might enjoy better rates.

As the year winds down, mortgage lenders and bankers may be open to discussing a slightly better deal just to get the deal done.

No matter what, it’s always good to shop around and ask about savings when it comes to interest or even down payments.

First-time buyers get tax breaks.

Remember, first-time homebuyers receive property tax and mortgage deductions. This holds true even if you don’t close until December.

You’ll see the house in a different light.

Next on the things to keep in mind when buying a home in the fall is how it looks without the spring flowers and summer sun. When you shop for a house in the fall, you may get a better idea of what it’s like on a cloudy or rainy day.

You may also get a better look at the exterior without all that landscaping acting as camouflage.

Save on home décor.

Who doesn’t love shopping for their new home? If you move into your new home at the end of the year, you will hit the jackpot on year-end and holiday sales!

You will be able to bargain hunt for everything from new furniture to new appliances to new throw pillows.

Summary

Did these things to keep in mind when buying a home in the fall come as a pleasant surprise? If you think the time is right to start your home search, connect with a local Lee County Realtor today. For more industry insights and home buying-and-selling tips, keep reading our blogs.

NAR: Recognizing September as Agent Safety Month

September is one busy month, but recognizing September as Agent Safety Month doesn’t need to get pushed off your action-packed calendar! Take a minute to look over these helpful safety tips and more.

Did you know?

The National Association of REALTORS® created the REALTOR® Safety Program more than 10 years ago. The program is designed to keep agent safety at the forefront of a Realtor’s daily planning.

By practicing precaution, the number of safety incidents happening in the industry can be reduced. That’s why recognizing September as Agent Safety Month continues to be a top priority in Lee County.

Safety tips for Realtors

The good news is Realtors have quick access to plenty of safety-oriented materials nowadays. The NAR alone offers personal protection resources, tips, videos, webinars and more—all about safety.

Here are several tips to help get you started when it comes to formulating a safety plan.

Tell people where you are going.

Tell people—colleagues, friends, family—where you are going, who you are meeting (including providing names and contact info) and when you expect to be finished. Consider creating a Google calendar that you share with those closest to you, for instance.

Set a safe schedule.

Set a schedule you are comfortable with. If that means no meetings after dark, so be it. Clearly communicate your available hours for in-person meetings and showings in your marketing materials and website.

Keep up with your car maintenance.

From regular oil changes to tire checks to keeping jumper cables in your car, be prepared. Also, try and keep your gas tank half-full in case you get lost or the property is more remote than expected.

Stay charged.

Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have a car charger with you too. Consider using a mobile hotspot to help with cell phone reception. Plus, a personal hotspot is good for data security in general.

Be wary of what you share. 

Guard your personal information along with your clients’. Be careful not to “overshare” personal information with new or potential clients as well.

Pick public spaces.

Meet new clients in your office or a public place like a coffee shop for initial meetings.

Be observant.

Follow behind your clients while showing them a property. Do not lead them. This helps you stay aware of what is happening at all times.

Use the 10-second rule.

Apply the 10-second rule. Give yourself time (at least 10 seconds) to assess a situation and your surroundings when you arrive.

Follow best practices for open houses.

Put “best practices” into place for open houses. Don’t host them alone if possible. Check all rooms, windows and doors before leaving and locking up. Be sure to check closets and the backyard too.

Know your way out.

Always have a backup plan and exit strategy in case something goes awry.

Summary

By recognizing September as Agent Safety Month, you recognize that it is actually a year-round task. Take this month to update your safety plan. Then talk about it with your colleagues and family. Finally, put it into place. Keep reading our blogs for more industry news and additional real estate resources.

The Pros of Hiring a Property Management Company for Your Rental Home

Owning a rental property can be a great source of income, but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. These responsibilities include the upkeep of the rental property, including cleaning and any repairs, as well as the marketing of it. If you’re overwhelmed with the responsibilities of your rental or are looking to own a rental property, consider the pros of hiring a property management company for your rental home.

Tenant screening 

Tenant screening can be a tedious process, and without the right experience, you could end up with a less-than-desirable tenant. Experienced property managers see thousands of applications, so they are trained to notice any potential red flags when reviewing application paperwork.

Good property management companies have a reliable screening process. This process helps select tenants on your behalf who will rent long-term, pay rent on time, minimize wear and tear, and cause fewer problems overall.

Contact point for renters

It is not always convenient to answer calls or have to drive over to your rental property to inspect issues. With a property manager, you can avoid having to do that. A property manager can address any problems at your rental home and can arrange services for any issues or repairs.

 Marketing your property

Marketing is a vital part of renting out your property, and a property manager can help you market effectively. Skilled managers have experience with advertisements and should be able to get potential residents relatively quickly. A property management company can also help you keep your property from staying vacant for too long by preparing it for rent and by determining the optimal rent rate.

Determining rent rate

When preparing your property for rent, you may need to make some cosmetic improvements. This is done in order to shorten vacancy periods and maximize your revenue. The revenue you make is determined by the rent you set. Setting the rent too high can turn potential tenants away, while setting it too low can cause you to lose money on your property. It is critical that you choose the right price, and having a property manager who is knowledgeable about the local real estate market can assist you in doing so.

Rent collection

 The collection of rent and late fees is an extremely important part of property management. Rent must be collected every month to ensure consistent cash flow, and it is important that the renters know that.

One of the pros of hiring a property management company for your rental home is that you have a buffer between yourself and the tenant. The property manager will collect rent, manage late payments, and handle any evictions if needed.

 Avoid legal issues

 With experience comes knowledge. Any experienced landlord knows that one bad rental situation can cause a great deal of financial and legal trouble. A good property management team understands the local landlord-tenant laws and fair housing laws and can help protect you from potential lawsuits.

 Lower repair and maintenance costs

 Hiring a property management company typically gets you access to professional maintenance help and a network of licensed contractors. This can save you money and help stop small issues from becoming bigger ones if they are not handled properly. These experts can conduct routine inspections to help prevent problems and reduce the cost of emergency repairs.

Personal benefits

With someone else handling your property and renters, you should have fewer inconveniences and complications to worry about. Using a property management company can help you stress less and give you more time to yourself.

Summary

 There are many pros of hiring a property management company for your rental home, including reduced stress, lower costs, and increased income.

Are you a rental property owner looking for a property management company in the Lee County area? Check out our list of property management LCAR affiliates. If you are still looking for a rental property, you can contact us at the Lee County Association of Realtors to get matched up with a local Realtor to help you in your search.

For more real estate news and advice, continue reading our blogs!

How Homeownership Can Help During Rising Inflation

Americans across the country are concerned about inflation—and understandably so. If you’ve heard the news, but need a little economics refresher, we’ve got you. Inflation is a fluctuating value. It assigns value to money, causing currency to be worth more or less than it was previously. As of June 2022, inflation was up drastically by 9.1 percent in the past 12 months, as per the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. Though this may seem worrying, there are ways how homeownership can help during rising inflation.

Homes are an appreciating asset.

Some people like to get a return on their money by investing in stocks, bonds, or even a home. Unlike cars or boats, homes tend to grow in value over time. And, unlike renting, your money will be going toward something that you can own.

Another facet of how homeownership can help during rising inflation is the future economic value of your house. If you end up deciding to sell it, your home will likely be worth more during a time when the dollar value is rising. That gives you extra financial capital at your disposal.

Homes mean fewer future moving costs.

Rent prices have also seen a sharp rise in the past few months—and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue. Unfortunately, that can mean some people may have to move again and again as they seek rentals with prices that fit their budgets.

Having to pay to move multiple times can actually eat into your savings, making eventual buying even more difficult.

While it will require a bit of number crunching, you should think about how often you plan to move in the next few years. It can put the costs in starker relief, and it may even give you a good push into home buying.

Fixed-rate mortgages don’t vary from year to year.

Unless you refinance for a better value, fixed-rate mortgages don’t vary from year to year.

That’s a huge advantage over renting—and it means your home will likely get more affordable over time. Just remember that this applies to fixed-rate mortgages only!

Remember: You can always refinance.

Mortgage rates have recently climbed a bit.

While this may keep you from buying for the time being, it may also be helpful to remember that you can eventually refinance when rates are lower. You can also lock in a mortgage rate with your lending company or pay to have it extended.

Talk to your lender—and your Realtor—about options!

Summary

If you need one last nudge to explore the market, now you have one: knowing how homeownership can help during rising inflation.

Still have questions? Want to start house-hunting?

We’re here to help! Contact us to find a Realtor. You can also learn more about the market on our blog here.