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.

5 Tips for Searching for a Home Long-Distance

Searching for a home can be taxing. Searching for a home long-distance carries its own set of challenges. Whether you’re moving across the state or moving across the country, check out these tips to help the process go a bit smoother.

Outline your priorities.

Before you even start your remote home search, make a list of priorities when it comes to your new home. Separate wants from needs, and place each in order of importance. For example, if having two full bathrooms is a MUST-have, then place that high up on the “needs” list. If it would be nice to have a pool (but you could do without), that would fall somewhere on the “wants” side.

Consult this list often when searching for a home long-distance to keep yourself on track.

Do your research.

You may have heard things about the area you are anticipating moving to, but doing your own due diligence to confirm what you’ve heard is always a good idea. And thanks to the internet, it’s easy! Check out municipal and tourism websites and social media pages. Read the news from that region. Look at reputable sources for city data like U.S. News and World Report’s real estate section.

You can also join community Facebook groups, for example, and ask the locals themselves any questions you may have about neighborhoods, schools, city amenities and more.

Work with a Realtor.

We always think working with a Realtor is a good idea, but even more so when you are searching for a home long-distance. Choose a Realtor in the area you will be moving to. You can look at online reviews, or ask those community Facebook groups for recommendations. You can also contact the area’s local association of Realtors to get connected with someone.

Realtors will be knowledgeable about the area and its housing market and will therefore be able to better-assist you with your remote home search. Your Realtor can also visit homes on your behalf and do virtual walk-throughs, take photos and videos to send you, etc.

Take advantage of technology.

Speaking of virtual walk-throughs, technology like this should be your best friend when it comes to remote home shopping. If you’re searching across the country, for example, it’s not feasible to think you’ll be able to make multiple visits to see homes in person. Plus, by the time you get there, they could get scooped up by another buyer.

Ask your Realtor to walk through the home while you’re on FaceTime with them. Browse online listings from trusted sites and rely on high-quality listing photography. Ask if a property has 3D or virtual tour technology available.

Technology also comes in handy when working with your Realtor. He or she will be just a quick text, phone call or FaceTime away when you have questions.

Plan a visit, if possible.

Again, this tip may not be doable for everyone depending on distance and schedules. However, if you can get to the area to get a feel for it in person, doing so will help familiarize yourself with the city and its neighborhoods beyond the limits of online research. If you don’t find your new home while you’re there and you return to remote searching, at least you will have a better idea as to what to look for—and where.

Summary

Searching for a home long-distance doesn’t have to be daunting. Use these tips as a guide, and most importantly—get connected with a local Realtor who can show you the ropes! Keeping reading our blog for more helpful tips for buyers and sellers.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Neighborhood

Maybe you’re a longtime local looking for a change. Or, you’re an out-of-town buyer who has a bit to learn about the area. Either way, these questions to ask yourself when considering a neighborhood can have a big impact on your quality of life. Don’t make an offer without running through them first!

Will you be dealing with a Homeowner’s Association (HOA)?

Opinions on HOAs can be mixed. Some love how they ensure that home values stay high in the neighborhood with regulations in place. Others think they can be a little overbearing.

They will also come with additional costs, so you should keep the financial aspect in mind as well. When perusing a potential neighborhood, be sure to ask whether there is an HOA and if so, how that specific HOA operates.

What is the neighborhood close to?

Proximity can be a big advantage—or disadvantage, depending on what’s near your neighborhood.

Grocery stores, schools, and great downtown areas are all a plus. Sewage treatment plants, livestock farms, and highways, on the other hand, can ding your property value—and make life a whole lot more stressful.

It’s always wise to take a drive around the area, just to see if you’ll like where you’ll be living.

What are the schools like?

Speaking of schools—they’re one of the questions to ask yourself when considering a neighborhood. What schools is the neighborhood zoned for, and what are they like?

You don’t even need to have children to benefit from a great school system. The better the education, the higher your home value will be—and it could even make it easier to sell in the future.

Is it safe?

Some neighborhoods are safer than others. Buying a home is a big investment—and you will do yourself a disservice if you don’t determine how safe the area is.

If you don’t know where to start, call the local police departmentand ask them about safety and crime rates.

Is it new construction or an established development?

New construction neighborhoods may be in the development phase for months or years to come. While they offer the advantages of a brand-new house, you may find the construction distracting or overwhelming.

Meanwhile, established developments likely will not have the same level of activity. As a drawback, they may need updating.

How do the other homes look?

The appearance and value of surrounding homes can impact your house’s property value. Take a little time to drive around the neighborhood. You can also look up estimates on nearby homes online.

Summary

The homebuying process can be confusing. Even with these questions to ask yourself when considering a neighborhood to help, you’ll benefit from having expert guidance. That’s why it’s so important to hire a skillful, experienced Realtor who knows the area inside and out.

Well, our members fit the bill! Contact the Lee County Association of Realtors to begin. As for learning more about how to navigate the market, browse our blog here.

6 Pieces of Advice for Home Buyers in Today’s Market

Congratulations! You’re starting your home buying journey—or you’re about to. During this process, there are a few ways that you can leverage your resources to find your new place. These pieces of advice for home buyers in today’s market can make all the difference. Please keep in mind that these are just suggestions—not things that you necessarily have to do to make your home buying journey a success!

Obtain your pre-approval letter ASAP.

You don’t want to add any extra obstacles between you and your new home. Obtaining your mortgage preapproval letter should be step one.

Consider shopping around for more than one preapproval.

Don’t worry—you’re not bound to your first preapproval letter from a lender. While time does matter in this seller’s market, you may consider shopping around for more than one lender to compare loan costs and program options. Your Realtor should also be able to recommend a lender.

Look lower, because prices may go high.

It can be daunting looking at the homes on the market—especially if you don’t know the pricing trends. As buyers keep outbidding each other in this fast-paced market, the price a home is listed for may not reflect its final price. You can set more realistic expectations by looking at homes $5,000 or $10,000 below what you can afford with the expectation that bidding will drive the price higher.

Budget for a longer timeline.

Another one of the most important pieces of advice for home buyers in today’s market involves the timeline. Because of the competitive market, you may be up against many highly-motivated, qualified buyers. That doesn’t mean you won’t find your home. It just means you may need to expect to extend your home search timeline.

Act fast.

Because of low inventory and high demand, you may not have a moment to delay. Act fast if you see a home you love!

Contact the Lee County Association of Realtors.

With a market like this, you’ll want a Realtor on your side. Reach out to us to find a Realtor knowledgeable about today’s local market!

Summary

If these pieces of advice for home buyers in today’s market have you motivated to start looking, we can’t wait to work with you. And, if you have any questions or concerns along the way, we can help with those too.

Whether you want to buy, sell, or rent, you can reach out to us here. Finally, for more real estate tips and advice, browse our blog.

7 Ways to Save On Your Utility Bills This Winter

Do you ever feel like reading your monthly utility bill drops you right into a cold sweat? You’re in the same boat as millions of other Americans! And, just like them, you can do something to manage the cost with these ways to save on your utility bills this winter.

Dial down the thermostat.

According to ENERGY STAR, 68 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temp to set your thermostat on in the winter when you’re spending time in the house. Then, when you leave, dial the temperature down to around 60 degrees.

Ultimately, these designations will make your system do the least amount of work. That way, you spend less as well!

Remember to turn appliances and lights off.

Lamps. Laptop chargers. Kitchen appliances. The power they use, even when just plugged in, can add up. If you remember to turn them off or even unplug them when you’re not using them,however, you can save some cash.

Wear an extra layer or two.

Instead of dialing up the degrees, walk over to your closet! You won’t have to spend an extra cent when you layer up with sweaters, cardigans, and coats that you already own. Plus, you’ll have cozy winter style covered too!

Along the same lines, throw on some socks or slippers. They’ll keep your feet warm through the day and night—and make it easier to stop yourself from putting a hand on the thermostat.

Make sure everything is sealed.

Hey, do you feel a draft coming in? Just as cold air enters, warm air can escape, making heating your house a costly endeavor.

Take a few minutes to see if your windows and doors are properly sealed. If not, you can call a professional or even fix the issue yourself. The money you’ll save on your bill will make the task well worth it!

Use smart outlets.

Our homes are smart these days! Plug your lights into smart outlets to minimize energy use. Time your outlets to turn on each day only when you need them.

Give the oven some time off.

Your oven uses a whole lot of heat! Instead of turning it on, consider using a toaster oven, a crockpot, or the stove.

Rely on natural lighting.

This is one of the simplest ways to save on your utility bills this winter. All you have to do is open the drapes and let the sunlight seep in!

Summary

Be the coolest one in town when you use these ways to save on your utility bills this winter. Even better, you can spend the saved money on other home projects—or just to treat yourself!

Want more helpful tips? Check out our blog here!

Hoping to buy or sell in the New Year? Our Realtors have that covered too. Contact us to begin.

5 Items Lenders Look For When Reviewing Your Mortgage Application

Before you score your dream home, you usually need to secure a loan. What’s a good way to do that? For starters, you can review these five items lenders look for when reviewing your mortgage application now to see how you stack up.

Income and Expenses

Obviously, lenders will look at your income—and having steady income is a good thing. In a nutshell, good income equals good chances of making your payments consistently.

However, lenders will look on the other end of the spectrum too. They will review your expenses—fixed and flexible—to help determine your debt-to-income ratio.

Down Payment

Down payments vary and depend on buyers’ personal situations. With that said, typically the larger the down payment, the better.

For instance, lenders are more likely to give lower interest rates with lower loan amounts. In general, a solid number to aim for when it comes to down payments is 20 percent.

Credit History

This is one of the items lenders look for when reviewing your mortgage application that is in-depth. First of all, it goes well beyond your credit score. Lenders will want to see a full credit report.

Below is a quick look at other factors lenders might check:

  • Payment history: It pays to make payments on time. Having a good payment track record when it comes to credit cards and past loans reflects well on potential borrowers.
  • Negative marks: This includes missed payments, collections, delinquent accounts or bankruptcy.
  • Recent credit applications: Some lenders may see too many recent applications for lines of credit as a sign of financial woes.
  • Being an authorized user: Be careful who you share credit card accounts with. If you are an authorized user on someone else’s card, how they handle it reflects on your report as well.

These are but a few prime examples of what lenders will discover in your credit report. The good news is you can also access your credit report for free at least once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Employment History

Basically, proof of stable employment for multiple years works in your favor. It demonstrates a pattern of responsible behavior.

Liquid Assets

Perhaps liquid assets can be thought of as security blankets for lenders. Knowing what assets borrowers could turn to cash quickly in a pinch is comforting when it comes to their return.

Summary

Remember, this list of items lenders look for when reviewing your mortgage application is just a start. Consider being proactive and accessing your credit report. Then make any adjustments you can to improve your overall report.

In the meantime, you can always talk to your Realtor more about what lenders may consider as well as what you, as a borrower, should look for in a lender. Check out our other blogs for more real estate news and local market trends!

 

9 Winter Maintenance Tips for Homeowners

If you are looking for things to do around the house over the Thanksgiving holiday, look no further. Our list of winter maintenance tips for homeowners can act as your to-do list for cold-weather prep!

Do a property walk-about.

Walk around your home and inspect it. Look for small cracks and openings in the foundation. Seal them yourself if possible. If not, reach out to a professional.

Also, check for other potential air leaks around windows, doors and ventilation pipes.

Check your roof.

Make sure to check your roof for any loose shingles that could allow water and moisture to seep into your home. Replace shingles as needed. Don’t forget to check the seal around your chimney as well.

Clean and inspect your gutters.

Fall is messy! Leaves and debris can quickly clog gutters. Keep water flowing away from your home by keeping your gutters clean.

Look for ailing tree limbs.

Strong winds during winter storms could be dangerous to both people and properties if a tree branch snaps. If you see weak or dead limbs, contact a professional tree removal service.

Repair patios and pavers.

If you have loose pavers or stones on your patio, try to fix them before the first freeze.

Winter will only make it worse thanks to what is known as “frost heave.” Basically, it’s when the soil pushes the stone farther out of place.

Protect your pipes.

You can find pipe insulation at local hardware stores and do this money-saver on your own. Put it around pipes under sinks, in crawl spaces and attics, outside and so on.

Insulate your attic and crawl space.

Proper insulation goes a long way. It may cost a little up front whether you opt for a service, or you buy materials and do it yourself.

Add protection to your windows.

As far as winter maintenance tips for homeowners, this one has options. First, you can store your screens and install storm windows.

Or you can hang curtains. Then there’s the option to add caulk or weather stripping to windows as needed. Whatever you choose, adding an extra barrier to your windows is a good idea.

Inspect furnaces and fireplaces.

In fact, your furnace and fireplace should both be inspected annually. This ensures they are safe and working efficiently.

Summary

Finally, reach out to your local utility company and request a home energy assessment. Their assessment might provide additional winter maintenance tips for homeowners that will help save more energy and money! For more homeowning tips and other real estate news, keep reading our blogs.