Is Now the Time to Pursue a Career in Real Estate?

With unemployment still a concern for more than 12 million people throughout the country, many are considering focusing on a whole new career path. Given the fact that the housing market is starting to rebound, many are considering pursuing a career in real estate.

Whether you are interested in flipping houses, buying rental property or becoming a real estate agent, a career in real estate is quite tempting. After all, housing prices are still relatively low, most landlords are turning away potential renters and housing sales are starting to increase. Still, is now the right time to get involved in real estate?

If you have the money available, most experts will agree that now is a good time to get involved in real estate investment, whether you plan to flip or to rent. Still, it is essential to remember that there are always risks involved with purchasing real estate. Therefore, it is essential to find a trusted agent to help guide you through the process.

Whether or not now is the time to become a real estate agent is a question that is up for debate. While it is true that the housing market is on a rebound in most areas, selling real estate is still harder now than it was just a few short years ago. Prior to the housing crash, homes practically sold themselves in many markets. Today, far more effort needs to be put into getting a home sold. This means the successful real estate agent must have strong business and communication skills.

“If you hope to work as a real estate agent, you need to have a good understanding of the human psyche. In this way, you will be better capable of addressing the needs of both the buyer and the seller as you negotiate a deal. You also need to have a solid understanding of the many different financing options that are available as well as the options for purchasing foreclosures and short sales.”, says Realtor Kevin Koitz.

In short, the real estate field is relatively easy to get into. By taking a short course and passing the necessary exams, you will be able to obtain the necessary licensing to enter the field. Whether or not it is a field that is well-suited to your abilities, however, is a question that only you can answer.

Fire Safety Tips for Your Boston Home

When at home all kinds of accidents can happen, especially fire accidents and being prepared to counter such accidents will ensure you can save your life and your property.

Fire is the most destructive force that can cause irreparable damage when it occurs. There are certain mechanisms that can be put in place to ensure that when fire strikes you do not suffer total loss and you can be able to manage in the shortest time possible.

Below are some tips that will help you stay alive in case of a fire outbreak and help you save your property.

Install smoke alarms, at times before a fire breaks out smoke comes out first and being able to detect it will help you put it off or call for help. The smoke alarm should be installed away from the air vents.

Have an escape plan: this means you find a place or an extra door in your house where you can use as an emergency exit. Have a two way doorway in your house so that if one is blocked you can use the other one. Your escape plan should be known to your members to avoid confusion. Another tip which is useful is to ensure that your window bars and glass are breakable or can be removed.

Get a fire extinguisher gas canister and always keep it full and ready for any eventuality. Make sure people in your family know how to use it.

Always have a designated place to smoke and never smoke in bed because you might fall asleep and light up the whole house. On your electrical appliances make sure they are not overloaded and do not leave naked wires lying around. Cooking appliances should be kept away from clothes or any other material that can catch fire. And if by accident there are is fires make sure you remain calm and avoid panic. The minute you panic then you risk injuring yourself and others.

When moving to the nearest exit you should lie low under the smoke to avoid chocking and immediately call for help. Candles have been the major cause of fire in many households, when using a candle makes sure you put it far away from materials that can catch fire and put them off as soon as you are done using them. Make sure you put the candle in a stable holder and in an open space away from fabric and other combustible materials.

Caring out of periodic inspection by the fire department will help you spot any fire hazards. The department of fire will come and look at your house and if they find a defect that may cause fire they will help you fix it. It would be very helpful if you can insure your house from fire and if by accident you lose your belonging from fire you can have them replaced. Another thing you should also consider is putting the automatic sprinkler and when they detect smoke or a rise in temperature they automatically sprinkle water. Putting a fire alarm is also beneficial if you have a big house because you will be able to warm the rest of your family members quickly.

Follow these simple tips and you might save your life and belongings.

Ten Inexpensive Home Upgrades

Today’s consumer is smart and savvy, thrifty and well-educated and knows that when it comes time to sell their home, there is no need to spend major bucks on upgrades.

The top ten inexpensive upgrades that are essential when it comes time to make those mini changes prior to listing a home are really quite simple and the most obvious to prospective buyers.

1. Make that kitchen sizzle. Add a new faucet, snazzy cabinet door handles, fun and fresh light fixtures that use energy efficient bulbs, resurface cabinet doors and countertops if need be, add contrasting paint colors to walls, hang food-themed vintage pictures or unique culinary wall art on a blank wall.

2. Upgrade old appliances. Not only is this pleasing to a potential buyer and an expense they won’t have to deal with in the future, upgrading to Energy Star energy efficient appliances means a lower electric bill and that you, the seller are into being ‘green’.

3. Spruce up the bath. By adding a fresh coat of paint, a nostalgic pedestal sink and faucet, new seat for the commode, and new shower curtain can make all the difference. Replace chipped ceramic tiles in the shower and if necessary a complete prefabricated and professionally installed shower can be less expensive than re-tiling and entire tub and shower combo.

4. Don’t forget the flooring. Be sure to check out the floor in which one walks upon. Whether it be ceramic tile, hardwood or laminate flooring, or carpeting it is imperative that the floor is cleaned by the homeowner or by a professional when it comes to carpeting prior to listing. It’s not necessary to replace the entire flooring unless it is hideous and recommended by your real estate professional.

5. Clean it up. Nothing can be worse than a realtor showing a property that has dirty clothes lying on the floor, a filthy bathroom and kitchen with dishes piled in the sink. Make your home sparkle and display it as though it were a model home.

6. Turn it up. Lighting creates a mood and adds ambiance. In addition having fixtures that accentuate this can create an essence of drama especially if wanting to emphasize a particular area in a room or if wanting to draw the eye using light to a sculpture or piece of art.

7. Space. Do you have enough? Closet space is essential and often there is not enough room to store items. By adding shelving to existing closets and pantry’s makes spaces more functional and appears to the potential buyer as though it were customized.

8. Call the plumber. Call the electrician. Leaky faucets? Tripped outlets? These items need to be addressed as well and can be checked for a minimal fee.

9. Check the front door. Does it need to be spiffed up a bit with a coat of paint, stain, or varnish? Does the trim need a coat as well? Or worse, are there dents in the frame, the door itself that indicate a need for replacement? If so, now’s the time to do so. Adding large planters with inviting and colorful plants on either side of the door are pleasing to a buyer and are part of the curb appeal.

10. You only get one chance. To make that first impression, that is. Curb appeal is what attracts potential buyers to your property. By having a nicely manicured lawn, with a few tailored shrubs and plants can really impact a person’s perception of a property and of the community that surrounds.

Tips on Making Your Move Stress Free

Absolutely nothing can be more stressful than moving from one home to another. A high rate of emotions are involved when it comes to moving, which starts from the reality of the sale of a home filled with fond memories to the packing of items that held a special place inside. As tempting as it may be to hire a professional mover, moving can be a most expensive venture and one that truly is not as necessary as it may seem. Moving interstate can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $4,500 with in-state moves costing almost the same, between $2,500 to $3,500. There are choices, and it’s imperative to choose which moving option is best for you and your family. If moving in-state, going it alone is the least expensive alternative with up front charges such as the price of the truck, fuel charges, and packing materials. Full-service movers charge by the hour, whether moving in state or out of state. In addition full-service movers charge weight and mileage when traveling across different states.

If it’s necessary to hire a professional mover, do your homework. Get at least three different quotes from separate moving companies, and research the companies that you choose making sure they have an excellent reputation, and provide you, the client a written estimate which is gold.

When packing to move, be sure to declutter and discard items that have not been used in more than two years. It is wise to take those items to a donation center, or to sell or recycle the items if possible. Items that you choose to bring with you to your new home, in order to save money pack them in suitcases, laundry baskets, plastic containers, and drawers. Items that are breakable should be wrapped in pillow cases, towels and sheets to protect them from possible breakage or damage. Be sure to get the proper supplies in the event that the listed items are not available or you run out. Bubble wrap, boxes, packing tape, plastic sheets, and felt tip pens are a must when moving items yourself.

If moving out of state, ask the movers if it is possible to consolidate, meaning if you can move your belongings with other people’s belongings that are moving in the direction that you are going. Most homeowners can’t fill an entire moving van so your belongings will be welcome and it’s possible that the cost will be slightly less if sharing the expense of a moving van.

A wise thing to do is to make sure your belongings are insured prior to the move. Review your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if your policy provides insurance coverage while your personal items are in transit. Be sure that you are covered for full-replacement value insurance which reimburses the policy holder the cost of what it would be to replace the item if broken and needs to be replaced. Keep in mind that full-replacement cost is only applicable if one hires a professional moving company as opposed to packing personal items themselves.

In short, yes moving is one of the most aggravating and stressful moments in one’s life. The real key to a successful and stress-free move is to be organized, know your options, and to view moving as a project and one that is a temporary situation that will take you from one stage of your life to the next.

Real Estate Goal Setting

Create and Achieve Your Real Estate Goals!

A new year presents an ideal opportunity for reflection and goal setting. The purchase or sale of a new home may also be your goal this year. Maybe your goal includes an improvement to your health routine. Whether the goal is large or small, creating it can create change in your life. Any change can be challenging, but a new year provides an impetus to create a fresh start.

Maybe your goal setting revolves around real estate, launching a home-based business or finishing a home remodeling project. Regardless, a few simple steps can guide you to making it a reality and bring you closer to realizing your dream. Achieving success at each of the steps requires that you acknowledge each step and take pride in your progress, as well. Enlist someone to act as your Goal Partner and keep them involved as you work through each of the steps.

Step 1: Set Your Goal

Write down the details of your dream. The goal that you’d love to achieve but feel is beyond your reach. Use a pen and paper and find a peaceful place where you can brainstorm freely. From these notes, create your list and start to jot down an action plan. Put your list away for three to seven days and then re-evaluate what you’ve written. Share your goal with your Goal Partner.

Step 2: Discover Any Potential Stumbling Blocks & What You Need To Succeed

Listing the potential problems and issues that may interfere with the completion of your goals can help diminish them. Their significance will lessen as you quantify them.

List the key products, people, educational steps, and processes that can help you reach your goals. Having a tangible list brings your knowledge base much closer. You can even include contact information or specific statistics that may benefit you in reaching your goal.

Step 3: Set Mini-Steps In Writing & Define An End Date

Break each goal into a series of small goals that will direct you to your dream goal. Set an end date for each goal to be achieved. Make it far enough away to give time for it to be possible, but close enough to make it relevant. Write the date next to each goal on your final list, culminating with your dream goal and subsequent date.

Step 4: Review Your Goal Often and Update Your Goal Partner Regularly

Add reminders to your email account or calendaring program. Determine how often you need to be held accountable (weekly, monthly, quarterly) and check in with your Goal Partner on a regular basis.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Success

Celebrate your small success and your large ones, together!

About the author: Real Estate Journalist Jennifer M. Miller writes on housing, home organization, and finances. 

5 Home Hazards to Watch Out for This Holiday Season

The twinkle of holiday lights is something that brings much joy to both children and adults alike. At the same time, while these lights and other decorations are beautiful and are the source of a great deal of excitement, they can also be a source of danger if they are not installed and maintained properly. To ensure that your holiday season is bright, but does not endanger you or the ones you love, be sure to keep these 5 tips in mind.

Tip #1: Inspect Lights Thoroughly

Before you hang your lights, make certain they are not frayed, cracked or damaged in any way. Also, inspect the sockets to ensure they are not broken. If you find anything wrong with the cord or socket, discard the lights and purchase new ones, as damaged holiday lights pose a significant fire risk. Similarly, burned out bulbs should be replaced in order to prevent overheating the entire string.

Tip #2: Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions

Following the manufacturer’s instructions is an important step toward preventing accidental fire. In general, you should not string more than three strands of lights together, but some lights may not even be able to handle this load. So, be sure to read the instructions in order to ensure you do not overload the lights. Similarly, if the lights say they are for indoor use only, do not use them outside because they will not be able to withstand the outdoor elements. Furthermore, outdoor lights should not be used inside, as they are too hot for interior use.

Tip #3: Use Care When Hanging Lights

If you are hanging lights somewhere that requires the use of a ladder, make certain the one you have selected is appropriate for the job. Furthermore, never use nails or staples when hanging lights, as these can puncture the wire and create a fire risk. Rather, use plastic hangers or insulated tape for the job.

Tip #4: Use Your Lights with Care

In order to prevent accidental fire, you should turn your lights off whenever you go to sleep or leave your home. In addition, if you have lights placed on a real Christmas tree, make sure you keep the tree well-watered, as dry trees are more likely to catch on fire than fake trees or real trees that are well-maintained.

Tip #5: Store Your Lights Safely

To avoid damage from weather and curious animals, lights should not be left up for more than 90 days. After you take them down, coil each one around a piece of cardboard and wrap it in fabric or paper and place it in a sturdy container in order to keep the bulbs protected.

Green Building Material Claims Not as Misleading as Other Consumer Products

According to an Ottawa marketing firm, 95% of goods are inaccurately marketed as “green” products. Many companies are making false claims about their products or misleading consumers.

According to a recent article in USA Today, the number of products marketed as “green” has increased by 73% in the last year. When in it comes down to it though, the biggest problem is that most companies are making claims without proof. According to the TerraChoice report, vague marketing claims are the second biggest problem.

The Federal Trade Commission recently proposed updating its guidelines for green advertising. The last time the guidelines were revised, marketers were warned to steer clear of broad claims like saying a product is “eco-friendly.” The FTC also advised against citing unqualified and unproven certifications.

Consumers should note, however, that green building materials and office goods were found to make fewer misleading claims, particularly when compared to baby and toy products. One of the reasons for this is that green building material producers have more experience navigating the waters of the green marketplace.

Green building material specifications:

Green building materials are made of renewable resources instead of non-renewable resources. Taking the environmental impact and expected life of the product into consideration, green materials are those that meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Resource efficient – this refers to products that are recycled, naturally renewable, locally sourced, refurbished, reusable, and/or durable.
  • Indoor air quality – products in this category are non-toxic, moisture resistant, and/or emit low VOCs (volatile organic compounds), or require low VOCs to maintain.
  • Energy efficient – these products help reduce energy consumption.
  • Water conserving – these products limit water consumption inside buildings and landscaped areas.
  • Affordable – these products are considered green when prices are considered in terms of life-cycle cost of the building material.

Other Findings:

The TerraChoice report also found that some manufacturers are cleaning up their green act, making more truthful claims about their products. While the numbers are small at only 4.5%, the upward trend is a promising sign of things to come.

Interestingly, big box chains were more likely to offer products that made accurate green claims than small boutique shops. Experts believe this could be a result of big box stores having more influence over their suppliers.

While consumers should still be critical of green claims made by some manufacturers, they can be more confident in purchasing green building materials and supplies than in dealing with other product categories.

Out of Work, Not out of Home

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a new loan program available throughout 32 states and Puerto Rico. Unemployed residents of select states are getting what HUD deems “bridge loans” for residents who may be out of work and have temporarily fallen behind on their mortgage payments. The loans are part of a $1 billion initiative from HUD and will offer loans up to $50,000.

Borrowers need to be at least 3 months behind on their mortgages to qualify for these loans and states previously ineligible for federal aid, such as Wisconsin, may now benefit. Borrowers most likely to receive this benefit are most oftentimes those in a position to resume their regular payments within 2 years.

States across the country will hopefully benefit. With fewer foreclosures on the market more homeowners will likely be able to remain in their homes, putting less stress on the banks due to foreclosures.

Homeowners with a second home will not qualify, and homeowners must demonstrate a minimum 15% decline in their income before their mortgage payments faltered.

“In crafting this new loan program, HUD built on the lessons learned from Treasury’s Hardest Hit initiative to design and implement a program to assist struggling unemployed homeowners avoid preventable foreclosures. Together these two initiatives represent a combined $8.6 billion investment to help struggling borrowers and, in doing so, further contribute to the Obama Administration’s efforts to stabilize housing markets and communities across the country,” says HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride.

Efforts, both local and federal have been made consistently throughout the foreclosure crisis to assist homeowners who may have lost their jobs and are in danger of losing their home. States’ crisis levels vary and federal programs have answered the calls through both this program and initiatives prior.

Applications will be accepted through the end of the year and not all loans necessarily have to be repaid, a numbered amount of recipients may be eligible for this program and acceptance of the funds would essentially become a gift.

“No payment is due on the note during the 5 year term so long as the assisted household maintains the property as principal residence and remains current in his or her monthly payments on the first mortgage loan. If the homeowner meets these two conditions, the balance due shall decline by twenty percent (20%) annually, until the note is extinguished and the junior loan is terminated.”

For homeowners across the nation that fit the bill this provision from HUD may be a saving grace and a way to stay in their home.

The real estate market will benefit as well, with less foreclosure homes on the market housing prices and mortgages rates will become steadier for buyers and sellers alike. If you think you are eligible for this program contact a local realtor or check out www.hud.gov.

Battle Brewing Over Developer Transfer Fees

Developers and builders are joining forces in the face of a new Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) proposal. The plan that could affect sales in many of the nation’s master planned communities could pit real estate agents and home builders against each other. The battle will be fought mostly in Washington, as lobbyists on both sides of the issue prepare for a fight.

So what’s in this plan that has everyone so worked up? The regulation would mean that Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and the Federal Home Loan Banks would no longer be allowed to buy mortgages on residences located in communities that require private transfer fees. The fees are paid at the time a home is sold. Usually amounting to less than one percent of the sale price, the money collected sometimes goes to homeowner associations and other community groups.

However, in some cases, the fees are nothing more than a way to generate more money for developers on a perpetual basis. The spirit of the proposal on the table seems to be attempting to protect government sponsored entities, such as the previously mentioned lenders, from this practice. The problem is in the semantics. In its current form, the proposal doesn’t distinguish between fees used to generate income and fees that go to support homeowner associations and common infrastructure. That means some master planned communities could potentially see a hit in overall sales.

Experts worry that without the aid of government lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the housing market will suffer a great deal. As it stands now, those two lenders along with the FHA account for approximately 90% of the market when it comes to secondary mortgages. From there it’s a domino effect. If these institutions don’t invest in mortgages of the homes with private transfer fees, primary lenders will balk when it’s time to underwrite those mortgages. That will make homes unmarketable and further take a chunk out of housing values.

There are arguments both for and against the proposed regulations. In the one corner you have arguments that private transfer fees do nothing more than inflate the cost of homeownership for consumers. In the other corner you have arguments that the fees actually help consumers by making housing more affordable, providing funding for amenities and maintenance that would benefit the community.

One of the main arguments behind the new regulation is that private transfer fees artificially raise the cost of homeownership. However, opponents of the regulations say the opposite is true. Private transfer fees help fund things such as environmental mitigation, affordable housing, infrastructure, and community amenities, maintenance, and services that otherwise would have to come directly out of homeowners’ pockets, keeping the cost of living in these communities down while maintaining the desirability of living in such communities.

Time will tell what comes of the FHFA proposal. In the meantime, interested parties can send their opinions to regcomments@fhfa.gov using the subject line, “Guidance on Private Transfer Fee Covenants (2010-N-11).”

Exploring Latest US Real Estate Trends

While no one can say for certain how the future of the real estate market will pan out, there are several trends and indicators that give us a good idea of how the rest of 2010 and 2011 will play out around the United States. Here’s a look at some of real estate trends the market has seen and how they will likely affect us over the next several months or even years.

Trend #1: Remaining a Buyer’s Market
Although the housing market has shown signs of improvement, it is likely to remain a buyer’s market for some time now. In other words, the low prices and large inventory we have seen over the past year or so is likely to continue through at least the rest of the year.

Trend #2: More Foreclosures to Hit the Market
Although home values have been starting to stabilize in some areas, this doesn’t mean foreclosures have come to an end. While the rate of homes being foreclosed upon should continue to slow, we are still likely to see more foreclosures than the norm over the next several months.

Trend #3: Stabilizing Home Values
Home values have already started to show some signs of stabilization in certain markets throughout the country and, fortunately, we are likely to see more stabilization over the next several months. Of course, many markets will still continue to struggle during this same time frame.

Trend #4: Increased Mortgage Rates
While mortgage rates have still remained at the lowest rate they have been in 50 years, this trend is not likely to continue. As the market continues to stabilize, interest rates are likely to go up in the near future. Nonetheless, it looks like those who are interested in purchasing a home should still enjoy low mortgage rates for at least a few more months.

Trend #5: Lending Standards Remain Tight
Although lending standards have loosened up a bit, they are likely to remain tight for quite some time. While it will be easier to purchase a home than it was just a year ago, you should still expect to be asked to show plenty of documentation and to have excellent credit if you hope to purchase a home in 2010.