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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Six tips to ensure a smooth house closing

Real estate closings can be fraught with complications and setbacks, but they can go smoothly and quickly — if planned for carefully.
You may think that an “all cash” deal would go through closing faster than a sale that involves a mortgage — but that is not always the case. Unresolved title issues, such as an unknown mechanics lien from a former building contractor or boundary or unsettled disputes from the past can show up.

Also, serious structural problems with the property may be revealed in an inspection report, and they can cause weeks or even months of delay. The buyer’s cash to close might not arrive to the closing agent in time, or the wrong amount may be received. In order to prevent these potential problems — and others — there are several things you can do.

One common issue that often delays a closing is repair disputes. If you are the seller, it’s a good idea to have a general building inspection before you list your house for sale. You may find problems that you were previously unaware existed, and you can then either correct them, or consider selling your property in an “as is” condition.

Keep in mind, however, that you may be required by law to disclose any “known” structural defects to the new buyer. You may not necessarily have to repair the problem, but you would need to be sure that you make an exclusion for that needed repair in your agreement with the buyer. Prior to closing, be sure that the property is in the condition promised — all required repairs completed and the house and yard cleared of any personal items, including old cars, tools, trash.

Ask a real estate agent, local title company or closing agent to perform a “preliminary title report” for your review — especially if you suspect there is or might be a possibility of a prior lien, estate or divorce problem that could affect your title to the property. If you review this report early on — even before you offer your house for sale — and clear up any existing issues, you will avert a possibly long delay due to title defects.

If you are a buyer who will be getting a mortgage to finance the property, there are several things you can do to speed up the loan process and be sure the deal closes on time:

  • Get conditional approval before making the offer. Getting pre-approved for a loan will help you determine how much you can afford and give you a realistic expectation of the price range for your new house. Buyers who have been pre-approved by a lender are generally those who are able to finalize their loan application faster and more efficiently than ones who have not been pre-qualified.
  • Have your documents together. Assemble your bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns and other documents as soon as possible — even before you begin looking for a house to buy. Often, getting these documents together takes time and the better you prepare, the faster your loan will be approved — and processed. If you are unsure of which documents you need, ask your local bank for a “mortgage loan checklist.” Most lenders post these checklists online, and they will readily give you a guideline regarding what you will need to provide.
  • Work with an experienced mortgage lender. Whether you use a mortgage broker, or work directly with a lender, ask what the average time is for processing a loan application and, specifically, how quickly they will be able to complete your mortgage. Try to anticipate potential setbacks, like any credit or employment-related problems you know exist and ask what you need to do to clear those up.
  • Make sure that you have the money for closing costs. The lender will require proof that you have sufficient funds for the down payment and closings costs prior to closing. Be sure those funds are readily available, and be prepared to wire or present a cashier’s check on the day before closing.
  • Create a timeline for any repairs the seller is obligated to make. Make sure any repairs the seller has agreed to make are completed on time — ideally, at least several days before your scheduled closing. Do the final walk-through inspection the day before closing, or sooner, if the seller agrees.
  • Contact your lender on the day before and on the day of closing. Lenders notoriously ask for information at the last minute — a copy of a canceled check, proof of insurance, or a recent bank statement. A day or two before closing, contact your lender and ask if everything will be ready for the closing date. On the day of closing, verify with your closing agent that the loan documents have been received. If not, ask what is causing the delay and if there is anything you can do to help speed things up. Often, it is a case of just one missing document or one final verification.

Once the repairs have been made, the title issues resolved, the loan approved, and all the documents prepared for signature, both the buyer and seller can further assure the closing goes smoothly by reviewing all of the documents at least 24 hours before all the concerned parties meet. (If you close after Aug. 1, you will be able to review documents three days before settlement.) This is your chance to ask any final questions you may have or point out any errors you notice.

Stay in control of your closing, and try to be as involved in the process as possible.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Local SEO tips for real estate professionals

Search engine optimization is complicated and tedious. The last thing you want to hear is that you need to do more of it.
But the fact is, local search is vital to your success as a real estate agent. According to the National Association of Realtor’s recent Digital House Hunt study, “69 percent of home shoppers who take action on a real estate brand website begin their research with a local term, i.e. ‘Houston homes for sale,’ on a search engine.”

In other words, around seven out of 10 buyer leads that come from your website started with local search. Let’s assume all real estate websites in your target area generated 1,000 leads last month. Of these 1,000 leads, 690 came from local searches. This breakdown from Search Engine Watch illustrates how a company’s search ranking affects traffic: If your company ends up in the very first spot in someone’s search results, you end up with 33 percent of the web traffic. The company beneath you gets around 18 percent of the traffic. The people in position no. 3 get 11 percent, and those who rank fourth tend to get 8 percent.

Based on our hypothetical scenario of 1,000 leads, if you don’t rank in the top four positions, you potentially miss out on 483 local-search leads — nearly half of all potential website leads in your area.

Do I have your attention now?

One particularly confusing local SEO concept is figuring out the end results of all your efforts. Here are the three main places businesses show up in local search results:

  1. Local Pack or Local Carousel. The local pack is the section of business listings that appear above the typical, organic listings. These sections usually contain seven business listings that include a business’ name, address and phone number, with additional information available when hovered over. Here’s how to appear in the local pack:
    • Own your Google My Business page.
    • Optimize your Google My Business page.
    • Build a location landing page on your website (more on this below)
  2. Organic Search Results. This is likely what you think of when you visualize Google search results. The first page of searches reveals ten results and they often show up as website links, images, news sources, videos, social media posts, and social media profiles. If you want to show up in the local organic results:
    • Optimize your website for specific local search keywords.
    • Own a host of fresh, high-quality, and locally optimized content such as blogs, local resource pages, and MLS listings.
    • If your business has multiple locations, create the proper website structure that reflects all target locations.
  3. Google Maps Results. Many local searchers skip traditional search and go straight to Google Maps for information such as driving directions, reviews, business hours, and even coupons or specials. If you want to show up in Google Maps results:
    • Have a Google My Business page.
    • Accept walk-in customers, and post your business hours on Google My Business.
These recommendations represent the bare minimum you need to do to get Google’s attention for ranking. If you’re in a competitive market, I recommend you go above and beyond with your websites, social media, and Internet directory listings.

Google My Business Page Optimization

When I ask people about their Google Plus presence, I typically get a response similar to, “Isn’t that dead, like MySpace?” or “Nobody is on there, right?”

Well here’s a news flash for Google Plus haters: In 2014, Google merged Google Places and Google Plus into its new Google My Business platform. This means if you want to show up in Google’s local pack search results, you must have a Google Plus page. It’s no longer an advantage; it’s required.

The information Google pulls from its users’ social interactions proves incredibly valuable to its algorithm’s accuracy. Google sees its duty as serving up the most accurate and valuable content on the web. The more social signals it has, the better it does its job. Google wants your information in the form of your My Business page, and in exchange you can receive reviews, share content, and give your customers the ability to interact with you.

So what’s our key takeaway? Make sure you set up your My Business page completely and, more important, start using it. And this does mean use it just like you would Facebook or Twitter — post to it, comment on other people’s content, and make connections.

The Role of Social Media in Local SEO

Each time you +1 a webpage, like a Facebook post, or retweet a link, you essentially offer up your vote of confidence for this piece of content. The more “votes” the content gets, the more popular it appears to be. The more popular it appears, the higher the likelihood of other people finding it valuable as well.

Since search engines look to provide top-notch content, it’s safe to assume creating popular content greatly benefits you and your business. Moreover, what better way is there to determine popularity than with each of those little votes of confidence? I won’t tell you Google simply ranks your blog posts higher because you’ve earned 50 Facebook likes while your competitor amasses just 10; there is a whole lot more to it than that. But I will tell you Google strongly considers a difference in likes to be a contributing factor.

So how do you get social savvy? Engaging in social media, posting more on social channels, and building a larger following certainly helps. But the days of gaming search engines with keyword-stuffed domain names, bloated descriptions, and fluffed-up blog posts ended years ago. Today, Google simply desires valuable content. This means people actually need to like what you create if you want lasting SEO success. So next time you sit down to write a blog post, make sure it solves a real need for your audience.

Landing Page Optimization

Google doesn’t know the location of your target audience, nor does it know your website focuses on a specific city (or set of cities). You need to tell Google manually by setting up a location landing page and optimizing the rest of your site with local keywords and metadata.

A location landing page is a specific page on your website that you optimize with local information. This tells Google where you intend to focus your local search efforts. This page should show your business information (business name, address, and phone number), as well as a map with driving directions. These features help tell Google a real business owns your website. For much more in-depth tips on proper setup, watch this landing page tutorial.

If you are a single-location operation, you can simply use your home page as a location landing page by optimizing it as mentioned above, then linking it to your Google My Business page. But it gets tricky if you own offices in multiple cities. If this is the case, it’s important you have a separate location landing page for each office or branch as shown in the image below. Optimize each landing page as mentioned above, and each should also have a separate Google My Business profile. When setting up multiple locations for your business, use the My Business Locations manager to keep everything tidy.


Yellow Pages, Yelp, Foursquare, Superpages, and other directories are all popular search destinations. In order to have maximum exposure, you should claim listings on as many of these sites as possible. In local search language, these directory listings are called “citations.”

Of course, getting found on Yelp isn’t the only reason to have a Yelp listing; Google understands the importance of these websites as well. Having many citations around the web gives Google more information about your business, including the opportunity for more reviews — Google loves real-time customer feedback.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

9 Tips For Building A Profitable Real Estate Team

Everybody has an opinion on real estate teams. Some agents are for them because they view it as an opportunity to delegate tasks they don’t enjoy doing while simultaneously putting more money in the bank by having more labor available to help them grow the business. Others have a different opinion — they tend to be “anti-team” because they enjoy the independence that comes with being a real-estate agent and don’t look forward to having to manage other people.
That being said, there’s a lot of pressure in real estate to form teams — most franchises and many brokers will push you to build a team because it ultimately increases their profit, and odds are you’re being sold on a myriad array of benefits that having a team can provide for you. Building a team isn’t for everybody, but if you get into it with realistic expectations and good planning beforehand, it can help you to build profitability and grow your real estate business.

When it comes to teams, Julie and I believe that small is better, and profit is best. The goal of having a real estate team isn’t power, awards or industry accolades. At the end of the day, the sole benefit of having a team should be money in your bank account. With that in mind, we recently presented the points below on our “Real Estate Coaching Radio” program to help you build a team in the most profitable way possible.

Building A Profitable Real Estate Team

  1. Always lead with revenue. Build after you have profit and after you have savings — not the other way around. For a long time, the belief was that you build the team, and the transactions will magically follow. That’s proven to be bad advice because when you’re adding overhead before revenue it leads to trouble. Follow the 30/30/30/10 rule: 30 percent to taxes, 30 percent to overhead, 30 percent to savings, 10 percent slush fund, that’s your walking-around money.
  2. Always pay yourself first. Peel off 10, 20 and, ideally, 30 percent of your top line revenue, and put into your savings account. This money is the net commission that you receive from every transaction. Take a minimum of 10 percent off the top, and put it in savings (and leave it in your savings). Remember, the point of a real estate team is to make more money for the owner — to increase your net worth. That’s why you take on the risks and liability. We also highly recommend reinvesting the money that you’re saving because naturally that lets your money work for you, which further helps build your net worth.
  3. Master the basics. Master the core skills of your business before you can delegate that task to someone else. In other words, before you go out and hire a buyer’s agent, make sure that you’ve mastered everything that goes into that skill set, such as using a buyer presentation or buyer agency agreements, before you bring somebody on board to do it for you. The same goes for prospecting — if you’ve never done it, then what makes you think you can delegate it and get consistent results. You might get lucky, but usually not.
  4. Delegate, don’t abdicate. You can’t just hire people to take over your responsibilities, walk away from them and expect that you’ll continue to get results. You need to stay involved with the business and oversee the work being done in your business so you can stay on top of what’s making you money. If you think that building a team will save you time, then realize that you’ll likely be reallocating that saved time into other areas.
  5. Trust but verify. This point is related to delegation: if you’ve hired good, quality people then trust them, but once again, stay involved with what’s going on in your business to verify that everything is being done. One of the best ways to check that things are being handled properly is by the numbers because numbers don’t lie. If you’ve given leads to your team, then find out what happened on those calls; don’t just take it on faith that they were all handled for you.
  6. Have you reached and been able to maintain your “real estate magic number” for at least 60 days? The magic number is the number of listings that you need to have at all times to achieve your financial goals and keep your business afloat. Meeting and maintaining the number of listings required for your magic number is about proving to yourself that you have the stability in your business to be able to add more staff, such as a buyer’s agent.
  7. Have your systems in place. Before you start hiring people, systematize business to ensure that you can generate, prequalify, convert and close business. You want to have a system that you can train your team in using and one that they can use without having to stop and ask questions every five minutes about the how and why for every procedure. Now often what happens is the reverse: an agent starts building a team, and they try to systematize everything as they go along. That’s just an invitation for trouble, though, so get the following items together beforehand, and save yourself the headache.
    • Lead generation system
    • Prequalification system (The last thing you delegate.)
    • Listing system including PLP and Complete Home Seller’s Guide
    • Client care system (someone to take care of sellers while listed)
    • Closing system
    • You need to have staff agreements/ contracts completed. Non-Solicitation, expectations, how they win and lose, etc.
    • Staffing system. How will you recruit, hire and train?
  8. Have your sub-systems in place. This point is similar to our previous point. Have your signs, voice mail, website, business cards in place. We call these “moments of truth” — a term that we learned from Howard Brinton. In essence, it means that anytime someone comes in contact with your business, they should have a professional, consistent experience. Always remember that first impressions are powerful, and you want to put your best foot forward with tools that represent you in a consistent, professional manner. Your team will need and use these tools as well, so make sure they’re in place beforehand.
  9. Learn from others. Real estate is not a new industry, which means that you have a wealth of information available to help you learn from successful entrepreneurs who have come before you and built successful real estate teams and profitable businesses. Some of the books on the list below are real estate specific, and others are business-related. Remember, your real estate business is a business, so developing your business knowledge helps you in a multitude of ways.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

5 tips to sell your house fast

How can sellers and buyers get a jump on the competition and sell the properties fast? Learn from Real estate expert Cindy Welu with RE/MAX Advantage Plus joined KARE 11 News @ 4 with her tips.
Here are 5 tips for sellers:

Before the season gets into full swing, you want to make sure you have these few things checked off your list. They'll not only help you attract the best buyers, but they'll also likely help you get your full asking price.

1. Get organized

Packing months before you plan to move may sound crazy, but it's smart to start getting organized now. There are two big benefits of getting organized early - first, it's much easier to make your home look more spacious when items are neatly boxed up. Second, it helps you find a place for items that can clutter the appearance of your home, like framed family photos, stacks of magazines or children's books. Sort through closets, attics and basements to decide what you'd like to keep and what to get rid of.

2. Get an inspection

Problems with a home, whether it is a small leak in the plumbing or old electrical wiring, can make or break a sale. It's smart to get a pre-listing home inspection. It gives you time to fix any problems that come up and avoid any surprises during the sale of your home.

3. Make minor improvements

While you may not have time to take on a major renovation project, small repairs and improvements, like fresh paint, new light fixtures or putting fresh grout in your bathroom shower, can really help boost the appearance of your home. You want everything to look fresh and neat. You'll be surprised how getting a few projects done can really improve the look of your home to prospective buyers.

4. Find a real estate agent

Picking the right agent can determine how quickly your home sells and the price you will get for it. Do they know your community? Do they use social media and other marketing tools? And buyers -- finding a good agent can help you get a leg up on your competition too, especially if he or she is an expert in the area where you're looking to buy. Plus, your agent can scope out each new possibility in your price range as soon as or possibly even before it goes on the market!

5. Get pre-approved

Knowing how much you can afford and being pre-approved for a specific loan amount allows you to make an immediate offer when you find a good home, condo, or townhome. Not only does this allow you to possibly beat out other potential buyers, it also shows the homeowner that you're serious about your offer.

Monday, March 16, 2015

House for sale in Indonesia -- with free wife

An advert for a house in Indonesia has gone viral online after the woman selling it offered to throw in an unusual extra feature for free -- her hand in marriage.
The Internet ad reads for the most part like a regular house listing, saying that the single-storey property has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a parking space and a fish pond.

But it also proposes to buyers a "rare offer" -- "when you buy this house, you can ask the owner to marry you", alongside a picture of Wina Lia, a 40-year-old widow and beauty salon owner, leaning against a car in front of the house.

The ad said that terms and conditions apply, and notes the offer is "for serious buyers and non-negotiable". The house in Sleman, on the island of Java, is on the market for 999 million rupiah (about $75,000).

News of the offer quickly spread among Internet users in social media-crazy Indonesia.

Boldies99, a user on popular online forum Kaskus, said Lia was "quite smart -- even though the house will be sold, she will remain the owner."

Lia told AFP she was "shocked at the reaction", as she had been overwhelmed by journalists coming to interview her, and even the police in the conservative, Muslim-majority country had been asking questions.

The police "came to verify the news as they consider it as an improper advertisement. But I explained to them that it was not my idea," she said.

The mother of two explained that she had asked a friend who was a property agent to help her find a buyer -- and in the process a husband -- but she had expected him to pass on the news to a limited number of people, not put an ad online.

"I told a friend of mine who also works as property agent that if there is a buyer who is a single man or a widower who wants to buy a house, and at the same time look for a wife, he can let me know as I'm also a widow," she said.

She added that there was only one potential buyer, who had visited on Wednesday, but refused to give further details.
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