Archive for January, 2007

Tips for Selecting a Real Estate Professional

By Mike Gambino
Prudential Prudential Patterson Realtors

Technology has changed the way consumers do business. The real estate industry is no exception. In fact, 77 percent of homebuyers use the Internet during their property search. (The 2005 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers) However, most agree that when it comes to buying or selling a home, a transaction of this magnitude requires the guidance of a professional. In the same study, 90 percent of buyers and 87 percent of sellers use a real estate professional during the process.

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll want to interview two or three real estate professionals. To locate a pool of potential candidates:

* Ask family, friends, and business associates for referrals.
* Attend open houses. If the sales professional or broker impresses you, ask for a business card.
* Drive through neighborhoods that interest you and look for yard signs to see what company handles most of the sales.
* When referred to a company rather than an individual, call and ask to speak with the “sales professional on duty.”
* Search local newspapers and real estate publications.
* Call the local Prudential Real Estate Network member office for a referral to an office in another town.

Now you’re ready for the interview. Whether you’re buying or selling, the sales professional should explain the entire process up front. Sellers can use the “listing presentation” to compare sales professionals on their preparation and professionalism. Ask questions that will display the sales professional’s experience, knowledge and motivation to help you. Questions such as:

* Do you work full time or part time?
* How long have you been selling homes in this area?
* Are you familiar with the areas I’m considering?
* What type of homes do you usually handle?
* What percentage of your business comes from referrals and repeat clients?
* How many sales have you closed?
* How many homes did you sell last year?
* What percentage of your listings sold during the listing period?
* Did they sell close to the asking price?
* On average, how many days does a home stay on the market?
* Will you guide me as I prepare the house to be shown?
* Will I receive a copy of the marketing plan?
* How will you advertise our home? In what publications and when will ads run?
* Will you employ an Internet marketing program?
* Will you hold open houses? How will you advertise an open house?
* What other ways will you else to get the word out?
* How often can I expect to be updated, even if there’s nothing to report?

A word to sellers: don’t base your selection solely on selling price or commission. It’s probably best to avoid working with someone who promises you the moon–in this case, an unrealistically high price–then has to make price reductions until the property sells. Instead, focus on marketing plans, service and past results. Also, don’t be persuaded by low commissions. A seller could actually net more than with a discount broker when a winning marketing plan combined with proper pricing results in a faster sale and at a better price.

Aim to select someone who is knowledgeable and with whom you feel comfortable. It almost ensures a productive and mutually rewarding relationship.

Mike Gambino can be reached at (314) 506-6700. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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Choosing Retirement Living That Fits Your Needs

By Mike Gambino
Prudential Patterson Realtors

For many, retirement is a time when people shift priorities and put their own needs first. One of the most important choices they need to make is where to live in retirement. Choosing the right community and home is an important and challenging decision.

Ask yourself, do you want to:

* Remain in the home you occupied before retirement?
* Remain close to your present community, but move to a different home?
* Move to another county or state, or to a different climate?
* Move into your present vacation property?

Where to Live
If you lean toward moving to another region, start reviewing options based on general climate, seasonal changes, lifestyle, and proximity to family and friends.

For example, the Southeast is becoming a popular destination. It has more temperate climates than the Northeast, and golf and outdoor recreation are abundant. The region offers a wide range of living environments from which to choose: coastal, mountain, woodland, rural, and both planned and urban communities. But, while Florida has almost year around sunshine, the Carolinas offer seasonal change.

Many people choose to live where they play. If finances allow it, some may consider the owning two or more homes so they can change their address along with the seasons. This is one of the reasons why second home sales have increased dramatically over the past few years.

When you’ve narrowed it down to a few possible destinations, compare them on the basis of these factors:

Financial

Estimate the income you’ll need to retire in that area
Evaluate your resources and tax consequences
Speak with your financial advisors about how long your retirement resources can last in any given area

Housing

Research average home sale prices and cost of living in areas you like
Factor in costs such as property taxes and utilities.

Climate

Review summer and winter comfort factors, such as high temperatures, humidity, or snow and ice.
Look at psychological factors such as excessive cloudiness or rain or fog.

Personal Safety

Research violent crime and property crime rates in areas you like
Find details in the FBI’s Crime Index, and local police departments.

Services

Investigate the supply, availability, and quality of health care, public transportation, and continuing education in each area.

Employment

Evaluate the potential for pursuing a part-time or full-time second career.

Leisure Living

Find out if the area offers the variety and quality of restaurants, cultural events, and recreational activities you want

When researching your options, you may want to start with the Internet, where there is a wealth of information. Other resources include your local library, trade associations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), local organizations in the areas of interest, visitor bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, local newspapers and vacation guides.

Retirement can be the best time of your life. Be sure to plan it wisely.

Mike Gambino can be reached at (314) (506-6700). Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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Selling Your Home in Today’s Market

By Mike Gambino
Prudential Prudential Patterson Realtors

The media has been full of stories about the slowing housing market –and although this kind of market normalization is commonplace in the real estate industry, there is no question that in many parts of the country, houses are currently on the market a little longer and there is more competition for buyers.

Hire a Professional
If you want to sell your home fairly quickly, now is not the time to go at it alone. You want to make sure that your home gets the maximum exposure and the best marketing strategy. When you work with a qualified real estate professional, your home will be listed on a MLS database that other real estate professionals can access. In addition, you get the benefit of an experienced marketer and negotiator who is familiar with real estate issues in your community.

When selecting someone to represent you, interview at least three real estate professionals who are familiar with your area. Ask questions such as: How will your home be marketed to reach the greatest number of buyers? What price can they get for your home? What’s the average time their listings have been on the market? They should be able to back up their answer with a Comparative Marketing Analysis and provide the names of two or three of their most recent sellers who you may contact for a reference.

Price It Right
A house priced at just below market value piques the interest of real estate professionals and buyers, while overpricing chases them away. If your home is priced too high, interested buyers may never even tour your listing. It is true that you can always drop the price, but the first 30 days are the most critical. That is when interest is the highest, and it can be difficult to recapture people’s interest later on. The longer the property is on the market, the fewer the prospects.

Get Your Home In Show-Condition
Get your home in tip-top shape before any potential buyer views it. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Get rid of the clutter. Touch up the paint where needed. Clean the carpet. Consider having your home inspected, and make any recommended repairs. (If there are any repairs you decide not to fix, inform the buyers about the condition of your home and discount the repair cost from the selling price).

Curb Appeal
Don’t overlook the outside of your property. You don’t want a buyer to rule out your home based on the outside appearance. The lawn should be trimmed, bushes and shrubs pruned, and leaves raked. The front of the house needs a clean, fresh appearance. Even the mailbox needs to be attractive and functional. (Believe it or not, a rusty, unhinged mailbox can turn potential buyers off.) And don’t forget to put away bicycles; toys and other items that may make your property seem cluttered.

Offer Incentives
Offering incentives can be just the impetus a potential buyer needs to select your property over others. You may want to consider offering a carpet or paint allowance. If the buyer knows up front that there is an allowance for the worn carpet or paint, they may overlook those cosmetic flaws in order to choose their own color. You could pay for a professional home inspection or a home warranty — and, depending on your market and budget, offer to pay some of the closing costs.

Don’t be discouraged if there are competing homes for sale in your neighborhood. Making the right moves at the beginning of your home selling process can give you the upper-hand you’ll need in today’s competitive market.

Mike Gambino can be reached at (314) (506-6700). Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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Is It Better to Buy or Rent?

By Mary Jones
Prudential Patterson Realtors

The market is ripe for buyers right now. Interest rates, although slightly higher than this time last year, are still at an all-time low, and the National Association of REALTORS® predicts that 2006 will be the third all-time best year in real estate. So naturally you should be telling your landlord goodbye and saying hello to your dream home, right? Not so fast. Certainly, owning your own home has its benefits. But, is the dream of homeownership really one you should pursue? It all depends on your circumstance and needs.

Buying a home is such a large investment, possibly the largest purchase you’ll make. So, careful deliberation should be made when deciding which is better for you: rent or buy.

The advantages to being a renter is that your monthly costs are fixed. There’s little to no responsibility for maintenance of the property. And, it’s easier to pick up and move to another location. However, the disadvantages are your rent typically increases each year and there is no guarantee that your lease will be renewed. In addition, you don’t earn any equity nor will you reap the tax advantages of owning.

As a homeowner, you have the benefit of security and stability, as well as the freedom to decorate and remodel. Your property also builds equity and you get the tax benefit. However, when the central heating unit breaks or the roof needs replacing, the repairs are your financial responsibility. And, there is always the possibility of losing on your investment if property values go down.

One tool you can use in your analysis is a Rent -vs- Buy calculator that you can find on Web sites such Prudential.com. These calculators allow you to compare the costs of renting and buying. In some cases the amount you spend in rent may be about the same or less than you would pay on a mortgage. However, the tax benefit from owning the home may provide significant savings.

You also need to decide if can you really afford homeownership. If you are on a tight budget it may not be wise to have the added pressure of maintenance costs, property taxes, and insurance. If your credit rating is in need of repair, or you have a high debt to earnings ratio, now may not be the time to purchase a home. Although you may find a lender, your loan may be at a much higher interest rate using a sub-prime lender. You might be better off taking another year to build your credit score and decrease your debt.

Besides costs, another factor to consider is how long you plan to reside in the home. When you purchase a home, there is a substantial initial investment including the down payment, closing costs, and renovations. It typically takes between five and seven years to recover your initial costs. And depending on your loan payments, it may take a few years before you begin to see a return on your investment.

Your lifestyle also makes a difference for whether you should rent or buy. Will you be able to afford the type of property you want and continue to enjoy the lifestyle you have? Are you starting or changing careers or perhaps you are in a job that requires you to move frequently?

Although homeownership has its benefits, make sure it’s the right fit for you depending on your financial and personal situations.

Mary Jones can be reached at 314-506-6780. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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Do-It-Yourself Moves Not For You? Hire a Professional

Moving into a new home, but don’t want to handle the job of packing or transporting your belongings yourself? Then consider hiring a professional mover. Using the services of a professional can allow you to use your time and energy concentrating on other aspects of your move.

When selecting a mover, make sure that you choose a reliable and reputable company. Ask your real estate professional, neighbors, family and friends for a recommendation. In addition, check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the moving company.

Once you have narrowed down your selection, ask the following questions:

How long has the company been in business?
Is the moving agent certified?
How long has the estimator been in the industry?
Is the company insured? Do they have worker’s compensation? If not, and one of their workers is hurt in your home, you may end up having to not only pay for your move, but their medical expenses too!
Next, get an estimate for the costs of the move at least eight weeks before your move. For local moves, your costs are usually based on the number of movers and truck multiplied by the number of hours. For long distance moves your costs are charged mainly on the weight of your items and the distance they need to be moved. In both cases, there may be additional components that will factor into the costs.

To get a more accurate estimate, have a representative from the company come to your home to take an inventory of your belongings. Be prepared to give a description of your new residence. Are there stairs or any restrictions?

Get a written copy of the estimate with the costs components detailed out. Examples of moving cost components are packing (labor and materials), special handling of antiques, art and other fragile items, transportation charges, additional insurance while in transit or storage, and accessory charges including number of stairs, distance from the truck to home, ease of entry, etc. Getting a written estimate does three things. First, it will alleviate any surprise charges after the move is complete. Second, it protects you from a would-be unscrupulous vendor trying to understate costs to get your business. And lastly, in most cases a mover can only collect within a certain percentage of the estimate on delivery.

After you have an estimate of costs, schedule a move date no less than two weeks before the move. However, the earlier the better, especially if you are moving during the busy season, May to September. If your move is across states, you may need to plan extra days into your move. This is because most companies’ rates on interstate moves are based on fully-loaded trailers. And unless all of your household goods fill the trailer, there may be other household shipments on there as well, so you have to be flexible on the dates for both loading and delivery.

Make sure the mover gives you an estimated time for arrival so that you can have someone at your new destination to receive your items, otherwise your items will be placed in storage and you will have to pay for storage and for redelivery.

Using professional movers can take the stress out of moving day, but make sure you do your homework first.

Mike Gambino & Mary Jones can be reached at (314) 838-8661. Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.ehologo.jpg

We’re starting another great year in Real Estate.

The housing bubble is not affecting the midwest, but coasts are experiencing some fallout. Let’s discuss your concerns and address where 2007 will take us. We will be adding new content weekly to assist you in all aspects of real estate. Some information may vary slightly depending on where you live in the country, however, the basic information can be used to help you in your quest for real estate knowledge.