Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Real Estate Commissions: Burden or Bargain?

It’s hard to put a price on the satisfaction of buying a home (or selling one successfully), and on the services a real estate professional provides to help you achieve this. But such professionals pride themselves on realizing these dreams efficiently and economically. So it’s fair to ask what their commission covers.

The standard commission figure is one that real estate customers have been hearing a lot about recently, with discount competitors promising to beat it. In the business we often refer to them as limited-service competitors, because, for their reduced commission, they can’t promise to take care of all the things a veteran agent from an established company can handle for you.

In today’s busy households, simplicity and peace of mind are qualities almost as valuable in a transaction as the goods or services themselves. For a decision as major as the sale or purchase of a home, confidence and convenience become all the more important. The real estate professional familiar with your neighborhood, is best positioned to use both traditional resources and state-of-the-art tools, to bring you services of lasting value and combine them in a convenient “one-stop shop.”

At ERA Real Estate, for instance, essential tasks which could be spread out over a wide and potentially confusing range of companies can be efficiently grouped together – like buying a house through my ERA® office and financing it through ERA Mortgage.

You also need look no further for a home warranty – the ERA® Home Protection Plan® covers many of the built-in appliances and systems of a house for any repairs needed from the time the home is listed to a year after its sale.

And since there’s more to buying or selling a house than just the property itself, we’ve kept all the needs in mind and put each solution at your fingertips with the local and national ERA® Select ServicesSM programs, which give you access to efficient and affordable local providers from ERA Mortgage to ERA Home Protection Plan.

Of course, in a competitive market where the Internet is increasingly popular, we have technology tools that are second to none, and can be powerfully put to work for you – from the listings on our heavily-visited Web site,, to our sophisticated marketing programs and more.

As your neighborhood professional, it’s up to me to earn your trust, and if you can find a discount firm that gives you the convenience and confidence of a full-service agent, you’d be wise to make that choice. But I feel sure you’ll find your best investment is not with the company that takes two percent, but the professional who gives a hundred.

William Collins is a Broker Associate with ERA Queen City Realty in Scotch Plains, New Jersey and has over twenty three years experience in residential real estate sales. For more information on any of the items mentioned in this article, you can call William at 908-531-4979 on his cell phone or at the office on 908-322-5454 ext. 136.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Equity Investment Provides For A Life Line

Thomas Frankito alluded to an arrangement between Bank of America and Countrywide in his blog post entitled "Bank of America Looking at Countrywide", back on January 30, 2007.
Clearly there were signs of strain to those in the industry. Those who understood the make up of Countrywide's portfolio of loans and the ensuing challenges they would face in the coming months. Here we are nearly eight months later and Bank of America exercises its right to invest in the embattled mortgage lender, to the tune of 2 billion dollars, according to The Wall street Journal. Not much is being said about discussions between the two business concerns. In point of fact there has been no information on discussions prior to the equity investment or relative to future business dealings between the two.
Can those of us in the industry breath a sigh of relief? hard to say as it is yet to early in the game. The option arm product fallout has not seen its zenith yet. what we can glean from this, is hope for consumer confidence to begin to turn the corner. Confidence that will send a positive signal to wall street and result in more sound real estate investment for owner occupants, investors and most of all sellers. It is my hope that this is the beginning of the stemming of the bloodletting of Countrywide. Perhaps this alliance will spur other efforts to reposition the mortgage giant. We cannot afford as a nation, nor less we forget th global ramifications of the failure of a concern such as Countrywide, as alluded to by Brain Brady in Bailing Out Countrywide- Is it 1980 All Over Again?.
This infusion of cash, I for one think "It's A Good Thing", to quote Martha Stewart. This one is to be watched very closely.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What's A Seller To Do?

While considering the prospect of marketing your home, you know doubt have had several conversations. Some of these conversations with lay people and others with real estate professionals. During some of these conversations if not all, you may have heard the proverbial term “It’s a Buyer’s Market”.

The question that begs to be answered is “What’s a Seller To Do? While there are no guarantees, there are certain things that can be done to maximize the salability of your home.

Assuming that you don’t have a real estate professional that you have been working with, the first thing you want to do is to identify an agent that is familiar with you community. This can be accomplished by speaking with members of your community who have had a recent experience with a real estate professional. Additionally, most local newspapers feature articles written by real estate professionals, on subjects relative to the areas that they serve.

It is important to remember that this is a team project, the agent is just as dependent on you as you are the agent, in order to realize a successful transaction. That having been said, let’s move on!

After retaining an agent, the next thing you want to do is to get three references from you agent for a home inspection. Now you may be saying, “My home is in mint condition, I am meticulous when it comes to maintenance”. No doubt you have taken great pains to ensure that your pride and joy, is at its best. However, a trained professional is looking for more than what is on the surface. When was the last time you went up to the attic to check the sheathing and insulation or the basement to examine the interior of the furnace, these and other areas of the home and the mechanical devices will be examined by the professional. By giving your home a complete physical, you are able to be proactive rather than reactive. You see the buyer is more than likely going to have an inspection of the property. Wouldn’t it be better to know in advance of marketing the home whether there is a repair required, as oppose to the buyer’s inspector informing you of the need. Remember, first impressions are everything and our goal is to maximize the salability of your home.

Once you’ve received a report from your inspector and attended to any items in need of attention, it will be time to create your “Seller’s Disclosure Statement”. This is a standard boilerplate document in most instances, where you are asked to respond to questions about the condition of the property. Question such as: What is the age of the roof? How old is the roof? And so on. The purpose of the document is to give the prospective buyer an idea about the condition of the property, based upon your knowledge of the property. This document is to be made available to those who have made an offer on your property.

In the event that you are going to be selling a property that does not have a builders warranty, you can be proactive an offer a “Home Warranty”. This policy usually insures the mechanically devices, such as the furnace, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical for twelve months. The importance of such a marketing tool helps those with limited funds to make the decision to by a resale property as oppose to new construction or your resale over another that lacks the warranty. The warranty will allay any fears or concerns about the probability of mechanical failures, immediately after closing.

Now that we truly know that the house is in perfect functioning order, we must attend to the emotional side of the experience for the prospective buyer. You see the initial attraction to the property is based upon pure emotion. Have you ever visited a model home in a new development and admired the landscaping, as well as the interior furnishings? During the visit did you imagine yourself living in the house? And if you were in the market, wouldn’t you have made an offer? Well, you want to create that same wow factor for the buyers visiting your home. You want them to arrive curbside, anxious to enter, because the curb appeal foretells of the beauty behind the doors. In order to accomplish these two goals, you will need to get references from your agent for landscapers to give the exterior grounds a once over or a little sprucing up. For the interior, ask the agent for three recommendations for Stagers. Stagers will come to the home and either use what you have or a combination of new and existing items to help prepare the rooms to get that wow factor I referred to earlier, that showroom appeal!

Now your agent can conduct a market analysis of your home and help you in pricing the property for sale. It is always a good idea to have a lawn sign and a lockbox. Remember, you are looking to maximize your home’s salability. Making sure that people are aware that it is for sale and accessible to be shown are both moves in the right direction. A broker open house conducted by your agent will introduce the property to the real estate professionals; likewise, the public open house will introduce the property to the buying public. Another good tip is to allow these events to take place in your absence. Your agent will be seeking feedback from the professionals and your presence could inhibit people from speaking freely. Likewise when buyers are in the home, they don’t want to feel as though they are imposing, it precludes them from really exploring the house as a possible home. A trip to the mall or a stroll down the street, will allow for the perfect showing.

Now that the agent has assisted you in preparing the home, they are now ready to market the property. Your agent’s objective is to get as many people to view the property as possible; this is why you have hired an agent. To do this, the agent has a multitude of websites in conjunction with trade publications that can be used to market your home. Additionally, your agent can produce a mailing, notifying their sphere of influence about the availability of the property. This can be done along with a mailing to the neighbors, in the event that they know of someone looking to buy in your community. These efforts are supported by visual online tours and brochure boxes.

You have now taken the steps to properly prepare yourself to benefit from this “Buyers Market”, let the showings begin!

For assistance with your buying and selling needs, contact William Collins at 908-531-4979 cellphone or 908-490-2036 direct office line.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The First Time Is Always A Blast

If you're mulling over the acquisition of your first house, kudos! As you probably know, purchasing real estate is one of the largest financial investments you can make. Its also an experience replete with emotion, and a bit of anxiousness. To assist you with the process, I have taken the liberty of addressing three typical questions that a lot of first-time buyers face.

Question #1: What should I be looking for in a home?

It may seem daunting at first. However, it is a matter of making a list of priorities, that you feel are essential to making your house, your home.

One component is the type of architecture. Would you like a Center Hall Colonial, a Ranch or a contemporary look? A significant element to think about is the square footage. Ideally, whatever you decide upon, should meet your immediate needs as well as, some future needs?

Make a list of amenities that you deem essential to your home. Perhaps the surround sound theater and solarium can be put off for another day, but you may find that two full baths are essential.

Question #2: what would be a good starting point?

The first thing you want to do, is decide what community best meets your needs.

What is it about the venue of your new dwelling that's most crucial to you? Do you favor an urban, suburban or rural setting? Think about how close the house is to work, schools, shopping, entertainment and places of worship. Once you have narrowed down your list of plausible prospects, the Internet is a first-class instrument for seeing what a specific residential area has to offer.

Question #3: What is the best financing vehicle for my needs?

Despite a rise in interest rates in recent months, real estate has rarely been more affordable. Interest rates are still affordable. Creative funding programs are available to accommodate a full range of requirements.

Looking for the advice of a real estate professional who can give you the essential facts on financing alternatives, that meet your qualifications, is a major move in the proper direction.

When you have narrowed down your list, speak to a real estate professional that specializes in the residential area you’d like to call home. ERA® associates are trained to guide you through your purchase every step of the way. Our Web site,, reaches around the globe to bring up-to-date listings directly to you. ERA Mortgage offers up financing programs explicitly created to accommodate the requirements of qualified first-time homebuyers.

The road to locating your first abode is sure to be full of bends and twists. When you are fortified with the answers to the major questions, the research can be satisfying, and even amusing!

For more information and assistance with your home purchase or sale, call William Collins at 908-531-4979 0r 908-490-2036.