The photos that you take and use for your real estate collateral, including both print and online, can say a lot about your branding. Armed with a camera phone, real estate agents are taking more photos than ever of their properties, but that’s not to say that they’re always the best quality. You don’t need to have a background in photography to capture beautiful images! By keeping these tips in mind, you will be on your way to photographic bliss.
- Frame Your Subject: When taking a photo, remember the rule of thirds. Break your image into nine sections and see how your subject is framed. It’s not necessary for your subject to always be in the middle box, so make sure you vary your angles to keep things interesting!
- Use a Tripod: One of the easiest ways to mess up a photo opportunity is to have a shaky hand. Using a tripod will help stabilize your camera, whether you’re using a phone or a point-and-shoot. They also help you take more clear and crisp photos that make better use of the available light.
- Create Depth: Look at a beautifully photographed home and you will notice the depth the photographer creates. Your subjects shouldn’t be lined up single-file in a photo, so try putting objects between you and your subject to break things up.
- Make Use of a Home’s Light: You might have a picture perfect image in your head, but if you’re trying to shoot a room where light is coming directly at you from a window, you’re going to end up with an awful photo. Vary your angles and find a shot that makes the best use of a home’s light. Also, determine which way the home faces and where the sun will be before you make an appointment to photograph the home. Look for a time of day when the sun will be behind you or off to the side.
- Invest in a Wide-Angle Lens: If you are using a professional-style camera, invest in a wide-angle lens that will help you showcase more of the room. They’re a great investment because they can enhance the space and help to make it look larger by capturing more of it.
- Avoid Photographing Yellow Rooms: There are some things you just can’t help, like a yellow room that is notoriously hard to photograph because the entire photo will look yellow.
- Take a Photoshop Class: While you won’t be able to solve all of your photography problems with Photoshop, taking a class will certainly assist you in correcting things like lighting, shadows, and so on.
Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you will ever make, but it can also be one of the best if you take advantage of different tax breaks. There are a variety of them available and they can save you big money each year if you’re willing to spend the time itemizing your taxes. Here’s a look at some of the most outstanding tax breaks for home owners!
Mortgage Interest Deduction: One of the best tax breaks for home owners is the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID). When financing a home, the majority of your monthly mortgage payments go toward the interest, but you can deduct that with Form 1098. Ask your lender for the form, which also explains how much you can deduct.
Energy Star: Not only do Energy Star-rated appliances and fixtures avail you of home owner tax breaks, they can also save you money each month on your utility bills. They cost more money upfront, but the return on investment can be significant for energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights. These items must be installed at your primary residence to take advantage of the deduction, and they have to be in-place by year-end. If you meet the requirements, the tax break is equal to 10 percent of the cost of the products.
Mortgage Insurance Premiums: If your mortgage has a loan-to-value ratio of more than 80 percent, you’re required to carry mortgage insurance to protect the lender against default. Fortunately, you can deduct the expenditure if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than $100,000 or $50,000 if you’re married and filing separately. Generally, once you have 20 percent equity in your home, the requirement for mortgage insurance goes away.
Construction Loan Interest: Planning to build a home? If so, you could be able to deduct the interest paid on a construction loan if you qualify. This deduction can be used for the first 24 months of the loan, but it’s permissible for construction to take longer.
Property Taxes: If your property taxes are based on the assessed value of the real property, you would be eligible to deduct both state and local property taxes. This could be a huge savings for you when filing your taxes, but you need to know how you pay your property taxes. If you pay them out-of-pocket, locate your bills to determine the dollar amount. But if you pay them via an escrow account, you can find the information on Form 1098.
Spring and summer have long been thought of as the busiest home buying periods, but 2013 has seen buyer interest extend way into the fall. Home values continue to rise, as does buyer interest, and inventory levels are still having a hard time keeping up around the U.S. This has have left many buyers wondering when they will catch a break.
Experts agree that holiday season home buying has its merits. It’s not the most common time to invest in a property, but that’s just one of the reasons why it could be the best time. From highly motivated sellers to less competition, here’s a look at why you might consider adding a new home to your holiday shopping list!
Less Competition: One of the biggest problems for buyers this year has been the competition. Once news of a housing recovery broke, buyers descended on the MLS in droves, snapping up properties while mortgage rates were near historic lows. This left a massive inventory problem in many markets where interested buyers far outnumbered available homes. But during the holidays, there will be considerably less competition when people are pre-occupied with holiday parties, shopping and the like.
Sellers Need To Sell: Typically, November and December are not ideal months for home selling, so if you come across a listing during these months, chances are, the seller needs to offload their home. As a buyer, you might come across a highly motivated seller during these months who is willing to work out a screaming deal. Keep in mind that inventory is generally lower during these two months, so you can’t afford to be picky.
Does buying a home during the holiday season sound like something you’re interested in? If so, here are some additional tips:
Unlisted Homes: Consider having your real estate agent touch base with local brokers in your target area to see if they know of any homes that aren’t yet listed. They may be working with sellers who are readying their homes for sale, in which case they wouldn’t be on the MLS yet.
“Old Expires”: It would be a dream come true to have a buyer knock on your door with a handful of cash, especially during the holidays when budgets are constantly busted. Look at “old expires” with your agent, which are homes that might have been for sale several months or even years ago but didn’t sell. You may be able to entice a home owner into selling even if their home isn’t listed for sale!
The massive real estate downturn that characterized much of the recession led to many rumors and myths about home buying. Before the mortgage meltdown, virtually any buyer was able to walk into a lender, obtain a loan and often buy a home they could never afford. My how the times have changed!
Today, the home buying process is a very different experience, however, it’s not impossible like many people believe. Here are five home buying myths, debunked!
- Right Now Is The Time To Buy: The national real estate market has been in a bit of a frenzy for much of 2013, and many believe that if they don’t buy right now, they’re going to miss the boat. Buying a home is perhaps the largest investment you will ever make, so you need to be certain that you’re up for the commitment.
- You Need to Put 20 Percent Down: Putting 20 percent down became a necessity during the housing downturn when lenders were much stricter. But there are many conventional loans that only require 3 percent down, not the 20 percent that many believe. The important thing to keep in mind is that the more money that you can put down, the smaller your loan will be. This will bring down your monthly mortgage payments.
- Less-Than-Perfect Credit Means No Mortgage: Lenders were around during the housing crisis, and they know that people faced foreclosures and short sales and some were forced to file for bankruptcy. While their practices have become more stringent, just because you have less-than-perfect-credit does not mean you will automatically be denied a mortgage. Lenders are more willing than ever to work with interested buyers, so make the appointment and see what your particular situation warrants.
- Eliminate a Realtor and You Will Save Money: Did you know that a real estate agent’s commission is generally paid by the seller? Incidentally, eliminating an agent will probably not save you any money. And the headache associated with negotiating and navigating the paperwork required for a real estate transaction makes them worth their weight in gold anyway.
- Fixed Mortgages Are The Way To Go: Ask David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in real estate, about fixed mortgages and you will quickly understand why they’re not the end-all, be-all for financing. He said: “The necessity of getting a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is one of the biggest myths about home buying. The average American household stays in their home for about seven years. Typically, 30-year fixed rate mortgages have higher interest rates than adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). Homebuyers should take a hard look at their plans for the new home.”
Real estate agents are masters at marketing and selling homes, and because they often get wrapped up in the day-to-day comings and goings of client meetings, house showings and the like, their own brand can get overlooked. Brand consistency is important across the board, including in both online and printed collateral.
Your online presence should look and feel consistent, which includes making sure that your website, Facebook, blog and Twitter embody the look and feel of your brand. But this should also extend into your printed marketing materials like flyers, brochures and the like. Make sure you’re focusing on a standard font across all platforms, and keep it simple with colors.
A word of caution: be careful with do-it-yourself templates where you simply plug in your logo and add your own copy. Too frequently, logos can become stretched and warped because they’re not formatted properly (your logo is square, but the template has a space for a rectangular image). You can circumvent this by having a few variations of your logo available to play with, and you should always make sure you have a web-optimized version, which is a smaller file size. This will ensure that you can use it online, as large file sizes are often rejected.
Additionally, you should understand that negative space is often a good thing and can help keep your viewers’ attention. Too many real estate agents fall into the trap of filling up every square inch of empty space on marketing materials and websites, but it’s a mistake. Imagine if you were staging a home and you did this with furniture. Think of it that way. Your call to action should stand out, as should your contact information so it’s easy for a potential client to get in touch.
If you work with a brokerage, investigate the services they offer. This might include a full-service marketing department with graphic designers and copywriters who can help bring cohesiveness to your brand. And find a local printer who can be your go-to point person when you need marketing materials printed. Large national chains like FedEx Kinkos can help you in a pinch, but the service tends to be impersonal and the quality can sometimes be lacking.
CV Escrow is pleased to announce the opening of our new office in La Mesa, California on October 15th. Since opening our doors in October 2005, CV Escrow has expanded throughout Southern California, and remains committed to providing outstanding escrow services as we open our fifth location.
CV Escrow’s Kris Gallegos will be heading the escrow division in La Mesa. Kris brings more than 11 years of experience in escrow to the La Mesa community along with an exceptional level of customer service. “At the end of the day, my greatest joy is making each client feel as if his or her file is the only one I’m working on.”
To learn more about how Kris can help you, please feel welcome to stop by. He can be reached at:
CV Escrow, La Mesa Office
8295 La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, CA 91942
In the wake of the housing crisis, short sales became a common way for home owners to avoid losing their homes. Those who could no longer make their mortgage payments were able to work with lenders to sell their home at a loss. Many home owners took advantage of the process because short sales have less of a negative impact on your credit score than a foreclosure. However, because of a Fannie Mae software glitch, some short sale home owners say their credit scores have been impacted negatively.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, is leading the effort to correct the issue, and his focus has a lot to do with the state he represents. Florida was one of the hardest hit during the housing crisis and faced some of the highest foreclosure and underwater rates in the country. His hope is to bring some relief to his constituents along with other affected Americans.
Fannie Mae says their software does not offer a “short sale” label, so many accounts have been labeled as foreclosures incorrectly by the GSE. Some home owners have incurred additional penalties as a result, but Fannie Mae says they are in the process of remedying this problem.
According to Nelson’s office, Fannie Mae should have a fix in place with their software by Nov. 16. Consumers who have been negatively impacted by this software issue can contact the CFPB website to file a complaint.
The mislabeling of a home owner’s account as a foreclosure instead of a short sale can affect a person’s credit. Foreclosure can prevent buyers from obtaining another mortgage for nearly seven years, while after a short sale, a borrower only has to wait two years before they can apply for a mortgage again.
Nelson added: “Regardless of the cause, I’m glad Fannie Mae is fixing the problem. You can’t punish home owners who went upside down solely because of the economic downturn and loss of value in their home.”
Typically, when you think about home flipping, dilapidated bank-owned properties are probably the first things that come to mind. As the housing market fell spectacularly to pieces in 2008, investors were on a mission to find foreclosures that they could renovate and sell for a profit. But these days, the inventory of foreclosed and bank-owned homes is lower than ever before. As such, luxury home flipping is on the rise.
Investors have turned their attention away from run-down properties and are setting their eyes on the luxury market. According to Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, million-dollar homes are an untapped market.
“Investors have actually run out of inventory on the low end of flips, and now they’re moving to the higher end,” Blomquist said.
RealtyTrac reports that in 2012, flips of homes priced at $1 million and higher jumped 35 percent year-over-year. Eric Sussman, senior lecturer at the Ziman Center for Real Estate at the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “These aren’t paint-and-lipstick jobs. Basically, you have to re-envision the entire house.”
Generally speaking, the purchase, renovation and sale should all be complete within six months in order to maximize profits.
Real estate agents around the U.S. say they are fielding about 30 percent more inquiries from luxury flippers than one year ago. And despite the risk involved in flipping a luxury home, like a longer timeline to sell and pricier renovations, investors are showing a continued interest in this market.
What’s even more interesting is that in many markets that were hit the worst during the recession, luxury flips are gaining ground. Investors have depleted the supply of lower-end homes to flip in these markets, so the luxury segment is the next best thing. Of course, they cost more, but there are still tremendous deals to be had for luxury properties around the U.S. And when you consider that these homes generally have the highest home-appreciation rate, it’s easy to see why they have come squarely into the spotlight.
At first mention, the word “wallpaper” is enough to make most people cringe. Memories of nauseating florals and bold stripes come flooding back, and the dizzying thought of putting it up or pulling it down is enough to make your head spin.
But technological advances with wallpaper and a renewed focus by artisans have breathed new life into the idea of covering your wall like a Christmas present. Graphic designers, photographers and those trained in the fine arts are lending their craft to wallpaper design, including using unconventional materials like metal, leather and even Swarovski crystals.
Wallpaper is a great way to add dimension, texture and sheen to a room, but if you’re cursed with existing wallpaper, you are probably looking for advice on how to get the old stuff down. Steaming away old wallpaper is one of the easiest ways to tackle this project, and you can usually rent a steamer from tool-equipment rental companies. It’s a low-cost project that can clear your canvas for something modern and new. Here’s what you need!
Materials and Tools:
- safety glasses
- wallpaper steamer
- plastic scrapers
- Remove medicine cabinets, towel bars and light fixtures from the wall.
- As a precaution, turn off power at the breaker box for the room where you’re working.
- Prep the steamer as per the manufacturer’s instructions – filling it with water, plugging it in and allowing it to warm up.
- Put on gloves and safety glasses and start steaming. Hold the steamer in place about 30 to 40 seconds to make sure the steam is penetrating through the glue.
- Steam a section at a time and pull and scrape off the wallpaper as you go.
- Switch to a smaller attachment to get into tight spaces.
- Give the walls a day to dry then come back and fill holes and smooth rough areas.
CV Escrow is pleased to announce the opening of our new Rancho Mirage office. CV Escrow, Rancho Mirage has re-located to 71-703 Highway 111, Suite 1B, Rancho Mirage, California 92270.
Our Rancho Mirage Escrow Officers David Lehmann and Belinda Chase each have more than 20 years experience serving the desert real estate community. They are experts at building relationships and problem solving. For more information about how Belinda and David can help you, please feel free to stop by.
CV Escrow also maintains offices in La Quinta, Palm Desert, and Palm Springs.
We can be reached at: