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The Probate Real Estate Sale Process Explained

The process of selling real estate (real property) through probate or trust is a series of court-regulated steps that must be carefully monitored and managed. Deadlines are unforgiving, documentation is specialized and the court’s oversight must be honored throughout the marketing, offers, negotiations and sale of the property.

In addition to the personnel of the court, the sale generally involves the Executor or Administrator of the estate, the attorney representing the estate, a real estate agent representing the seller (the estate), one or more buyers who place bids with the court and the buyers’ real estate agents. Each of these individuals must follow the guidelines and deadlines of the court.

Because of the involvement of the court, probate and trust sales have a vocabulary all their own. They also involve various disclosure documents and contracts that are not used in other real estate transactions.

If you are selling or buying real property through such a transaction, your real estate agent should be experienced in probate and trust sales and be able to explain the language, the documentation and the steps in the process. Clear communications are vital.

To help you understand the probate and trust sale process, here is a list of some of the steps involved in a typical transaction:

Appointment of the Administrator or Executor of the estate.

In most cases, the decedent’s will names an Executor who is designated to handle the distribution of assets, including real property. If no Executor is named, if the named Executor is unwilling to serve or if there is no will, the court appoints an Administrator to carry out these duties. The Executor or Administrator is the person who has the authority to list and sell the property; the sale cannot proceed until that person has been identified.

As provided in the Independent Administration of Estates Act (IAEA), the Executor establishes a list price for the real property. The price takes into account the appraisal by the Probate Referee and is usually determined with the assistance of a real estate agent experienced in probate and trust sales. The property is then listed for sale through that agent/broker.

The real estate agent markets the real property to the public as aggressively as possible to attract the highest offer. This generally involves a number of approaches, including signage, newspaper advertising, listing on one or more real estate websites and hosting open houses for other real estate agents and potential home buyers. The real estate agent will also schedule appointments to show the property to interested parties who inquire directly.

While buyers of probate and trust real estate may be looking for a bargain, their range of offers are limited by the court. An accepted offer must be 90% or more of the Probate Referee’s appraised value. Once a buyer is found, the real estate agent assists the seller in negotiating terms that are satisfactory to both parties.

When the property has an accepted offer, a Notice of Proposed Action is mailed to all heirs, simply stating the terms of the proposed sale. The heirs have 15 days to review the notice and pose any objections. If there are no objections, the sale may proceed without a court hearing.

If the Executor/Administrator does not have full independent powers under IAEA, or if one of the heirs poses an objection to the Notice of Proposed Action, notice of the sale must be published in a generally distributed local newspaper (unless the will does not mandate such action).

The attorney for the estate then applies for a court date (the “confirmation hearing”) when the sale will be executed. The court date is usually within 30 to 45 days of the date the application is filed. A copy of the application and details concerning the sale are mailed to all interested parties.

Even after the court date has been set, the real estate broker should continue to show the property and advertise the home to potential buyers in the hope of securing an “over-bidder” and thereby raising the sale price.

During the court confirmation hearing, the previously accepted bid may be overbid by another interested party. In such a case, the overbidding party must appear at the hearing with a cashier’s check (no personal checks accepted!) in an amount totaling at least 10% of the minimum overbid price in order to successfully overbid. The minimum overbid is determined by the following formula: 10% of the first $10,000 plus 5% of the balance of the accepted offer.

EXAMPLE: A property is listed at $200,000. The accepted offer is $175,000.
The minimum overbid is calculated as follows:
Accepted offer = $175,000
+.10 x $10,000 = $1,000

+ .05 x $165,000 = $8,250
Minimum overbid = $184,250
x .10 = $18,425 amount of cashier’s check

If there is more than one over bidder, the highest bid ‘wins.’ The winning bidder gives a cashier’s check to the Executor/Administrator and escrow is opened. Escrow will close approximately 30 to 45 days from the court hearing.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

How Much Do Home Alarm Systems Affect Resale?

Home alarm systems can be particularly hard to calculate into resale value or return on investment (ROI) because their job is to prevent loss rather than achieve gains. You purchase a home alarm system with the hope that you never need to use it.

The reality is that a burglary is reported to police every 14.5 seconds. But robbery isn’t the only thing that alarms can save you from. Smart alarms can detect smoke and hazards.

More than ever, homeowners want to feel safe in their homes. A built-in alarm system may be just what it takes to get your house off the market.

1. Alarm Systems Aren’t as Expensive as They Used to Be

According to HomeAdvisor’s survey, most homeowners invest between $330-$1,040 when purchasing and installing home alarm systems. However, with the advent of smart, connected technology, home security is more affordable than ever.

Products like the Nest Cam Outdoor monitor your home in 1080p high definition video that you can access from your smartphone 24/7. This monitor also has a two-way audio feature, meaning you can use your voice to scare off intruders or give live instructions to a delivery service. Smart products allow you to monitor your home yourself, which cuts down the cost of hiring a security company to do the monitoring for you.

Smart products send security alerts right to your phone, allowing you to act fast and take control. Monthly security subscriptions on smart products are usually a fraction of the cost of subscribing to a traditional security service.

2. Add Resale Value

Owning a safe and secure home is appealing to every home buyer, from frequent travelers to families. That means pre-installed cameras, smoke detectors, and smart locks can be huge selling points. The more convenient and easy-to-use the security, the better.

One of the most desired security features for homeowners is motion sensor lighting over the driveway. Not only does it scare away late-night intruders, it also helps homeowners navigate in the dark. Buyers want added safety and convenience in their everyday lives, and the right security system can provide both.

3. Home Security Lowers Neighborhood Crime

In 2016, Rutgers University released a study that found that neighborhood crime rates dropped significantly when alarm systems were installed in multiple neighborhood homes.

Burglars are less likely to break into homes that are protected with home security, and that fact carries over when applied to entire neighborhoods. Safe neighborhoods are highly desirable to homeowners and can help your home sell faster and at a higher price.

4. Alarm Systems Can Reduce Your Homeowners Insurance

If you financed your home with a mortgage, you are most likely required to have home insurance. While the price of home insurance varies, most companies offer discounts to homes with security systems.

With a home monitoring system installed, you can save up to 20% on home insurance. Those savings can amount to hundreds of dollars per year or the cost of the security system all together.

5. They Save Money in the Long Run

Burglaries can cost you, not only in the possessions stolen from your home, but also in the damage that many homes incur during a burglary.

Most burglars enter homes through the front or back door or first-floor windows, usually breaking them in the process. The cost of fixing a broken window or kicked-in door can be even more expensive than the valuables taken.

It was found that when burglars enter homes with security systems, they are much more likely to leave quickly, taking fewer items with them.

While security systems aren’t foolproof, they do offer the benefit of safety and security. Whether you’re installing a system for yourself or for future homeowners, the peace of mind it offers is the ultimate ROI.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Hey Millennials, Lennar Will Help Pay Your Student Loans

A new loan from national homebuilder Lennar is raising hopes for millennials, and raising eyebrows from some in the real estate industry. The loan seeks to make homebuying a reality for millennials who might otherwise think they have to wait until their student loans are paid off.

The idea is this: Homebuyers use Eagle Home Mortgage’s Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program; Eagle Home Mortgage is a subsidiary of Lennar. Through this program, borrowers “can direct up to 3% of the purchase price to pay their student loans when they buy a new home from Lennar,” said the builder in a news release. That can add up to $13,000 in student loans, depending on the sales price of the home, and payments “can go toward loans from universities, community colleges, trade schools and other ‘certificate-granting programs’, but can’t be used for loans that parents have taken out to pay for their child’s education.

Sounds like a great deal for millennials. But is it a fix-all?

“Financial planning and student loan experts caution that the plan unveiled last week by Lennar just swaps student debt for mortgage debt,” said CNBC. “Jason Delisle, a student loan expert at the think tank American Enterprise Institute, said Lennar’s student loan payments struck him as a price cut marketed toward debt-laden millennialism,” they added. “Why not just give them a discount on the house?” Delisle asked.

There’s also a question about where the money is coming from and what the long-term implications could be. “There’s no free lunch,” Allan Roth of Wealth Logic, a financial planning firm in Colorado Springs, told them. “If a for-profit company wanted to make a charitable contribution, then they would make a charitable contribution. This money has to come from somewhere.”

CNBC floated the idea that the price of the home could be increased to cover the cost, however, Lennar clearly stated in its news release that, “Lennar contributes the 3%, which does not increase the price of the home or add to the mortgage loan balance.”

Of course, for millennials who have been looking for their way in to the market, the response may just be, “Who cares?!” According to the New York Federal Reserve, the average outstanding student loan balance is $26,700. “That’s one of the reasons that millennials are buying homes in lower numbers than young people have in previous decades,” said the South Florida Business Journal.

And when you also consider that the down payments under this program can be as low as 3 percent, and “buyers may also be eligible” for additional programs, like those that can help with closing costs, it sure seems like a millennial win.

“Americans are more burdened than ever by student loans, with $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans spread out among 42 million borrowers,” said Jimmy Timmons, President of Eagle Home Mortgage. “Particularly with millennial buyers, people who want to buy a home of their own are not feeling as though they can move forward. Our program is designed to relieve some of that burden and remove that barrier to owning a home.”

Buyers have to meet credit and income requirements to qualify for the Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program, and the maximum loan amount is $424,100, which covers dozens and dozens of attached and single-family options across the country from Lennar.

Most of them, not surprisingly, are in the suburbs. But is that an issue for millennials, who conventional wisdom (and many industry experts) have said is off millennials’ radar? Not so fast.

“Americans aged about 18 to 34 have become the largest group of homebuyers, and almost half live in the suburbs,” said Bloomberg. “The shift to suburbia may surprise those who’ve chided millennials for being more interested in pricey avocado toast than in saving for a home. Much of the generation delayed marriage, childbearing and home ownership after graduating with heaping student-loan debt and entering a weak job market. As more millennials overcome this, many want the life of their baby-boomer parents – the kids, the house in the ‘burbs and the beefy SUV.”

In fact, if you look closely at millennial homeownership numbers, you’ll see that, while “there’s been an increase in the number of young adults in urban areas” over the last 10 years, it’s “largely due to a 32% increase in births between 1978 and 1990, according to Dowell Myers, professor of demography at the University of Southern California,” said TIME. “He says that upswing has led people to believe that there’s been a real change in millennials’ preferences, when really there were just a lot more young people born 25 years ago.

A Harvard study by its Joint Center for Housing Studies – “which used data from the census and the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as its own analysis — found most stereotypes associated with millennial home buyers were not true,” said the Los Angeles Times. And key to those findings were millennials’ geographical preferences. “The evidence suggests…that homeownership decisions by younger households have much more to do with affordability than location and lifestyle preferences,” study authors said.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Why Buyers Won’t Buy Your Home

There’s no list of reasons — no top ten or even top three reasons — why buyers won’t buy a specific listed property like your home.

There’s just one reason.

When buyers won’t buy listed real estate, or even put in an offer close to asking price, there’s just one reason why — it’s the list price!

List price must communicate value and opportunity to buyers for whom the listed real estate represents what they want and need. Individual buyers have individual home-buying wants, needs, and goals which range from solid financial investment to discovering their dream home, or both.

When the list price on a specific property communicates value and opportunity to buyers who are ideally suited to recognize high value and great opportunity, these buyers want to act. They are compelled to put in an offer before someone else snaps up their dream home/ideal investment.
When list price does not accurately communicate value and opportunity — usually because it is unrealistically high for the current real estate market, location, ownership benefits, and property condition — buyers not only won’t make an offer, they may not even want to view the property.
The list which is vital for sellers to consider is the list of reasons why listing price can be a barrier to the successful sale of their real estate. Here’s four of many reasons why list price can turn buyers off and leave the unsold real estate sitting on the market:

#1. Listing “Home” Not Real Estate: Sellers may start out intent on selling their home. However, they will find the selling process challenging until they realize exactly what they are actually selling. Not their home, but real estate — bricks and mortar, land, and related rights — that must attract buyers searching for their new home. Removing the seller’s personal veneer from a house or condominium unit to reveal the true value of the real estate is just as important as sellers removing their personal attachment — pride of ownership — from their thinking and decision making. List price should reflect value from buyers’ perspectives — that’s the real estate market value and the value evident after comparing competing listings — and seller’s investment value based on the current market.

#2. Value vs Cost: Seller improvements do not hold equivalent dollar-value for buyers. For example, a seller who recently paid thousands to modernize windows and replace the roof, may expect list price to reflect this out-of-pocket cost. Some buyers may attribute move-in-ready value to these property improvements, but the actual dollars attached to these seller expenditures may fall short of seller costs.

#3. The Market Now: Economics can change quickly. The current real estate market is the one buyers are shopping in. For instance, the higher priced market last year, last month, or even last week means nothing to buyers once economic conditions change. Sellers who hang on to a now-historic selling price that they missed out on and who refuse to adjust to market-dictated price down-grades, can create a listing barrier by sticking with the out-dated higher list price. The listing message may be interpreted as “stubborn seller here,” which does not attract buyers. Letting go of missed opportunity can be a challenge for sellers, but this does not help the property “shout” opportunity to buyers.

#4. Selling: Only Half The Winning Real Estate Strategy Sellers who expect their real estate win to come exclusively from the sale of their real estate, miss the point of real estate as an investment. The full return from real estate ownership — on top of the benefits gained by living in the property or renting it out — comes from selling the property and putting the earned profit to work either to purchase more real estate or to invest the funds in other ways. Sellers who only spend time and effort on selling, may miss out on even greater returns from putting their sales profits to work. Selling or cashing-in real estate is only half the winning strategy! More on this topic in my next column.

Real estate professionals are trained to understand the economic and financial complexities of establishing market value and list price for the real estate held by their clients. Ideally, list price is established by the seller based on information, selling strategy, and market data provided by the listing professional and on seller goals. Select the right professional for the correct expertise to get the list price right.

List price is based on market value which is more accurately represented by a range than an absolute figure. Depending on the marketing strategy that matches seller needs and wants — including seller time constraints and moving criteria — the list price may be set on the optimistic side or with a practical slant.

What value and opportunity will your list price communicate to buyers?

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

6 Surprising Benefits Of Buying Or Selling Your Home In The Fall

Seeing fewer for-sale signs now that summer is over? That can be great news for buyers who are looking to score a new home and buyers who want to get rid of their place and buy a new one. If you think you missed the boat on making your move this year, we’re here to tell you why buying and selling in the fall can work for you.

Less competition

Yes, there may be fewer homes on the market, but there are also fewer buyers out there competing for the same home you want. That gives buyers an important edge. “Families on a mission to move into a new home before school starts are out of the picture,” said Forbes. “Competition for houses drops off in the fall, a time many people consider to be off-season in real estate. But there are still homes for sale – and in some cases, there’s just as much inventory as there was during the spring and summer.”

The benefit to sellers is that those buyers who are out there tend to be more serious, which means your REALTOR® can key in on the real buyers without having to sift through the riffraff.

Tax breaks

If you’re a buyer who closes escrow before December 31, and you may get a nice write off on your taxes. “Property tax and mortgage interest are both deductions you can take for your whole year’s worth of income, even if you closed on your home in December,” David Hryck, a New York, NY tax adviser, lawyer, and personal finance expert told Realtor.com. “Any payments that are made prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible. This can make a serious difference in the amount you owe the government at the end of the year.”

There are also potential tax breaks for home sellers. “You can include all sorts of selling expenses in the cost basis of your house,” said The Balance. “Increasing your adjusted cost basis decreases your capital gain because this is what’s subtracted from the sales price to determine how much of a gain – or loss in some cases – you’ve realized. If you have less of a gain, you’re more likely to fall within the exclusion limit, and if you’re gain isn’t excluded, you’ll pay taxes on less.” And that’s just the beginning. Closing costs and home improvements may also be write offs for sellers. Check out the full list here.

Home for the holidays

Buy or sell early in the fall and you could be nicely situated in your new home in time for the holidays and before winter weather hits. Moving during a calmer time of year also means you may have better access to movers and other necessary resources than during the busier spring and summer seasons.

The right price

Did you list in the spring or summer with an exorbitant number that you thought you’d have no trouble getting because it was a hot market? That’s pretty common these days. Whether you’ve had a revelation about the price you should be asking or have made updates to your home to justify a higher price, you’re probably in better shape to get your (realistic) asking price in the fall. If you’re a seller and you establish a smart pricing strategy, you could find your home standing out in the crowd and selling while others sit on the market under a blanket of snow.

Buyers also may have a better time getting a home that’s within their budget because when there is less competition for homes, there is less chance of bidding wars and over-asking-price sales.

Fall may be safer for buyers and sellers

Here’s something you may not have thought of. “Did you know that burglars have peak seasons? They do, Sarah Brown, a home safety expert for SafeWise.com, told Forbes. “July and August are prime months for burglaries to take place. Waiting until the fall [to buy] gives you an advantage when learning about a home and the neighborhood. You’ll be settled in your home and can take precautions—like setting up that new alarm system—before the next burglary season rolls around.

For sellers, less competition for your home can be a good thing if it means your home is safer from theft.

Great deals on stuff to fix up your home

Coordinate the timing right, and those items you need to fix up your home for sale in the fall or update and upgrade after a purchase might be priced to your advantage. Check Consumer Reports for a full list of the best times of year to buy everything, and keep in mind holiday and Black Friday sales. You could score some great deals at this time of year.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Home Inspectors Are Held To Higher Standards

A California appellate court ruling contains both good news and bad news for home inspectors. The good news is that, in the eyes of the court, home inspectors are in the same category as doctors, attorneys, accountants, and other professionals. The bad news is that being in such a category restricts their ability to limit liability in certain ways.

Armando Moreno and Gloria Contreras purchased a 49-year-old Whittier home in August of 1998. On August 18, Deric Sanchez, doing business as Aaero Spec Quality Home Inspectors, conducted an inspection of the property on their behalf. Moreno accompanied Sanchez during the inspection.

Sanchez’s inspection noted that the heating ducts were “serviceable”, although he did recommend that the buyers contract with a licensed expert to clean out the entire system, including filters.

The preprinted contract used by Aaero Spec contained a clause providing that any lawsuit arising out of the inspection had to be filed within one year from the date of the inspection. The contract noted that, “This time period is shorter than otherwise provided by law.” (Business and Professions Code section 7199 provides a four-year statute of limitations for home inspections.) Moreno, an attorney and licensed real estate broker, signed the contract and initialed the clause shortening the statute of limitations.

Escrow closed on October 8, and the buyers moved in a few weeks thereafter. In December, both began feeling ill. Moreno was ill for one week in December and Contreras was sick for two weeks. Her illness became chronic. Near the end of summer in 1999, a culture revealed she had a bacterial infection.

Subsequent inspections by other companies revealed, “… among other things, an unsealed air return which permitted the unit to draw dust, dirt and rust into the system. It also discovered dirt, dust and debris in the main return which permitted dust and dust mites to be distributed through the system and into the house.”

The buyers, of course, sued the inspector for negligence. Their suit was filed October 19, 1999. The inspector argued that the buyer should not be allowed to sue, because the one-year statute of limitations had run. To this, the buyer responded that the ‘delayed discovery’ rule should apply, meaning that the time period during which a suit is allowed should not begin to run until the alleged negligence has been discovered.

The Orange County Superior Court (held there because the plaintiff is a Los Angeles Court Commissioner) agreed with the inspector. The court noted that the delayed discovery rule applies to a variety of professions, but “…building inspectors really don’t fall into the same public-policy circles as lawyers and doctors, possibly architects, particularly when they are sued for malpractice, and it would be something of an extension, as I see it, to put them there…”

The buyers appealed, and the Second Appellate District agreed with them, reversing the Superior Court. The appellate court noted “…judicial decisions have declared the discovery rule applicable in situations where the plaintiff is unable to see or appreciate a breach has occurred.” It went on to say, “… justification for the discovery rule has not been restricted to regulated and licensed professions. Courts have also employed the rule of delayed accrual in cases involving trades people who have held themselves out as having a special skill…”

The reasoning is simply this. In the case of trades or professions that have special skills, a consumer may lack the ability or opportunity to recognize that negligence has occurred, even if the consumer is as diligent in observation as he is capable of being. In such situations, a statute of limitations should not begin to run until the consumer has discovered that, apparently at least, negligence has occurred.

The court held that this is the situation with home inspections: “…most homeowners will not recognize a problem has been overlooked, or noticed but not reported, until something goes wrong and the damage becomes apparent.” Thus, it held that the delayed discovery rule should apply.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

The Critical First Two Weeks of Marketing Your Home For Sale

Brokers share their listings with other brokers in the multiple listing service (MLS) under certain rules of cooperation and compensation. One of the rules of cooperation is that each broker and agent make a new listing available to other MLS members within 24 or 48 hours of signing the listing agreement with the seller.

This is to give you, the seller, the greatest chance of selling your home during the first two weeks of marketing. This critical two-week period is your best opportunity to sell your home.

Several key events happen quickly:

1. Your home will be entered into the MLS showing system with your showing instructions, so that other agents can bring their buyers to see your home. While your listing is being prepared for marketing, your agent will contact his or her buyers and inform colleagues of the new listing.

2. Other data such as mapping, satellite image, neighborhood information, tax roll data, school information and other data will be added to your listing so that buyers can get the full picture of what it’s like to live in your home.

3. Your agent will either take photos, or schedule a videographer to help market your home with photos and video. This enables buyers to walk through your home and property virtually, so they can choose or eliminate your home when deciding which home to buy.

4. Your agent may create virtual or printed “feature” sheets that showcase your home’s features to advantage, so buyers can remember it was your home they liked best when it’s time to do side-by-side comparisons.

5. Your agent will schedule your home on the MLS tour for other agents to see, and ask for feedback. The agents who see your home in person are important, as they will be able to report your home’s features and condition to their buyers. Homes in top move-in-ready condition sell faster and for more money.

6. Your agent will distribute your listing data to his or her website or blog, accounts such as Twitter or Instagram, the broker’s website, and third-party sites like Realtor.com, Zillow, or Trulia.

7. Your agent will put a sign in your yard announcing your home is for sale.

8. Your agent may advertise your home in a number of places, including the local newspaper and homes magazines. Your agent may also put your home in their personal marketing tools such as e-magazines, newsletters, or email alerts to prospective buyers.

Anyone who is interested in homes in your price range and area will know your home is available for sale within the first two weeks of marketing.

If you don’t get many showings or offers, chances are good that your home may be facing stiff competition from other homes on the market. They are in a better location, or superior condition or they’re priced more aggressively.

If you don’t have showings within two weeks of listing your home, consult your agent. Perhaps you can do a little more to spruce up your home’s curb appeal, or perhaps stage the interior to better advantage.

Give your home a little more time before you adjust the price. You may be in a buyer’s market with many homes for sale. If so, buyers need more time to sort through the homes on the market.

You don’t want to take chances when marketing your home. Your best chance of selling your home is when it’s new to the market and exciting to buyers. Don’t lose your advantage by overpricing or underpreparing your home for market.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Drone Technology Beneficial To The Real Estate Game

Real estate agents and home inspectors are always looking for innovative ways to keep their clients informed. One of the latest tools in the home buying and selling process is drones. Drones are remote-controlled pilotless aircraft that allow aerial shots and different views of the property and can provide an added benefit to real estate transactions.

Here are three key ways drone technology is enhancing the real estate industry:

Additional Images and Video

Before drones became accessible to real estate professionals, aerial photos and videography were limited to grainy satellite images or expensive photography sessions. Drones provide a cost effective and visually stunning alternative — and can be used as a buzz worthy mention to move the sale along. Drones also provide a way for prospective home buyers to experience a video or photo tour in an online home listing before taking the time to physically visit the house. Using this technology can help to diminish the extensive time it takes to tour available homes and can speed along the home transaction.

Catch Potential Property Problem Areas

While home inspectors are trained to uncover potential problems of a home, drones can offer another layer of enhancement to the inspections. They may be useful when inspecting steep/high roofs, chimneys and areas that might otherwise be inaccessible. With the recent changes by the FAA allowing commercial use of drones after going through a licensing process, this technology helps a qualified home inspector to reduce the unknown and potentially save homeowners the cost of previously undiscovered issues.

A Clear View of the Land

Drones have the capability to show an entire property, which is especially beneficial when the area is expansive and includes additional features like stables, acreage, farmland or even a second dwelling. This also benefits home inspectors when looking for things that can sometimes be challenging to identify when conducting inspections on foot.

The industry continues to explore ways to leverage drone-collected data to better assist real estate professionals. This includes increased use of infrared scanning, site modeling and property analysis.

While drones are providing a competitive advantage, it is important they are always used properly. Operating a drone takes extensive practice as misuse can lead to unexpected injuries to people and property. It is critical that the drone operator, whether the real estate or home inspection professional, is properly licensed by the FAA, has a commercially registered drone, understands any local or state guidelines and is properly covered by insurance. As drones are new to the insurance world as well, not all polices automatically cover their use in commercial applications. With the use of real estate technology on the rise, the industry will continue to evolve and become more competitive than ever.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

What You Need To Know Before You Buy In A Planned Community

A particularly active spring storm season left pockmarked roofs and tumbled fences throughout North Texas this year, including many in my master-planned community, thanks to an EF0 tornado that blew its way through the neighborhood (thankfully missing my house – this time). The process of repairs and replacements was as fickle as the tornado itself. Some homeowners received immediate or at least prompt approval from the community Homeowners’ Association (HOA) and its Architectural Review Committee (ARC), while others were forced to wait and wait and wait – which would be frustrating, even if this weren’t the wettest June in 13 years. In one case, a homeowner’s approval was inexplicably delayed so long, even though she was only looking to replace her damaged roof with the exact same roof, that she suffered leaks and damage to the interior of her home.

That’s one of the rubs of living in a community that is governed by an HOA: You need approval to do stuff to your house, even if that stuff is going to be an improvement over what it currently looks like. It’s not the only potential downside, but there are also plenty of advantages associated with an HOA. And with more than 40 million U.S. households “or 53% of the owner-occupied households in the America” living with an HOA, according to HOA-USA – a number that’s on the rise with new construction, of which more than 60% have an HOA – it’s something you might have to deal with. Get to know the pros and cons so there won’t be any surprises.

Pro: An HOA protects your investment. “HOA rules and regulations help ensure homeowners keep their homes well maintained and in compliance with overall appearance standards,” said Signature Homes. “Combined with proper care of amenities and common areas, the value of your home is more protected than one that does not have HOA oversight.”

Con: Limits your creativity and individuality. HOAs may offer limited options when it comes to updates. Older neighborhoods may have a small color palette available to owners and may be reluctant to expand it to current trends.

Pro: You won’t have to deal with neighbors painting their house pink or letting their grass grow to armpit height. “Homes within an HOA must meet the standards set by the association or face a fine, so you’re less likely to see unkempt lawns, peeling paint or a garishly painted house,” said Realtor.com. “Some HOAs have a design review board with the power to approve any changes to your home’s exterior.”

Con: Those restrictions can be Confining. An HOA demands that you ask permission before making any changes to your home – even if you’re just talking about staining your fence the very same color. Depending on how finicky your HOA is, you might also get fined because your landscaper took the week off or because the basketball net in your driveway is torn (true story).

Pro: File this under the umbrella of “protecting your investment.” Many HOAs have stipulations about how many cars, or what type, can be parked on your property, or even where they can be parked. That can help ensure that the neighbor down the street doesn’t turn his lawn into an auto body shop with multiple non-functioning cars up on blocks.

Con: Looking to park your RV or boat in your driveway? An HOA may nix that idea. Be sure you check ahead of time to make sure this is allowed.

Pro: An HOA decision may not be final. Get a rejection from the HOA on your submitted request to make changes to your landscaping? You can always appeal and state your case.

Con: Deciding to “ask for forgiveness instead of permission” rarely goes well, so, if you decide to go ahead with changes despite not receiving an approval from the HOA, beware: You might be fined.

Pro: Some HOAs take care of things like your front-yard landscaping and trash removal, which means you don’t have to pay for it or worry about it.

Con: That also may mean strict restrictions about what you can and can’t plant in your front yard. You may have to reconsider those rose bushes.

Pro: You might not have to put in a pool because there’s one in the community that you’re helping to pay for through your HOA dues, but don’t have to maintain.

Con: When the pool needs to be redone, it’ll be you and all your neighbors that are on the hook to pay for it – even if you never use it.

Pro: A pool is just the beginning. Planned communities with an HOA can have golf courses, tennis courts, clubhouses, playgrounds, and even private lakes for fishing and recreation.

Con: The more amenities you have, the more you’re likely to pay in HOA dues. In a large masterplan with a couple of pools, a playground, and a tennis court, you can pay as little as $50 per month. The more homes that are added, the more the overall cost is spread out. A more “typical range” is $200–400 per month, said Investopedia, adding that, “The more upscale the building and the more amenities it has, the higher the homeowners’ association fees are likely to be.” In some condos, the fees may be higher if parking and security are considerations, and, especially, in a luxury building with amenities including a fitness center and concierge. “Hollywood’s fancy Sierra Towers condo building, which is filled to the brim with amenities like 24-hour concierge service and valet parking. They charge residents of a 3,400-square-foot condo about $4,000 per month in HOA fees,” said Realtor.com.

Pro: You’ve got a built-in mediator. “Involved in a tiff with your neighbor over that big oak tree that’s losing limbs? You can settle some confrontations with your neighbors by taking your grievances to the HOA’s board or management company,” said RISMedia.

Con: Maybe you’re the type that wants to “handle” grievances in your own way?

Pro: Some HOAs allow you to pay monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Con: Falling behind on HOA dues can lead to foreclosure. “This is another reason you’ll want to make sure those HOA fees are in your budget,” said Credit.com. “An HOA can move to foreclose on your property if you fail to pay its dues and/or associated late fees. Laws can vary by state. A few, for instance, place limits on when an HOA can move to foreclose. So if you’ve fallen behind on payments, you may want to consult a local attorney about your best recourse.”

Pro: Part of what you’ll pay to the HOA every month goes to a reserve fund, which can be used for neighborhood repairs and emergency needs.

Con: The reserves may not be enough to cover large expenses. “In addition to monthly fees, if a major expense such as a new roof or a new elevator comes up and there aren’t enough funds in the HOA’s reserves to pay for it, the association may charge an extra assessment that can run into thousands of dollars,” said Investopedia.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Protectecting Yourself During a Move

“I can’t wait to move!”

How often do you hear someone say that? What they mean is they can’t wait to be in their new place, all unpacked and organized and enjoying their new surroundings.

What they don’t mean is, “I can’t wait to spend a month packing up everything I own and hauling it into a truck we’re going to drive across country when I’ve never driven anything larger than a mid-sized sedan, only to have to haul it all out, and into that new house. The new house that has two flights of stairs and narrow hallways. Don’t get me started on unpacking boxes.”

And what they REALLY don’t mean is, “I can’t wait for the movers to break a bunch of my things and lose a bunch of stuff.” Pretty sure they also don’t mean, “I can’t wait for dishonest movers to delay my delivery and charge me quadruple my quote and then hold all my stuff hostage while I sit here helpless.”

Think that could never happen to you?

“Last year, Massachusetts officials sued one moving company and New Jersey officials sued two for providing low-ball estimates and then grossly inflating fees after loading the trucks,” said Consumer Reports. “One of the companies had threatened to auction the possessions of customers who didn’t pay.”

Added MarketWatch about the possibility of mover fraud: “Typically, a mover gives you an extremely low estimate over the phone or Internet without ever actually seeing what needs to be moved. You agree, they show up, load the truck with all your worldly possessions and then tell you it will actually cost a lot more. Then, they hold everything you own hostage on their truck until you cough up the extra cash.”

Yes, moving can be fraught with challenge and frustration and even heartache. So how do you protect yourself? Here are some tips for a safe and fraud-free move.

Do your research

Proper preparation can help you ward off many of the issues that can turn a move into a nightmare, and that’s starts with a healthy dose of research. You always want to ask for a referral rather than using an unknown. And not just anyone is qualified to give a referral, according to MSN.

“Ask your real-estate agent. The general consensus among moving professionals is that word of mouth is the best way to find a good mover,” they said. “Real-estate agents know the ins and outs of the housing industry and are the most reliable sources. Realtors want to make sure that your (moving) transaction is a good one.”

There are also websites dedicated to moving scams. “MovingScam.com maintains a ‘black list,'” they said, as well as a “message board filled with consumer experiences, bad and good.”

Verify licensing and look for complaints

MSN recommends people who are moving investigate the companies they are looking at using. Interstate movers must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“Check with your area’s Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed and whether there are reliable,” they said.

Protect Your Move also provides info on whether a mover’s license is current “and if the company has ever had a federal complaint.”

Watch out for the lowball bid

“You get what you paid for” is often a dangerous reality when it comes to moving. To protect yourself against unethical movers, get several estimates and make sure to weed out any that seem too low. Yes, the desire to save money is strong. But an unusually low bid is often a red flag.

“When shopping for movers, it’s best to get at least three estimates, ” said MSN. “If you’ve got one that’s really, really low compared to the other two, you’re going to know something’s up.”

Have a contingency plan

No matter how well you prepare, the unexpected can still happen. What if the truck doesn’t show up on time? Are you prepared to live without your things for a few days, or longer? Make sure you pack a bag of essentials you can have with you while the rest of your stuff is stuck on the truck.

Protect yourself

The Better Business Bureau suggests paying a little extra for peace of mind.

“Consider accepting full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can eliminate headaches after your move,” they said. “Purchasing full (replacement) value protection from your mover means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age. The cost of full value protection must be included in the initial estimate you receive for an interstate move.”

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

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