Today’s Brave New World of Englewood Real Estate Marketing

In Englewood real estate as in many other businesses, successfully drawing the public’s attention, then communicating value, are what separate can-do practitioners from the pack. It’s pigeonholed under “marketing” instead of “selling” because the latter sounds more like a one-on-one activity, whereas “marketing” depicts the kind of effort that goes out to the world at large.

The past couple of decades have produced sea changes in the way Englewood real estate brokers and agents need to approach their marketing approach. It’s not just the way all the advertising and communications media have been transformed; it’s also the expectations of the people they are intended to reach—the buyers. When a homeowner intends to put his home up for sale, one way to insure success is to be aware of the elements that make up any marketing plan designed to take advantage of today’s 2015 Englewood real estate marketplace.

  • Technology is at the forefront of good marketing, and today’s Realtors® can choose to put it to their clients’ advantage. A responsive website, striking visuals, good content, and specific details to accompany their business cards, brochures, and other traditional marketing materials build more than their own brand—they launch every client’s Englewood real estate listing across the virtual Universe!
  • Today’s real estate market rewards creativity more than was hitherto the norm. Because the web has made so much information so accessible, having a knack for standing apart from the crowd is more important than ever. Using techniques to attract attention is the first step in guaranteeing marketing success, so understanding search engine optimization (and using that knowledge regularly) is vital. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I make sure to post this blog regularly!
  • A social media presence is a must for anyone conducting real estate in Englewood —and it just so happens that it’s the perfect venue for Realtors® to shine. It’s a very personal (well, not quite an in-the-flesh handshake—but as personal as electronics allow!) way to expand networks and engage people in a diverse cross section of prospective audiences.
  • Using electronic and social media is part of the story, but monitoring their effectiveness (“the metrics”) is a necessity to track how well they are working. By tracking this information and using the results to take advantage of what works best, every Englewood real estate client shares in maximizing their listing’s exposure.

Effective real estate marketing uses ongoing research—and the strategy and energetic tactics that reach out to take advantage of the whole spectrum of today’s communication resources.

If you are thinking of listing your own home, I hope you’ll give me a call to see all that I can do for you!

Kitchen Tweaks Broaden Littleton Homes’ Market Appeal

Kitchen Tweaks Broaden Littleton Homes’ Market AppealJust as the kitchen is a magnet for family activity, when a Littleton home goes up for sale, it’s the one room guaranteed to get rapt attention at every showing. Older Littleton homes can be at something of a disadvantage here, especially when structural design elements prohibit their being transformed into one of today’s popular airy open plan kitchens.

Perhaps you’ve already taken a paintbrush to your cabinets to give them a new look, or discovered the transformative power of inexpensive subway tile on a dingy backsplash. If your kitchen is still looking a bit uninspired, enhance it before the home showings start with a final inexpensive tweak or two.

Where empty wall space is present, you may be able to create additional storage space. Open shelving is a trendy look that’s both aesthetically pleasing and functional. A blank wall can be transformed by installing rustic wooden or sleek metal shelving units…but with one proviso: open shelving does double duty as display space—and that’s no place for mismatched or over-the-hill china and glassware!

A little of the right kind of handiwork can go a long way toward adding some 21st Century features to an aging Littleton home. Where an outlet is handy, transform a cabinet shelf into a docking station for smartphones and tablets. A small wall-mounted flat screen monitor can bring TV (or web video) to liven up the area. Hooks mounted near a back door can be made available for hanging backpacks, grocery bags, keys, or leashes. A bottom kitchen drawer can be transformed into a rollout pet feeding station.

No matter what else, it’s a plus whenever a kitchen space can clearly function as a gathering place as well as the meal preparation hub. It may be as simple as placing stools on one side of an island, adding a pub table and chairs, or transforming a neglected corner into a coffee station (those Keurigs make it a snap!)—giving your Littleton home yet another spot for a family to congregate.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry reported that kitchens were the top remodeling project in last year. In fact, 82% of NARI members stated that kitchen remodels represent their primary work—and I think we can guess what the results for 2015 will be. It makes a good argument for putting in a little elbow grease and creativity to spruce up the kitchen before you put your Littleton home up for sale.

You can also give me a call: I’m pleased to do a no-obligation walk-through for my feedback on how your listing should fare in today’s market!

Englewood Real Estate Watchers Note Rise in U.S. Jumbo Loans

2-27-jumboloan-300x223Inside Mortgage Finance is a periodical that precisely lives up to its name: Englewood residential real estate professionals can turn to it for the latest word on national trends inside the mortgage industry. Admittedly, this usually makes for pretty dull reading for outsiders (that is, everyone else); but one story in last week’s edition was interesting enough that it was picked up by the general business press.

The topic was jumbo loans. In Englewood real estate circles, the issuing of jumbo loans is of particular interest because of their indicator status. Jumbos are the ones with mortgage amounts exceeding the limits for government-backed loans. They’re also known as ‘nonconforming’—and like all the other non-conformists in life, they don’t quite behave like everyone else. Englewood jumbo loans tend to be slightly harder to qualify for than run-of-the-mill mortgages, and as a rule carry higher interest rates. If their share of the home loan market grows, it indicates that high-end home sales are improving.

And that’s what happened in the U.S. in 2014, according to IMF. “Jumbo Lending Stronger than Overall Market, Hits Highest Share in 10 Years” was the headline in a report that pegged fourth quarter jumbo loan volume at $67,000,000,000. That’s a lot of high-end real estate!

When The Wall Street Journal picked up the story, they pointed to a decrease in mortgage lending overall, but pointedly less so for jumbo loans. Bank of America reported a 3% growth in the number of first-time home buyers who took out jumbos in 2014—and applicants were a younger bunch, too: their average age decreased from 46 years to 44. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the largest jumbo provider, observed a similar trend: more first-timers taking out jumbo loans.

If this has local real estate watchers wondering whether the popularity of jumbo loans in Englewood will follow the national trend (and if so, why), there was at least one straightforward explanation. HSH, the housing and mortgage data firm, reported that by the end of this January, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed jumbo mortgage “dropped below 4% and was at a historic low of 3.92%….” With rates like those, the WSJ wrote, “Low interest rates are spurring more older affluent Americans to consider a mortgage.”

You don’t have to be in the jumbo market to seize the financial advantages this winter’s favorable real estate climate offers. Just call me!

 

Littleton Property Buyers Choice: On the Deed/On the Loan

Littleton Property Buyers ChoiceHome buyers direct a series of major decisions when it comes down to finalizing their Littleton property purchase. Among the most important are two with decisive ownership and financial consequences: who will be the primary borrower for the mortgage; and who will be named on the deed?

The answers to these questions are the opposite of the fine print details that few of owners ever need to concern themselves about. These cast defining roles in determining the eventual ownership of the Littleton property and in assigning financial responsibility for loan repayment.

Whose Name Goes On the Loan?

Determining who is to be the primary borrower may not be as simple as you would think. After all, one person might have the excellent credit needed to insure the best interest rate, while the other person currently brings in a higher annual income—providing the cash flow boost that enables a sufficient mortgage. It is often necessary for both members of a couple to sign on the dotted line to get a Littleton property financed. A loan officer will walk buyers through the process, explaining which combination will offer the greatest loan amount at the most favorable terms.

Whose Name Goes on the Deed?

It’s important to keep in mind that the deed is almost completely separate from the loan. Even if only one person signs for the loan, several people can be listed on the deed. Placing a name on the deed shares ownership of the property. That can be helpful in the event of an untimely death or to avoid probate during an estate settlement, but there can also be drawbacks.

Since those named on the deed share in title rights to the property, that can empower them to prevent a sale—and also leave the property vulnerable to their debts. That’s why it’s important to be clear about all outstanding obligations before adding people to a deed, lest a pre-existing debt result in a lien being filed against the property. It’s also good to remember that until the loan is paid in full, the bank or lender also has an ownership interest, which is why the bank can take possession for non-payment.

Making the Decision

Making the most of your Littleton property is a continuing planning exercise that begins with these first ownership decisions. For individuals as well as couples, the multiple issues that come into play have financial and tax ramifications that merit careful consideration.

Before buttoning up those final decisions, I always advise clients to consult with their accountant and lawyer to get the whole story—it’s a story which begins with your first call to my office!

For Englewood Boomerang Buyers, a Window Opens

2-20-boomerang-300x238There is a seven-year window for some past Englewood homeowners—and it’s one that’s opening, not closing. The ‘window’ in question is the one that could activate Englewood “Boomerang Buyers”—which would come as good news for the local home sales.

Some background about Englewood Boomerang Buyers. It’s a term coined in the wake of the subprime mortgage fiasco, describing those burned by the housing crisis. They were, on the whole, Baby Boomers and GenXers who were caught up in the Great Recession. For many who became enmeshed in the effects of the nasty confluence of the cliff-dive of the subprime mortgage bond market and collapse of residential valuations that swept the nation, foreclosures or short sales became, literally, offers they couldn’t refuse. Not only did the bitter aftertaste leave many with a spoiled appetite for homeownership, but the damage done to the credit ratings of millions made that a moot point: they had fallen off the scale when it came to qualifying for a new mortgage.

But that was then; this is now. It’s a now that, in RealtyTrac Newsroom’s breathless phraseology, “the first wave of…homeowners who lost their home to foreclosure or short sale during the foreclosure crisis are now past the seven year window they conservatively need to repair their credit and qualify to buy a new home.”

Soon, more and more Boomerang Buyers in Englewood will be in the clear, if they choose to be; and they are only the first wave. “Nearly 7.3 million potential boomerang buyers nationwide will be in a position to buy again from a credit repair perspective over the next eight years,” says Newsroom. Bankrate, the mortgage and financial advice website, sees the group as particularly well-qualified. They quote a broker in North Carolina to that effect: “If you’ve been through a foreclosure, you’ve already been a homeowner…you know the process. You’ve been through hell sometime in the last seven years…”

That word ‘sometime’ is apt, because the seven year period has been anything but uniform. Guidelines for that “waiting period” have sometimes been three years for FHA qualifiers, or even shorter for portfolio loans that lenders keep on their own books. But whether it’s three or seven years, the clock usually starts ticking only when a foreclosure has been completed. But according to FICO, although a foreclosure remains on a credit report for seven years, “the negative impact will fade as time passes.”

For potential Englewood Boomerang Buyers still waiting for a foreclosure to disappear altogether from their credit reports, there are other routes that can lead to a homeownership reboot. For more on buying or selling, I’m always pleased to sit down and discuss some of the great opportunities in our current market!

Changed Littleton Foreclosure Picture Still Presents Opportunities

2-20-foreclosureThe Littleton foreclosure situation is a good deal different from what we were discussing a few years ago when the tidal wave of 7.3 million foreclosures and short sales swept the nation. When The New York Times “Dealbook” recently pronounced that the supply of cheap foreclosed homes in America is dwindling, it came as news to…well, no one.

Let’s face it: Littleton investors wouldn’t need to look up the latest statistics to guess that number of offerings would be down. The continuing rebound in home values, slow but steady improvement in the overall economic picture, and even just the passage of time has to mean that the glut of subprime-crisis-era foreclosures would have worked their way through the system.

But there are always new foreclosures, and for anyone hoping to make a bargain buy in today’s Littleton foreclosure market, the same qualities that brought post-crisis success still apply today:

  • Knowledge of (or willingness to research) comparable neighborhood values
  • Realistic appreciation of rehabilitation costs
  • Decisiveness (willingness to act swiftly)
  • Ready access to investment capital

The principal difference in today’s Littleton foreclosure milieu is that far fewer are available, and the difference between market value and listing price has narrowed. There may be fewer competitors to worry about, but some are still out there, as always. Today sees fewer institutional investors—in fact, some are leaving the market altogether, taking their profits and selling out to groups more committed to long-term property management.

Aside from the qualities described, there is still no blanket formula for landing the best Littleton foreclosure deal. But among other observations, there are two that are worth considering.

First, despite the lessening of the impact institutional investors previously had on the market, it may still be necessary to prepare to offer more than the listed price. The dwindling number of foreclosed homes tends to create an imbalance between supply and demand. If other buyers are offering higher amounts than the asking price, it can easily result in a bidding war situation. As always, by researching underlying values, the best investors avoid foreclosure buys that wind up being little more than break-even propositions.

Another wrinkle to be aware of is the possibility of future cost increases. For instance, it can transpire that an investor succeeds in purchasing a property significantly below its true value, only to find that a reassessment by taxing authorities raises its property tax bill through the roof! Canny investors prevent this surprise by finding out how the local Assessor’s office sets rates and schedules appraisals.

The Littleton foreclosure picture changes constantly. If you are interested in the investment possibilities—or are looking for a buy on your next home—don’t hesitate to give me a call to discuss the latest offerings!

News Flash! Men, Women House Hunters Differ!

2-20-a-menwomen-300x300Last week, The Wall Street Journal made it official: they had a slow news day. It was February 11 (that was Wednesday) when they ran the feature story, “A Gender Gap in Real Estate.”

This was something Englewood house hunters (not to mention those hoping to attract their attention) could certainly appreciate: an article about what men and women consider “very important” when it comes to features in homes. Author Adam Bonislawski based his story on National Association of Realtors® survey information; the results pointed to some dissimilarities between what women and men look for.

Now, I’ve had a good deal of experience helping both men and women house hunters in Englewood, so it didn’t come as a complete surprise that their priorities differ. For instance, I was not at all surprised about the contrasting emphases the two put on the importance of having a walk-in closet in the master bedroom. The only surprise was that it was the men who found it much more important (38%-29%)!

What about house hunters’ feelings about the importance of kitchen appliances being new? Same phenomenon: men 38%, women 29% (possibly because appliances are gadgets, and men like the newest gadgets). How important is it that a home be single level? The sexes reverse: Male house hunters think it is very important 18% of the time; women, 31%. I’d bet that within the 18% that are masculine we’d find a disproportionate number of stay-at-home dads.

House hunters registered a big gap when it comes to rating 9-foot or higher ceilings as very important. A miniscule 8% of females agreed, while nearly three times that many of their male counterparts thought so (21%).

One harder to guess feature would have been the desirability of a kitchen island. Nineteen percent of male house hunters found it very important, versus just 8% of the females. Does this mean women are tired of entertaining? Do they no longer consider their masculine counterparts capable of sous chef action? Or is it that more men are taking over the cooking duties?

I’d have to admit, I’m less than certain that these national averages are 100% reflective of what house hunters in Englewood prefer. Yes, Englewood men certainly value attics (13%) more than the ladies (7%)—they do tend to spend more time up there (but neither are terribly committed to that form of high living). Basements are preferred by close to equal numbers.

Being that these findings are sort of interesting (not fascinating, perhaps, but at least sort of interesting), you might be wondering why at the beginning I thought it was evidence that the WSJ was having a slow news day. It’s because of some tiny print at the bottom of a graph, which gave the date of the NAR survey—all the way back in 2013! More up-to-date is what we find unfolding for today’s Englewood house hunters: give me a call to get the latest!

Littleton Rental Property Choice Involves 6 Key Factors

2-20-rental-300x199Just about any investor on the lookout for a promising Littleton rental property has a number of assumed criteria in mind—often arrived at without bothering to sit down to list them. Remember, this is already a successful individual, usually with ample business experience—and always with the financial acumen to be able to make a substantial investment. For them, creating a written decision matrix really isn’t necessary.

Still, there’s a lot of literature on the web offering opinions on what are the most commonly agreed-upon factors for choosing a rental property. Quite a few “Top 10”s. Going over them, it turns out that some are only slight variations on a single theme, so I’ve boiled them down to a “Top Six.”

The first one is barely ever mentioned. It’s this:

1. Most investors have predetermined the price range that his or her Littleton rental property must fall into, but that can turn out to be a false step. If the goal is to garner the maximum return, it’s possible that some humbly-priced Littleton rental properties can actually turn a greater annual profit—even in absolute dollars—than some higher-end homes (particularly those that suffer extended periods without suitable higher-end tenants). So Number 1 is SET YOUR INVESTMENT GOAL. Cash flow return can be a very different goal than long term property appreciation.

2. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. This is the one that combines a half dozen factors, variously listed as Neighborhood, Proximity to Jobs, Amenities (parks, malls, gyms, movie theaters, public transportation hubs, etc.), Crime, Schools, and even Property Taxes. This factor might be chosen for convenience, as when a rental property investor wishes to be able to supervise the property; or for an expectation of value appreciation in a Littleton area which is gaining popularity. As everyone has had heard from time immemorial, L.L.L. is always important!

3. HEALTH OF THE PROPERTY. If the underlying structure and mechanicals have been intelligently designed and well maintained, this one is of no importance. If not, a thorough inspection with top-grade recommendations and cost projections is a must.

4. VACANCY RATES. The number of rental homes listed and the number of vacancies should be considered highly important for determining a promising rental property in Littleton. In newly expanding communities, sometimes you can spot a man parked near an intersection, clicking away on a counter as the autos pass by. He’s measuring traffic to see if the volume is great enough to support a gas station, or market, or mini-mall. The turnover of rental listings—how long rental properties stay vacant from week to week—can provide guidance about the same kind of information.

5. COMPETITIVE MARKET. The average rent amounts advertised for comparable properties can be the decisive factor for whether a rental home investment makes financial sense.

Of course, another factor that can make a big difference is the experience level of your Littleton Realtor®. That’s actually key factor #6—and (I hope) where I come in!

Retirees Buying a Home in Littleton Face Fewer Unknowns

2-13-homeloan-300x197One of the advantages of reaching retirement age is that your needs can be much clearer to gauge than they were in the past. When it comes to planning for buying a home in Littleton, for instance, you no longer have to worry about many of the contingencies that created vast unknowns earlier on.

When we were at the starting line in careers and family life, we couldn’t know exactly where our career would send us, so the level of certainty we had when we bought our first house was sketchy at best. Likewise, the shape of our family, needs of our children (and even those of our parents) loomed as giant question marks. We might have had definite ideas about what we wanted the future to bring, but sooner or later, most of us learned that what happens is up for grabs. In the words of the immortal philosopher John Lennon,

Life is what happens to you
While you’re busy makin’ other plans…

But as more life experience builds, the better we get at predicting what the future holds. But that’s a skill that is only useful if we take what we now know and apply it. As retirement nears, here are four areas where most of us should be better able to make much better informed decisions when it comes to buying a home in Littleton:

1. Choose an Appropriate Size

Many couples seek large houses early in life because they expect to have children. Once the next generation has vacated the premises, though, staying in a home that’s larger than necessary means blown money—not to mention wasted time spent cleaning unused rooms. Retirees may be slow to recognize their new downsizing option: buying a home that better correlates with current needs. They may even want to consider a condo or apartment if minimal upkeep will free up income to direct toward more enjoyable activities.

2. Consider a Single-Level Home

Most people experience mobility issues as they age. Some solve the problem by installing expensive devices in their homes, even though they could deal more directly with those problems by moving to a home configured to present fewer challenges. For some people, moving to a simplified home lets them live independently for many additional years–for example, a single-level home without a front porch eliminates stairs entirely.

3. Find a Convenient Location

At some point, retirees may reluctantly decide that they don’t feel safe driving their cars. If anyone experiences warning signs of unsafe driving, it’s prudent to give up the keys before an accident forces the issue. This causes fewer problems when a retiree has chosen a convenient location. It could mean living close to stores, public transportation—or near relatives who can help with everyday tasks.

4. Stay under Budget

Retirees need to take seriously realistic budget expectations, since it’s usually true that they will have less money coming in than heretofore. An inelastic income may take some getting used to—but knowing what’s coming will make intelligent planning possible.

When it comes to locating and buying a Littleton home that fits your specifications, I hope you will give me a call to discuss the current crop of appropriate available properties!

Englewood Mortgage Watchers Eye ‘Wealth Building Home Loan’

Englewood Mortgage Watchers EyeSomething new is stirring in the ordinarily hidebound world of residential mortgage offerings: a new way of approaching the financing of home purchases. If successful, it might well shift the way some Englewood mortgage contracts are written.

The experiment is known as the “Wealth Building Home Loan,” and it addresses a home-ownership problem that has been talked about for a long time, with little being done to solve it. The issue in question is how to unburden new homeowners from spending years in a situation that bears more resemblance, financially, to renting than to owning— especially during the first 3 to 5 years. For low- and moderate-income mortgagees, that’s the difference between sinking into more debt and actually building wealth. After all, every dollar that goes toward interest is lost, while dollars that pay down principal are investments.

According to Edward Pinto, one of the authors of the WBHL, often during the opening years of a 30-year loan, “68% goes to pay interest.” In the new program, 77% of monthly payments go to pay off principal—with the result that in a short time, new homeowners have a much larger equity stake in their homes. And, it is hoped, a sizeable increase in pride of ownership: “a stake in the game.”

It sounds good, but you might be wondering how this could be possible. Is this just a ‘pie in the sky,’ feel-good idea that will never see daylight in the real world? Apparently not. The pilot program is being put into action by some serious players: the American Enterprise Institute (if that sounds like a conservative outfit, it is) and administered by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (if that sounds like a liberal outfit, ditto). And it’s being funded by Bank of America and Citi Mortgage—neither of which would be likely to bankroll some fly-by-night scheme.

The mechanics of this kind of mortgage work out like this. First, it’s based on a 15-year term, which of course speeds the rate at which equity builds; and second, it’s a mortgage that carries a very low interest rate. Something for nothing? Not quite: the concept is to
change the underwriting standards to tilt away from credit history and toward recent payment history and residual income, thought to lower lender risk
eliminate the down payment altogether, instead allocating that initial cash toward “points”: buy-downs of the mortgage’s interest rate to .5%, (or even 0%)!

It boils down to an approach that could be a win-win. Borrowers (even those who suffered credit black marks during the economic downturn) could be newly eligible for a home loan, and because lenders pocket the interest rate buy-down amount, a proposition they might find acceptable.

Should Englewood mortgage applicants expect this deal to be available next week? Not likely: it’s in the pilot phase. But if it seems to work out, it could be a shot in the arm for homeowners who can manage a slightly higher monthly payment. If you would like to chat about today’s home loan availability (or any other current Englewood real estate doings), I hope you’ll give me a call!