It amazes me how quickly technology is progressing. Less than half a century later, these fax machines are completely obsolete in a modern real estate market. This does not mean that this equipment is completely missing from the workplace, but it is likely that those agents still using it are FAR behind the times. Scanners are still relevant, though they require a physical machine, limiting their capabilities.
This brings me to the tool of the year for 2015, TurboScan (by Piksoft Inc.). In this case, I specifically mention this app that costs between $2 and $4 on an iPhone, likely the best investment for a Realtor or his/her client going through a transaction.
This app is a scanner, plain and simple, without those physical restrictions I first mentioned fax machines, because they began a wave of new technology used to send documents, which evolved into the proliferation of scanners, skipping quickly to apps that allow you to scan documentation, quickly, and easily, from anywhere.
How does the App work?
All you have to do is to take a picture of the file, and then it automatically crops the document to white space, and you can immediately add pages, if necessary.
What is amazing about this tool is the ability to send files directly to your email, or an email. But, if used correctly with your Dropbox (Tool of the Year in 2010-2014 for me), the impact is greater. Read about Dropbox so you can understand my next point.
This app completely eliminates the need for physical storage of any paper documentation. You can scan anything directly from your hand into your Dropbox making it immediately accessible to you on any computer or device in the world (with Internet connectivity), or to those that are connected to your Dropbox...again...IMMEDIATELY.
You can also instantly send these documents (as JPEG OR PDF) in a text message to someone else. Or immediately open these files in any app that supports PDF files, on your device, such as Evernote, Google Drive, iBooks, or Notes App (iPhone).
I have had buyers use this app to scan documents quickly and effectively to their mortgage broker, in a timely fashion. The testimonial from my mortgage broker was incredibly positive, and he immediately adopted this technology into his business, advising clients to utilize its powerful and quick interface.
So, whether you are working with a mortgage broker on obtaining financing, are a Realtor trying to modernize your business, or really anyone that has too much physical paper, check this App out. If you don't have an iPhone, there are certainly going to be alternatives on the market, for your purposes - just look for something that had some of these features, and you are in good shape.
Here is a basic Tutorial:
Enjoy this App, and hopefully it is as powerful and useful in 2016 as it was in 2015 for me!
As always, feel free to contact me with additional questions, comments, or testimonials (or just comment below).
In a digital age, the prevalence of new technology makes it difficult to keep up unless you are dedicating yourself to it full time. If you are a real estate salesperson; your time is better spent prospecting and meeting with clients. (If you are in any business, this tool is essential)
My main focus when I entered the real estate business was to enable my business to be run from anywhere that I might be at any given time, with the exception of the valuable face-to-face time with clients. Otherwise, I wanted to be able to do everything and anything I needed on the run.
With that said, let’s talk about Dropbox , the most useful tool I have used in this business.
What is Dropbox?
In the past few years, the ‘Cloud’ has become a common term in the world of technology. This ‘Cloud’ may seem like an overwhelming concept, but all it really is, is a bunch of computers that are connected in a warehouse somewhere, that allow you to store your files as you would on your computer. The key is that you can access it from any computer or device. Dropbox was the first ‘Cloud’ system I came into contact with, and my favorite.
How do I make the most of Dropbox?
Dropbox offers a free level of service, where you are given 2GB of data, or hundreds of thousands of files depending on their size. You are also given multiple methods to increase this space significantly. For the more advanced, those that use this product regularly as I do, for $99 a year, you get 1TB, which is all the space you will need.
I use this tool to store all of my files, those from all of my clients, so I have everything I need at any given time:
For example, I am on the road and get a phone call that a possible seller client would like to meet, I can pop into my office and print everything I have organized for a listing presentation (‘Listing Presentation Material’ in the example above). No need to go back home and collect yourself, it is already all organized in one place.
A step beyond that, are the sharing capabilities of this program. For a team of real estate salespeople, you might want to share a folder, or a file, or your whole Dropbox, and doing so is as easy as inviting your colleagues on the Dropbox website. This powerful aspect of Dropbox can turn an office of real estate agents into a cohesive salesforce, with access to all the same files in order to compete with those other offices in town.
The most useful aspect of this tool for me is for contracts and paperwork. I am able to directly input files into the Dropbox through email, from any device, from anywhere. As more and more aspects of business go online, we find that saving paper and having clients scan and fax documents (or use something like TurboScan), leads to a comprehensive folder of all clients and their important documents.
Why Dropbox and not some other Cloud service?
There are many new services that are trying to enter this Cloud space including Internet behemoths such as Amazon, Apple, IBM, and Google. However, Dropbox is still the best, for my use. The price is competitive, and the usability and flexibility make it a worthwhile product. Their goal was to make Dropbox as non-intrusive as possible, and it surely feels that way.
Sometimes I don’t even recognize that I am saving my files in Dropbox. I use it ten times daily and much more, because it has become ubiquitous for me.
How accessible is Dropbox?
Dropbox can be used in multiple ways:
The bottom line: Dropbox can be used anywhere from any device at any time.
This application is incredibly easy to use - think of it as the same usability for the folders that you have directly on your computer. There is a hierarchy, or folder structure, so you can create personal and work-related folders, and share them independently; you then avoid mixing and mingling these folders.
If I were to rate every tool I use as a real estate professional with 1 to 5 stars, this product would get a 5 star rating every time. I have never had any qualms with the software, and find that it is the most updated and perfect piece of software I have used.
For what it is worth, this blog post was created in Word, then saved in my Dropbox folder under Real Estate (private) > ~BLOG Content
It is the way I keep myself organized. Test the free version of this, and let me know what you think through Facebook.
Staging is essential. I don’t mean hiring a professional stager and spending thousands on new furniture from said stager (though this might be more effective in getting the home sold at a higher price). But sellers don’t want to, or might not have that much money to spend, in addition to the cosmetic work they might do. Also, frankly, sellers are skeptical to spend ANY money at this stage of the transaction. I would rather spend that money on the cosmetic updates that are necessary.
What do I mean by staging advice? I have taken classes, and listened to many staging consultations, giving advice for what to do prior to listing. This includes helping choose what colors to paint with, where to move things, and ultimately, the de-cluttering and cleaning necessary to get it sold.
Here are some great tips for staging:
This list is concise, including the most important aspects of staging, but not all-inclusive. There are hundreds of tips for listing a home optimally, so if you would like a full staging list, leave a comment or go to the contact form and ask!
Note: Consultation with a stager is a service offered by my go-to stager in CT. She charges $275, and sometimes I use this as a tool to get a listing. In other words, I offer to pay to have her come give a written consultation prior to listing, for things that can be done to improve value. This gives the stager the opportunity to come in and meet the client, and establish expertise, but also to give the best suggestions to improve sales price.
It is amazing what a seller (or Realtor) can do to a home without spending much money. Put on your buyer hat and get started on these immediately!
Whether you find your Realtor at a cocktail party, or use a friend or family member, the same expectations must be met across the board.
To most people, real estate transactions are the largest and most stressful of their lifetime, so it’s important to select a Realtor the same way you’d select a brain surgeon or a financial adviser: you do some research and you insist they meet your expectations. The expectations I would expect from another Realtor are below:
Needless to say, and not included in the 8 above, is this bonus tip: Don't hire a part-time Realtor. Imagine hiring a part-time surgeon - you wouldn't do it.
These requirements for your Realtor are not all-inclusive. There are many little things that put one Realtor above another. But this is a good start to understanding what you should expect. The responsiveness, thoroughness, and effort put forth by a Realtor will make your life easier as you try to sell or buy.
Note: If you live anywhere in the world, feel free to email me to discuss issues surrounding choosing a Realtor. I'm not allowed (nor want) to discuss aspects of your transaction if you are in contract. Prior to listing/signing with a Realtor, feel free to run it by me!
Good luck in your search. For help in finding someone of quality to represent your interests, don't hesitate to call Joe, no matter where you are seeking a Realtor.
All sales in November for single family homes in Norwalk.
Total units: 48
The addresses and closed prices are listed above, would you want to see any other information about the home?
The buying process, for someone with traditional financing from a bank (not a short sale or bank owned property), would look something like this:
A disclaimer: This is a rough timeline of the process of purchase and obtaining financing for a home. The dates, dollar amounts, process changes greatly on a case-by-case basis, and is highly dependent on the local real estate market and process. This is intended for Fairfield County, Connecticut buyers.
The first step to bringing a home to Showing Quality (SQ) is to address the minor (and major) cosmetic issues that need addressing with the home. Every seller has a budget, and there is a level of experience required to determine which changes/fixes make the most sense given that budget. Make sure to realize that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach because each scenario is different.
To the benefit of my sellers, I have managed to keep the cost of cosmetic updates below $5000 for homes up to 3000 square feet. I achieve this with the assistance of a handyman that does high-quality work, at prices that are severely lower than the regular competition in your location. Doug and his team have been invaluable to my business; it is advisable to find your own ‘Doug’, as a seller OR a Realtor in your particular market.
With that said, what is the order of operations to get to SQ by way of cosmetic updates? Here is how I rank the important issues in ROI for a seller (in Fairfield County CT, and Norwalk specifically):
For all six items above, my handyman does a great job of itemizing the list, line-by-line so my seller clients know exactly where their dollars are being spent. This also enables the seller to know the total scope of what I might recommend (thus giving them full transparency on what to do), but can pick and choose despite your advice, based on their budget.
Disclaimer: These lists of ROI are intended for homes under $1,500,000 in Fairfield County. Local real estate is different, so consult a Realtor if you are reading this and are not located in Connecticut.
There are issues such as termite treatment, non-functioning mechanicals, and other blatantly obvious items that may need addressing. If your roof is leaking, fix it! If the roof is 30 years old, manage your expectations by knowing the buyer might ask for a credit. The key here is to know what is coming, and to not be surprised by it.
If your heating system, cooling system, hot water heater, or any other major mechanical is not working, it must be fixed or the buyers will look for a steep discount in price.
A special note here: if the heating system doesn’t work, the buyer may not be able to get financing for the property. If the electric panel is fuse-based (instead of breakers), it is possible the buyer won’t be able to get insurance, and therefore won’t finish qualifying for a mortgage.
So, if you are a seller or a Realtor with a listing, these tips should have been useful. Unless the budget is actually $0, don't be complacent in this category. A little goes a long way.
With winter around the corner, there are many alterations you can do that will significantly reduce your winter utility bills. Here are my top six things that you can do:
1 - Make sure your walls and attic are well insulated
Effective insulation slows the rate that heat flows out of the house in winter or into the house in summer, so less energy is required to heat or cool the house. If your house has no wall insulation, and it has more-or-less continuous wall cavities (such as conventional stud walls), blown-in insulation can greatly improve your comfort and save enough energy to be very cost-effective. (It rarely pays to blow additional insulation into already insulated walls.) If your attic is unfinished, it often pays to upgrade its insulation.
2 - Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
These lightbulbs use less energy, give off less heat, and last longer than traditional light bulbs.
CFLs can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescents. Most people don’t think about the fact that the electricity to run a lightbulb costs much more than the bulb itself. One of the new CFLs costs about two or three dollars, but it lasts 10,000 hours and uses only about 27 watts to generate as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb. During its life, it uses about $22 in electricity, so the total cost is about $25. A 100-watt incandescent bulb costs 50 cents, but lasts 1,000 hours so you need 10 of them ($5 to buy) to last 10,000 hours. In those 10,000 hours you will use 1,000 kilowatts of electricity, which will cost more than $80 at a national average price. So the lighting cost of the CFL is less than one-third of the cost for the incandescent. The best targets for replacement are 60- to 100-watt bulbs used several hours a day, because usage affects how long it takes to recover the investment.
3 - Plant shade trees and shrubs around your house
If your house is older, with relatively poor insulation and windows, good landscaping (particularly deciduous trees) can save energy, especially if planted on the house’s west side. In summer, the foliage blocks infrared radiation that would warm the house, while in winter the bare branches let this radiation come through. Of course, if your house has very good insulation and Energy Star or better windows, the effect is much, much smaller because the building shell itself is already blocking almost all the heat gain.
This one might have to wait for next year!
4 - When you replace your appliances, look for Energy STAR appliances
If you live in a typical U.S. home, your appliances and home electronics are responsible for about 20% of your energy bills. These appliances and electronics include the following:
5 - Unplugg and turn off unused electronics while out of the home
Did you know that anything plugged in will consume electricity, whether the device is powered on or not? There are special plugs you can purchase from Amazon that allow you to set a timer for a device that cuts power when not home, or after a certain duration. Anything you can do to shut off needlessly wasted sockets during the work day, or when on vacation, will reduce your bills marginally (but it all adds up!).
6 - Replace your garage door
Although this is something that needs to be done prior to winter to get maximum effect, replacing the garage door can have a great impact. If your home has a wooden garage door, with R-value (insulating efficacy value) around 2, the effects are doubled. A traditional, and even low-grade garage door replacement has R-value around 10-13, depending on the brand and quality. The additional insulation around gaps also contributes to the efficacy here. One garage bay in this area might cost $900-$1300 for all installation and removal of old door (not including new motor).
Note: Windows on a garage door adds light, but reduces the R-value average for the whole door.
There are countless more ways to help reduce the utility bills in the winter, such as adjusting the hot water heater temp, the refrigerator temp, and replacing filters, so pay attention to the mechanicals this winter!
There are literally thousands of different sources for news, content, and real estate-related content. Here are some noteworthy options:
Most major news networks have a real estate-specific section, like the NYT, CNN, MSN, FOX, or CNBC. There is huge variety on these sites, and all are news that tends to be macro, or on a large scale, discussing national real estate news.
Sometimes, news around the world or in the United States is worth reposting, for example content from Business Insider tends to be interesting. This business-geared news site delivers interesting, relevant content that might stray from specifically real estate news. For example, posting an article about mortgage rates, or the stock market might lend some variety.
Inman News tends to be a great source for news about real estate. This website is a great source for content geared towards Realtors and as content generator for them.
Here is another real estate specific website: Rismedia.
Of course, realtor.com has plenty of great information about the market. We all know Realtor.com as the major player in the real estate world on the Internet.
Zillow and Trulia Blogs
Didn't I mention that blogging is essential: Zillow Blog and Trulia Blog. Trulia and Zillow Blogs tend to have great content written by Realtors out there working the market. Content written by your peers helps give perspective for clients that might not understand the industry well.
You can also follow many of these news sources on Twitter for useful, re-postable content. A small time commitment up front will create lasting value as you look for content that is fun, interesting, and varied. The same goes for most major social networks. This is the age of content, and I am sure you will find plenty!
PROTIP: Most of these news sites should have an RSS feed to provide syndication directly to you. An RSS feed is a tool that allows content creators to publish their material to interested readers. There are tools you can download, such as the Chrome Extension that will enable all of your favorite content to be fed into one central location. This will make your life a whole lot easier.
Let's remember that becoming a real estate content champion requires reading. it is essential you continue to learn and keep up-to-date with the market. With all of these working together, plus so many more websites out there, creating content will be easy.
There are plenty of avenues that can be used in real estate to get your name out there. Each of those networks has a place and a purpose. Some will be around for many years, others might be just a blip on the radar. In any case, it is important to understand each of their purposes and uses, but also to understand the big picture and how to keep users coming back for you. Here are some general tips that will help you manage all this social content:
Read on, Content 103 gives further, useful information about social networks and content!
We (Joe and Chris Balestriere) are Realtors in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Our blog is meant to educate buyers and sellers and equip them with tools to get the most out of their Realtor, whether it is us or someone else. We focus on technology and how it enhances the work we do for our clients--we are not top CT Realtors by accident.