Okay, if you’ve looked at my last blog entry, you’ll see that I’ve taken quite the hiatus.   WELL…I’ve made a committment to providing useful information to my loyal followers once again.   So, please check back for my future posts.

Wonderful Quote (thank you Deborah): œOne of the ways we hijack our capacity to experience a state of beholding is that we become swept up in what I call the œtyranny of trends. The tyranny of trends allows for the lowest common denominator to set the standard of success, and of course, œcoolness. Very often, trends convince individuals what their life™s purpose should be.    The tyranny of trends is blasted out at us from television, radio, newspapers, tabloids, computers, and even our dentist™s waiting room, attempting to convince us that we must smell a certain way, wear a certain label, weigh a specific weight, have whiter teeth, drive a certain car, make a certain income, and so on, before we can consider that we™ve made it. ~ Michael Bernard    

Crystal

Real Estate Support Services

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According to Tax Commissioner Gail Downing, Cobb County homeowners will face a property tax bill increase  over the next two years. The state Homeowner™s Tax Relief Grant that previously funded a tax credit for  Homestead Exemptions will  NOT be available for 2009 or 2010!

œDeclining state revenues during the current recession left the state without enough money to give the tax relief credits that homeowners have become accustomed to it, Downing said.Most Cobb homeowners will see an increase of about $228 on their 2009 tax bills. Those with a School Tax Exemption will see an increase of about $77. Increases will vary for homeowners living within one of Cobb™s six cities.

In 1999, the governor and General Assembly appropriated the grant to counties, cities and schools, giving tax relief to homeowners in the form of a tax bill credit. According to legislation passed this year (House Bill 143), the grant will only be made available in the future if state revenues grow at least 3 percent plus the rate of inflation.

Commissioner Downing believes giving homeowners advance notice will help them prepare for the increase when tax bills are issued in August. Homeowners can determine the exact amount of their 2009 increase by accessing their 2008 account information at www.cobbtax.org under the ˜Property Taxes™ tab; search by parcel ID# or simply by your  address. The ˜Homeowners Tax Credit™ deducted on 2008 tax bills is the amount you bill will increase for 2009.  

One other thing to keep in mind is  to make sure your  tax escrow accounts are properly funded since  property taxes are paid by your mortgage company.  

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Energize your Buyers By:

·                  Become the local Economist of Choice (Do this by reviewing, understanding and being able to communicate pertinent information gathered from ChartMaster stats, Broker Metrics and/or Pricing Strategies).

·                 Help them tap into their “Why?” (It is not manipulation but your fiduciary duty to remind them  not only WHAT  they want to buy but also WHY they want to buy it!).

·                 Address Buyer Reluctance (Explain and support the pitfalls of chasing the market with your knowledge acquired from reviewing the items mentioned above and graphs and charts provided to you in Shift and other sources.   Also, make sure they understand  the opportunity of the lowest pricing in the season.   You are the professional!   It is your job to  narrow the field, go for the gusto and help your clients understand the concept of, “get it while you can!”).

Creating urgency is learned skills¦are you practicing your scripts for success?   In order for your buyers to have urgency you must first identify your urgency.   A great first step is joining Camp 4:4:3 to  identify your inner WHY, learn some great scripts and run all the way to the bank!

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Beginning last month, residents and business owners may register their security alarm systems with Cobb County in compliance with a false alarm ordinance that takes effect Jan. 1.

Alarms must be registered by Dec. 31.  The registration is free, but residents and business owners who do not register face a $100 fine if an alarm leads to a police response.

Residents may register online through the government Web site www.cobbcounty.org; the county police Web site at www.cobbpolice.com/alarms; or by calling the False Alarm Reduction Unit at 770.528.3819.

Just an FYI.   You have a couple more weeks but don’t wait until the last moment!

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Accept challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.

- George S. Patton

We all agree that the real estate market has experienced a shift over the last year or so.   Gary Keller found that agents who thrive in challenging times have an iron-clad commitment to 12 fundamental tactics that power their careers forward during both the good times and the bad.

In his new book, Shift: How Top Real Estate Agents Tackle Tough Times,  Gary provides step-by-step instructions on how to incorporate these 12 tactics into your business.

Click Here  for an excerpt of the introduction to the book and stay tuned for future posts that break down each  of these tactics.  

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Sep

2

There is always a bit of confusion  every time the Geogia Association of Realtors changes our contracts.

Although we’ve had the revised contracts for over 8-months now, some agents have failed to realize that when a property is being sold “As-Is”, it does not negate the fact that a Sellers Property Disclosure must STILL BE ATTACHED  and made part of the contract.  

Now……..we all know that in most cases when a property being sold “As-Is”, it is  NOT the Seller’s intentions to provide a disclosure.   If you are in a situation like this,  there are two ways to handle it…legally!  

1.   Strike through Section 16 of the Purchase & Sales Agreement and have ALL parties initial, time and date it.

-OR-

2.   Add a Special Stipulation that reads:   “All parties acknowledge that the Seller is not providing a Property Disclosure Statement and one will not be attached and incorporated herein”

Courtesy of Sheri Arispe – Associate Broker & Contract Compliance Officer at Keller Williams Realty Atlanta North

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The shift in today’s real estate market has caused many of us to concentrate on clearing out our listing inventories.   Have you noticed that listings are no longer selling themselves?   Property marketing  plays  an integral role in generating traffic for and moving properties and will consume a larger portion of your budget than it has in past years.

Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when developing your marketing initiatives for your listings:

  1. Media Mix – The Internet, flyers, brochures, postcards, print ads and email all have thier place in marketing a property.   Don’t only rely on only one option.   Find the right mix of mediums to reach the most potential buyers and cooperating agents.
  2. Do-it Dollars- After you have determined the correct media mix for the property (and it may be different for each listing), establish a reasonable marketing budget.    Develop a  cohesive look maintain and consistent marketing effort each time with each listing.   Eventually, you’ll become known and recognized for it.  
  3. The Same but Different- In this type of real estate market where inventories are soaring each day, it is critical that you differentiate your listings from the competition!   You can maintain a consistent look with your materials while differentiating each listing by highlighting property features, neighborhood amenities or any other features that make it unique, special or hard to find in order to get buyers through the door.   Emotions sell homes.   So, use words that appeal to the senses to engage the reader while you highlight the features that today’s buyers are looking for (beautiful granite counters, private backyard with fragrant gardens etc…).
  4. Professional Collateral – Property marketing materials do  NOT have to be created by a professional but they should look like were.    Virtual Assistants such as Real Estate Support Services offer professional marketing materials at  very reasonable prices and quick turn-around times.  You can take it a step further and purchase a higher grade of paper than is stocked in your office’s printers.   High-quality looking materials  will attract buyers’ attention,  intice them to want to know more and impress your sellers ~ potentially gaining you valuable referrals.
  5. Picture Perfect- More than 80% of all buyers begin their search for a home on the Internet by first looking at the photos of the property.   Make sure all photos portray the property in its best light.   If that means clearing off counter clutter for the sake of the photo shoot and replacing it when your done, then do it!  If you have to meet a photographer from your favorite virtual tour company at the property to go in front of them to do a quick clean-up, take the initiative to do so.   In the end, you’ll end up with better photos thus a bigger bang for your buck.   As I’ve said in previous posts ~ it’s better to have fewer, extremely attractive photos than a ton of crappy ones.

Although property marketing is integral to your success as a real estate professional, don’t neglect the other important activities that help fill your pipeline with new prospects.   Check future posts on Personal Promotion, Prospecting and Touch Programs.

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Did you know that over 80% of Home Buyers begin their search on the Internet?   Do you have a web presence?   Is your website up to par?

I am in the process of building a  NEW website and came across a  list of  items that every website should feature to entice readers/visitors to read further and ultimately use your business or service.    The list got my wheels turning and I altered it to fit better with our  industry, Real Estate.

Here are the 10  most important things experts say customers want  in websites:

  1. How are you unique?   Be sure  your homepage  answers the question, “Who are you?”.   This can include a bio that mentions your expertise (First-time Home Buyers, a certain part of town, Condos, high-rise living  etc…), years of experience or any number of unique attributes that set you apart from the other 1000+ real estate agents in your market.
  2. A clear sense of what your company offers. Provide  general information about what services you offer.   For example, you can create different pages that address what you do for Buyers and what you do for Sellers.   Do not be concerned about divulging too much information for competitive reasons.    Analysts have found that you MUST give the customer enough information (up front)  to make the decision to choose you as their real estate agent because more often than not, they will NOT contact you for the “missing” information but instead  move on to a  competitor.
  3. Contact Information.   Although it may seem a bit rudimentary, ALWAYS clearly include your phone number, email address and a physical address where customers can easily contact you.   Displaying your office address also helps build “credibility” with customers.
  4. Third-party Validation.   Post those testimonials from your past clients!   If you’re not in the habit of providing a customer service survey at closing (or prior to), get in the habit of doing so.   This is a quick and easy way to build up your list of testimonials.    If you don’t have any surveys or letters to pull from yet, consider  going through your emails from clients that have thanked you or have otherwise provided some kind of praise about your practices.   Post them, post them, post them!!!
  5. Ease of use and navigation.   If people can’t find it, they will NOT search for it.   You only have a few seconds to reel visitors in and keep them at your website.   So, arrange your website in a logical manner.   Group similar subjects together.   For example, create a folder/page for “Buyers” and group all information/sub-pages that have to do with Buyers (Your First Home, Apply for a Loan, What to expect when looking for a new home etc…) under that heading.   In other words, make it super easy for visitors to find the information they are looking for.
  6. Be Concise.   Get to the point without writing a novel.   Again, you only have a few seconds to maintain a visitors’ attention.   They are NOT going to read paragraphs and paragraphs of information.   RELEVANT pictures are a great way to break up a text heavy page.
  7. Provide clear guidance on your processes.   Let customers know the step-by-step processes of real estate transactions (home selection process,  what to expect in the lending (or closing)  process or anything else that you may have incorporated into your business).   Another format you can use is to have a FAQ section (Frequently Asked Questions) on your website.   Think of all the questions you often get asked and put them on your website!
  8. Ability to provide feedback.   Incorporate a feedback form or an email link that customers can use to tell you how your doing or to ask you questions.   If you do include this feature, be sure to ready to respond to all inquiries in a reasonable amount of time. Also, set expectations ~ if a reasonable amount of time to you is within 48hours, put that on your website, “All inquiries will be responded to within 48hours”.
  9. Call to Action.   Include buttons (or links) that customers can use to, “Sign Up for Our Newsletter”, “Click Here for More Information” or  ”Contact Us Now” etc…
  10. Special Offers and/or Personalization.   Are you offering  your customers a FREE personalized CMA for their home?   This is a simple, valuable service you can offer all visitors to your site for minimal time, effort and cost on your part.   Plus, it is a great tool to use to possibly meet them in person and potentially  get invited into their homes to provide a more detailed report thus  building a relationship with them and developing  significant trust and rapport.    

I hope this helps you develope or improve your websites.   I know it has helped me tremendously.   Check back in future weeks for more website tips.

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Jul

17

Are you compliant?

Posted by crystalclark under For Realty Professionals, Tips

Apparently, there has been quite an increase in fines received by Metro Atlanta real estate agents for not following the guidelines set by by the governing bodies with regards to group/team names and signage.   Just hearing the buzz at the water cooler, many agents who have found themselves on the wrong side of this situation feel like there is some large conspiracy against them (and/or “the company with the RED signs”) by the “Higher Powers that Be”.

Recently,  Kay Evans, Owner/Regional Director of Keller Williams Realty  met with Jeff Ledford, the  Georgia Real Commissioner  and    assures us that there there is NO witch hunt going on by the commission.   According to Jeff Ledford, teams and groups  CAN use their team and group names as long as it doesn’t have any words that make it appear as a separate company.   For instance, agents should  NOT use the words “realty”, “real estate group”  etc…   You may use “The Sanford Team” or  ”Pinnacle Group”  for example.   However,  you may NOTwant to use “Sanford Team Real Estate” or “Pinnacle Group, LLC” since  both names make you, your team  sound  like a separate company aside from the affiliation with your brokerage.      

If licensees want to be absolutely on the safe side, Jeff  suggests agents take an additional  step to get  their names Trademarked by the Secretary of State and  registered  with the Georgia Real Estate Commission. Although, its another step in the myriad of processes we already go through to PROPERLY set up our real estate businesses, it’s simply a matter of  filling out a form.   If you trademark your name and stay within the previous guidelines, you should  be fine.    Jeff reccomends  agents who  would like to use the  ”& Associates” in their name, to get it  trademarked as well for safe measure.

Secondly, and of great importance is the fact that a Broker cannot  transfer liability  by allowing agents to agree to be liable for  violating signage.   In other words,  a Broker  CANNOT allow a sign to be out of compliance even  if an agent says  ”I will take the risk”.   This  jeopardizes the brokers™ license.

If you have questions, be sure to consult with your individual broker(s) for additional guidance.

On another note, staff at the Department of Public Works has confirmed that the City of Atlanta  is cracking down on violators of the setback requirements for signs.   This includes real estate agents!   Please remember that absolutely  NO signs are allowed in the public right-of-way. Signs should not be placed closer than ten feet to the street paving or the edge of a graded street surface.

The Atlanta sign ordinance does not require a sign permit for real estate signs, but does limit the number of real estate signs to ONE unlighted sign advertising sale, rental, or lease on the property advertised.

I hope this has at least got you thinking about the little things that can create big problems.   Consult the local Real Estate Commission or broker for additional details or specifics.

   

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As you may have noticed, I™ve had BLOGstipation for quite a while now.  It™s not that I™ve lost interest but I have been working on other large projects that have consumed the majority of my time.  Well, I™m BACK and have been working on a NEW blog layout so stay tuned.    

Anyway, back to BIZness.  I was inspired by this fabulous opportunity to help our troops stationed overseas.  I know this has nothing to do with real estate but it has a lot to do with the heart and supporting the men and women who risk their lives everyday for something(s) we may or may not support.  We won™t get into THAT but I thought I would do as much as I could to tell as many people as possible to support this cause.  I know, gas is high and many of us are  counting  our pennies but there™s no excuse this time¦it™s totally FREE!!!    

HBO and their show, “Generation Kill” have teamed up with several large corporations who have agreed to donate much needed toiletries and other supplies to our troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Click the following link (HBO Generation Kill) to select one of the products listed on the œMarine Wish List and the participating corporation will personalize the item with your name and send it on your behalf.  How cool is that?!?!  Did I mention by the way, that it™s FREE?

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In the current real estate market, homes are no longer selling themselves.   If your listing is not being shown,  chances are it is NOT PRICED TO SELL.   If you have done your due diligence and feel it is adequately priced for the area, your marketing efforts can help increase the traffic, thus exposing the listing to more potential Buyers.

Review the condensed  list below to see if you™re starting on the right foot.  Evaluate the following items  before you list and then check on each item after you list:

1.  Choose your words carefully!   Use the MLS listing(s) to showcase the BEST features of the house.   Pay special attention to how you describe the home in the Public Remarks.   Many agents ignore the POWER words that evoke an emotional connection with Buyers (see my œWord Play posts) and choose to use the redundant œfluff that agents have been using for decades.   How many times have you read, œAbsolutely  fabulous house with¦?   At least  30+ characters have been wasted without conveying a single feature of the listing.   Although the house may be “absolutely fabulous”, tell potential buyers what makes it so.   Is there a Butler™s Pantry, custom built-ins, wired for surround, extensive moldings throughout, updated lighting, double trey ceilings, and skylights?   Make better use of the limited space you are provided to describe the BEST features of your listing.

2. Pictures are worth a thousand words!   A series of GREAT PHOTOS will interest Buyers much more than a group of mediocre  photos. If handling the camera is one of your weaknesses, outsource it!   Okay, so you™re trying to cut costs and hiring a photographer is not in the budget, invest in a tripod and a decent camera.    Your cell phone may be  at the top of the “techies” MUST HAVE list,  your camera phone just doesn™t cut it!   Check with your local Listing Service(s) to see if they offer a (FREE) CE course on digital photography as  Metro Atlanta™s, First Multiple Listing Service (FMLS) does!  

3. Honestly critique the marketing materials.    Be sure the materials prepared are  professional looking, well designed, provides the necessary information (address, price, your contact info etc¦) and not only makes a potential Buyer  want to read it but also entices them to come and view it in person.   Break up paragraphs into brief (but descriptive) bullet points.   Include a combination of photos and text to add visual interest.   Be sure the font is readable and appropriately sized.   If it takes you hours to prepare a template, consider hiring a virtual assistant (such as Real Estate Support Services) to do it for you.   Paying $25 is a lot cheaper than spending  three hours trying to prepare one you!   Leverage is the key to success.

4. Have a œMarketing Plan to  sell your listings.   Does your target audience include other agents, the neighbors in the community and  the general public?   What does your marketing mix include¦Magazine/newspaper ads, Internet, email, print (flyers, door hangers, brochures)?   What method(s) provide the best ROI and gets your listings SOLD?   Often you will need to adjust your Marketing Plan to appropriately address the individual properties.   If you begin with a strong general plan, it can easily be altered.   Remember, you are dealing with people™s  biggest investment; you should have a clear plan!    

5. Internet presence is a MUST!!!    Studies show that today™s  Buyers  begin their home search long before they contact a real estate agent.  Buyers are surfing the web to see what is out there.   Keller Williams Realty has several tools in place for their agents that automatically syndicate  listings to a number of top national websites such as Google, Trulia as well as local newspapers!    If your brokerage offers similar tools, be sure you use them to the fullest capacity.   If you can log-in to further enhance your listings, DO IT!

There are many other marketing techniques to consider.   Master the five listed above and be sure to check Real Estate Support Service’s, The Urban Abode  for more tips.  

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In the current real estate market, homes are no longer selling themselves.   If your house/listing is not getting what you think is the appropriate showing traffic,  chances are it is NOT PRICED TO SELL (at least not in this market).   If you have done your due diligence and feel it is adequately priced, your marketing can help increase the traffic, thus exposing your house/listing to more potential buyers.

Here are the first three tips to get you thinking.   I will expand this list in future posts, so be sure to check back periodically.            

1. Be sure your house/listing is in both FMLS and Georgia MLS.   Don™t skimp on entering it into GAMLS just because YOU never use it.   Believe it or not, some agents forego the additional expense of FMLS and choose to use only GAMLS.   Therefore, you want your listing to appear in front of as many people as possible.

2. Once entered review the posting to ensure your house/listing is portrayed in its best light.   Remember to describe the house/property, area, neighborhood and/or amenities as succinctly as possible.   If you’re at a loss for words or ideas, review my previous “Word Play” posts for ideas.   Remember,  you can include a caption under each picture  in FMLS for further descriptions.  Also, don’t be afraid to use the area under “Private Remarks” to share other items with the agent(s).

3. PICTURES ARE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS!  Make sure you use the maximum allowed number of photos (in the multiple listing services and/or the applicable websites) and the photos are taken with your best “photographer’s” eye!   Pictures come out better if the house is clean, uncluttered and staged if at all possible.   If you™re not capable of doing it yourself, hire an expert.   You™d be surprised how reasonable a professional photographer can be.   Remember, phenomenal shots of the house will interest more prospective buyers while they are perusing listings thus increasing showing traffic and increasing your chances of an offer.   Put forth a little more effort and look at it as an investment into your business!!!  

***Be sure to check The Urban Abode on a regular basis for NEW and interesting information.   If you need asssitance with any of the items listed above, remember that I am a Virtual Assistant and ready to help you take your real estate business to the next level!

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I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to work from home 100% of the time!   I’m no tree-hugging enviornmentalist but I try to  take  a  ”Green” approach whenever possible. With gas at an all-time high and prices expected to further increase as the summer draws near, I want  to contribute to the Earth’s conservation by driving less, using less gas and keeping more  GREEN money in my pocket.

Unfortunately for me and Mother Earth, I must drive to and from my office at least four days a week.   If you too have gas up  CLICK HERE  TO ENTER YOUR ZIP CODE TO FIND THE LOWEST GAS PRICES IN YOUR AREA.   This handy dandy tool is updated every evening.  

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WOW!   If you all have been faithfully reading The Urban Abode you probably noticed that I have taken a writing hiatus for a while. Well, you all will be proud to know that I  went on an educational sabbatical with my daughter for almost two weeks.   Okay, okay…we didn’t go on some  enlightening sabbatical but we did go on vacation to Miami where I learned all about the beautiful people on South Beach then to the San Francisco Bay Area where I discovered how much I love living in Georgia!   So, because I was on “vacation”,  I had limited internet access (stayed with friends and family members who often did NOT have web access) or was so tired at the end of full days of educational sightseeing that I DID NOT  have an opportunity for more postings.  

For those of you who did not know, I grew up in California but moved out of the state  10 years ago in search of a more “affordable” life.   Thus Georgia was introduced to me and we have been in love for  for almost  seven years.    I  CANNOT imagine living in San Francisco (a concrete jungle), barely scraping by to afford  a  VERY “humble” abode (that costs a hefty $1M on the low end) with no yard, grass or even space between me and my neighbor! I’m definitely a  Urban Diva now spoiled and morphed into the Urban Georgia Peach!    

Well, I AM BACK home and it’s back to business!   Check back often for new and invigorating posts to The Urban Abode!

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Apr

16

I was watching a popular real estate œhome shopping show recently and gasped as I heard a fellow Atlanta agent make up a word for the Coffered Ceiling that the was present  in the home they were viewing. The potential Buyer politely corrected the agent.   It made me wonder how many times a client is more versed in architectural styles and terminology than the agent.  

Even if we are familiar with the architectural styles in our own area, it is important to learn the styles of other areas as well. If a Buyer is relocating from another state or country, they may refer to a style common to their area that we are not familiar with or it may be referred to in different terminology.

I wanted to share a very useful tool that is available as part of REALTOR ® Magazine’s online version.

 The Architectural Guide  is a very detailed guide to exterior architectural styles and interior features. A great way to increase your descriptive vocabulary. Check it out!

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