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There have been several recently reported thefts that have occurred during open houses in Santa Clara County. Individuals have been attending open houses and signing in with a fake name, phone number, and address. They are commonly targeting two story houses so they have a better chance of creating separation between themselves and the REALTOR®. Common items that have been reported stolen include cash, wallets (out of purses), jewelry, and other small items. Sometimes the thief will do a quick walk through the house and then ask a question about the number of bedroom or bathrooms upstairs. They will then say that they missed a room and go back upstairs for a quick look. Many of the thefts are happening at this time. In many instances, the thief says that they are very interested in the property and plan on coming back later in the day with their spouse, but they never return.

Since holding open houses exposes you to people that you’ve never met before, it is critical that REALTORS® follow all possible safety precautions. Even a buyer that seems legitimate could quickly decide to steal a small item on a whim.  NAR has provided the following 10 tips for holding a safe open house:

  1. If possible, always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.
  2. Check your cell phone’s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial.
  3. Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
  4. Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard. Frequently, high fences surround yards that contain swimming pools or hot tubs.
  5. Have all open house visitors sign in. Ask for full name, address, phone number and email. Read more

It’s that time of year again – Tax Season! Whether you are just starting out as A REALTOR® or you’re a seasoned professional, it is always a good idea to brush up on the latest news and tips when it comes to preparing and filing your taxes. We have compiled some of our favorite resources below:

1)  9 Tax Deductions Every Real Estate Agent Should Know

If you are looking to maximize your deductions this year, then this blog post from REALTOR®Mag is for you. It covers nine of the top deductions that can help you keep more of those hard earned dollars. Vehicle Mileage, Office Supplies, and even software are included in this must-read article.

 

2)  Real Estate Tax Tips from the IRS

The IRS has compiled several great tips specifically for people in the real estate industry. Whether you are an employee or self-employed, you will find some great advice on this website.

 

 3)  5 Real Estate Tax Secrets the Rich Don’t Want You to Know

If you have any investment properties, then this blog post from realtor.com is for you. The highly wealthy are maximizing their tax savings every year, so why shouldn’t you? here are a lot of great tips here, including taking advantage of ‘safe harbors’,  depreciating your rental property, and taking advantage of the 1030 exchange.

 

4)  7 Tips to Help Late-Filing REALTORS® Avoid an IRS Audit

Let’s face facts: REALTORS® are busy. Like many Americans, we often wait until the last week to prepare and file our taxes. If you fall into this category, make sure you read this article from RISMedia on how to avoid an audit from the IRS.

 

5)  NAR Discount on QuickBooks® Self-Employed + TurboTax®

Finally, if you are preparing your own taxes this year, the National Association of REALTORS® is offering several discounts on QuickBooks® Self-Employed + TurboTax®. Find out more details here.

 

by Guy Berry

When a buyer is looking at a single-family home, they usually focus on location, how it shows, property condition and price.  If a house meets these four criteria, they will make an offer. However, my experience is that when a buyer is looking for a condo or other HOA properties, they fail to understand that there is so much more to consider. Too often the buyer (and their buyer’s agent) are overwhelmed with the 300-page HOA documents. Don’t forget, these documents are a contingency of the contract. The following 6 things need to be reviewed very carefully:

 


1. Financing

The rate and type of financing available for that specific complex will be based on many things, including percentage of owner occupied, percentage of past due HOA, FHA approval, multi-story condos, litigation, and other factors. Make sure you get your buyer to a lender that understands HOA financing.

 


2. CCR’s

The important issues to investigate are the restrictions for that specific complex. The HOA might require you to park only in your garage, decide what animals you can or can’t have, the colors of your house, what you can and cannot have on your balcony, whether you are allowed to repair your car on site, cable antenna restriction, etc. This list may seem endless but even if your buyer loves the property, the restrictions might affect the buyer’s enjoyment living there.

 


3. Finances

The Buyer will be provided with a large stack of financial documents.  The first thing to focus on is how well the complex is managed. Take a look at the budget. Are they raising enough money in income to cover the HOA day to day expenses?

 


4. Reserve Study

Since the HOA will be responsible for repairing and replacing all the major components on the property (e.g.  pool, clubhouse, parking lots, lights, roofs, etc.), make sure to check if the HOA has done a recent reserve study.  Did your buyer get a copy? HOA law requires the HOA to frequently hire a 3rd party to do an onsite inventory to determine four things:

– The total life of that item (“tile roof – 40 years”)
– The remaining life of that item at time of survey (“25 years”)
– The estimated cost to replace roof (in 15 years)
– Divide that estimate replacement cost by number of years and number of units to determine how much the HOA has to collect this year from each owner for that item. This will insure they have the funds pre-collected when the roof expense comes due in 15 years.

 


5. Reserve Funds

The reserve study tells us how much the HOA should have collected in the past. HOA law states that the HOA must disclose:
– How much reserve money the reserve study should have collected to date. That would be 100% fully funded.
– How much money they have actually collected.
– The percentage between what they should have in reserve vs. what they actually have.

It is not uncommon for an HOA to be behind on collecting reserves because no one wants their dues raised.  So, should your buyer buy into a complex that is only 25% funded?  More money will be needed in the future, whether the HOA has collected enough or not.  The result may be a major dues increase or a special assessment of all homeowners.

 


6. Financial Statement Knowledge

Remember it is the seller, not the HOA, that is responsible for itemizing and delivering the correct documents to the Buyer. Is this HOA ran well?  Are they large enough to hire a property manager? (Or is the Board Treasurer, who is actually an engineer at Google, preparing these complex set of documents?) And the big question: Is your Buyer sophisticated enough to read and understand these documents? There are companies that the Buyer can hire to analyze and review these documents for them. It seems to me that when you are discussing the inspection options with your buyer, you should advise them to get qualified help in understanding what they are buying into.

 

By Eric Boyenga, Boyenga Real Estate

The widespread accessibilstarsity of the Internet has brought about an era of increasing transparency in the world of real estate. With more people starting their search for a real estate agent on Google rather than asking their friend or neighbor, an agent or broker’s online reputation has become crucial.  More specifically, consumers are focusing heavily on the reviews and “star count” found on popular websites such as Zillow, Yelp, Facebook, Homelight, Trulia, Realtor.com to name a few. Because of this, many consumers often start and end their REALTOR® search online, bypassing the traditional personal recommendation. Even if a REALTOR® is referred by a friend or family member, a blemished reputation or weak online presence can cause the consumer to search elsewhere for an agent.

This new online era of agent search has made it critical to build and manage your online reputation.  Having powerful reviews as an agent or a team goes a long way in helping buyers and sellers decide who they end up choosing to represent them. But going further than that, the reviews of individual agents will reflect back on their brokerage or team as a whole and vice versa. So while agents should place a heavy focus on the client experience knowing the power of positive reviews, brokers should simultaneously be keeping a close eye on their firm’s online reputation, as well as the reputation of the agents working under them. The interesting and inevitable transition from word of mouth recommendations to online reviews has transformed consumer’s search, and understanding the industry’s transformation will help agents and brokerages succeed in the modern world of real estate.

By Nick Pham, Broker/Owner of PN Real Estate and Planning Commissioner for the City of San Jose

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You can become more knowledgeable as a REALTOR® by tapping into the City of San Jose’s web site. The site provides a lot of great information about the housing market, development projects and even permit projects.

When you are aware of the city’s future development plans, you become more of an area expert.You can better help your clients with their buying, selling and investment decisions.

Every city planning department has a “General Plan” that outlines the future of the city. San Jose’s General Plan Envision San Jose 2040 outlines all the major community strategies, growth areas and land use policies for the entire city for the next 24 years.

The city’s web site also provides land zoning information as well as building permit information. You can simply enter a property address and find out what zone it is in and potentially how the neighboring zoning may affect your client’s decision.

San Jose has seen major development growth since the stock market crash of 2010.   There are many projects, both residential and commercial, sprouting in every neighborhood.

I have learned that by being a resource of information, my clients often reach out to me about their real estate and non-real estate-related questions. This continues to put me in front of them.

By Jim Myrick, Keller Williams

interview-1018333__180Have you ever heard the saying, “If you want to know the person’s character, look at his friends?”

The same holds true for Managing Brokers.  The agents in their office say a lot about the values and success of their business.

Are you being deliberate about who you are trying to recruit and retain? When it comes to agents,  talent attracts talent and non-talent does the same.  What also holds true is that non-talent repels talent.

Is your brokerage business set up to attract the best in the business or are you creating a group for the Island of Misfit Toys?

I think one of the big mistakes that Managing Brokers make is the same thing that many agents make. They try to be all things to all people.

What are the values and business model of your brokerage?  Don’t be afraid to put it out there and tell your story.  It will attract some and repel others and that is okay.  Who you will not hire also says a lot about your business.

Our business is becoming more and more transparent.  With the help of systems like Homesnap, everyone can see the production and type of business that your office and agents do.

After leaving management and becoming a partner in a larger office, I would get comments from associates saying, “Did you get tired of babysitting?”  I found it interesting how agents viewed their associates and themselves. Agents seeing their brokers tolerate and even cater to unprofessional and disrespectful behavior is extremely damaging.  Setting the bar and being uncompromising on it will reflect your character.

Terminating someone who violates your company values can actually be a good thing if done with class.  It shows that you have the courage to adhere to a set of principals and draws a line in the sand for you current associates.

When you put together a group of independent contractors, you can’t manage activities but you can have a common list of guiding principles.

Great sources for this are not only your competition but other successful businesses outside the real estate Industry. I call it being a “Business Scientist”.  Do the research to see what works and then implement it in your own business.