Real Estate Photos

Front House Photo

Why Does It Matter?

When you are in real estate, there are a ton of photos you view each week. You can immediately tell which agents have their client’s best interest at heart just by looking at the photos. Using your phone doesn’t really qualify as a professional photo.

Here’s the reason. When someone comes in to take photos of your home for sale, you are broadcasting to a large number of people, including international buyers interested in purchasing. The photos are their first look at your property. Think about that!

I know what you are thinking – The market is so hot right now, it doesn’t matter what the quality of the photos are. People are buying homes left and right.

Although that may be true, those photos will be in the various systems until your home goes on sale again. That could be years or decades. Since they stay in the system, every agent out there who looks at the property will see the photos and the agent who placed them there.

What NOT To Photograph?

Bathroom Photo

Toilets

Everyone knows you have toilets in your house. Unless this is a very unique toilet, you probably don’t need to waste much time taking a photo. If it happens to be in view when you are taking a photo of the bathroom, well, ok.

Clutter

No one needs to see your dirty socks on the floor or the dishes in the sink. You may have the greatest soda can and bottle collection around but it does nothing for selling your home. Clean off all flat surfaces. Kitchen counters, bathroom counters, bureaus should be clear.

Branded Company Signs

Believe it or not, it is against the rules to have photos of your company signs in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). It can lead to guiding consumers to your business instead of using the open market. Oops!

How To Take Great Photos

Kitchen Photo

Use a DSLR with a wider angle lens, 20mm or less. Use proper lighting. I heard this trick too. That the same photos at several different exposures and overlap them so that bright spots are dimmed and darker spots are enhanced. Then again, is that manipulating the photos? Hiring a professional photographer isn’t cheap but you can get about 25 photos of a property that will be great quality and show the real estate agent’s professionalism towards their clients.

Take photos of the main areas of the house, bedrooms, bathrooms, media rooms, and the outside areas. If possible, provide a floor plan of the home for people to see the overall layout. Of course, you want a nice, clean shot of the front of the house.

Highlight the favorite areas of your house. If you put a lot of work into your kitchen, take a few extra shots of it. Installed an outdoor kitchen? Make it attractive and snap another shot. Just remember that all improvements are not treated the same. Don’t overdue improvements. You may be wasting money.

Three Things To Improve Curb Appeal

Maintain your yard

Cut the grass, clean up the yard, plant a few new flowers. The first impression anyone has when they physically come to look at your house is the curb appeal. For a few dollars, you can spruce it up nicely so that it stands out on your street.

What Is Your Home Worth Button

Fix Minor Repairs

Fix obvious repairs before accepting any contract. If you make the repairs before people offer contracts, then in some cases, you can fix the issues yourself. Got some window trim that has some water penetration? Fix the caulking yourself and you could save a ton. If you wait until after you accept a contract, then the repairs must be done by a licensed person, not you.

Pool Photo

Pools and Spas

Make sure they are clean and working properly. If the pool or spa is dirty or the pump is not working, it will leave the impression that there are underlying issues with it. A clean and functioning pool and spa appeals as a relaxing oasis for all who come.

Things To Do Inside

Gathering Area Photo

Clean Rooms, Remove Clutter

Make the beds and basically clean out anything from inside the house that you do not need if you are going to still occupy the home.

Look at it this way – you’ll already have some of your stuff packed even before you make the mad dash to get out of there.

Of course, work with your REALTOR® to come up with the best marketing plan for your home. If you don’t have a REALTOR®, I’m available to help. Visit my business website for more information.

Business Planning

Starting With Nothing

Check out this video about entrepreneurship.

Honestly – that should be an inspiration to anyone at any age. I especially liked the one statement near the end where someone stated “So what if you fail! Even if you fail, you can still put it on your resume, college application essay or grad school essay.” The point is to keep learning and learn from your failures until you succeed. I think about all the jobs that are available just in the United States. Something like 80 percent of businesses are entrepreneurial businesses. That means that only 20 percent of the jobs out there are through big corporations.

You don’t even need a formal education to start a business.

Every great idea out there started with the idea popping into someone’s head. How many stories have you heard about people starting businesses in their garage?

You do need a plan though.

Going into business without direction is like trying to drive your car with your eyes closed. More than likely, you’ll end up crashing.

Where To Start

I’ve been in the real estate business now for several months. The first 2-3 months has been all about education. I’ve needed to learn a lot about the legal aspects of real estate, contracts, and a whole gambit of things to keep clients and myself protected. Getting started has been challenging too. How do I get the word out that this is what I’m doing now?

I just ran into someone this morning who I’ve known for about four years now. She noticed my nametag on my shirt stating which Broker I work with. She had no idea that I was in real estate now. That’s a problem. Obviously, I’m not doing enough to get the word out.

Saying I need to get the word out is different than having a plan on how to get the word out. What steps do I need to take in order for the word to get out to as many people as possible? I need a plan.

I also need to know what the competition is doing. Some real estate companies are more like Ponzi schemes than real estate companies. For them, it’s more about getting more and more people selling houses and paying the people above you a portion of your proceeds than watching out for the client. Others are more like family businesses. Still others are internet based with no education available for their agents. This can lead to severe legal ramifications.

Creating The Plan

A business plan does not have to be some elaborate document with graphs, maps, and other things. It can be that, or it could be something you wrote down on a piece of paper. Just keep in mind that the business plan is actually your plan on how you are going to get from starting to being successful.

I’ve had several businesses in my life. My first was a web development company in the late 1990’s. It failed miserably because I was already working somewhere full-time and expected the work to come to me. I never really had a plan for that. Without a plan, I effectively planned on failing.

Another business I started was in graphic design. That’s a tough racket to get into in the first place. I actually had a plan in place for that but got sidetracked and caught up with one client who had expectations that went against my plan. As a result, my plan failed as my clients business started having problems. I left that client but it was too late.

Now I am in real estate and although I am working with a well-established brokerage, I still need a plan. Here’s something you may not know. Every real estate agent out there is actually an independent contractor for the brokerage they work with. As an independent contractor, agents are self-employed and considered entrepreneurs. I have my own business in real estate and it needs to be treated that way. Since this is the case, a business plan for success is something I need to have if I am going to succeed.

Planning Steps

Here is the step-by-step process to create a business plan that will work for you.

Step 1: What are your goals/objectives?

Pretty simple really. What is it you want to accomplish? Do you want to help the blind communicate with others better? Or maybe you want to design something that will help them see. Your plan does not always have to be that bold. Maybe it is designing an eating utensil that works better than a fork or spoon. Have you heard of a spork? You find them at a lot of fast food places. It looks mostly like a spoon but has ridges so it can also be used as a fork.

Spork

One of our daughters had a business editing translated documents from other languages. A company would hire her to take a document that had been previously translated to English from Korean as an example. She would go through and edit spelling and grammar. She did it while she was watching TV in the evening to make a few extra bucks.

The point is that if you have goals lined up for what you want to achieve, then you know where you are going. The next thing would be to figure out how to get there.

For several years, I have been teaching personal finance classes to people who have ended up homeless for one reason or another. The classes are based on a book I wrote about my own experiences with trying to dig out of debt. When I am teaching, the very first thing we cover is writing down goals. If it makes sense to do it with your personal finances, doesn’t it make even more sense if you are trying to start a business?

Step 2: How much money do you need to get started?

A good rule of thumb is to have 6-12 months of financing available to launch your business. But what if you don’t? Then what?

Well, you may have to be creative in generating some kind of income at first so that you have some funds for your real goals. Time takes time as they say. If you incorporate having to make some side money into your plan, you are still working on your plan.

Step 3: Marketing

There are a billion ways to market. Which one is best for you depends on your strengths. I have a colleague who strictly does postcard mailings. They spend thousands every year in postcards and stamps to get the word out about their business. I know another person who is heavy into video offers. Another does a lot with Facebook and other social networks.

What do you do if you don’t have a huge budget for marketing?

Start small.

Work with your sphere of influence. Your family, friends, people at work, at your church, and your neighbors.

Ask for referrals. Offer some things for free such as white papers, brochures, and PDF files with information relevant to your business.

Hopefully, it can take some time to exhaust your sphere. By then, you could have referrals available.

Don’t give up. Keep going. It can take months up to a year before you start seeing real results. It will happen. Be consistent. Don’t stop. Just keep swimming.

Step 4: Update the plan

Your business plan is not a static document. It should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated as you accomplish some of your goals. It is a living document meaning that it should be changing and improving the longer you are in business. Update your goals regularly. Challenge yourself to reach further into your dream. Come up with new directions to spread your business. Drop the ideas that haven’t been working.

If you would like a custom form to set up a basic business plan, fill out this form and it will be on its way.

Review: When God Doesn’t Fix It

When God Doesn’t Fix It

When God Doesn't Fix It

When God Doesn’t Fix It was written by Laura Story Elvington in 2015 and is available through Christian book stores, Amazon, and other locations. Laura is also a singer/songwriter with titles like “Indescribable” and “Blessings” to her credit. She uses “Laura Story” for her music. The study contains a book, DVD series, and a leader’s guide with questions. It is designed for a small group discussion over five sessions.

The session titles are:

  • Session 1 – Don’t Be Surprised By Trouble
  • Session 2 – Best-Made Plans
  • Session 3 – When God Doesn’t Fix It
  • Session 4 – Why? The Question On Replay
  • Session 5 – A Better Broken

There are corresponding videos for each session that are 10-14 minutes long which leaves some time for discussion before and after. There are also daily questions for people to go through if you use it in a small group study. In my case, I used the series for a Sunday School class.

Why Did I Choose This Study?

I chose this study mainly because I have also had a brain tumor removed and live with the side effects of such a surgery. It was also chosen because there are a lot of things people go through in life that are not fixed simply by having faith.

Seeing how other people have dealt with a brain injury was eye-opening.

What Did I think of the book?

I suggest reading the entire book before trying to give the study as it offers some background information that can be used while conducting the study.

The book tells the story of Laura’s handling of her husband’s brain tumor diagnosis, surgeries, and treatment. Honestly, as a person who has gone through brain surgery and knew from the beginning that things would never be the same, it was difficult to get through the first half of the book. Not that the story was bad, but that it focused on where she was at the time. Laura seemed to think that brain surgery was just one of those things you go through and once it’s taken care of, things go back to normal – whatever that is.

By the second half of the book, the conversation changes to one of reliance on faith to get through things. There are plenty of references to the idea that God is not a fairy who fixes all these things we ask for. Rather, God is more about the bigger picture of eternal salvation. There are scripture references throughout.

What About The Videos?

The videos are enough to get the conversation going. They are well done and even have some overlap to help with the previous sessions. She incorporates personal stories from others and encourages relationships. Scripture references are used throughout.

The quality of the videos is top notch. Laura even shares snippets of her singing and scenes from concerts and recordings. Some candid family videos are entertaining at times.

The Leader’s Guide

The leader’s guide is set up for daily use. There are questions to use prior to the video as well as ideas to think about during the video. Those are followed by discussion questions. There are also daily questions to consider between sessions.

My Take

I used the study for a Sunday School class and treated it differently than maybe it was intended. Since I had been through the brain surgery, I was also able to incorporate some of my personal experiences.

I used the study as a starting point and added separate information to it for my specific setting. Our classes did not utilize the daily reflection items. I also used additional scripture, not in the study.

I think it’s a great study for anyone looking to have hard discussions about tough topics that many people go through. Although the premise of the study is based on brain tumors and traumatic brain injury, it can apply to a variety of topics.

Who Would You Sell Your House To?

The Situation

Sell Your House

You are down-sizing from your 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bathroom, 2 car garage home that you have lived in for 30 years. You don’t like the stairs anymore or the amount of cleaning and upkeep needed. You’re getting ready to retire and the three kids you had have all moved away and have their own family.

It would be nice to move further away from the city and get a one story home that is newer.

You’ve done a good job updating your home with a new kitchen, updated master bathroom, and some great landscaping.

You reach out to a REALTOR® and ask for help selling your home and finding a new one in another town.

The REALTOR® brings you three people who are very interested in buying your property.

House Keys

John and Sally

John and Sally are both hard-working people with one child. They are planning on growing their family and the apartment they have been living in is just too small. They really like your house and the neighborhood. They are ready to make an offer. Good news! They have a prequalification letter from a bank.

Mark and Susan

Mark and Susan are a little older than John and Sally. They have two kids in grade school. Mark is the main breadwinner and Susan works part-time at the school where their kids go. They grew up in the neighborhood and want to relocate back to where they grew up. Great News again! They have been preapproved by a lender.

Karen

Karen is a single mom of three kids in middle school and high school. Unfortunately, her husband, Dan, passed away from a car accident six months ago. She’s fortunate that they had a will and life insurance so she is ok financially. She needs the room for the stage of life she is in. Great news a third time! Karen has been pre-underwritten from a lender.

Who would you choose?

John and Sally have written you a nice letter. They say they love the upgrades to the house and how much the kids loved it when they went by to look at it. They even included a photo of their family. Oh look – they have the cutest little puppy that the kids wanted so bad. What you don’t know is that they have five credit cards that are maxed out and a loan they defaulted on.

Mark and Susan noticed that there were a few items that needed to be fixed and they don’t want any hassle. They expect the items to be fixed or they may look for another house. They really like the neighborhood though and would love to be back close to family.

Karen just wants something safe and secure. She knows the neighborhood a little and even though there are a few minor repairs needed, she can handle having a contractor come in to have them looked at during the contract option period.

This is a tough call for anyone. They all sound really good for the most part. If you were trying to sell your home what criteria would you use in choosing which buyer you wanted to sell to? Would it be the young growing family, the established family, or the widow? Would you want to make repairs or work with a person who is ok with the small defects in the property?

Definitions

Pre-approved

Thanks to my friend, Paul Nolte from Home Team Mortgage, I have some definitions for you to consider before making your final choice.

Prequalification – A prequalification letter simply states that there has been a discussion between the potential home buyer and a lender or bank. There is a verbal verification of assets and income. A credit report has been pulled and it seems ok on the surface. The credit score is verified but at this point, we are relying on what the potential buyer is saying about the details of their credit report, their job history, and bank account balances.

Preapproved – A preapproval means that all the information provided by the potential buyer has been verified based on what they have said. W-2’s, paystubs, tax returns, bank statements, etc. have been verified. This is done at the local lender level only but there is certainly a better feel for the state of the potential buyer’s finances.

Pre-underwritten – This is the best you can get. It combines all the efforts of the prequalification, preapproval but also the information has been given to an underwriter to make sure nothing has been missed. Work verifications and IRS checks of the tax documents provided have been verified. The potential buyer is qualified to get the loan they need for the purchase. All that is uncertain at this point is the property (title work and appraisal).

Selection

Elderly Couple

With this new information, it’s easy to see that the best choice would be the person who is pre-underwritten. They are qualified. The property still needs to be approved. That includes inspections, repairs, and appraisal but at least you know the person can get the loan.

The second choice would be the preapproved persons. All their information looks right. They should be able to get the loan without an issue but it is unknown if there are IRS issues, back tax issues, or if they are still working where they said they were.

The last choice would be the prequalification letter. There has been little background work done on this potential buyer. Lots of things could go wrong along the way.

Next Steps

If you are in the market to put your house on the market to sell, the next step would be to contact me at Ebby Halliday, REALTORS® and set up an appointment so we can review your property and take care of things that might get in the way of selling your home. If you are looking to buy, again, reach out to me so that we can get you pre-underwritten and be in the best position to move on the property you want as soon as possible.

Why Get More Credit?

Credit, Bad – Debt-Free, Good

Credit Cards

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts about credit, you know that I’m not a fan of people getting all kinds of different credit. I am a firm believer that being debt-free is an amazing way to live. You never have to worry about where your money needs to go, how much you need to make to pay all those various bills, or worry about what will happen if something happens like a job loss or a medical diagnosis.

You may also know that I am now a REALTOR®. I want to help people learn about that process so they can get into a home that they can afford without stressing about the increasing costs of ownership.

My Friend Paul

Paul Nolte

As a REALTOR®, a trusting and honest relationship is established. If you are a seller, I represent you in any negotiations once a Listing Agreement is signed. If you are a buyer, I represent you in any negotiations once a Buyer’s Representation Agreement is signed. Without an agreement, you are on your own when it comes to navigating the contract paperwork and any negotiations.

Paul Nolte is one of the partners and a preferred Mortgage Loan Originator from Home Team Mortgage at our Ebby Halliday, REALTORS® office in the Plano/Willow Bend area.

We’ve had several conversations about clients who need help getting a loan. One reason a contract will fall through is an issue with credit. That’s why it is so important to start working on your credit immediately, preferably six months before you want to purchase a home.

Paul has provided an article on how to improve your credit when preparing to purchase a home.

My Take

Debt-Free

Although I can appreciate having a variety of credit avenues open to show credit worthiness, sometimes, that is not a good thing for people.

If you have a habit of keeping a balance on your credit cards, then maybe a better way would be to keep one credit card and maintain control of your spending.

I was divorced in 2002 after an almost 15-year marriage. After six years, I managed to pay off my debts and only kept one credit card. Over time, I had several car loans for various lengths of time and maintained a zero balance on my credit card. With a credit score over 800, I had no problems qualifying for a loan for a house.

Everyone needs to decide their own path when it comes to finding a great home. If you choose wisely, your credit can help you achieve the goals you want. However, if you neglect what is happening with your credit, it may prevent you from getting that house.

Trip-Ups

Here’s a brief list of things that can trip you up when trying to purchase a home.

  1. Missed payments on loans.
  2. Late payments on credit cards
  3. Late utility payments
  4. Eviction
  5. Bankruptcy
  6. Foreclosure
  7. Too much debt-to-income ratio. If you owe more than about 36% of your income towards bills, you may not qualify for a loan.

There are also ways people can sabotage the loan process.

During the contract period, you start to purchase items for your home:

  1. Riding mower
  2. Refrigerator
  3. Washer and dryer
  4. Vacations

Once you are under a contract, do not make any changes that could affect your credit or your debt-to-income ratio. You’ll have time to purchase those items after you move into your new home.

Reach out to me so we can work together to make sure any credit issues are addressed before trying to purchase a home. Visit my business website for contact information.

Get the Pre-Underwritten Brochure!

 

3 Ways To Immediately Start Improving Your Credit

Credit Catch 22

Catch 22 Loan

Your credit score is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you need it in order to get loans for things like cars and houses. You will also need it to qualify for a lease. On the other hand, if you aren’t careful with your credit choices, you can end up in a credit crunch. This can make it very difficult to qualify for loans and leases.

I’ve been on all sides of the credit issue and have even written a book related to that experience. When it comes to buying a home, your credit is the first thing that gets looked at when you need to take out a loan for a home. Lenders will look at every aspect of your credit to determine if they will back a loan for you to purchase. In today’s market, it is so important to get pre-approved or even pre-underwritten for a loan so that when the house you want comes on the market, you are ready to go.

Here are three things you can start doing today that will begin to improve your credit score without resorting to debt-consolidation plans or filing bankruptcy.

Pay Every Bill On-Time

Fix My Credit

Nothing screams at your credit louder than missing payments on credit cards and utility bills. They are red flags to lenders. If you fall into this category, start paying your bills on-time. It may take six months to fix your credit this way but it’s an easy fix if you want to change your situation.

Don’t Use Credit

Don't Use Credit Cards

It’s ok to have credit. It’s not ok to have so much debt related to credit that your debt-to-income ratio gets so high that no one will loan money to you for a purchase. Typically, if you have 35% or more of your income dedicated to debts – and that includes your rent, then it will be more difficult to get that loan. The best option is to simply stop using your credit cards and don’t open any new accounts. Lenders will also tell you not to close any accounts. If you are paying all your bills on-time and no longer using your credit cards, then it just goes to say that your debt-to-income ratio will start to go down the longer you pay.

Start Saving

Piggy Bank

You’re going to need a down payment for that house you want to buy unless you are using a VA loan. Do you need 3.5%, 5%, or even 20% down when you purchase? Your decision will determine if you need to secure mortgage insurance on your loan. VA loans are for military – active duty and veterans – as a way to say thank you for your service. Other programs are available such as the Military On The Move program.

Conclusion

Take care of your credit and it will take care of you when it comes to larger purchases. Reach out to me if you are ready to search for a home or if you need more information about fixing credit issues so you can purchase.

Request a free brochure on steps you can take to get ready for pre-approval of your loan.