Inman Real Estate Connect 2011 – Day 2

Today was a meat and potatoes kind of day at ICSF.

Since everyone and their brother has now gotten into the “lets review agents” game (yes, that would include Yelp, Trulia, Zillow, and plenty of local initiatives as well) , I was relieved to discover the folks from faceified. In typical ICSF fashion, the tip about this site came from a fellow attendee. One of the things I love about ICSF is you can walk down a hallway for 20 feet and come out 2 ideas smarter.

Inman Connect 2011 – Hey look, I finally got this year’s logo right!

While I was hoping to attend a few sessions in the MLS track this afternoon, I ended up attending most of the “New Opportunities” innovation track. I really picked up some great tips and ideas from the facebook networking session, the online agent review session (see above), the daily deals session, but had to miss the vblogging session from @hermanity that got rave reviews on twitter!

From the morning’s general ICSF session, I would rate highly the keynote from Hootsuite. Not only because I love love love their product, but because their CEO, Ryan Holmes, came across as a very sharp and smart guy.

One of the fascinating things about ICSF is watching how ideas and products that I first hear about here end up growing into major trends with enough time. It really impressive. It also requires some reasonably functional bullshit detectors, since everyone at Inman Connect is convinced that they’ve got the next big thing. And while I admire them all for their effort and tenacity, only some of those ideas and products will go on to become driving forces in the real estate industry.

I’m looking forward to hearing David Pogue in tomorrow morning’s keynote. And I’m also looking forward to seeing some sun in the afternoon!

I’d love to hear from folks that dug into other ICSF innovation tracks about what they thought were the most interesting, insightful, and challenging ideas that they picked up today?

A buyer asks: what should I do to get ready, before I start looking for a new home?

One day, you’re comfy in your apartment, happy to keep the walls the color the landlord chose and to live with the smaller-than-a-breadbox closet that barely fits your awesome shoe collection, much less your fabulous wardrobe. The next, you check your bank balance, realize that you want to stay in <insert name of your hometown here> for the time being, and because you’ve been reading our blog or hearing the news that now is a good time to buy, you decide to take the plunge.

It’s Time to Buy a Place to Call Your Own. I put that in capital letters because it’s a big deal.

What steps should you take to get ready? Gather ’round, future buyers, and I’ll fill you in.

1. Ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations for a Realtor. Check reviews on Yelp. No matter what market you’re in, you need a trusted agent on your side, representing your interests. Some people recommend interviewing at least three Realtors. Matt and I recommend interviewing as many agents as you need to, until you find someone (or two someones) with whom you feel comfortable and you feel you can trust.

2. Get thee to a mortgage broker and get pre-approved for a loan. Your newly chosen Realtor will have recommended brokers for you to consider. Get fully pre-approved, not just pre-qualified. Why? A pre-qualification isn’t enough to submit an offer, and going all the way through the process gives you an exact picture of what you can afford, how much you need for closing costs and down payment, and what your approximate loan payments will be (based on interest rates at the time of your pre-approval).

An important credit-related note here: don’t go on a full-on loan binge and submit your applications to multiple brokers either in person or online. If you run your credit history too many times, your credit score may be negatively affected. And that would be bad.

3. Sit yourself down with any other decision-makers, as well as your agent, and figure out what you’re looking for. If you are human, and most readers of this blog are, your initial list will change as you get to know what can be expected in your price range. Will you trade your desire for a remodeled kitchen for a parking spot? A parking spot for a view? A view for a yard? Everything for a closet like Big built for Carrie in Sex and the City?

4. Get started!

Now, wasn’t that easy?

Day 1 of Real Estate Connect 2011

Real Estate Connect 2011 is underway, and after a full day at the conference followed by showing homes in the early evening, I’m ready to curl up in a ball and crash for the night. Or at least step away from the computer. Ha!

Real Estate Connect

Here are a few of my impressions from this year’s Real Estate Connect so far:

1) As always, the event is filled with incredibly smart people. Regardless of the information gleaned in various sessions, the personal connections are pretty amazing. Last year I was a little intimidated, but this year I’ve had the chance to meet some folks that I highly respect from facebook and twitter in person, which has been awesome. (Yes, Ben Kinney, this totally includes you).

2) Last year I was impressed with the vendors in the exhibit hall. This year I just wanted to scream “Enough!” I feel as though the problem is no longer that there aren’t enough good technology solutions, but that there are almost too many. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t meet some great people with awesome ideas on the show floor, but here’s my unsolicited advice for every company out there making technology solutions for real estate agents:

  • If you want it to go on an agent’s website, make it a one click WordPress install. Otherwise, move along…
  • If you want it to be used by an agent in their daily business, make sure it’s an iPad app…
  • If it costs money, show me the leads…
  • And if anyone needs a new idea for a product, show me a high quality solution for taking an agent’s existing site and optimizing it for mobile
3) The general real estate connect sessions, so far, have been an odd combo of hit and miss for me. The Facebook preso underwhelmed. Shorter Facebook: Forget about the web, live in our walled garden, get some fans on your page, give us your ad dollars and love like it. Google’s preso contained some really phenomenal numbers about the shift to mobile. I’m still digesting how I can take advantage of that, but the info was great.  The rest of the chats with 3 or 4 people on stage at a time left me with a random collection of useful insights and sharp one-liners, but no “ah-ha” moments so far. I think part of the challenge, for me at least, is what feels like the constant shifting of gears from day-to-day tactics and business strategies to 50,000 foot industry overviews, touching on 30 different facets of the real estate industry along the way… but that’s also part of what makes it all so interesting.
So that’s my Day 1 breakdown… how about yours?

First Time Homebuyer Credit

Unless you’ve got a time machine, you are out of luck on this one. The first time homebuyer credit only applies to home purchases that closed prior to September 30, 2010.

The IRS has a good (if not particularly easy to read) overview of the various tax credits that were available to home buyers in 2008, 2009, and 2010:

For 2008 Home Purchases

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 established a tax credit for first-time homebuyers that can be worth up to $7,500. Forhomes purchased in 2008, it is similar to a no-interest loan and must be repaid in 15 equal, annual installments beginning with the 2010 income tax year.

For 2009 Home Purchases

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expanded the first-time homebuyer credit by increasing the amount to $8,000 for purchases made in 2009 before Dec. 1. The Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009 extended the deadline — taxpayers who had a binding contract to purchase a home before May 1, 2010, became eligible. Buyers must have closed on the home before July 1, 2010. That closing deadline was extended to Sept. 30, 2010 by the  Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act of 2010, enacted July 2, 2010. See news release 2010-80 for details.

For home purchased in 2009, it does not have to be paid back unless the home ceases to be the taxpayer’s main residence within a three-year period following the purchase.

First-time homebuyers who purchased a home in 2009 can claim it on either a 2008 tax return or a 2009 tax return. The credit may not be claimed before the closing date. News release 2009-27 has more information on these options.

For 2010 Home Purchases

The Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009, signed into law on Nov. 6, 2009, extended and expanded the first-time homebuyer credit allowed by previous Acts.

Under this law, an eligible taxpayer must have bought, or entered into a binding contract to buy, a principal residence on or before April 30, 2010, and close on the home by June 30, 2010. For qualifying purchases in 2010, taxpayers have the option of claiming the credit on either their 2009 or 2010 return.

This law also:

  • Authorized the credit for long-time homeowners buying a new principal residence.
  • Raised the income limitations for homeowners claiming it.

See news release 2009-108 for the details.

Members of the military, Foreign Service and intelligence community serving outside the U.S. should find out about the benefits in the law that apply particularly to them.

For a home purchased in 2010, it does not have to be paid back unless the home ceases to be the taxpayer’s main residence within a three-year period following the purchase.

A seller asks: other than pricing my home correctly, what else can I do to sell it quickly?

You’ve reviewed the comps, visited the competing listings in your neighborhood and settled on a price. You’re ready to go on the market and get your place sold. But wait…take a deep breath and take a look at your home with a critical eye. What do you see? A place that looks like the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog? A college dorm room? Somewhere in between?

Most likely it’s somewhere in between — and to get top dollar for your home, it needs to be closer to the Pottery Barn catalog than to the college dorm room. Here’s some advice on what you can do to sell your house quickly, in addition to pricing it correctly.

1. Maximize curb appeal. If needed, power wash the front of the house. Wash the windows. If you’re lucky enough to have any green space in front of your home — a rarity in much of San Francisco — spruce it up with some colorful blooming flowers. Ditch the ratty doormat in favor of a new one.

[Read more…]

What Is a Short Sale?

Ever come up short? That’s the figure-of-speech that the phrase short sale is derived from.

The proceeds from the sale of the home come up short of the total amount owed to the bank or banks, thus creating a short sale. Because the proceeds from the sale will not fully repay the lender(s), they must approve of the sale in advance and agree to take a reduced payoff.

When the real estate market hit the turbulence known as 2008, banks weren’t ready to deal with the deluge of requests they received for short sale approvals. And sellers and the real estate industry weren’t prepared to navigate the dysfunctional bureaucracy within many banks to get them approved. Which led to incredibly long delays in getting a sale approved, and in many cases this delay in time forced the seller into default and foreclosure.

Why would a bank accept a short sale? Following the mantra that something is better than nothing, a bank will usually approve a short sale if the seller can demonstrate financial hardship (because I don’t want it anymore but I’m still employed and can afford to make payments doesn’t get real far). The bank’s logic is that they will lose less money in a short sale than a foreclosure. So they cut their losses, approve the sale, and move on.

Banks have staffed up their short sale departments significantly in the past few years, and federal legislation has also been enacted that requires a much more prompt response from a bank in these situations. As a result, most banks have gotten much more efficient at the processing of these sales, and in my most recent short sale transaction I had final bank approval seven business days after the seller submitted all required documentation.

If you are a buyer and are considering purchasing a short sale, you should be prepared for a longer-than-usual escrow, and also for the possibility that the bank won’t approve the short sale and you will be unable to purchase the home.

If you are a seller considering selling your home and you think you might come up short, the most important thing you can do is to be well organized and prepared to submit a large amount of documentation to the bank in support of your short sale request.

If you’ve got specific questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’ll do our best to get you the best answer for your situation.