TREC Warns of Real Estate Brokerage Scam

TREC Logo
Texas Real Estate Commission

My Dad always told me that if something seemed too good to be true, it was probably not true. This simple piece of advice has kept me out of many sticky situations. I just received an e-mail from the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) warning the public about real estate brokerage scams in the DFW area. I felt compelled to pass the warning along. It is very easy to find out if a person hold a license from the Texas Real Estate Commission – you can look up any persons license number by following this link.

Here is the beginning of the warning message from the Texas Real Estate Commission:

The Texas Real Estate Commission Standards and Enforcement Services Division (TREC) has received complaints against a group of individuals and companies that have been doing business in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The individuals and companies named in the complaints represent themselves as real estate agents and real estate brokerage companies but do not hold Texas real estate licenses. Owners of real property, tenants, buyers, and investors claim to have lost large sums of money related to the group’s real estate schemes. Among other things, the complainants allege that the group takes and keeps deposits for properties over which they have no authority or no control. They allegedly do not pay rent to property owners on property they claim to manage for those owners, or take large security deposits from tenants and then keep the money. They take deposits or earnest money on properties that they claim are available for a short sale but in reality are days away from foreclosure. Apparently, much of the solicitation of potential victims has been conducted through www.craigslist.com.

For the full article, click here.

How to Sell Your Home in 30 Days!!

If you’re interested in using the flurry of first time home buyers in the market to get you out of your current home, there is still time, but you must act fast. You could be eligible for up to a $6500 tax credit for selling an existing home if you have lived in that home for at least 3 of the last 5 years. Your buyer could be eligible for a tax credit of up to $8,000. The catch?? The contracts must be signed by April 30th.

So with that in mind, how do you sell a home in 30 days or less? The answer is just three simple steps…

First, make it look beautiful. For most, this does not have to be an expensive proposition, but it does require a bit of sweat to accomplish. A thorough, very deep cleaning is in order before your home foes on the market – inside and out. Wash those windows that you have neglected for a year, weed the shrub beds, trim the shrubs and lay down a fresh layer of mulch. Cut the grass and edge the curbs (yes even in the winter months or when the grass is just beginning to come back to life). Scrub the grout in tile floors in halls, kitchens and baths. Scrub the grout in showers. If you have glass shower doors, get them squeaky clean. Dust all of the places that have been ignored. Clean out the closets. The list goes on and on – it’s all the stuff that we all avoid. Now is the time to get it done. For a final touch, look through each room and identify furniture that is seldom used, and then remove it. Your house will sparkle and will look extra large at the end of this step.

Step two, determine the right price for your home. Don’t be greedy – greed and speed do not mix. What you are seeking is a fair price for the current condition of your home. If the interior of your home looks like it was comletely remodelled in 2010, then the top price of the market may be quickly achievable. To elaborate, these homes should have wood floors, marble counters, stainless steel appliances, trendy colors, no wall paper, decorative lighting, etc etc. Most homes do not look like this. If your home has some of these things but not all, it is going to fall in line with the average home. If your home is in need of major repairs, you may still be able to sell it quickly, you just need to discount the price by an amount roughly equal to the cost of performing these repairs. Your best bet at determining this price is to consult with a REALTOR who can present recent sales figures and help you determine the right price for a quick sale.

The third step is intense marketing. Just as you are finding this information on the internet, about 80% of home buyers now start their search on the internet. Your home needs to be advertised on all of the major real estate portals – REALTOR.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com, Homes.com, Yahoo.com, Google.com, major real estate brokerage sites, your local newspaper’s web site, TV station web sites. Even some retailers have home search web sites. You need to be everywhere at once. For the best presentation, your listing with these sites should be chock full of photos. Interenet consumers want to see what your home looks like. A minimum of 25 pictures is recommended. Think carefully about a virtual tour as well.

Combining all three of these WILL yield a fast sale of your existing home, particularly if it is priced in the range of the first time home buyer. Over the past six months, my average time on market for 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes is 10-14 days. These homes have been located in both Dallas and the suburbs of Plano, Richardson, and Little Elm.

NOW is a great time to be in the real estate market. The next month will see an extraordinary number of sales. Hopefully you will be one of them!!

Strong First Time Home Sales Make This a Move Up Market!

Over the course of the last year, I have noticed that my personal sales history shows that smaller homes are selling much faster than larger homes.  I have seen a number of 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes sell in less than 30 days, even in this austere market.  And these homes are selling for strong prices, several having appreciated in the last year.  One of the small homes that I sold in 2009 set the mark for the highest price per square foot in its Plano neighborhood.

Across the nation, the strength of smaller size homes seems to be consistent.  A USA Today article published this morning addresses this topic directly.  The article quotes statistics from the National Association of Home Builders noting that this trend has not been overlooked by those who bring new product to the market.  The median square footage of homes has dropped about 9%, from a peak of 2300 sq ft in the third quarter of 2006 to 2100 sq ft in the same period of 2009.

I believe there are a couple of factors that cause this trend to occur.  First, the general strength of the economy has everyone scrutinizing expenditures, and people are beginning to realize that they can survive on less.  The thought pattern goes something like this “We’d love to have the media room, but do I really need it?  Perhaps now is not the time – we’ll get that in the next house.”  Second, the strongest segment of the market is in first time home buyers.  People are realizing that given price levels, interest rates and tax incentives, it make sense to buy a home rather than rent for those who can qualify for a mortgage.  First time home buyers have not built up equity over the years and usually start by purchasing smaller homes.  The combination of these occurrences leads to smaller homes outperforming larger homes in the current market.

So what’s the moral of the story?  If you have been in your first home for the last several years, and are thinking that perhaps now is the time to move up, you couldn’t be more right.  Your smaller starter home will yield the best price in the market, and the home that you purchase will likely be discounted from its level of the past couple of years.  The market is taking shape to make now the best time to step into a larger home.

A $2 Million Pizza??

The Plano City Council is set to vote Monday on a $2 million economic incentive package to woo Pizza Hut from its current Addison headquarters location to a new facility to be developed in Plano.  The new development would be part of the Legacy business park in West Plano.

Pizza Hut Logo

Time for a move?

In my opinion, this is a great play by the city of Plano.  Plano has done an exceptional job of attracting corporate headquarters to its fair city, and this is another shining opportunity.  The Pizza Hut relocation comes complete with approximately 450 high paying jobs and will provide a boost to the Plano economy.

Even though the relocation distance from their current location on the Dallas North Tollway in Addison, the move to Plano should serve as a nice stimulus to property values in West Plano.  The additional jobs will create additional residential housing demand in the neighborhoods in close proximity to the Legacy Business Park.  The move will not happen immediately.  The current lease on the Pizza Hut headquarters expires in 2010, and Pizza Hut will have to ready its new facility before making the move.

Kudos to the city of Plano who in the past year has attracted approximately 20 companies and over 4,500 new jobs in the midst of the largest economic downturn our country has faced in many decades.  No recession in Plano – keep gowing!!

For more information on this story, please see the Dallas Business Journal article – Pizza Hut Incentives on Plano’s Agenda.

Something for the Rest of Us!! – Home Buyer Tax Credit Update

Did you notice the lack of the words “First Time” in the title.  Here’s a little something for those of us who already own a piece of the American dream.  If last year’s tax credit was enough to get first time buyers into the market, let’s hope that this stimulates things even more.

Congress and President Obama have seen fit to extend the Home Buyer Tax Credit into 2010, and they have significantly increased the scope of the incentive.  It is now available to anyone homeowner who meets certain income guidelines and sells their home between Nov 7, 2009 and May 31, 2010.  And the definition of sell is now translated as enter into a contract to sell by May 31, 2010 and close by Jul 31, 2010.

Homebuyer Tax Credit — Revised November 2009

FEATURE Jan. 1 – Nov. 30, 2009
Rules As Enacted
February 2009
Nov. 7 – Apr. 30, 2010
Rules As Enacted
November 2009
First-time Buyer – Amount of Credit $8,000 ($4,000 married filing separate) $8,000 ($4,000 married filing separate)
First-time Buyer – Definition for Eligibility May not have had an interest in a principal residence for 3 years prior to purchase Same
Current Homeowner – Amount of Credit No Provision $6,500 ($3,250 married filing separate)
Effective Date – Current Owner No Provision November 7, 2009
Current Homeowner – Definition for Eligibility No Provision Must have used the home sold or being sold as a principal residence consecutively for 5 of the previous 8 years
Termination of Credit Purchases after November 30, 2009.
(Becomes April 30, 2010 on November 7, 2009)
Purchases after April 30, 2010
Binding Contract Rule None So long as a written binding contract to purchase is in effect on April 30, 2010, the purchaser will have until July 1, 2010 to close
Income Limits (Note: Increased income limits are effective as of November 7, 2009) $75,000 – single
$150,000 – married
Additional $20,000 phase out
$125,000 – single
$225,000 – married
Additional $20,000 phase out
Limitation on Cost of Purchased Home None $800,000
November 7, 2009
Purchase by a Dependent No Provision Ineligible
November 7, 2009
Anti-fraud Rule None Purchaser must attach documentation of purchase to tax return

Source: National Association of Realtors

 

The tax credit to existing homeowners is up to $6,500, so if you were thinking about upgrading the homestead, now is definitely the time to act. Low interest rates, great buys available in the market, and a tax credit to boot – it’s the “perfect storm” for making the move to the larger house, or the incentive to finally downsize into the cozy home, depending on your vantage point of life.

In upcoming posts, I’ll examine some financial strategies for accessing this tax credit during the course of your transaction. Stay tuned…

Real Estate Market Not So Bad

Read national newspapers or listen to national evening news on any channel, and you’ll hear that real estate markets are in turmoil across the country. But in Dallas, we have fared better than most. In some areas the real estate markets are depressed, especially in the southern suburbs. But north Dallas real estate continues to see a good market. In fact, the Park Cities and northeast Dallas neighborhoods like Lake Highlands are actually seeing price appreciation.

Across the Dallas Fort Worth area, the number of sales transactions is significantly decreased from a year ago. It seems that only people who really need to sell their house (corporate relocation, divorce, etc) are placing it on the real estate market. The number of active buyers is also quite low. So if you possess the ability to obtain a loan, and are interested in purchasing a home, it’s a great time to buy a home in Dallas. With few other buyers in the Dallas real estate market, those who need to sell their homes are quite happy to see you. This is beginning to translate into improved negotiating posture for the buyer.

In the right part of town, the picture is not absolutely bleak for home sellers. Real estate in outstanding condition is few and far between, and is still commanding an increasing price in north Dallas and the Park Cities. The time to sell a home is rising, and on average has crested 3 months in Dallas. If you need to sell your home, make sure you bring it to the real estate market in the best possible condition. Clean the closets, paint the room that you’ve been neglecting, and get the yard cleaned up (yes, that means bagging up all of the leaves that have been around since autumn). Present your home well, and it may just sell quicker than you think, and for very close to the asking price.

For answers to specific buying or selling questions in the current Dallas real estate market conditions, feel free to call me.

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