Defining Homes • Ask the EXPERTS

With the economy still in a wicked mess, reports are that the latest trend in homebuying is not buying. Renters are on the rise. But are they? Real estate source Inman reported in January that it is cheaper to buy in the majority of the country’s larger cities. Keith Jurow reported last year on World Property Channel that a Harris Interactive survey found renting a better option. So which is it? We asked locals in the industry how the trends are swaying the Dallas housing market and the frustrations behind them.

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Michael Litzinger

Michael Litzinger
William Davis Realty Uptown

The trend has affected my business significantly. The firm I recently moved to seems to be more in tune with today’s market. Their streamlined, online process requires less paperwork which makes it better for the client, a much quicker turn around for me and better for the environment.

Leasing does move property these days, and I am just glad the industry moves in some fashion whether it’s leasing or selling.

I do think the trend has affected us locally somewhat, but not nearly as severely as in most other areas. I still feel good about the Dallas market.  I know Realtors in other areas that can’t say the same.

Buyers are decreasing to some degree. Even with low interest rates, I’ve had a lot of buyers come to me and then disappear.

 

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Derrick Dawson

Derrick Dawson
Texas Pride Realty

As an active and producing Realtor also working in property management, I’d say the rental trend has picked up significantly, but that doesn’t mean it’s been ideal for property renters/owners or for the multi-family industry. The rental market has been stable but faces some challenges based on broken leases due to financial hardship or unemployment. Many are playing it safe by downsizing or combining rental homes based on economic conditions, being fearful of keeping their jobs and saving for the future.
Today is a buyer’s market and an ideal time to get out of the rent race. The downfall to the buyer’s market that I have seen personally is buyers and investors taking advantage of desperate people in today’s markets, possibly causing detriment to individuals or families in their time of need but also bringing down values in those areas making it harder for others to sell.

 

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Dan Flynn

 

Dan Flynn
Dave Perry-Miller InTown

The trend of leasing over buying has changed the way I preview properties in my area. Leasing is so hot now, I’ve looked at rentals and try to know the different apartment communities close by. Now I am much faster to respond to leasing needs.

I process far more leases to build my future list of clients. I try to educate and prepare them for the buying process down the road. Using a Realtor to find the perfect place to lease makes a lot of sense for those wanting to buy in the future but also for those who don’t really want to do the legwork.

I recently represented a seller who could not sell his property for the amount he was hoping for. Finding qualified buyers in his market and price range wasn’t easy. Another Realtor’s client was interested in leasing the property so

I had to have that conversation with my seller. The seller decided to go with the lease. While sales are still going strong, leasing has increased. While this really is the time to buy, I think all the media attention scares buyers. Potential buyers need to know that the market is stable here and we are one of the cities leading the nation in sales right now.  Go buy a house now or pay more for it later both in price and interest rates.

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Keith M. Thomas

Keith M. Thomas
1111 Apartment Locators

Although the economy has definitely affected us here, it is worse in other areas of the country. Dallas continues to grow and so I feel the trend’s impact on Dallas has been positive.

My company is a fully licensed real estate brokerage company and we handle all residential and commercial real estate transactions yet, our primary business is apartment locating. We want to maintain focus on renters, but we’ve created strategic partnerships with other real estate companies and have a referral program with them. We work closely with our clients to help with all of their real estate needs.

For homes that have reasonable mortgages there is good news. In Dallas, the rental market has significantly gone up, especially from 2010 to present to a  94-97 percent occupancy rate.

Buyers become renters for two reasons: First, they are able to get a nicer home for a lower monthly payment. And second, it doesn’t make sense to buy unless you’re planning to stay. However, buyers are increasing, oddly enough. MetroTex Association of Realtors reported that last August 2010 there were 1,223 properties sold and this August 2011 there were 1,485.

It’s a landlords’ market. Rents are at a premium and good ones go fast. When I show my clients rentals, they want to think about it, I encourage them to act quickly, because the unit is gone within a day or two. Why should homeowners take a loss on waiting for a qualified buyer, when they can rent quickly and hold out for the market to improve?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Defining Homes: First Impressions

Steven McFarland, below, and his company The Make Ready Group can prep any house before it hits the market. The company also offers services to customers just in need of home services but not necessarily selling their homes.

The Make Ready Group takes care of all those finishing touches before your house goes on the market — and more

By Rich Lopez

Apartment dwellers are all too familiar with the dreaded make ready preparations when moving out. Whether it’s making sure the baseboards are pristine or the oven actually works, everything has to be in tiptop shape for that next renter.

Apply that idea to that home about to go on sell and the task grows exponentially. But don’t fret — this is where The Make Ready Group can step in.

“We focus on the whole make ready aspect of helping Realtors out,” says founder Steven McFarland.

So basically, someone can do all this for you. That in itself can be a much needed relief from the already stressful duty of selling a home. But McFarland reminds that the property owner remains completely accountable for the house and any issues it may have — especially if it’s to sit vacant while on the market.

“Although the upkeep can be farmed out to an agent, the owners of that property are responsible for everything,” he says. “Sometimes a bank will own a property but they will usually have a property preservation dispatch that covers everything in the home like maintenance, repairs, landscape. Even the structure is maintained.”

The Make Ready Group grew out of working on apartments, but evolved because McFarland was also a Realtor. He began seeing how much time was getting taken up just preparing a home when he could have been selling. Now, he and his company focus solely on homes and specialize in not only preparing a home for the market, but also taking some burden off the agents.

“They really want someone to take over that responsibility,” he says, “And we specialize in that.”

Much like that property preservation crew, the Make Ready Group are the people that will handle the same issues. With McFarland coming from a real estate background, he knows all to well the importance of having a picture perfect house.

“We do anything to a property that needs to be done. Our philosophy is that the land must be maintained,” he says. “The buyer is the consumer and they will buy what they like.”

With Texas having such extreme weather, McFarland warns of certain precautions. The Texas heat is a given, but with major ice and snow storms over the past two years, he says the smallest measures can reduce major catastrophes.

“With the cold weather like we just experienced, you always want to winterize the pipes,” he says. “Drain water from the pipes and heater and make sure the water is secured going into the property. And drip the faucets. Nobody wants the pipes to burst. I’ve seen water pouring out of the ceiling and it just destroys.”

On the flip side, he recommends safety when it comes to heat. As summer gets over 100-degree temperatures, McFarland advises that no matter what, at least two people should tend to the duties should one suffer from heat stroke.

“People tend to insulate the attics in the summer, but it gets so very hot in there,” he says. “So two people are a must. Otherwise, people should really have some good ventilation going through the house and sometimes it’s just as easy as putting a box fan in.”

But one item stands out that a buyer will have much concern over.

“Heating and air is a biggie,” he says. “A place that sits vacant for a long time with the heater or air conditioning off needs to be checked to see if it’s working properly.”

McFarland has advice for the people who opt to do the make ready themselves, because there are those few willing to take it on. With his experience, McFarland immediately knows what to look for that needs his services. But ultimately, the goal is to make the house presentable and he says that can start easily with a new coat of paint, a “royal cleaning,” adjusting doors and patching holes in the wall.

“You want it ready,” he emphasizes. “Nobody can see a flaw when they walk in.”

Just don’t think the company is only for sellers. They provide home services throughout Dallas and have moved beyond the city limits tending to homes in Frisco and Southlake. But McFarland’s also noticed a recent trend in his maintenance orders.

“Oh yeah, you don’t have to be selling the property to use us,” he says. “Even if you have a commercial space, we can do the job. We have individuals with the proper skills for most any job. And we’re familiar with lots of areas around town, but as of late, we’ve definitely been getting more orders from the LGBT community in and around Oak Lawn.”

Sounds like just the right kind of company.

For more information, visit TheMakeReadyGroup.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Nondiscrimination amendment goes to secret ballot at National Association of Realtors meeting

Realtor Bob McCranie

At the national meeting of the National Association of Realtors in New Orleans, 25,000 attendees voted on a code of ethics amendment that would prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians by members of the organization.

A voice vote was held earlier today and the chair believed that the measure had passed by a two-thirds vote, according to gay Carrollton Realtor Bob McCranie, who’s attending the conference. McCranie said the Collin County association voted in favor of the nondiscrimination measure.

The chair moved to the next item on the agenda, but the next speaker called to reopen the nondiscrimination measure and asked for a secret ballot. That vote is now taking place and results will be available later this afternoon, McCranie said.

If the measure passes, it would be part of the code of ethics that must be followed nationwide by the 2 million members of the association.

UPDATE: Nondiscrimination passed by 93 percent of the vote in a secret ballot.

“This is a monumental moment for fair housing,” said Todd Shipman, the president of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals.

His organization has been working on the issue with the National Association of Realtors for about 3 years, he told Dallas Voice by phone from the convention in New Orleans. He said that there is a patchwork of laws across the country but that his organization will continue to advocate for a national fair housing law that includes LGBT people.

McCranie said that the new regulation applies to all real estate professionals who have the Realtor designation. He said that now all Realtors must work with all clients equally.

—  David Taffet

Change of plans • Defining Homes

So you want to be a real estate agent. Just be sure you know what you’re in for

By Rich Lopez

Dan FlynnNo one needs to remind you that these are tough economic times. Sometimes that means calling for serious measures like a career change. Real estate is an attractive industry because the rewards can be great for the bank account and you get to be your own boss. But before you dive head first into the waters, there is some information to know and consider. Hey, it’s a new career — what did you think?.

“Those not in the industry have some great idea that you walk into a real estate office and clients walk through the door and you make giant commissions,” Realtor Dan Flynn of Dave Perry-Miller Intown says. “The reality is nothing drops into your lap.”

Flynn has been in the real estate industry for 16 years, switching over from the telecom industry. When getting into real estate, he followed all the right steps, but had to face the realities of going into what he calls a very expensive career option. According to him, that is the one piece of information, people need to know.

“You pay for everything yourself,” he says. “You pay the broker to allow your license to hang in their office and you pay a portion of your commission to the broker as well. There are some very large expenses and you must have income to offset those in addition to earning income as you go.”

Don’t let that scare you. Flynn wants only to guide those interested in joining the industry and provide the information and insight he could have used when he began. That insight actually comes in handy even before getting your agent’s license.

“When thinking about getting a license, you want to consider the ultimate goal.  People can become a broker after becoming an agent. Also, consider transferable college credits when applying for real estate classes. You will want those credits behind you when the time comes to sit for that exam.”

Before any exam, there is study time and coursework is necessary to get to the test.
However, classes are available either online or in classroom form for those who can benefit from peer review. Accelerated plans are an option for those eager, like Flynn, to begin selling homes.

“The required courses came easy to me because everything seemed logical and natural,” he says. “I do understand getting through the coursework and tests through school can be very arduous for many.”

So you got your license — now what? Flynn emphasizes the money issue because there are fees and costs to be easily missed. Plus, if you are planning this as your day job, more financial planning is needed. National, state and local associations will have fees. MLS charges, for electronic key usage to get into homes will rack up, as will self-employment taxes, marketing materials (i.e. business cards). Brokers may require more education so they are up to speed and insurance is a must to cover any mistakes made. And even your clothing.

“You will be expected to dress and present yourself in a certain way,” he says. “Make certain you have one full year’s expenses tucked away in a bank account somewhere to pay the rent, car, whatever. It can be overwhelming. Just be prepared.”

Now you can head out into the field. If people aren’t going to drop in your lap, then you start hitting up the people around you. Flynn says this is the best way to start getting the word out about your new career and how you can help those who know you.

“You must go out and find all of the clients you work with,” he says. “You start with your personal sphere of influence and work outward.”

One thing Flynn brings up is somewhat of a surprise. Hanging your license isn’t like hanging up your diploma. A strong broker can shape a new career into a successful one and where you hang it is a crucial decision. Your new real estate license is indicative to potential clients of your reliability.

“Interview with many agencies,” he says. “Unlike looking for regular employment, you are not trying to get them to take you on so much as they are trying to convince you to come their way. My experience tells me there are extremely few options for new agents so when interviewing, look for those places that encourage you to come to the office to work and for free or low-cost education and have someone assigned to you for help.”

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First, know this

Before heading into the real estate world, the least you need to know are the requirements set by the Texas Real Estate Commission. Meet all these and you are on your way.

• You must be a U.S. citizen who resides in-state and be 18 years old.

• Texas law requires 210 hours of coursework to be  completed.

• Before applying for the state exam, proof of course completion is required.

• Apply for the state examination for your inactive salesperson license. This is done online at the TREC website.

• Pass the state examination.

• Filing an application authorizes a background check.

• Obtain sponsorship from your broker to activate your license. You are unable to practice prior to active licensure.

This information is from eHow.com under How to Become a Real Estate Agent in Texas and at the TREC.state.tx.us.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens