Floored’s interactive 3-D experiences may represent future of virtual home tours


Floored aims to transform the way agents communicate space to prospective buyers by replacing static images and constrictive videos with interactive 3-D experiences much like those offered in video games. Using a special scanner and proprietary software, Floored renders photographs and 3-D measurements into interactive models that let users move around spaces virtually, and even manipulate them.

“You can look behind you, you can see what’s around the corner, you can walk in from the front room,” said Floored CEO David Eisenberg.

The startup is steadily attracting more interest from real estate brokers, who Eisenberg said may leverage Floored models to attract more online visitors to listings. Lending credence to his claim, Floored was voted the best real estate tech startup at the Realogy FWD Innovation Summit earlier this year.

Eisenberg is scheduled to discuss the future of home virtual tours with other industry experts at the Real Estate Connect panel “Next-Gen Virtual Tours.”


(Source : Inman News)

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What Do Buyers and Sellers Pay in Closing Costs?


If you’ve never been through a real estate closing before, you might imagine convening around a large table where, at the end of escrow, you’re presented with an itemized list of big expenses required to close the deal.

But that’s not always the reality. While people still do meet around a table at the closing, today some closings happen virtually. The buyers and sellers can sign the necessary documents remotely and wire money for the closing.

More importantly, it’s unlikely that a buyer or seller would show up to closing without any idea of what their costs will be. If you’re new to real estate, or haven’t bought or sold in a while, here’s what you need to know about closing costs.

Buyers have more costs, but usually pay less than sellers

In a closing, both buyers and sellers have costs. Usually, the buyer is faced with more line-item expenses than the seller. For starters, most buyers are getting loans to make the purchase; many of the charges stem from the loan.

A buyer should receive a “Truth in Lending” statement early on in the sale process. This document spells out all the approximate costs the buyer will face when making the purchase, so there aren’t any surprises at closing. Some buyers use the “Truth in Lending” statement to shop for different lenders,interest rates and costs.

Aside from the costs of getting a loan or buying a home, some expenses, such as property taxes orhomeowners association dues, are pro-rated and paid at the time of closing. For example, if you’re buying a home and you close toward the end of the property tax period, you’ll likely need to pay the balance of taxes upfront. The same holds true for pre-paid loan interest. If you close toward the end of the month, the lender may ask for the first month’s payment upfront.

Typically, buyers getting a loan will see some of the following costs:

  • Appraisal fee
  • Origination fee
  • Pre-paid interest
  • Pre-paid insurance
  • Flood certification fee
  • Tax servicing fee
  • Credit report fee
  • Bank processing fee
  • Recording fee
  • Notary fee
  • Title insurance

Be sure to go through these fees line by line with your mortgage professional to understand exactly what they are and how they apply to your loan.

Sellers pay the commission

For sellers, there are always fewer line items on an estimated closing statement. But the seller generally bears the biggest brunt of the fees: the real estate commission.

The commission is based on a percentage of the total sale price, so it tends to be the biggest fee. In addition to the real estate commission, sellers may have to pay the balance of their property taxes, if they haven’t done so already.

There’s some room for negotiation

All fees and charges can be negotiated during the real state transaction. For buyers, coming up with an extra 1 to 2 percent in closing costs can be a bigger deal than a $5,000 reduction in the purchase price. A credit for $5,000 to go toward closing costs will be a much bigger bang for your buck for the buyer. The price reduction won’t amount to much more than a few dollars per month over the length of the home loan. Saving $5,000 at the closing will be money right back in the buyer’s pocket


(Source : Zillow)

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7 options for low-equity homeowners


Here are three ways to sell your home and four ways to refinance your mortgage if you have little equity.

Rising home values during the past year have pushed more homeowners above water, but CoreLogic, a data-analytics provider, says that 21.1 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage were what they call “under-equitied” during the second quarter of 2013: having less than 20 percent home equity.

Twenty-percent home equity is required to finance or refinance a home without paying private mortgage insurance, and if you’re selling, that equity position helps deflect the costs associated with selling your home.

If you don’t need to sell or refinance right away, “just sit tight” because rising home values in most markets will quickly add to your home equity, says Joseph Adkins, founder and CEO of Global Asset Management Group in Longwood, Fla.

3 ways to sell with low equity

Here are three things you can do if you’re selling an under-equitied home:

No. 1: Rent it

If you’re in a rush to move, Adkins recommends renting your property for a year or so until your current home value rises.

“Before you decide to rent your property you need to get an idea of your cash flow,” says Tammy Trenholm, a broker with Redfin in Atlanta. “You’ll need to estimate the rent and your other costs, such as homeowner-association dues and maintenance. You also have to pay your own rent or mortgage wherever you move.”

No. 2: Home improvements

If you choose to sell, an experienced real estate agent can help you get the most for your home with inexpensive home improvements and expert marketing techniques to offset your low equity.

No. 3: Negotiate the commission

Adkins estimates that the cost of selling a home is approximately 8 percent to 10 percent of the sales price depending on the commission you pay to a real estate agent and closing costs. While it’s common to pay 6 percent in real estate commissions, some agents will negotiate a lower fee.

“You can save the commission by selling it yourself, but you could end up mispricing it and losing out on money or getting into legal trouble if you don’t have professional advice,” Adkins says. “You have to pay the commission to your buyer’s agent even if you sell it yourself.”

If your equity’s too low, you may have to bring money to the settlement to pay off your loan in full along with the closing costs. Trenholm says some lenders may negotiate a short sale if you can prove you won’t have the money to pay off your mortgage and the closing costs.

4 ways to refinance with low equity

If you want to stay in your home, a refinance may be possible even with thin equity.

No. 1: Understand your options

You’ll need 10 percent home equity for a jumbo-loan refinance, 5 percent for conventional, 4 percent for Federal Housing Administration loans and zero for Veterans Affairs loans, says Russ Anderson, a centralized sales executive for Bank of America in Los Angeles.

Lenders’ guidelines vary, and some have stricter qualifications.

No. 2: Home Affordable Refinance Program

“I highly recommend going to your current mortgage servicer to see if you qualify for a HARP loan because that’s the best solution for homeowners who have low equity,” Anderson says.

No. 3: Cash-in refinance

Another option is “cash-in” refinancing, when you bring cash to the closing table to improve your equity position. But Anderson says a cash-in refinance makes sense if you want to pay down your balance or reduce your loan term to eliminate your mortgage faster, but it isn’t necessarily the best choice if your only goal is lower payments.

“That cash becomes a sunk cost if home values rise soon, too, because you might have just been able to wait for your equity to rise,” Anderson says.

No. 4: Prepay

Another option is to prepay your mortgage. Prepayment can be used as a substitute or accompaniment to refinancing. Adkins doesn’t recommend prepaying your mortgage without refinancing if your goal is simply lower payments.

“Your lender will keep that $1,000 [your prepayment] for the life of the loan and you can’t get it back in an emergency,” he says. “It’s much smarter to take that extra cash and invest it and earn interest on it. The impact of compound interest is huge, so after five years or so you’ll have a lot more to show for that $1,000 than if you paid down your mortgage. Once you’ve accumulated more cash you can pay off a lump sum.”


(Source : MSN)

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6 Things Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew


Real estate agents see it all.

From the unmade beds to the overstuffed garages to the “What were they thinking?” decor. Over the years, they learn a thing or two: Why some houses sell, while others linger on the market. Why some promising buyers never make it to the closing table. How to get a better deal on the mortgage. Even just how much the other agents stand to make on your home. And the good news is, we want to share. Whether you’re a buyer, seller or both, here are six things real estate agents wish you already knew.

1.Want to sell quickly? Price it just under the market

In today’s market, sellers are again optimistic on the value and price of their homes — “but buyers aren’t,” says Ron Phipps, principal with Warwick, R.I.-based Phipps Realty and past president of the National Association of Realtors. “Your challenge as a seller is to price the house so that it is compelling,” he says.

What that means in dollar signs: “Set a price slightly below market value,” he says. Just “a fraction.”

For example: If similar homes in your neighborhood are clustered around $210,000, you might price yours at $200,000 or $198,000, he says.

What the agent wishes you knew:”The longer a house is on the market, the less likely you are to get fair value,” Phipps says. “So you really want to position yourself to be the one that sells, not the one that languishes.”

And that old adage of not wanting to leave any money on the table? Still valid.

If you’re turning around and buying a home, and you already have cash in hand, thanks to a fast sale, “that puts you in a very powerful position,” Phipps says.

2. The preapproval letter is just the beginning

For many potential buyers, frugality ends the minute they get preapproved for a mortgage, Phipps says. That’s when they start running up the cards and opening new lines of credit to buy things for their home-to-be.

But that preapproval letter is just one of the first refreshment stations of the homebuying marathon, not the finish line.

Just before closing, a lender will re-examine a prospective buyer’s financial situation — complete with a recent copy of the credit history and other updated information.

If those numbers have changed for the worse (salary decrease, higher card balances, new lines of credit), then the applicant could get clocked with a higher interest rate or even lose the loan. “The number of buyers who get denied is significant,” Phipps says. What the agent wishes you knew: Never get new loans or start using credit cards more heavily until after you’ve actually closed on the home.

Even better, retain your frugality until you’ve been in the home for a few months and have a good sense of how homeownership affects your finances, Phipps says.

3. Selling a house probably takes longer than you think

If you’re selling a home, it’s important to understand the timeline, says Jeffry Wiren, principal broker with Re/Max Equity Group and past president of the Portland, Ore. Metropolitan Association of Realtors.

“And that’s something most people don’t understand,” he says.

Underestimating the time it takes — and building a schedule around those unrealistic expectations — adds stress, Wiren says. Instead, realize how long the process takes in the real world (not just your head) and plan accordingly. Another important factor: Different markets (and prices) move at different speeds, he says.

Wiren’s sales schedule breakdown:

• Getting your home in shape: two weeks

• Average time on the market (varies widely with location and price): 2 1/2 to three months

• Negotiating after an offer: one week

• Preparing to close (assuming a traditional transaction): 30 to 45 days

What the agent wishes you knew: A smart seller allows a minimum of four to six months to sell, Wiren says. And that’s if you have a home that’s priced right in a good market with one solid offer that makes it to the closing table.

4. Not all ‘buyers’ are able to buy

To prove their worthiness, sometimes prospective buyers will show a prequalification letter, Wiren says. “And that means nothing.” That’s because in a prequalification, lenders usually don’t verify buyers’ information. A preapproval, on the other hand, involves third-party verification.

“‘Prequalified,’ that means they’ve talked with a lender and said, ‘I have good credit and I make X number of dollars a year,'” Wiren says. Based on that, the lender responds that the buyer can reasonably expect to borrow a certain amount — if those self-supplied facts are accurate and there aren’t any negatives, he says. Most lenders don’t research those details until the buyer applies for a loan, he adds.

What the agent wishes you knew: Serious (and smart) buyers are “preapproved.” That means they’ve already applied for the loan, the bank has verified their financial information and (if the numbers remain the same until closing) it promises to loan a specific amount at a specific interest rate.

Still, after an offer, smart agents will call the lender and verify that the prospective buyer is preapproved for the necessary amount, Wiren says. At the same time, that agent will verify that the lender would have no problem closing in the expected time period — usually 30 to 45 days.

5.Yes, it really does have to smell good

Sellers sometimes drag their feet on little details that make a big difference, Wiren says. He can’t count the number of clients who asked, “Does it really matter if we have the carpets cleaned or take the family photos off the wall?”

“The answer is yes,” Wiren says. “A buyer needs to walk in and have it look good, feel good and smell good.”

Sellers should put themselves in the shoes of prospective buyers — and try to see the house for the first time, he says.

The home should be kept showroom-ready. “It’s a regular occurrence that I walk into a home with a buyer” and find “beds unmade and underwear on the floor,” Wiren says. In spite of an appointment, “I don’t see a home that’s ready.”

What the agent wishes you knew: A mess leaves an impression that’s “hard for a buyer to overcome,” Wiren says.

His checklist for a showing:

• Home: Clean. (And smelling good.) • Temperature: Heated (or cooled) for comfort. • Lights: Left on to welcome guests. • Snacks or soft drinks: A nice touch. The impression you want: “Warm, inviting and comfortable,” Wiren says.

6. We don’t make as much as you think

Chances are the agent you hire to sell your house — or find a new one — isn’t getting as big a cut of the deal as you might think, says Graham Stiles, senior vice president with Alexander Chandler Realty and HighRises.com. “Six percent isn’t anywhere near what we’re taking home,” he says. In fact, it’s more like “1 percent to 1 1/2 percent,” on average, he adds.

While the two sides will split that commission, those agents, in turn, each split their share with their broker, Stiles says.

What the agent wishes you knew: Unless your agent is handling both sides of the transaction, figure he or she is getting roughly one-quarter of the commission, Stiles says.

And that 6 percent commission is by no means a given in this day and age, Phipps says. “There’s always a range of fees in the marketplace. Each broker sets his or her own fees independently.”

“I spend a lot of time on the topic of commissions,” Stiles says. And still, the idea that agents are getting all or even half the commission, he says, “is still one of the biggest misconceptions.”

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Fewer homeowners drowning in debt as prices rise


The percentage of Chicago-area residents whose homes are worth less than their mortgages continues to drop amid a recovering residential market.

In the third quarter, 32.3 percent of homes here were “underwater” or had “negative equity,” meaning their owners’ equity was completely wiped out, according to a report from Zillow Inc. That’s down from 36.6 percent a year earlier and a peak of 41.1 percent in first-quarter 2012.

Nationally, 21 percent of homes were underwater, down from 28.2 percent a year earlier and a peak of 31.4 percent in first-quarter 2012, according to Zillow, a Seattle-based online home marketplace.

“Rising home prices and a greater willingness among lenders to engage in short sales have both contributed substantially to the significant decline in negative equity this quarter. We should feel good that we’re moving in the right direction and at a fast clip,” Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said in a statement. “But negative equity will remain a factor for years to come, and must be considered part of the new normal in the housing market. Short sales will remain a persistent feature of the market as many homeowners remain too far underwater for reasonable price appreciation alone to help.”

Single-family home prices have risen in the Chicago area for 10 months in a row, according to another report released last month.

 The Chicago area had the fourth-highest negative equity rate among major U.S. metropolitan areas, according to the Zillow report. Las Vegas had the highest, 39.6 percent, followed by Atlanta, 38.2 percent, and Orlando, Fla., 34.2 percent.


(Source: Crain’s Chicago Business)

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