Your Feng Shui Guide to Real Estate

Feng Shui doesn’t only guide you to harbor positive life force inside a home; it is also capable of helping you find that prospective parcel of land to build a house on. Having the right property is as important as building a house that promotes the optimal flow of Chi. However, it is best to start harboring positive Chi outside your own home.

In order to find the best property to build a house that can hold a bright future, Feng Shui experts say that it is crucial to look at the landscaping of the area you are interested in. It is important that the yard of your prospective property is big and open. This type of landscape welcomes and embraces the flow of Chi rather than closed yards. It is also helpful if there are healthy trees and there are creatures of nature that live on it such as squirrels and birds. This is a positive connotation and indicates that positive life forces are favored rather than negative energy.

However, when looking for a property it is important that the yard has to be as big in the back as it is in the front. It is also essential that the yard is not bigger than the house itself. This also applies for everything inside the house. Proportionality and moderation in Feng Shui is a good indication for fostering positive life forces.

When looking for a property, you have to look out for straight lines. Though straight lines are neat to look at, it is not good when it comes to the principles of Feng Shui. This is because straightened lines allow a rush of energy into one single direction and it can come crashing into your home which can be disastrous. A wide and winding path is a better option as it allows the steady flow of energy inside your house. But if there is no way around straight lines, you can put plants and other garden ornaments to break up the straight path.

The trees surrounding the house should not overshadow the structure itself. Trees that block the light from enveloping a house can also block the flow of necessary Chi. Though this situation can be corrected for a certain amount, a property should be naturally conducive to Chi.

Respectively, if you buy a property that already has your dream house on it, it is important that the house itself already be designed to naturally receive Chi. Such factors as the design of the house and the direction it faces is important. Each of the rooms of the house should also be situated in the correct places according to the family and this will help in the promotion of the flow of Chi.

Lastly, in Feng Shui, it is essential that the location of your property is optimal for receiving the flow of positive life forces. You can find all these in Tampa and more. Tampa itself is already a great location to start with, with all the natural resources that abound the area. There is sun, there is water, there are trees, there are healthy wildlife, and a refreshing breeze.

The landscapes in Tampa homes are vast and all houses face a majestic view of the city from all angles. Whatever the tips Feng Shui can give you to find that perfect place to foster success, happiness, and contentment can be found in one corner of the world, a great place called Tampa Bay, Florida.

Real Estate Investing the Easy Way

Real estate investing can take many forms.  If you work 50-plus hours a week, you likely don’t want to spend your spare time searching for, selecting, negotiating, financing and managing real estate properties.  Here’s a simple investment guide to real estate profits, how to invest without the hassles.  Or, you might say, how to speculate the easy way.

Picture April of 2009, and you are willing to bet that real estate prices are low and will not go much lower.  This basic investment guide will show you how to invest and get in on the action, with little time or effort required, whenever you think you see opportunity in real estate.

First, if you don’t have a brokerage account, open one with a major discount stock brokerage firm.  Then, after you have deposited some money, you are ready for action.  You will be buying shares of stock in real estate ETFs.  These are simply index funds whose stock price tracks the stocks of companies in the commercial real estate business.

One of the greatest advantages of real estate investing is financial leverage.  For example, some folks buy real estate properties putting very little money down.  They borrow heavily.  With ETFs you can get financial leverage without personally borrowing anything.

When you invest (or speculate) in these ETFs that trade like any other stock, you simply buy and sell on your computer or over the phone in your brokerage account.  A transaction can cost as little as $10.  That’s your total cost to buy or sell this real estate investment.

Here’s an example of how to invest, how it works.  If you want to be a bit cautious, you could buy shares in a real estate ETF with the stock symbol (IYR).  It does not employ financial leverage.  In late 2007-early 2008 it sold for $70 a share.  In March of 2009 it could be bought for $25.

If you want more action you could go with a real estate ETF with the symbol (URE), which employs leverage.  In late 2007-early 2008 it also sold for about $70 a share.  In March of 2009, a bit over a year later, it sold for $2.50.  Leverage works both ways, to magnify losses as well as gains.  Let’s talk about URE, which I personally bought at $4.25, $2.65, and $1.85.

URE gave investors plenty of action.  Those who paid $70 for it had lost their shirt a little over a year later.  The upside potential could be a rocket ride, if the markets and real estate prices turn around.  In terms of how to invest, it works like this…

If you buy 1000 shares at $2, it will cost about $10 in commissions to make the simple transaction.  You will have $2000 invested.  If URE were to go back to $70, you could sell at a cost of about $10, and you would then have $70,000.  Of course, you can sell anytime, at any price.

Are there any guarantees that you will make money?  This simple investor guide wants to make one thing crystal clear.  When you invest or speculate, forget about profit guarantees, unless the government backs up the investment.  

First Time Homebuyer’s Guide

Are you ready to purchase a new home? Do you have any idea where to find the best residential houses that your money could buy? Do you know all the process involved in home buying? Do you know how to go about the financing? Find out more…

Buying a new home can be very exciting. However, if it is your first time, you should know several things before taking the opportunity. You do not want to end up regretful, considering the fact that mistakes involved in home buying is preventable in the first place.

So if you are a first-time home buyer, fret not. Here’s your simple guide to home buying.

Know your financial standing

People do not buy their homes out of an impulse. Buying a house involves great deal of money. If you want to have one, you should have looked into your budget or considered your financing options ahead of time. Any person should be financially prepared when purchasing a new home to avoid payment problems in the future.

House selection

Primarily, you need to buy a house that fits your budget. One of the best practices you can try is getting yourself pre-qualified, especially if you are planning to get a loan. When you do this, lenders will try to analyze your information and give their opinion (whether or not you are a good candidate for a loan). They also include an estimated amount of the loan that could be possibly granted. This amount should help you determine the range of home prices that you could afford. At any rate, if loaning is not an option for you, your available funds are enough to determine the house that you should get

Learning the different costs involved in purchasing a home

As a buyer, you must know these things so that you can be prepared with the payment. Not all of the costs are amortized monthly. Some of them are actually paid outright like the down payment and inspection costs. You must also know them to determine if the price offered to you is reasonable. Knowing all this things will put you in a good position in case of negotiations.

Finding a reputable  real   estate  agent

There may be times when you cannot do house shopping on your own. Therefore, you can find a good  real   estate  agent to help you out on this area. In fact, they can help you understand the market conditions, guide you to learning house prices, process all the paperwork and assist you in finding the houses that meet your preference.

Remember, choose agents that are licensed. You as the client should also learn to select the best one out of the many licensed agents. Do not settle for the first  real   estate  agent who says they are willing to help. Always screen them and do background checks.

Consider your financing options

If you do not have enough cash to cover the whole amount, then it is time to shop around for mortgage plans. However, there are certain things that could help you determine how much money you need to borrow. Concurrently, determine how much you are willing to shell out for the down payment. The bigger it is, the lesser you need to loan. You also have to consider you income. Can you pay the loan back without sacrificing your other expenses? Are you comfortable paying it on a monthly basis? Therefore, start shopping now and visit various lending institutions to seek guidance about financing. Then, get pre-qualified or pre-approved.

An Investors Guide To Buying Real Estate in Greece

Greece has traditionally been a popular holiday destination but with relatively low interest in property investments. This situation is changing with recent interest from its European neighbors.The recent focus on Greece after the 2004 Olympics evoked worldwide interest thus pushing up tourism and demand for housing. With its serene coast line, affordable cost of living, an enviable history and culture, Greece is an enticing place to invest. The renewed interest in tourism has also brought with it a rising need for rental. The best part is that compared to its popular European neighbors like Spain, Portugal and France it is a better investment destination.

An overview of the property market

With an undervalued property market there could not be a better time to invest into Greece and it gets better depending on the choice of location which can give returns up to 20-25%. Wide arrays of properties are available but the ones on the main islands like Crete, Corfu and Rhodes are dearer. Choices are available between beautiful Greek traditional houses and modern suites though the location and condition of houses determine the price. Two bedroom apartments are priced from EUR89,000 to EUR355,000 and a three bed room house will cost between EUR148,000 and EUR503,000. Cheaper investments are possible if renovations can be undertaken.

Sellers Market

It is possible to drive a bargain and pick up older properties for cheaper rates but be prepared to spend a lot on repairs which can sometimes turn a nightmare. Depleted buildings with damages to sanitary lines and reconnecting electric supply could turn out more expensive than investing int a new apartment. When it comes to selling a property in Greece location is high on priority. Though it is difficult to get a property in the islands, it is easier to sell off.

Popular Locations in Greece

Mainland Greece is preferred by east Europeans and Scandinavians but the English favor investing in the islands. Crete with its rich history and tranquil landscape is most sought after location by holidaymakers but its calmness and scenic beauty is the reason why retired Europeans prefer it. The majority of property is owned by British investors and with rising rental potential, property rates have shot up by 6-10%. The mild and beautiful Peloponnese peninsula is ideal for investors a milder investment. A strong history and with a projected positive appreciation rate, prices have shot up by more than 20%. It is also attracting international interest.Greece has strong laws to protect and regulate their coastline which has resulted in kept them unexploited in spite of all the development.Air connectivity to the islands is good and getting better with flights from UK to all major islands like Crete, Rhodes and Corfu. There are direct flights from Manchester to Heraklion and also from Gatwick to Rhodes. GB airlines flights five flights from Gatwick to Heraklion.

The larger islands have well developed rental markets.The island of Peloponnese is cut off from the mainland by the canal of Corinth. This isolation is offset by other transportation channels like a motorway, railway link and the Kalamata airport. The island is dotted with sandy beaches and rugged mountains and offers warm winters and pleasant summers. Peloponnese is home to the famous Olympia, Epidaurus and Mycenae. The English are the largest group of investors as connectivity from Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester to Kalmata is strong with the travel time less than 4 hrs. Older properties which can be purchased from Euro 45000, the range includes stone cottages, traditionally architected houses and villas.

Property Purchase

A lawyer with understanding and experience with Greek property procedures is recommended. Good English is an added benefit.

The purchase process

The process starts with agreeing on a price agreement and sealing it with a 10% advance followed by a pre-contract agreement signed by both parties. After all information gathering is completed the final deed of sale is signed in the front of a public notary. After paying the balance amount the owner can be transferred by registration.

Fees and Costs

Compared to other nations the tax for purchasing and registering in Greece is on the higher side. 13-15 percent of the cost of property would be paid as taxes which include transfer tax for resales, municipal tax to the local authorities, legal fees to lawyers and notaries and property registration. New buildings are charged 19 percent as Value Added Tax.

Financing

There are usually three options when it comes to financing a property. Cash, new Mortgages and re mortgaging an existing property are options for financing. Although cash is the easiest option, it is not always affordable. Mortgages for the property can be arranged by a Greek or UK lender. Giving up equity in a UK/Irish property can help purchase the Greek property in cash and thus make it an easy option. Greece has the highest interest rates as compared to its European neighbors. Lending is conservative and applicants have to furnish proof of income and rental projections are usually not considered.

Taxes in Greece

It is recommended that buyers get some taxation advice as Greek regulations are complex. Non residents may also fall into the bracket of income, wealth, inheritance and gift taxes. Since the UK/Ireland has a double taxation treaty with Greece you can be assured to escape paying tax in both countries. Acquiring a fiscal number, called the AFM is necessary to involve in any financial exchanges like property transactions, buying a vehicle or working in Greece. Holders of AFM have to file yearly tax returns irrespective of income.

Property Taxation Guidelines

To reduce speculation the Greek agencies have implemented Capital Gains tax which applies to property bought after 1st January 2006. The motive being to impose penalty on those looking for quick profit by levying it in inverse to the length of time the property is owned. The other tax for property holders is the wealth tax which is between 0.3 and 0.8 percent of the property value. Wealth tax is only levied on properties with valuation more than Euro 243,600.Apart from wealth and capital gains the others are local taxes. They take the form of direct and indirect taxes charged between .25 to .35 percent of the propertys official valuation.

Greek Economy

Greece trades chiefly with EU nations like Germany, Italy, France and also the USA in tourism, shipping, food, tobacco, textiles, mining and petroleum products. The sector growing rapidly is the service sector. Greek GDP annual growth was touching 4 percent during 2003-2005 periods which is above the European Union average and it has been performing uniformly. The introduction of reforms and funding from European Union are the top reasons for this consistent growth. The government has been working towards strengthening the labor and pension mechanism to arrest the growing unemployment, inflation and national debt.

Communications within Greece

Fixed and Mobile Telephone

The telephone market was controlled solely by the state through the Organismos Tilepikoinonion Ellados (OTE) until the markets opened up in 2002. Over the years OTE has lost market share but still controls a major chunk of the market. Though other players are coming in OTE still has a major in basic infrastructure like phone lines. Mobile phone use is substantial and pay-as-you-use cards are available at common stores but a contract phone card is only available by producing a Fiscal Number. Payphones are available in plenty.

Internet Usage

With the introduction of ADSL and Broadband, which are faster internet connections, internet use is quite popular. Larger towns and urban areas have access to high speed whereas dial-up and ISDN are readily available.

Postal

Letters, which are posted in mainland Greece, may take three days to a week to reach other European countries. The islands take longer or lesser based on their connectivity.

Investing into a property in a different country is a big decision and would require adequate research and many visits. Planning a budget and working by is advisable. It is smart to keep exit options available by studying the sellers market as property prices and situations dont remain constant. Professional opinion from a local lawyer or property consultant would be the best way to approach it. Factors like property valuation, rentals and growth potential are areas of expertise and it is best to hire the services of a proven consultant . A good understanding of the regulations for each country is also crucial before signing any purchase agreement. Be extra careful if it is a partnership or long term deal.

Moving Guide: Working with a Real Estate Agent

Buying a house is one of life’s most exciting and nerve wracking adventures–especially if you are a first time home buyer. There are so many things to think of, factors to consider and issues to remember. A good place to start is with your  real   estate  agent, and choosing the right agent can make all the difference in the world.

Sellers’ Agents

In most cases,  real   estate  agents are considered “seller’s agents”. In this capacity they have an agreement with the owner of the property you are interested in, and they receive a commission of the home’s final sale price.

A seller’s agent can help you find and purchase a property and may provide some of the same services as a buyer’s agent, but obviously their loyalty lies with the sellers and not with you. A seller’s agent has a duty to get the best possible deal for the seller, so always assume that any information you give a seller’s agent will be passed on to the seller.

Buyers’ Agents

A buyer’s agent’s primary objective is to get the buyer lowest price possible on the home they want. A buyer’s agent tries to find you the best possible house for the lowest possible price. Just like a seller’s agent is prohibited from giving away too much information to the buyer during the sales process, your buyer’s agent is prohibited from doing anything that will hurt your chances of getting a property for the lowest price possible.

A buyer’s agent often handles many of the tasks required to get to closing (such as inspections, helping you find a lender, tracking the progress of the loan, working with the closing attorney or agent).

Buyer’s agents are usually paid a portion of the seller’s commission fees at closing. However, a contract may state you will pay the agent a fee if you purchase a For Sale By Owner home.

Dual Agents

Sometimes you can end up with a dual agent. A dual agent is a realtor who is working as a seller’s agent for a particular property and, should you become interested in the property, serves as your buyer’s agent as well.

Is The Property Management Business For You? Mini Guide For Real Estate Investors – Part 1

This mini  guide  for  real   estate  investors is written to help entrepreneurs like you with the mystery of property management career. The investment risks are higher when decisions are made without enough information. By now you know that you want to invest profitably in  real   estate  or already started the process. All the motivation is coming from your desire for financial independence. I know that, because I am with you right on the very same goal.

Assume you have just purchased your investment property. It does not matter whether it is a 10–unit apartment building, a small office building or a single–family home. It is an attractive rental property and you are asking a fair market value rent.

You should have no problem attracting tenants and maintaining a high level of occupancy. What happens with the tenants once they move in is going to depend on you.

The problems with property management are not caused by the business itself, as much as by a lack of education. The property management is the most misunderstood parts of  real   estate  investing. If you do not have good property management, then you will have high management costs, bad tenant relationships, high vacancies and that will be the end of your business.

You would consider these ideas in making your managing investment decision; I did it when I started:

  1. The money you save, by doing property management, may mean the difference between a positive or a negative cash flow for your rental business.
  2. Managing your own properties, at least in the beginning and learning the management business is something to consider. After you become familiar with the manager responsibilities and acquire more properties, you will be able to do a better job of managing professional managers.
  3. More management and investment resources are available at my website.

How I start my property management? I went to school to gain my knowledge before facing the real life competition. I start my property management from the bottom up. My previous experience with  real   estate  renting was being a good tenant for about five years in two different places.

Eight years ago I passed the  real   estate  agent state examination and I worked for two brokers and managed properties on the side to build experience. I got my associate broker license in  real   estate  about four years ago.

We resettled in the U. S. A. coming from communist collapsing East Europe, in 1990. Our assets at that time were intangible, mechanical engineering education and big hopes.

We did not have this game of “getting rich with properties” in the socialist economies. Actually, it was forbidden to even think about owning properties. It took me five years to comprehend there is a less risky way of investing by using  real   estate  properties and rentals.

For $50 and about one hour conversation with our previous property manager — a very nice lady — I was in business. The management forms I received helped me to build my forms and gave me enough confidence before the closing on my first apartment building. I was on my way, investing in  real   estate  and managing my own properties for profit. This is how I started my property management career. Now, I appreciate a property management career or a job in property management a lot more.

I am not preaching here to manage your rentals yourself forever. For us, property management is part of getting the necessary life experience to succeed in this new country.

Dealing with people and their needs gets messy if you do not use a system. Qualifying the potential applicant over the telephone saves time and money. Renting  real   estate  is the toughest part of the property management job. Here is how my qualifying filter system is working:

The local newspaper classified ads bring most of my renting  real   estate  applicants. I call them Potential Applicants (PA) before submitting the rental application. I give to potential applicants enough info in the newspaper, so they may drive by and talk with our tenants. The prospect applicant should come ready, wanting to rent the apartments from us, because we take good care of the tenants and the apartments.

This is what I want with my ads.

“My town, clean 1 bedroom apt. $500 plus deposit, utilities included, A/C, coin laundry available, 123 Main Street, (222) 333-4444”

They have the address for the location, that the utilities are free and my cell phone number. Here are examples of first conversations over the phone with the potential applicants (PA).

PA: Hello, is the apartment available? Me: Yes, when you want to move in? My name is Ernest. PA: Thanks, my name is Mary. It is for my son John; He is planning to move soon. Me: Sorry, is it a strong reason way your son can’t call himself?

(My experience tells me I may stop here and deal with the real party later, the relatives or friends have a different agenda sometime. In reality, I continue giving information about renting.)

The son is calling me later.

PA: Where is this apartment located?

Me: At the corner of Main and Grand, next to the gas station, across the Seven Eleven. Look for apartment no.30. You can drive by and get from “Take One” box, an application with info printed the other side. PA: Do you accept pets?

Me: What do you have in mind as pet? (Reptiles, rodents, dangerous dogs, etc are not on my list, I ask because the applicant will talk and I can mind his/her personality).

PA: It was my aunt’ cat and she is 10 years old, etc. Me: Yes, we accept a qualified cat with a “Pet agreement”. The no refundable fee is $175. Do you have some pay stubs from your job? That will help us to check your employment; or

PA: No, I receive social security checks, I am on disability.

(To assume when renting  real   estate  that all tenants on assistance or seniors will be bad is wrong. Some may get a co-signer.)

Me: Sorry we only take applications if the total monthly documented net income is 3 times the rent. The no refundable application fee is only $20 and we do a credit report request and pay a different company for that service. (Some applicants just gives up after this phrase.); or

PA: Yes I work two jobs: manager at Mac Donald and telephone marketing at night. My girlfriend is working as telephone marketer. Together we make $1400 a month.

(This is a border line situation, they may pay for a few months and something is happening and girl/boy friend is gone. He/she no longer qualifies by income requirements. In this cases if the vacancy is hurting me and I cannot wait for a better applicant, I might take them, but the lease will have a clause: “If he or she intends to leave any time, they both must leave at the same time”); or:

PA: Yes, I work part-time at “Printing Nice” and I am full-time student. It is my fist time out of home; my mom may co-sign the lease.

Me: OK, bring your mom when you want to see the apartment.

PA: We want to see it, Saturday morning at 12 noon, it is our time to look for apartments.(PA may put some pressure on you)

Me: OK, see you then, at apartment no.30 second floor, a sign “For Rent” is in the window/door.

The potential applicant interview is very important. You have to see face to face the potential applicant and their pet. Watch their car how clean is outside and inside and get an idea about how much that person care about personal staff.

My “good tenant” definition is: A good tenant is paying always on time, takes care of apartment, is friendly and comprehends “quiet enjoyment” words.

It is better for me to wait for the right applicant and do not rush to make a buck. Also, I discovered that the service to society, the humanity we share is coming after you take care of our business. Otherwise you will not be in this business for very long time.

My next article — part 2 will be about “Evaluating the renting applications”

A Guide to Lead Management Software for Real Estate Companies

Business intelligence is at the heart of lead management software for  real   estate  companies. If you do not know what you are pursuing then it is very hard to get a result. Unfortunately information is seen as a competitive advantage and some organizations go out of their way to ensure that their business rivals do not get “a look in”. The ideal model is if lead generation web based CRM was used as if it were an industry resource that can be shared. This would deliver significant economies of scale but it would require the active cooperation of all the major players within the sector.

An individualized approach to lead generation web based CRM

The commissioning process is a critical factor. The lead management software for  real   estate  companies is segmented according to the functionality that is anticipated by the client. This process can be done prior to the advertisement or during the actual delivery of the service. The most important point is to have principles and guidelines. At the top of the priority list is the customer. How are they responding to the technology? Are there any improvements that can be made? What about the exceptions? Who is looking out for the interests of the customer? All these are questions that need to be adequately answered by the commissioning agents.

Once the foundations have been agreed then there can be an actual plan that relates to the lead management software for  real   estate  companies. Data can be sourced from the transactional streams while the supervisors can check it for relevance and accuracy. Comparative studies are very important when running lead generation web based CRM. This is because there are a limited number of clients who are looking for the product and each provider has to stand out by beating the competition. If you do not know what your business rivals are doing then it is likely that you will not be able to make a compelling case.

The structural implementation of lead management software for  real   estate  companies is rather straightforward. The data mining will be provided by the agents and client feedback. Performance management is always part and parcel of lead generation web based CRM. All you have to do is to transfer the processes and adjust them to the new realities. Perhaps the most challenging element is the predictive analysis. How do you work out what is going to happen in an industry that is notoriously fickle? This can be achieved through organizational learning. Over time it will become clear that there are patterns in terms of the way that the organization responds to these types of changes. Everyone in the team ought to be involved in the learning process because they are the only ones that can make a real difference.

Real Estate Investing 101: A Beginners Guide!

Best option for beginners in  real   estate .

As many beginning investors have little credit and their cash stash, if used would barely get them through until next payday! With that in mind you would want to take on something which is simple and can produce the most profits with little to no investment. The smartest most logical path you could take to get started investing in  real   estate  would be wholesaling.

Wholesaling? What’s that?

As A wholesaler you position is easy! Find a particular type of property that buyers/investors are looking for. Simple right? Why yes, yes it is…….. Once located you just pass the new found deal onto your buyer/investor. Basically all you are doing is acting as the middle man or a bird dog (plus a few steps) type. With this type of investing you can make upwards of 10k from each and every deal you do, depending on the type of deal you uncover. With nothing more than time invested in these deals how can you go wrong!!!!

Why this method?

The wholesaling way has numerous reasons why you should start with it.

1) Low to no investment.

a. No need to own the property you are dealing on.

b. Just locate a undervalued property.

c. No need to take ownership of the property, just get it under contract and pass the deal on to the best buyer/investor, with what is called an assignment fee (up to $10K) added on to the negotiated price.

2) Fast and almost immediate cash.

a. Most all wholesale deals close in 45 days or less.

b. No need to wait for rents or long drawn out closings.

c. Quick was to get started and get cash in your pocket immediately.

3) Once you’re good at finding deals.

a. Benefit from quick closing and cashing out.

b. Keep in mind not every deal you find will you be able to put under contract and sell.

c. Even if you can’t buy it personally you can put it under contract and negotiate it with a buyer.

d. Do as many deals as possible to become a pro!!!

4) Options.

a. Wholesaling gives you options unlike any other investment vehicle out there,

b. You find it, negotiate with seller. Then decide what direction you will go with it, keep it, and or sell it, whatever you want. Where else do you have options like that?

VIOLA!!!!!!!!!!- Quick cash or long term cash flow…..you decide.

This is what makes wholesaling Grrrrrrrrrreat!!!!

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent:: A Guide for Seniors

When considering buying or selling a home, seniors have a special set of needs that may not apply to others in the  real   estate  market. The first time home buyer has a certain set of needs. Young families with small children have another. Seniors fall into a whole different category.

It is important then, to make sure that the  real   estate  professional you choose has the ability to meet the needs of the senior buyer or seller. Most agents are simply interested in putting your home on the market and getting it sold. But there is much more to the process than that. Seniors need an agent who is willing to “go the extra mile” to make the transaction as stress-free and hassle free as possible.

Senior sellers may be in the process of “scaling down”, moving to a smaller home or an assisted care facility. Your agent needs to understand how to help you to figure out what you will need to take with, and suggest ways to dispose of excess items that won’t fit in your new environment. Your agent should have suggestions for companies who can organize estate sales, garage sales or help you organize a charity to pick up items which may not be needed in the new setting.

Seniors may have lived in their home for a number of years and not understand what people are looking for in today’s market. Your agent needs to know what the market may demand. If you are selling a home in a 55+ community other seniors may not demand granite counter-tops and the most updated appliances. A simple fresh coat of paint may be all you need to make the property appealing before putting it on the market. Other markets will demand more upgrades, or a sales price adjustment, which the right agent will advise you on.

Seniors may have owned their properties for a number of years, resulting in numerous tax implications. While  Real   Estate  Professionals cannot give you tax advise, the right agent, working with your tax advisor should be able to advise you in ways of selling your properties which could result in less taxes or tax deferments. These types of sales need to be handled correctly to protect as many of the seniors assets as possible. The amount of equity you have in a property, the way title is held and whether or not property has been held as an investment all make a difference is the next step you make. Be sure your agent understands the implications of disposing of these properties.

An agent dealing with seniors need to be understanding of special health needs which may be in the home. If health issues are a concern in your home make sure that you have an agent who will show compassion and concern in trying to show the home at convenient times for the family members with those special needs. Again, if you have an agent whose only concern is that they get the home sold as quickly as possible, compassion may give way to convenience- the  real   estate  agent’s convenience.

When searching for the right agent, try to find an agent who has had experience in working with other seniors and those who have been in similar circumstances to yours. Let your “gut instinct” be your guide. If you feel pushed by an agent, or rushed, as though they don’t have time for you, perhaps you don’t have the right person.

Once you do have the right agent- sit back, relax and leave the driving to them!

Real Estate Search Engines – A Home Buyer’s Guide

In recent years,  real   estate  search engines have exploded in both popularity and quantity. It seems that every time you turn around, there’s a new  real   estate  search engine being launched or announced.

The use of  real   estate  search engines has also skyrocketed. People go online by the thousands every day, conducting  real   estate  searches through websites like Yahoo, Trulia and the others listed below. This usage will only increase as new search engines emerge, and as existing engines become more advanced.

This article reviews some of the most popular  real   estate  search engines available today. But before we get to those reviews, let’s cover some quick terminology.

What’s a  Real   Estate  Search Engine?

Here’s my informal definition of a  real   estate  search engine: “Any website that allows consumers to search for  real   estate  listings.” I think that’s a basic definition we can all agree upon. Of course, there are many different types of  real   estate  search engine, but in their basic form they all match the definition above.

Popular  Real   Estate  Search Engines

Here’s a list and summary of some of the most popular  real   estate  search engines online today (with popularity measured by prominence in the marketplace, website traffic, and general buzz).

REALTOR.com

This is probably the most popular  real   estate  search engine, just because it has been around the longest. When you land on the home page of REALTOR.com, you’re offered a variety of  real   estate-related  information. But the primary element on their home page is, of course, their  real   estate  search engine.

To begin, you simply enter a city and state, provide some qualifying information like price range and number of rooms, and then click “Go.” Once you get to the actual home listings, you can sort them by price, number of rooms, etc.

One thing I’ve always liked about REALTOR.com is the way the results are presented. You can view 10 homes per page, with thumbnail photo and basic information. This lets you “eyeball” shop and weed out any homes that don’t interest you right off the bat. That way, you only have to click the “learn more” link for homes that you’ve screened first. A lot of the newer  real   estate  search engines are map-based, meaning you have to click on an icon to see the house and details. I prefer to see a lot of listings at a glance and then “drill down” as desired … but that’s just me.

HomePages

This website offers another map-driven approach to  real   estate  search. As with most  real   estate  search engines, you start the process by entering a city and state. After sitting through a map-zooming process that makes you feel like you’re skydiving, you’ll be asked for the usual follow-up parameters (price range, number of rooms, etc.). Properties for sale are presented as icons that you can click on to learn more about.

Personally, I didn’t like the interface because it doesn’t show as much data at a glace as other  real   estate  search engines — you have to sort of scroll around the map to find what you want, and that annoyed me. From my perspective, it seems to be another one of those websites that’s so “slick” it’s just plain hard to use. But that’s just me!

Trulia

Trulia bills itself as delightfully smart  real   estate  search. Their “About” page offers a more detailed description: “We are a  real   estate  search engine that helps you find homes for sale and provides  real   estate  information at the local level to help you make better decisions in the process.”

From the home page, you simply enter a zip code to see  real   estate  listings for that area. You can also refine your search by price range, number of rooms or bathrooms, etc.

Like many  real   estate  search engines, Trulia is powered by Google Maps. Trulia has customized the Google application to show pushpin icons for each property listing, which adds a nice visual element to the search.

You can use Trulia’s  real   estate  search engine with or without an account, but if you sign up for a free account you’ll be able to save your searches for future convenience. If you like Trulia and plan to use it often, I recommend creating an account. It will save you a lot of time on future visits because you won’t have to enter your search parameters all over again (unless you want to).

Yahoo  Real   Estate 

Yahoo’s  real   estate  search offers a lot of information in addition to property listings. You can also find information on schools and neighborhoods through their site. But this is an article on  real   estate  search, so let’s stick with that.

From the home page of Yahoo  Real   Estate , you can search for homes, apartments, or even home values. For homes, you simply enter the city and state and hit enter. You are then shown a map with icons representing homes for sale.

Hover your mouse over an icon and it will show the listing price. Click on the listing price, and it will pop up a bubble with street address, a thumbnail photo, and a “learn more” link. To get around the map, you simply click-and-drag with your mouse (as with MapQuest or similar mapping sites).

NeighborhoodScout

NeighborhoodScout is a different sort of  real   estate  search engine. As the name implies, this website focuses more on neighborhoods than actual home listings. Here’s how they describe themselves:

“NeighborhoodScout is a web-based patent-pending neighborhood search engine that uses neighborhood statistics to build neighborhood profiles that allow individuals and families to instantly find the best neighborhoods for them, in any part of the United States they choose.”

So if you’re relocating to a new area, this website might help you refine your search by narrowing it to a few select neighborhoods.

A Word of Caution

When using any  real   estate  search engine, you need to understand they do not operate in “ real  time.” The accuracy of a  real   estate  search engine is determined by the age or “freshness” of their data, which varies from one search engine to the next.

Also, while a  real   estate  search engine can be a helpful research tool, they do not take the place of a qualified  real   estate  agent. If you are new to the  real   estate  world, I strongly recommend that you have professional help when buying or selling a home.

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