REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #4: Helping Your Clients Stay Safe

Education, News 1 Comment »

REALTORS® not only need to be aware and concerned with their personal safety, but also the safety of their clients. As you continually educate yourself on ways to improve your own safety, share that information with your buyers and sellers. They can face dangerous situations as they allow strangers into their homes or visit other people’s property.

Here are some basic points to start with; be sure to add your own as you become more aware through your personal experiences.

  • Remind sellers that strangers will be walking through their home during showings or open houses. Tell them to hide any valuables in a safe place, including prescription medications and alcohol, as well as personal information such as bank statements that could be used for identity theft.
  • Warn your clients that not all agents, buyers and sellers are who they say they are. Strangers who stop by a listing unannounced should be asked to make an appointment with the REALTOR®. Stress that your clients should never show a home without an agent present.
  • Inform your clients that they are responsible for their pets. If possible, animals should be removed during showings. Make clients aware that buyers and agents are sometimes attacked, and the owner will be held liable.
  • At an open house, be alert to the pattern of visitors’ arrivals, especially near the end of showing hours. In some areas, a group of thieves will show up together near the end of the open house and, while a string of supposed buyers distracts the REALTOR®, the rest of the group walks through the house, stealing valuables.
  • When you leave a property, whether after an open house or a showing, make sure that all doors and windows are locked. Thieves commonly use open houses to scout for valuables and possible points of entry, then return after the agent leaves.
  • Let your clients know that you will take all of the above safety precautions, but that when they return home, they should immediately verify that all doors are locked and all valuables accounted for.

You might also want to watch and share this short video from NAR, which highlights some of the same tips as well as some other more general safety information for homeowners.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 6:13 am

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REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #3: Evaluate Your Surroundings Using the 10-Second Rule

Education, News No Comments »

The other day I was backing out of a parking lot and was quite surprised to notice a car parked next to mine as I made my way in reverse. It’s not that the car magically appeared without my knowing it, it’s just that I was too preoccupied to take time to evaluate my surroundings before taking action.

I’m sure everyone’s been guilty of this at some point; we’re all busy and often trying to accomplish multiple tasks at one time. But one of the most common reasons that people find themselves in dangerous situations is because they weren’t paying attention. If you follow the 10-second rule, you’ll go a long way toward making sure you’re not putting yourself at risk.

Take 2 seconds when you arrive at your destination.

  • Is there any questionable activity in the area?
  • Are you parked in a well-lit, visible location?
  • Can you be blocked in the driveway by a prospect’s vehicle?

Take 2 seconds after you step out of your car.

  • Are there suspicious people around?
  • Do you know exactly where you’re going?

Take 2 seconds as you walk towards your destination.

  • Are people coming and going or is the area unusually quiet?
  • Do you observe any obstacles or hiding places in the parking lot or along the street?
  • Is anyone loitering in the area?

Take 2 seconds at the door.

  • Do you have an uneasy feeling as you’re walking in?
  • Is someone following you in?

Take 2 seconds as soon as you enter your destination.

  • Does anything seem out of place?
  • Is anyone present who shouldn’t be there or who isn’t expected?

That’s safety in just 10 seconds. It takes very little time to scope out your surroundings and spot and avoid danger. Make this “10-second scan” a habit in your everyday work as a REALTOR.® Then share it with someone else.

REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #2: Safety at Open Houses

Education, News No Comments »

While we’d like to assume that all visitors to open houses are legitimate consumers researching homes for sale, these events also present an opportunity for would-be thieves to evaluate the property as a potential target. There have even been instances of agents being robbed while working at an open house or model home. Last year, an agent was robbed at gunpoint while working at a model home in Bartlett and the thief got away with several pieces of jewelry and her mobile phone.

When working at an open house or model home, take these steps to help protect yourself and the property:

  • If possible, always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.
  • Check your cell phone’s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial.
  • Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
  • Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard. Frequently, high fences surround yards that contain swimming pools or hot tubs.
  • Place one of your business cards, with the date and time written on the back, in a kitchen cabinet. Note on it if you were the first to arrive or if clients were waiting.
  • Have all open house visitors sign in. Ask for full name, address, phone number and e-mail.
  • When showing the house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don’t lead them. Say, for example, “The kitchen is on your left,” and gesture for them to go ahead of you.
  • Avoid attics, basements, and getting trapped in small rooms.
  • Notify someone in your office, your answering service, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to call you.
  • Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.
  • Don’t assume that everyone has left the premises at the end of an open house. Check all of the rooms and the backyard prior to locking the doors. Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 6:53 am

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REALTOR® Safety Week Tip #1: Vacant Properties

Education, News No Comments »

This week the National Association of REALTORS® and associations across the country mark the sixth annual REALTOR® Safety Week. Because of the nature of their work, REALTORS® often find themselves in situations that could potentially pose a threat to their safety. From meeting new clients to hosting an open house, real risks exist that require REALTORS® to approach their daily work with a heightened sense of caution and awareness.

Each day this week MAAR will post various safety tips and resources to inform and remind members about the risks they face throughout the year.

Vacants and Vagrants – Be On the Lookout and Stay Safe

When approaching a vacant property, don’t risk being surprised by uninvited inhabitants who may be up to no good.  Many times vagrants, drug addicts or dealers, or other suspicious and unpredictable characters break into vacant properties and use them for their own purposes.  Heed this advice of Commander A.J. Gwyn, chief instructor of the Southern Crime Prevention Task Force, and stay safe:

  • Before entering a vacant property, always walk the perimeter.
  • Look for signs that someone may have entered the property uninvited (i.e. trash, broken glass or a window or door ajar).
  • If it looks safe, check the door.  If it is closed, but unlocked, DO NOT ENTER!
  • If you suspect someone is in the property, or may have recently been in the property but is no longer there – go back to your car, call the police and do not enter!  Do not enter even if you think the suspects are gone – they may be back soon, or may be waiting for you to go inside where you can easily be victimized.
  • Do not wait for the police at the property – this jeopardizes your safety.  Instead, meet them at the nearest public space (i.e. gas station, coffee shop, grocery store, etc.)

A police officer will be happy to check the property for you, so never hesitate to call if you suspect someone is on the premises.  When possible, bring a fellow team member with you when checking on a vacant property – there is safety in numbers.  By following these basic tips and being prepared, you will increase your chances of avoiding a potentially unsafe situation at a vacant property.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 6:00 am

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Mortgage Rates Sink Following Frannie, Freddie Takeover

Mortgage Lending, News No Comments »

Once the federal government took control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last week, many expected a significant drop in mortgage rates, at least for the near-term. As expected rates did fall considerably, with Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Survey showing a .42 point drop in the 30-year rate to 5.93%. With rates falling below 6% we’re likely to see some renewed consumer interest in both new purchases and refinancing.

Just how long the rates stay low is up for debate, as NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun discussed in his most recent commentary piece:

Mortgage rates will trend down over the short run. But how much of a decline will depend on how actively the government - more specifically the Treasury Department and the FHFA - loosens their mortgage liquidity spigot. For over the next 12 months at least, the FHFA has the authority to purchase more than the normal amount of mortgages from lenders to put into their portfolio holdings. That means all conforming loans, including the newly conforming jumbo loans up to $625,000, will qualify for purchase by the FHFA. That will help drive down mortgage rates. In about two year time, when the housing recovery is assumed to be well underway, the government will trim its mortgage portfolio. Then Fannie and Freddie will be completely restructured. It will be up to the next administration and Congress to determine that structure in for which NAR will make our 1.3 million voices heard.

Now it appears the financial markets are heading for some more turbulence, with some of the biggest players continuing to see fallout from their mortgage-related assets. Just what impact these most recent developments have on overall markets remains to be seen.

Freddie Mac Increases Incentives for Helping Borrowers Avoid Foreclosure

Mortgage Lending, News 1 Comment »

Mortgage servicers who handle Freddie Mac-owned mortgages just got more incentive to help those borrowers who might be facing foreclosure.

Freddie announced yesterday that it is doubling the incentive it pays to servicers for each workout that helps keep a delinquent Freddie-owned mortgage out of foreclosure. Freddie will also begin reimbursing servicers for the cost of door-to-door outreach programs and offer more time to negotiate workouts in those states with fast foreclosure processes, including Tennessee, where the average time to complete a non-judicial foreclosure is 60 days.

Beginning today, servicers will be allowed up to 10 months from the due date of the last payment until a foreclosure sale will occur to seek aggressive and sustainable workout solutions for borrowers.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 2:08 pm

Making Offers Isn’t Just for Buyers Anymore

Market Statistics/Performance, Trends 1 Comment »

It used to be that buyers of real estate made offers to sellers of real estate. But in today’s much more competitive market for sellers, it seems that they’re the ones making the offers now.

Virginia REALTOR® and blogger Scott Rogers has worked with several sellers recently who have made offers to buyers who had expressed serious interest in the seller’s home. In a recent post he shares some tips to sellers considering such a move.

I suppose that shouldn’t seem so strange given the freebies some sellers have offered potential buyers, from a free car to themselves (the old buy-a-house-get-a-wife deal).

Any REALTORS® in Memphis worked with a seller who wanted to approach a seriously interested buyer with an offer? Any local sellers thinking about making the first move?

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 1:58 pm


New Housing Law Offers Relief, Benefits to Home Buyers

Community, Governmental Affairs, Market Statistics/Performance, Mortgage Lending, News 3 Comments »

This morning, President Bush signed into law the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, legislation aimed at shoring up the housing market in the United States and offering current homeowners with troubled mortgages and potential homeowners with significant assistance.

Of most interest to people who do not own a home but have been thinking about it is a $7,500 tax credit to qualified first-time home buyers who purchase a home between April 9, 2008, and June 30, 2009. That’s a tax credit, meaning those who qualify will receive a dollar-for-dollar reduction in what they owe the year the credit is taken against their income taxes. The credit does have to be repaid, but it is done over 15 years and payments don’t start until tax returns files two years after the credit is taken.

In the Memphis-area market first-time buyers make up a larger share of all buyers than the national average, which means a larger number of people locally stand to benefit from the credit. Add to that the affordability of Memphis-area real estate and it adds up to an outstanding opportunity for first-time buyers.

Here’s the fine print:

  • The credit amount can be 10 percent of the cost of the home purchased, not to exceed $7,500.
  • Any single-family property (including condos) that will be used as a primary residence is eligible.
  • The full amount of the credit is available for individuals with adjusted gross income of no more than $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers). The amount of credit available gradually phases out as adjusted gross income reaches $95,000 for a single filer and $170,000 for joint filers.
  • The credit is repayable over 15 years (without interest) in equal installments of 6.67% of the credit or when the owners sell the home, assuming there is sufficient capital gain from the sale. Repayment does not begin until two years after the credit is claimed.

More detailed information on the tax credit, including FAQs and answers, is available at this site created by the National Association of Home Builders.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 12:49 pm

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Keeping the ‘Crisis’ in Perspective

Ethics/Professionalism, Governmental Affairs, Market Statistics/Performance, News No Comments »

A little over a week ago, Dennis Kneale commented on CNBC about whether the housing “crisis” is really a crisis at all, or just a smaller problem blown out of proportion. From Kneale’s perspective it all comes down to the numbers, which reveal homeowners most affected by the supposed “crisis” is a much smaller percentage than what you might believe.

Direct link to the video is:

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 8:13 am

An Overview of Short Sales in Plain English

Education, Market Statistics/Performance, Mortgage Lending 2 Comments »

The Virginia Association of REALTORS® has posted on its VAR Buzz blog an excellent article on short sales that offers someone new to this type of transaction a good overview of the topic. While no article can replace experience, especially when it comes to short sales (where each transaction is likely to be nothing like the next one), this article provides a great foundation or review for any practitioner.

And if you’re looking for more instruction on short sales, register for the August 8 class at MAAR.

Posted by Scott Sherrin at 7:42 am


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