The Branch Team Launches

We completed our first short sale back in 2005 and five years later short sales have become 70-plus percent of our listing business. During that time we authored and published, “Avoiding Foreclosure – The Field Guide to Short Sales” which is the anchor of our marketing strategy for short sales. The book was not designed to educate real estate professionals. It was designed to help homeowners and homebuyers understand the short sale process.

While a few agents purchased the books for their own use, many were concerned that their clients would simply contact us. Those same agents asked us to produce a professional edition that they could use in their businesses. They asked for it and we delivered!

Now available – an unbranded version of “The Field Guide to Short Sales” book.

It has been re-titled “Avoiding Foreclosure – The Consumer Guide to Short Sales” and our contact information has been removed. Room has been left on the back of the book for you to label it with your contact information.

This is a great marketing tool to give to your potential short sale clients and almost always secures the listing!

Click here to visit our website.

The Importance of Online Marketing

The Importance of Online Marketing

When searching the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), I’m often amazed to find listings with one or no photos. I wonder how the listing agents expect to effectively market the properties. There was a time when this was not a big issue but those times have passed.

We need to take a look at where we were to understand where we are now and why photos are so important.

There was a time when the MLS was simply a computerized tool to share listings with other REALTORs replacing the listing books of days past. As time went on, brokers started displaying the listings of other brokers on their web sites through the Internet Data Exchange (IDX) protocol. These IDX search portals allowed the public to access all active listings within a particular MLS. As Internet usage grew, so did the utilization of those search portals. In 1995, only two percent of consumers used the Internet during their home searches – in 2009, 88 percent start online.

Why is this important? In the early days, we placed our listings into the MLS to market them to other agents. Now, we market to the public. What? If 88 percent of buyers start their searches online, then the online marketing has to appeal to that 88 percent. Multiple photos are critical to the marketing of a property. According to statistics complied by the National Association of REALTORs(R), properties with multiple photos have a 200-plus percent click-through rate over those with one or no photos! Virtual and video tours are appropriate for larger or unique properties.

As consumers, you should review the online marketing completed by your agent. If you’re unhappy with any aspect of it, give your agent a call. Most of us are more than willing to modify the listing and/or explain the reasoning behind the marketing avenue chosen.

Townhomes for Sale – Plano, TX – 8623 Naomi

Townhomes for Sale - Plano, TX - 8623 Naomi

3 Bedrooms | 2.1 Baths | 2-Car Garage | 1961 SF/Tax

Plano TX Townhomes For Sale – Beautiful new construction with stone exterior. Gourmet kitchen with brkfst bar, upgraded cabinets, granite, stainless appliances, and gas cook top. Study with French doors. 8 ft Knotty Alder front door with wrought iron speakeasy. Many designer touches. Enclosed private patio with gas for BBQ. Full service HOA for low maintenance living. Ready October 2010. Price is for a 30 to 45 day close using approved lender. 

Click here for current status, pricing, photos, and a virtual tour.

Source: NTREIS | Photo Credit -Tom Branch

HR4646 – Debt Free America Act

HR4646 - Debt Free America Act

Here’s an interesting new bill introduced by Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA). It appears to call for a one percent transaction tax and the eventual elimination of individual income tax. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, the Act proposes the raising of sufficient revenue from a fee on transactions to eliminate the national debt within seven years and the phasing out of the individual income tax. The Act:

• Amends the Internal Revenue Code to impose a 1% fee, offset by a corresponding nonrefundable income tax credit, on transactions that use a payment instrument, including any check, cash, credit card, transfer of stock, bonds, or other financial instrument.

• Defines “transaction” to include retail and wholesale sales, purchases of intermediate goods, and financial and intangible transactions.

• Establishes in the legislative branch the Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action to review the fiscal imbalance of the federal government and make recommendations to improve such imbalance.

• Provides for expedited consideration by Congress of Task Force recommendations.

• Repeals after 2017 the individual income tax, refundable and nonrefundable personal tax credits, and the alternative minimum tax (AMT) on individuals.

• Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to: (1) prioritize the repayment of the national debt to protect the fiscal stability of the United States; and (2) study and report to Congress on the implementation of this Act.

Click here to read the entire bill.

It’s an interesting concept although it appears to add substantially to the tax liability of Americans through 2017.  It’s basically a National Sales or Value Added Tax.

What are your thoughts on such a tax? Clearly it would impact homes sales as the one percent tax would have to be paid on the sale or purchase of real estate.

Showing Restrictions

Showing Restrictions

I was scheduling showings this weekend for a couple of potential buyers. I selected the properties and called the showing service to set up times to show them. In this market, I’m always amazed by the showing restrictions. I was told the seller requires a 48-hour notice and a 30-minute showing window for all appointments and the home is vacant! I passed on showing it.

As a heavy listing agent (75+ per year), I understand there are times when restrictions are necessary due to special circumstances such as a baby, home schooling, elderly or sick occupants, etc.

However, if a seller makes the home too difficult to show, busy agents will pass it up. If you have to have notice, ask your agent to put the restriction and reason in the private remarks section of MLS. Most of us are very understanding and will try to accommodate the need for advance notice.

Try not to reduce the showing window to less than 2 hours. The amount of time a buyer spends in a property varies with their interest. If your home is the fifth showing of the day, it is very difficult to plan on a 30-minute window.

Buyers need to understand that it’s not always possible to show a home at the last minute as well. Routes need to be set up and showings scheduled in advance.

A little planning and courtesy can go a long way for both parties!

Townhomes for Sale – Plano, TX – 4675 Cecile

Townhome for Sale - Plano, TX - 4675 Cecile

3 Bedrooms | 2.1 Baths | 2-Car Garage | 1948 SF/Tax

Plano TX Townhomes For Sale – Former Portrait Model Home with lots of upgrades. Custom window coverings and bathroom shower curtains. Gourmet kitchen with breakfast bar, upgraded cabinets, Corian, black appliances, and gas range. Study with French doors. 8 ft Knotty Alder front door with wrought iron speakeasy. Enclosed private patio with gas for BBQ. Full service HOA for low maintenance living with pools, park, and playground. Easy access to 121 and Dallas North Tollway. 

Click here for current status, pricing, photos, and a virtual tour.

Source: NTREIS | Photo Credit -Tom Branch

Short Sales 101 – Anatomy of a Short Sale – Part 3

Short Sales 101 - Anatomy of a Short Sale

Once the Short Sale has been approved, the lender will furnish a formal approval letter, and the contract can move forward. Exactly how that contract moves forward varies from State to State as do the contracts themselves.

Based in Dallas, we can only speak to Texas contracts. In Texas, the transaction typically closes within 30 days of Short Sale approval.

However, in Texas, the contract execution date is amended to reflect the Short Sale approval date. That means the buyer usually does not have the property inspected or appraised until after the Short Sale has been approved by the lender. It would be senseless for the buyer to spend money for those services before even knowing if the Short Sale will be approved.

In Texas, the buyer often has an Option Period (usually 7 – 10 days) in which to have the house inspected. Regardless of what the inspection reveals, the buyer can terminate the contract during the Option Period at no cost other than a small Option Fee.

In regards to the inspection, homeowners in a Short Sale situation typically don’t have the money to make repairs. The lender is unlikely to pay for repairs either given the loss they’re already taking. The exception to this could be a major repair that the buyer’s lender requires in order to approve the loan – foundation, roof, heat and A/C for example.

It can be very disconcerting for the homeowner and all parties involved to endure this lengthy process only to have a potential buyer walk away at the last minute. This doesn’t happen often, but if it does, there is some good news. The Short Sale package (and sales price) has already been approved by the lender, so all that’s needed is a new buyer and a new purchase contract.

Most times, once Short Sale approval is received, both the seller and buyer are  excited to move the process forward to a successful closing. Homeowners are so emotionally involved, and understandably so, with their particular situations; they’re often unaware that some of the major lenders are completely inundated with Short Sale and foreclosure files.

We were “enlightened” by one of the country’s largest lenders that their Short Sale negotiators regularly have 1,000 files to work at any given point in time. Hence, another reason why Short Sales are anything but short!

We encourage homeowners across the United States to get educated on the options available should they become financially distressed. Short Sales are a great tool, providing relief to all parties.

Just remember to choose a REALTOR® with a proven Short Sale track record to negotiate on your behalf. Making the right choice can mean the world of difference to your financial future.

Based on The Field Guide to Short Sales. Copyright © 2010 by Tom Branch & Gina Branch.