Smart Homes – What’s Out There?

A Smart Home is a house or apartment that is equipped with special structured wiring, enabling occupants to program and remotely control an array of automated home electronic devices by entering a single command.

thermostat

A technology called Powerline Carrier Systems (PCS) is used to send coded signals along a home’s new or existing electric wiring from a control center to programmable switches or outlets where they are received by the “appliance,” then enabled.

From a compact video touch panel or computer, you can manage your home theater, audio distribution, security, heating, air-conditioning, lighting, Internet, lawn sprinklers and more. You can start the kids’ movie downstairs, shut the blinds in the living room, turn on patio music for your guests, control your internal climate or arm your security system by simply selecting Good Night on the screen. In the morning, check your stocks online while waiting for the preprogrammed coffee pot to finishing brewing. Additional options include being able to access your Smart Home remotely using a mobile phone or laptop.

Residential integration key to home automation

While you likely already have the beginnings of a home automation system with your programmable thermostat, that’s a long way from a complete system. There are more than 5,000 individual home automation tools and options on the market today. The key, however, is linking the systems/appliances so that they can be centrally controlled.

Most likely, there are already companies in your area providing these “resident integration services.” Most provide connectivity, equipment, software and services, and are happy to sit down with you and help you select the products and options to suit your lifestyle and budget.


Before signing a contract, do a little front-end research:

  • See if your integrator is certified by a professional organization such as the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association – the global trade association for companies that specialize in planning and installing of custom electronic systems for homes.
  • Ask for references where similar installations have been performed and call or visit them if possible.
  • Makes sure your contract covers difficult access since older homes may present surprises such as double bricking or plaster walls.
  • If you are building a house, the integrator can put in the “structured wiring” to serve your home automation needs. They can also retrofit existing homes.
  • Can your existing computer be used to offset some of the cost? Possibly, however, that will depend on its generation, speed, storage and other factors you can explore with your residential integrator.

As Smart Homes have yet to become the norm, also think of what a fantastic resale feature and added value upgrading to a Smart Home system will contribute to your home.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

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Home Purchase Checklist

I have prepared the following list to help you feel comfortable with the home buying process.

After all, this is an exciting time in your life, and I want to help you enjoy it. Read through the checklist. I can also assist you with finding a mortgage professional for more information about the loan process. Of course, purchase transactions can vary, but this “typical” list should help jumpstart your thinking. With Spring just around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about that 2012 home purchase you have been considering. Now is the best time buy!

man and woman

  1. Be sure you’re ready to buy a home
  2. Determine how much you can afford
  3. Organize your personal information
  4. Get pre-approved
  5. Find a real estate agent
  6. Search for a home
  7. Research areas and neighborhoods of interest
  8. Visit selected homes
  9. Make an offer on the home you want
  10. Arrange financing
  11. Schedule a home inspection
  12. Prepare for closing

Be sure you’re ready to buy a home

  • Consider all costs involved, including taxes, homeowner’s insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI), and utilities.
  • Consider the responsibilities of home ownership, from mowing the lawn to maintaining the roof.

Determine how much you can afford

  • Consider all costs involved, including upfront costs such as the down payment and closing costs.
  • Estimate the monthly mortgage payment.
  • Include in your estimates other costs such as taxes and maintenance, as well as insurance and any applicable association fees.
  • Tip: Use the mortgage calculator found under each home listing on this site to run the numbers.

Organize your personal information

  • Check your credit report to make sure that there are no errors.
  • Gather documents such as financial statements and tax forms.
  • Make sure to have the following information readily available: the name, address, and Social Security number of all applicants; contact information for your current landlord or mortgage company; a pay stub and employer information; the value of your assets; and the source of your down payment and closing costs.
  • Make sure that you have the Social Security numbers of all borrowers involved.

Get pre-approved

  • A pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford, give you the power to negotiate and even make an offer, and show sellers that you’re a qualified buyer.

Find a real estate agent

  • Consider special, personal needs with which a real estate professional may be able to help you. Real estate agents can specialize in a variety of areas, including, employee relocation, military markets, or vacation homes.

Search for a home

  • Search for properties online to get an idea of the homes that are available in your price range.
  • Drive through areas that interest you in order to spot “For Sale” signs and to get a feel for different neighborhoods.

Research areas and neighborhoods of interest

  • Try visiting your preferred neighborhoods at different times of the day and at different days of the week to observe patterns of noise and traffic.
  • Use the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Look Tool  to find statistics on neighborhoods, schools, and other demographic information important in your search for a home.

Visit selected homes

  • Take your time. Carefully examine both the interior and exterior of each home you consider. You may want to visit more than once if you’re seriously interested.
  • Compare the prices of similar homes in the surrounding area. Your real estate agent will supply you with comparable properties (“comps”).
  • Tip: If the market is competitive, be prepared to act fast. A pre-approval will give you the ability to make an offer on the home you want and shows the seller you’re financially able to buy the home — and that can give you an advantage over other buyers.

 Make an offer on the home you want

  • Before deciding on the amount of your offer, consider important factors such as the condition of the home, the competitiveness of the local marketplace, inspections, time restrictions and more.
  • Consult with your real estate agent for professional input on determining the amount of your offer.
  • Include in your offer provisions for a home inspection and an outline of the actions to be taken if problems arise.
  • Tip: Always check with your real estate agent before making an offer — it may be legally binding. Working with a licensed Real Estate agent may be beneficial and make the process smoother.

Arrange financing

  • Call your mortgage consultant with the property address.
  • Your mortgage consultant will explain your options for rates, terms, points and other details about loan programs you may qualify for.
  • Sign the necessary documents for application.

Schedule a home inspection

  • Ask your real estate agent to help you find a reputable, professional home inspector, and to help schedule the inspection.
  • Tip: It’s a good idea to be present during the inspection. It’s an ideal opportunity to ask important questions about the property.

Prepare for closing

  • Make sure your closing date is scheduled prior to any rate lock expirations on your mortgage loan.
  • If you’re also selling a home and need the cash from the sale, make sure that the closing on your current property is scheduled prior to the closing on your new home.
  • Arrange for your real estate agent or an attorney to be present. That will help assure that all closing tasks are completed to your satisfaction.
  • Check with your closing agent to find out the amount of certified funds — a cashier’s check or money order — needed for closing.
  • Make arrangements for all people needed to sign closing documents to be present. This may include your spouse or any other co-signer.
  • Make arrangements at work and with childcare to be absent for 3-4 hours. (Closing normally takes an hour but you should be prepared to spend extra time in case issues arise.)
  • Bring along a photo ID — your driver’s license or passport, for example.
  • If you haven’t done so already, make sure utilities will be turned on once you take possession of your new home.

When closing is completed:

  • Don’t leave without your new keys.
  • Congratulations on your new home!

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

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Understanding CMA – Comparable Market Analysis

No two homes are alike, which is why pricing a home for sale can be so challenging.

You may have an idea of what your home is worth on the open market, but in order to sell it, you’ll have to support your price to buyers with comparables – other similar nearby homes that have sold recently or are currently for sale.

To help determine the right asking price for your home, your real estate professional will prepare a comparative or comparable market analysis, or CMA.

The CMA is a professional report that real estate agents give to their clients. CMAs are generated by a computer program from your agent’s multiple listing service, (MLS). The MLS is available to members only, and they pay a fee to get access to the service’s public and proprietary data, including tax information, sold transactions, and listings input by all cooperating MLS members.

Your agent puts search perimeters into the CMA program for homes for sale or those that have recently sold that are most similar to your home. This information is sorted according to fields of information such as neighborhood or zip code, number of bedrooms, number of baths, age of the home, square footage, price range, sold dates within 3-6 months, and other data.

The program then creates a report that tells the agent which homes most similar to yours have sold recently and which homes are for sale.

The CMA is an analysis based on the most current information. It provides unbiased empirical evidence of the latest market conditions as they relate to your home.  You can clearly see a snapshot of the market in the CMA – that prices are going up or down, and what buyers are willing to pay right now.

As a pricing tool, the CMA has some limitations. For example, it can’t tell you why some homes sell above or below the market average. While one home sold for $130 per square foot, another home on the same block sold for $120 per square foot – the same week!

What made the difference?

There are features about any home that can’t be quantified by a CMA, but you can read through each listing in the report for clues for why a home sold for more or less than the market average.

Between identical homes, one property may simply offer better drive-up appeal or is in better condition. Clutter, dirt, overcrowded closets, pet odors or too much furniture can overwhelm buyers and cause them to view a property negatively, which will influence the price they’re willing to pay. To avoid this, be sure you are staging your home to sell by simplifying your space. You can sometimes tell from pictures on the CMA if conditions made a difference in a home’s selling price.

Also, buyer and seller motivation can’t be quantified.  You don’t know why a seller agreed to take less for their home or why a buyer paid more for another home. Family problems, corporate relocations and other reasons all play a role. What you can learn from the CMA is how long the home took to sell. If it was quick, the seller was highly motivated.

For these reasons, your real estate professional may suggest that you disregard the highest and lowest sales price in a CMA before choosing your listing price.

As you’ve lived in your home, you’ve made repairs and improvements that only you know about. Your real estate professional can help you look at these costs realistically.

While a home with a new roof is certainly worth more than a home that needs a new roof, you may not get 100% of your investment back in your sales price. What a new roof can do, however, is make your home more attractive to buyers, and more likely to attract offers.

Your real estate professional will suggest a pricing strategy for you based on the CMA, but the asking price will be up to you. You have to consider your home’s condition and your motivation as well as local market trends.

Remember, comparables are your home’s competition – the homes you use to compare to yours are the same homes buyers will use for comparison as they shop for a home.

They’ll choose the home that best suits their needs and what they perceive to be the best value in price, location, and condition.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

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2011 Home Seller Traits – Part II

Home seller demographics in 2011 – Part II

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR) annually surveys recent home buyers and sellers to gather detailed information about their experiences buying and selling a home. The information provided helps to provide understanding from the consumer level of the trends that are transpiring and the changes seen. The surveys cover information on demographics, housing characteristics, and the experience of consumers in the housing market. Buyers and sellers also provide valuable information on the role that real estate professionals play in home sales transactions.

Recently, NAR surveyed 5,708 home buyers and sellers discovering that the demographics among buyers and sellers have changed this year, both of which are older, have higher incomes and are more likely to be married. Most people selling their home cited their top reasons as job relocation, a home that is too small, or the desire to be closer to friends and family. The typical seller was in their home for 9 years before selling. The overall survey results indicated a shift in home seller demographics in 2011.

Home sellers and their selling experience

  • 43 percent of repeat home buyers had sold their prior home in 2010 or prior, and 26 percent sold their prior home in 2011. 13 percent did not plan to sell their prior home,  seven percent were leasing out their previous home, seven percent had not sold their previous property and it was vacant, and five percent did not own a previous home.
  • 66 percent of home sellers were first time sellers, and 34 percent had previously sold a home.
  • 14 percent of home sellers bought in the same region, 66 percent bought in the same state, and 21 percent bought in a different region as the home they sold.
  • Seventy-nine percent of homes sold were detached single family homes, 7 percent were townhouse/row houses, 5 percent were condos, one percent were duplexes, and 5 percent were other.
  • 95 percent was the median sales price to list price.
  • 9 weeks was the median weeks on the market.
  • $26,000 was the median earned equity on the home sold.
  • 85 percent of home sellers were satisfied with the home selling process.

When it comes to what the average home seller looks like, 2011 saw a major swing in the trends.

The majority of home sellers used the assistance of a real estate agent who was referred to them by a relative or friend, most sellers bought again within the same state, median days on the market was less than 90 days, and the vast majority of sellers had earned equity on the sale of their home.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

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2011 Home Seller Traits – Part I

Home seller demographics in 2011

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR) annually surveys recent home buyers and sellers to gather detailed information about their experiences buying and selling a home. The information provided helps to provide understanding from the consumer level of the trends that are transpiring and the changes seen. The surveys cover information on demographics, housing characteristics, and the experience of consumers in the housing market. Buyers and sellers also provide valuable information on the role that real estate professionals play in home sales transactions.

Recently, NAR surveyed 5,708 home buyers and sellers and reports that buyers are now more mature, have higher incomes, and often married couples as mortgage lending tightened this year in the down economy. The result was also a shift in home seller demographics in 2011.

The trade association reports that the typical age of a home seller in America jumped from 49 in 2010 up to 53 in 2011, a substantial increase from the typical age of 46 in 2009. The average income of recent sellers rose over $10,000 this year from last year’s reported $90,000, with higher incomes reported in the South and Northeast than the West and Midwest.

As with buyers, the share of married couples selling their home grew to the highest level since the National Association of Realtors (NAR) began producing this report, now at an astonishing 77 percent of all selling households. Single women accounted for 13 percent of home sellers, single men accounted for 6 percent, and for all types of households, 63 percent of all sellers had no children.

Home sellers and their selling experience

  • About half of home sellers traded up to a larger size and higher priced home and 60 percent purchased a newer home.
  • The typical seller lived in their home for nine years. The median tenure has increased in recent years. In 2007, the typical tenure in a home was only six years.
  • 87 percent of sellers were assisted by a real estate agent when selling their home.
  • Recent sellers typically sold their homes for 95 percent of the listing price, and 61 percent reported they reduced the asking price at least once.
  • 41 percent of sellers offered incentives to attract buyers, most often assistance with home warranty policies and closing costs.

When it comes to what the average home seller looks like, 2011 saw a major swing in the trends.

The age of the average home seller is up substantially, as is income levels and the share of sellers being married, and many without children. Also, sellers are living in their homes longer, and the vast majority of sellers are assisted by a real estate agent.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

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Home Buyers Still Say Their Home Is A Good Investment

According to the 2011 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of REALTORS®, seventy-eight percent of recent home buyers said their home is a good investment, and 45 percent believe it’s better than stocks.

To find their home, 88 percent of home buyers used the Internet, 87 percent used real estate agents, 55 percent yard signs, 45 percent attend open houses and 30 percent review print or newspaper ads. When purchasing a home, 89 percent of respondents used real estate agents and brokers, other methods include directly from a builder, 7 percent; and directly from the previous owner, 4 percent. Sixty percent of buyers working with real estate professionals were represented by a buyer’s agent.

Ninety-one percent of home buyers who used the Internet to search for a home purchased through a real estate agent, as did 70 percent of non-Internet users, who were more likely to purchase directly from a builder or from an owner they already knew in a private transaction.

Home buyers thought the most important services agents provide are helping find the right house, and negotiating price and sales terms. Buyers most commonly choose an agent based on a referral from a friend, neighbor or relative, with trustworthiness and reputation being the most important factors; 89 percent are likely to use the same agent again or recommend to others

When buyers were asked where they first learned about the home they purchased, 40 percent said the Internet; 35 percent from a real estate agent; 11 percent a yard sign or open house; 6 percent from a friend, neighbor or relative; 5 percent home builders; 2 percent a print or newspaper ad; 2 percent directly from the seller; and less than 1 percent from a home book or magazine.

The study shows the median age of first-time buyers was 31 and the median income was $62,400, up from $59,900 in the 2010 study. The typical repeat buyer was 53 years old and earned $96,600, notably higher than the $87,000 median reported in 2010.

This year, buyers needed more help. Inventories were higher across much of the nation, requiring more time to sort. For example, in 2001, buyers spent 7 weeks searching for homes, while in 2011, they spent 12 weeks.

More than half of buyers considered purchasing a foreclosure but did not buy one for a variety of reasons: 29 percent could not find the right house; 15 percent each reported poor condition and a difficult process.

For home financing, ninety-four percent of entry-level buyers chose a fixed-rate mortgage. Fifty-four percent of first-time buyers financed with a low-down payment FHA mortgage, and 6 percent used the VA loan program which requires no down payment.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents purchased a detached single-family home, nine percent a condo, eight percent a townhouse or rowhouse, and six percent some other kind of housing. The typical home had three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

For location, fifty-one percent of all homes purchased were in a suburb or subdivision, 18 percent were in an urban area, 18 percent in a small town, 11 percent in a rural area and 3 percent in a resort or recreation area. The median distance from the previous residence was 12 miles, the same as in the 2010 study.

So, what are the biggest factors influencing neighborhood choice? Quality of the neighborhood, cited by 67 percent of buyers; convenience to jobs, 49 percent; overall affordability of homes, 45 percent; and convenience to family and friends, 39 percent. Other factors with relatively high responses include neighborhood design, 32 percent; convenience to shopping, 28 percent; quality of the school district, 27 percent; convenience to schools, 22 percent; and convenience to entertainment or leisure activities, 21 percent. Commuting costs continue to factor strongly in decisions regarding location, with 73 percent of buyers saying transportation costs were important.

Of sellers working with real estate agents, the study found that 80 percent used full-service brokerage, in which agents provide a range of services that include managing most of the process of selling a home from listing to closing. Ten percent of sellers chose limited services, which may include discount brokerage, and 10 percent used minimal service, such as simply listing a property on a multiple listing service. Realtors provide all of these types of services, as do non-member agents and brokers, with comparable findings for each year since questions about brokerage services were added in 2006.

And finally, the biggest reason people buy a home is the simple desire to own a home of their own, cited by 27 percent of respondents, including 60 percent of first-time buyers. The next biggest primary reasons for buying were desire for a larger home or a job-related move, each cited by 10 percent of respondents; a change in family situation or the affordability of homes, 8 percent each; and desire to be closer to family, friends or relatives, 7 percent

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

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