Realtors® DO Care

Peggy Malabuyoc, Sallie Myrick, Dottie Ciarrocchi and Carpenter, David Helms

On April 20, 2012, area Realtors® from the Charlotte area gathered and assisted 23 area families with exterior home repairs and safety modifications during the 2012 Realtors® Care Day. 

T. R. Lawing has been a proud sponsor of Realtors® Care Day and this year was no exception.  Thank you to our Realtors® who gave a day of their time to help so many:  Brenda Armstrong, Joe Rempson, Kori Wing, Peggy Malabuyoc, Dottie Ciarrocchi, Ted Gantt, Sallie Myrick, and David Helms – Carpenter.

Too Good To Be True

Everyone wants to get rich quickly.  I certainly do.  And, if you can keep a secret, I know a short cut to a life of leisure.   Are you interested?    Do you trust me?

Do I have your confidence?   Will I have your wallet next?

Every day, thousands of folks just like you and me are scammed out of their hard-earned money.  Who will be next?

I have often wondered how wealthy, educated investors could lose their multi-million dollar fortunes to Bernard Madoff,  Kenneth Lay or Charles Ponzi.    Were the victims simply negligent or lazy or careless?    No, they were just like you and me.    Most of them worked a lifetime to accumulate their nest eggs and they rarely made frivolous, childish, embarrassing financial mistakes.   Were they any different from you and me?   I doubt it.

As a nation of adults, I’m afraid we have not learned much.

As the National Association of Realtors® recently reminded its members, “Americans continue to fall prey to a growing number of real estate scams” and, in many cases, the internet, Craigslist and online public records are simply making the job of the scammer easier.

Rental scams are becoming more prevalent every day.   A very common version in our area involves posting an almost-identical copy of a legitimate ad with only cheaper rental rate and e-mail contact info.   When an excited prospect notices the great price on a great house and sends an email through the reposted ad, he receives a response from someone claiming to be the owner who, generally, is “overseas doing mission work.”   If the victim is interested in renting the “missionary’s” house, he is asked to send money to the owner in the foreign country.   Of course, the “missionary” will pocket the money long before his lack of ownership is realized.

Another rental scam involves a bogus rental prospect who contacts the legitimate owner or property manager through email.   The terms and conditions are agreed to and the scammer gladly forwards a check for the security deposit, often drawn on a bank in another country which may or may be questioned by the owner or his agent.  The check may or may not be written in excess of the amount required but, without fail, the “prospect” will soon ask for part or all of his money back and certainly before signing a lease.    Believing the prospect’s check has cleared; a refund is overnighted and cashed well in advance of the prospect’s counterfeit check being returned by the bank.

In some cases, a would-be renter can actually view a property escorted by the “landlord” and still get burnt.    In these scams, unoccupied foreclosed homes are the bait.   Knowing the trustee’s sale date is still several weeks away, the criminal breaks into the house, changes the locks and starts advertising the home on free online classified sites, generally at a very favorable price.   The unknowing victim pays the security deposit and first month’s rent and, sadly, may actually moves his family into the house before a bank representative knocks on the door during a routine inspection.   The tenant has no legal claim and very few ways to recover his money.

Finally, real estate commissions, attorney generals and Better Business Bureaus are reporting a significant jump in loan modification and foreclosure “rescue” scams.  Delinquent home owners are almost always worried, scared and stressed out which are always ideal conditions for modern con artists.    If the deal sounds too good to be true; if new loan documents are involved; or if upfront fees are requested to stop a foreclosure, be very skeptical.   Call the local Better Business Bureau or search for the same vacant home elsewhere on the internet or independently verify the trustworthiness of whomever you are talking with or do all three.

The hard-earned nest egg you save may be your own.

Legend vs Icon

Late yesterday afternoon, I had a couple of minutes before that five o’clock whistle, so of course I checked Facebook as opposed to squeezing one more little task in before the end of the day.  As with most news, I found out the big headline of the day via a friend’s status update.  There it was; RIP Dick Clark.  My heart sank just a little. I wasn’t surprised (he was 82 years old and had suffered a major stroke in 2004), but I was still saddened.  Death eludes no one, not even celebrities.  However, Dick Clark wasn’t just a celebrity.  He was something much bigger than that.

A legend is defined as someone that inspires legend or achieves legendary fame.  It is derived from the Latin word, legenda, which means “for reading or to be read.”  A legend is a story that is told from generation to generation.  Dick Clark definitely fits that description because his “story” has been lived out on our nation’s TV screens since 1956.  He showed our nation what music to listen to and how to dance to them; and we always had something to do on New Year’s Eve.  He became a media mogul whose influence can still be seen today in shows like American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance.  I am not even sure that we would be gathering around our TV sets on Monday nights to watch celebrities try to ballroom dance if it hadn’t been for a simple, local TV show with impeccable timing in 1952. As Baby Boomers were entering their teen years and TV & Rock-n-Roll were brand new, American Bandstand began what would be a 37 year run and have a major impact on music, dance and the lifestyles of teenagers around the country.  Even today, listening to Barry Manilow’s rendition of Bandstand Boogie makes me smile and remember simpler times when the weight and worries of adulthood were unknown.   So, do we define Dick Clark as simply a legend?

After I broke the news to some co-workers of Dick Clark’s death, one of my younger co-workers said, “Dick Clark was the Ryan Seacrest of his time.”  Obviously, this created a reaction because Dick Clark IS why people like Ryan Seacrest and Carson Daly are who they are today and they would even admit the impact he had on their careers and lives.  Last night, Ryan Seacrest called Dick Clark his idol growing up as a child.  He studied him and wanted to do just what he did when he grew up.  Not only did he do that, but Ryan had the pleasure of working with Dick Clark on New Year’s Eve for the past 6 years.  Ryan Seacrest stated that there was “nobody like Dick Clark” and I suspect there never truly will be.  So again, is Dick Clark a legend or is he an icon of 20th Century America?

An icon is defined as someone or something that represents something specifically.  For example, Elvis Pressley is the “King of Rock-n-Roll” and Michael Jackson is the “King of Pop”.  Both have passed away and though grammatically I really should use the word “was”, even in death they are undeniably icons for their influence in their respective music genres.  Elvis will always symbolize rock-n-roll and cementing it into our musical culture. He didn’t come up with it, but he did explode its popularity.  The same could be said for Michael Jackson and pop music.  So is Dick Clark the “King of Media?”

I suspect the debate between TV legend and TV icon will continue in the days to come, but for me the man who influenced multi-generations and inspired a nation with his youthful good looks and enthusiasm, earning him the title of “America’s Oldest Teenager”, Dick Clark will always be an icon in the storyboard of my childhood and maybe even life.

Dick Clark, you always had a good beat and you were always easy to dance to.  I give you a 98!

Guide to Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year when we open up our windows and let the warm fresh air into our homes. It’s also that time of year when we clean out our closets and de-clutter. So if your home is beginning to look like an episode of “Hoarders”, pay attention!!!

The 4 Container Method

Using 4 large containers, put them into the following 4 categories:

  • Trash – Be honest, you have no idea how to repair whatever it is you broke 6 months ago. You have gone this long without it, you don’t need it and you can’t sell it, so THROW IT AWAY!!!! You will be surprised how much trash we actually keep in our homes. Trust me, you will feel liberated.
  • Give Away or Sell – By combining these two categories together, you can be a bit more discerning about what you give away to charity. If you can’t sell, don’t donate it.  Also, if you choose to hold a yard sale, your charitable donation can go way beyond Goodwill or The Salvation Army. You know you have wanted to give money to those sad little dogs and cats on TV. A yard sale is a great way to raise some money for your special cause.
  • Store – Really! It’s time to put those Christmas decorations away. Anything that you only use seasonally should be stored in well-marked containers that you can easily access and put away without ripping your attic apart.
  • Keep - This container should have the least amount of things at the end of your Spring Cleaning. If not, please refer to the three other categories again, because you didn’t do it right. Keep only the things that you use on a regular basis and make sure that it has place in your home where it can be properly stored. It is not allowed back on the kitchen counter again.

Happy cleaning everyone!!!

Is America Becoming A Renter Nation?

Home ownership has always been the American Dream and a personal goal of almost every American.   Our forefathers came to the New World in search of property and a home of their own.  FHA and VA mortgage guarantee programs were created to promote home ownership and, more recently, at least two presidents ran on campaign promises to promote affordable home ownership opportunities.  (Clinton & Obama)

But, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, homeownership in America dropped three percent in just the last seven years and rent is the new reality for both former homeowners and new households alike.  Currently at sixty-six percent, how much lower will America’s homeownership rate fall?

Curiously, mortgage rates are at all-time lows while inventories are at all-time highs.   Home prices are at record lows and mortgage interest remains deductible while rental rates are climbing and have never been deductible.   A prudent shopper might easily conclude that it is a great time to buy a home yet, according to Reis, Inc., the apartment sector saw its largest quarterly increase in occupied stock of the year in the last quarter of 2011. 

Is American becoming a renter nation?   The short answer is “Yes” but a more difficult question is why and is this a short-term or long-term change.

For at least the 20th century, Americans operated on the belief that owning one’s home is better than renting it but careful analysis shows our collective belief is correct only under certain parameters.  For instance, if a tenant reinvests his or her cash savings (i.e., mortgage payment less rent and down payment), then the tenant will usually have a larger portfolio balance in less than a decade than an owner, as recently published by Bercaha and Johnson.

However, if the “reinvestment requirement” is dropped and the tenant simply spends his or her savings on consumption – which is definitely the more realistic assumption – then owning a home usually produces more net worth than renting one. 

In other words, it is not property appreciation which creates wealth today; it is the fact that home ownership is a self-imposed savings plan.

Another explanation for the recent drop in homeownership rates may simply be that the pendulum is seeking equilibrium.   Home ownership rates are never static although the rate for my grandfather’s generation stayed around forty percent for much of the first half of the 20th century.  History indicates that aggressive subsidy programs administered by FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and others drove the ownership rate to more than sixty-five percent for the World War II generation and baby boomers who followed. 

Each generation makes its own housing decisions based on the world in which it exists and today’s millennials (born 1980 to 1995) live in a much different world than their parents or grandparents did.

For instance, changes in America’s workplaces and employment practices over the last twenty years have drastically altered how we view housing today.

Millennials have lived through the horror of their parents facing foreclosure or, at best, losing a lifetime of unreplaceable equity.  Hundreds of thousands of baby boomers have openly and vocally longed for more flexibility in their housing arrangements when their factory downsized or relocated.   And, with foreclosure notices posted on neighbor’s doors and talk show features about a “shadow inventory” and short sales, there remains a widely-held opinion that home prices have not hit bottom end.   Would you buy your first home in such a world?

Even with low mortgage rates and deductibility of mortgage interest, many of today’s prudent shoppers are convinced that renting is a much better choice today than owning.   In fact, many experts feel today’s disposition toward renting is likely to persist for at least a decade if not for a generation.  Others talk of long-term homeownership rate in America of fifty-five to sixty percent instead of today’s mid- to high-sixties.

But, as Chuck Swindoll preaches, “Opportunities are often disguised as impossible situations.”   Whether well founded or completely irrational, today’s bias for renting is creating opportunities for today’s savvy investors.

The rental market is on a tear and individuals are buying properties at deep discounts every day and then renting them to others for handsome returns. 

In our portfolio, rental occupancy tightens a little more every day which means the creditworthiness requirements for the applicant pool tightens every day too.  Today’s new tenant is one of the most qualified and most educated that we have ever worked with.

With nationally recognized employers bring new well-paying jobs for white-collar contractors into our area regularly, the demand for rental housing here can only get better.

The “New Normal” in real estate is rental housing.

Corsage, Tux and Limo……Oh My!

It’s prom season, again!  Time for that annual rite of passage where area teens dress up, crowd local eateries and stay up into the wee hours of the night at various after prom parties. 

Over the past few years, I have noticed that prom has become more and more elaborate in terms of  costs and in how it is treated.  For instance, last year a youth in my church was trying to figure out his “proposal” for the girl he wanted to ask to go his senior prom.  I looked at him bewildered because “proposal?”  Personally, one of my best friends in high school raised his head off his desk during his English class nap and said, “Why don’t we just go to prom?”  That was enough for me, but now you have to have an elaborate and sometimes very public display to get a girl to go the prom (Note:  Overpass signs are soooooo, yesterday).  In fact, I know of a girl who has turned down not 1, not 2 but 3 different prom proposals because they weren’t good enough.  What?!

Yesterday, an article came out in USA Today that said the national average prom cost is up this year to $1,078 per couple.  I will break that cost down for you later, but that seems a little pricey for a dance where nobody would dance, a fancy French dinner nobody would eat and a ride around the city in a limo.  But considering where we are from, there isn’t any reason why we wouldn’t do it up big.  In fact, in the Northeast and in the South, the average prom couple will spend between $1,000 and $2,000 on their big night.  If you live in the West or Midwest, that number is only $700.  Lower incomes will spend more than the national average (around $2,600) and higher incomes will spend less.  Peer pressure to one up the other guy drives how much people will spend because for today’s celebrity influenced teens, appearance is everything.  This IS a teen girl’s Cinderella or “red carpet” moment and if that means you spend beyond your means to accomplish it, so be it.

This year my son is a junior in high school.  As we were getting closer to Spring Break, I began to wonder about his prom.  He hadn’t said a thing about going and what he could do to pay for it.  When I pressed him about it, he said, “It just seems a bit expensive for a dance, it’s not like it is my Senior Year. Besides, why strain the family budget?  We have college to pay for!” I see his point but at the same time, I would love to see him all decked out in a tux too.  Shame on me for raising such a thoughtful kid. 

Don’t Be Unwilling to Change

Recently, there have been a lot of changes in my life that to say the least have been stressful.  I am the first to admit that I do not like being caught off guard or having to make a complete 180 degree turn.  Change for me is the enemy.  This of course leads me to ask the question, “Why are people so resistant to change?” 

Interestingly enough nature changes all the time, but humans have a little more difficulty with change.  Let’s take the recent changes going on at Facebook (I know, again!).  First, at the end of March, Facebook required all users to switch to Timelime.  If you had not made the conscious decision to get Timeline prior to March 30th, you all of a sudden had it and you hated it. Mainly because you couldn’t find ANYTHING!  Also, everything is now getting documented whether it is what you read or the pictures you were viewing or even what you were listening to was all now appearing in your feed and viewable in the feeds of others.  Another small bit of your privacy while doing something  in your free time was gone.  So when news reports came out about Instagram being purchased by Facebook, fans of Instagram revolted for basically the same reasons.  The perception that the privacy of this little online community and the rights of the pictures would be stripped away.  (By the way, did anyone under say 30 really care about Instagram until it appeared in the news the other day? I know I didn’t but of course, now I have downloaded it and love it – Facebook, please don’t change it!)

According to a report from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, people are resistant to change for several reasons:

  • The reason for change was unclear.
  • Changes are made without consulting those that are directly affected.
  • Communications about any changes were insufficient.
  • When the benefit or reward resulting from any changes are not seen as worth the trouble.

“An unwilling user can always make an idea fail, no matter how good it is.” 

An unwilling user can always cause a good idea to fail. Interesting observation because personally, I like the new Facebook Timeline, but I was one of the few that got it when it was still in its Beta testing stage.  I was a willing user!  When everyone started posting panoramic cover photos and I noticed what everyone was listening to on Spotify, I wasn’t as concerned that I had to learn new things.  I welcomed the change.  Many of my “friends” are having a harder time because as long as they are unwilling users they will continue to reluctantly figure out how to adapt in the ever changing world of Facebook over and over and over again.  But where does the cycle end?  Simple.  By using a more positive approach to change (take note Mr. Zuckerberg).  By thinking ahead, communicating and seeing the other side of things sometimes, changes don’t have to be so hard to implement.

Holiday Hours

Just a reminder that our offices will be CLOSED on Friday, April 6, 2012 in observance of the Good Friday Holiday.  We will reopen on Monday, April 9, 2012 at 8:30 a.m.  A member of our staff will be available to answer your leasing  questions tomorrow from 4:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturday, April 7, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.   You are also encouraged to visit our website for additional information about our available properties including pricing, directions, pictures and virtual tours.

As always our Maintenance Department is available after hours, weekends and holidays for emergency repair requests only.  As a reminder an emergency is defined as:

  • No power to the entire property and the Power Company is not responsible.
  • No water to the entire property and the Water Department is not responsible.
  • Gas odor (and  after the Gas Company is contacted first).
  • Smoke or sparks from outlets, switches, etc.
  • No heat or lack of operable heating facilities capable of heating the living areas to 65 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit between November 1st and March 31st.
  • No A/C or lack of operable cooling facilities capable of cooling the living areas to 85 degrees Fahrenheit between June 1st and September 30th.
  • Break-ins where the property needs to be secured.
  • Unusable toilet (only if there is no other usable toilets in the home)
  • Broken locks on exterior doors and the property cannot be secured.
  • Flooding
  • Fire (Please dial 911 first prior to contacting us)
  • Floor/wall/ceiling cave-ins.
  • Termites.
  • Sewage coming up in any drains.
  • Leaking water heaters.

If your concern has not been listed above, we will be happy to handle your maintenance request upon our return on Monday, April 9, 2012.  In the meantime, you are welcome to submit our request in writing by visiting our website.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!!  See you Monday!!!

Wednesday Rewind – April 4, 2012

It has been so busy here at the office of T. R. Lawing Realty, Inc. for the past week.  I’m not complaining, busy is good however if you love writing for Rental “Real Talk”, it’s a problem.  But none-the-less, here is today’s Wednesday Rewind.

Yesterday, tornadoes ripped through the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  No doubt you have already seen the video of a massive tornado throwing tractor trailers around like they were feathers.  If not, check it out hereOriginally posted October 27, 2010, this article written by our own David Cunningham gives some helpful tips on what to do to keep from being blown away.

Many people are unprepared when it comes to changes in the weather – it seems everything from hard rains to snow flurries cause the citizens of the Queen City to go into a state of panic; flooding the grocery stores for canned-good provisions and losing the ability to drive with any amount of sanity. That’s why it’s even more crucial to keep one’s head in the face of truly severe inclement weather like tornadoes. “But what can I do?”you ask, hurriedly, as you toss gallon after gallon of whole milk into your backseat.

Remember these Four Steps to keep your cool when the forecast calls for tumultuous winds:

1. Be Alert – Do the skies look grim and foreboding? Stop trying to play meteorologist and turn on the news or check your local websites for weather reports. Overloaded by the number of sites out there? Try Weather.com.

2. Make Sure Your Insurance Is Active – For homeowners, a lapsed insurance policy can make a huge difference in the face of a natural disaster. “But I’m renting this property!” you say. Don’t think you need to protect your valuables? Read this nifty article on the importance of Renter’s Insurance.

3. Seek Shelter- If a tornado is in your area, it’s not a good idea trying to outrun or out-drive one. You can flash back to those elementary school drills if you want, but check NOAA.gov for concise instructions that will fit any situation you may find yourself to be in. A good basic rule of thumb: stay away from walls and out of rooms with lots of things that could go flying around.

4. Develop A Safety Plan With Family/Friends – Where are the flashlights? Where will you meet if you get separated? Who’s got the key to the storeroom with all of my canned goods? Figure out a game plan beforehand and you won’t be so frazzled in the midst of an emergency. Check The Tornado Project for more tips on dealing with tornadoes.

 

Don’t be caught unawares like SOME people…