Honolulu Real Estate & Oahu Real Estate Blog

Read all of the latest information, market statistics and great tips about buying, selling and living on the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii.

June 26, 2013

What's in a Realtor

What's it about someone that makes them a good Realtor?

Ever wonder what the advantages are to having a realtor?  What can they do for you besides find you a house?  Some points below will give you a broader view of the numerous advantages to working with a reputable, experienced realtor:

  • Go over your home requirements, wants, needs and desired locations
  • Provide information on all homes available in the areas of your choice.
  • Find all properties that meet your needs.
  • Be your source for answering questions.
  • Show you the areas you select while also locating schools, businesses, shopping areas and recreational facilities.
  • Help you in negotiating the purchase of the house.
  • Prepare the purchase contract and necessary addenda according to your instructions.
  • Prepare a complete estimate of settlement costs for a home you wish to make an offer on.
  • Introduce you to several financial lenders and help you obtain the best terms for the purchase of your home.
  • Submit all offers and counteroffers promptly.
  • Coordinate inspections and walk-throughs of a desired home.
  • Promptly communicate the status of your transaction while in escrow.
  • Congratulate you on a successful transaction.

So you can see how a good real estate agent can make life so much easier when you're searching for just the right home.  Especially for first time home buyers.  They will also communicate with the listing agent for any necessary communication with the sellers, recommend home warranty companies, help you gather information, and much, much more.  With rates so low, now is the time to buy so contact Distinctive Homes Hawaii today and get a reputable, experienced real estate agent to help you find just the right home for you with everything you want and need at just the right price!

Author:

Michelle Trimmell, RA, MBA

June 10, 2013

Tips for Selling Your Home

Following are 10 tips on selling your home:

If your agent tells you that your house needs clean, rather than take it personally, you may want to get out your white glove.  The impression of the home is greatly affected by the cleanliness and appearance.  A dirty home is certainly likely to sit longer than a spotless one.

Be sure to keep your home free of clutter.  Have things organized and neatly put away.  Again, clutter and uncleanliness are sure to only lengthen the time your home is on the market and gives potential buyers a bad impression.

  1. Make sure you list your home at a fair price.  Potential buyers have likely just sold a home themselves or have one on the market.  They can also easily get information on comparable homes in the area.  Not to mention, you never know who you're dealing with.  Your potential buyer could be an appraiser or work in the real estate industry themselves!
  2. Be discrete about why you're selling.  Advertising that you've lost your job or have problems with your neighbors is just a way to shoot yourself in the foot.  If the buyer knows you are in a pinch, they will surely try to take advantage of that fact when negotiating the price.  And who wants to move into a neighborhood you want to move out of?  This is definitely one of those times to be "tight lipped" and think about what you say and to whom.
  3. If your house has been on the market for a long time, be sure to keep your pictures and information updated.  Changes in weather and conditions of the property are hard to hide in actual pictures so make sure you keep them updated online and otherwise.  If your house appears to be sitting for a long time, even if it's because of the market, the first thing the buyer may think is, "What's wrong with this house?"       
  4. Try to avoid leaving out things that indicate potential problems with the home such as ant traps or rodent poison.  This is like advertising that you have a serious problem and your buyer surely doesn't want to inherit that.
  5. Be smart when you are preparing to sell and be willing to put a little work into it.  Buyers may decide that the red wall in the living room just won't match their furniture and if they've seen five other homes that have neutral colors, they have no reason to accept the red wall.  Also reconsider any out of the ordinary things such as a bright pink bathtub.  The time and money you spend to change such a thing could mean a much quicker sale or getting a much better price for your home.
  6. If your house has been on the market for a long time or had very little interest with substantial advertising, you may need to consider a price change.  Sellers can certainly have pride in their homes and judge its worth accordingly, but being unrealistic about price only keeps your home on the market.

Considering these small but significant things can mean the difference between selling your home or having it on the market indefinitely.

Author:

Michelle Trimmell, RA, MBA

May 26, 2013

Short Sales & REO; Buyer Beware!

Buyers Beware of Short Sales & REO

With approximately 40% of homes for sale today being short sales and REO properties, it's good to know what to expect and how to prepare for the differences between these transactions and regular escrows.

Timing Is Everything!

In my experience as an escrow officer, a standard escrow without any title issues or delays from the buyer, seller, or lender, typically only takes a few weeks.  For REO properties and short sales however, it's not unheard of for the time in escrow to be weeks longer than that.  In fact, for short sales it can take on average 3-5 months and as a short sale department manager, I saw some take even longer.  Buyers of REO and short sale properties should be informed by their real estate agent that these transactions are not like typical escrows.  In a short sale for example, the seller is dealing with their lender who is then dealing with the lender's investor, like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  The investor wants to ensure that the seller has a legitimate reason to short sell, isn't hiding assets, and isn't trying to take advantage of them.  Seller financial documents have to be thoroughly checked, hardships have to be proven, and documents have to be updated every two weeks, or monthly depending on the document.  Often, sellers may not be readily available either, causing further delays.  Be sure to take these extended time lines into account when you’re working with your mortgage broker on locking in your interest rate and how long your rate lock will last.  You may even need to plan to set aside an allowance for the cost of extending your low interest rate, if rates are rising when you’re waiting for the deal to be done.

Lenders Hold All The Cards!

It is not uncommon for lenders to reject offers on distressed properties, especially if they think the offer is too low and they can get a better bid.  Lenders are obligated to recoup as much of the loss as they can for their shareholders and investors.  The lender’s goal is to get a purchase price as close as possible to the home’s fair market value, as determined by comparable homes in the area and the property's condition.  Buyers should work closely with their real estate agents to offer a realistic amount for the property based on the comparable properties in the area.  This can be done with these type of properties while still getting a great deal on a home in today's market.  For short sales, a BPO (or Broker Price Opinion) is typically done in lieu of an appraisal to indicate a fair assessment of the property value.

Anything Can Happen, And Often Does!

These type of transactions are known to be delayed even late in the game.  While the buyer may have crossed every 't' and dotted every 'i', there are any number of things that can go wrong at the last minute.  More often than not, the hold ups are caused by the lender or by an uncooperative seller.  As a short sale manager, what I saw most often was hold ups on the lender's end.  We would jump through hoops to fulfill requirements only to have the lender "lose" paperwork or require something additional that was never requested initially.  Remember, the lender's short sale processors are making a minimal salary and handling hundreds and hundreds of files.  This does not make for a motivated employee or an efficient system.  Not to mention the often redundant demands coming from the investors.  I also witnessed some pretty unreasonable sellers.  Let's face it, this is not a happy time for these sellers.  Hopefully as a buyer you are working with good agents who understand the process and educate their clients.  Having said all of this, the only thing a buyer can do beyond providing everything requested in a timely manner themselves, is be flexible.  Know going in that you can't schedule the moving van until you have the keys in hand!

Lenders Hold All The Cards!

Yes, I said that already.  But it bears saying again.  As I mentioned above, the hold ups in these type of transactions are often on the lender's end.  In this market, lenders cannot keep up with the plethora of paperwork coming in.  In a short sale department, you see it firsthand:  "we never received your fax" or "these documents are not updated enough" and you hear this weeks after you submitted the paperwork because you can't reach someone in between; so of course, the documents are now aged and you have to get new ones.  Or you might actually hear that by not sending the documents in a particular order, your file went to the bottom of the pile.  No - I'm not kidding!

The only thing buyers can do is be patient and again, be flexible.  Don't hold all your eggs in one basket either.  Look at multiple properties and don't get your hopes up on just one.  Have realistic expectations. And it certainly helps to be working with a broker and/or realtor who has experience with REO and short sale transactions and is doing their due diligence by communicating with their clients regularly as well as the other agent.  The listing agent should be engaged and know what is happening with their client's file and when, and should then be communicating that to the the seller as well as the selling agent who should then communicate it to their buyer.  A good escrow company will make sure the listing agent is well informed and updated regularly so agents should ensure they're working with one that is experienced and reputable.  Ultimately, know as a buyer that until a seller's lender approves the transaction, you have a right to walk away.  Be inquisitive going in about the exact terms on when you can rescind.  This is crucial for the buyer in these deals.

Did I Point Out That The Lenders Hold All The Cards?

Pardon the redundancy but it's important to understand who is in control and not have unrealistic expectations as a buyer of a distressed property.  Realize that working with the lender on the lender's terms is unavoidable and expectations are everything.  Buyers who don't understand the process end up stressing themselves out and then walking away from the deal.  My best advice is to be educated, get a good realtor, and know who you're dealing with.  Beyond that, all buyers can do is comply quickly with requests made by the lender.  Be educated, be patient, be flexible.  And be prepared.  This is a world where anything can happen, and usually does!

Author:

Michelle Trimmell, RA, MBA

May 15, 2013

Repairing Your Credit

Use These Tips to Repair Your Credit

We've all been affected in some form or fashion by the recessive economy and many of us by the hard hit housing market.  Whether it be late payments on credit cards, or struggling to pay a mortgage, many people have seen their credit take a hit.  So what can people do to repair their credit?

Focus on FICO

The FICO score was developed about two decades ago by Fair Isaac Corporation and it is the main measurement used to determine creditworthiness.  The FICO scale runs from 300 points all the way up to 850 points and the higher your score, the better your credit standing.  Having a high score is the best way to get credit.

What Is Your FICO?

Time is truly the main component in repairing your credit score.  However, you can take steps to start the process.  The first thing to do is figure out where you are financially.  Get a copy of your credit report.  There are three major credit bureaus:  Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  Then do some research to understand your credit score and how it's affected.  John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, provides some pertinent information.  Ulzheimer notes that if you have bills that have gone to collection agencies for example, you can expect to lose anywhere from 80 to 150 points on your credit score.  He also notes that a short sale or foreclosure "would turn a FICO of 790 into 590 overnight."  Knowing what you're up against is the first step to recovery.  You'll also want to understand your debt-utilization rate and work toward improving it.  FICO looks at how much available credit you have and how much of that you're actually using.  People who have the best debt-utilization rate typically don't have debts that exceed 7 percent of their available credit.  Whatever your percentage, lowering it will help.

Cleaning Up Your Score

Once you know and understand your credit score, you can concentrate on approaching any past due items.  If you have credit cards that are the source of your burden, you may want to contact the cardholders and talk to them to see if you can negotiate payments you can better afford.  It's also advisable to ask them how this will reflect on your credit report.  Make sure the new terms will show up as "paying as agreed" on your credit.  Then, get that in writing.  Notably, if you're late paying bills with companies that have changed ownership or gone out of business, you may be in luck.  If the credit reporting bureau can't verify the accuracy of your past due debt, they are required to remove it.  According to Ulzheimer, "it has to be verifiable."  Next, focus on paying off your debt, especially your revolving debt such as credit cards.  This will lift your score the most.  One approach to this is to contact a credit counseling agency that can help you reconstruct your finances and work with creditors to negotiate payments, as well as help you budget and even avoid foreclosure on your home.  There are many different agencies such as Credibility.com that can be found online or in a phone book.

Add A Note

Another thing you can do, is add a note to each of your credit reports pulled by perspective employers or others.  Explain your hardship, such as loss of a job.  Each of the three credit bureaus allow you to add a brief statement to your report through their Web sites.  Just be aware that FICO will not consider your statements when determining your actual score.

Get Secured Cards

John Ulzheimer says secured credit cards can actually help raise your FICO score.  Unlike regular credit cards, secured cards require you to put a set amount of money in a bank account, such as $500.  This is then used as collateral for the card.  The amount of available credit should be equivalent to the amount on deposit.   According to Ulzheimer, "if you add a secured card and pay it religiously and the balance is low, it will help your score a lot more quickly than if you do nothing."  Just make sure the card issuers are reputable and report to the three major credit bureaus.

Credit Unions

Credit Unions may be more willing to work with members who have troubled credit histories. What they offer varies, but they may be more likely to consider alternative credit scores, offer free credit counseling or have products tailored for people with poor credit histories.

Ultimately, knowing how your FICO score is determined and learning about ways to improve it is a crucial key to cleaning up your credit and securing your financial future.

Author:

Michelle Trimmell, RA, MBA

April 25, 2013

Rent or Buy?

Is It Smarter to Rent or Buy?

Should you rent or buy your next home?  It used to be a no-brainer but in today's market, not so much.  Low prices make buying very enticing however, the concern that prices are continuing to fall keeps buyers guessing about what the price will be after they purchase.  However, there are some market signals that may help you decide.

Rents Are Increasing

Rental rates in many areas are rising – in fact, the foreclosure crisis has created additional demand on rental housing inventory in several ways.  First, former homeowners who lost homes to foreclosure now have to rent.  In addition, buyers in areas of foreclosures hesitate to buy and decide to remain as renters instead.  Not only that, but demographics alone indicate the number of renters will continue - between the baby boomers and the fact that a large percentage of people over the age of 65 rent, and an increasing number of immigrants, of whom 65% are renters, the rental market is growing fast.  Moreover, stringent lending guidelines have stopped even interested home buyers.  The result of all of this is a high demand for rental homes which creates a rise in rents.  This is just another sign to buy now with rising rents occurring along with home prices low and falling.

Mortgage Rates Are Increasing

Prices have been low for the last several years.  So have interest rates.  This powerful combination has allowed record highs for affordability for over 4 years now.  While prices don't appear to be going up drastically anytime in the near future, interest rates are unpredictable.  The consensus is that they may be at their very best right now and are expected to go nowhere but up and possibly be steadfast in doing so.  Rising mortgage rates are definitely a signal to buy now.

If Your Income And Career Are Stable For The Foreseeable Future

If you are fortunate enough to have these circumstances and are planning to stay in one place for a while (typically about 5 - 10 years), buying a home in these market conditions may be perfect for you.  This time frame should allow for some evening out of the foreclosure prevalent market that we're in.  Lenders will want to see ample income and a good job history for buying a home.  If you're in a place where you will be in your current job for a while and you don't plan to move, you're a prime candidate to buy a home!

You Know The Home You'll Need Years Ahead

Best practice is to plan ahead and buy a home that will meet your needs 5 - 10 years from now,  not just the home you would need today.  Plan for a home based on your future plans.  Do you plan to have children for example and will need more space?  Or are you going to be an empty nester in a few years or going  into retirement?  In this case, you may not want a home with more than one floor.

Try to have a vision and plan for your future.  Buying a home is a big deal and you'll want one that can carry you through the next 5 - 10 or even 10 - 20 years.  And it's not a decision to be taken lightly so once you have your ducks in a row and you know where you're headed and how you're going to get there, contact a good realtor and a mortgage professional to help you buy the home of your dreams!

Author:

Michelle Trimmell, RA, MBA

April 10, 2013

Making Moving Easier

Make Your Move Easy with these Tips

It can be somewhat daunting to choose a moving company to carefully transport your most valuable possessions.  Here are some tips to help you choose the right one:

Only Accept Visual Estimates

Make sure you deal with companies that actually come to your home, assess what you have and it's worth, and give you a proper estimate.  Always accompany each moving company’s representative on their walk-through to make sure the inventory is thorough.

Price Shop

You may really like one company over another but obtaining multiple quotes is the best way to assess the market rates for the service.

Avoid Movers Who Promise a Precise Delivery Date

Most moving companies will provide you a delivery window of when your items will reach the delivery destination.  Be suspicious of companies that promise to deliver on a precise date or time.  Moving companies provide delivery windows specifically because precise delivery dates are often beyond the control of the movers themselves, especially in the case of long-distance moves.

Avoid Dramatically Lower Offers

Try to shop for three or more price estimates.  This is a good way of identifying a company who is providing an unrealistic quote.  Companies who quote a price far below the average are more likely to either provide a final bill much higher than the initial estimate or add on arbitrary fees that will result in an unexpectedly high final total.

Check For Proper Licensing

Make sure the moving company you choose is properly licensed and has a good safety record.  Interstate moving companies are required to be licensed through the Department of Transportation.  If you’re moving within a state, you will want to check with local or state authorities to verify the licensing of the moving company.

Check For Complaints

Try to get testimonials and references.  Also be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau for numerous (especially unresolved) complaints about the company.

Here Are Some Common Questions For Moving Companies:

  • How do they determine pricing?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What extra charges may apply?
  • How do they handle expensive items such as a pool table?
  • Does the company have references or repeat business?

Costs To Expect

Packing Materials

Boxes of varying sizes, tape, bubble wrap, and packing fill are all necessary items for moving.  Be sure you know the cost the company charges for these items.  There can be considerable markups if the moving company buys these items so you may want to purchase them yourself.  Movers may also impose an additional packing fee.

Line-Haul Charge

This is the base charge for the transportation portion of your move.  Line haul charges are based on the distance of the move and the quantity of moved items usually determined by weight.

Long-Carry Charge

The “Long Carry” is an additional charge allotted if there is an excessive walking distance between your home and the mover’s vehicle.

Stair Charge

Most movers will add an extra fee if they are required to carry your furniture and boxes up or down an excessive amount of stairs.  Some movers will charge any stairs in place.

Third Party Charges

Many services involved in a move are not handled by the moving company but rather by third parties.  The company then passes along the charges to you.  Some of these include disconnecting and hooking up appliances, or assembling equipment. 

Insurance

The moving industry faces high costs for trucking insurance.  Insurance surcharges help the moving company off-set some of the trucking insurance costs.  Note that an insurance surcharge does not offer protection against the loss or damage of your goods.

Valuation Charge & Supplemental Insurance

The valuation charge compensates the mover for assuming liability of your goods during transportation.  Moving companies are required by law to have minimum protection and movers have to offer you the option between different levels of liability as required by federal law.  Some movers may also offer additional insurance as well. 

Hopefully, this will all give you a good view of what to look for when choosing a good moving company.  Good luck with your move!

Author:

Michelle Trimmell, RA, MBA

March 22, 2013

Have Confidence Home Buyers

Buy Your Next Home With Confidence!

First time home buyers have a lot to think about in any market. Add to that the current state of the economy with a steady unemployment rate of about 8% and one can certainly understand why home buyers today have more trepidation than ever.

Even so, today's home buyers have a lot working in their favor too. Interest rates are at historic lows with a 30-year fixed rate of only 3.25%. This makes a huge difference in a monthly mortgage payment. Consider a $500,000 loan with 20% down (the standard) at about $2,032 a month as opposed to the same loan at say 8% with a payment of a little over $3,226.  Big difference!

Prices today are also working in the buyer's favor. Affordability rates are at unconventional highs. Additionally, with a large number of short sale and foreclosure properties, there is even more savings to be had. So prices are low and interest rates keep them that way. And remember, if a buyer plans on staying in their new home for many years to come, now is a great time to buy regardless of pricing fluctuations. The social benefits still remain strong and a home can be considered a long term investment. In fact, many are taking advantage of the market by investing and renting out homes. The renter ends up paying the mortgage and interest while the property accrues equity. Meanwhile, when the market inevitably turns around, the property value will likely soar!

There are still some legitimate concerns for home buyers today however. Home values are still falling so it's very important that potential buyers do their homework. Buyers should check out what employment rates are like around communities they are considering buying in. What are the values like - are they going down quickly or are they steady?

Basically, buyers should ask themselves the same basic questions when considering buying a home today, or any time: Can they afford the home? Do they plan to stay and make today's investment worthwhile? Do they have the money for the down payment and closing costs and any necessary repairs that they may end up being responsible for?

Hiring a knowledgeable real estate professional when you are buying a home is highly recommended, especially with all of the additional concerns of today's market. A good agent will be able to answer all of the buyer questions about prices, rates, homes values, and the process, as well as help find a good home in a promising community, and also walk buyers through the lending process, helping them find the right lender and the perfect loan for them.

Buying a home is a big decision, but the often pessimistic headlines can make things seem far worse than they really are. There are great deals to be had in today's market. Start by contacting a Distinctive Home Hawaii realtor today!

Author:

Michelle Trimmell, RA, MBA

March 10, 2013

Facebook - A Great Way to Marke Your Real Estate Business

Market Your Business & Connect with Your Customers Through Facebook

Social media has fast become the new most popular venue for marketing your real estate business.  Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Linked In, and Twitter are the most popular social media sources with Facebook being the number one!  Currently 86% of Americans are on Facebook and they spend an average of 4 hours a day on the social site. The average person has 250 friends! 

A Facebook page can be a great free marketing tool for your real estate business.  The pages let you identify yourself – not just through listing your services, but also by sharing posts, links, and images, on a customizable page to give a better sense of your experience, personality and character. This is a prime resource for real estate professionals, who can reach out to past clients, current clients, and future prospects alike.

There are numerous advantages to using Facebook to promote your real estate business:

1) The 2 for 1 option - you can link YouTube to Facebook

2) Pinterest and Instagram are linked to Facebook

3) Your profile page can connect you to your sphere of influence

4) You can build multiple pages geared toward a target market by:

  • Providing free tips and information for potential prospects
  • Providing weekly tips and monthly giveaways
  • Targeting your niche market area (build a neighborhood page)
  • Targeting past clients
  • Demographic targeting (laser targets) to set up a campaign page based on user data such as location, occupation, etc (Some examples:"Employed as Doctor", "Employed as Lawyer", "Newly Married", or "Military"
  • Generating email lists and then marketing specifically to those lists

(Some examples:  "Hot Leads" or "Other Leads"), a good strategy for increasing "Likes" or driving website clicks.  Increasing "Likes" is key because once a user likes your page they essentially become followers of your business page and your posts will appear on their Facebook news feed.

5) Use Facebook ads (or "Marketplace Ads") that appear on the side columns of the Facebook site and have a click-through link to either a Facebook app or an outside website

6) Use the built-in ad performance measurement tools

7) Take advantage of sponsored stories that shows a user's interactions such as a "Like" to the users friends which then encourages them to like your post/page as well (this is the only ad format available on mobile devices)

8) Use Facebook promoted posts that let Facebook page owners pay a flat rate in order to have a single post reach a certain number of users, increasing a specific post’s reach and impressions (promoted Posts are easy to set up – just click the button beneath any of your page posts).

9) Use the ad testing feature, in which multiple ad versions can be run simultaneously in order to compare ad designs and setup

10) Set ad budgets

11) Host contests that can increase fans and awareness of your name.  Notably, contests can't be hosted through Facebook itself (meaning you can’t ask for "Likes" as entries, have people write answers in the comments, etc.).  For this businesses must use a third-party app for creating their Facebook contest, then direct users to the app from their Facebook page (check out Shortstack and Pagemodo).

Keep in mind that Facebook advertising costs can vary a great deal depending on competition and the targeting options set.  Having said that, driving website clicks can be as cheap as $.10 per click.  More clicks results in more users interacting with you and your name, which in turn can form relationships that end up translating into future business.

 

Author:

Michelle Trimmell, RA, MBA

May 28, 2012

Moving To Hawaii

Hawaii Moving

Moving to Hawaii can be a wonderful life change, but not so easy a task. First, deciding what to bring and what not to bring can be a stressful process and decision. If you think your move to Hawaii or Honolulu could be temporary, you might be better off storing your personals in your home town, and then after 6 months or a year if you think paradise is still the place for you, ship them out! You might find that the wonderful lifesyle change of Hawaii will change what's important to you. Investigate where you will be living and what you need to fill your new home before simply packing your entire house and coming over. Daily items such as pots, pans and breakables like dishes can be easily be replaced once you move here, and probably need to be changed to reflect your new island home.

Shipping Cars to Hawaii

Shipping a car from the mainland to the Hawaiian Islands can be arranged by several different shipping companies, a few of them linked below. The cost of shipment is around $1,000 per standard vehicle. This rate does not apply to any vehicle exceeding 21'8" L x 8' W x 7' H, or vehicles which have built-in accommodations for cooking or sleeping.

Almost 90% of the food, groceries and daily living items are imported to Hawaii, so naturally they can cost slightly higher than your mainland stores. However, large box stores such as Costco and Sams do exist in Honolulu to help ease these costs. Tourist areas such as Waikiki and Maui have a higher price on household goods then other areas.

Bringing your pet to Hawaii is also another thing to consider, you can apply for the 5 day or less program to prevent your loved one from having to spend 120 days in quarantine, but make sure to do all of the required paperwork, make copies of everything and withing the specific time frames. All of these questions and forms can be found at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture Animal Quarantine website.

All in all, your move to the Islands of Hawaii should be a wonderful process in your life. Please feel free to Contact Us with any questions.

Mahalo!

Hawaii Moving Links

  • Pets Ok - Search for Pet Friendly Rentals on Oahu and in Honolulu
  • Matson - Shipping your things to hawaii.
  • Ship to Hawaii - Another shipping company to Hawaii