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How Buyers and Sellers Have Lost Thousands of Dollars to Email Scams

laptop and smart phoneEmail scams are as old as, well, email, but as the years go by, these scams have become more and more sophisticated. Recently, several home buyers have fallen victim to specially targeted email scams that attempt to rob them of their closing costs — sometimes up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

These types of scams are devastating both financially and emotionally, especially when your home is involved. But to help protect you from email scams targeting the real estate industry, we have outlined a few tips about what these scams are and how to avoid them.

What Email Scams Are Common?

Though the method through which hackers collect personal or financial information is always changing, there are a few basic types of scams that buyers and sellers should be aware of.

Phishing

fishingThis type of scam attempts to “fish” for sensitive personal or financial information (such as passwords or credit card numbers). Many emails used in recent phishing schemes look legitimate; they may use the name of a trusted company or individual as the sender name, but the email address is slightly different than the company’s or individual’s verified address.

These types of email messages may also ask you to verify information or click on a link, which could install harmful software on your computer.

Wire Transfer Fraud

A specific type of phishing email that has been targeting home buyers recently is one that asks buyers to wire their closing costs to another account. The email typically crafts some urgent scenario, such as a last-minute change in wiring instructions, and urges the recipient to act quickly by wiring the money to the new account. This phishing email has led to home buyers losing thousands of dollars — in some cases, the entire purchase price of the house — to scammers. Unfortunately, the money can’t be returned once it’s gone.

Wire transfer fraud scams are especially dangerous because the emails appear to be sent directly from the real estate agent, the electronic signature company, or the title company. There may not be any misspellings or grammatical errors in the email message (which were surefire signs of a scam in the past), the message itself may be friendly and conversational, and any information related to the real estate transaction may be detailed and accurate.

How You Can Avoid Falling Victim to Email Scams

Now that you know what types of scams have plagued the real estate industry, here are a few tips you can follow to prevent yourself from falling victim to a devastating email scam.

person dialing a phone numberVerify that you received an email from the right person. Ensure that any emails you receive are legitimate by contacting the sender directly. Make sure you look up their phone number instead of clicking on the number provided in the email signature, which may be the scammer’s phone number.

Verify that the email address is legitimate. When you receive emails that appear to be from your real estate agent, title company, or attorney, check to make sure the sender’s email address does not contain misspellings, extra characters, or anything unusual.

Never share sensitive information via email. Your real estate agent will never ask you to send sensitive personal or financial information in an email.

Don’t touch an email that looks suspicious. Never click on any links or download any attachments from an unverified email, even if it looks legitimate. These links or attachments could be malware that will harm your computer.

Always use strong passwords. Use passwords that contain letters, numbers, and special characters, and change them periodically.

Update your antivirus software. Protect your computer from malware by ensuring your antivirus is up to date.

Report suspicious emails. If you receive an email that seems suspicious or is in fact a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission immediately.

Contact Us to Learn More

We’re aware of scams like these, so it’s our goal to keep you informed whether you’re buying or selling a home. Give us a call and we’ll provide you with any additional resources you need!

6 Questions to Ask When Considering a Neighborhood with an HOA

community pool with inflatable innertubeLet’s say you have your heart set on buying a home in a community with a swimming pool, a clubhouse, and maybe even a playground or trails. Having access to these amenities often means living in a community with a homeowners association, or HOA.

Generally, an HOA is responsible for keeping the neighborhood looking beautiful — and as a result, keeping property values high. But since no two neighborhoods are the same, no two HOAs will be the same, either.

What You Should Know About the Homeowners Association

Doing your research on homes and communities means finding the answers to dozens of questions. As a savvy home buyer, you’ve probably already considered some of the most important topics early on in your home search, such as the local property taxes and whether the neighborhood is appreciating in value.

But if you’re considering a neighborhood with an HOA, there are a few additional things that you should know about the community and the association before you buy a home. Here are the essential questions you should ask.

1. What Does the Homeowners Association Do?

home with landscaped yardEach community varies, but in general, a homeowners association assists residents with property maintenance (by providing services like lawn care, trash removal, or Internet), regularly beautifies the neighborhood common areas, and upkeeps any shared amenities. In return for these services, residents pay an association fee, which we’ll talk about later.

Since the HOA is also concerned with keeping property values high, the homeowners association may also dictate what residents can and can’t do with their properties. These rules keep residents from worrying about a neighbor painting their house a funky color or letting their lawn go wild.

2. Are You Required to Join the HOA?

Before you decide to buy a home in an HOA neighborhood, first check to see whether the community has a voluntary or mandatory HOA. A voluntary HOA doesn’t require that you join the association or pay dues, but a mandatory HOA does.

3. How Much Are the HOA Fees?

As we mentioned before, HOA fees cover the services that the association provides. HOA fee costs (and the frequency with which they’re paid) can vary from community to community, so ask your real estate agent about how much the fees are before you buy a home in the neighborhood.

4. What Are the HOA’s Expectations for Residents?

bylaws for a community associationTypically, a homeowners association will have a list of rules and regulations that residents are expected to follow when they live in the community. (These are known as Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, or CC&Rs.)

These regulations can dictate everything from what colors you can use to paint your home to how many vehicles you can park in the driveway. Again, each homeowners association varies, so it’s best to read the Bylaws of communities you’re considering to learn what’s expected of residents.

5. When (And How Often) Does the HOA Meet?

If you’re interested in joining your neighborhood’s HOA to get involved in your community, you might also want to consider when the association meets. The HOA may meet annually, bimonthly, or monthly, depending on the association’s size, so check to see if the regular meetings will fit within your schedule.

6. Does the HOA Host Any Activities?

Finally, when considering a neighborhood with an HOA, you should learn whether the HOA provides other ways for you to get involved and meet your neighbors. Ask your real estate agent about whether the neighborhood association hosts annual block parties, pool parties, holiday celebrations, Yard of the Month competitions, or any other neighborhood activities.

We’re Here to Answer Your Home Buying Questions!

Have a question about a specific neighborhood or the home buying process in general? We’re more than happy to give you the information you need. Call us and let’s chat.

Want Top Dollar for Your Home? Hire a Real Estate Agent

A quick Google search is all it takes to discover hundreds of new recipes, do-it-yourself projects, and tips about how to stage your home. With so much information available online, especially about the home selling process, many homeowners start to wonder whether it’s faster and more cost-efficient to sell their own homes rather than hiring a real estate agent to do it for them. (Spoiler alert: It’s not.)

Sold sign in front of single-family houseMaybe you’re just now thinking about selling your home. All those HGTV shows and helpful articles make it look so easy — how hard could it be to sell your home yourself? Or maybe you’re already elbows deep into selling For Sale By Owner and are thinking, this isn’t so bad.

Just because you can do something yourself doesn’t mean that you should, especially when it comes to selling a home.

What Makes a Real Estate Agent So Invaluable?

Everything from preparing paperwork to negotiating the price and terms — you name it, a real estate agent does it. But what many home sellers forget is that a real estate agent’s job is a lot of behind-the-scenes work.

contract to purchase a homeWhen you hire a real estate professional, you’re not only benefitting from the agent’s intimate knowledge of what’s happening in the local housing market, you’re also working with a licensed professional who is legally bound to work in your best interests. A few essential elements of their job include:

  • Researching recent comparable sales to determine the best price for your home
  • Spending their own time and money to market your listing
  • Promoting your home through their network of contacts and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
  • Coordinating showing appointments and open houses on your behalf
  • Responding quickly to inquiries about your property
  • Writing counteroffers and filling out required disclosures
  • Doing everything they can to help you achieve your goals

Isn’t It Cheaper to Sell My Home Myself?

Commission — a percentage of the sale proceeds that goes to the real estate agents involved in the transaction — is a major factor in the decision to go FSBO (For Sale By Owner) or hire a real estate pro. Working without a real estate agent will certainly save you a few thousand dollars on commission, but there’s a catch.

If You Go Down the FSBO Road

If you decide to go FSBO, you won’t save as much money as you think. You might not even save money at all.

Sign that says For Sale By OwnerYou will have to spend your own time and money to invest in quality photography for your listing, purchase marketing materials (and not just a For Sale By Owner sign), carefully research which home improvements will bring you the most bang for your buck, and list your home on the MLS, just to name a few.

This all assumes that you price your property correctly, manage to entice buyers with your marketing efforts. Once it’s in contract, the works not over. You’ll still need to investigate whether buyers are actually qualified to purchase your home and make all the right repairs so no red flags surface during the home inspection. And don’t make a costly mistake involving disclosure forms or the contract!

If You Work with a Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents, as licensed professionals, are experts at handling all the details of your transaction. They will help you avoid costly mistakes, negotiate the best price and terms for your property, and ensure that it sells for top dollar.

At the end of the day, working with a real estate agent will save you time, money, and headaches.

Okay, I’m Convinced — What Do I Do Next?

If your goal is to sell your home quickly and for top dollar, we can help. We’re more than happy to share our wealth of home selling resources, including staging tips and a home evaluation. Give us a call and let’s talk about your plans.

Real Estate Terms….What They Really Mean!

Real estate has a language all of its own! While realtors can read between the lines, many home buyers are confused by the unfamiliar phrases they see on property descriptions. Understanding what these real estate terms really mean will help you know what to expect before walking through the front door.  Here are a few of the most frequently used real estate terms you might come across:

 

Sold As-Is – The seller won’t do any repairs; what you see is what you get.

Cozy or Charming – Think very small; the home may be cute or have character, but it is not spacious.

Hidden Gem – A diamond in the rough; a great opportunity for a buyer willing to do minor updating or repairs before moving in.

Investor Special – The property needs extensive repairs and updates in order to be livable.

Lives Large – The actual square footage may be small but the floorplan maximizes the space and makes it feel larger than it is.

Location, Location, Location – Home is within a desirable neighborhood, likely in close proximity to popular amenities, major roadways, parks, or schools.

Lovingly maintained – This usually means the home has a long time owner who kept the home in good condition, although it probably needs updated.

Mature Landscaping – Shrubs and trees need pruning or possibly replaced.

Motivated Seller – Signals that the owner wants to sell their house quickly or has received no offers and may be flexible on their list price.

Move-In Ready – Neutral décor, updated, no additional work is necessary for the house to be habitable.

Open Plan – Typically means that the great room and kitchen are adjacent and not separated by any walls.

Priced to Sell – Seller has initially priced the house low and is likely not willing to negotiate much off their list price.

  

Hope this helps you to decipher the language of real estate!  If you want to see a home after reading the description, reach out to me or any of the other great agents on our Thomas & Company team! 

 

Until next time,

 

  

       

Should You Hire a Professional or DIY on Those Home Repairs?

equipment for a do-it-yourself home repairTo DIY or not to DIY? That’s the question on many homeowners’ minds when there’s a repair or home improvement project on their to-do lists. The good news is that you can do plenty of things on your own. But for other projects, you’re better off hiring a licensed contractor, plumber, or electrician to do the work for you.

When undertaking a home improvement project, whether you’re buying or selling a home, you want to strike a balance between saving time by hiring a professional and saving money by doing it yourself. So here’s how to know when to hire a professional and when to go DIY.

Replacing Hardware — Do It Yourself

Need an upgrade from tarnished doorknobs, outdated cabinet pulls, or boring light switches? Pick up new hardware from a local home improvement store and go for it. Replacing hardware is a fairly simple fix that any homeowner can do on their own.

roofer's tool belt on top of a houseReplacing Roof Shingles — Hire a Professional

Unless you have significant roofing experience (and aren’t afraid of heights), you’re better off leaving this job to the professionals. Contractors can repair your roof in significantly less time — and save you risk of injury.

Installing Ceiling Fans or Light Fixtures — It Depends

If the wiring is already there, you can put in a new fan or light in your living room yourself with little problem. Just make sure that you’ve turned off the power on the circuit breaker before removing the original fixture.

However, if you want to add a ceiling fan or overhead light to a room that doesn’t have wiring already in place, you will need to hire an electrician. They will check to see if your home has sufficient amperage (and rewire the room if necessary), cut and patch drywall to install the fixture, and add a light switch.

Installing Major Appliances — Hire a Professional

Installing a new oven, refrigerator, washing machine, or dishwasher takes quite a bit of know-how, so you’re better off hiring a professional to get the job done right. They will check the wattage, check gas and water connections, and ensure that your new appliance is level, among other things.

white tile backsplash in updated kitchenAdding a Backsplash — Do It Yourself

Adding wall tile to your kitchen or bathroom is something you can do yourself. Home improvement stores have all the equipment you need, from mortar to tile cutters to the wall tiles themselves. When considering this DIY project, make sure that you have the time to prepare the mortar and grout, lay the tile, seal the backsplash, and allow everything to dry.

Adding Granite or Quartz Countertops — Hire a Professional

Upgrading your countertops involves precise cutting of the quartz or granite and assistance from several people to lift the heavy countertops — plus the initial assurance that your cabinets can support the weight of the heavy material. So when installing new granite or quartz counters, it’s better to hire a professional.

Need Recommended Service Providers?

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, we can connect you with trusted contractors, electricians, plumbers, and other professionals who can save you time and money on your home improvements. Contact us at 614-939-8944 or info@newalbanyohio.com and we’ll be happy to provide recommendations!

Tips for a Stress-Free Move with Your Pet

boxes and household items in moving boxesYou’ve just bought a new home, and Fluffy and Fido are starting to worry about all the moving boxes going into the truck outside. Pets can easily become stressed during a move, which might cause them to lose their fur, become aggressive, or even run away.

Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to reduce your pet’s anxiety before, during, and after your move.

Plan Ahead and In Detail

Many people consider their pets as part of the family, so it’s only natural to be concerned for their comfort and safety during a move. Meticulous planning well in advance of moving day is the best way to ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible with moving to a new home.

First, Make a Checklist of Moving Tasks

We recommend making a checklist of things to do — call the vet, have your pet microchipped, research veterinarians, buy calming medicine, etc. If you’re planning to transport your pet in a crate or carrier, take time to introduce them to it, especially if your dog or cat hasn’t been in their carrier in a while. Put their food or a few treats in it in the weeks before the move; that way, they’ll be more accustomed to the space and will feel less stressed.

Next, Gather Up These Important Documents

Your new state, county, or community might have different rules for owning a pet, so research what records you will need and what fees you must pay in order to register them. It might be best to put the following in one organized file just in case:

  • Vaccination records and health certificate
  • Rabies tags (if they’re not already on your pet’s collar)
  • Emergency contact info for your current veterinarian
  • Contact info for a recommended veterinarian

kitten chewing on a stuffed toyKeep Medication, Food, and Toys Handy

You won’t want to pack your pet’s medications, treats, toys, or food until moving day, so you may want to set aside a box just for your pet. Be sure to pack this box either in the car with you or within easy reach, just in case of an emergency.

Update Your Pet’s ID

Engrave a new ID tag with your new home address and phone number in case your pet gets lost. Hopefully, this will never happen, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Make sure that your dog or cat is microchipped or at least is wearing a collar, especially in the weeks leading up to moving day.

Keep Them Comfy on Moving Day

In the chaos of loading boxes into the moving van, the last thing you want to happen is your beloved furry friend escaping. Keep your dog or cat in a separate room with their toys, food, and carrier until the time comes to load them into the car. Alternatively, you could let a friend or family member pet sit until it’s time to go.

Book a Pet-Friendly Hotel in Advance

If you’re driving a long way or need to stay at a hotel overnight, reserve a pet-friendly hotel room well in advance so you’ll have one less thing to worry about on moving day.

senior couple with dog at the beachTake Plenty of Stops on Long Car Rides

While on extended car trips, take frequent stops along the way to give your pet fresh water and food, let your pet go to the bathroom, and take your dog for a refreshing walk around the rest area.

Give Them Time to Adjust to New Surroundings

Pets can become agitated when exposed to new surroundings, so it’s important to keep their collars on and keep an eye on them for the first few days after moving. Surround them with their favorite toys and comfort items, like a blanket or pet bed from the old house, to give them a familiar scent to latch on to.

Be sure to stick to a routine, too! Take your dog on a walk at the same time and stick to your regular feeding schedule.

We’ll Help You Move Quickly and Easily

owner playing with her catWe hope these moving tips will come in handy as you’re moving with your pets! If you haven’t yet settled on the perfect home or if you’re thinking of selling your current home, we can help you with all the details, not just the transaction.

Call us and we can talk about your plans.

The 5 Emotional Stages of Buying Your First Home

Ask anyone you meet and they’ll likely recall vivid details about their first roller coaster ride, their first day of school, or their first kiss. A first home purchase is no different! While buying your first home comes with its fair share of ups and downs, it will ultimately be an enjoyable experience you’ll remember for years to come.

two people jumping on a beach

Stage 1: Elation

You’ve checked your budget and the numbers all line up. You can now buy your first home! While you’re busy pinning home décor ideas to your Pinterest board, taking a peek at homes for sale in your favorite neighborhoods, and uncorking the champagne, you’re grinning from ear to ear. In no time, you’ll be stepping over the threshold of a home you can call yours.

deep hole lined with books

Stage 2: Apprehension

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of research involved with buying a home — something you’ve realized very quickly. You feel like you’re drowning in the vast sea of available homes, being crushed under the weight of your mounting to-do list, and losing your way down the rabbit hole of home buying tips and topics. Buying your first home is a bit more overwhelming than you thought!

But don’t worry. Once you’ve chosen a lender, gotten pre-approved for a loan, and found an experienced real estate agent, both of your trusted guides are there to help you with all the details.

children looking at a computer

Stage 3: Giddiness

With help from your awesome real estate agent, you’ve checked off all the items on your to-do list and have arrived at the fun stage: the house hunt! You feel like a little kid unwrapping a present when you see all those homes (in your price range!) with cool features like swimming pools, grassy yards, community amenities, and dreamy kitchens. Any one of these properties could potentially be your next home!

Armed with a pen, notepad, and your phone’s camera, you’re ready to explore your favorite homes and take note of what you liked. In one of the most emotional stages of the first-time home buying process, it’s hard not to fall in love with every home you visit!

person at the light at the end of the tunnel

Stage 4: Panic

Maybe the home you liked was sold before you could make an offer. Maybe you’ve taken a tour of ten listings and haven’t found “the one.” Maybe you realized you can’t afford your ideal home in the location you prefer. A million doubts start running through your mind: What if I miss out on my dream home? What if I can’t find the home I need? Will I have to settle for something beyond my budget? What if I won’t be able to buy my first home?!

But luckily, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Your real estate agent is here to provide you with an objective view of the situation, ease your fears, and work tirelessly to find you the right home.

a couple of homeowners in their first home

Stage 5: Bliss

Your real estate agent found a brand new listing for you and it’s a home you adore. And just like that, you’ve taken a tour, made an offer, and breezed through due diligence. You’ve just bought your first home!

Sure, it might not have all the fancy tech and high-end features like in HGTV’s dream home, but it has everything you need. And now it’s yours. Congratulations, new homeowner!

We’ll Minimize the Headaches

Whether you’re buying your first home or your fifth, the home buying process can come with its share of ups and downs. But we’re here to take the stress out of the whole process! Let’s chat about your plans, and we’ll help you discover the home you’ve been looking for quickly and easily.

Summer Housing Market Update

This summer, the housing market in New Albany is moving fast. With more than 22 years of experience helping clients buy and sell homes here, all of us at Thomas & Company have never seen a market this hectic. But the real question is what makes this market different and why is it such a great time to sell your home?

In short, New Albany is currently in a “perfect storm” market for sellers, where housing prices have been rising at the same time that inventory has remained very low. While the summer is typically a high time for buyers to start looking to begin with, the atypical drought of sellers has led to an unprecedented increase in demand. Right now, a majority of the well-priced homes hitting the market and going into contract in under a week – and often with multiple offers.

Earlier in this market frenzy, comparative sold listings were lagging behind; however, with 9-12 months of values consistently increasing, appraisals are finally reflecting the actual market value of homes in New Albany.

One thing that the real estate market is not right now is predictable. And, while the market seems to be trending upward, there is no guarantee that this will continue into the coming months or even weeks. If you have been considering selling your home, there is little doubt that you will get a better price in the future than you would today.

If you would like a better idea of what your home is currently worth, please reach out to someone here at Thomas & Company – we offer complimentary market valuations and expertise. And, with our suite of services, including home staging, professional photography, and a results-driven marketing plan, we’ll make your home stand out from the rest!

3 Home Selling Prep Essentials

You’ve got to start somewhere when preparing your home to sell, but it’s not where you would think. Before jumping right into cleaning, decluttering, staging, and marketing, take some time to review. Having a solid understanding of the real estate market and the home selling process is essential for a smooth and stress-free sale. So let’s get to it.

1. Know What’s Happening in the Real Estate Market

aerial view of residential community

Are homes in your community flying off the market in just a couple of days? Are properties selling over asking price again and again? What have homes like yours recently sold for? Knowing about current market conditions will give you an idea of how quickly your home is likely to sell, as well as how high a price you’re likely to receive. Ask us for a Neighborhood Sales Report for an inside look at market activity!

2. Find Out How Much Your Home is Worth

You’ve probably asked yourself “what’s my home worth?” a dozen times over the past few years. Now’s your chance to learn the answer!

When we’re determining how much homes are worth, we don’t just pull a number out of thin air. Home buyers are the ones who determine what properties are worth, so we take a look at current market activity (which you’ve already done!) to see how much buyers are willing to pay for homes like yours. At the end of all of our research, we have a detailed report of what your home is worth, which in the real estate industry is called a “comparative market analysis.” Call us and we’ll provide one for your home!

3. Wait Before Making Drastic Home Improvements

highly upgraded kitchenBefore you decide to shell out thousands of dollars to completely gut your kitchen and bathrooms, talk with a real estate agent who’s familiar with your community and what buyers are looking for in a home like yours. You may be surprised to learn that your potential buyers don’t want top-of-the-line appliances, quartz countertops, under-cabinet lighting, or any of those “must-haves” that you see on HGTV.

Save yourself the time, money, and headaches and talk with us. We can tell you which home improvements are worth the money and which ones aren’t.

Bonus Tip: Find the Right Real Estate Agent

The best way to save time, money, and unnecessary headaches? Work with a professional. The best real estate agent takes the time to understand your goals, provides you with the resources you need, and tells what to expect when selling your home. Plus, your real estate agent will be there to answer any questions you have at any time in the process.

We’d be happy to talk with you about your plans to sell your home. Call us!

What’s Hot in Home Design This Summer

Bright sunshine, warmer days, and a ton of new trends come with the change in season, and this summer certainly won’t disappoint. In the real estate world, these new trends revolve around the latest and greatest in wall colors and decorations, space savers, and creative living arrangements. We have our eye on a few interesting home décor ideas and hot home features that we think you’re going to love!

laptop sitting on marble countertop

Marble: A Sophisticated Look for Summer

Whether natural or imitation, marble is one of the top home décor trends for summer 2017. Designers are incorporating this luxe look into bathrooms and kitchens as expected, but they’re also taking it to everything from flower vases to side tables.

table with vintage dinner plates

Vintage Looks are Back in Style

1960s floral patterns have resurfaced in today’s home design magazines. Old World-inspired indigo dyes are popping up in everything from fabrics to bedspreads. Colorful melamine dinnerware is becoming popular in indoor and outdoor table settings. These nostalgic summer looks are sure to create the perfect feeling of “home.”

Today’s Buyers Crave These Trendy Home Features

Seasonal trends are not all about home décor. Outdoor entertaining spaces and smart-yet-sophisticated interior features are what buyers are searching for this summer. Are these popular home features on your must-have list?

sparkling swimming pool

Private Swimming Pools

With warm, sunshine-filled days ahead for summer, pools are at the top of most buyers’ home search lists. Backyard pools continue to be sought-after as both a focal point and a fun outdoor entertaining space.

neutral room with light wood floors

Lighter Hardwood Floors

Darker shades are out; bamboo, oak, and pecan flooring are on buyers’ must-have lists this summer. With these lighter shades in your living spaces, your home will seem even more light-filled and spacious.

kitchen with open floor plan

Spacious Open Floor Plans

This home design trend continues to be popular among home buyers. It’s not hard to understand why! Open floor plans create an effortless flow into any home and maximize every square inch of space.

We’ll Help You Find Your Dream Home

Have these décor ideas and trendy features on your mind as you search for a new place? We can help you find the perfect home and move you quickly through the process. Call us and let’s chat!