DO NOT OPEN!

When your mouse is not your friend.

mouse-pest-control_0 (Well, not this kind of mouse.)

 

Do not “click”, do not respond, do not trust…be paranoid.  Seriously.  Cyber fraud is big news these days.  Unfortunately, it’s everywhere and we’re direct targets.  Now that most transactions of any sort are taking place on the internet and through email, it’s crucial to be able to protect yourself against fraud and scams.  You don’t necessarily have to be paranoid, but maintaining a skepticism on the back burner of your brain is a good thing.  And now is a good time to train your finger to restrain your mouse.

Though there are a number of ways a scammer can scam, email tends to be one of the easiest targets because we get so many emails and because so many of us use email.  It was an article in RISMedia e-news, “Transacting Business in the Age of Wire Fraud”, that sparked this post’s topic.  Recently and increasingly, real estate and other business transactions are at risk of fraud through business email compromise, BEC, or “phishing”. As we watch news articles unfold about hackers getting into political campaigns, credit companies’ databases, and even social sites like Facebook, we might overlook that BEC is the fastest growing international crime, as sited by the FBI.  Getting caught by an email scammer is as simple as the click of a mouse or finger on the touchpad and can happen to even the most savvy computer whizzes.

So how can we minimize the danger?  There are a few really solid things a person can implement to boost protection and one of the most important of these– and perhaps most difficult –is mental.  Simply don’t automatically trust anything that comes into your email.  An email that might look so innocent could actually be the worst nightmare you can face.  Unfortunately this is counter to the way people function.  We don’t want to be rude or be distrustful.  We want to be helpful and want to follow the directions.  That’s exactly what the cyberthief is preying on.  So you have train yourself to be suspicious of all emails, even one that looks like it’s from a friend.  Below are links to specific actions you can take, but the baselines you must follow is: DO NOT EVER provide personal and financial information through email.  Legitimate companies won’t ask you to.  The IRS won’t ask you to.  Your bank won’t ask you to.  So just don’t.  If it looks strange, don’t open it.  If it comes from what looks to be an institution you deal with but the grammar is off or the address just doesn’t look right, then go with your gut.  If you don’t really feel comfortable clicking a link, then don’t.   For example, I got an email from a former client that looked something like this:

From:  James Client             RE: http://do.notclickthis.fake.link.com

My suspicion was raised for a few reasons.  The supposed sender was a former client that I hadn’t talked with in a long while; the text began with “RE:” as if it was responding to something I’d sent;  also it didn’t makes sense that he didn’t begin with something like, Got A Real Estate Question, which fits his and my relationship.  It just didn’t look right and I didn’t click it.   “Not clicking” is another mental challenge like the like the desire to be trusting.  Those of us who really gotta know what something says have to just get over it!

To make sure you don’t feel like a jerk to the person who sent the email, call them or write them a separate email and ask if they sent it.  Very easy.  Not only will you not offend them, but you might have saved them some headache if they find out their account has been hacked.  If it’s business and you’re worried that you should respond, again just call.  Do you think that’s a strange note from your doctor?  Don’t click the link, just call.  As a real estate professional, I can state unequivocally that you should never follow wiring instructions through an email without confirming the email’s legitimacy.  People have lost 100’s of thousands of dollars wiring the cash to purchase their new home to what they thought was the right location but actually was a cyberthief.  When that happens, 100’s of thousands of dollars are gone and cannot be retrieved.  Gone.   No new house.  The possibility of this happening far outweighs the possibility that you’ve offended someone.

Take a look at the sites below and get to know the things you should look out for.  And at the very least, Do not “click”, do not respond, do not trust…be paranoid.  DO NOT OPEN!

Glossary:

Phishing: the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Link: the underlined usually bolded and colored data string that when clicked takes you to another location on the web, the two links below are examples.

Site security: different programs that can boost protection against phishing

Cyber: relating to or characteristic of the culture of computers and information technology and virtual reality.  Otherwise known as “all that stuff out there in space” (my personal definition).

Hacker: one who uses computers to gain unauthorized access to data.

http://www.phishing.org/10-ways-to-avoid-phishing-scams

https://www.wired.com/2017/03/phishing-scams-fool-even-tech-nerds-heres-avoid/

Asheville Area 2017 Real Estate Market Review…WOW!

2017 Year End Report Cover
The Asheville area finished up the year with historic results mimicking much of the country. In general, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller reports that at the end of 2017 the index showed prices equal to those in 2007 right before the market crash. There will likely be a little slowing with possible rate increases and market correction; however, the area is incredibly robust and Buncombe real estate pressures have spilled over into the surrounding areas, with Henderson County showing dramatic price increases. Places to keep an eye on are Canton, Brevard, and Maggie Valley. For better or worse, our sleepy little WNC is more awake than ever! Call us for more information and to talk further about any points.
As Top Ten producers in our office, Ben and I truly appreciate helping you and your friends and family have great experiences with their real estate transactions. We’re never too busy for you!

 

Give Your REALTOR Some Love…

We’ve seen things that cannot be unseen.  17 years into this business, I know some crazy stuff that I never would have thought of before.  When you’re in high school or college, do you expect to know about the different types of septic systems there are?  What about protocol in discovering a marijuana growing operation while showing a home?  Certainly every business and occupation has the bizarre element and I’m not devaluing that, just giving some insight into why we brokers need some love!

Most people expect their broker to have more knowledge about “property stuff” than they do.  But what about insight into septic drainfields and how deep the tanks need to be, or water run-off issues and why cows shouldn’t stand in creeks, or how to spot a meth lab?  Though we’re not supposed to be experts, we are expected to have some basic knowledge of overall conditions and about protecting our clients and ourselves from hazardous situations.  I have had training to know what to look out for regarding meth labs, dangerous substances and natural growth things in homes (think mold or rotting stuff), and suspected illegal activity.  Seriously.  One continuing education class covered the signs of a meth operation – pseudoephedrine, spent batteries, lighters.  And that class included the ominous information that a meth house is itself poisonous and hazardous to your health if you’re not protected when entering (and we’re supposed to know that?)  Sadly, this info came in handy when my buyer and I stumbled across what fit the criteria above in a basement one time.  We left.  Quickly.

Though not all discoveries are dire, many are flat out unique, and some funny.  Additional to business hazards and property issues, there are the unique experiences that stick with us.

Here’s a list of my colleagues or my more memorable experiences and/or some interesting knowledge that I’ve gleaned from years in the business, not in any order of funny or bleck and ewwww:

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  • Opening the refrigerator in a home with the electricity turned off (never, ever do this);
  • Discovering the person in the corner of the basement of a vacant home, hidden by a sheet, moaning…;
  • The lone wooden child’s chair in the middle of a closed off room in the basement;
  • The functioning toilet in the living room, next to the fireplace;
  • The blood coming from the freezer dripping down the front of the ‘fridge (turns out the power was off and there was a part of a deer carcass in the freezer);
  • The deceased pet dog in the backyard;
  • The nude person in bed;
  • The drunk and nude person on the floor;
  • Any number of nude photos, statues, art, etc. in homes;
  • The lunatic buyer trying to search all the bathrooms for drugs;
  • Having the Master Gunnery Sergeant of the Marine Corps Band for the White House nap in the passenger seat;
  • I personally love snakes but I don’t really like surprises.
  • That you can pump waste uphill to the tank (and pray the line never bursts);
  • Not all dogs bite, but some do;
  • Not all cats scratch, but some do;
  • Most days are normal, but some aren’t.

I’m not retired from this business and won’t be for a long time so I’m sure that this list will continue to grow, entertain, and dismay.  Even now the legalization of marijuana in many states can leave brokers in a bind since not all growing and consumption is legal and we have an obligation to report criminal activity.  It’s a fine line that we walk a lot.  The prevalence of in-home security cameras is creating a whole new set of laws regarding privacy.  What problems will cryptocurrency create?  Online hacking is already a problem with wiring funds and such.

Again, each job has it’s “thing” just like each person does.  It’s just nice to have our clients know that behind the smiling face in the glamour shot is a mind that has seen things the likes of which cannot be unseen!

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Got a story?  Share it with us!

GET OUT NOW, er, YESTERDAY!

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Something that makes for a bad day in real estate for me and other agents is the buyer’s agent calling during the pre-closing walk-through of a home I have listed and saying to the effect: “Um, it doesn’t look like the seller is moving.”  What?  “They haven’t packed.  It doesn’t look like they plan to leave.”

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It’s two hours before the closing of the sale.  The sellers haven’t packed.  Haven’t packed?  How?  Why? Crazy as this sounds, it happens all too often.  My personal experience includes, on the day of closing, sellers frantically giving me groceries from their fridge; a seller giving me a hermit crab he was going to throw away (what else can I do with it, he asks); one couple had to hire an emergency “haul away” company to load up a full flatbed truck of things they ran out of time to pack–Waterford crystal and an Art Deco sideboard among the items.  Just hauled off to the junk store.  After the closing had occurred.   (The same sellers stopped to make some coffee right in the middle of the chaos, meaning of course that the coffee maker wasn’t packed).  Meanwhile, the buyers’ movers were on their way and we were going to end up with two households in one, a very messy situation.  In all of these cases I had spoken with the sellers each day leading up to the closing asking what they needed.   Each time “everything was fine”.

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Certainly these are extreme cases, but ask any real estate agent if they’ve had the same or similar and you’ll get a resounding “yes”.  The most typical situation is that the seller isn’t quite done yet…a few things here and there still waiting to be moved, just enough to hamper the buyer moving in and maybe really irritating them.  So why does this happen?  “They’re stubborn!”  “They’re selfish!”  are likely conclusions at the emotional peak of the moment.  But, back up a little and maybe the sellers just didn’t plan well.  Back up further and maybe the sellers flat out didn’t know how to move, not only how long it takes, but the logistics of packing and getting out.  And they’re often too embarrassed to ask for help.

So, if you, or someone you know, might fall into the above category, here are a few tips to help you out:

Start immediately. The moment you realize you plan to move, start the moving process.

Reduce.  Get rid of everything you don’t plan to take with you.  One great advantage of this is the task of moving becomes less overwhelming.

Make a “room list” and include what needs to be done in each room.  Give extra time for kitchens and garages.

Start packing.  Is it summertime?  Pack up your winter clothes and toys.  Do you have heirloom china you love but never use?  Pack it up.  And label it!

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Google “how to pack and move”; there are hundreds of resources on line.  WikiHow offers a pretty comprehensive run-down of the process (link below).

Hire people who specialize in packing…not movers, but packers.  Believe it or not, there are people who actually like to pack! (There are people who love ironing, too: I’m in awe!)

Be obsessive about time and cost. You really can’t over prepare for a residential move, especially if it has been years since your last move.

ASK FOR HELP!  Friends love to help friends…before an emergency.

There is an unpleasant reality that can come into play if you are not out of the house on time.  The moment the new deed is recorded, you no longer own the home, the buyers do.  They can legally change the locks or deny you entrance into the home.  You are in real danger of losing your possessions or at least getting into a very nasty battle.  Just don’t go there.  Move in time.  Your agent has a lot of resources; use them.  Enlist the support of others.

Regardless of how you do it, if your closing is today,

GET OUT YESTERDAY!

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WikiHow Moving Checklist

 

DO NOT WAIT UNTIL SPRING!

biltmore village christmas

The REAL reason to keep your home on the market during the winter

Maybe in waaaaaay northern areas of our country the real estate market crashes during winter, but not here.  One of the major attractions to our region is our four-season climate.  No matter which season you love, we have it here.  That also means we have visitors year-round.  Winter brings beautiful decorations of all kinds, twinkling lights all over the city, and the temperatures that make us feel in a holiday mood.  Downtown is packed; Biltmore Village is packed; Pack Place is, well, packed!  People from all over are here falling in love with the area and wanting to see what homes they can purchase.  I know, because that’s what my family did!

So your home’s been on the market and you decide to take it off because no one searches for homes during the winter, it’s a down time.  It is during winter that we have what is probably the only period during the year there’s any kind of a “down” time: maybe from the second week of January until the second week of February…the heat of romance on Valentine’s day starts the crowds back up, I suppose.   Based on data, though, this down time doesn’t really apply to real estate.

SAM 11 2017

The graph shows the trend moved upward in the winter of 2016 to 2017.*

There is a real risk in leaving the market until Spring.  Certainly, when your home returns to the market, the agents know its history and it becomes stale.  More importantly, buyers feel you’re not motivated; if you took the home off the market for a couple of months, then obviously you’re not serious about selling.  So why should a buyer bother with an unmotivated seller.  Unless…the seller has made a serious price reduction.  Ah, that shows some motivation.  But maybe you wouldn’t have had to lower the price if you stayed on the market through the winter.  First, there are fewer homes on the market which makes demand for yours much higher.  Secondly, there really isn’t a significant price drop during the winter.  The list-to-sell ratio in November 2016 was 96.2%.  At the height of the market this year, May to June, the list-to-sell was 96.6%…a difference of .004% doesn’t really reflect a “down” market.

So, be a maverick!  Keep your home on the market during the Winter.  Better yet, list your home with us today and stand out in the crowd.  We’ll be happy to help you with that; just give us a call!

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*All data is based on Buncombe County, residential sales, all price ranges, no special circumstances such as bank-owned or distressed.

Climate Change Resilience in Real Estate

 

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover from difficulties; toughness.  As it specifically relates to social communities, resilience is the ability of a system or community to survive disruption and to anticipate, adapt, and flourish in the face of change.

Tacking onto the blog from last week about natural disasters and the cost to rebuild, it makes sense to talk about how adapt to these costly disasters in the first place.  Setting aside climate change as a politically-charged debate topic, industry leaders are building climate change into their five, 10, and 100-year plans.  It is having an impact on the housing industry accept it or not.   The hot topic is resilience and it has everything to do with property values, insurance rates, and population movement.  At its core, resilience in housing starts with location, location, location.   Not a shock; people don’t want to buy homes in locations that are more exposed to danger.   So what trends are there?  Miami continues to be a trendsetter but now the trend isn’t fun.  It’s a well known fact that high tides already flood portions of Miami, most specifically Miami Beach which is a barrier island (no longer being very effective at doing its title job).  As recently as October 5, the high tides made Miami Beach, and also inland Miami, looked like a tropical storm had come through http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-king-tides-flooding-city-like-a-hurricane-again-today-9725153.  (Though, the jury is still out on how many fish swim in the street as Obama’s famous “fish in the street” comment through up debate:  http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2015/dec/04/barack-obama/do-fish-swim-streets-miami-high-tide-barack-obama-/ )

Compared to national sales, property sales in Miami are down—a slow but steady trend that was occurring prior to this year’s rounds of tropical storms and hurricanes.  Investors are already moving inland and there’s a rise of gentrification of lower economic areas as what was once less desirable higher ground further into Miami is becoming more desirable than traditionally expensive oceanfront property. Hugh Gladwin, http://www.climatecentral.org/news/climate-change-us-real-estate-prices-21720

What does this mean for areas that are more adaptable and resilient?  Say, Western NC for example?  As more disaster-prone areas see more and costlier disasters such as Harvey, people will migrate to safer locations like ours.  We are less prone to tornados, less prone to flooding like tidal surges (though still prone to river flooding), and less prone to fire (though drought has seen this change a little, i.e. Fall 2016 fires throughout the mountain region).  Asheville is already a top 10 destination; can we handle a surge of population growth and increased prices?  Certainly more people means more building, more need for infrastructure, and a huge impact on the land.  The ability to handle this impact will also affect our resilience.  Time to keep a keen eye on how our institutions face this challenge.

If this topic piques your curiosity, check out at some extra articles that I ran across listed below.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/31/us-risk-flooding-harvey-boston-new-york-miami-beach

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/saving-budget/articles/2017-04-14/how-climate-change-will-impact-homeowners-insurance

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170817092825.htm

I’m not sure this following list takes into account dangers other than climate change such as earthquakes and pollution: http://www.businessinsider.com/best-us-cities-escape-climate-change-2017-9/#philadelphia-pennsylvania-13

 

 

The Disasters Were Horrific: Will Rebuilding Be Worse?

When thinking about a good topic to reignite my blog it seemed obvious that as a home specialist, the effects of the recent and ongoing natural disasters on U.S. housing stock would be a good choice.  Going into the research I assumed that building material shortages would be the biggest factor in cost and speed of recovery.  Though materials are an issue, the more important shortage is labor.  Nationally we were facing a labor shortage before Harvey, Irma, Maria, and the California fires (see graphic below).  The National Mortgage News reports that shortages of labor have kept construction underperforming recently as it is. (www.nationalmortgagenews.com/news/more-hurricane-pain-fewer-homes-shortage-of-construction-workers) “In Santa Rosa alone, the fires have consumed 2,834 homes, roughly six times the number of new residential units that will be produced this year in all of Sonoma County,” reports www.sfgate.com.  (www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/costruction-labor-shortage-will-slow-post-fire-1277178.php) The same article quotes CEO of North Coast Builders Exchange, Keith Woods, saying that contractors already weren’t able to find workers for remodels and repairs before the fire.  Replacing homes won’t be the only need; there’s the infrastructure, say telephone poles for example.  The businesses need rebuilding as well.  And this is just California, the most recent of our nation’s disasters.  Estimates are that Houston has lost over 15,000 homes with hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses damaged.  Then there’s Florida with at least 25% of homes destroyed in Key West alone.  And, worse is Puerto Rico where numerous online searches yielded specific numbers of people without power, without food, without pretty much anything, but no clear number of structures destroyed outside of the ubiquitous term “complete destruction”.

We know that material costs, lumber, sheet rock, etc., will skyrocket.  We wonder how we will pay for the repairs.  But it seems that even before these two issues are addressed, we have to figure out who is going to rebuild these homes and businesses.  I wish I had the answer; but though I don’t it will certainly be an interesting subject to watch play out in the social, political, economic, and psychological circles of our society.  I’ll try to keep you posted.

Skilled labor graphic