Monthly Archives: October 2016

Ways to Know if a Neighborhood is Safe

No matter where you decide to live, there are so many things that need to be kept in mind before you reach a conclusion. The house must suit your tastes and budget, fulfill any special requirements that you may desire and the location must meet your needs. The safety of the neighborhood is also an important factor that many of us pay little attention to. If you are shifting to a new area, you must be aware of the local crime rate and whether you can deal with staying there for a long term. A family and a bachelor/bachelorette have diverse necessities from each other and, hence, different parameters to judge the safety of a neighborhood. But, ultimately, the most basic need that a house must fulfill is a safe neighborhood. You can use the help of the following guidelines to know if a neighborhood that you contemplate living in is safe.

How to Find a Safe Neighborhood?

American neighborhoods have become a lot more dangerous than they used to be five decades back. The increasing crime rate calls for full attention that must be paid while buying a house. It is easier now to research on anything because the Internet is loaded with information. Use it to know more about your prospective neighborhood.

If you are a single girl, better check out the rape statistics at the Uniform Crime Report on FBI’s website. You can also walk over to the town’s police department or other local authorities’ offices and place your queries. They will have the accurate data and dirt on every neighborhood with the latest reports. Also, check out the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public registry.

Another smart way is to ask people around in the neighborhood. It’s best for bachelors like you if you are planning on moving alone, else you can ask families living around to help you. Don’t just ask people who own the houses, also interview people who are staying on lease agreements or on rental basis, especially the newly shifted ones if you happen to find out. Friendly neighbors who care about their counterparts can make your stay safer. A well-kept neighborhood is a sign of a well-maintained area inhabited by a close-knit community. Crime scenes at such places are lower than others. If you are moving in with children, avoid high traffic areas. You don’t want to stop your children from playing outside in future or have a mishap occur when they do. It’s not just about robberies that may take place over there, it is also about the safety of your children. Also, check out the rate of child sex offenders in the same area. Your child’s safety comes first. Also, you should try to find out if the neighborhood has appointed any security to keep a watch. There are many offenses that may take places ranging from hit and run to vandalism of property by rowdy teenagers, etc.

Stay Smart with Apps

Did you know? Your smartphone does not only help you stay connected to social networking sites, but it also helps protect you. How? Check out the apps! There are a few apps available that can contribute to your research about the safety of neighborhoods you are interested in. One such app that you can download on your iPhone is “Lethal”. It uses your phone’s GPS to locate you and how dangerous the neighborhood is. It also tells you about the likelihood of natural disasters, animal attacks and diseases in that area. Android users can download “Safe Neighborhood” that gives you access to the National Public Sex Offender Registry. Search for the neighborhood and the app will show the area marked with the details of all sex offenders that reside there. Another app developed for the same purpose is “StrangerDanger”. It boats of displaying the most accurate information than any of its counterparts.

In older times, when there was no Internet, people took the help of newspapers to ascertain if a neighborhood was safe. Open the local section of your newspaper to find out about the ongoing crime scenes in different neighborhoods of the city. Apart from these measures, find out the selling history of the neighborhood. It will tell you if the neighborhood is one of the sought after areas. People are most interested in safer neighborhoods while vacated neighborhoods are a sign that something wrong may be going on. Always pay attention to minute details like congested area, broken windows, unmowed lawns, street lighting and the behavior of people. Listen to your instincts about buying a house. You won’t regret it later.

Post recession, many Americans have made a move to a more affordable neighborhood to survive on their low-income and savings. Do not be lured by cheap real estate rates. Apart from ensuring the safety of the neighborhood, make sure you go through the final checklist for buying a house before you make the big decision to spend your savings.

Avoid Low Income Housing Programs

download-1Shelter is one of the basic needs of human beings. The shade of a roof brings with it feelings of safety, relaxation, and peace of mind. Undoubtedly, home buying tops the list of priorities for the majority of the people. For financially strong families, purchasing one is not a difficult task. But for the low income group, the dream to buy a house often seems to be lost in oblivion. With these programs, it’s possible for them to afford a house. Low income housing programs have been in existence since a long time. Yet, a shortage of affordable homes has been a problem that has the plagued the nation since decades.

Government Assistance

To curb the problem of homelessness in America and to help those who are on the verge of it, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was constituted by the US government. According to the HUD, there are three such programs for families falling under the low income bracket viz.:

  1. Privately Owned Subsidized Housing
  2. Public Housing
  3. Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8)

Privately Owned Subsidized Housing

In this scheme, the landlord of a private property agrees with the HUD to provide accommodation to lower income groups, on affordable prices. In return, the HUD offers subsidies from the government that the landlord can use for managing expenditure on rental properties. Due to these subsidies, it’s possible for the landlord to cut down on rental costs. Privately-owned properties are also those that have been constructed by large corporate construction firms.

Public Housing

Apartments on rent are a possibility in today’s era and public housing schemes have increased the hopes of low income families. This program offers assistance to people with disabilities, senior citizens, and to families in the low income bracket. Financial assistance is offered to local housing agencies (HAs) that help such families to manage the rent that is difficult for them to arrange. Based on your annual gross income or if you qualify in the category of a disabled person, you’ll be awarded affordable rent under this program.

Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8)

In the housing choice voucher program (section 8), every family is provided with vouchers that can be used to pay the rent. Funded by the federal government, the objective of distributing vouchers is carried out by nearly 24,000 local, state, and regional housing agencies. Once a family gets the voucher, it has 60 days to find a house. The advantage of using the voucher is that the family has to pay only 30% of the total rent. Rest of the cost is managed through the voucher. In this program, the housing agencies look after the house and its safety standards; only then is it declared suitable for living.

For availing the benefits of such programs, one has to contact the HUD office or directly log on to their website and register. By visiting the website, you can also search for the local HUD office address and contact number. There are several counseling facilities provided by the HUD, so ensure that you take the benefit of such facilities. For detailed information about these programs and other laws of the HUD, one must visit their official website to get all the relevant information.

Ways to Customize a Rental Apartment

downloadThe monotonous walls, the unamusing flooring, and the lighting which makes you feel like you are in captivity are some of the salient features of a typical rental flat (unless you are willing to spend a lot on the rent!). Living in a rental apartment can be very boring, as the stipulations of your rigid landlord restricts you from implementing any major ideas for refurbishing the flat.

A rented flat will always be accompanied by restrictions, but that does not mean you continue living in a place which does not make you feel good. The only way to deal with the lack of vitality in your rented flat is to customize it, but you should also take care that your customization does not violate any clauses in your rental agreement.

Ideas to Customize a Rental Flat

I am assuming that your landlord is not so accommodating (if he is, then you are lucky! He might also contribute to the refurbishing process), so I have not included extreme customization ideas.

Handling the Space Crunch
The most prominent problem that you might face in your rented flat is the lack of space. This makes you think that no customization ideas will work, as you have no room to implement it. The first thing that you should do is observe the rented flat, and note what is really important. If you do not feel it is necessary (and it does not belong to your landlord), get rid of it. This will give you more room. If your sofa is not sectional, replace it with one, as sectional sofas offer more utility. You should hide your storage space, you can use blinds to do so. It will help, if your storage area is not distributed, as you will not have to search in different locations, when you want to find something. In addition to your walls, you can also use your ceiling to implement storage ideas (floor storage is also a nice idea, but your landlord may not allow it). Vertical blinds can also be used to divide the area of your rental apartment. Using modular furniture is the best way to tackle space crunch.

Decorating Your Rented Flat
Once you have utilized the space in your apartment effectively, you can focus on making your flat beautiful. The first thing you should do is, paint the walls (your landlord may not allow the use of bright colors, so do consult him before you start painting). Aesthetic paintings will surely embellish your apartment. See that any artwork that you add on the walls complements your apartment. Using lamps is another great idea to decorate your home. Place a floor lamp next to your sectional sofa, a lamp on your table, and install a dangling lamp in the corners, devoid of light. If you do not like the carpet, you can always rely on rugs to cover it up. To make your bathroom look better, you can change the shower head, and the tap fittings. If you want to make your windows more appealing, then you try using other alternatives to cover your window, instead of the typical vertical blinds.

Colors can have a great influence on the beauty of your home. So, keep this in mind when you paint, or buy any furniture, or when you buy fabric. Plants can also be a great addition to your rental flat, and you can also go for an aquarium, but you have to invest time and effort to take care of them.

Before you sign any room rental agreement, do make a point to inquire whether your prospective landlord will be ready to accommodate any customization ideas. Your landlord’s approval is a must, before you begin refurbishing.

Real Estate Marketing Tips for You

images-2People who are interested in acquiring or selling property, can contact either a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent respectively. Real estate agents work for brokers, and earn a commission on purchases and sales. Generally, a seller’s agent earns more than a buyer’s agent, since the latter is paid a percentage of the purchase price or listed price as commission, while the former earns a percentage of the sales price as commission. A good buyer’s agent needs to bring down the purchase price of the property, while a good seller’s agent ensures that the property is sold to the highest bidder. Hence, the difference in remuneration. Regardless of whether one is a broker or a real estate agent, one needs to market the investment property in a manner that is appealing to the buyer. The following tips may be useful to Realtors and brokers desirous of clinching a good deal.

Effective Communication
The importance of good communication skills cannot be underestimated since the agent or the broker needs to convey his/her beliefs, ideas, and thoughts to the customer (buyer or seller) and assess the needs of the prospective buyer or seller and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. An agent or a broker who has a number of property listings will be unable to clinch a buyer unless he/she is able to present the property in a manner that appeals to the aesthetic sense of the customer. The unique selling proposition (USP) of the house should be clearly communicated. Again, a seller’s agent needs to be able to convince the customer about the prudence of entrusting the task of selling the property to him/her. This brings us to the mode of communication.

Nowadays, e-business is the preferred mode of conducting transactions. It comprises setting up a website, helping the potential clients navigate through the website, and showcasing the available products in a manner that would encourage prospective customers to transact with the real estate agent/broker. Virtual tours are an excellent way of providing buyers a glimpse of the home. The buyer can have the satisfaction of touring the entire house or property that he/she is interested in with the aid of slide shows and accompanying audio description. People who are looking to sell their property need to have confidence in the professional who professes to sell the property for a profit. The seller’s agent needs to ensure that the website describes, in detail, the professional services that can be expected from the seller’s agent. The professional needs to distinguish himself/herself from competitors, and communicate with clarity and precision the extent of services that can be expected by the customer. Moreover, the website should not lack visibility. Again, video clips of the homes that have been sold by the agent/broker, may help drive home the point. The agent/broker may also upload a small video clip of himself/herself to make the presentation seem less impersonal.

Permission based email marketing is a highly effective promotion strategy since the product information, or in this case, information about real estate, is supplied to people who are looking to buy or sell real estate. Contrary to popular belief, email marketing generates the maximum return on investment as compared to the other modes of direct marketing. The Direct Marketing Association has predicted that the return on investment in case of email marketing for the year 2009 is expected to be $43.52 per dollar spent. Sometimes, local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) may be the best bet as far as promotion is concerned.

The above list is not comprehensive. Ultimately, agents need to find a system that works for them. Designing a good website, permission based email marketing, and using MLS may attract potential clients. However, the ability to complete the transaction is contingent to the agent’s prowess as a good salesperson.