Investing in Pennsylvania Real Estate

According to Forbes Magazine the Pittsburgh real estate market is the top market in the United States. There are a number of reasons for this coveted ranking. Pittsburgh has all of the fundamentals of a market that does well in both good and bad economies.

The job market is stable and diversified. Top job creators in the Pittsburgh metro area include hospitals, universities, natural gas production, and high-tech related fields. So a catastrophe in one job sector doesn’t plunge the city into chaos. The days of the old steel mills and single industry dependence are gone. Job growth has reversed, what had been a decade long trend of population loss. Now the majority of Western PA communities are experiencing upticks in population. The new arrivals tend to be younger, well-educated, and well paid.

The city of Pittsburgh has been named the “Most Livable” city in America 3 times, in 2005, 2009, and 2011. A recent write-up about the award stated “Pittsburgh topped a list put out by British magazine The Economist, which ranked Pittsburgh No. 1 in the United States, and 29th worldwide. Forbes gave Pittsburgh high marks for its arts and leisure scene, job prospects, safety and low-cost of living. The article also cited the city’s strong university presence with more than a dozen campuses”.

From a real estate investor’s perspective, the city is a gold mine. Property values have risen steadily over the past 20 years. Even when the market crashed, the value of Pittsburgh property held steady. At the worst point, property values were stagnant for two years.

The pillar of the local property market that attracts investors is the ease of creating positive cash flow. Compared to many American MSA’s the Pittsburgh area is very inexpensive. Median home prices are in the low $120,000 range. Add this to the robust rental market and you have a formula for significant positive cash flow.

Foreign investors, hedge funds, and out-of-state investors have been slow to realize the value of this region. Unlike some of the boom and bust markets that overheat when times are good, South West Pennsylvania has never been a flashy market. Investors have been able to grow their property portfolios with the steady relatively safe growth strategy that creates millionaire investors.

The only down side to this otherwise perfect market is that some of the techniques that investors rely on in other markets are largely irrelevant in Pittsburgh. Short sale specialists will find very little to target in the region. Companies that specialize in buying homes in foreclosure can do well but not like the feeding frenzy that boom and bust cities offer.

Pittsburgh is also a region of neighborhoods. Desirable parts of town co-exist in close proximity to war zones. The difference can be a single street. It takes a deal of local knowledge to know where to invest and what prices to pay. Many out-of-town investors have bought in neighborhoods that they should have avoided, and done so at prices that no local would pay. So it might be a good idea to seek out a local business connection before entering this market.

The biggest opportunity in the region might be for non-real estate investors. People who are looking to get a high rate of return on their retirement accounts should seriously consider looking at Pittsburgh. A steady and safe market is just the ticket for retirement accounts and IRA’s. All you need is an established real estate investor and a self-directed IRA custodian.

How To Save Money On Car Insurance For Young Drivers? Read To Know

The cost of car insurance policy is determined by many factors typically examined by insurance companies online such as driver’s age, the location where he mostly drives a car on, the make and model of car, driver’s driving experience, etc. Insurance companies take into considerations these factors to figure out if driver will be a high risk. Usually, young drivers are considered risky as they are less likely to have good driving experience and skills. This is why it is challenging to qualify for cheap car insurance for young drivers. But, the interesting thing is that today many online insurance companies specialize in offering various discounts which you can earn to reduce your insurance cost or simply get cheap car insurance for young drivers. Before applying for insurance policy, it is advisable to get some knowledge about the same.

If you install security or safety devices in your car, you are less likely to get injured or your vehicle is less likely to get easily stolen or damaged. Many online insurance companies offer discounts for the same. Moreover, if you want to save money, you should think of joining a recognized driving course. This will improve your driving experience as well as skills and also could get you one more discount. One more way to get best affordable auto insurance is to drive less. If you drive less, the possibilities of accidents or similar circumstances leading to insurance claims will get reduced. Some insurance providers also offer discounts to students who score good grades. Besides, your driving location also affects insurance cost. Even make and model of car will affect what you will pay for insurance policy. Some vehicles are expensive to be insured while other cars are not too expensive.

Thus there are many aspects which you should work on to save money. But, most importantly, you need to locate insurance company which offers the most affordable auto insurance rate and also multiple discounts. One of the easiest ways to locate best insurance company in your local area which is willing to provide affordable car insurance with many discounts is to take free professional assistance of a reputable online car insurance service. These services which are closely connected with a huge online network of insurance providers that offer cheapest car insurance quotes will help you to get easy and quick access to best insurer.

The risk factor associated with you will affect your insurance cost significantly. So, it could be advisable to see if you can reduce the risk taken by insurance company by following some expert guidelines and improve your eligibility for affordable auto insurance rate. Get assisted by experienced car finance specialist to know what these guidelines are and how to get cheap car insurance for young drivers.

Log on to FreeCarInsuranceQuote.ca to get more information on young driver affordable car insurance in Canada. It offers various discount on premiums to lower down your monthly payments and helps you to save money. The interest rates are also so minimal compare to market rates. Visit us soon.

Need to Sell Your House Fast? Find Your Local Real Estate Investor!

Do you want to sell your house fast? Do you need quick cash for your house? Selling your house fast for cash can be a difficult task to accomplish. Should you list with a Realtor? Try to sell “for sale by owner?” What are those “we buy houses” signs all about? What is my best option to SELL MY HOUSE FAST? Let’s take a look at each of the possible solutions to sell your house fast for cash.

The first option that most people think about is selling through a Realtor. This is generally not a FAST solution. The average days on market in this economy is over 120 days. People often have the misconception that listing with a Realtor means you will get a full price offer and all that you have to pay is a 6% commission. Reality is much different.

After waiting 3+ months (again, not fast), the best offer you will receive is likely 5-15% below “list price.”
The buyer’s mortgage company will likely ask you to make repairs before they approve the loan ($10,000? $50,000? More?).
After the long wait and you paying for the repairs, you also will pay a 6% commission, 3% seller concessions, and 2% closing costs.
Adding up all of those percentages and costs means your true net profit is a lot closer to 75% of the list price.

Maybe selling through a Realtor is not for you. You can always try to sell your house “for sale by owner.” Selling “for sale by owner” is for the do-it-yourself crowd. Are you up for the task? Let’s review exactly what this entails.

You will have to do a lot of marketing: put signs up in your yard and around your neighborhood, update and maintain advertisements on multiple websites, pay for ads in the local newspaper, take hundreds of pictures, and the list goes on and on.
After starting to market your house for sale, your phone will start ringing. Are you prepared to answer 5, 10, 25, or 50 phone calls per week? When will you find the time to talk to the buyers – nights and weekends?
Showing your house to complete strangers can be very stressful. Many will just be nosy neighbors who want to see what other houses in their community look like. How will you weed out the “just looking” crowd from the serious buyers?
You will eventually receive an offer that you find acceptable (possibly much lower than you originally anticipated because you just want to be done with the stress of the process!).
There are still hurdles to get through the closing. If the buyer is getting a loan, all of the appraisals and inspections apply just as if you had listed with a Realtor.
Is this process worth all the stress and headaches?

There is also a third alternative. You can sell your house fast to a professional real estate investor. Have you ever seen those “we buy houses” signs on the side of the road? Those signs are usually placed by real estate investors. When selling to a real estate investor, you can sell your house fast, sell your house for cash, and leave the headaches behind you. Real estate investors will likely make you a variety of offers. Let’s examine each of these below.

Investors will make you a cash offer. Because investors provide a simple, hassle-free solution to sell your house fast, they only buy houses for cash when the seller is willing to offer a discount on the purchase price. There are many benefits of accepting this offer.

Investors buy your house “as-is” so you do not need to make any repairs yourself.
Selling to an investor means a fast closing, most likely within 30 days, and possibly faster.
Some investors even pay all the closing costs!
You just sell your house fast and collect your cash!

Investors will also make “creative” offers. Creative offers allow investors to pay higher purchase prices, but the seller must be flexible. Examples of creative offers are “seller-financing,” “subject-to,” and “lease-option.” These methods allow investors to pay closer to the actual retail price of the house.

Seller-financing is when the seller agrees to take a small down payment and then receive payments over time until the full purchase price is paid.
Subject-to is when the investor simply takes over the payments of the seller’s existing mortgage.
Lease-option is when the investor leases a house from the seller, so long as they receive an option to purchase the house at a later date.

Do not discount these creative methods because they take away the financial headaches of double mortgage payments, or they allow the seller to receive the benefit of monthly income for a period of time.

If you need to sell your house fast, you want to sell your house for cash, and/or you are a flexible seller, it is well worth your time to contact a local real estate investor. Look for a “we buy houses” sign or simply Google “we buy houses” and your city name (example: “we buy houses pittsburgh”). Remember, when you need to sell your house fast, sell to a real estate investor for a simple, fast, and hassle-free solution.

How to Not Get Killed in Real Estate

Real estate investing has created more wealth than any other investment in American history. To be a real estate investor, you need to master the skills of the entrepreneur. Most of our lives we are taught that the essence of successful entrepreneurship is self-reliance. Self-reliance is nice but you will not live long enough to accumulate all of the skills that you need to make real money in real estate. Why on earth would you even try?

There are a lot of tasks that investors need to accomplish in order to buy, rent, maintain, repair, and sell property. The most successful investors are not the people who have the most skill; they are the people who outsource the most work. You only have 24 hours in each day. If you want more than 24 hours of production per day, then you need a team. Each team is as unique as the individual investor who creates it. The team is like tools in the investor’s tool belt. You want the right tool for each task, and you want the best tools that you can find.

For starters, you need to understand the law. Actually that is not true; you need to talk to someone who understands the law. I suggest a lawyer. I further suggest that you choose a lawyer who specializes in real estate law and one who has a few years of experience in the field.

You also want an accountant who can tell you how to keep the largest portion of your gross revenue. There are a lot of rules here and there is not a single person on the face of the earth who knows all of the IRS rules. Look for an older accountant or one who works with a lot of real estate investors.

You are going to want to find a proper maintenance man or several specialists. Even if you think you know how to fix every household system, you would be foolish to do home repair yourself. A professional will be faster, better, and more cost-effective. Your time needs to be spent on tasks that only you can accomplish.

You need to find a teammate who can handle your sales and marketing. Everything that you do is sales and marketing. If you are looking for a home to buy, that is marketing, and a realtor might be the person to talk too. If you are renting your duplex out, that is sales. For this task, you may want to contract with a professional property manager.

Your main focus is on directing and communicating with your team, and then following up to be sure that all of the tasks are being taken care of. When you encounter a task that your team can’t handle, just add another person to the team. I just bought a property with a foundation problem. I added a foundation expert to my team as a consultant before I bought the property. In plain language, I got an estimate from a qualified foundation repair expert before I bought the property. My teammate told me what to expect and I was able to consider that information and adjust my purchase offer. There was no need for me to become an expert in foundation repair, I just needed to talk to someone who already had decades of experience.

If you are asking yourself how you will find all of these experts then you are starting to think like an entrepreneur. Find the shortcut, find the easy way, and model what others have done to be successful. The best place to find successful real estate investors is your local real estate investors club. These clubs exists all across America. Seek out the successful investors and ask them questions. Many of these people will happily share their keys to success with you. Many will even offer to connect you with members of their real estate team. I still use the attorney that my local mentor shared with me.

I Don’t Have a Real Estate Specialist! What Are People in Your Farm Area Saying?

Ask around. What are people saying in YOUR neighborhood farm area? Chances are, if you’re not staying in touch this month, this season – or even this year, what they won’t be saying is that you’re the agent to call for all their real estate needs! How can you turn that around and start making the right impression and earning the business of your farm area? Let’s take a look at what three top agents are consistently doing “right” to successfully brand themselves as the “Neighborhood Specialist” in their market areas.

In this article we catch up with veteran real estate professionals, Denise Buscemi, Antony Francis and Karen Marshall to learn some of their best practices (and throw in a few of our own) for becoming and staying the top “Neighborhood Specialist” in your market area.

What’s interesting to note is that our guests have a combined total of 55 years in the industry between them, so it’s safe to say they’ve probably walked in your shoes before, regardless of how long you’ve been in the business. They’re also some of the first to encourage agents of every business tenure to “keep learning, keep marketing and stay focused.”

Size of sphere or farm: How big of a farm or neighborhood should you market? Denise Buscemi, through most of her career kept tabs on a farm of about 5000, but has since pared that down to 2500 which includes her sphere of influence since taking over as managing broker for her Century 21 Sterling office in Port Jefferson Station, New York. She had this to share, “Most of my time is spent recruiting, training and managing now, but I still feel that it’s important to maintain and take care of my client base. I usually recommend new agents start building their farm area to about 250, and experienced, full-time agents should consider working towards maintaining a farm of at least 1,000.”

Tony Francis with Charles Rutenberg Realty, got his start back in 1990 and took a detour into the speaking industry from 1996-2003, speaking for the Floyd Wickman organization and Realtor.com. He’s since found himself back to his real estate roots in the great state of Florida and has branded himself as the turn-to agent for the Trinity area. “My main focus is the Foxwood area of about 900 homes. It’s part of Trinity which encompasses more than 10,000 homes. I always advise agents to find a core group to focus on, and expand from there where it makes geographic, demographic, and of course, economic sense for them to do so. That way, you can really create a presence in an area, with your signs, brochure boxes and advertising without trying to take that ‘shotgun’ approach to your marketing.”

Karen Marshall of Keller Williams in Pittsburgh and her team successfully navigate a database of more than 10,000, and uses a system of referral name recognition to effectively communicate with 500-1,000 regularly. In fact, contrary to the woes cried by agents across the nation, Karen has not seen a drop in production and she and her team are celebrating “a fabulous first half of the year.” What’s her secret to success? “Never stop marketing!”

Keep in mind you don’t have to start with a 500, 1,000, 2,000 or more – you just have to start! After all, as in wise words of Zig Ziglar, “If we don’t start, it’s certain we can’t arrive!”

How to find the right neighborhood or farm area: If you’re new, pick an area that REALLY interests you, dig in and learn about the community, the people, the surrounding businesses and the culture. Then make it your own and then start expanding. If you’ve been in the business for a while now and have NOT yet begun to build and maintain a working database/customer base – let today be the day you start. Too many in our industry leave with nothing to show for it – don’t let that be you!

Mrs. Buscemi recommends that agents target a town or part of a town they want to establish themselves in. “You have to be passionate about it. In order to really be successful, you have to really have a connection and a commitment to that community. I ask my agents to designate 75% of their efforts to the top 10% of that market share, and then blanket the rest for the lower tiered homes. Once you’ve established yourself in that top 10%, then everyone knows your name.”

It’s no surprise that Tony and Karen both echoed similar sentiments. As with any effective branding effort, becoming the neighborhood specialist means you have to jump in with both feet and commit to being the resource for those consumers who make up your target market. Not just to gain their business, but because you believe you are the best person for the job and able to provide a level of service like no other. “You have to be genuine,” said Mr. Francis. “If you’re not authentic in your purpose, it shows and especially in today’s market, people don’t want, nor do they have to work with people who are less than the real deal.”

Little things mean a lot – and add up to big business: I am always thrilled to see agents putting best practices into play, showing true tenacity and taking a walk on the creative side! When it comes to building trust, increasing your image, and really getting to know the community members in your farm, little things really do mean a lot. “In addition to our monthly mailings,” shared Denise, “we also get the kids and actually ‘walk the farm’ about four times a year with a gift, a giveaway or some small token and a chance to meet and talk to people one-on-one. We tape flyers to mailboxes, put flags in the yard for holidays such as Flag Day or Independence Day, and in the summer I like to use the Neighborhood Update flyer from my software and tape it to those neon colored plastic sand shovels I can get from the novelty store with a note saying, ‘here’s the scoop from your 110% Realtor!’ That ALWAYS gets calls! Some agents use seed packets in the spring for their farms, or trick or treat bags at Halloween. Whatever you do, it’s important to just get out there, have fun, be creative and meet the people!”

Tony Francis takes that to heart as well. “I look at starting a new farm much like you would if you were opening up a restaurant or a new store. Your job the first few years is to really get noticed and make a name for yourself. It’s then when you have to use bigger ads, contact the homeowners more, and be very visible. For example, I put ads in the Homes magazines, featured the properties on Realtor.com, and put ads and information in the community newsletters as well as my monthly mailings to the homeowners. I make sure the magnets are always on the car, and people see me and my brand every day as I’m out and about! I also believe you really have to GET INVOLVED. It goes back to that genuineness. Get involved in the kid’s schools, become a business partner. That’s good for them and for you. Every year I do the Spring Fling or the Fall Festival or the Winter Carnival – whatever event needs sponsoring. It’s great exposure, and an opportunity to open lines of communication with people. Holding buyer’s and seller’s workshops is another great way to offer valuable information to your farm area and get tremendous results in return. We used to hold them every two weeks and we’d have around 30 people at each event. We’d convert about 30% of those. Another good idea is to work with those people other agents are unwilling or unable to work with. How many agents do you know that DON’T follow up on open house leads? Offer them $100 for every lead that turns into something. It’s a great way to build your business, and make sure that the customer is getting the service they want and deserve!” Tony took it a step further as well. He jumped in and organized the Trinity Business Association for those people who live and work in his farm area. He’s created the neighborhood groups on Facebook and has seen his “friendships” really grow as he helps everyone stay better connected in his community!

Consider helping out at block parties, community block parties, firework celebrations and more. Send out newsletters that offer ideas and solutions people can use as well as present yourself as the expert they can turn to with current, relevant and timely information each and every month.

Best advice for agents? “Make a plan and commit to the plan,” said Denise. “Then invest a little money in smart tools that help you get where you need to go. It’s really amazing how much you can lose when you STOP doing all these things. I used to maintain 25% of that market area using this program, and I stopped doing all these important things for a while when I took over management. It’s funny, getting back to it now I’ve just picked up ten new listings in the last couple weeks because of it. So, just do it!” Karen shared that sentiment, “Stop talking about what you need to do and just do it! There’s enough business out there for everyone! Invest in yourself and your business. This makes it simple, easy to do and really, you can’t afford NOT to!” Tony added, “Just get involved. Become a member of the association, join the PTA, get out in the neighborhoods, talk to people and start building those relationships. They really will follow you throughout your career!”

Please join me in giving a big THANK YOU to our guest specialists this month, Denise Buscemi in Port Jefferson Station, NY, Antony Francis in Palm Harbor/Tampa, Florida, and Karen Marshall in the Pittsburgh area! If you’ve got a referral in any of those areas that need EXTRA special attention, these three are the agents to call!

Now get out there and start branding yourself as the turn-to agent in your neighborhood of choice so that next time someone is asked, “Who’s your neighborhood specialist?” They’ll know EXACTLY who to name!

Julie Escobar, Director of Corporate Marketing for ProspectsPLUS! has more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience in the sales, marketing and speaking industries. With access to some of the top speakers in the industry and a belief that with the right attitude, tools, techniques and strategies, almost anyone can succeed, she’s happy to help you determine what the right course of action is for you or your organization.