“Sex, drugs, and money: Why HOAs don’t work.” – Senator Schneider

I’m seeing a growing trend among my buyers to purchase homes that aren’t in HOA communities. They are willing to purchase older homes (because the builders set up HOAs in all the new ones) and live in neighborhoods with funky colored houses to avoid these mini governments.

“The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property.” – John Locke. This is one of my favorite quotes of all time and I find it very fitting when talking about HOAs.  After all, they were created because homeowners/builders wanted to preserve the neighborhoods. Yet, when referring to HOAs, another quote comes to mind. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton.

That isn’t to say that they are all bad. I know quite a few HOAs that all they do is make sure no one has a car up on cinder blocks in the front yard while for the most part leaving the homeowners alone. Tragically, these are few and far between.

I’ll use my HOA as an example. While I understand why we can’t park in the street (they are too narrow) and why we must keep our porch lights on (no street lights), I have a difficult time justifying some of our other “choices”. Like why do we have a security camera that looks into our swimming pool (creepy) and why do we pay for private security to ride their bike around the subdivision (not a gated community)? We need keys to get into and OUT of our pool areas and our public bathrooms are always locked, yet we pay for a cleaning service to keep them sparking. The craziest thing of all? My HOA would rather have vacant, abandoned homes (and collect the fines from the bank) than allow homeowners to rent out their properties (I really must congratulation the genius who thought of that particular rule).

There are many other examples of HOA insanity. One friend pays over $400 in HOA dues and assessments because they can’t control their spending, another had her car towed because she parked it in front of her garage (perfectly legal), yet another’s 24 hour security did nothing while their home was being invaded (even after numerous phone calls). I wish I could say that these are only the extremes, sadly they are actually middle of the road normal.

Yet I can’t place all the blame on the HOAs. We (homeowners) created this mess. We gave them the money and the power and then for most of us, we didn’t get involved and didn’t hold that money and those people accountable. What’s the solution? Well that’s the $10,000 question. The government does what it can to control them, but success in this area is limited. The best thing to do? Get involved. Run for your board, attend the meetings, get educated, and hold your community management company accountable to its spending. Change doesn’t happen overnight, you have to work for it.

“I buy when other people are selling.” – Jean Paul Getty

As a buyer’s agent, I’m looking at houses all day long. I know what buyers like and what makes them immediately leave. These concepts aren’t new, yet in this market of distressed properties, I’m seeing less and less “staging” and cooperation and more of a “you’ll take it as it is and love it” attitude. After all that’s what all the banks do right?

In actuality, REOs (real estate owned) or bank owned homes are the easiest to show and sell. They are vacant. A buyer can see the home anytime they want . Added to that the buyer’s can look at the house all they want without the weird feeling of snooping through someone else’s stuff.   REOs are sometimes remodeled, painted in a neutral color, the carpet is replaced, and in some cases the appliances are new or retrofitted. Finally, the process is often faster, 30 -60 day escrow and no third party approval needed.

So how do you get your home to compete?

First, if you have to sell your house as a short sale you can’t compete on time. The best you can do is hiring a short sale specialist (I can refer you to some great ones no matter where you live) to work the negotiation process. Often times, the right agent can make a huge difference in time.

However, you can make your home competitive in other areas.

1.) Make your home as easy to show as possible. We live in a fast food culture. We expect instant gratification. If a buyer can’t see your house immediately, they most likely will not see it at all.

2.) Clean you house. I sounds like a no brainer right? You’d be surprised how often I walk into a house with dishes in the sink and clothes on the floor.

3.) Remove personal items like pictures and chotskies. You want the buyer to be able to imagine their stuff in the house, not be obsessed with the photo of you pole dancing a light post.

4.) De-clutter the house. If you’ve started packing, move the boxes to the garage where they are out of sight. This let’s the buyers see the full space and opens up the rooms.

5.)If you’ve already moved, keep the power on. Buyers work and many of them can’t view houses until the evenings. Looking at homes with a flashlight has become a common practice. Stand out and keep the power going.

6.) Don’t over power the house with smells. Neutral smells like cinnamon, vanilla, and light lemon are inviting and nostalgic. Fruit Explosion or anything floral from the dollar store may smell great to you, but they can also induce headaches and allergies in others.

Your house is competing against the house next door that’s $10,000 cheaper and bank owned. You want to impress the buyer so much, they are willing to stick around for 4 months waiting for lien holder approval. Take the extra time and effort to make your home more appealing to buyers.  Now, more than ever, your house has to make the buyer fall in love.

 

*On a completely unrelated note, I’m hiring. If you know anyone who loves to look at houses, is independent, organizes and a motivated, please have them submit a resume to Jessica.L.Kincaid@gmail.com

 

“We’ll play “pin the name on the barcode” later.” – Dark Angel

 Yup, that’s me – in a bar code. When James Cameron created Dark Angel, I don’t think he ever really thought humans would one day use bar-codes for identification purposes, but well if you build it and all that.

I know, I know, it’s not technically called a bar-code. It’s a QR (Quick Response) code and they aren’t used to track genetically engineered lifeforms. Actually, they are pretty cool. One quick scan an you have the information received and saved in your phone. No more memorization, pen and paper, or transposing. It’s all there in a matter of seconds.

These codes are popping up everywhere; conventions, business cards, even ice cream. Many real estate agents are using them on their listing flyers or even sign riders. Trulia will even create them free when your listing is posted on their site.

How does it work?

To read a QR Code: First, you need a camera phone. If you don’t have one, get with the 21st century. Second, download a QR reader from your app store, they’re free. Third, follow the directions to scan said code and viola! Information at your fingertips. It really is very easy.

To create a QR Code: Go to any free QR Code creator website. I used Qreate & Track. Input the information you wish to encode and then press the create code button. That’s it. You’re done. Now you can use the code anywhere you wish.

So…what are you waiting for?

“It IS about you, however, it’s not just about you.” – Jon Gordon

On October 27th, I was installed as the 2011 President of the Las Vegas Chapter, Women’s Council of REALTORS®. During which, my office surprised me with a beautiful journal. Members of my office wrote notes of encouragement on random pages throughout the book. Recently, I took a trip to New Orleans. While I was walking out the door something made me grab the journal and stick it in my backpack. Halfway through my flight, I grabbed the journal to write down a quote and saw the first note. I spent the next ten minutes finding others and reading what my colleagues had written. I was so incredibly touched and am grateful to work in such an encouraging and loving environment.

Then, in the back of the journal, was the speech that my team leader, Julie Brown, had given when she presented the gift to me.

“Jessica, the world is in dire need of great leaders!

You are not an accident.

You are here for a reason.

You have a destiny, a purpose with many gifts and talents.

You do things that only you can do in the way you do them.

You will leave your mark on this group.

So it is about you!

AND…it’s about MORE than yoo. It’s about you being chosen as a LEADER in this time, with this group, and at this hour.

To love, to lead…to mentor.

To learn, serve, create, build, and dream. To build this group into a stronger, more educated, and more dedicated group of leaders.

You have an opportunity to lead as a collaborating team for change.

So then, it’s about living for more than you.

For a bigger purpose and a greater cause.

You are an expression of the Creator.

You are a note in His symphony.

It’s about you playing your part to the best of your ability, lifting others up, leading others onward with intention, purpose, and the drive that only you have.”

These words don’t just apply to me, they fit anyone who is embarking on a new leadership opportunity. We were chosen for a reason, we have a purpose and a gift to bring to our organizations. Congratulations to all my fellow Local Chapter Presidents. 2011 is going to be a great year.

To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice. With pie.” – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was a big family affair. My mother’s family would all descend on my grandparents house in Ashfork, Arizona and spend fours days eating, watching football, and arguing. (We’re Italian) My memories of those times are so vivid, I can still smell the food.

However, nothing stays the same. My grandfather died and my parents divorced and those big holiday family gatherings became memories. Sure we tried to keep tradition alive here in Vegas, but the reality is, it’s not the same.  For me, it’s almost more painful to keep going back to reclaim what’s been irrevocably lost.

As a result, Thanksgiving went from being one of my favorite times of the year to one of my most rejuvenating. Every year, I push myself further and further away from the familial festivities to create my own traditions. When I was in college, I worked myself into the ground. (Hello! Overtime and bonus commission.)Then I would go home to my precooked Thanksgiving dinner (thank you Safeway) and enjoy a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon.

Now, I use the time to work on me. When else do I have four relatively uninterrupted days in a row that are just for me? While everyone is taking the four day weekend to shop and cook; I use it to clean and reflect. This is the time I clean out my closet, my desk, my books, even my email. I tweak my business plan and set my goals for the following year. Oh and I put up my Christmas tree. (A girl’s got to have a little fun.)

I then create a list of everything that must be accomplished in the weeks before Christmas and work like a fiend to get it all done. What doesn’t get finished won’t so it gets forever erased. I buy a new notebook and shift everything from the year to my external hard-drive  so when the holidays are over I’m starting with a clean slate. It’s a jump start. So while everyone else is finding the energy to kick it into gear around the middle of January, I’m ready to go January 2.

As I prepare for my cleaning spree, I realize that this year will be slightly different. This is the final year of my twenties, so all those ten year goals now come into play. This means I really get to kick some tail in 2011!

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

A year ago, my friends gave me the best birthday gift ever, a Flip Video Camera. (What can I say, my friends are awesome.) Since then I have been spoiled. The Flip is so easy to use, the software comes loaded on the camera, and it’s pretty. I take it with me everywhere, annoying people with it they never know when a video of them singing the Star Spangled Banner in the middle of Disneyland is going to end up on Facebook.

Until Recently, I didn’t realize how spoiled I had become. Two weeks ago I had the idea to video a group of my fellow REALTORS(R) singing Happy Birthday to a colleague. Unfortunately, when the time came to record it, I had left my Flip in the hotel room. Never fear, I had my camera. We recorded the video and all was well. That is until I went to upload the video. You see the Flip has everything you need to upload and edit right in the camera itself. With the built in USB port, I can quickly and easily upload a video while waiting for my Starbucks order to be filled. My Kodak doesn’t. I needed the cord (which I had to find) and then I had to download the video onto the computer, edit and save it, and then, finally, post to Facebook.

The Flip has practical uses as well. With my students, I use it to record them so they can study their sound, facial expressions, and body language. I use it for Women’s Council, recording meetings and testimonials. Most importantly, I use it for my business. Many times I have brought my Flip with me as I preview homes, recording them for out of state clients or buyers who want to “see” the property before writing an offer. Bottom line? In the year since getting my Flip, I have found a thousand ways to use it that not only make me more efficient but are also just plain fun.

Now if only I can get over my aversion to being on video, I might have recorded this blog post.