Archive for the ‘Realty’ Category

Landlords Use Technology to Monitor Rent Fluctuations and Employ Web Self-Service

January 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Certain apartment complex developers have taken advantage of recent upgrades in the rent monitoring software industry that enable them to closely examine the ever-fluctuating rent prices in varying parts of the country, according to an article from the Wall Street Journal.

Computerized models have come out recently that enable apartment developers to monitor their competition and what they are advertising for rent. The software enables landlords to quickly adjust to rent prices should their competitors lower or raise theirs.

AvalonBay Communities, a fashionable and chic apartment complex developer, uses Rainmaker LRO, developed from The Rainmaker Group Holdings Inc., and UDR Inc., another apartment owner and developers, uses RealPage’s YieldStar Price Optimizer. UDR reportedly witnessed rents in the D.C. area climb 7 percent in December using the software. AvalonBay also witnessed increases.

Haendel St. Juste, a senior REIT analyst with Keefe stated that, for landlords, it’s about “being able to react quicker, changing your pricing more effectively to capture that incremental dollar.”

But the new software is not for everyone, especially landlords in popular places to live such as New York City. The WSJ noted that landlords can find renters easily without even having to advertise since there is a constant influx of people moving to the city.

However, the larger developers find it more easily manages their rent pricing systems. Kevin Thompson, vice president of marketing for AvalonBay stated, “Prospects can get a better rate if they’re flexible. It’s added real science, it’s taken away the guess work.”

Additionally, some landlords are making the move towards electronic applications, and accepting them online. It’s about time!

Originally posted at:


What Home Sellers Don’t Tell Buyers

January 17, 2010 Leave a comment

As buyers ease back into the battered real-estate market, they’re often hitting a stumbling block: fibbing by home sellers.

Eager to unload their abodes, some sellers exaggerate the size of their lots or their houses. Others minimize their property-tax or utility bills, conveniently forget about pests, or downplay flooding problems or noise.

Real-estate experts say that while such misrepresentations aren’t new, the tough market of the past few years has made buyers more wary, partly because they can’t expect rising home prices to bail them out of costly mistakes. As a result, deals are taking longer, and more of them are falling apart as buyers find properties sometimes aren’t all they’re supposed to be.

More than 30 states have disclosure laws requiring sellers to tell prospective buyers and agents about leaky roofs and other problems, according to the National Association of Realtors. But there’s often a gray area involving the disclosure of problems the seller may not know about, such as a long-ago flood or hidden mold.

States are also increasingly passing laws requiring homeowners to disclose environmental issues, such as the presence of radon gas, a contaminant linked to lung cancer, and underground fuel tanks. In California, the checklist of required disclosures is so long that a cottage industry has sprung up of firms that help sellers prepare the forms.

Given the complexity of disclosure laws, it’s not surprising that potential buyers don’t hear about every problem in a house. Besides the issue of fibbing, sellers may genuinely not know about problems. And even if they do, the laws generally don’t apply to bank-owned homes transferred in foreclosures, which now constitute a larger share of sales.

Buyers need to do their own due diligence and not rely exclusively on what sellers and agents say. They should hire an independent home inspector or home-inspection engineer, one not referred by the seller—and be aware that real-estate agents typically represent the seller.

Here are some of the common misrepresentations and white lies that buyers may hear as they shop for a house, according to real-estate experts and state regulators:

This House is on Two Acres

Disputes about property dimensions; how many square feet in a house or condo, or its exact boundaries; are common. Sometimes buyers don’t learn the exact dimensions until the lender’s appraisal.

Listing agents usually accept a seller’s word on property dimensions, says Diane Saatchi, a senior vice president at Saunders & Associates, a real-estate firm in Bridgehampton, N.Y. “We tell everyone to verify,” she says. Smaller dimensions also can cause an appraisal to come in lower than the agreed-upon purchase price. Low appraisals are a leading cause of ruined deals in today’s market. A properly worded appraisal contingency in the purchase contract would allow you to scuttle the deal or find other financing if the appraisal comes in low, says New York real-estate attorney Michael Xylas.

“We Don’t Have Pests”

A basic home inspection generally doesn’t include a peek inside walls or underground for termites and mold, which are among the top complaints. Inspections for mold and radon gas also generally aren’t included; usually buyers must order these inspections separately. Other inside-the-wall problems include faulty wiring and old plumbing, which also may require specialists.

James Holtzman, a financial adviser at Legend Financial Advisors Inc. in Pittsburgh, says sellers of the 1901 house he bought in August 2006 said its electrical wiring was completely upgraded, yet an electrical inspection revealed only one of three floors had been totally upgraded. The seller then knocked $6,000 off the sales price before they went to contract so Mr. Holtzman, 35 years old, could pay for the necessary work.

“This Place Never Floods”

Even arid states such as Arizona and New Mexico have occasional flash floods, and water and drainage problems aren’t always obvious. June Walbert, 52, a certified financial planner at USAA, a financial-services company, says her San Antonio house received a clean bill of health from a home inspector before she bought it six years ago. But 10 days after she moved in, the sewer backed up, flooding the house, and she had to fork over $2,800 for repairs. “It was a rude surprise,” says Ms. Walbert, who adds she asked her home inspector and the seller for compensation, but didn’t get it.

Bill Richardson, outgoing president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, says a general home inspection wouldn’t catch that unless the sewer line was visible from the basement or water backed up into sinks and tubs or toilets.

“Taxes and Maintenance Costs are Low.”

Home buyers often gripe about tax and utilities bills that are higher than sellers said they were. Homeowner association and condo dues and assessments are also common complaints. Sometimes sellers simply underestimate the bills, or forget to include recent or expected increases, agents and brokers say. Taxes can also be deceptively low because of unrecorded improvements like decks and finished basements. Ask to see recent bills, and check with the tax assessor’s office for up-to-date information.

“This is a Quiet Neighborhood.”

Sellers may play down distractions that could drive you crazy, such as barking dogs or idling buses. A charming park by day could be a teen hangout at night. Your best bet is to view a property at different times of the day. “I can’t tell you how many times in my career buyers didn’t go there in the night time, even though I told them to. You spend more time in the house at night than during the day,” says Ms. Saatchi, the New York real-estate agent. Talk to neighbors and peruse the local newspapers and blogs to get a feel for a place, and check with police for crime.

“There’s Going to be a Golf Course, a Pool and a Party Room.”

Builders of many developments that broke ground during the housing boom ran out of money before the project was completed. Many homeowner and condo associations also are strapped because of delinquencies and defaults. Some states require upfront disclosures about this, but you should also ask neighbors, not just sellers, about any promised facilities. Also, check titles to be sure that specific parking spaces, storage units or other facilities are included in a property sale.

Categories: Realty

Renovating Doesn’t Pay Off Like It Used To

January 5, 2010 1 comment

Home remodelers are getting less bang for their bucks. For the fourth straight year, renovation jobs have added less to resale values relative to their costs, according to an annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report released this week by the National Association of Realtors.

The average remodeling job cost $50,908 in 2009 and added $32,497 to the value of the home, a ratio of 63.8%. That was down from a cost-to-value ratio of 67.3% in 2008, when the average was $49,866 and the added value was $33,568.

One common renovation, a mid-priced bath remodel, for example, runs an average of $16,142 and adds only $11,454 to the resale value of a house — recouping just 71% of its cost. In 2008, the same job cost less — $15,899 — and typically added $11,857 to the home’s value, recouping 74.6%.

The most financially successful jobs are smaller-scale, lower-cost renovations that improve the exterior appearance of homes. In this down real estate market, curb appeal is king.

“Once again, this year’s report highlights the importance of a home’s first impression,” said NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz.

Ron Phipps, a real estate broker in Rhode Island, said how the house looks from the outside is more important than ever.

“If you’re driving down the street and the house doesn’t have great appeal, it doesn’t matter how nice it is inside,” he said.

But here’s the kicker: Clients are savvier than ever in their shopping. Even though the costs of home improvements are less likely to be returned on resale than they have been in prior years, sellers may still have to bite the bullet and do the remodeling if they want their house to sell at all, he said.

“It’s kind of intriguing,” said Phipps. “Buyers are using the unimproved houses to negotiate lower prices, but they wind up buying the remodeled homes.”

So, if there are two similar houses in the area, buyers will use the listing price of the one that has not gone through a metamorphosis to get the seller of the renovated house to slash their price. Buyers want to pay for the caterpillar but get the butterfly.

Seller must play along if they want to make deals. “You get to sell the house more quickly if you do the renovations,” Phipps said.

Biggest pay-offs

The major job that returns most in resale value is an upscale replacement of siding using fiber-cement. The job costs an average of $13,287 but increases home value by $11,112, or 83.6%. A vinyl siding replacement returns 79.9% of costs.

Adding a basement bedroom is also fairly cost effective, averaging $49,346 but adding $40,992 in value, an 83.1% return.

“Increasing livable square footage with a new deck or an attic bedroom is usually more valuable than just remodeling existing space,” Phipps said.

The return on investment for some jobs varies greatly by region.

In New England, where winter are long and cold, vinyl window replacements reap a better return than they do in the warm South Atlantic region, where poorly insulated windows don’t mean as much expensive heat leaking away.

So, although replacement windows cost more in New England — an average of $11,155 — they add $9,152 to home values there, recouping 82.3% of their cost. In the South Atlantic states, they cost $9,705 but add just $7,417 to home values, 76.4% of their cost.

On the other hand, buyers in the South Atlantic seem to reward sellers for adding living space more than they do in New England. Maybe thrifty Yankees hate having to heat those extra rooms.

Finishing a basement returns 84.4% of its $55,357 cost in the South Atlantic and only 64% of the $65,715 New Englanders spend for the job.

Among the remodeling jobs faring the worst in return on investment were large, upscale kitchen remodels. They cost an average of $111,794 in 2009 and added $70,641 in recoupable value, just 63.2%.

That was down a whopping 7.5 percentage points from their 70.7% return on investment in 2008 . At the height of the housing boom, in 2005, upscale kitchen renovations returned more than 80% of their costs.

“A lot of the things that, historically, had huge value, don’t have as much today,” said Phipps. “If you want to redo a kitchen, it may no longer make as much sense to use upscale appliances — Viking ranges, Sub-Zero refrigerator. Buyers may not pay any more than they would for a home with GE appliances instead.”

Of course, most remodeling jobs are done to please homeowners. Any increase in home value is a bonus, not an end in itself. But for anyone thinking of selling in the near term, keeping an eye on the bottom line is always a good idea.

Categories: Realty

7 Red Flags for Home Buyers

December 18, 2009 1 comment

Before you bid on a home, check for potentially dicey, and pricey, problems.

In most states, home sellers must disclose any defect they know about that could affect how desirable — and marketable — their home is before they sign a purchase contract. Even in the six states that lack a “mandatory seller’s property condition disclosure” (Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming), the state’s licensing agency may require real estate agents to tell buyers what they know. In all states, real estate agents who belong to the National Association of Realtors are obligated by their code of ethics to disclose any defects they know about.

But you may have fallen in love with a house, and spent hours preparing a purchase contract, before the disclosures are made. You should always make your purchase contract contingent on a professional home inspection ($300 to $350). Home inspectors could miss hidden problems, however, such as a basement that floods during a downpour.

This list of red flags, recommended by Kathleen Kuhn, president of HouseMaster, a nationally franchised home-inspection company, and Bill Richardson, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, can help you identify potentially pricey problems. You can use your observations to winnow your choices or to factor in condition when you negotiate price with the seller.

Poor water pressure. Aside from issues of comfort and convenience, low water flow may indicate plumbing problems, such as corroded pipes that will need to be replaced down the road. Tearing out old plumbing and replacing it with copper pipes can run $2,000 to $15,000 or more in a typical 1,500-square-foot home. A less costly alternative is cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) piping, which unlike rigid copper piping, is flexible and easier to install (approved for potable use in all U.S. model plumbing and mechanical codes, but may not be approved in local building codes).

Among tests you can do: Run water in a bathroom sink and check for weak flow. Flush the toilet while the water is running. Does the faucet flow drop off during the flush? In the bathroom located farthest from the water heater, turn on the hot water. Is there an unduly long delay before the water turns hot?

Ceiling stains. Something’s leaking. If the stain appears beneath a bathroom, odds are the shower is leaking. It may merely need recaulking or regrouting, but it could also require ripping out tile and replacing the shower pan, a much more costly process (about $1,500). Most roof leaks result from neglected flashing that seals “valleys” in the roof or around a chimney or vents (cost to repair: $200 to $500). But roof leaks may also mean it’s time to replace shingles — at $100 to $350 per 100 square feet for asphalt shingles and $210 to $1,000 for wood shingles.

Troublesome doors. Are the doors hard to close? Do they swing open by themselves or fail to open fully? If you have one bad door, it may simply have been installed incorrectly. But more than one may indicate a serious structural issue, such as a foundation that has settled or framing that is deteriorating. Fixing this problem can require structural and geotechnical engineering reports and thousands of dollars in repairs.

Overloaded electrical outlets or lots of extension cords. Today’s electrical demands may exceed the capacity of homes built as little as a decade ago, says Kuhn. You’ll spend $75 to $250 to have an electrician add a 120-volt outlet to an existing circuit. Or, if the electrical system is very outdated, it may require a new electric panel. A new, 100-amp panel will cost $1,500 to $2,500.

Exterior features that slope toward the home. A porch, patio, driveway or grading that slopes toward the home all but guarantees water in the basement. And that may lead to structural decay, mold and insect infestation. In the basement, a musty smell may indicate previous flooding or ongoing moisture problems. Check the walls for stains, dark or light, which are tell-tale signs that water has penetrated the walls.

Solving the problem may be as simple and cheap as adding gutter extensions or regrading soil away from the home, or it could require thousands of dollars to excavate and build drains. Some homes may require exterior drains (one at the bottom of a sloped driveway, for example) as well as buried drains.

Odors. Cigarette smoke and pet odors can be hard to get rid of. And if a home smells too clean — heavy with the scent of cleaning products (especially bleach) or plug-in deodorizers — the seller may be trying to cover up an odor, such as mold or urine. If so, you need to inquire further, says Richardson, of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Synthetic stucco siding. This must be installed precisely or else moisture will be trapped behind it, resulting in mold and decay. In the worst case, the siding will have to be replaced. For a medium-sized house (1,250 square feet of exterior surface area), replacing vinyl siding can cost $2,500 to $8,750, while wood or fiber cement siding can cost $5,600 to $10,000 or more. Especially in humid climates, you may want to pay for a special inspection. HouseMaster charges $600 and up, depending on how much of the material has been used and the size of the house.

If you find out before you close your purchase that the seller deliberately misrepresented or failed to fully disclose the home’s condition, you may have the right to rescind the contract under state law. If it’s a done deal, you’ll probably have to sue the seller to recoup your damages. In some states you can also seek repayment of your legal costs. Consult with a lawyer who specializes in real estate fraud. If you have reason to believe that the seller’s agent was negligent, you can take it up with the local Board of Realtors and the state’s licensing agency.

Categories: Realty

Nakheel bond to be paid in full

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Abu Dhabi and UAE Central Bank give $10b in support, Dubai World welcomes decision, Dubai Government expected to announce new legal framework.

Dubai Government has authorised the release of $4.1b which will be used to pay Nakheel’s sukuk.

A statement from the Dubai Financial Support Fund said that the government of Abu Dhabi and the UAE Central Bank had provided $10b in support.

Dubai Government is also expected to announce legal steps which will allow Dubai World to restructure completely.

The statement also added that the UAE Central Bank would provide support for local banks.

The news comes on the same day that Nakheel’s $4 billion (Dh14.6 billion) sukuk had been due to mature. It had originally asked for a deferment on payment of the bond on November 25.

A statement from Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee said: “The Government of Abu Dhabi has agreed to fund $10 billion to the Dubai Financial Support Fund that will be used to satisfy a series of upcoming obligations on Dubai World.

“As a first action for the new fund, the Government of Dubai has authorized $4.1 billion to be used to pay the sukuk obligations that are due today.”

He added that the remaining funds will also “provide for interest expenses and company working capital through April 30, 2010” but only on the condition that Nakheel negotiates a standstill on it’s future debt repayments. 

Dubai World welcomed the support, saying that it provides “Funding and a stable basis for the restructuring process which continues.”

A statement added that: “Dubai World will continue to work with financial creditors to negotiate a standstill in an orderly way. As long as a standstill is successfully negotiated, Dubai World has assurances that the Government of Dubai, through the DFSF, will provide financial support to cover working capital and interest expenses to ensure the continuity of key projects.

“Dubai World is committed to regular, direct and timely communications which it believes will yield the best outcome for all stakeholders.”

Top 5 future UAE AV infrastructure projects

September 8, 2009 Leave a comment

1. Saadiyat Island
The massive $28 billion development is being pitched as the future hub of Arabian arts and culture. Headline projects include the first Louvre Gallery outside Paris, a Guggenheim Museum, a performing arts centre, as well as 29 hotels, three marinas, 8,000 residential villas and more than 38,000 apartments.

2. Bawadi
One of the highlights of the Dubailand district, the “largest cluster of hotels in the world” will put the Las Vegas strip (sans gambling houses) to shame in the OTT stakes, if it’s ever built. A big ‘if’, but one that will pay serious dividends to hospitality AV integrators if the grandiose development ever sees the light of day.

3. Dubailand
The jewel in the crown of Dubai’s plans prior to the economic crash, the $70 billion development was to consist of 45 mega projects including concert venues, theatres, theme parks and hotels.

4. Dubai Waterfront
While this landmark Dubai development has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons of late, master developer Nakheel says work is continuing on the precinct, which was conceived to be twice the size of Hong Kong. It remains to be seen whether the developer’s bold vision will ever come to fruition.

5. Al Raha Beach
Currently in development is the $18.5 billion Al Raha Beach Complex, another mixed-use hospitality development involving reclaimed land on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. Once finished it will have 50 high-rise buildings housing hotels, venues, and other entertainment facilities.

Categories: Realty

World’s Weirdest Hotels

August 22, 2009 Leave a comment

On your next trip, you could be checking into a wine cask, a salvaged 727 airplane, or a room where the furniture defies the law of gravity.

Upside-down stay

At Berlin‘s Propeller Island City Lodge, each of the 30 rooms is weird in its own way. The artist-owner, Lars Stroschen, has seen to that. One room, the first built, is made to look like a brightly painted medieval town, with an ultra-mini golf course surrounding the castle bed. Another has furniture attached to the ceiling, another has coffins for beds, and still another has lion cages on stilts (the website claims that kids “love to sleep” in them). Then there’s the Freedom Room, which resembles a prison, complete with a toilet next to the bed—oh, that German humor!


A place to unwine’d

When they were owned by a Swiss château, the four enormous casks on the grounds of the Hotel De Vrouwe Van Stavoren in the Netherlands held the equivalent of 19,333 bottles of wine. Now, after some creative recycling, it’s guests rather than booze that mellow out inside the casks. The richly worn and airtight oak barrels have two narrow beds, with a small sitting area outside. The grounds are quite close to tiny Stavoren’s harbor, which was a major port in the Middle Ages.


Crazy kind of stay

The daughter of Ho Chi Minh’s No. 2 masterminded the Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery in Da Lat, Vietnam, a complex that more than earns its local nickname, the Crazy House. The three main buildings are Gaudi-esque concrete treehouse-like growths that appear as if they flowed organically out of the ground. Inside, the walls seem to dissolve into the floor, and right angles are avoided entirely. Each guest room is built around a different animal theme: the Eagle Room has a big-beaked bird standing atop a huge egg, while another has arm-sized ants crawling up the wall. The animal theme continues outside — a large giraffe statue on the property contains a teahouse, and human-size “spider webs” are set up here and there.


In a league of its own

Hydrophobics should stay far from Jules’ Undersea Lodge, named for novelist Jules Verne of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fame. The 600-square-foot lodge, a former marine lab, is 21 feet underwater, close to the bottom of the mangrove-filled Emerald Lagoon, in Key Largo. You’ll have to know how to scuba dive to reach your room, and guests without the mandatory certification must take a course at the hotel. Once you’ve reached the lodge, which sleeps up to six, you’ll be close to angelfish, anemones, barracuda, oysters, and other creatures—each room is equipped with a 42-inch window, so you don’t need to be suited up to keep an eye on the neighborhood.


Crash in a jet plane

Near a beach that’s within Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, the Hotel Costa Verde doesn’t lack for great sights. But few are as amazing as its own 727 Fuselage Suite, a salvaged 1965 Boeing 727-100 that looks as if it’s crashed into the Costa Rican jungle (it’s actually mounted atop a 50-foot pillar and reached via a spiral staircase). The jet’s interior was once able to hold up to 125 passengers, but there are few reminders left of its days in the service of South African Airways and Colombia’s Avianca Airlines. The suite’s two bedrooms, dining area, and sitting room are now covered over entirely in teak to match the surroundings. Guests can play “spot the toucan” on the small wood deck that sits on top of the right wing.


Your escape pod awaits

Colored bright-orange for easy visibility, the ’70s-era escape pods that make up the Capsule Hotel once hung outside oil rigs, ready to be deployed in case of an evacuation. Recycled by self-proclaimed “garbage architect” Denis Oudendijk, the fleet of pods now rotates among different moorings in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe. At the moment, two are in the western Dutch town of Vlissingen and another is in The Hague. For a kind of James Bond-meets-Barbarella twist, opt to book your pod with a disco ball and all the spy’s movies on DVD. It’s a super-kitschy nod to a similar pod’s appearance in “The Spy Who Loved Me.”


Where the penthouse is a trailer park

Cape Town‘s sleek Grand Daddy hotel has a surprise on its roof: a fleet of seven Airstream trailers, six of which were imported from the U.S. The aluminum-clad “rooms,” which sleep two people, have been done in playful themes that incorporate icons like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (a blonde wig and a bear suit are available for dress-up), and John Lennon and Yoko Ono (the room’s white-on-white furnishings include an enormous bed, natch). If you don’t want to stray as far from the trailers’ original looks, there’s the Pleasantville model, an Eisenhower-era fantasia with chintz, harvest-gold curtains, and flower-covered throw pillows.

Categories: Realty