Locate a GRI GRI Designation Real Estate Masters e-PRO Certification

Friday, July 31, 2009

California GRI classes for the week of August 3

GRI Schedule

Anaheim - Aug 4 (Tue) - GRI #114 Essential Concep...
San Jose - Aug 4 (Tue) - GRI #114 Essential Concep...
Pasadena - Aug 5 (Wed) - GRI #110 Marketing, Finan...
Corona - Aug 7 (Fri) - GRI #106 Money Making Str...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

A Phone Number That Goes Wherever You Go

At our sister company, Downstream Exchange Company, we receive phone calls from clients that held onto flyers or business cards as far back as ten years ago. Downstream has not changed its phone number since its inception 30 years ago. Unfortunately, many times REALTORS® do not have the luxury of keeping their numbers for extended periods of time. If you change offices, your office phone number changes; if you relocate to a different city, your home office phone number changes. And if you change your cell phone company, you may or may not be able to hold onto your cell phone number.

Recently, I have been testing a solution that not only gives you a phone number that you can keep forever, it also allows you to redirect that number to any of your phones. In 2007, Google purchased a company called Grand Central. About 2 years later, it relaunched the Grand Central service as Google Voice. Previously, I have raved about other Google products, but this one is one of the best Google products I have used so far.

One Number to Reach You Everywhere
Google Voice will give you a phone number. You have a choice based on zip code or area code. This number will be your new permanent phone number. You can add multiple phone numbers to your account and your Google Voice number will forward calls to any of your current phones, be it a cell phone or land line. Your Google Voice number will always remain the same. Callers will always be able to reach you through your Google number no matter what your "real" phone number is.

Free Calls to Anywhere in the US
Unlike Skype, you are not required to make your calls through the computer. Also, Skype charges you to call real phone numbers. To make a free phone call to US numbers, you initiate the call on Google Voice. Google will call your designated phone and than the recipient.

Free Text Messaging That is Archived
You can send and receive text messages in your Google Voice account. Google groups the messages together like a conversation and archives them for easy accessibility.

Voicemail Transcribed
All voicemails are transcribed into text. Your voicemails are searchable and also can be emailed when you receive them.

Google Voice looks to be the future of communication that will be very useful for real estate professionals. The service is still in beta. I had to wait about 1 month to receive my invitation to use the service after I registered.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Backup Your Data Online With Mozy

Backup Your Data Online With Mozy

There is no excuse for not backing up your computer, especially when you think of all the things that can go wrong – a hard drive can fail, a valuable file can be accidentally deleted, or you can suffer from a devastating virus attack. Backing up can be as simple as copying a handful of important documents to a thumb drive, or burning them onto a CD-R or DVD-R.

A great backup utility is one that you set up once and then forget about until you need it most. Mozy Online Backup is one such utility. Mozy is an online backup service that is easy to set up and even easier to operate. It takes no time at all to sign up for an account, and download and install the software. Soon MozyHome will be asking you what type of information you would like to backup:
  • Email and Contacts
  • Financial Data
  • Firefox Favorites
  • IE Favorites
  • Music
  • Documents
  • Photos
  • Presentations
  • Spreadsheets
  • Videos
Your initial backup can take anywhere from a couple minutes to several hours depending on the amount of information you have to backup. Once this has completed, MozyHome will work in the background and automatically backup when your computer is idle. Restoring is also easy and only a few right-clicks away.

Backup Your Data Online With Mozy

If you have less than 2GB of files to backup, Mozy is free. If you have more than that, Mozy costs less than $5 a month for each computer you need to backup and offers you unlimited storage. Sign up for MozyPro for your business and backup all desktop computers and servers in your office at an affordable price. MozyPro can perform a backup and restore of Exchange, SQL, and VMware. Whether you opt for the free or paid service, Mozy encrypts the files on your computer to protect your data.

It only takes a couple minutes to set up a Mozy account. Try it out and let us know what you think.

Friday, July 24, 2009

California GRI classes for the week of July 27

GRI Schedule

San Gabriel - Jul 31 (Fri) - GRI #114 Essential Concep...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

New Laws for Lending Practices Take Effect on July 30

In May of 2009, the Federal Reserve Board approved changes to the disclosure requirements for mortgage loans. Those changes are going into effect on July 30, 2009. The new rules revise Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) to provide greater consumer protection.

The revisions are an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) which implement the Mortgage Disclosure Improvement Act (MDIA).

The new rules:
1. Creditors must give good faith estimates of mortgage loan costs
2. Loan costs must be disclosed three business days after receiving an application and before any fees are collected. (Reasonable fee may be collected to get credit history.)
3. Creditors must wait seven business days after providing loan costs before closing the loan
4. If APR (Annual Percentage Rate) increased more than 0.125 percent from the initially disclosed rate, the lender must disclose the amount and wait an additional three business days before closing the loan.

Further Reading:
Federal Reserve Press Release
Federal Reserve - Rules and Regulations (17 page PDF)
Los Angeles Times - New federal rules protecting applicants for home loans take effect July 30

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Real Estate Loans: Why Are Lenders Taking So Long?

Dean C. Piller by GRI Instructor Dean C. Piller
Teaches GRI Course 109 - Residential Real Estate Finance, West Los Angeles College Instructor, Mortgage Broker
View future classes taught by Dean C. Piller

Government Regulation Clogs the Pipes

It's no secret that many facets of lending and real estate have changed as a result of the credit crisis. In addition to tightened lending practices that resulted from rising mortgage delinquencies, Washington has been heavily involved in altering the way lenders do business today. Two individual pieces of legislation impacting our business need to be taken into account when determining closing dates for purchase transactions.

Home Valuation Code of Conduct – The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) went into effect May 1, 2009. Intended to shield appraisers from undue influence from loan officers and lenders, this legislation installed a "firewall" between those individuals directly involved in the origination of the loan from the selection of and contact with appraisers. HVCC also requires that borrowers receive a copy of the appraisal a minimum of three days in advance of closing. Part of the kicker here is that "received" is considered, in effect, three business days after the appraisal has been mailed to the borrower. As HVCC requires a firewall between the originator and the appraiser, the time to receive an appraisal has increased, in some cases by as much as two weeks or more. While this may not always be the case, it is important to take into consideration when considering closing dates. Today, conservative closing dates are mandatory to properly manage expectations of all parties.

Housing and Economic Recovery Act – The Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) amends and impacts several aspects of obtaining a mortgage, the disclosures required for borrowers, and the timing of their delivery. This impacts the minimum time required to close, and should any changes be made to a loan application that could impact the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), this could impact the closing date. Other than paying for a credit report, lenders may not accept any additional fees from a borrower until four business days after disclosures have been provided to or mailed to a borrower. This has the potential to delay several aspects of the application process. Finally, upon making application, a borrower is provided a Truth in Lending (TIL) statement, detailing the total expected costs that could be incurred over the life of the loan. Should anything change in the loan application that could change the APR by more than .125%, a new TIL must be reissued to the borrower a minimum of 3 business days before closing. Items impacting the APR could include a borrower accepting a higher interest rate than initially qualified by floating their rate at application, a change to the loan amount, a change in product, a change in closing date, and any changes to fees.

What Now? Plan on your escrows taking longer to close and fully informing your clients of what to expect along the way.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tech: Create 3D Floor Plans to Help Sell your Listing

Create 3D Floor Plans to Help Sell your Listing Create 3D Floor Plans to Help Sell your Listing

You can create beautiful 3D floor plans to help you sell your listing. There are a lot of great tools online that can help you do this. However, most of these tools will charge you a fee to create floor plans or to store them. Autodesk Project Dragonfly is a free online utility that allows you to create, save and share your floor plans.

Creating a floor plan with Autodesk Project Dragonfly is as easy as dragging and dropping rooms, floors, walls and furnishings. Start in the "Build" tab on your right and drag and drop a square or "L" shaped room into the design area. Then you can:
  • drag and drop additional square or "L" shaped rooms and connect them

  • add extra walls, a closet and other additions

  • add doors, windows, a fireplace and stairs

  • drag and drop furniture and d├ęcor in the "Furnish & Decorate" Tab

  • use the "Search" tab to find the right furnishings

  • paint the walls

  • add carpet, wood or tile flooring

  • add appliances, cabinets and fixtures

  • add granite countertops to your kitchen

  • add resizable content and set the measurements for cabinets, fixtures, stairs and some furniture with just a click and a drag

  • make your designs public or keep them private

  • show or hide the dimensions

  • show or hide the grid lines

Create 3D Floor Plans to Help Sell your Listing Create 3D Floor Plans to Help Sell your Listing Create 3D Floor Plans to Help Sell your Listing

When you are done designing the space you can:
  • view your design in 3D

  • print your designs

  • print your designs with a custom header and/or footer with the choice of showing or hiding the dimensions and gridlines

  • export your design to a jpeg file

  • share your designs by e-mail
Create a simple floor plan with no furnishings and share the link with your potential buyers. They will be able to use the same design functions of Autodesk Project Dragonfly and add furniture to the floor plan to better visualize their belongings in the space. You can also add your own furnishings to the design to show potential buyers just how a space can be used.

Here are some designs we created:

Microsoft Office vs Google docs - The Results

About a week ago I pledged to use Google Docs exclusively to see what the buzz was all about. I ditched all my Microsoft Office products and jumped into the world of Google. Here are my findings. Have you tried Google Docs?

Outlook VS Gmail
The GRI offices are on a Microsoft Exchange environment. I was able to quickly set up Gmail to send and receive emails based on my Exchange settings. However, since Exchange was doing the heavy lifting, I missed out on Gmail’s useful message "conversation" grouping. Also, I could not get my Outlook calendar to show in Gmail's calendar. For those that do not need to rely on Exchange, Gmail provides an excellent choice for email and calendar. It is quick, and has built-in spam filter and antivirus. Google will also completely host your email through its apps program for free. What that means is that you can have an email address such as yourName@yourCompany.com hosted by Google. If you must rely on Exchange I would stick with Outlook. For those that do not, Gmail is an excellent contender which costs you nothing.

Google Docs
Availability and collaboration are the two real advantages for all of the Google Docs programs. Files are available anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. Collaboration on any file is a real plus as well. All you have to do is "share" a file and Google sends an email to the person with a link to the file. You can allow a person to have full access to make changes or only the ability to view. Google also keeps track of the versions so you can easily go back to a previous edit. All programs let you save files in Microsoft versions and easily email them as attachments.

Word VS Google Docs (Document)
I, once again, wrote this blog entry using Google Docs (Document.) Google Docs offers the average Word user the same features. You can easily format (bold, underline, highlight.) You can add tables, images and special characters. Google Docs also offers a great spell checker. You can import Word files as well as export to Word format. You can also directly email an attachment and convert it to Word at the same time.

Power users will miss the ability to add page numbers and forget about mail merging from excel or a database.

Excel VS Google Docs (Spreadsheet)
I am not a power user of Excel. Having said that, I was not able to find anything lacking in Google Docs that I use in Excel. Through the use of Gadgets, you can even use pivot tables. You can also reference other sheets in the same spreadsheet. However, I was not able to reference other separate spreadsheets -- a feature I rarely use.

For everyday columnar data keeping and calculation, Google Docs works superbly. You can import Excel files as well as export to Excel format.

PowerPoint VS Google Docs (Presentation)
For simple presentations, Google Presentation does the job. You can set a slide's layout, and preset color scheme. You can also insert images and a few shapes. You can insert YouTube videos, but cannot embed any other types of videos. Also, you have to be online during the presentation for the YouTube video to play.

You can tell specific sections to start showing up as you click but you cannot add effects like fly ins or fade ins.

It looks like Presentation is the one tool that still needs some work to get up to par with Word.

What about Access?
Google Docs does not have a desktop database program like Access. Microsoft is the clear winner here.

In conclusion, I do not think I am ready just yet to completely ditch Microsoft Office. However, I was able to stay productive and achieve all my tasks using purely Google Docs. Google Docs even proved to be better in some areas. Collaboration between my coworkers using Google Docs is a feature that I will miss. Also, the accessibility of the files from anywhere is a definite plus. Have you tried Google Docs?

Friday, July 17, 2009

California GRI Classes for the week of July 20

GRI Schedule

Pleasanton - Jul 22 (Wed) - GRI #106 Money Making Str...
Visalia - Jul 22 (Wed) - GRI #110 Marketing, Finan...
Fresno - Jul 23 (Thu) - GRI #106 Money Making Str...
San Diego - Jul 24 (Fri) - GRI #100 Agency Relations...
San Diego - Jul 24 (Fri) - GRI #101 Ethics, Professi...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

Have Buyers Sign a Listing Agreement

Michael Soon Lee by GRI Instructor Michael Soon Lee, MBA, CSP, CRS, GRI

Author: "111 Ways to Justify Your Commission" and "Black Belt Negotiating"

In any market, but especially a slow one, you want to make sure that every buyer signs a Buyer-Broker Agreement which is essentially a listing agreement with the buyer. If they buy anything in the geographic area you specify during the listed period they owe you a commission. The beauty of consistently using this kind of agreement is that If they won't sign it you know they don't plan to be loyal to you.

When would you want to find this out - at the beginning of your relationship or after you've worked with them for six months? So why do few agents in California use the Buyer-Broker Agreement? Stay tuned for my next blog posting to find out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

3 Returning GRI Locations

Graduate REALTOR® Institute, the #1 real estate designation is returning to 3 great locations!

Network with the best while obtaining priceless knowledge. Become a GRI and earn 92 hours of Continuing Education credit and satisfy all requirements for your next DRE license renewal.

The following locations will host a one-year complete GRI series:

Santa Cruz Association of REALTORS®, Santa Cruz, CA is scheduled to begin on Friday, September 4, 2009 with GRI course #111 Investment Property Analysis, taught by Thomas Swem.

Delta Association of REALTORS®, Antioch, CA is scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 17, 2009 with GRI course #109 Residential Real Estate Finance, taught by George Lawrence.

Bakersfield Association of REALTORS®, Bakersfield, CA is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 with GRI course #109 Residential Real Estate Finance, taught by George Lawrence.

Enroll in one of these upcoming series or in any of our 21 locations. Enroll online or contact PRI at 888-785-4800.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Real Estate Loans: Rates Heading Down?

Dean C. Piller by GRI Instructor Dean C. Piller
Teaches GRI Course 109 - Residential Real Estate Finance, West Los Angeles College Instructor, Mortgage Broker
View future classes taught by Dean C. Piller

We are back in the 4's again! Interest rates rose to the low 5's, as it appeared the economy was starting to turn around. As promised, inflation is sure to follow with the government’s stimulus package and printing of money.

But then something happened. The State of California is out of money and the economy is really a long way off from recovering. The result? Money flows back into the safety of bonds and interest rates go down. For how long, nobody knows. What we do know is that interest rates are historically low and property values are at or near the bottom, and there has been a tremendous increase in sales activity, with many agents reporting multiple offers and bidding wars on good properties that are priced right.

What is the moral of this story? We better get while the getting is good!

Friday, July 10, 2009

California GRI classes for the week of July 13

GRI Schedule

Laguna Hills - Jul 14 (Tue) - GRI #107 Technology Appli...
Lancaster - Jul 16 (Thu) - GRI #107 Technology Appli...
Thousand Oaks - Jul 16 (Thu) - GRI #111 Investment Prope...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Law requires Disclosure of DRE License Number

DRE Bill 1461

Effective July 1, 2009, California REALTORS® must disclose their DRE license numbers on first contact materials and real property purchase agreements. The new regulation has been put in place to aid consumers in verifying the license status of a licensee.
(see Bill 1461 text)

What are first contact materials?
  • business cards
  • stationery
  • advertising fliers
  • other materials designed to solicit the creation of a professional relationship between the licensee and a consumer
What is excluded?
  • advertisement in print or electronic media
  • "for sale" signs
  • classified rental ads reciting the address and phone number of the rental property
C.A.R. Forms

DRE license numbers must be disclosed on real property purchase agreements. C.A.R. has incorporated this into all new standard form purchase agreements.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tech: Time-Saving Keyboard Shortcuts

Time-Saving Keyboard Shortcuts

Learn how to use these keyboard shortcuts and increase your efficiency. Instead of going back and forth between keyboard and mouse, and searching through menus, you can use the following shortcuts to speed up some of the most common activities:

Basic Keyboard Shortcuts:
Ctrl + X = Cut
Ctrl + C = Copy
Ctrl + V = Paste
Ctrl + Z = Undo
Ctrl + Y = Re-do
Ctrl + P = Print
Ctrl + A = Select All (In an open document, this will select all the text; in an open explorer window, this will select all the files.)

Windows Shortcuts:
Alt + Tab = Toggle between open windows and programs
Windows logo key + D = Show Desktop
Windows logo key + M = Minimize all windows
Ctrl + Alt + Del = Reboot/Windows Task Manager

Document Shortcuts:
Ctrl + N = Opens new document
Ctrl + B = Bold
Ctrl + U = Underline
Ctrl + I = Italic
Home = Move insertion point to the beginning of the line
End = Move insertion point to the end of the line
Ctrl + Home = Move insertion point to the beginning of document
Ctrl + End = Move insertion point to the end of document
Shift + Home = Highlight the line from the insertion point to the beginning of the line
Shift + End = Highlight the line from the insertion point to the end of the line
Ctrl + ← = Move the insertion point to the left one word at a time
Ctrl + → = Move the insertion point to the right one word at a time
Shift + ← = Highlight text to the left of the insertion point
Shift + → = Highlight text to the right of the insertion point
Ctrl + Shift + ← = Highlight whole words to the left of the insertion point
Ctrl + Shift + → = Highlight whole words to the right of the insertion point

Did you also know that you can set up shortcuts for frequently-used programs?

Navigate to the shortcut for the program in the Start Menu or on your Desktop , right-click on the shortcut, and click on Properties .

Time-Saving Keyboard Shortcuts

Click anywhere in the Shortcut key Box , assign a letter or number to the program, and click OK .

Time-Saving Keyboard Shortcuts

In order to launch the program, use the Ctrl + Alt + [Shortcut Key] key combination.

Friday, July 3, 2009

California GRI classes for the week of July 6

GRI Schedule

Anaheim - Jul 7 (Tue) - GRI #113 Real Property, T...
San Jose - Jul 7 (Tue) - GRI #113 Real Property, T...
San Luis Obispo - Jul 8 (Wed) - GRI #112 Environmental Co...
San Mateo - Jul 9 (Thu) - GRI #100 Agency Relations...
San Mateo - Jul 9 (Thu) - GRI #101 Ethics, Professi...
San Dimas - Jul 9 (Thu) - GRI #108 GRI Risk Managem...
Sacramento - Jul 9 (Thu) - GRI #108 GRI Risk Managem...
Vista - Jul 9 (Thu) - GRI #111 Investment Prope...
Corona - Jul 10 (Fri) - GRI #105 Legal Issues...

More information: All GRI schedules | How to Register | (888) 785-4800

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Work with the Best and Turn Away the Rest

Michael Soon Lee by GRI Instructor Michael Soon Lee, MBA, CSP, CRS, GRI

Author: "111 Ways to Justify Your Commission" and "Black Belt Negotiating"

One of the rules that has helped me to be successful during good times and survive through tough times for over thirty years in the real estate profession is: "Work with the best and turn away the rest." I believe that working with clients you like makes the job easier and more fun which is especially important when business is challenging like now. The only problem is that you need enough clients in the pipeline to be able to turn away those with whom you don't have instant rapport. So make sure you have an effective and comprehensive marketing plan. What's your opinion on this philosophy?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Microsoft Office vs Google docs - The Real Test

All the buzz is about Google taking over Office, Microsoft's 2nd most profitable business. I decided to give Google docs a real world test. For one week, I will not use any Microsoft Office products. This includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. I am actually writing this entry on Google docs' document program.

In this short entry, I have used links, bolding texts and also a spell checker all built into Google docs. So far so good. I will report back next Wednesday about my findings.