Move Myself or Hire a Mover?

When it comes to the question of hiring movers or doing it yourself, the answer is largely dependent on time, money, muscle and distance. Clearly, moving across town isn’t the same as moving across the country. A long distance move will require extensive forethought and planning. Likewise, a move within Los Angeles, Chicago or New York City could quickly devolve into a nightmare if you try to do it yourself—crowded streets and cramped staircases make for a lot of beat-up knees and potentially broken backs.

Which do you have more to spend – time or money?

Unless you are moving out of an eight bedroom Tudor, a handful of friends, a lot of boxes, tape and hard work is all that is required to move anyone out. If you are taking this approach, presumably you are renting a truck. You should consult with your rental truck service about the capacity and limitations of different truck sizes. Many well established rental truck companies have online tools that will calculate truck size based on the dimensions of your home—square footage or how many beds and baths.

You should budget for fuel. This is especially true if you are making a long distance move, as gas is expensive. Organizations like the American Automotive Association (AAA) have helpful online fuel-cost calculators that you can program with different distances.

Once you have drawn up a do-it-yourself moving budget that includes rental cost, gas and other miscellaneous fees that you may incur (friends need to eat – and drink), you should call the top 3 moving companies on Yelp.com for a quote. If money is the determining factor, then inquiring will give you your answer.

Money isn’t an issue – my time is more important

Your best bet to guarantee the best experience with a moving company is to hire an outfit with high customer reviews. And take the time to get copies of the movers insurance and guarantees, etc. This is important in big cities where there are major moving days like October 1st, movers have been known to overbook and back out at the last minute!

A good moving company will move with the speed and agility of a small army. If you can get a decent quote – or you are so lucky as to find a moving company that is cheaper than the cost associated with a DYI move – jump on it! Moving can be extremely stressful, and a moving company is a great way to get your things organized and out in a timely fashion.

It should be noted that movers often work for tips as well as a salary. You should calculate a fairly sizable tip, 15-20%, on top of your moving quote.

Deciding whether to hire a moving company or do it yourself is determined by your individual needs. If time is a total issue – say you are a starting a new job in a new city -you don’t want to overburden yourself. At the same time, money and necessity may dictate that you do it yourself.

If you’re moving with pets request a free copy of our eBook “Moving with Pets – Easing the Transition” with a request to manager@gayrealestate.com.

Professional Real Estate Agents at www.GayRealEstate.com in the city you are moving to or from are always a great source for mover referrals ~ they and their clients deal with movers on a weekly basis, don’t be afraid to ask your agent for a referral to a mover, home inspector, mortgage professional and the like.

Discount Brokers: Should you list with one to sell your home?

As buyers hibernate for winter after a heated-up year for the real estate market, sellers search for ways to lower the prices of their homes. In an increasingly competitive environment, everyone wants discounts, and so-called “discount brokers” promise exactly that. But are they a viable alternative for you?

As the name implies, discount brokerage firms’ offer discounted prices, compared to their “conventional” competitors. Whereas all real estate brokers earn their fees through charging a commission, discount brokers will offer lower rates, in exchange for reduced services. But do the fees still represent a sufficient level of professional involvement? Each particular discount brokerage tries to set itself apart from the crowd by tailoring its services and fees in a unique way. The responsibility of the seller is to scrutinize the details of each listing contract and see what works best for them.

I had a seller once go so far as to obtain his real estate license to save money on his real estate commission… really? Can you imagine if you put that much effort into your own job? You’d probably get a raise equal to the commission savings – a raise that would last year after year! Don’t be so short sighted.

Here are a few features that discount brokers (who are also referred to by other names like “flat fee” brokers) often include in their repertoire of services. By understanding the features and what they entail, you should be able to sort out the whole concept and decide for yourself if a discount broker is appropriate to your circumstances.

1)   How much do they charge? Most will offer fees that are about 50% less than “conventional” listing agents, but you should still expect to pay a 2.5 to 3% buyer broker fee to any outside broker who brings a buyer to the table. Find out how that fee is calculated into your costs before you sign the listing agreement. Some brokers will charge a flat fee, instead of a percentage of the selling price. One broker we surveyed charges $1,800 (plus the 3% finder’s fee) regardless of how much the house sells for – be it $50,000 or $2.5 million.

2)   Marketing: Brokers will expose your home to potential buyers in a number of ways, primarily through a listing in the MLS database (a computerized listing service which is the main resource used by real estate professionals for buying and selling property), buying print-media advertisements, doing special promotions like Open Houses, and placing a “for sale” sign with their phone number on it in the yard.

If your broker doesn’t plan to list your home in the MLS and the multitude of viable and necessary avenues on-line, like Zillow.com, Redfin.com, etc. then you would be wise to look elsewhere, because you will lose almost all of the significant exposure to potential buyers by being excluded from one or all. On the other hand, if you are being added to the MLS, you should expect to pay as much as $500 and up for the service. When itemizing expenses paid to a listing agent, MLS inclusion is one of the more costly but worthwhile expenditures.

Print-media ads are sometimes effective, sometimes not. It depends on the particular market you are in, and the specific placement and distribution of the advertisement. Many sellers choose to handle this kind of exposure themselves, with some minimal guidance from their Realtor. And in some markets where print ads are less effective, sellers often decide to skip the expense altogether, and concentrate on other methods. The one things that is critical are professional photos! Over 70% all home searches begin on-line – make sure your photos shine!

Open Houses can be a good way to attract customers, and some discount brokers will agree to host them, but they may charge extra for that service. It is reasonable to pay anywhere from $150-$500 to have your Realtor do an Open House, and if you ask them to explain the expenses involved in the process, they should be happy to show you everything that such a promotion entails.

A sign in the yard with their phone number on it, instead of yours, means two things: First, the Realtor will get free advertising for his or her own business. Second, and most important to you, the random calls from “window-shoppers” as well as serious calls from qualified buyers and their agents will go to your Realtor. You won’t be interrupted during dinner or caught off guard without answers, and you won’t miss calls because you were away from your phone.

3)   Handling the showings, the contract negotiations, and the details of closing the sale:     

If you find a discount-fee broker who is willing to handle all the calls, book the appointments, conduct the tours of your property, negotiate the contract on your behalf, and take care of the numerous and often complicated details between the contract and the closing, you will have found a valuable broker and will likely get more than your money’s worth. Conversely, many brokers who offer discounts will not perform those various services, so in that case the maxim “you get what you pay for” holds especially true. For instance, you may save money on the commission but wind up doing all your own property showings, appointments, and price negotiations. This can cost you not only valuable time, but thousands in potential loss revenue.

Interview both kinds of brokers and then weigh the pros and cons for yourself and make an informed choice. To connect with a qualified traditional broker, visit the real estate professionals at www.GayRealEstate.com. They are committed to excellent service to our LGBTQ community.

Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding/CEO of GayRealEstate.com – serving our LGBTQ community for over 25 years!

5 Keys to Buying Rental Property with Friends

Buying rental property with your friends is a business deal and, as with any business deal, there are issues that should be considered before taking that step. Below are 5 keys to buying rental property with friends.

1.         Be sure that your friends can be relied on. Entering into a partnership with friends who are not dependable or do not follow through with promises may not be your best choice for purchasing a rental home with.

2.         Discuss how much you can collectively afford to spend on a rental property and what each friend’s contribution will be. You should also decide how you will hold ownership of the rental property. Generally, when friends buy property together, they hold ownership by tenancy in common. This means that each owner has an equal right to the property and can sell his interest without the other owner’s approval.

Any number of individuals may own different percentages in one piece of property under this type of ownership. For example, you own 25 percent, a friend owns 25 percent and another friend owns 50 percent. Generally, the percentage of ownership is decided by how much each person has invested to purchase the property.

3.         Create a written partnership agreement outlining the details of ownership and how future transfers of ownership will be handled. For example, if one friend decides to sell, the other partners have the first right of refusal. The agreement should also spell out the financial obligations of each friend and what will happen if one friend stops meeting his financial obligations.

Other details to consider include who will be responsible for ensuring rent is collected and that the mortgage, insurance, taxes and maintenance are paid for? Who will be responsible for maintenance and repairs? It would also be wise to include a procedure for resolving disputes. For example, by unanimous vote or by a majority of the vote.

4.         Consider forming a limited liability company, LLC. Purchasing rental property as an entity rather than an individual can help protect the owner’s personal assets. Each friend will become a shareholder, but you will not be personally liable in the event that the owners, you and your friends, of the rental property are sued. LLCs have the ability under law to conduct business including purchasing, owning and conveying real estate, the power to make contracts, and to borrow money when necessary.

5.         Make sure the rental home is a good investment! A top producing LGBTQ real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com will help you find an investment property, analyze the numbers and represent you with your negotiations, inspections and purchase of the property.

The advice contained in this article is for informational purposes only. It would be wise to seek the advice of a real estate attorney and CPA to assist you with the legal aspects of buying rental property with friends.

Jeff Hammerberg Founding/CEO | www.GayRealEstate.com