Valencia (Santa Clarita, CA)
Valencia (Santa Clarita, CA) Real Estate News
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Pocket Listings: What Do you (and your Agent)Know?
Jason Renno & Keith Renno (Wintrust Mortgage)



The term “pocket listings” has been cropping up here and there in real estate publications and conversations. If you are buying or selling in today’s market, you need to know what a pocket listing is—and your agent needs to know too.

Most of the time when a property comes on the market, the listing agent registers it with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This is the primary marketing tool for properties, where online sites such as Trulia and Zillow get their information and where agents get property information as well.

Occasionally, however, a property will not be posted on the MLS. These properties are known as pocket listings. These are not to be confused with properties that have not yet come on the market that agents may be aware of.

The general consensus among agents is that pocket listings aren’t a great idea. Sellers could miss out on getting their property bid up, while buyers who are well qualified and ready to purchase may not be made aware of a home that fits all their requirements. However, according to industry experts, pocket listings are on the rise. So how do you ensure you approach them the right way?

If you’re a seller, you’re more likely to get a competitive price for your home if it’s listed on the local MLS. Every real estate agent who subscribes to the MLS will be able to access it and show it to every buyer they have. But some sellers don’t want dozens of people traipsing through their homes, or have special attachments to their property and are looking for a certain type of buyer. They may want their trusted agent to handpick a few potential homebuyers for whom the property is ideally matched and simply show it to them.

Buyers will need to express to their agents that they know pocket listings exist. If you and your agent go over the specifics and parameters of the home you’re looking to buy, from size to price to location to amenities, and you are certain your agent is very clear about what you want and where you’re willing to compromise, you should feel confident asking them to keep you apprised of any pocket listings they have that match your needs. Ultimately, it’s up to their discretion—and possibly the seller’s—whether you are shown a home that is a pocket listing.

Pocket listings are generally not an ideal way to market a home and may mean that buyers miss out on potential gems. Sellers are strongly urged to list their homes on the MLS and to use all marketing channels possible to properly showcase their homes and ensure they get fair market value for the property. That said, buyers should be aware that these pocket inventories exist and should have a conversation with their agents as they enter the homeshopping process. By doing so, each side has a better chance of getting what they want.

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What is a purchase offer?
Jason Renno & Keith Renno (Wintrust Mortgage)


So you've found it: the perfect house, on the perfect street, in the perfect neighborhood. You're ready to write a check, sign some papers and start packing your current home in preparation to move in.
Not so fast. Unfortunately, buying a home isn't like shopping at the department store. In general, you don't get to just pick a house, write a check, and move in. There's a lot more paperwork involved, and in today's market, you may even have some competition for the perfect home.
Why Can't I Just Buy? When you find the home you want, you'll be making a bid on it, rather than simply purchasing it outright. A bid is an offer to buy for a certain amount of money, with a certain set of conditions. This is your purchase offer and it is written by your real estate agent.
Your agent is going to be invaluable in these negotiations. Is your area experiencing bidding wars for properties? Your agent will know, and will counsel you on the amount to offer. Will a larger down payment make a difference? What kind of loan do you want to use, conventional, FHA, VA, or something else? All of these financial decisions will make a difference to the seller when they are considering your offer, especially if you're competing with other potential homebuyers.
More than Money. Your purchase offer is really a precursor to a purchase contract, so there's more to it than just a dollar amount you're willing to pay for the home.
Factors that can be negotiated include:

1.    How closing costs are paid, the seller may pay a portion.

2.    What inspections or repairs you want.

3.    Under what circumstances you can cancel the purchase.

4.    Time frames for each step of the process.

Is a pest inspection critical? How about a roof certification? Does it need to be written into the contract as a contingency for purchase? Your agent will counsel you on this and other important factors that need to be included in the offer.
When One Is Not Enough. Your bid or purchase offer could be rejected, and there are a number of reasons why. You may also receive a counteroffer from the home seller, changing terms in the bid you offered to make it more favorable to them. It's up to you and your agent to determine whether the counteroffer is acceptable, and whether you're willing to sign it, or to provide yet another counteroffer of your own. The type of loan you are using and the amount of your down payment can be hugely influential when the seller is considering a number of purchase bids. 

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Interest Rates Rise: June 2013
Jason Renno & Keith Renno (Wintrust Mortgage)

Yes, interest rates have increased the past 60 days but now still is a great time to buy! Jason Renno and Keith Renno explain what has caused rates to rise and why now is the time to buy real estate.

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Setting the Stage for a Successful Home Sale
Jason Renno & Keith Renno (Wintrust Mortgage)

Styling your home to make it look its best when it's on the market, also known as staging, can be more complicated than you would think. But you don't have to rush out and empty the local Williams-Sonoma [and your wallet] to show the potential of your property. Here are some tips for showcasing your home.
The walk-through. Have a critical eye as you move from the curb to the front door. Look for areas that need cleaning and clearing out. Imagine what buyers will be looking for rather than imposing your sense of style on the house. Focus on the highlights of each room and note ways to play those features up.
Clean, clean, clean. If buyers aren't fond of clutter, they'll be even less fond of dust bunnies in corners, dirty footprints across the linoleum, and fingerprints on the stainless steel.
Clear the way. Getting things off the closet floors is the ideal when showing your home, but if you can't manage to put everything away, at least invest in some inexpensive storage bins or baskets to keep the home looking tidy. This goes for garden tools in the shed, toys, and items in the kitchen and bathrooms as well.
Add a pop of color. In a sparse room, buyers can picture their own belongings much better, but you still want the home to have warmth. A couple of bright throw pillows on a bed or couch will foster a cozy feeling.
Be gender neutral. In the master bedroom and bath, strip out any indications of gender. Crisp white linens, a clear dresser top, and a neutral quilt will appeal to everyone. Aim for a bedroom that is serene, calming, and peaceful.
Do up the dining room. A formal dining room can look cold and overly… formal. Set the table with the dishes you'd use for favorite, frequent guests rather than a formal dinner party.
Rearrange the furniture. It might not be how you chose to set up your rooms, but pulling furniture into conversation areas is appealing to most people.
Make every space count. The guest room should be obviously a guest room; the same goes for the office. Ambiguity in a room's purpose can be confusing to homeshoppers. Make it clear what each room is for. If you have an oddly shaped landing, or a little nook in the living room, don't ignore it: show its potential.
It's important that you're thinking about what buyers may want in your home, rather than what you wanted and how you used your space. These easy staging tips, coupled with the advice of your real estate agent, should have your home under contract in no time!

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How Does an Extra Payment Impact My Mortgage
Jason Renno & Keith Renno (Wintrust Mortgage)


Why Make an Extra Mortgage Payment?
Considering the current state of the economy, many people are trying to pay down debt to unburden themselves financially. Have you considered paying down your home loan? Your mortgage is probably the biggest debt you will have in your lifetime; paying it off early will save you potentially thousands of dollars that you'll keep in your pocket, to spend on vacations or college tuition, or to save for a rainy day.
If you're interested in paying down your mortgage faster, you can make just one extra payment per month — or even just one extra payment over the life of the loan. You'll be surprised at how much you can save!
Making a Difference
Here's an example. Say you have a mortgage for $210,000. Your interest rate is 4% and your original monthly payments are about $1,003. If you make just one extra payment of $1,000 on your loan, just once, you'll pay off your loan up to three months earlier, saving you all the interest you would have paid during that time.
Now here's a more exciting example. Using the same loan parameters above, if you add $50 to every monthly payment, you'll pay off your loan nearly two years ahead of schedule. Take a look at your loan statement; how much interest will you save now?
And another interesting tip: A single large payment early in the life of the loan will shorten your term and reduce your interest payments more than a contribution made later on, although any additional payment will show benefits.
Finding the Cash
If you get paid every two weeks, twice a year you'll get an "extra" check. Consider putting those two checks directly toward your mortgage. Even taking half of them and paying down your loan will help reduce your loan term and the amount you owe.
If you decide to make just one extra payment a year, consider budgeting for it every month. An extra payment of $1,003 is $83.58 per month, or $19.29 per week. Committing to setting aside the cash on a regular basis can make it seem more manageable, especially if it means just skipping a couple of coffees and lunch out one day each week.
Is This the Right Choice for You?
Remember, however, that paying off a home mortgage loan may not be the best choice for everyone. If you have other loans, especially ones with higher interest rates than your mortgage, then they should probably be your priority to pay off. Credit cards and car loans usually have higher rates than home loans.
In addition, the government currently allows homeowners to write off mortgage interest payments on their taxes.* if you are seeing significant benefits from this credit on your tax returns, you may not want to pay off your home loan at this time.
Making a Decision
Paying off your mortgage, as you can see, is not a decision to be taken lightly. Be sure to review all your debts and the interest you're paying. You may want to consult a financial planner or accountant to ensure eliminating this debt will have a positive effect on your finances.
If paying off your loan early is a move you're contemplating, please contact me so I can help you review your options, recommend a local financial expert if you need one, and provide any assistance I can so that you're able to make the best decisions for your personal financial security. I look forward to helping you save some money!
* We are not a tax advisory firm. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and may not reflect current tax year rules and regulations. Consult your tax advisor or the IRS for current tax year rules, restrictions and regulations.

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How to Maximize Referrals in a Purchase Market
Jason Renno & Keith Renno (Wintrust Mortgage)



Maximize Your Referrals
Repeat customers are the lifeblood of real estate professionals. But we also need to increase our sphere of influence in order to grow our business. Developing strong relationships with your clients will help you on both fronts, by promoting client loyalty and by providing value in order to spur referrals form those same loyal customers.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, about 20 percent of all business their members receive is through repeat customers. If 20 percent of your clients are recommending you to their friends, families, and coworkers, you will grow a strong and healthy business. If they aren't referring you — well, let's make sure they are!
You're Also Selling You
You're not just helping clients find new homes and properties — you're also selling yourself as an expert in the field, a trusted advisor who is guiding your clients to making great decisions. You should have a service or area of expertise that sets you apart from the competition. Do you know the ranking and test scores of every school in the area? Do you specialize in investment properties? You need to make sure your strengths are put to the forefront in any conversation and on all your marketing.
Speaking of Marketing…
If you're handing out informative materials at every meeting and open house, gathering email addresses to add to your database so you can send out newsletters and greetings, and following up on every contact you make, your reputation as a go-getter will precede you and your name recognition should increase dramatically. Every flyer you create should have your photo and contact information on it; ditto with your business cards, open house brochures, and any other material you hand out to contacts. Create a social media presence, keep it separate from your personal accounts, and be sure to update regularly — weekly if not daily.
Be Consistent
If Client A recommends you to Client B, but Client B doesn't get the same level of service, you can bet you won't be getting another recommendation. Every client is a potential avenue to more business, no matter how big or small their purchase may be — and even if they don't purchase at all right now, circumstances could change. Make sure you're the one they want to call when they're ready to move forward.
Build Your Database
A box full of business cards isn't going to help you reach current and potential clients quickly, easily and effectively. An electronic database makes it simple for you to send out newsletters and targeted marketing for purchases such as moveups or second homes, and to keep in touch regularly with your contacts. Update your database constantly and be sure you follow up on bouncebacks or returned mail with a phone call to confirm contact information.
Every time you contact your database, you're reminding them of the excellent service you provide, and making it easy for clients to get in touch with you for their real estate needs or to pass your information on to others who are looking for a new home.
You're Asking for It
Probably the most important bit of advice is to ask for a referral! Ask both clients and business partners — they may not even be thinking that far ahead, so it's up to you to plant the idea in their minds. And make sure you've earned the right to ask by providing excellent and consistent service.
By following these guidelines your referral business should climb along with your customers' satisfaction with your service. Remember, earn the referral, and ask for the referral, and there's no reason you shouldn't get the referral. 

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Getting the Most from Your Mortgage at Tax Time
Jason Renno & Keith Renno (Wintrust Mortgage)


It's that time of year again: get ready to gather up the paperwork and settle in to get your tax forms completed. Whether you use a commercial software, stick it out on your own, or hire a professional, there are some documents you'll need to be sure you have to hand when you're maximizing the write-offs you can get by having a home mortgage.

Staying Organized
Hopefully you've been keeping all your paperwork organized throughout the year. If you haven't there is no better time than right now to start: Set up folders in your file drawers for 2013 and start putting the papers where they belong! When it comes to your home, you'll want to hang on to your mortgage bills and your year-end mortgage statement; any receipts for home improvements that increased the energy efficiency of your home; and any receipts for upgraded and energy-efficient appliances you have purchased. These documents are extremely important because itemizing your taxes is going to be the best way to maximize your deductions.
Mortgage Interest and Insurance
In general, the interest you pay on your home loan, whether it is a standard loan, a line of credit, or a construction loan, is tax deductible. Many people have refinanced recently and may be eligible to deduct the interest associated with the refinance as well. Specific restrictions do apply to the amount you can deduct and the types and numbers of properties that are eligible. In general you may deduct interest on your primary home and on one additional residential property. You may also be restricted by the type of loan you have; a home equity line of credit has different limits than a straightforward mortgage. At the end of the year you'll receive a Form 1098 from your lender which will clearly show your payments for the year and simplify taking the deduction on your tax forms.
If you are a fairly new homeowner or if your home is underwater and your loan-to-value ratio is 80% or greater, you will have private mortgage insurance on your home. These payments are also tax deductible, depending on your adjusted gross income. As your AGI increases, the amount you can deduct decreases.
Energy Efficiency Deductions
According to the Energy Star website, you can get a tax credit of either 10% or 30% of the cost of a number of home energy efficiency improvements. These include:

  • Heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC)
  • Insulation
  • Certain types of roofing
  • Water heaters
  • Windows and doors
  • Solar energy systems
  • Geothermal heat pumps
  • Small wind turbines
  • Fuel cells

Check the website carefully as some credits apply only to primary homes, while others may be used on secondary homes as well, and some apply only to existing homes and not new construction. You must be certain to save your receipts and the Manufacturer's Certification Statement for your records.
Points, Taxes, and Other Deductions
Points are fees you pay when securing your mortgage. They will be clearly stated on your HUD-1 closing statement and on your end-of-year Form 1098. Points are deducted differently for first-time loans versus refinance loans so if you're doing your taxes on your own you'll need to read the instructions carefully.
If you bought or sold a property in the past year, a portion of the real estate taxes you paid are eligible for deduction. State and local property taxes are generally eligible as well. If you own investment properties, numerous breaks may be available to you, for things such as the property's mortgage, costs of repairs and maintenance, and depreciation. Consult a tax advisor for more information.
Real Estate: A Great Investment
Despite the recent ups and downs in the market, owning a home is still a great investment and can give you substantial breaks when it comes to your taxes. If you have further questions about mortgages or home ownership, I'm happy to sit down with you for a no-cost and no-obligation discussion about advantages and options. Call me today to learn more!
* We are not a tax advisory firm. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and may not reflect current tax year rules and regulations. Consult your tax advisor or the IRS for current tax year rules, restrictions and regulations

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