Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Report alleges bullying of nontraditional brokers

Consumer group calls for more action by state regulators

Wednesday, December 27, 2006
By Glenn Roberts Jr.Inman News

State regulators should take a more active role to prevent discrimination and promote competition in the real estate industry, the Consumer Federation of America advocates in a report released this month.

"Traditional brokers, and often their trade associations, have used various strategies to limit or prevent the growth of nontraditional brokerage services," the consumer group charges in the report, "Nontraditional Real Estate Brokers: Growth and Challenges." State regulators, the report also states, "need to supplement the efforts of ... federal agencies to promote a free, nondiscriminatory residential real estate brokerage marketplace."

It is the latest in a series of reports issued this year by the Washington, D.C.-based federation that criticize the real estate brokerage industry's treatment of nontraditional companies and calls upon state regulators to step up their efforts to protect real estate consumers. The advocacy group is supported by about 300 nonprofit organizations and has a mission to advance pro-consumer policy on a variety of issues.

In July the advocacy group called for the independent regulation of real estate brokers, citing its survey that found about 79 percent of all state real estate commissioners "earn a living through real estate transactions," with 70 percent working as real estate brokers or salespersons. Stephen Brobeck, executive director for the consumer group, encouraged governors and state legislators to pass measures that prohibit active real estate brokers from serving as real estate commissioners.

And in June, the consumer federation released a report that described the traditional real estate brokerage industry as a "real estate cartel" and called for "fuller and more timely consumer information, ending of discrimination against nontraditional brokers, and effective, independent regulation" in the industry. The National Association of Realtors rebuffed findings in this report, stating that the real estate industry "is one of the most competitive business environments in the world" and features about 80,000 brokerage companies and more than 2 million real estate licensees.

This latest report describes the various business models used by nontraditional brokerage companies and provides examples of industry practices that can restrict competition. Nontraditional brokers, as described in the report, "offer services, charge prices, or provide (or do not provide) representation in ways that differ from, and usually threaten, traditional brokers."

In response to this report, the National Association of Realtors stated that consumers can choose to work with "discount, limited-service or minimal-service brokerages," among others. "NAR's policies foster the interests of all Realtors and real estate consumers. We support all business models and favor none."

Debbie E. Campagnola, CEO for the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, an international group that includes representatives for real estate regulatory agencies, did not respond today to Inman News requests for comment about the report.

There is "considerable evidence" that nontraditional brokers have grown in number and market share of real estate sales, the report states. The share of real estate sales involving nontraditional brokers rose from 2 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2005, according to statistics from real estate research company RealTrends cited in the report. And Wall Street Journal articles have stated that the proportion of home sellers using traditional brokers declined from 74 percent in 2002 to 70 percent in 2005.

In addition, a CFA examination of Yellow Pages directory listings of real estate agents in 10 cities found that "there has been a large increase in advertising by nontraditional brokers." For example, listings of discount, flat-fee and for-sale-by-owner business directory listings increased by 152 percent from 1995-2005 in 10 cities studied, while listings of exclusive buyer-agent businesses grew 20 percent in that time.

Also, "the prominent and pricey display advertising" for nontraditional real estate businesses grew 31 percent from 1995-2005 while the use of "boxed" directory listings grew by 73 percent, the report states. The 10 cities studied include: Akron, Austin, Boston, Columbia, Columbus, Des Moines, Miami, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Traditional brokers "did not passively accept changes in service, pricing and representation options," the report charges. Nontraditional brokers have at times faced an uneven playing field in participating in the real estate market, according to the 18-page report.
Some multiple listing services, for example, have placed some restrictions on the online display of a category of property listings that is more commonly used by nontraditional brokers, and the Federal Trade Commission has announced actions against several MLSs in an effort to stamp out this practice.

Also, the CFA report cited MLS rules that prevent homeowners from displaying for-sale-by-owner signs when working with an MLS-member company, and boycotts of companies that do not offer a high enough level of compensation to cooperating brokers.

"Because traditional brokers working with buyers are usually compensated with a 'split' of the commission paid by sellers, the level of that split can and has influenced their interest in showing homes. Specifically, there is much evidence that traditional brokers are reluctant, or refuse, to show homes with commission splits under 3 percent," the report states, and includes references to complaints filed with the CFA, news articles and communications from real estate industry professionals.

While the CFA commends the efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to stop potentially anticompetitive practices in the real estate industry, the report states that "discrimination is too varied and frequent for federal agencies ever to adequately block completely. It is up to more independent and vigorous state regulators to conscientiously and fairly address every grievance filed by nontraditional brokers. And they must be willing to meaningfully sanction all egregious violations."

The report encourages state regulators to: "intervene fairly" in cases of anticompetitive actions against nontraditional brokers, to prevent brokers' actions that "deter competition and poach clients" from nontraditional brokers, to "act in a timely and impartial manner in disputes," and to study state and local real estate marketplaces "for bias against nontraditional real estate brokers and models."

Regulators, the report suggests, should also "repeal or oppose anticompetitive laws or legislation such as minimum-service and anti-rebate laws that exist in more than one-fifth of states. And they should direct state regulators to regulate the policies and practices of all service providers equally." Several states have passed laws -- in some cases despite the objections of Justice Department and FTC officials -- that require all real estate brokers to perform a specific set of services for their clients (known as "minimum-service" measures), and the federal agencies have taken action against some states that prevent real estate companies from offering rebates to consumers in transactions.

The CFA report states that consumers, too, can play a role "in ensuring a more competitive, pro-consumer marketplace," by negotiating for prices and services with real estate companies, and the report encourages consumers to file complaints with state regulators when they "see any evidence of discrimination against nontraditional services."

For additional information, please contact:

Vito Boscaino
Help-U-Sell North High Realty




Thursday, December 21, 2006

Home buyer's still king in Central Ohio

Real Estate Articles from Inman News

Record inventory slows sales, slashes prices

Thursday, December 21, 2006 Inman News
Columbus, Ohio

The buyer's market continued in Central Ohio during November, as record-high inventory cut further into sales and prices, the Columbus Board of Realtors reported.

Realtors recorded 1,763 home sales last month, down 7.2 percent from 1,899 sales a year earlier. Year-to-date, the region's 24,498 sales are 4.2 percent behind last year's pace.

Although the average sales price crept up to $167,371 last month from $166,266 in October, it has fallen 3 percent below the year-ago price of $172,586.

Record numbers of homes have been listed for sale this year in Central Ohio, the board reported, although new listings sank in November from both month- and year-ago levels. There were 2,899 new listings added to the market last month, compared with 3,844 in October and 3,368 a year ago, bringing the total number of active listings at month end to 16,501, up 15.4 percent from inventory levels in November 2005.

Chris Reese, president of the Columbus Board of Realtors, said the decline in new listings "is an indication that the market is headed in the direction of a more balanced playing field. Right now, the market clearly favors the buyer."

Reinforcing the current buyer's market is the markedly longer time houses are spending on the market. Homes that sold in November were listed for an average of 104 days, up 20.9 percent from a year ago when homes sold in 86 days.

The Columbus Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service serves all of Franklin, Delaware, Fayette, Madison, Morrow and Union counties and parts of Champagne, Clark, Licking, Fairfield, Knox, Logan, Marion and Pickaway counties.

For additional information on buying or selling a home in Central Ohio, please contact me:

Vito Boscaino
Help-U-Sell North High Realty




Wednesday, December 20, 2006

To FSBO or Not To FSBO

That is the question, at least for an estimated 20%-40% of homeowners. And the reason is universal - no one wants to pay 6% to sell their home. I was once a FSBO. I did it for the same reason and it taught me four invaluable lessons. First, traditional real estate is inefficient which is one reason why the cost is so high. The majority of agents have between zero and two homes listed and are probably only getting a sale once every three to four months, even longer in this market. After expenses, advertising and broker fees, they wouldn’t make any money if they didn’t charge 6%.

Second, most traditional agents have limited means and limited advertising to generate traffic to a home, which ironically is the main reason you hire them. And the MLS is not advertising. It’s a database, albeit a very useful one, but it is not advertising.

Third, signs sell homes. The small direction signs that say "for sale" and "open house" get people to your home. Why? Two reasons. One, people are attracted by neighborhoods and if they are in a neighborhood they like, will be attracted to homes in that neighborhood. And two, people like to shop.

Consumers want to know what they can get for their money and are willing to take the time to shop around. They want to see all the opportunities before making a decision. Put the two together and signs sell homes.

The final and most important reason is there is too much at stake both personally and financially to not have professional consultancy. One mistake in pricing or a contract item could cost you thousands and possibly much more than you saved by going it alone.

So how do you get expert, professional assistance, the best advertising and still save money on the sale of your home? The answer is Help-U-Sell. We provide complete real estate services for a low set fee paid at closing which saves our buyers and sellers thousands. We have an exclusive relationship with, the number one real estate website, so all of our homes are "enhanced" which means they are viewed, on average, 300% more than other listings. We also produce our own newspaper, the Real Estate News, which contains informative articles as well as showcase advertising for all our homes. And, we provide all your signs!

(Article courtesy of Chris Ognek, Owner, Help-U-Sell Olde Dominion

For further information, please contact;

Vito Boscaino
Help-U-Sell North High Realty

Phone: 614.447.3050


Friday, December 15, 2006

Five tips to negotiate a home purchase in today's market

Savvy buyers can still bag right home at the right price
Friday, December 15, 2006
By Robert J. Bruss
Inman News

According to statistics from Realtor, home builder and government sources, the volume of new and resale home transactions is down but the actual sales prices of individual residences hasn't changed much in recent months.

To gain the attention of home buyers, many sellers (especially home builders) are offering special incentives such as no closing costs, commission bonus for the buyer's real estate agent, mortgage-interest-rate buy-downs, and even a free vacation or plasma TV for the buyer or buyer's agent.

During this slowest home sales season of the year between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Day, extending to Super Bowl Sunday in many communities, motivated home sellers and builders are especially anxious to sell.

Consider yourself fortunate if you are in the market to buy a home now. Mortgage interest rates are still quite affordable at around 6 percent interest. Anyone with a new or resale house or condo on the market to sell at this time of the year is probably very eager to negotiate.

NEGOTIATE WITH SERIOUS HOME SELLERS. With a few local exceptions, in most home sales markets there is an oversupply of new and resale residences available. Just ask any real estate agent for the "number of days on market" and you will discover home listings languish much longer than a year ago.

Typical answers will be 90 to 120 days. However, it is not unusual for a correctly priced home in good condition to sell within a week or two.

The supply inventory of unsold homes is higher than buyer demand. The result is "the buyer is king."

To successfully negotiate a home purchase in the current buyer's market in most cities, here are the five top negotiation tips for today's home buyers:

1. DISCOVER WHY THE SELLER IS SELLING. Having bought and sold many houses, I've learned it's critical for smart buyers to know the seller's true motivation for selling. If the seller asks, "Why do you want to know why I'm selling?" the best answer is "Because I want to make you a purchase offer that will meet your needs."

In other words, negotiate with sellers who really want to sell. Signals of serious motivation to sell include job transfer, unemployment, pending foreclosure, divorce, birth or death in the family, financial problems, purchase of another home, and retirement.

Although home listing agents and buyer agents usually try to keep the buyer and seller from meeting each other, whenever possible it is to the buyer's advantage to meet the seller before making a purchase offer.

A good question for a buyer to ask the seller (and/or the neighbors) is, "What do you like best and least about this home?" Then keep quiet and let the other party talk. Listen carefully to discover if that home is right or wrong for you.

When a seller has the attitude, "If I can get my price, I'll sell; if not, I won't sell," it's usually a waste of the buyer's and agent's time to negotiate with that seller unless the asking price is very reasonable.

However, just to be sure, if you want to buy a particular house, make a realistic written purchase offer anyway and see what happens. Some sellers act like they don't really care, but they do. When the seller makes a counteroffer (as all sellers should do in today's slow buyer's market), that indicates at least some sales motivation.

2. FIND OUT THE SELLER'S PURCHASE PRICE. But before making a purchase offer, savvy buyers ask how much the seller paid for the home and when it was purchased. If it was bought last year at the top of the market, there is probably zero room for negotiation unless the seller has a very high motivation to sell.

However, if the home was bought more than 10 years ago, there is probably lots of seller equity with which to negotiate.

If the purchase price can't be determined from the public records, and the seller refuses to tell you their purchase price, an experienced real estate agent can usually make a reasonably accurate estimate based on the purchase date. For this reason, it is important for home buyers to always work with a buyer's agent who knows the community.

3. FIND OUT THE SELLER'S DEADLINE TO SELL. When a seller is motivated by a deadline, such as a job transfer date or the scheduled closing date on another home, such a deadline can be powerful motivator.

In addition, buyers should inquire of their buyer's agent when the listing expires. If the listing expires in the next few weeks, the listing agent will usually be extremely cooperative and motivated to get the home sold fast.

However, if the seller has no specific deadline to sell, negotiation with that unmotivated seller can be very difficult.

4. ASK WHAT INSPECTIONS THE SELLER HAS COMPLETED. The best listing agents suggest their sellers, before officially listing the home in the local MLS (multiple listing service), have the customary local inspections completed.

There are two primary advantages of pre-listing inspections for sellers: (a) unexpected problems, such as a leaky roof or termite damage, can be repaired by the seller, and (b) costly surprises are avoided for sellers when the buyer's inspections must reveal unexpected serious damage.

Based on the inspections, the seller can then provide a written disclosure report listing any defects of which the seller is aware but the seller has not had repaired.

Depending on local custom and statutes, pre-listing inspections might include pest control (termite), radon, energy efficiency, building-code compliance, and a professional home inspection. It is very impressive for buyers to be shown the customary inspection reports revealing a home without major problems.

Some buyers will accept the seller's reports without hiring their own inspectors. However, the smartest buyers include a contingency clause in their purchase offer making the offer contingent on the their approval of their own inspectors' reports.

After the buyer's purchase offer is accepted by the seller, if the buyer's inspections reveal undisclosed defects, the buyer then can (a) disapprove the reports and obtain a full refund of the good faith deposit, (b) re-open negotiations on price and terms, or (c) ask for repair credits as part of the closing settlement.

5. BEFORE MAKING A PURCHASE OFFER, ASK YOUR BUYER'S AGENT TO PREPARE A COMPARATIVE MARKET ANALYSIS (CMA). The most important reason home buyers need their own buyer's agent is, before a purchase offer is made, the buyer's agent should prepare a CMA.

This CMA form shows (a) recent sales prices of comparable nearby homes, (b) asking prices of similar neighborhood homes currently listed for sale, and (c) even asking prices of recently expired competitive listings (usually overpriced).

Using the pros and cons of each home shown on the CMA, with the agent's help the buyer can then arrive at a fair purchase offer price. The buyer's agent will then show that CMA to the seller when the buyer's purchase offer is presented.

Although the seller's agent probably prepared a CMA for the seller at the time of listing, the local home sales market might have shifted in the several months since then so the buyer's up-to-date CMA is a very important negotiation tool. It shows why the buyer's purchase offer is reasonable and should be accepted (or at least counteroffered) by the seller.

SUMMARY: By following the five negotiation tips above, smart home buyers can take advantage of the current buyer's market in most cities. Although it's a great time to be a home buyer, to avoid overpaying or buying the wrong home, savvy buyers who implement these five buyer tips will be on their way to a wise home purchase.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center).

For additional information, please contact:

Vito Boscaino
Help-U-Sell North High Realty

Monday, December 11, 2006

Overpricing a home could lead to no sale

Sellers need to stay on top of rapidly changing markets
Monday, December 11, 2006
By Dian HymerInman News

Overpriced home listings usually don't sell in any market. In today's market, there's no margin for error when selecting a list price. If your price is too high, the market can literally pass you by.

Many sellers ask: What's the harm in pricing high initially? You can always come down. While this is true enough, you may end up with a lower selling price if you start too high to begin with, particularly if the market is declining.

Today's real estate market is generally balanced, although there have been modest declines in median sales price in some areas. Prices are still going up in areas with low inventory and high demand, but the appreciation rate in these areas is slower than it has been in recent years.

Given today's market conditions, buyers are more cautious about home purchases than they were last year. They are looking for value. A high price sends a message that you are out of touch with the market. Making an offer takes a lot of time and energy. Most buyers aren't willing to do this if they think that the seller is unreasonable.

Another factor that can keep buyers from making offers on overpriced listings is that they don't want to offend the sellers. Buyers feel that a low offer might jeopardize their chances of buying the property. They'd rather wait to see if the sellers lower their price before making an offer.

There is more emotion involved in a home purchase than in most other business negotiations. Home buyers usually need to feel passionate about a property before they'll make an offer.

Today's buyers are concerned about overpaying in a soft market. It's hard for them be enthusiastic enough to make an offer if a listing is priced too high. A listing that might look great to them at the right price might not even be appealing at an above-market price.

So, one risk of overpricing is that you don't receive any offers at all. Another related risk is that your home might not even be shown to buyers if it's priced too high. There usually is a direct correlation between the amount of showings a listing receives and the time it takes to sell.

HOME SELLER TIP: Sellers who live in areas where prices are declining need to be particularly careful not to overprice their homes. Before your home goes on the market, ask your agent to update the market evaluation of your home that was done before you listed to make sure that the recommended price range still holds. If not, readjust the price before you hit the market. Your home is most marketable when it's new on the market. So capitalize on this enthusiasm by presenting a good product at the right price.

Since the market is always changing, you may find that your list price could be too high soon after your home is on the market. Many sellers object to lowering their price too quickly.

They're afraid they'll leave money on the table.

However, the best time to lower your price is as soon as you discover that the price is high. This way you quickly rekindle interest in your property. Leaving your home on the market too long at a high price can cost you money if prices decline.

After your home is on the market, keep an eye on your competition. Ask your agent to keep you informed about listing activity in your area. Find out which listings are selling and which aren't.

How does your home stack up in comparison?

THE CLOSING: Pricing lower than your competitors can often bring about the desired result.

For further inofrmation on properly pricing your home, please call:

Vito Boscaino
Owner / Realtor / MBA
Help-U-Sell North High Realty



Thursday, December 07, 2006


If you've owned your home for awhile, you've probably enjoyed increased equity and appreciation. So the idea of making money when you sell is familiar. The idea of saving money probably isn't.

It's simple math. Most brokers charge a sales commission; so on a home that sells for $200,000, a 6% commission* is $12,000. On a $500,000 sale, it is $30,000.
At Help-U-Sell® Real Estate, our licensed brokers offer the same real estate services but, instead of a commission, we work for a low, set fee. As a result, our clients can save thousands of dollars.

How Do We Do That?

Two important reasons that allow us to pass along savings to you:

1.Our neighborhood offices located around the country are owned and operated by experienced licensed brokers with a staff of salaried professionals, instead of commissioned agents.

2.Because our marketing system works so well, a broker and his or her staff can use their time more productively and manage more transactions efficiently and professionally with less overhead.

Looking for a New Home?

Help-U-Sell® listings are a good place to start. When a seller doesn't have to account for a commission in their sales price, they are more open to competitive pricing. Through Help-U-Sell® Real Estate, you also have access to For Sale by Owner homes which are typically priced lower. And that creates savings opportunities for you.

List Your Home "For Sale With Owner" and Save!

Get all the professional services you need - and savings -- from a licensed real estate broker. Your expert next door!

Vito Boscaino
Help-U-Sell North High Realty

(614) 447-3050

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Does Anyone Ever Over-Plan a Move?

Most closings take 30 or more days. Decide if that will give you and your family enough time to focus on the task of moving. It's better to start too soon than too late.

1. Make a Checklist. Itemize all the steps leading up to your move. Make assignments to family members and put the list where everyone can see it and check off their accomplishments!

2. Maintain Your Property. Before you can receive the proceeds from the sale, your home must past the buyer's final walk-through. Be sure to leave the house "broom clean" and the yard in the agreed-to condition. Otherwise, you will be spending your time weeding when you should be packing.

3. Have a Yard Sale. Many people pack up things they don't want because they ran out of time to sort through closets, drawers, sheds and garages. Take it a room at a time. Set aside an area for sale items. And schedule your sale at least one month before your move date.

4. Get Relocation Assistance. If you need to more information about the schools, neighborhoods, or services where you're moving, you can rely on one of our Help-U-Sell® offices to get it for you. Just ask.

5. Move Before You Close. You don't need to wait until your actual close date to move. If you schedule your move a few days early, you won't feel rushed at the end.

Looking for Immediate Help?

The Help-U-Sell® Rewards Program provides a gateway to name brand moving services at a discount. Find out about trucks, moving companies and special credit card savings.

Get all the professional services you need - and savings -- from a licensed real estate broker. Your expert next door!

Vito Boscaino


Putting Your Money Where it Counts . . .

If you're thinking about selling, it's easy to add up all the things you were going to fix and never did. But now isn't the time. Instead look at your house as an investment. Here are 10 ways to improve your return on investment (ROI):

1.Repair, replace and repaint only what you need to.

2.Catch up on deferred maintenance and put the basics in good working order.

3.Patch and paint any cracks or other damage to exterior and interior surfaces.

4.Make sure doors and windows operate smoothly and replace broken glass.

5.Make sure all electrical fixtures work like lighting and ceiling fans.

6.Fix plumbing leaks and faucet drips.

7.Check toilets to make sure they flush properly.

8.Some construction projects offer a better ROI than others, like kitchen and bath remodels or adding a new deck. But resist the temptation to finish building your "dream home."

For more specific ideas for your home, contact a Help-U-Sell® broker today.

Looking for a New Home?

Trying to find the "perfect" home is fun but also challenging. That's why we offer so many ways for you to search our database of more than 1,100,000 homes for sale. You can search 24/7 on our website. Or you can fill out a Buyer's Profile document and your neighborhood Help-U-Sell® office will get to work searching for you.

Get all the professional services you need - and savings -- from a licensed real estate broker. Your expert next door!

Vito Boscaino (614) 447-3050

Is this the right time to Sell?

With so much recent real estate activity, home owners across the country are asking the same question. Asking the question is easy. Answering it is harder. But one of the key deciding factors is whether your home has appreciated or increased enough in value to justify selling.

Finding the Market Value of Your Home

Instant Online Comps The easiest way to find out your home's value is to use the Home Value Search tool on our website. Just enter your home address and, in seconds, you'll receive data on three recent home sales near you - free.

Complete Market Comps Your Help-U-Sell broker can prepare a more detailed comparison of recent sales in your area. This, along with his or her analysis and recommendations, should be adequate to helping you decide whether the time is right to sell.

Full Property Appraisal You can contract a professional appraiser to evaluate your home against recent sales in the neighborhood. This is the most accurate way to determine your home's worth. And it may be the only way, especially if your home is greatly different in size or amenities from the homes around it. Your local Help-U-Sell® office can help you find an appraiser.

Looking for a New Home?

If you expect the proceeds from your sale to be substantial, it's more important than ever to have a Real Estate Plan and clear objectives. Do you want or need a larger home? Would you rather use those funds for college tuition? Are you looking to invest? Your Help-U-Sell broker can help you decide your priorities and goals. We're glad to help. Just ask us!

Vito Boscaino