Let’s Give Thanks

Dear CENTURY 21® friends,

On this eve of Thanksgiving, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks TO YOU, as you prepare for what I hope to be a safe and enjoyable holiday filled with new memories for you to share with your friends and family for years to come.

Memories are a defining part of our business. After all, we work hard to serve our customers and connect families across the world to homes, where they will make their own memories. I am thankful to you for the dedication and the hard work you put forth every day to help people create these great experiences.

Century 21 instagram Campaign
Thanksgiving is also an opportunity to share the time-honored traditions and dishes.  Love them or hate them, our first-ever #Thanksblasting social campaign, puts you and your meal favorites in the middle of the conversation.  So far over 15,000 fans have voted on their favorite dish. It all culminates on Thanksgiving day (light meat versus dark meat) on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!  If you get the chance, be sure to join the fun on line.


On behalf of the CENTURY 21 International Headquarters team, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

Regards,

Rick Davidson
President & CEO
Century 21 Real Estate LLC

Shop Local Small Business Saturday

Gain Big Results


Each year, American Express sponsors Small Business Saturday the day after Black Friday to encourage people to shop at small businesses. The single day has grown into a very strong movement, starting in   2010.

shop local saturday

The Grand Strand, stretching the many miles that it does, has grown expeditiously over the decades. However, it is rooted in small, family-owned businesses. Today, many of those generations of ancestors still carry on the family name in serving locals and tourists alike.

Whether retail shops, restaurants, hospitality, real estate, service stations, publications or the myriad of other establishments and companies, this beach is rich with industrious-minded individuals and families.

Take time this holiday season to stop and patronize our local small business partners. We appreciate them and their commitment. They continue to make this area strong and successful.

North Myrtle Beach Celebrates The Great American Smokeout Day

The Great American Smokeout DayThe American Cancer Society marks the third Thursday of November The Great American Smokeout Day for an important reason. This date sends a message to people across the nation to take a step toward a healthier lifestyle. Today signifies supporting those who do smoke in making an effort to quit, as well as reducing cancer.

If you are a smoker, use The Great American Smokeout Day as the perfect opportunity to stop smoking and protect your health and the health of your loved ones. It is not news that smoking inflicts immediate damage to your body, threatening your future with increased risks for cancer, heart attack, lung disease, and early death.

The risk of smoking
The idea is simple, though the change can be hard. For those who smoke, commit to not smoking for 24 hours. Then try 48 hours, then 72. Break the change down into smaller pieces.

If you are a North Myrtle Beach resident, check out Smoke Free NMB, a grassroots organization with a mission to reduce the effects of secondhand smoke (SHS) on workers, residents and visitors.

The Great American Smokeout is just one day out of the year. However, connecting people with cessation resources, the impact can last for generations.

Visit cancer.org/smokeout, a website featuring tools to install on your computer, such as the Smokeout Countdown Clock that allows you to pick your quit date and provides daily tips.

Resources:
Helpguide.org: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/how-to-quit-smoking.htm
SmokeFree NMB: https://www.facebook.com/SmokeFreeNMB
American Cancer Society's tools: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/greatamericansmokeout/index

Community: Property Tax Bills Being Mailed

Press Release: Conway, South Carolina—The County is mailing approximately 250,000 2014 real property tax bills this week. You can currently view your tax bill online by visiting www.horrycounty.org and clicking "Online Services", then clicking "Tax Payments and Receipts". Next, enter the property owner name or map number to view the details of the tax bill. This is the same screen where you can make an on-line payment if you chose to do so.  With the implementation of the new tax billing system, you can now pay property taxes by telephone by calling 1-866-830-3582.  The following day you can print your tax receipt from the County's website by following the above steps.
Property taxes

Tax bills relating to 2014 can be paid without penalty up to January 15, 2015. Payments postmarked after January 15, 2015, and payments paid at the County's Treasurer's Office locations after January 15, 2015 will be subject to a 3% penalty, and additional penalty of 7% if not paid on or before February 1, 2015, and a third penalty of 5% if not paid on or before  March 16, 2015.  Additional information relating to paying real property taxes on-line, or signing up for the installment payment plan, is available at http://www.horrycounty.org/Departments/Treasurer.aspx. The deadline for new applications for the 2015 tax year Installment Payment Program is January 15, 2015.  For more information concerning tax payments please contact the Horry County Treasurer's Office at (843) 915-5470.

The Horry County Auditor's Office is mailing approximately 60,000 personal property tax bills. Personal property tax must be paid on all personal property, including business personal property used to generate business income within Horry County. This includes business personal property, such as furniture, which is located within a condominium or house that is rented to third parties to generate revenue for the owner. The tax is assessed on the values that the business owners report to the County when they file the Form PR 26 by April 30th each year. More information regarding this filing requirement, including the form and the instructions, are available at http://www.horrycounty.org/Departments/Auditor.aspx. If you have questions regarding the personal property tax bill that you receive, or if you filed a Form PR 26 but do not receive a personal property tax bill, please call the Auditor’s Office at 843-915-5054.

The Auditor's office is also mailing over 15,000 tax notices for watercraft/motors (SCDNR-registered boats and U. S. Coast Guard documented vessels).  There is no annual filing requirement for SCDNR-registered boats; however, if you own a vessel federally documented with the U. S. Coast Guard, you are required to file a Watercraft Survey with the Auditor's Office by April 30th of each year for a vessel you owned on the prior December 31st, even though it may have been sold after the December 31st assessment date.  The Watercraft Survey is available at http://www.horrycounty.org/Departments/Auditor.aspx. If you have a question about taxes on a SCDNR-registered watercraft, please call 843-915-5055.  If you have questions about a tax notice for a U. S. Coast Guard documented vessel, please call 843-915-6643.

Lisa H. Bourcier | Public Information Director
Horry County Government
Public Information Office
P.O. Box 1236, Conway, South Carolina 29528
Tel 843.915.5390 | Fax 843.915.6390 | bourcier@horrycounty.org
www.horrycounty.org

Is your office enrolled in the Showcase Advantage Listing Program?

HomeFinder.com and CENTURY 21 Real Estate are excited to announce a national partner program that offers a discounted rate to all CENTURY 21 Offices.  HomeFinder.com has driven thousands of leads to CENTURY 21 Offices at a low cost per lead in the past and we look forward to serving your offices again through this exciting program.

Program Includes
  • Special CENTURY 21 System pricing = $65 per office (67% savings!)
  • Enhanced Listings for all your office listings. This includes: Priority sort; Premier branding; Trackable phone number; Email lead form from property details page; Unlimited photos and social media integration
  • Plus 5 Featured Properties


If your office i not enrolled yet, now is the PERFECT time to take advantage of the bonus savings on Homefinder.com all month long! Act now!

Top 5 Resources For The Best Real Estate Books

Good investments are backed by great information. Real estate is no different. Books are one of the best sources of information for anybody interested in real estate. It is true that most of us have no time to waste and we turn to internet and short articles for the topics of our interest. It is also true that by doing so we limit ourselves to incomplete information. Books have been and still are the best source for thorough, detailed information, especially when large amounts of money are involved.

Book shelf
Since there are so many books out there and it has become increasingly hard to filter out the good reads from those that can easily be passed on, we have decided to lend a helping hand and do the work for you. So here are 3 great resources listing some of the best real estate books anyone should read:
Most successful real estate investments have less to do with the money and more with the quality of the decisions made based on knowledge. If time is money, knowledge is power. Improving your real estate literacy can get you to levels of success you can only dream of. Let us know in the comments section below if you have run into other great real estate books. And remember, the best place to start for any of your real estate endeavor is Century 21 Thomas website.

Myrtle Beach Area Real Estate Market Update - July 2014 Statistics

Myrtle Beach Real Estate Statistics July 2014

The real estate market in the Myrtle Beach area has seen a few interesting twists both in June and year to date. Here are a few important statistics to consider:

  • Single-family home sales jumped 11.5% in June from June 2013 in Horry and Georgetown counties
  • Myrtle Beach area up 6% in growth for the first half of 2014 versus the first half of 2013
  • The local area's real estate market is no longer dependent on sales of homes priced $150,000 and lower
  • The real estate growth in the area for both this June and the first half of 2014 has been in home sales in the $200,000 - $400,000 range
  • Sales of homes priced $200,000 - $250,000 surged 23% in June 2014
  • 204 homes priced between $200K - $400K sold in Horry and Georgetown counties in June 2014, 93 more than in the 2nd highest selling price range, $150K-200K
  • For the year, 990 homes priced $200K - $400K have sold, 387 more than the 2nd highest price
    Myrtle Beach Real Estate Chart July 2014
    range, $100K-$150K
  • There were 715 pending sales at the end of June, 34.4% higher than June 2013
  • The median sales price for single-family homes in June 2014 was $193,929, up 5.1% year to date
  • Condominium sales are slightly below last year's numbers

The large increase in the number of single-family homes sales is due  to the fact that there have been relatively fewer distressed properties (short sales and foreclosures) for sale. The number of lower priced single family homes which made most of the transactions for the past few years has dropped, making room for higher priced properties.

10 Things You Need to Have in Your New Home

Moving into a new home is always an important endeavor that needs to be carefully planned and executed. You may move out of your parent's home for the first time, or you may simply relocate with your family, it really doesn't matter. The fundamental aspects of the process of starting life in a new home are the same. I will focus today on a list of the 10 most important items needed in a new home.

1. Art you love - art is integral to our culture, a part of our daily lives. Art helps us achieve a better self awareness and it makes our place more beautiful. We need, as human beings, more than just functional items, and art can help us provide personality to our home. Art-decorated living room
2. Plants - these living organisms are not just greenery, they interact with our body, mind and home in ways that enhance the quality of life. Match the right plant to the right growing conditions and you will benefit from the fresh air they produce.
Indoor plants
Indoor plants - Source: blog.hgtv.com
3. A nice mattress and headboard - choose a quality mattress for comfort, and a headboard for character. Spending money on a good mattress can be the healthiest investment of your life. Latest reports show that a full night's sleep throughout your life could help ward off age-related cognitive decline and improve general health.
Mattress and headboard
4. Linen closet - many homes have a built-in linen closet near the bedrooms and for a good reason. Consider adding a linen closet if your home doesn't already have one. The primary function of a linen closet is to be functional, so spending a little bit of time creating an orderly linen closet can actually save you time and stress in the long run. Also, make sure you have at least three sets of sheets – one on the bed, one for a guest, and one as a backup if one set is in the laundry. I also recommend having a couple of extra pillowcases, since they should be changed frequently.
Linen closet
5. Coffee table - they come to mind right after sofas when you think of living room furniture. For some, a coffee table is a canvas for artful arrangements of objects, while for others; it almost makes for a dining table.
Coffee table
6. Home safety and first-aid kits - you have to have the right things to address the common cold, a fever, headache, stomachache, nausea, etc. Make sure you include basic medications, band-aids, spare light bulbs, batteries, a needle and thread, power cord, etc., to allow you to handle small emergencies.
Home emergency and first aid kit
7. Silverware/Dishes - they add color to the kitchen and dining areas, making a great meal more than just food. Make sure your tableware is in sets of four so you can accommodate guests.
Silverware and dishes
Silverware and dishes - Source: Jim Roger Webb
8. Desk organizer/file holders - to help keep you organized. Many people keep themselves busy even after retirement and we all have bills, receipts, coupons and other documents to manage.
Home office
9. Electric appliances - it seems obvious, yet many people have created a habit of living frugal. There are, for sure, items most anyone can live without, but any household needs a refrigerator, TV set, microwave oven, washing machine, and vacuum cleaner.
Home appliances
10. Internet - yes, I have decided to include it on the list of "top 10" since we now live in an interconnected world and the informational highway plays a vital role in our lives. Internet gives us access to email,  allows us to do business remotely on those days we cannot get to the office, and lets us watch the online videos, movies or shows we love. A home with no internet access does not really belong to the 21st century.
Family using internet
You may have other important items to add on the list, or even disagree with some of the items I have included. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. In the meantime, don't hesitate to use our real estate properties online search if you are searching for the perfect home for you and your family in the North Myrtle Beach area.

Best Questions To Ask At Open House

Open houses are useful in gathering information about the neighborhood, getting a feeling about the housing stock or finding good real estate agents to work with. Once you spend the time at an open house, what are the best questions to ask and how to make the best of it?

Open House

An open house can tell you a lot more about a home than its floor plan. Here are some questions to ask the listing agent:
  • Are there any offers on the property? If you are interested in that particular property the answer to this question will tell you if you have competition.
  • Were there any offers rejected and why? This will help you come up with an offer with better chances to be accepted.
  • Has this house been in escrow? If it has, and didn't sell, you'd want to know why. Ask if any inspections were done on the house, so you know what you're dealing with, and what kind of secondary inspections you might need should you decide to make an offer.
  • How long has the property been on the market? You might discover an opportunity for a lower offer, especially if there has been a price reduction.
  • Why are owners selling and why have they decided to sell now? This is a variation on "How motivated is the seller?" You might not get any answer, since sellers' agent has a responsibility to them not to disclose factors that might hurt the seller's chances at getting the best offer possible, but the seller's agent might also let  a few useful details slip. Any information you can glean can help you decide how much to offer, when to close, etc.
  • Are there any liens on this property? You don't want any surprises, so make sure there aren't any claims on the property.
  • What appliances and features are being sold with the house? Most of the time, major appliances come with the house. If they don't, you might want to factor the purchase price into your offer. 
  • Is the home going to meet a lender's appraisal expectations? Appraisal at the listing price isn't always a sure thing. Take a look at the recent comps and have your agent check pending sales to make sure you won't get stuck once you've starting spending money on inspections and other aspects of the process.
  • Are there any other costs of ownership? You want to make sure there's nothing to surprise you after closing. Ask about association dues and additional taxes or assessments. Call the homeowner association to make sure there aren't any rules that conflict with your lifestyle.
It pays to make a visit when the work day ends.  Observe the comings and goings.  If you have or plan kids, check the school at arrival and dismissal.  Check U.S. Census demographics and talk to homeowners in the area if you have the opportunity.

Buying a home is not a child's play. Do your research. Real estate purchases and sales are regional so don't let yourself influenced too much by statistics at a national level. Choose a good real estate agent. You want the person who represents you to be honest, not tell you what you want to hear. The selling and buying process are easy to make emotional. Real estate transactions are complicated and require someone who really knows what they are doing to get the best deal. If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How To Prevent And Detect Water Damage In Your Home

Water is crucial for life, yet water damage to a home can also lead to wood rot, peeling paint, insect infestation, shorter lifespan of roofing and siding, generating high maintenance and repair costs.

Leaking roof

Water damage can happen when you least expect it. Learn how to detect water damage warning signs in and around your home. Follow these tips to prevent water damage and avoid future costly repairs. Keeping on top of potential water problems can save you a lot of money.

Ensure good drainage
  • Clean your gutters - keep them free of debris and leaves
  • Direct downspouts 5-10' away from the house
  • Adjust gutters capacity - if water overflows the gutters after a few minutes of heavy rain, install additional downspouts
  • Slope your yard and landscaping away from the foundation
Clogged gutter

Drain subsurface groundwater and storm water with a sump pump
  • A battery backup system is recommended. The sump pump should discharge as far away from the house as possible
  • Check your sump pump once a year
  • Test more frequently during storm season
Fix water leaks
  • Repair any noticeable dripping pipes
  • Check for dark spots under pipes and on ceilings
  • Repair any cracked caulking
  • Ensure the exterior materials of your home are properly constructed and maintained.  Inspect the roof for missing, loose or damaged shingles
Leaking pipe

Prepare your home
  • Check the attic for holes, air leaks or bypasses from the house and make sure there is enough insulation to keep house heat from escaping
  • Prepare your basement against a water backup by raising your washer, dryer, water heater, all electrical wiring and personal items above typical water backup levels
  • The relative humidity in your home should be between 30% and 50%. Use the air conditioning system to remove the excess humidity
  • Replace drywalls immediately if any signs of moisture are present
Act quickly if water damage occurs and address the problem thoroughly. Unattended water usually results in structural failure and/or mold growth. Consult with a licensed building professional to determine the extent of the repairs necessary. Swift action will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery.

How to Get a Good Remodeling Contractor

Remodeling
Thinking about updating your kitchen to something more modern, or maybe give the master bathroom a Jacuzzi tub? The hardest part of a home renovation is finding the right contractor, someone you can trust to do a great job for a fair price.

Remodeling spending is up and prices are 30% from their lowest point a few years ago. Add to that the higher costs of materials and you get the full picture of today's market. Remodeling projects require good planning, money, and great execution. Here are a few tips on how to get a good contractor for the job and manage the process:

  • Be very clear of what you want to accomplish and make sure the contract includes the work needed to be done.
  • Ask for a reference from a client who had to call them back to fix a problem with the work. to make sure  the contractor follows up until the homeowner is satisfied.
  • Verify the contractor's licenses and check them for reviews with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are legitimate. To do residential building over $200 and commercial building over $5,000 in South Carolina a contractor must be licensed.
  • Get the contractor's input on the plan and on any initial sketches your architect has put together. If the contractor has a lot of experience he might offer valuable feed back and ideas.
Contractor

  • Leave the pricing conversation to the end. Discuss the technical details first and analyze carefully any add-on suggestions.
  • Never sign a contract without all of the blanks filled in. Read the contract carefully and, if the value is significant, have an attorney check it out.
  • Negotiate! Ask for bids from three different contractors if the value of the remodeling project is significant. Be sure to stoke competition by letting them know that you're gathering multiple offers. Skip any bids that are wildly high or low. But be careful, you don't want to end up with a contractor who cuts corners to stay within the budget.
  • Plan for a 10 to 20 percent contingency to cover the parts of the project that have to go over the initially allocated amount.
  • Set the schedule of the project with the contractor, but allow some flexibility. Good contractors have to work around issues and often times good solutions require more time.

Home remodeling

Communication is crucial. You may be on the phone with your contractor several times a day. You may have to work through disagreements over details so select a contractor who is not only skilled and reliable but who is someone you can get along with.  If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How much house can you afford?

How much home can you afford
Buying a home is one of the most important decisions you make. This is not a simple decision and it should be based on multiple factors. Despite its complexity, the process starts with a very simple question: how much house can you afford? This is the simplified answer: you can afford a house that costs as much as the largest monthly mortgage payment you qualify for.

Before you make any decisions and start shopping for a mortgage you should gather the financial information that allows you to do the affordability calculations. Mortgage companies use something called qualifying ratios to determine how much they will lend you. The ratio is calculated by taking your total monthly debt load and dividing it by your monthly gross income. Most mortgage companies use a 28/36 ratio. The first number is the percentage of your gross income that the lender would consider acceptable as a monthly mortgage payment ((i.e. if you make $3,000 per month, 28% of that is $840 per month).

The second number is used when all debt payments are considered (i.e. if you make $3,000 per month, but also have a $250 a month car payment, 36% of $3,000 is $1,080, minus the $250 car payment equals $830). Generally most lenders want your debt-to-income ratio, including your anticipated new monthly mortgage payment, not to exceed 36 percent.

In order to approach home ownership the right way, you have to think long term. The cost of homeownership extends beyond the monthly payment and includes routine maintenance and repairs, homeowners association dues, and additional utilities that you might not have paid while renting. You also have to consider your credit score. The best thing to do with a less-than-perfect credit score is to wait, while making changes in the spending habits to improve the score. Experts suggest, you should be debt-free and have three to six months of expenses saved in addition to your down payment and closing costs, before you consider buying a home.

If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page. Click here for real estate mortgage information.

Note: The purpose of this information is to serve as a useful guide. For more exact, personalized information, please contact a certified mortgage representative.

How to Sell a Home With Pets

Cat and dog on the couch
Most of the families with pets think of their dog or cat as a family member. Despite the affection though, pets don't help much with the sales process. A homeowner with pets need to go a few extra steps to clean the house and mend the necessary repairs before it becomes ready for the market at a competitive price.

Here are a few useful tips to prepare for selling your home with pets. Read this article and filter out the information that does not fit your particular situation. We are pretty sure you will still find some tips appropriate for you and your beloved pet.

Pets are known for not adjusting well to change, especially cats or older dogs. Have a serious conversation with a good veterinarian before making any changes. This will make the process easier while helping you identify the critical aspects you need to consider before they leave a mark on the pet.

Make sure the pet is not home when buyers arrive. The best way to handle this is by relocating the pet in advance. You need the help of a friend or relative the pet gets along with. It would be ideal to relocate the animal earlier in the sale process to allow you the time to clean the house of any traces of the pet. This way you make sure no buyer gets turned off no matter how indifferent to animals he or she is. It is also important to make sure your dog is not home during showings for liability reasons. There is always a potential risk of unpleasant incidents when a dog meets new people no matter how friendly the animal is. Even pets have bad days.

Repair any damages made by the pet on carpets, furniture, hardwood flooring, walls, doors, turf in your yard, porch, and fence. It is almost impossible to avoid these damages with a pet in the house. Any such deterioration may have a negative impact on the selling price and the value perceived by potential buyers.

On of the easiest ways to betray the existence of a pet in a house is the smell. A strong odor is in fact one of the top reasons a buyer will pass on a home. Now matter how keen is your sense of smell, you have probably gotten used with it in time. Don't think there is no odor just because you can't smell it. The best thing to do is clean thoroughly and rely on someone that does not live in the house to offer you feedback on how good of a job you have done on removing pet odors.  Extra tip: use a professional carpet cleaner. If nothing works, replace the entire carpet.

Clean the yard if you are a dog owner who gives their pets free reign of the backyard. It may be great for the pet, but it surely leaves a mark on the lawn. Improve the look of your yard by repairing the discolored patches.  A successful backyard will help your home’s outside sparkle and shine as vibrantly as the inside.

Do your best and prepare thoroughly. Sometimes though, even if there are no indications of pets living in the house, potential buyers ask anyway. Be honest and upfront. Some people may try to bargain and push the price down despite the fact that you have successfully cleaned up and removed any traces of your pet. The best approach in this case is to focus on the current state of the house. Emphasize that your house now looks as good as it did before you had the pet.

Selling a home with pets takes work, but it’s worth it in the long run! Clean your house and make the necessary repairs to make sure your home is not devalued in the marketplace. The best thing to do as pet owners is to take action to eliminate the problem before your home goes on the market. Remember, a home is only really worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

Century 21 and Google Sign Exclusive Partnership

The contract recently signed is an exclusive partnership in the real estate industry between two giants: Google, recently named the world's most powerful brand, and CENTURY 21 Real Estate, the franchiser of the world's largest residential real estate sales organization in the world.

Century 21 and Google Partnership

This partnership has the potential to be one of the most powerful programs in real estate, adding a team of professional marketing assistants available to help brokers and real estate agents with the following tasks:
  • design and personalize their myc21 site;
  • create unique property site flyers;
  • enroll sellers in the golden ruler
  • enroll customers into pcc
  • create marketing collaterals with AdMaker
  • generate publicity with PR studio
  • prepare listing presentations
  • implement the new C21 Social Exchange to schedule media posts
  • generate leads.

Century 21 - most visited real estate website

By signing the partnership, Century 21 has a national scope in view, since the company advertises in iconic national media venues and fuels the industry's most visited real estate franchise website.

Century 21 has added two new fantastic websites: Century21Espanol.com and FineHomesAndEstates.com, dedicated to keep the real estate agents front and center in the conversations with customers throughout the year.

During its recent "Sell Like a Champion" 2014 Global Conference, Century 21 announced that it will be advertising in the 2015 Super Bowl.

Century 21 to advertise in 2015 Super Bowl!

For more details visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39DNpfZMKV4. If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How to Go Green in Real Estate and Make Your Home Environmentally Friendly

April 22 is Earth Day, observed all over the world. It is a day of action for individuals, companies, and organizations to build awareness and protect the environment. As residents of North Myrtle Beach, we aare very happy with the latest developments regarding the wind energy in the area. In 2012 North Myrtle Beach City Council approved a resolution in support of offshore wind energy in South Carolina and identified North Myrtle Beach as a "Wind Powered Economic Zone."

CENTURY 21 Thomas has been a supporter of these initiatives. Our real estate agents are aware of the importance of promoting a green economy. They are open to managing listings of eco-friendly homes or sustainably-built homes. CENTURY 21 Thomas real estate agents were happy to share a few ways to go green in real estate and help others take steps to make their homes environmentally friendly:

Improve the energy efficiency of your home - work on the key areas of the home that are common trouble spots and frequently contribute to a home's poor energy performance:
  • seal and insulate the outer walls, ceilings, windows, doors and floors
  • perform annual maintenance of your heating and cooling system, clean the filter, install and use a programmable thermostat
  • use geothermal energy to heat and cool your home by using a ground-source heat pump
  • use  energy efficient lighting and appliances labeled as energy star products
Reduce, reuse and recycle - decrease household waste:
  • use the food you already bought and have in the house instead of buying more
  • reuse items around the house such as rags and wipes, empty jars and mugs, party decorations, and gift wrap
  • return used car tires to retailers or wholesalers that recycle or retread them
  • mow higher and leaving the clippings (called grasscycling). Homeowners can reduce their mowing time by 30 to 40 percent by not having to bag clippings.
Buy a solar panel system for your home - Prices for solar panels have plummeted, and industry experts anticipate a continued decline. Most solar panels on the market are high-quality and will have a guaranteed output of not less than 90% after 10 years and no less than 80% after 25 years.

Compare your home's energy use to similar sized homes and climates across the country with the Home Energy Yardstick (home utility bills needed) to see how you measure up with your neighbors. Going green is not just a fad–it’s an important element in our fight to save and preserve our planet for the future.

Resources:

Social Media for Real Estate Agents - LinkedIn (Part III)

Linkedin for Real Estate
LinkedIn is probably the best social media channel for testimonials and referrals. Even though little adopted by realtors, LinkedIn presents great opportunities for real estate agents. LinkedIn might not help you directly sell a home, but it will definitely help you create useful relationships.

Recent studies show that more than 70 percent of people would recommend the real estate agent they worked with. LinkedIn helps leverage this potential and makes it so much easier to get back in touch with previous clients. If most agents miss doing one important thing, that is contacting previous clients! The research shows how much those people are ready to recommend the agent, yet agents forget to reconnect with them. A good profile on LinkedIn with a good number of people in the network might be the solution.

Real estate agents can use LinkedIn to get referrals almost effortlessly. A profile on LinkedIn where you add a good presentation of yourself, with all the professional details and a good resume,  will help others discover and contact you. Your LinkedIn profile will help you expand your professional network while making it easier for people interested in your expertise and knowledge of the local real estate market learn more about you and get in touch with you.

real estate linkedin
One of the biggest strength of LinkedIn is its embedded tool for recommendations. Once you bring in some of your past clients, it is very easy for them to write a good recommendation for you and emphasize your professional qualities. These testimonials and recommendations will help you build your reputation and boost credibility. The recommendations will be posted on both your profile and the person who wrote them so this gives you exposure to your past client's network, increasing the chances for other people to want to work with you. LinkedIn is one of the best social media tools to tap into the power of peer review, the best component of effective marketing.

Here are some good articles and resources on using LinkedIn for real estate:


It is time to adopt LinkedIn, the social media channel that can best help you capitalize on testimonials and build your referral database. As always, if you are not a realtor but you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

Social Media for Real Estate Agents - Pinterest (Part II)

The real estate market is becoming more and more competitive. New people turn real estate agents every day so you have to find ways to stay ahead or else... Social media is one of the new marketing paradigms that can be turned into an extremely powerful strategy, tactic, tool, and everything in between. We have started in our previous blog post to present various  social media channels and tools useful to real estate agents. Today we will talk about Pinterest and how real estate agents can use it to make a difference.
If you want to understand Pinterest you need to understand its three main components: Pins, boards, and repins.

Pins are images that are added to Pinterest via the Pin It button  or uploaded from your computer.

Boards are are sets of pins that real estate agents create, usually around a certain topic (interior design, cleaning and organizing ideas, elegant dinnerware, etc).

Repins means adding to one of your own boards an image you find while browsing other Pinterest accounts. It's very simple: you like the image - you click repin - you choose one of your own boards you want to put it on - it gets displayed on your Pinterest board. Repining is the way to share someone else's image on your own board. But this is also the way someone else can post YOUR images on their boards! This can give real estate agents exponential exposure.

We live in a highly visual world. Don't forget that 80 % of the signals we process are visual. That's probably why Pinterest has gained tremendous success recently and people spend more and more time browsing boards on Pinterest besides catching up gossips on Facebook. When people repin an image from your Pinterest account, that image automatically gets a link back to your board. That makes it a great way to get back links, valuable for SEO and traffic building.

Here is an example of the "Real Estate Tips" board on Century 21 Thomas' Pinterest account:

Also remember that you can add a link to any image you upload on Pinterest so people who click on your image are directed to the destination of that link. So if you post a picture with a great view of one of the properties you handle, you can drive people who click on it to your listing.

The main social media for real estate opportunity with Pinterest is to promote great real estate images of the properties you manage with the goal of having other people repin them on their own boards. This gives you exponential exposure on the internet and increased chances to build traffic to your listing.

In one of our previous blog posts we emphasized how important it is to make sure you use great photography for the properties you list. Now that you have those great pictures, why not use them on Pinterest to capture more attention and traffic to your listings? Re-purposing existing photography is one of the best ways to effectively use Pinterest for real estate.

Good luck with using Pinterest for real estate. Hopefully you found these simple recommendations helpful. As always, if you are not a realtor but you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

Social Media for Real Estate Agents - Networking (Part I)

Social Media for real estate agents
Social media has become an important component of the online marketing mix of every successful business. As a real estate agent, you run your own business and you should not be stranger to strategies, tactics, and tools that can help you become more successful and get ahead of your competitors. We are going to present in this blog post more details about networking.

"It's not what you know but who you know" is as true today as it ever was. Networking and relationships are crucial for any real estate agent. From this perspective, social media is hard to beat. There is nothing more effective for building and nurturing relationships than Facebook, Youtube, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest. Just imagine how much information about your potential clients is at your fingertips on social media.

Social Customer Relationship Management Tools (Social CRM)

With Nimble and you can easily become a networking super star! According to their website, "Nimble automatically pulls your contacts into one place so you can engage them across any channel (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Skype, Phone, Email) in one easy to use interface. Nimble incorporates social
Nimble - Social CRM
Nimble: Contact Management Reimagined. (C) Nimble.com
listening and engagement tools so you can easily follow conversations and jump in at the right time with the right message. Nimble helps you create potential customers profiles by keeping complex information well organized: you can access in one place all the information about someone's social media accounts and the exchange of messages you have had on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkeIn, all the emails you've sent or received, notes you've made to help you remember important information related to the interaction with that person, etc. Nimble comes with a set or useful widgets and add-ons so you can easily access it through Chrome, Hootsuite, Android or Apple mobile phone and even through Microsoft Office 365. Read this article on Social Media Examiner if you want to learn more about social crm.

Real estate listing social media syndicationFacebook

Facebook is great for leads generation. Many real estate agents are very knowledgeable of Facebook, yet many are still at the beginning of including it into their toolbox. Basically, the best way to generate leads with Facebook is through interaction and creative posts which encourage interaction. Unfortunately Facebook is in a constant state of change and it makes it hard to keep up with it. That doesn't mean it is not worth doing it. You should look at Facebook as an extension of your database and treat it like one and nurture it. Create a content strategy and don't push only real estate posts like your current listings for sale and nothing else. Be creative and find the right balance between selling and create interaction and engagement. Often times the best balance is 60/40 where you post 60 percent of the times messages that are not related to real estate and the other 40 percent of the time you work on the sales process.

Twitter

Twitter is an effective social networking and micro blogging site and it offers a great way to make connections and establish your real estate agent brand. Confined to only 140 characters, Twitter enforces conciseness and sometimes... grammar creativity. Twitter can help you build trust through new connections and strengthen ties to the local community. Start by determining who your target audience is and what content they are eager to consume. Include relevant and newsworthy content along with inspirational and motivational tweets. Promote your next open house and tweet links to your YouTube videos. According to MSB (Maximize Social Business), your tweets should consist of:
  • Link to your own blog or website content 20%
  • Link to other people’s content 20%
  • Talk business or share your own marketing material 20%
  • The remaining 40% should consist of personal interaction, small talk, commenting and networking

We will continue our presentation of social media channels for real estate agents so don't be a stranger to this blog. Remember to be authentic on social media. Networking becomes very powerful when developed around trust. Surprise and delight your clients on a regular basis. The secret to successful marketing is simple: be likable! And don't forget: if you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How Much Can You Trust the Real Estate Sales and Price Statistics?

Most people think that when a house doesn't sell, there is something wrong with the house. Not necessarily! What if there is something wrong with the way the house was marketed? What if the expectations involved in the process were unrealistic? One crucial component of successfully selling or buying a home is data. Statistics related to pricing and sales have a strong impact on all decisions made and represent the main ingredient in the recipe for a successful real estate transaction.

I never understood why so many real estate agents or brokers throw all purchased homes into a single statistical category, whether they are distressed properties or not. You cannot expect to buy a brand new car for $10,000 - the amount the dealer had to sell a repossessed car to cover the cost of that specific loan, when the actual price of such a vehicle is much higher. Distressed properties do not set generic pricing levels for all the homes on the market and such expectations from buyers are only meant to create frustrations. "The home sales figures, home price trends, and other comparative statistics released each month to the news media, treat foreclosed upon homes and short sale homes in the same realm as a paid up home seller looking to profit or needing to move," complained Dave Kohl, real estate marketing and advertising expert, the author of "8 Hours To Sell Your Home" audio book.

It is not meaningful to report "the sales are up" when counting 3 distressed homes recently sold at half their value in a community of 20 similar homes and establish that median price as a reference for someone who paid the mortgage regularly, maybe even in full, and tries to relocate and sell the house. Even worse, if three months later another distressed home in that community is sold for a little bigger amount than the previous distressed homes, false news will be spread that home sales in that community are UP 10% over three months ago. How accurate is this conclusion for a real estate investor?

Take real estate stats and news with a grain of salt before you make any important decision. Question data and learn the details behind the numbers. Separate foreclosures and short sales from the rest of the other homes sold. Only this way you get closer to paying or asking a fair price and match your expectations with the reality of the market.

CENTURY 21 Thomas Real Estate prides itself in building a strong team of great real estate agents aware of these aspects. Our agents are highly trained and very knowledgeable of the intricate aspects of the local market. They all strive to provide their clients with accurate data. There is no coincidence CENTURY 21 Thomas Real Estate agents won so many awards for excellence and outstanding service. You can contact us on the internet here or by phone at (888) 249-2100.

How to Prepare Your House to Sell in the Spring

Spring is in full swing in the Myrtle Beach area, despite a late start. If you are one of the home owners ready to sell your home, you want to make sure you end the process quickly and with a successful transaction. For that to happen, you need to prepare your home for the market.

Start with a to-do list for getting the home ready for listing and open house. A list will help you take care of things in the right order without missing anything important. Clean, de-clutter, repair, paint, remove any traces of pets and personal touch so potential buyers can easily personalize the home in their mind. Trim the trees and bushes so buyers can actually see the house. Don't forget the garage and the backyard. Here is a good article on our blog to help you out with cleaning the garage. Pressure-wash the driveway, front walk, house and patio and clean and paint the front door since buyers must linger at the door while they wait for the real estate agent to open the lockbox.

Clean the windows inside and out and brighten up the interior with some fresh painting. Make sure you plan a few days in between the cleaning and the first open house, to give it enough time for the smell to fade out. Get help from a professional stager so you don't leave money on the table if the value at stake is sensitive to such approach. A home inspection is also not a bad idea. Make sure you make important repairs before you list the house on the market. It's cheaper to fix things before a home inspection so now it's he best time to call a good electrician and a plumber.

The next step is to work closely with your real estate agent to get the home listed. Internet listing has become a de facto standard, since most people start looking for a new home online. You need great photos and a vibrant description to go with the listing on various websites. Start with a comparative market analysis made by a professional real estate agent. Learn more about pricing in your area and also make sure you take into consideration specific aspects of your neighborhood. It helps no one to set an unrealistic pricing level based on generic comparisons. Overpriced homes stay longer on the market and are extremely difficult to sell. The home does not exists in a void so the buyer gets also the neighborhood along with the house. You don't want to miss on opportunities provided by location or specific circumstances. A realistic price offers peace of mind and motivates the real estate agent.

This spring is one of the best time to sell your home. If you want to use a very good real estate agent to sell your house this spring pick one from our team. Visit our sales agents online or give us a call at (888) 249-2100. The time to buy low is quickly ending, creating a sense of urgency to buy now before prices rise too high or interest rates return to more historically normal levels. Buyers are ready, so the question is: are you?

Photography 101 For Real Estate - Part 3

Listing courtesy of Domaine Real Estate, LLC
Welcome to the third and last blog post in our series about real estate photography! We have covered in the previous posts the three things you need in order to take great real estate photography: a good dslr camera, a tripod, and a good picture editing software. We have also presented a few important tips on taking great real estate interior pictures.

Now it is time to wrap-up our series with a few more tips on how to end up with great real estate photography at a level that helps your listings stand out from the crowd. A picture is worth a thousand words. In real estate, you can replace "words" with "dollars" and you hit the nail on the head. The first step to selling a home is to attract people's attention. Great photography does the job, not by itself, as an insulated process, of course, but this is the topic for another blog post. Listings with better photography command higher asking prices. It is still puzzling that only 15% of listings incorporate higher-end photography, even though we have to admit, for the sake of fairness, that low-end market is more sensitive to lowering the price than to increasing the quality of the pictures.

Here's the first thing to think of when it comes to the impact good photography has on potential buyers: eye movements research of subjects who looked at online real estate listings found that more than 95% of users viewed the first photo—the one that shows the exterior of the home—for a total of 20 seconds. How's that for a first impression? You have a potential buyer sitting there for 20 long seconds looking at the picture you put in front of him. That image will trigger one of two reactions: that person will either become interested and look for more info, or move along, while you have just kissed good-bye the chance of selling that home. As simple as that! For many people, the first point of contact with a house is through the Internet. Don't lose the battle before it begins by using an average image taken with a point-and-shoot camera. So here are a few tips to help you get better pictures and increase the chances of selling more homes:

  • Spend ten times as much time in choosing an exterior photo than you do the rest of the home shots, because that's the hook that will get buyers to look at the rest of the photos. Place the exterior pictures on the top-left corner since that is the point most people start with when looking at a listing.
  • Use secondary exterior shots to emphasize a home's strongest point. As a realtor you know what people are interested in and you can easily discover a strong point of that particular point to match that interest.
  • Take exterior shots at sunset, with all the interior lights turned on. These twilight shots stand out from the crowd for sure. 
  • Remove any traces of pets in your real estate photography. Don't leave cat food dishes on the counter when taking pictures. Pets might be associated by some people with bad smells, allergens and patchy yards.
  • Invest time in image post-processing. As mentioned in a previous blog post, shoot pictures in raw format. This will allow for great post-processing opportunities. It is oftentimes cheaper and less time consuming to brighten up a picture in post-process that it is to find ways to physically add more light to the scene. Here is a great video on how to brighten up interior pictures:



It is worth mentioning again that no matter how great the photography is, setting the right price is even more important. No photography in the world will ever sell a highly overpriced home. Snapping a few shots with a mobile phone or a point-and-shoot camera doesn't cut it anymore in real estate. Upgrade to DSLR and use the smart tips we have presented in our blog post series to get potential buyers into the home. Quality photography is your doorway into that home.

List of sources used to create this "Photography 101 For Real Estate" blog post series:
- www.designsponge.com/2013/10/photo-101-five-tips-for-shooting-interiors.html
- www.wix.com/blog/2013/11/interior-photography-tips/
- www.smartshoot.com/blog/8-real-estate-photography-blog-posts/
- realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/01/06/advice-from-americas-top-real-estate-- photographer/#!slide=878809
- seattlebubble.com/blog/2011/02/17/real-actual-good-listing-photos/

Photography 101 For Real Estate - Part 2

photography 101 for real estate
Welcome to our new blog post about real estate photography! We have already presented the three things you need to start taking pictures for your real estate listings: a good camera, a tripod, and a good picture editing software.  Let's continue our real estate photography series with more details on how to take great interior pictures.

Home owners and real estate agents are dependent on high quality images to sell their properties. The better the pictures, the better the property looks online and the more people get interested in that property. Oftentimes real estate agents or home owners have little control over the external environment of a home, but there is much more control over the details of the interior. You can pick the light, the shooting angles, and you can even move smaller pieces of furniture around to get better views of the rooms. So let's go over a few tips and tricks for better real estate interior photography:
  • Use natural light as much as possible - nothing puts things in a better perspective than natural light. Human eye is capable of interpreting and adjusting for artificial light but image sensors on cameras are not that good at that. The more natural light you can bring in through the windows the better pictures you will be able to take. If you don't get much natural light in the room don't despair: this is where a good dslr camera and a tripod gets to play their part. Set the camera on a tripod to avoid any movement that would blur your pictures and slow the shutter speed. The lower the light in the room the more time you need to give your camera to absorb that light. Adjust the ISO too, but don't set it too high or the images will look "dusty". Try to fight the temptation of using a flash light since that would create sharp edges and dark shadows. Natural light helps emphasizing colors and reduces the post-production time needed to improve the image.
  • Always shoot raw  - this is another reason to use a good dslr camera. Unlike point-and-shoot cameras that save the images directly in jpeg format, dslr cameras can be set to shoot in raw format. This allows you more opportunities to improve the image if you did not set the best options at the moment of taking the picture. This is also the time a good picture editing software plays its role. You can use Photoshop to process raw images or you can rely on the software that came with your camera. Remember, if you take pictures in jpeg format you minimize the post-production editing capabilities of the pictures you take. Raw format gives you the best chances to end up with a great picture even in less-than-perfect shooting conditions.
photography 101 for real estate - align with the grid
  • When in doubt, shoot straight on - point the camera so that it aligns with one of the longer walls. Use the viewfinder on your camera to align the horizontal and vertical lines of the room with the grid on your camera. Some people have more artistic talent than others. You can sometimes take great pictures with interesting angles, creating a good dramatic effect. Make sure, though, that everyone will interpret the image the way you intended. The more artistic you shoot, the greater chances for other people to dislike the images. So when in doubt, shoot straight on.
photography 101 for real estate - small room - shoot through the door
  • Change the environment - the rule especially applies to small rooms, when getting a good shooting angle puts you with your back at the wall - literally. When shooting in small rooms you have two options: you either use wide-angle lenses or you move stuff around to allow you getting a better view. Wide-angle lenses might not be the best choice since they also create a fish-eye effect and distort the images. So you may end up having to shoot through the door or move small pieces of furniture around to make room for you to get a good shot.
  • Set up the space - you can easily improve the content of an image by simply adjusting a few things in the room. Re-arrange small furniture, add a few magazines on a coffee table, a laptop on the desk, or add more color with a few flowers in a vase. It might even be a good idea to add a few magazines, a laptop, and some flower to the list of props you regularly carry with you when going out to shoot for your real estate listings.
Always keep an open mind when taking real estate photography. Experiment with your images and make sure you take plenty of pictures. This way you give yourself a chance to get great images and make your listings stand out from the crowd. We'll continue our photography 101 for real estate series with some other great tips and tricks. In the meantime, happy shooting!