Once touted as the most popular and innovative internet community of its time, Facebook is now pushing to compete with trendy social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. As part of its rebranding efforts to become an all-in-one service, Facebook recently added payment capabilities to its messaging service, along with various filters to its camera settings to mimic Instagram's photo editing settings. It is now making a move into the real estate industry by adding apartment and home rental listings onto its existing Marketplace storefront, which so far only included household items, job postings and car listings.

Traditional real estate wisdom may tell you to hold off selling a home until after the holidays, but there are plenty of good reasons to list right now. Consider the following:

People who are looking for a home during the holiday season are most likely pretty serious about making a move. In fact, they may be in a bit of hurry.

Putting a home on the market now might result in a faster sale at a higher price point.

Between family gatherings and holiday parties, sellers probably have their home in bright and shiny, tip-top shape for entertaining. What better time to show off the home to prospective buyers, too?

In most areas of the country, yard maintenance decreases during the wintry holiday months. While you may have to blow a few leaves and clear away some snow from walkways, you won’t have to worry about keeping the lawn mowed, the garden beds weeded and the flowers blooming as you would if listing a home in the spring and summer.

The maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will increase to $453,100 for most markets in 2018, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) recently announced. The increase in the baseline loan limit, mandated by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA), is in response to rising values.

The maximum loan limit will be higher in high-priced markets were 115 percent of the median home value exceeds the baseline loan limit; the ceiling on that limit is 150 percent of the baseline loan limit. That ceiling, according to the FHFA, will increase to $679,650 for one-unit properties in high-priced markets, with the potential for even higher limits in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

More information can be found here.

Although there are no required disclosure statements a seller must make under New Jersey statutes, New Jersey courts have exceptions to this general rule under common law.

Many home sellers in New Jersey fill out a Seller's Property Condition Disclosure Statement providing material facts about their homes. This type of disclosure could protect a seller from a lawsuit down the line.

But what types of information should a seller disclose?

New Jersey sellers must disclose known, latent and material defects in order to protect buyers from unwittingly purchasing real estate with hidden defects. Material facts are details about the home’s condition or legal status, as well as the age of various components.

Washington, DC, November 15, 2017 — Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2017 — The American Land Title Association (ALTA), the national trade association of the land title insurance industry, issued the following statement following the announcement that Richard Cordray would step down as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

“Since being officially nominated more than four years ago as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), ALTA has worked closely with Richard Cordray and his staff to help them understand the important role title and settlement agents play in the safe and efficient transfer of real estate,” said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “During this leadership transition, ALTA will continue to support CFPB staff to help provide positive and compliant real estate settlement experiences for consumers and lenders, and serve as a resource on important consumer issues such as wire transfer fraud, third-party oversight and mortgage disclosures.”

Crowdfunding has appeared in the real estate industry in a variety of forms: house flip investing, mortgage payoff and down payment support. High fees and legality issues have made it difficult for the popular funding method to be taken seriously within U.S. real estate markets.

A new crowdfunding platform—HomeFundMe—was recently launched by a privately-held mortgage banking firm. This could be a game changer, since it's the first crowdfunding service approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here's what the firm says about HomeFundMe:

  • No fees for using the service (Anything deposited into HomeFundMe can be used towards the buyer's down payment.)
  • Better loan terms, more buying opportunities and the possibility of getting rid of or lowering mortgage insurance
  • Potential to receive a grant ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 in exchange for completing required homebuyer education or housing counseling.
  • Matching donations ($2 for every $1) up to the grant limits once the counseling is completed

While over 100 people have already used the platform, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have only approved the service on a trial basis until June 2018. The mortgage giants are keeping a close eye on results before giving it their stamp of approval.

Make sure all of your clients are protected

You're a real estate agent, so you know that buying a home can be overwhelming for many of your clients. Homebuyers can easily feel confused and frustrated by the mounds of paperwork they have to sign. Plus, all the fees associated with closing can sometimes be a surprise even to an experienced buyer.

Owner's title insurance is one of those items often misunderstood by homebuyers at closing, yet its value is tremendous. As an important advisor to your clients, you are in the position to help them understand the value of owner's title insurance and the dangers that can be incurred without it.

What is title insurance?

Owner's title insurance is a policy that protects homebuyers' property rights. For the same reasons that the bank requires a lender's title insurance policy, a homebuyer obtains owner's title insurance to protect their legal claims to the property.

The real estate industry is constantly evolving, and the next big thing is here. Amazon's latest innovative tech product, Amazon Key, an app exclusively for Prime members, is being advertised as a safer way to get packages delivered, but has the potential to be so much more than that. 

It's similar to how eKey real estate applications work for letting agents into a listing. The question is: Will the app be a threat to the industry, or a way to make real estate safer?

How It Works
Amazon Key is a mobile app connected to a keypad, which gets installed on your front door. You'll have to install it on one of two well-known lock brands: Yale or Kwikset. The app lets you lock and unlock the front door remotely, and works directly with Amazon to schedule deliveries and authorize package drop-offs inside your home. Amazon Key also lets you give anyone temporary or recurring access via your mobile phone.

You can schedule access during specific times only and can keep an eye on visitors using the included CloudCam, which can be integrated with Amazon's Alexa devices for voice recognition. Amazon is working with partnered vendors and over 1,200 Amazon Home Services so you can eventually give home access to professional service providers.

Amazon is still working on making the product available across all zip codes; the service is limited to 37 cities across the U.S., since Amazon is currently only using its own delivery team. You can check the product page to see if your zip code is eligible. You'll also need to have a compatible door (the requirements are listed on the product's FAQs page). Amazon Key is currently available for pre-order at $249.99.

 "This year, the human race is producing more data than the previous 5,000 years combined. Data is so powerful that in the future, nation states will fight over it for power."

This thought-provoking statistic presented by panel moderator Dave Garland, partner, Second Century Ventures and director of Strategic Investments for the National Association of REALTORS®, set the stage for a much-anticipated panel discussion at RISMedia's 2017 Real Estate CEO Exchange in New York on how brokers are leveraging the application of predictive analytics and big data in their businesses to better serve consumers' real estate needs.

"Predictive analytics is analyzing extracted data, using old data to predict the future," Garland explained. "The big difference now is we have new data points that we can apply to our industry. We're moving from the idea of hindsight to insight to foresight."

The idea of using data in real estate isn't new—think tax records, comps, valuations, or even local school, business and crime statistics. But with consumers demanding more and more information, and more data being available on consumer behavior than ever before, the use of predictive analytics is the game changer.

Would you ever live in a haunted home? A new survey from® shows most folks won't shy away from a spooky space—so long as the price is right.

In September, surveyed more than 1,000 online respondents. The verdict? Thirty-three percent were open to living in a haunted house, 25 percent might be, and 42 percent are not open to the idea.

So what factors impacted these results? Let's explore:

  • Forty percent of respondents indicated that they need a price reduction in order to choose a haunted home over a non-haunted home;
  • 35 percent require a better neighborhood;
  • 32 percent need larger square footage; and
  • 29 percent would do so if more bedrooms are involved.

Who minds a few spooky spirits if there's a third bedroom, amiright? From the survey, 47 percent of participants indicate they would live in a home where someone died, 27 percent said they might, and 26 percent said they would not.