GSA Realty Blog

Avoiding Real Estate Cyber Scams

How to Avoid Real Estate Cyber Scams

Phishing, hacking, wire fraud - these are all ways people attempt to steal from others online. As real estate searches and transactions move more and more online, the chances of being caught up in a cyber scam have become even greater.

By now most people have heard of the Nigerian prince scams or phishing emails asking for social security or banking information, but many people don’t know that they need to watch out for possible scams when buying or selling their home.  Cybercrimes have become increasingly sophisticated over the years and the people perpetrating them focus on situations where a lot of money is changing hands, making real estate transactions an ideal target.

The National Association of Realtors® recently warned its members and consumers about one example, a wiring scam during the closing stage of the home buying and selling process. Hackers will break into the email accounts of consumers and real estate professionals to get details about a real estate transaction. The hacker will then send an email pretending to be the buyer, seller, real estate agent or someone else involved in the closing process and say there has been a last minute change and provide new wiring instructions; the instructions send the closing costs funds directly into the hacker’s bank account.

While it may seem like there are hundreds of ways for a criminal to take advantage of a consumer online, there are just as many ways consumers can protect themselves. Here are a few tips to help home buyers and sellers recognize and avoid real estate scams:

 

Do not send sensitive information via email. Do not send banking information, your social security number or anything else that could be used to comprise your identity over email.  If you absolutely must send personal or sensitive information via email, only use encrypted email.

Do not click on unverified email.  If you do not recognize the name or email address of the sender, do not open the email.  And beware of any attachments or downloadable files from unknown email addresses; they can contain viruses or provide a way for a hacker to access your computer.  

Do not use unsecured Wi-Fi. It may seem harmless to check banking information using the free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, but using an open connection can leave you vulnerable to hackers and scammers. Only access sensitive information on your home computer or on a secured network.

If you suspect fraud, tell someone.  If you suspect that fraud has or is in the process of occurring, contact all parties contacted to the transaction immediately. Unfortunately, often there is nothing that can be done to retrieve money stolen in the scam, however, you should still report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams or the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0003-phishing.

 

 

Centre Region Market Update

Real estate in central PA in 2016 is different than what we have seen in the past few years. In the first quarter of this year we have clear evidence of this.

Residential listings throughout Centre County have been lower than usual. By comparison the number of residential sales for 2016 are up. Those factors are clear indications that we are in a Seller’s market where demand exceeds the supply. These conditions will help to push home prices higher on average.

Lenders have become more willing to extend credit to buyers and interest rates continue to be at very low levels. The properly priced and prepared property will sell quickly, as has been demonstrated in a reduction in the number of days on the market for a typical home in this area.

Another part of the real estate market that is growing in the Centre Region, as well as other areas in the country, is an increased demand for more efficient homes. These type of homes are often referred to as Green or High Performance Housing. As more people realize that such housing can reduce operating costs, as well as improve the quality of life within the home and their community, the demand for both new construction and renovations of existing homes to incorporate new technologies and strategies has increased significantly.

Much of the demand for high performance housing is being driven by the younger buyers in the marketplace. Many of the young professionals and families understand that such an approach will save them money in the long run, add value to their homes and contribute to a better quality of life for them and their community.

In talking with my friends at ‪#‎Envinity‬, as well as other contractors, builders and designers the biggest demand is in regards to areas of more efficient HVAC systems, improved insulation, and the use of solar technologies. In new building as well as reconstruction there is an increasing interest in more open floor plans to improve air flow, maximize natural lighting, and use of passive solar design.

The real estate market in the Centre Region continues to reflect the high quality of life we enjoy in central PA. 2016 looks to be a very good year for selling, buying and investing in real estate with indications that values, as well as interest rates, will continue to increase over time.

The markets are changing quickly. Since real estate is variable from one area to another it is advisable to work with a local Realtor, and other professionals, to provide you with accurate and current information so you can make the best decisions to meet your needs and goals.

April is Fair Housing Month

April marks the 48th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin and sex. Fair housing laws at the national, state and local levels ensure that everyone has access to buy, sell, rent or mortgage a home, without regard to their age, ancestry, color, disabilities, familial status, national origin, race, religion or sex.

Realtors® strive to build communities and help everyone achieve the American dream of homeownership.

We’re seeing an increasingly multicultural future and fair housing laws help protect consumers in this expanding market.   RealtorS® strongly support the Fair Housing Act. In fact, our National Association of Realtors®’ Code of Ethics includes fair housing standards and prohibits discrimination, and as Realtors®, we’re obligated to adhere to this code.

Realtors® strive to preserve and expand housing opportunities within their communities.  We want to assist everyone in finding the home that best meets their needs.

Sometimes consumers may be looking for additional information regarding crime statistics, a school district or the ethnic make-up of a neighborhood.

Realtors® are prohibited from discussing this type of information to avoid potential steering to or away from a specific neighborhood. They are able to provide their clients with resources to determine whether this is the right neighborhood for them.

If consumers believe they have experienced a fair housing issue, they should contact the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission at www.phrc.state.pa.us.

I’d also like to give you a quick stat on the housing market in our MLS for the first quarter of this year compared to 2014.  In the chart below you will see that we had a pretty strong first quarter with a nice uptick in homes sold vs. 2014.  This was likely due to the continued low interest rate environment and the early spring weather that we have been experiencing so far this year. The number of homes on the market is also up over last year and thus buyers are more likely to find a home that they like and will purchase.

Interesting Thought From Stephen Covey:

INTERESTING THOUGHT FROM STEPHEN COVEY:  The word responsibility is a combination of “response and ability”.  Somewhere between a stimulus and the response lies the ability to choose our response and proactive people recognize that circumstances, conditions or conditioning are not to blame for our behavior.  Our behavior is a product of our own conscious choice within that space between stimulus and response that is based on our values and not our conditions or feelings.

Central Pennsylvania Housing Market Statistics

As most of us that have lived in the Centre Region for many years know, we are fortunate to be in an economically resilient area, historically, bolstered by Penn State, our low unemployment and a fairly wealthy retirement population.  That said, our region continues to mature and expand economically with more businesses becoming global competitors.  This may mean slightly wider swings in our local economy and thus the housing market as time goes on.  Tracking these statistics over time will help one see where the market is heading and help determine price and expectations whether selling or buying a home.

This month I’d like to go over some of the market statistics that we experienced in 2015.  These are the most relevant statistics when trying to determine the overall health of the housing market in our area.

  • Number of Sales:                     1,828
  • Average List Price:                 $239,309
  • Average Sales Price:              $227,705
  • Sale Price to List Price:            95.15%
  • Avgerage Days on market:      79 Days

Now we all know the old saying, “real estate is local”, and it is.  These statistics were taken from residential homes on the market in the Centre County Association of Realtors multiple listing system which comprises information from as many 72 school districts in 34 counties including Centre County.  That is a pretty big area.  Over the past 10 years our geographic housing market has continued to expand and thus these statistics should be refined by a “local” real estate agent when looking at your particular community.  This will give you the most accurate picture of your local market which in turn will give you the confidence that you have the most relevant information to make the best decision when you sell or buy a home. 

We’ve all used the on-line real estate sites such as Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia to get some of these statistics and even home values. These sites are fun to use however there is still no better resource than your local REALTOR to get the most up-to-date information and give you the insight to help you sell or buy your home.

 

Spring Forward

So much for winter this year. The weather and the real estate market are already “springing” forward. In real estate there is exceptional excitement because people are getting active earlier than usual, and conditions are excellent for buyers, sellers and investors. Here are some of the reasons for our enthusiasm.

Buyers can expect to find interest rates continuing to be excellent but they will not continue that way forever. Prices are good, but rising and will continue to do so as demand increases. Lenders are more comfortable in extending credit. If you couldn’t get the loan you wanted before you might want to check again. New regulations have helped protect the interests of the consumer and put into place safeguards. The only downside for buyers, at least in this area, is that the inventory of available properties is low so buyers have to be in position to act decisively to get what they want. If you are looking to Buy now is the time you need to reassess your assets and make sure you can do what you want to do.

For sellers, as mentioned above, inventory is low. A properly prepared and priced property should move quickly. The trick to being successful is to do proper “homework”. This requires input from sound professionals. Markets and conditions are very localized and only a competent local Realtor can get you current accurate information as things are changing rapidly. Also, there is a tendency to think all renovations are a good idea. Considering that most projects have a return on investment below 100%, sometimes it is best to let others do them. Some DIY projects can actually reduce the sale price if not done correctly.

Investors, well they follow the markets at a deeper level than most of us. They know when the upswing is coming and are going to get involved as soon as possible. Take a look around and see what is happening with new building in your community, residential commercial and even non-real estate projects (i.e. infrastructure). The savvy observers have already seen the good signs and are acting – now.

The only lingering doubts are in the area of how the political arena impacts our lives. Once the politicians knock off the posturing and really get to work at doing their jobs any insecurities will disappear. In is inappropriate for Realtors to discuss this topic any further other than to see how it can impact the markets.
As always, consult your favorite local Realtor for current, accurate advice. That is what we are here for and professionally trained to do.

So much for winter this year. The weather and the real estate market are already “springing” forward. In real estate there is exceptional excitement because people are getting active earlier than usual, and conditions are excellent for buyers, sellers and investors. Here are some of the reasons for our enthusiasm.

Buyers can expect to find interest rates continuing to be excellent but they will not continue that way forever. Prices are good, but rising and will continue to do so as demand increases. Lenders are more comfortable in extending credit. If you couldn’t get the loan you wanted before you might want to check again. New regulations have helped protect the interests of the consumer and put into place safeguards. The only downside for buyers, at least in this area, is that the inventory of available properties is low so buyers have to be in position to act decisively to get what they want. If you are looking to buy now is the time you need to reassess your assets and make sure you can do what you want to do.

For sellers, as mentioned above, inventory is low. A properly prepared and priced property should move quickly. The trick to being successful is to do proper “homework”. This requires input from sound professionals. Markets and conditions are very localized and only a competent local REALTOR can get you current accurate information as things are changing rapidly. Also, there is a tendency to think all renovations are a good idea. Considering that most projects have a return on investment below 100%, sometimes it is best to let others do them. Some DIY projects can actually reduce the sale price if not done correctly.

Investors, well they follow the markets at a deeper level than most of us. They know when the upswing is coming and are going to get involved as soon as possible. Take a look around and see what is happening with new building in your community, residential commercial and even non-real estate projects (i.e. infrastructure). The savvy observers have already seen the good signs and are acting – now.

The only lingering doubts are in the area of how the political arena impacts our lives. Once the politicians knock off the posturing and really get to work at doing their jobs any insecurities will disappear. It would be inappropriate for REALTORS to discuss this topic any further other than to mention how it might impact the markets.  As always, consult your favorite local REALTOR for current, accurate advice. That is what we are here for and professionally trained to do.

 

Mortgage pre-qualification and pre-approval important to home buying process

Centre County, PA – Happy New Year Central Pennsylvania!  As I write this article 2015 is winding down.  If I had to pick a theme for our market over the past year it was the lack of housing inventory for sale which had the effect of pushing up average home prices, lowering average days on the market and keeping some buyers on the sidelines until they can find what they are looking for.  As 2016 progresses I’ll hope to use this column to bring you pertinent market insights as well as some tips about the buying and selling process, beginning with getting pre-qualified for a mortgage.

Going through the mortgage pre-qualification process before looking at houses can save buyers both time and heartache.

Many times buyers begin looking for a home, with no idea of how much they can afford to spend and how much they’ll qualify for.  The pre-qualification is based on information like income and existing debt. It’s a good place to start so buyers have a ballpark idea of what their buying power is. It helps them focus on the types of homes that are in their price range.

A pre-qualification is different than a pre-approval. A pre-approval is more detailed and will require additional information from the buyer. Buyers should make an appointment with a lender or mortgage broker and be prepared to provide much more detailed information about their financial situation. Also, the loan officer may pull a credit report at this time. Buyers should draft a budget that accounts for mortgage payments, potential mortgage rate changes, insurance, maintenance, and other expenses in their lives.

A pre-approval is a much better way of showing your likely ability to qualify for a mortgage but it’s still not a guarantee.  It’s important to understand that while the mortgage lender may give a pre-approval for a certain amount, other factors may affect how much you are ultimately eligible to borrow.

For example, if you have a change in employment status or there are defects in the property you’re considering, the lender may not be willing to lend the entire amount you qualify for.  In addition, large purchases during the mortgage application process can derail the approval process.

Pre-qualified buyers show home sellers that these buyers are able to purchase their property and help making an offer on a property go more smoothly. 

If you have questions about this or anything else involving residential or commercial real estate, contact a Realtor.  We are knowledgeable in the local market as well as the buying/selling process helping ensure our clients the information they need and ensure a smooth buying or selling process.  Put our expertise to work for you.

The Centre County Association of Realtors is the voice for real estate in Central Pennsylvania.

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Client Testimonials

“I would not have found my forever home if it weren’t for the diligence of my real estate agent, Jodi Carts. She pinpointed exactly what I was looking for and kept me informed every step of the way. I feel she went way beyond the call of duty in meeting my needs, she worked relentlessly! She has ample knowledge of the Liberty Hill community that I now call home. I highly recommend her for all of your realty needs.” Mary Laura "Laurie" Jones - Liberty Hill at Boalsburg
"My family was relocating from Florida to the State College area 3.5 years ago for employment. We were unfamiliar with the area and naturally began to contact realtors to assist us in finding a rental with intentions on purchasing after our first year of living here. We were extremely disappointed in the level of service we received upon reaching out. We were not getting called back. We even had one realtor email back and tell us to check Craig's list!! The first email I sent to Karen Krupa of GSA was immediately responded to with a warm friendly response and a follow up phone call. We were relieved to find a professional to help us. Karen recommended a nearby hotel to stay during our first visit. Upon arrival of the hotel she had prepared a package of local attractions and information which was waiting at the front desk. This renewed our hope in finding the right realtor. Karen had also lined up several properties for us to look at while visiting. We eventually decided to purchase a home and in mid visit Karen happily showed us properties that fit our needs. After getting back to Florida we decided to buy a spec home which was being finished. Karen walked us through the entire process and kept on top of the progress that was happening on our new home. The extra time, care and concern that Karen showed to our family during the home hunting process went above and beyond any realtor we had ever worked with. If you're in the market for a new home or selling your home I would highly recommend Karen Krupa for her expertise as your personal realtor." The James Family - Bellefonte

Thank you for visiting the BHGRE Commercial - GSA Realty website. We appreciate your interest. Please reach out to us if we can help with any of your commercial real estate needs!  If you have any suggestions on how we could improve our site, we would love to hear from you. 

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