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Beware of online real estate scams

Source: Courant Homfinder

Technology has made a lot of things easier and faster, but not always better or safer – beware of fraudulent real estate listings that reuse photos and property information available online.

When a seller lists his property for sale with a real estate company, the broker submits the listing information to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  The upside to this technology is that the information is immediately available to every other agent who is a member of that MLS.

 

Another elegant aspect of today’s  technology is that someone in Idaho, Nebraska or China, for example, can search for properties in Connecticut or any other state by looking at online real estate websites such as Realtor.com and Zillow.com.  The information is available because many MLSs have agreements with these sites to feed them listings since sellers want maximum exposure for their properties.

Fast and easy is good, but there is a downside to real estate listings being broadcast all over the planet – listings agents have no control over the information once it has left the MLS.  Those folks who are not real estate licensees, but who are technologically adept (and have bad intentions) can take listing information and modify it so that a property listed for sale on one site can become a property for rent on another.

A homeowner in northwestern Connecticut who had recently listed his property for sale with a real estate broker answered a knock at his door and found a couple asking to tour his home.  They had seen his house online and were interested in it.  The owner let them in, and as the couple was leaving,  they made an offer to rent his property. “Rent?”  The owner responded by saying that his property was not for rent, it was for sale.  The couple said they had seen the property somewhere online for rent. Apparently, a skillful hacker had taken the “for sale” listing and refashioned it as “for rent”.

Technology has also created a dilemma for real estate agents in that they have no control over who is looking at the listing once it’s “out there”.  Many listings include interior pictures or a video tout of the home that shows not only the floor plan, but the silver candlesticks, artwork and children’s names on their bedroom walls.  The possibility exists that some people viewing the listing may not be bona fide purchasers, so while internet exposure can be good, limited personal information is wise.

The technological downside doesn’t affect just sellers, it can also impact tenants.  Here’s a recent story:  A couple wanting to rent a shoreline property contacted the listing agent in an online posting.  The couple paid the agent the first month’s rent and security deposit in cash.  They went to “their” property only to find that the home had a family living in it and that it never had been listed for rent or sale.  The “listing agent” had gathered information on this home from online sources, created an ad and posted as the listing agent.  By the time the couple realized they had been scammed,, the “agent” was nowhere to be found.  In this case, technology made this transaction fast and east for the crook, but not better or safe for the tenant.

Judith I. Johansen is Assistant Counsel for the Connecticut Association of Realtors®, Inc..

 

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In The Swim – Decisions you need to make when considering a pool for your home

Source: William Hageman – Tribune Newspapers

A swimming pool can be the crown jewel of your property, capable of turning a bland yard into an outdoor oasis.  But before you take the plunge, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons of various pools.  Here are sone things to consider:

Categories:  Aboveground and in-ground are the two main types of pools.  Above ground pools are  less expensive, less permanent and come in a choice of sidings (resin, aluminum, steel).  There are also inflatable varieties.  These are typically do-it-yourself projects.

In-ground pools – more costly, larger and permanent – come in four basic types; vinyl liner (a linter is attached to a frame built in the excavation), aluminum (a cheaper material but not as sturdy), fiberglass (a large factory into an excavation by crane) and concrete (construction on-site to your specs and available in these, professional installation is the norm.

Is it worth your while?  A key consideration – before size, depth, shape or cost is whether you are planning to stay in your home for a while.  If confronted with a foreclosure, layoff or job transfer, there are few alternatives for relocating the pool.

“An aboveground pool is not meant to be moved, but they can be,” said Dan Harrison, president of online pool and spa retailer poolandspa.com. “They have to be taken apart carefully, boxed up and moved.  With an in-ground, you’re making a very big commitment.  If you’d asked me 10, 15 years ago, those word wouldn’t have come out of my mouth, but that’s a very big concern these days.”

Design.  Harrison said have a pool design in mind before visiting and installer.  He suggested checking out pool websites or doing an online search of pool images.

“Look at 500 images, then print out five of them that you like,” he said. “Then when you’re going to the pool store, you can tell them; this is kind of what I like.  What is so important to one person might not even be on the radar of someone else.”

The design or shape of the pool will also depend on intended use.  If you want to swim laps all day, rectangular is the way to go.  If you want to host neighborhood or family gatherings with games and splashing, consider other shapes and depths.  (Above ground pools don’t provide deep and shallow ends.)

Cost.  A soft-sided, above ground pool from a big box store can cost $200 to $800.  Harrison said.  “If you took those same types of dimensions and decided on steel or aluminum sides, you’re probably talking $2,000 to $6,000 or $7,000, depending on the quality, the pattern of the lining, things like that.”

Go in-ground and the sky’s the limit.  Custom concrete can be built to any design or shape.  “You can have bar stools in it, an island, a waterfall, all that stuff”, Harrison said.  “On in-grounds you can go $15,000 to $200,000.”

Beware of additional costs such as a deck and fence. “Somebody comes to us and said they want a $30,000 pool, they have to realize you’ll have to double that for the walkway and rock and all that, “Harrison said.  “When you’re considering and aboveground, it’s the price of the pool, put it up and there you go.  An in-ground, you’re paying tens of thousands for somebody to come in and dig up the yard.  Then you need brick work, landscaping, and the deck.  You have to think of it as a total yard make-over.  There are a lot more elements to in-ground pools.  Fencing kind of gives people a heart attack.  They figure they call the fence guy because they have an acre and a half, and he tells them it’s another $12,000.”

 

Construction.  An above ground pool can be set up in a few hours if youo have capable help and have done the necessary preparation.  Tome frames for in-ground pool can vary from one to three weeks (vinyl-lined), to two weeks (fiberglass) to up to we weeks (concrete).

Life  expectenancy.  Above ground pools can last 10 or 15 years or more; their liners will need replacement in 6 to 10 years, depending on use, care and climate.  In-ground pools have longer life spans.  A vinyl liner mat have to be replaces in 10 years; a concrete pool is durable and can last for decades.  If you live in an earthquake-prone area, fiberglass may be a better choice because it has some give.

Safety.  This is one area people overlook.  Above-ground pools, protected by gates and locks are safer when it comes to children.  In-ground pools can be made safer through technology – infrared sensors, gate alarms, locks, video cameras, etc.  But homeowners are often lax.

“If you’re in the house and there are kids and there’s a pool, you have to think every second that a kids can get in that pool,” Harrison said.  “Do most people think that way?  No, but that’s the truth.”

 

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