Joe has been a Realtor in the Pikes Peak Region since 1997 and as a first year agent, Joe received the Real Trends Magazine, "Rookie of the Year" Award. Since then Joe has participated in hundreds of transactions. Additionally, Joe is a Charter member of the exclusive luxury-marketing group, Elite-25, Joe and Jennifer have consistently been ranked in the top 1% of Realtors in the Pike Peak Region. Joe is a graduate of The Julliard School and prior to his career in real estate worked as a professional musician, playing in orchestras and chamber groups in the United States and Europe. This experience fostered a strong work ethic and discipline. Joe leads the way in our development creative ways to use technology to market homes. Additionally, Joe has extensive knowledge about the home building process and works closely with our Custom Home Builder partners. Joe's experience and knowledge make him a valuable resource for our company as well as his clients.

Essential Tips to Buying a Home with Bad Credit

buying a house with bad credit

Qualifying for a mortgage can be one of the more frustrating aspects of the steps to buying a house, even if you have great credit. On the other hand, if your credit is bad or damaged, getting a loan will be even more difficult, but not impossible.

Bad Credit, Bankruptcy, Short Sale and Foreclosure don’t mean you’ll never be able to buy a house; they are merely setbacks that you can overcome. Armed with a little knowledge and a bit of patience, you can navigate the mortgage application and approval process, even with less than perfect credit.

Buying a House with Bad Credit

Bad credit or the idea that you have bad credit is the most common reason people don’t buy homes. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to even rent a home with bad credit. So, if you want more control over where you and your family live, repairing bad credit needs to be a priority.

If you're looking to buy a home with bad credit and can't wait to repair your credit, there are certainly private lenders out there that will make those loans. “Private Money Lenders” act like banks and much like a bank will require insurance on the property as well as their name on the deed. Of course, these loans have much higher interest rates and shorter terms than traditional loans because the risk is much higher. You the borrower will be paying a premium for this risk. Evidence that these investments are lucrative is the fact that there are even private money lenders that will loan with no credit check or loan amortization.

If you choose to pursue this method of financing, make sure you look at things like better business bureau ratings and online reviews. In the long run, you're much better off repairing your credit before buying a house.

The idea is to get you to a point where your credit score is high enough to qualify for an FHA loan. FHA requires a FICO score of 580 to be eligible for their 3.5% down payment program.

We don't have time to discuss all the merits of an FHA loan in this article. If you'd like to know more here's a great read by Kevin Vitali: Should You Get an FHA Loan?

Before we worry about what your FICO score is, we first want to pull your credit report and see how that looks.

Rip that Band-Aid off

Good news or bad news, it’s important to know the status of your credit health. And if you’ve suffered some bumps in the road credit wise you may be hesitant even to take a look. This is understandable, but at the end of the day, you need to take this first step.

Federal law requires the three national consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, give individuals a copy of their credit report for free every 12 months, all you have to do is ask for it. The best first step is to check your report at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Investigate

Once you have a copy of the report you’re going to want to comb through it and look for the following:

  • Verify that all of the personal information on the report is correct. Check your name, address, Social Security Number, etc…
  • Next, you’ll go through the individual accounts and loans to make sure they are correct as well. You want to ensure accounts from a person with the same or similar names don’t appear on your report.
  • Another thing you want to look for is any accounts that were created as a result of identity theft.
  • Check for Incorrect account statuses. You are looking for things like, closed accounts that are still being reported as open.
  • Accounts that are incorrectly reported as late or delinquent
  • Incorrect date of last payment, date opened, or date of first delinquency
  • The same debts listed more than once ( perhaps with different names)

Dispute

It’s important to note that if you are already applying for a mortgage, you should not dispute any derogatory information on your credit report. If your report shows that you are in the middle of a dispute, your loan application will be rejected, or it will be referred to a person (instead of a computer) for a “manual underwrite,” which can take a very long time to resolve. Wait until your mortgage is approved and then dispute the report.

If on the other hand, you are in the process of repairing your credit to get a loan, your next step is to address the incorrect or negative items on your credit.

If there is erroneous information or negative reporting based on late or missing payments on your credit report, you have a couple of options. The first option is to contact and pay a company to handle this for you. If you choose this option, be careful and seek references. We refer our clients to River Stone Law. This firm offers a deal of $199 for sign up and $99 per month for guiding you through credit repair; they’ll tell you what to do and how to do it, send out letters on your behalf, and get items removed from your credit that shouldn’t be affecting it.

On the other hand, if you decide that you would like to handle your disputes with the credit reporting companies yourself, here’s the breakdown.

You’ll need to contact the appropriate reporting company directly to handle any disputes. These disputes can be submitted online or by mail. Here are the sites you’ll need:

Online:

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission has some great information about disputing items on your credit report. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0151-disputing-errors-credit-reports

Prequalification and Preapproval

Once you know the erroneous information items have been corrected, it’s time to move forward with the pre-qualification and pre-approval process. If you’ve done your homework and cleaned up your credit report, your lender will want to run your application through a system known as Desktop Underwriting.

Desktop Underwriting

To save time and alleviate frustration, you’ll want to seek pre-approval through “Desktop Underwriter” (DU), this is the quickest path through the mortgage maze. “Desktop Underwriter” is a software program used by mortgage lenders to qualify prospective home buyers using Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines. Although Desktop Underwriting is used for Conventional and FHA loans, VA has it’s own automated system as well “Automated Underwriting System” (AUS).

The counterpart to desktop underwriting is "Manual Underwriting" this is a long, arduous process. You must avoid manual underwriting unless it's your only option.

Buying After Bankruptcy

Let’s go a step further and talk about another financial stress point many people think spells doom for their prospects of home ownership, Bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy. Yes, you can be approved for a mortgage even if you’ve declared bankruptcy. If you have declared a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (one in which all debts are forgiven), you must wait 2 years after the bankruptcy is discharged to qualify for an FHA or VA loan. For a Chapter 13 (when you agree on a repayment plan), if you have been making on-time payments for one year after the declaration, you may qualify for an FHA or VA loan. In either case, you must not have a single late or missed payment during the post-bankruptcy waiting periods—if you do, the qualifying period will be reset close to the date of your missed payment.

For conventional (non-government insured) loans, the waiting period is 4 years after the discharge of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and 2 years after the 1-year payment period for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Short Sale and Foreclosure

If you go through a short sale (selling your home for less than the outstanding debt), your credit score will not be affected if the lender notates it as “Paid as agreed.” If your lender agrees to forgive a portion of your loan, you will most likely sign an unsecured note promising to pay back the agreed-upon amount. As with Loan Modification, have your lender give you written proof that “Paid as agreed” will be reported to the credit bureau. If you don’t take this step, and the lender notates “Settled for less than the full balance,” you will be dinged a whopping 105 points!

If you are experiencing foreclosure, in which the lender takes possession of the property due to non-payment of the loan, you will also want to negotiate with the lender about how he will report it. If the notation “Foreclosure” appears on the report, you will be dinged 110 points.

In both cases, with a potential short sale or foreclosure, speak to your lender as soon as you realize there may be trouble looming. Don’t wait until the situation becomes dire, as many lenders are now much more willing to negotiate help for homeowners than in previous years.

Additional Resources:

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The Promenade Shops at Briargate

One of the newer shopping mall developments in Colorado Springs is The Promenade Shops at Briargate, an open air, pet-friendly, outdoor shopping center, located east of I-25 at Briargate & Voyager Parkways.

Front Entrance with Sign Peak cropped sm

History

In August 2003, Poag & McEwen Shopping Centers opened the Promenade Shops at Briargate, Colorado Springs’ first

In August 2003, Poag & McEwen Shopping Centers opened the Promenade Shops at Briargate, Colorado Springs’ first open-air shopping mall. The Promenade Shops at Briargate were built targeting shoppers looking for stores like Chico’s, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma that were found in larger cities.

Since their opening, The Promenade Shops at Briargate has seen significant changes. The 2008 economic crisis resulted in some retail closure, but the center retained a vibrant tenant mix to attract shoppers. In 2013, an ownership change brought more exciting changes. Two new retail and restaurant building were constructed. They were completed and fully leased by mid-2016.

 

 

Tenants

Modern Market Bad Daddy DUSK cropped

Some of the original tenants of The Promenade Shops at Briargate currently occupy the center including Pottery Barn, Williams- Sonoma, Talbots and J. Jill. Recent additions include Modern Market, Charming Charlie, and Soft Surroundings,

There are 55 total businesses in the shopping center, including 10 restaurants. The shopper target demographic age group ranges from 20-60 with the varied tenant mix including Anthropologie, Apple, Lululemon Athletica and Sephora.

Some of the businesses are locally run as franchises, including Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Complete Nutrition, and Bird Dog BBQ.

Before the development of the Promenade Shops at Briargate, Colorado Springs didn’t have many restaurants like Teds’ Montana Grill or P.F. Chang’s. The location of the center is intended to intercept drivers on their commute on I25 and offer a new mix of retail and food from a variety of sources that are for the most part unavailable elsewhere in Colorado Springs.

 

 

Events

A variety of events are held at the Promenade Shops at Briargate, including the summer Farmers Market on the Promenade. The weekly event starts on Father’s Day this year, Sunday June 18th. The Farmers Market will run every Sunday until the end of September, with September 24th as the last day. The market is open from 9am to 1pm, which allows two hours for farmer’s market shoppers to peruse the vendors before the shops open, and lasts for another two hours after the retail shops and restaurants open.

Farmers Market Promenade Shops at Briargate

 

The farmers market is filled with local farmers, thanks to the farmer coordinator, Chris Sniffen, a local egg farmer who owns a chicken ranch in Calhan. As a local farmer himself, he has enough connections to populate the farmers market and has been able to connect with local honey producers, herb and tea blend growers, grass fed meat producers, and an organic vegetable farm in Larkspur. The goal of the market is to offer the shoppers at the center an attractive array of locally sourced and organic food. Look for this event on the road between Biaggi’s and P.F. Chang’s.

Other events that take place at The Promenade Shops at Briargate include Bark at Briargate, an outdoor pet expo, and Parad-Ice on the Promenade, a live ice sculpture event. Bark at Briargate will be held on Saturday, August 12, from 10 am to 1 pm, and Parad-Ice on the Promenade will be held during the holiday shopping season. Visit the shopping center website ThePromenadeShopsatBriargate.com for details.

 

Parking

Parking is conveniently located close to shops & restaurants. Exciting changes are planned for late summer 2017 to enhance the shopper experience.

Check out the center website and like them on Facebook to stay informed.

 

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3-D Real Estate Tours with Matterport Camera

matter

Springs Homes just became the first real estate company in Colorado Springs to own “The Matterport Camera”. We have started to use the “Matterport Camera” to create 3-D spaces of our for-sale listings. We are then able to share these spaces online with potential home buyers.

The “Matterport Camera” is a combination camera and measuring device. It scans and measures spaces as it takes pictures. Springs Homes has been at the cutting edge of residential real estate technology from the early days of the internet, 1997 to be exact. We were early adopters of Virtual Tour technology when it was difficult to implement, we jumped into producing videos of our listings when it wasn’t easy to implement either. The “Matterport Camera” changes the game, this technology is very straightforward to use and the results are easy to implement.

The camera weighs 6.5 lbs. and has a rechargeable battery which lasts 8 to 10 hours. A 2,000-square foot residential real estate shoot takes 45 minutes to an hour, so battery life is not an issue. The camera has six lenses and six sensors and sits on a regular tripod. The camera has a small internal motor which allows it to rotate 360 degrees for each scan. You communicate with the camera through a wireless connection to a tablet on the matterport app.

matterport camera

Once the camera is setup and you are shooting, the app walks you through putting the space together. After each scan, the camera sends its data back to the app, which then aligns the scan and displays a photographic representation of the floorplan. If the camera doesn’t have enough information the app shows a black space in those areas where it needs more data.

matterport camera interface

We generally move the camera 5 to 8 feet in between scans. As you are scanning the operator must mark mirrors and windows, this helps the camera understand how to treat these surfaces. This is important because the camera sees through windows, so it tries to incorporate what it sees outside into the 3D model. By marking the windows, the app knows to ignore what it sees outside when compiling the floorplan. We deal with the outside by using 360-degree views.

Once the entire interior space has been scanned, the “Matterport Camera” has a feature called “360-view”. This enables the user to go outside and photograph a 360-degree image of the outdoor spaces, this is done without scanning for walls. This comes in handy during the post-production phase. You can start your tour outside showing the neighborhood or landscaping features. During the post-production phase, we are then able to link back to the indoor space.

Once you finish the entire project, the tablet is disconnected from the camera and re-connected to the internet. At this point, we upload the project to Matterports servers. Once uploaded, the images are processed and the basic tour is produced. It’s important to talk about the quality of the images this camera produces, they are really nice! The camera shoots 7 exposure brackets and turns them into HDR images. This is why the windows are not “blown out” except in extremely bright conditions. The stitching, white balance and color correction are all handled by matterport so the scans look balanced and consistent.

The tour is ready for further editing and or release in a couple of hours after upload. We work in an online app called Matterport Workshop in order to tag our tours as well as build engaging walkthroughs.

Details Page

"The Details Page" is the first place we look when we start to work on creating a finished Matterport Space. Details allows us to add the correct and complete address, our company details, website URL as well as a brief description of the property. “Details” is also where you setup your preferred sharing options as well as get the URL’s and embed codes you’ll need when you’re ready to distribute your tour.

This section is also where you go to see how your space is performing. The “Space Statistics” shows you analytical data like; the number of impressions (An impression is registered when someone views a page containing a 3D Showcase or clicks on a public 3D Showcase link), “Visits” (A visit is registered when a Space loads successfully) and “Unique Visitors” (Number of distinct users who visited this 3D Showcase one or more times).

These statistics become important as you look for the most effective ways to promote your spaces. We would really like to be able to see where the visitors came from and how long they stayed. This feature might exist but we have yet to find it.

Post Production in the Workshop

The real post production work gets done in the "Matterport Workshop". This is a robust web-based editor that allows you to refine the user experience.

The first option available in this app is the ability to set the start location of your 3D model. This is the same image as your "Hero Image"(the image that the user sees before the space loads).

Start positions can consist of the following scenes:

  • Any position in the inside view of the space. This is accomplished by moving to the desired location and selecting the “Update Start Location” button.
  • Dollhouse View-This is the iconic Matterport view (see below).

doll house

  • Floorplan View-This is a flat photograph of the actual floorplan.

floorplan view

  • 360 º View-These are individual 360 º images usually taken of outdoor spaces. You can use these images if you would like to start your tour outside or show backyard spaces as well as landscaping.

 

The space will show a white translucent circle at each point you set the tripod to take a scan. There are times when you may take too many scans in an attempt to get better coverage. The downside to this is your space can end up with a distractingly large number of scan circles. The workshop will let you hide those extra scans, creating a cleaner space. 

The workshop also lets you build a guided tour. These tours move quickly through the property and give the user a good overview of the house. The user can stop the tour and investigate an area at any time by simply clicking and dragging on the space and relaunch the tour by clicking the play button.

Guided tours are built by taking “Snapshots” of the areas you want to include in your tour. Once you have compiled all your desired snapshots, you simply drag them into a “Highlight Reel” in the specific order you want them to appear in your tour. The guided tour automatically moves you through the Highlight Reel by simply pressing play.

Another valuable feature found in the Workshop is the ability to tag things. These are named “Matter Tags”. Matter Tags appear in the space as a small bullseye. When the viewer clicks on the bullseye, they see a description of the tagged item. These tags also allow you to add links to more in-depth information. We think these are really valuable, they allow us to provide as much additional detail as we need without visually cluttering up our tours.

 Floorplans are another feature we find useful. One of the view options in the Matterport viewer is “Floorplan”. This provides an overhead photographic view of each level of the property. The look is admittedly a little rough but the user will certainly get the gist of how the floorplan looks. We have experimented with taking snapshots of floorplans, downloaded a JPEG version of them and then used the image to trace the floorplan in something like Illustrator or Floorplanner.com. We then export or save them as image files and post them to the MLS and our website. If you don’t want to do the floorplan yourself, there is an option to have Matterport create a floorplan for an additional fee.

The workshop has other features that we frankly haven’t had time to tap into like Virtual Reality settings and the ability to measure rooms. We are also experimenting with using the guided tour function to create videos. Look for more on this in future articles.

We have had the Matterport Camera for a couple of weeks now and feel like we are just beginning to tap into its potential. This was a great purchase and we can’t wait to do more with it. To see a collection of our Matterport Tours, visit: https://www.springshomes.com/featured-homes

 

 

 

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Don't Punish Your Prospects, Entertain Them-Marketing Real Estate Agents through Video

Don't Punish Your Prospects, Entertain Them-Marketing Real Estate Agents through Video

As an independent, boutique, real estate company our greatest asset is our agents. One of our primary responsibilities is to promote our agents. We do this by getting them in front of potential clients.

Real estate buyers and sellers have become protective about sharing their contact information fearing being overwhelm with unwanted communication. This is understandable, some real estate lead conversion programs advocate up to 43 touches!. This means the real estate client can expect a combination of up to 43 emails, text messages or phone calls. Who wants to undergo this type of digital waterboarding?

Since we don't want to subject people to that kind of onslaught, we decided to take the high road. We built our website to showcase our skills, knowledge and personalities. When it came to featuring our agents, photos and a text description weren't good enough. We wanted people to see first-hand the different personalities within our company. The obvious choice for us was video. Video gave us the opportunity to present the agents in a more authentic and natural light. Something you can't do with still images and text.

We thought going to a professional studio would make the process too intimidating. The agents are not actors and we needed them to come across as relaxed and authentic. We decided to do the agent videos ourselves. Our company, was already doing videos of our listings and we had the equipment.

The Setup:

  • We started with lists of questions. Our marketing staff has a great feel for the individual agents' personalities and wanted that to shine through. They put together two sets of questions, one general in nature about real estate related topics and a second more personal list tailored to each agent about their personal goals and hobbies. The questions were written so the agents could answer without a lot of thought and we did not provide the questions to the agent beforehand. We wanted their answers to be genuine and not scripted.
  • We setup in an office. We used seamless white background paper as our backdrop. We flooded the room with light from several "Daylight Equivalent" LED bulbs. You can find these at any home improvement store. We chose this setup because we wanted a very clean and even look. We wanted the agent to pop out and be the focus.
  • We used a full frame mirrorless digital camera with 55mm lens positioned on a tri-pod about 6 feet in front of the agents. We set the focal length to a shallow f2.2. This setting blurred the background and helped keep the focus on the subject. 
  • For the audio, we used a "Blue Microphones-Yeti". We positioned the microphone about 8-inches from the agent's head, just out of the frame. This proximity allowed us to capture their voices in a warm yet realistic manner. The "Yeti" is a nice voice over microphone and has the added advantage of having USB connectivity.
  • We recorded the audio onto a separate track into the computer through the USB input into "Adobe Audition CC". We then merged those tracks with the video clip in post-production using "Adobe Premier CC". Our company uses the "Adobe Creative Cloud" suite but all this can be accomplished with almost any video editing software.

The Interviews

  • Since it was so important for us to keep the focus on the agent we decided to keep the interviewer behind the camera. We used one person to operate the camera and another person off camera asking the questions.
  • The agents were instructed to briefly repeat or summarize the question before launching into the answer. If the answers sounded phony or out of character we would ask them to answer the question again. We were looking for interesting answers not sound bytes. This was difficult at first. It seemed like the agents can up with generic answers quickly. When we pushed they got a little frustrated but the answers were much better. In retrospect, this made the videos much more interesting.
  • During the interviews each agent was asked about what they do outside of real estate. We know that clients often focus on personal elements about the agents. At some point they assume they have real estate expertise but want to know more. So, we decided to share this in the videos as well. Based on the agents' answer to these questions we shot additional footage of them outside of work. For example, one of our agents has a background in Music Education. She teaches and conducts a string group for the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony. She mentioned this in her video and many of her clients find this interesting. So, we included footage of her conducting her orchestra.

The Results

We are obviously excited about these videos and so are our agents. We consistently hear from them that a client chose to work with them because of their video. We knew clients would appreciate seeing our agent's explaining who they are in a relaxed setting. Because of this we decided to double down this with a glimpse into the agent's personal lives.

From this we have learned that clients appreciate that kind of transparency. When clients are looking for a Realtor to work with, real estate expertise is important. If that were the only factor there would be no explanation for the number of people that simply "Have a friend in the business". We think that clients are also looking for someone that resonates with their values and lifestyle.

This kind of transparency helps build trust. Trust is of course, essential in a Realtor/Client relationship. In an online environment where buyers and sellers don't want to expose their identity until they have some level of comfort, these kinds of videos go a long way in bringing potential clients to actually reach out to us.

The proof comes at the closing table or in the car while looking at houses. Statements like "We picked you because we watched your video and you're just like us" or "We saw in your video that education is important to you. That made up our minds". Statements like these are music to any marketer's ears but the best part is that the comments are based on who the agent really is. We can't think of a better way to reach out to new clients.

 

Here is a sample of how these videos turned out:

 

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Condos vs Townhouses - What's the difference?

There is a lot of confusion about the differences between condos vs townhouses. They share many similarities, and this seems to be the source of this confusion. Even amongst real estate professionals we often hear more opinions than facts. If you are considering buying a condo or a townhouse, it is important for you to understand the different real estate terms.

So, let's start by clarifying, condominiums or condos are a type of real estate ownership. Whereas, a townhouse is an actual style of building.

A condominium is best described as “the concept of ownership of a single unit of air space within a multi-unit dwelling, along with co- ownership of any common amenities (recreation centers, pools, etc...) and common areas of the structures and land among all unit owners.”

Townhouses are generally attached structures of 2 or more stories with common walls. These are a version of the old "Brownstones or "Row Houses" made popular on the east coast.

Let's Review the Similarities:

Townhouse ownership means you own the structure along with any associated land. So the owner of a townhouse can have absolute ownership, like a single family home.

Here's where things get a little confusing. It is not unusual to have “condominium ownership” of a townhouse. In other words, the structure is a "townhouse" while the ownership is "condominium".

Let's Compare the Differences:

Ownership and common areas are the primary differences between condos and townhouses. You can actually have absolute ownership of a townhouse as well as the land (yard) associated with it. In a Condominium you only own the "air-space" inside of your particular unit.

The owners of a condominium development each own an equal share of the "General Common Elements". This includes the structural elements of the building roof, walls, halls, clubhouse, pool, etc...

In a townhouse community, any common elements are deeded to the Home Owners Association (HOA). The townhouse owners are a part of the HOA but don't own an interest in these elements.

"Limited Common Elements" are where we see a departure between townhomes and condos. Limited Common Elements are only seen in condo ownership. These are things that are intended for the use on the individual unit owners. Parking spaces, garages, balconies and patios are examples of Limited Common Elements. Although these are owned by all of the unit owners, they are limited to the use of specific owner/s.

In a townhouse, the balcony and garage are actually owned by the townhouse owner. The exception to this would be if a "townhouse" style home is owned as a "condominium".

Summary:

Both condos and townhouses are what is known as "Common Interest Communities". A "Common Interest Community" is one where common real estate is maintained through assessments and dues.

Because of the Common Interest Community designation, we see a lot of confusion. The easiest way to remember the differences is this: A condominium is a form of real estate ownership and a townhouse is an architectural style.

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