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.

Tips on Buying a House

Tips on Buying a House

In Residential Real Estate a Seller's market is defined as having less than six months of available inventory, and this means that sellers have the advantage. I don't know what you call a market where inventories are measured in weeks not months.

If you are trying to buy a house, you already understand the frustration this type of market creates. To have success in this kind of market, you need to have a solid strategy. These “Tips on buying a house”, apply to any kind of market but are more pertinent in the type red hot seller's market we are currently experiencing.

Having said this, no matter what the condition of the market it's a good idea to have a plan. Here is an overview of how we approach the home-buying process at springs homes. 

Choose a Realtor

You can certainly try to do this on your own, but frankly, it's just a bad idea. Every listing agent will see you as a potential buyer prospect, doing this dance is going to waste an incredible amount of your time.

The smartest move you can make is to pick a good realtor and stick with them. A good Realtor is someone that has experience, ethics and a genuine interest in you. Consider this, the end game here is to buy a house you are really excited to own. This house will most likely be listed for sale by another Realtor (a.k.a. listing agent). That Realtor’s goal is to sell the home for a price the seller is happy with to the buyer that is most likely to close with the fewest hassles.

When an offer comes in on that house the listing agent cannot help but consider who brought that offer People are people and as hard as they try to overlook their biases they cannot. It's a good thing to work with a realtor that has an excellent reputation in the real estate community. Let's say you are the "Listing Agent" and "Home Seller". You have four identical offers and you know you're going to spend the next 30 days working with someone. Wouldn't you rather work with someone that's a real professional? Realtors want to do this as well nobody messes up a transaction like an inexperienced non-professional.

Realtors are supposed to adhere to a strict “Code of Ethics, ” and a good Realtor will take this code seriously. It’s a good idea to read through this “Code of Ethics” to get a sense of what you should be looking for in a Realtor. At the end of the day, you are trying to find someone you trust that knows what they are doing.

Once you choose this realtor, you need to help them understand what your goals. They need to do a “Needs Assessment” to get a sense for what and where you should be focused.

Springs Homes Realtor Maggie Turner, tells us about her recent experience with a buyer. I just closed on a property with buyers that were super easy to work with, and they were clear on their non-negotiable needs versus their flexible wants and desires in a house. That helped us to be decisive in the process of eliminating houses that were not a fit, quickly determining what houses met the criteria and which ones didn't. This also came in handy when ranking their options. And in a market where decisions have to be made quickly, it helped us move on the house that was their close second choice after the offer on their first choice house was not accepted.

If you still need convincing, here's a great article by Mark Brian on, Why You Need to Work with a Realtor

Pick an Area

Once you have done a needs assessment and looked at some areas and neighborhoods, you and your Realtor should be able to narrow down the scope of your search. At this point, it’s a good idea actually to look at homes in this neighborhood. Be direct with your Realtor about what you think about the homes you see, and this helps them realistically assess the likelihood of finding something you will be excited about.

It’s a good idea to drive through the neighborhood frequently when you are in the home buying process. You’ll quickly get a feel for prices and availability. When new listings go on the market, you’ll see the signs in the yards, usually before they hit the MLS.

It doesn’t hurt to meet the people that live in the neighborhood. Letting them know you are looking for a home there will often elicit suggestions about possible availability.

Use The Web

Understanding the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is essential to success in the house hunting process.

By definition, the MLS is a database with information about for sale and for rent real estate. Listing Broker's offer compensation for cooperation by other real estate brokers. In other words, if you have a buyer for this house, we will pay you if you sell it.

MLS’s now aggregate their listing data to “Portals” Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia are examples of Real Estate portals.

The MLS also aggregates its data to its members through something called an IDX feed. The members then display those listings on their website with the stipulation that the listing brokers name and company appear on their listings.

It’s important to note that any listing data not found directly on the MLS requires aggregation and this requires time. Each entity sets its own download schedule, this is why you often find a listing on one site but not another.

SpringsHomes.com downloads every 3 hours we have found that this interval keeps our data up to date and our buyers on top of the market.

Not all portal receive data from the MLS. For example, Zillow the real estate portal giant relies on agreements with individual brands and private aggregators to receive their data. If you are aggressively looking for a house, Zillow will be among the last to receive the listing data. Your Realtor can help with this as well.

Setup Alerts

Most MLS’s have the ability for Realtors to setup email alerts for clients. This is a type of reverse prospecting method. The Realtor sets up a search using the prospective buyer's criteria. Any time a listing agent enters a new listing that meets the buyer's criteria, the buyer gets an e-mail notification.

In the event you have yet to choose a Realtor, you can usually set these types of alerts up on many Realtor websites.

Go Social

Don’t ignore social media. Many Realtors will use social media to advertise their upcoming listings. You can use this as an opportunity to get a jump on the competition. The best way to handle this is to forward the post to your Realtor. This allows them to verify the details of the listing to make sure it’s legitimate.

Don’t Ignore FSBO’s

For Sale by Owner properties are another option you should explore. These sellers are usually willing to pay the buyer's agents commission. In the rare instances when they are not, you will need to assess if you are willing to work with the owner yourself or if you are willing and able to pay your own agents commission.

In our experience, the For Sale by Owner that isn’t willing to pay a Buyer's Agent is determined to maximize their net on the sale. This means an unwillingness to deal with inspection items or appraisal issues. Sometimes the home is so spectacular, you can overlook this but this is generally not the case.

Get Pre-Approved

We have talked at great length on this site about getting pre qualified and preapproved, there is a difference. Pre-qualification means the lender thinks you can buy a house. Pre-approval says that based on your loan application, income, and debts, they are willing to lend you the money, you just need to find a house.

Springs Homes Realtors Kelly Moriarty and Maggie Turner share this about pre-qualification vs. pre-approval; Maggie Turner-I recently worked with buyers in a competing offers situation. We had a strong pre-approval letter, not just a pre-qualification letter. I later found out the listing agent knew and respected the (local) lender that wrote the letter, that ultimately ended up being the assurance the sellers needed to take our offer. A pre qualification letter might be good enough when making an offer in a slower market, but right now some listing agents are only accepting offers with a pre-approval. I'm encouraging my buyers to go ahead and get that step out of the way if you want to bring a strong offer and eliminate the questions of your financial position. Kelly Moriarty-I totally agree with Maggie, pre approval vs. pre qualification. That just helped me get a home under contract. When the listing agent called to tell me they were taking our offer, and she said you were the only one with a pre-approval, that kind of shocked me.

Be Available

In hot markets, Realtors scan the MLS for new listings in an obsessive compulsive manner. When properties do hit the market that meets a buyer’s criteria, the realtor will do one of two things either go preview that property or contact the buyer to meet them at the property, depending on market conditions and potential of the property. There's nothing more frustrating for a realtor then not being able to get ahold of their buyers when a great property hits the market.

Make sure that you and your realtor set up some guidelines about how and when you can be contacted about properties.

Make a Strong Offer

So you have done everything we've suggested above and you found the house, now it's time to make an offer. This is when your Realtor should really show their value. The first thing they should do is prepare a CMA (competitive market analysis). This analysis will essentially show you what the home you're getting ready to make an offer on is really worth. The analysis we'll approach the home's price based on comparable sales in the neighborhood. This is what the appraiser will do at a much more detailed level later on.

From this analysis, you will be able to get an idea of what the home is truly worth. The next part is how much to offer and this question can only really be answered by you. Your realtor can give you guidance but since you're going to have to live with the number you need to pick it.

Once you've decided on a price there are a multitude of things you can do to make your offer stronger. Remember, the goal of the listing agent and the seller is to get the property closed for the highest price and the fewest road bumps because road bumps cost money.

Here are some tips from springs homes agents Brooke Mitchell and Courtney Gilmore:

Brooke Mitchell-As, the listing agent I really like agents I know are good...and dependable lenders (preferably local).

Courtney Gilmore- Right now in our market, buyers are putting homes under contract and then continuing to look in hopes of finding something better. If they do find something better, they just cancel the contract on the inspection or other contingency. This is a big problem for sellers because they have essentially taken their home off the market. The buyer who has no real skin in the game just walks away with their earnest money intact. Listing agents have gotten wise to this game and are now looking for contracts that get the buyer invested in the deal much earlier. I have started asking my buyers to instruct their lender to order the appraisal within three days of going under contract. Additionally, we schedule the inspection to be completed and any objection submitted to Seller within 7 days of going under contract, this is difficult to pull off and sometimes it’s not possible, but it sends the seller the message that we are serious about buying your home.

Cash is King

In a hot market home sellers aren't so concerned about getting their house sold as much as they are with the timing and hassles associated with the process. Additionally, sellers worry about appraisal issues that might affect their bottom line. This is why cash sales are very popular with home sellers. Cash buyers will often waive the appraisal contingency that way they reduce the seller's concern about potential appraisal issues.

From the buyer's perspective paying cash is a good idea if you can do it but you also need to look at the value of the property you want to buy. You don't want to overpay for a home that won't appreciate, especially if you want to resell it in a couple of years.

Debbie DrummondWrites about Cash Sales in This Article: Should I Pay Cash For My Home?

Add an Escalation Clause

There are some instances where you find a house that you must have. These types of properties are usually involved in multiple offer situations. The Escalation Clause can come in handy in these situations.

Brooke Mitchell shares a real world example of how this works-On a modular home out in the county, there were competing offers. My buyers wanted to offer $5,000-9,000 over list price, draining all of their savings & parental gift funds to make this purchase. I advised them to write a strong offer (at list) and include an “escalation clause”... This would give them the opportunity to offer more in the event competing offers started to push the price up. This clause meant they would have the opportunity to raise their price and could be willing to pay more, but may not have to.

Here is a very detailed article about the escalation clause by Kyle Hiscock:What is an Escalation Clause?

Offer to Lease Back

We have seen some success with seller leasebacks. In this scenario the buyer allows the seller to rent the home after closing until the seller figures out where they're going. This is a big incentive for a lot of home sellers for the next closing ready is and their cash to find a new place because it means they're not rushed, and they have proceeds from their home sale to put towards the next purchase thereby eliminating a double move.

From the buyer side, depending on the timing of your move this may or may not be an inconvenience.

Write a Letter

In a market where we see multiple offers, the offers start to look the same in terms of closing dates prices terms and conditions. One thing that can separate an offer from a slew of similar offers is a little touch of personalization. We have seen agents have success with writing personal letters to the home sellers to be presented at the time of offer. Here Nicole Happel and Brooke Mitchell share some experiences they've had with letters.

Nicole Happel-Recently I had a listing which received two offers. Both were a good price and from well-qualified buyers. But surprisingly sellers did not accept the highest offer. Instead, they accepted the slightly lower one, and all because those buyers took the time to write a very personal note to the sellers explaining how much the house would mean to their family. They went on to say how the teenage boy would enjoy the basement area for his personal “man cave” space. The wife loved to cook and would appreciate doing so in the gourmet kitchen. They even said they had been married for 20 years and would enjoy their children’s last years in this house. The picture they painted was heartfelt and endearing. It worked. My sellers were sold!

Brooke Mitchell- The buyer I discussed in the escalation clause section also decided to write a letter to accompany the offer, about how he had been raised in the area and these newlyweds couldn't wait to buy a home outside of town and start their family. Oh, and her husband loved the shop the guy built!! That was the tipping point for the agent and seller. They did not have the pay more than their original offer, saving them $$thousands. The agent was also the buyer's bus driver when he was much younger, it's a small world!

Inspection

The property inspection negotiation is difficult in any market. Sellers feel like the inspection is petty nitpicking and a chance for the buyer to negotiate the contract. Buyers, on the other hand, feel the need to make sure they're not buying somebody else's deferred maintenance issues and undisclosed problems.

If you're buying you should definitely do an inspection. Once you know the condition of the property you'll be able to decide what to ask for versus what to accept based on the condition of the market.

It's important to note that you can write a contract for a property in as-is condition and still cancel the contract based on an inspection. If the inspection reveals serious defects that weren’t documented in the “Seller's Property Disclosure” you can walk away. As is, simply means that based on what you currently know about the property, you aren’t planning on asking the Sellers for any repairs.

Don’t Lose Your Pre-Approval

Home buyers often forget that once they are under contract on a property any kind of change in their financial situation can get their pre-approval revoked. Every Realtor has heard the stories of a home buyer pulling up to the inspection in a new vehicle. The bottom line is, make no changes in your financial situation until after you close on the property.

Bill Gassett has written a great article about 14 Ways to Get Your Mortgage Preapproval Revoked.

KeIly Moriarty Summarizes it best when she says- The escalation clause has helped me, the 60-day close option helped, being available and showing buyers the day a home is listed is a must as well. These are all great tools, but at the end of the day, I think this is a time where you depend on Realtor relationships and being respectful and most importantly working together to help our clients. Remember that markets go up and down and people remember how you treat them in this business. Treat them fairly and respectfully when you don't have to and they will most likely return the favor. Real estate sales success is a long game.

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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

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 its 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 a 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.

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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/.

 

 

 

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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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