Safety Is a Priority for Consumers, Too

Spring is upon us and for Realtors that means the start of a busy season. In juggling listing appointments, showings, phone calls, texts, emails and paperwork, we tend to overlook taking certain precautions. In addition to reminding my fellow Realtors to look out for their personal safety and well-being amidst the busy season, I urge buyers and sellers also to consider their own expectations when it comes to real estate transactions.

In a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, nearly 100 percent of Realtors surveyed reported never having been victim of crime. However, regarding being in situations in which they feared for their personal safety or personal information, 40 percent of Realtors responded affirmatively. Situations in which Realtors tend to be fearful include open houses, showing vacant properties or ones in remote areas, and properties that were unlocked upon their arrival.

When he took office, NAR President Chris Polychron pledged “to make Realtor safety a priority and develop new education and resources for the industry.” Polychron feels it is “important to know how safe or unsafe our members feel, what causes them to feel unsafe, and what steps they are taking to keep themselves out of harm’s way, so that we can respond and provide the best tools tailored to our members’ personal safety needs.”

The NAR survey results included statistics on proactive safety measures taken by Realtors, including:
· Pepper spray is more common among female Realtors, while firearms are more often carried by male Realtors.
· 38 percent have participated in self-defense classes, with 18 percent taking advantage of classes offered at their local Association.
· 3 percent use a smart phone safety application to track their whereabouts or alert in case of an emergency.
· Realtors meets about half of their prospective buyers, whom they haven’t previously met, in a real estate office or other neutral location.
· 46 percent said their brokerage has standard procedures for agent safety in place.

It is unfortunate that while helping others achieve the American dream, Realtors have to always be on their guard. Thus, consumers are asked not to be taken aback when asked to make a copy of their photo id or to meet at a neutral location.

And let’s not overlook the everyday opportunities fellow Realtors and clients have for adding to those dangers. Something as seemingly innocuous as our expectations for immediate results and responses can lead to harmful behavior – talking, texting or emailing while driving.

Whether discussing an offer with a fellow Realtor or answering questions for a client about a transaction, Realtors do their best to give that other person their full attention. And when it’s yourself on the other side of that communication, you appreciate that attentiveness from the Realtor.

Yet, when a Realtor doesn’t respond within a matter of seconds or minutes to a phone call, text or email, we quickly forget they might be providing that same attentiveness . . . to someone else. To a seller in presenting an offer, to a relocating buyer who only is in town for a few hours or to a title agent conducting a closing. Or, they simply might be driving to the next appointment and opting not to text or talk while driving.

So as we embrace the busyness of Spring, let’s take a moment to enjoy the excitement of it all – budding new listings and a growing inventory. Yet, let’s maintain practical expectations for all that Realtors do to serve their clients and customers and refrain from making unreasonable demands in an already cautious climate.

The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors is “The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga.” The Association is a regional organization with more than 1,500 members and is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of REALTORS nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors services Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. For more information, visit http://www.gcar.net.

By Travis Close, ABR, GREEN, GRI, e-PRO
President, Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors

Drones Taking Real Estate Marketing To New Heights

Real estate agents across the country have been waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to release guidelines permitting the use of drones for commercial purposes, such as marketing real estate. Last month, the FAA released its proposed rules, which would allow realty professionals to use drones to aid their clients in marketing and selling properties.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones, are aircrafts without a human pilot aboard. The applications for this new technology are varied and numerous. Property managers are interested in drones’ property inspection applications while real estate agents hope to use drones to capture videos and pictures that help visualize and market clients’ residential and commercial properties.

New drone technologies can help real estate agents market homes and properties in ways that were cost-prohibitive in the past. Aerial photography and video could someday be an added value that Realtors provide for all of their clients, creating eye-catching listings that stand out to potential buyers.

The new rules provide guidance on the various permits and registrations operators will need to obtain, when and where the drones can be used and the requirements for reporting accidents or injuries. It will likely take two years for the rules to be finalized and go into effect.

Some of the requirements included in the proposed rule are:
· Commercial drones’ flights would be restricted to 500 feet in altitude, 100 miles per hour of speed and daylight hours.
· All flights would need to be within visual line of sight of the person operating the drone.
· Operators of commercial drones would be required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test be issued a permit to fly, which must be renewed every two years. This would be different from receiving a pilot’s license.

While drones are exciting new technology, until the rules are finalized I encourage sellers not to pressure their Realtor, and Realtors not to give in to such pressures, to use drones to aid in the selling and marketing of properties.

Currently, using drones to market and sell either residential or commercial property can result in heavy fines for Realtors. But when the rules are finalized, drones will hopefully become an exciting, new tool to help sellers make their property even more attractive to buyers. For more information and updates, as they become available, please visit http://www.realtor.org/drones.

The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors is “The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga.” The Association is a regional organization with more than 1,500 members and is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors services Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. For more information, visit http://www.gcar.net.

By Travis Close, ABR, GREEN, GRI, e-PRO
President, Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors

Interested In Buying land?

Warren Buffet once said if he had to pick between all the gold on Earth and all the farmland, he would pick the farmland. For many people – including me – land holds a special place in our hearts. It’s true that “they aren’t making any more of it.” But it is more than that. Buying and owning land is about potential. Put a barn here, a pasture there, leave that part wooded, site the home to capture that view. Each piece of land has different possibilities. Discovering those possibilities and knowing your goals in buying land is the key to a successful transaction. Here are some ideas to help. A Realtor with passion and knowledge for land will help you through the myriad of issues and questions in buying land.

What is your vision?

Are you looking to build your dream home in a gated community? Wanting to start a hobby farm? Dream of sitting on your porch and gazing over bluff views? Lake views? Take some time and make write two lists. One is a “must-have” list for your land. These are the non-negotiables. Then make a second list that is a “wish” list and prioritize it. These are the things that you would like to have but are not required.

Can you do it there?

The first thing to check is the zoning of the piece of land you are considering and the land around it. Zoning is the restrictions placed on land use by a government entity (city, county, etc.). It will cover how many homes can be placed on a piece of property, whether or not you can run a business there and what type of business is allowed, and other issues. Some rural areas may have no zoning regulations. Be sure and check zoning for surrounding properties as well. That beautiful residential lot may be next to a lot zoned for manufacturing. Whether a piece of land is zoned or not, it is important to check for any deed restrictions. These are restrictions that were placed on the use of land by a previous owner or the current owner. These may include covenants and restrictions for subdivisions that may dictate the style, size and other details of homes built there. Some land owners can get interesting with deed restrictions. I once came across a piece of commercial land where a previous owner had placed a restriction that a liquor store could never be operated on the property. It’s always a good idea to have a real estate attorney give an opinion on any restrictions discovered in a deed.

Can they do it there?

The other discovery you will make in reading the deed to a piece of land are easements. These are things written into the deed that allows other people to do things on your land. Utility easements allow utility companies access to and maybe across your land to install and maintain utility lines. A neighbor may have to use a driveway across your land to access their land. I once owned a 20 acre tract that had the water from a spring and cistern deeded to the farmhouse across the street. When they went to replace the old water lines, they had to dig across my pasture. Easements written into a deed must be honored unless the other party agrees to have them removed and the deed re-recorded. Take them seriously when considering a piece of land. Your neighbor today may not be your neighbor tomorrow.

Is it feasible?

When you make an offer on raw land, you need to be sure the land is suitable for what you want to do. Just because a piece of land is zoned for a home, doesn’t mean building a home there is a good idea. Is public sewer available? If not, will the soil support a septic system? Public water? Can water be found anywhere on the land to dig a well? What is the quality of that well water? There is a large tract currently for sale in Marion County that is beautiful. Waterfalls, boulders, creeks, acres and acres of trails. Electricity will NEVER be brought to the tract. It says that in the listing. Unless you want to install a generator or solar panels or live off the grid, that land is probably not right for your home.

Where is the line?

Whenever I show property, one of the most common questions I am asked is “where is the property line?” It’s a fair question but Realtors are not surveyors. Using tax maps, finding survey pins/ribbons, etc. can give you an idea where lines are but the only way to know for sure is to pay for a survey or request a survey if it exists. Property line disputes can be covered by a title policy but only if a current survey exists. The price of a survey depends on a lot of factors – acreage, terrain, existence of past surveys, etc. Can they be expensive? Sure they can be. Are they worth it? Yes.What about all the other stuff?There are a bunch of other questions that need to be answered to determine if a piece of land is right for you. Quality of pasture for farming. Value of timber. Year round or seasonal water. Mineral rights. Flood zones. There is not enough room in a short article like this to cover them all. Find a Realtor that understands and loves land and you will have a partner to help you make your vision a reality.