Real estate and rental scams: What to look out for

Since I did not have a question this month, I thought I would take an opportunity to provide information about scams related to real estate and rentals. As our market ramps up, we are going to see an influx of scammers, whether it is in our community, or online.
Real estate related scams are mostly going to be targeted towards real estate agents. I have been in several scenarios where a buyer from another country wants to mail an earnest money deposit for a large sum of money on a property he or she “cannot live without”. The contract will of course fail, at which point they will request the funds to be returned to them in the form of non traceable funds, such as Western Union. For sale by owners need to be aware of this, as they will effectively be that real estate agent, and arguably an easier target whereas they are not in the business day to day. We are seeing many owners using marketing tactics which will atract these scammers. Watch for buyers who cannot communicate on the telephone  and especially those who reside in other countries.
There are of course other types of real estate scams related to non disclosure of material facts, but not necessarily the type a scam I am talking about today.

On the rental side of things, we can expect even more scams. A couple examples and some things to watch out for:
When searching for any rental (though primarily long-term rentals) be wary of duplicate listings on websites like Craigslist. If you find a property listed at a higher price, and another with the same exact photographs or address, it is likely a scammer duplicating the marketing material to attract a renter, then scamming them into sending a deposit.
Another tactic is finding old or expired real estate listings on marketing sites, copying the information, and listing it as a rental.
In either scenario above, the end result is usually the same. The scammer will ask you to send a deposit for the rental. Be especially careful about providing cashiers checks, as they are about as traceable as cash. A scammer can also cash a personal check.
I was once in a situation where I rented a vacation rental to a family outside the United States, which is not uncommon. They cancelled the reservation and asked what the cancellation fee was. I can’t remember the amount, but they were okay with it. They asked me to wire the money rather than mailing a check Since they were out of the country. Two weeks later, the cashier’s check they used to pay for the rental bounced, it was never a real check in the first place. In this example, rental owners are also an easy target for scammers, this is probably the most common type of rental scam.
Watch out for listings that are too good to be true, and again be careful of those who will not communicate over the phone. When dealing with vacation rentals, credit card transactions are always the safest bet in my opinion. As a final bit of advice, look to local resources for advice. If someone represents that they are the owner of a home, confirm with the county courthouse that they actually own the home if it is suspicious. Depending on what type of service you are working with, local real estate agents and property managers are also a good resource for advice. I recently was contacted by a woman who was on her way to the rental she had paid a deposit for. She said it seemed suspicious. I helped her to determine that the person she was dealing with was not even the owner of the home, and was able to save her about a thousand bucks, and a whole lot of travel time.

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The Ultimate Teton Valley Guide to Great Scenery, Hiking, and Recreation

Hiking and horseback riding in the greater Teton Valley region are sought after pursuits by many outdoor enthusiasts. The Teton Valley area is home to impressive scenery, hiking, and other recreational activities. Here are some of the best trails and areas to enjoy during your visit to the Teton Valley region.

 

The Teton Crest Trail

The entire route is 39 miles from Teton Pass on Highway 22 to string Lake in Grand Teton National Park. This rugged mountain environment is home to impressive views and a challenging trip for anyone looking for a unique backpacking expedition. Consider horseback riding, as it is roughly 75 miles along the crest of the Teton Mountains.

 

Table Mountain Trail

Another must-do hike is the table mountain trail in Driggs, Idaho. The top of the trail features impressive views of the Tetons. This is an 11-mile, round-trip hike, but seems longer due to the elevation changes. This hike generally takes 10 to 12 hours to complete.

 

South Teton Canyon Trail

Located just outside Driggs, Idaho, is the South Teton Canyon trail. This trail features gorgeous glacial valleys, surrounded by forest and creeks. This is an easy day hike to numerous waterfalls and is best enjoyed in the spring and early summer.

 

Grand Targhee Resort

If you love to ski, Grand Targhee Resort is the place to go during the winter. Grand Targhee Resort features snow skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, snow biking, snowmobile tours, and sleigh ride dinners.

 

Teton River

If fishing is your favorite outdoor activity, plan some time to spend fishing on the Teton River. This mellow River is perfect for fishermen, paddle boarding, and more.

 

Whether you like to hike, golf, fish, ATV, or horseback ride, TVR Ranches has the right rental property for you. Contact them today to find a great vacation rental home, and enjoy your summer or winter vacation!

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What do I need to know about the County assessment notice I just received in the mail?

Not long ago I did an article on property taxes, and how they work here in Teton County. In that article I go over levies, taxing districts and so on. Since I won’t go into too much detail on that end of things, feel free to email me, and I will forward you the link to that post. I keep all of the Ask the Expert articles up on the Teton Valley Realty website blog.
Anyway – the county’s primary source of revenue is property tax. The county has to come up with a way for all property owners to share the cost of “operations”, and they accomplished that by prorating each property owner’s share based on the value of their property. They determine that value based on sales prices, construction costs, rents, etc. Whenever a property is sold here in the county, they send the new property owner a letter requesting the details of the sale, including purchase price. ***Note, Idaho is a non-disclosure state, and the new owner is not required to respond to the letter.
Back to your asessment notice. Many of you probably noticed an increase in your assessed value this year. Don’t get excited, this only means that your prorated share of property taxes is going to increase. The increase most of us are seeing is based mostly on real estate recovery. Building costs are up, rents are up, demand is higher than in recent years, and supply is low. It’s important that you understand the accuracy of this letter. If the county is assessing the value of your property too high, you could be unnecessarily paying more than your fair share of property taxes. If the value is too low… well, you decide what to do.
If you read read your notice, you will see instructions on how to “appeal” your property’s assesment. If you only made note of the value and stashed it in your file cabinet, you can find that information on the county’s website under additional information on the assessor page. If you don’t email, you can pick up the information at the county courthouse during normal business hours, or stop by my office and I will print it out for you. IMPORTANT – should you decide that the county is over valuing your property, the deadline for appeal is Monday, June 22nd at 5:00 PM. The county is surprisingly easy to work with regarding the appeal process, but probably less so as we approach the deadline. Those who wait until 4:30PM on Monday the 22nd, might see less cooperation.
Prior to starting the appeal process, it would be a good idea to arm yourself with data supporting your claim that your property is overvalued. If you are a land owner, you might obtain recent sales of lots in your subdivision or nearby. When the county assesses homes, they value the land, then the improvements for a total assessed value. You could obtain sales data for land, or data of recent home sales in your area, as long as they are similar in size. If you have a finished basement and your neighbor doesn’t, that would definitely affect assessed value. A great resource is your favorite real estate agent, who would probably love to send you the information you are looking for.
There is a bit of good news in all of this, our market is improving dramatically. If you missed last month’s article, It’s a good overview of where we are today.

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Why annual inspections are a great idea

If you have a secondary residence, performing an annual inspection is a great way to ensure the home is maintaining its value. How often do you think to check your home’s roof, or check for signs of mold growth? Annual inspections help you pinpoint small problems before they become a major issue.

 

What a Professional Home Inspection Entails

When you hire professionals to inspect your home, you will be aware of the different elements that impact the home. Inspectors look at the structure of the home and identify areas of potential problems. Home inspections help you understand what needs to be repaired or replaced to maintain the integrity of the home.

 

Do I Need a Professional?

Some people prefer to perform a basic home inspection without professionals. Hiring a professional is the best way to ensure all signs of damage are checked in early stages, something most homeowners are not trained to identify. Professionals also raise awareness to homeowners about water concerns related to outdated piping or poor attic ventilation.

 

What Do Inspections Include?

When a home inspector is assessing the property, they will examine several areas including:

  • Heating and air conditioning systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing
  • Walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Foundations
  • Structural components
  • Roof, attic, and insulation
  • Windows and doors
  • Basements

 

How Routine Inspections Save Money

Catching mold growth in an early stage is easier to treat than a stage where it has taken over a home and causes serious health risks. Performing routine inspections save homeowners thousands of dollars on mold issues and other small problems that will eventually become a major expense.

 

Correct property inspections require adequate training. Hire TVR Management to ensure your property is being cared for correctly. With the right preventive steps, you will be able to save money and maintain a higher property value!

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Market Update & When to Sell (May, 2015)

I thought I would wrap a question from a customer and a market update into one article this month. That is, “Obviously the market is improving, should I consider selling this year, or waiting another year for more recovery?”
I think that depends on what you are selling. To help answer the question, market update first; Residential inventory is low, lot sales are on the rise. The bank owned era has nearly come to a close, very few short sales and foreclosures remain on the books. The inventory mentioned, and the lack of bank owned properties is what is causing the spike in prices for residential. That trend is mostly reflected for properties under 350,000, which was also the bulk of the bank owned inventory. We are seeing a number of new homes built on spec popping up or under construction to meet the demand for the price range. I don’t think we’ll see any high end spec homes for a while longer, as that sector, let’s say 500+, is still relatively slow. Though our building site sales have more than doubled since the height of the downturn, prices haven’t. There is still a great supply of available building sites as many of us know. However, many of these are in vacant subdivisions, which will take time to recover. That being said, if you are currently priced out, are comfortable in a rental, and have the means for a reasonable down payment, now might be the time to pick up a nice lot in a vacant subdivision in anticipation of higher prices down the road when construction begins.
Now for my selling recommendations:
***Homes under 350-400,000
More than anything, prices are affected by supply and demand. We know supply is very low in this sector, which has created slightly artificial pricing for homes in this range. With supply on the low side, and absorption rates which are down, now may be a good time for and expedited, slightly artificially high price. Also, consider spec home or new construction competition in the coming months.
***Homes 400k+
As mentioned, this sector is relatively slow at the moment. Supply is not high, so it may not be a bad time to consider selling if you don’t mind staying on the market for a time. If you only have interest in selling quickly when going to market, know that buyers may expect deeper discounts with current market conditions. I think Sellers in this price point will weigh options, and consider whether funds will be better served in another investment before markets fully recover throughout the rest of the region.
***Building Sites
This is a pretty broad sector, so I will do my best to cover everything quickly. Spec/Neighborhood lots – Investors are going to be looking for building sites to construct spec homes. If you are in the mood to sell, now might be the time. However, know that because the spec homes are going to be on a tight budget due to recovering markets, you may not want to expect a huge pay day. You should expect more competition in terms of supply in the near future, but possibly higher prices. Custom Home sites/Farm & Ranch – In terms of custom home sites, I think it depends on location. If you are in a well developed neighborhood with quality homes, now might be a good time for consideration before you are competing with vacant subdivisions once they see recovery. If you are a lot Owner in a vacant subdivision, I would suggest holding out until you see some construction in your neighborhood, which should increase values. Farm and ranch is just that, farm and ranch. It used to be the Holy Grail of an investment. Cash flow during ownership, and waiting for a big investor or developer to come and pay off. Today, farm ground is actually in short supply, and we are seeing an agricultural comeback. It might actually be worth consideration, depending on your original investment and timeframe.

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Questions You Should Always Ask Before Buying a Luxury Property in Teton Valley

If you are seeking a luxury property in Teton Valley, you can become flooded with too much information that is not relevant to your search. What are the things you really need to understand before you seek a property? Use the following questions to help you find the right luxury property for the right price.

 

When should I buy?

There are several agents that try to persuade you that “now is the time to buy.” When is the correct time to buy a home? The best investors know it is important to watch the housing market, interest rates, and general trends in the industry. The Teton Valley region is booming with new growth and tourists are increasing their visits to the area.

 

Are the sellers desperate?

In the past, desperate sellers will dump a property with the first offer, as they are finically strapped. Luxury properties work differently as most people want the best offer, and they can sit on the property for some time. If you are looking for the best price, luxury property investment is going to prove tricky. A good agent can help you identify which properties will have motivated sellers, allowing you to make a fair offer on the home.

 

Is the location viable?

While the Teton Valley region is booming, you have to consider where it will be in the future. Are you investing in a home that is in the correct area? Are you planning to live in the home, or do you want to use it as a second property to rent out? The location is critical as it needs to be in a desirable location for individuals planning to rent it for vacations.

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The Great Perks of Buying a Luxury Property in Teton Valley

Are you looking for a great new area to establish a large ranch, family getaway, or investment property? Teton Valley is home to large luxury properties that are beautiful and can include acres of undeveloped land. The Teton Valley region is showing incredible market strength and there is a large sales volume expected for 2015 now that the housing market has bounced back.

 

Residential Investment Potential

If you are seeking luxury property for investment potential, Teton Valley is your place to invest. The residential market saw a healthy sales rate in 2014, a 14% increase from 2013! With a number of people seeking rental luxury properties for vacation needs, investors can make a large return on their investment from property that is always staffed.

 

Resort Access

The Teton Valley area is known for being a resort town as Grand Targhee Resort brings in a number of tourists each year. Victor, ID, has excellent local stores and restaurants for tourists and local residents. The resort residential market is continuing to grow in Victor as sales have increased an average of approximately $556,000 for luxury properties.

 

Tourist Appeal

What makes the Teton Valley region great for investors? As additional luxury properties come to the area, more tourists are also expected to come. Summer brings tourists to the area for hiking, rafting, fishing and more. And Yellowstone National Park, just north of Victor, brings millions of people to the area year-round. Not only do Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park bring tourists to the area, but the great skiing and snowboarding opportunities bring individuals to the area as well.

 

Resale Value

One of the major advantages to investing in luxury property in Teton Valley is the expected resell value of the properties in the next ten years. Property owners have the ability to capitalize on the tourism industry, and eventually can sell their property for a large return.

 

For more information on luxury properties in the Teton Valley region, contact TVR Ranches to help find your ideal luxury property.

Are you looking for a great new area to establish a large ranch, family getaway, or investment property? Teton Valley is home to large luxury properties that are beautiful and can include acres of undeveloped land. The Teton Valley region is showing incredible market strength and there is a large sales volume expected for 2015 now that the housing market has bounced back.

 

Residential Investment Potential

If you are seeking luxury property for investment potential, Teton Valley is your place to invest. The residential market saw a healthy sales rate in 2014, a 14% increase from 2013! With a number of people seeking rental luxury properties for vacation needs, investors can make a large return on their investment from property that is always staffed.

 

Resort Access

The Teton Valley area is known for being a resort town as Grand Targhee Resort brings in a number of tourists each year. Victor, ID, has excellent local stores and restaurants for tourists and local residents. The resort residential market is continuing to grow in Victor as sales have increased an average of approximately $556,000 for luxury properties.

 

Tourist Appeal

What makes the Teton Valley region great for investors? As additional luxury properties come to the area, more tourists are also expected to come. Summer brings tourists to the area for hiking, rafting, fishing and more. And Yellowstone National Park, just north of Victor, brings millions of people to the area year-round. Not only do Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park bring tourists to the area, but the great skiing and snowboarding opportunities bring individuals to the area as well.

 

Resale Value

One of the major advantages to investing in luxury property in Teton Valley is the expected resell value of the properties in the next ten years. Property owners have the ability to capitalize on the tourism industry, and eventually can sell their property for a large return.

 

For more information on luxury properties in the Teton Valley region, contact TVR Ranches to help find your ideal luxury property.

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I’m thinking about building a “small house” what are my options?

In a way, I manufactured this question. It’s been a huge topic lately. I have interviewed for some local magazine articles, as well as visited with developers, regional planners, etc. I also have quite a few customers with a small house in mind. Various reasons range from lifestyle to budget, not to mention small houses seem to be trendy at the moment. There are tons of plans available online, and a few of the local architects have similar interests, and can design these small homes for a very reasonable price. Also, there are some local companies who are doing some extraordinarily luxurious modular type small houses.

So, what are your options? It depends on a couple of factors, how small is “small”? There are a number of subdivisions and developments within Teton County that have a minimum size requirement of 900 to 1000 square feet. If this is your idea of small, then all it will take is a real estate agent that is well versed in knowing all of the developments or quick to review the CC&R’s for each development. You might be surprised how many lots are available, some even with community water hookups.

How about 400 or 500 square feet? This gets a little more tricky. A few of the older developments used to have very small size requirements such as this, but the restrictions have been amended over the years to require a larger home. Just 10 years ago, small homes weren’t really a thing. We were all building gigantic custom homes, and we didn’t really want to have a 900 square foot home next to our custom 5000 square foot home. I might be exaggerating slightly, but you get the idea.

One obvious workaround is to purchase a lot without any CC&R’s, or that is not in a subdivision. This can get tricky for a variety of reasons. First, these types of lots with “free rein” so to speak are gaining in popularity for those who want to have chickens, don’t like the idea of rules, or a variety of other reasons such as building a smaller home. Because they are gaining in popularity, demand is higher (supply is low to begin with) which is causing inflated prices. For those looking to build a small home because of the budget factor, this is essentially pricing them out. Other things to consider when buying a lot that is not in the subdivision is confirming that you can obtain a building permit for that parcel and checking costs for bringing in power, phone, the ability to hook up to water or sewer, or drill a well, and more. When you buy a lot within a development, it almost always has power and phone to the property, and the ability to hook up to or drill for water. This isn’t always the case with many of these parcels not in a development, which again adds to the cost to bring these utilities to the building site.

Another possible work around, and possibly a way to tick off your neighbors, is to find a development that allows a small guest house, but does not require that you construct the main house first. Obviously, this can cause some friction with the Homeowner’s Associations. Just because the CC&R’s read one way doesn’t mean it was the intent of the developer another way. It can be a sticky situation.

In a nutshell, I would first recommend that you spend some time in a small house, and consider the price difference between building something that conforms with a subdivision’s requirements, versus going all-out miniature. Pulling out your murphy bed everyday for the rest of your life may get old, even though it seems like a good idea today. Closet space, storage, pantry space and laundry areas are all things that are usually reduced in size or forfeited altogether – combine this with ski boots, your new bike, and a Golden Retriever, it gets pretty tight.

On another note, not that we need any new development, but how about amending restrictions on some of these vacant subdivisions to allow for  these “small houses”? Food for thought!

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The Best Kept Secrets About Driggs Idaho Real Estate

Do you want to live in a beautiful country that is home to majestic views and wildlife?

 

Then look no further. Nestled in the Teton Valley, Driggs, Idaho provides some of the most impressive real estate options. Because of its unique location, Driggs is also home to a wide variety of recreational activities including skiing, air biking, canoeing, and more.

 

Driggs boasts the Grand Targhee Resort, one of the top-ranked ski resorts in the area, and the Huntsman Springs Resort, if golf if your sport. You can also spend the day hiking, trial riding, or even book tours to Yellowstone, one of the most beautiful and impressive national parks.

 

Not does Driggs includes fantastic recreational activities, it includes excellent job opportunities. Downtown Driggs includes a healthy crop of new stores geared toward tourists and locals. There are also some year-round events that draw people into the city, bringing in some much-needed revenue.

 

While the real estate market is rebounding, many homeowners are selling or renting out some great properties. If you would like to invest in a second home, look at the different rental options available in Driggs. Renting out your home to tourists in the Driggs area is a great way to make a decent income. Some people only provide the rentals in the summer, while others will offer them year-round.

 

Work with Driggs, Idaho, real estate investors to help you find the right place to live or rent. You can schedule a walk through with real estate companies to find a place to live that you will love and enjoy.

 

Come to the heart of the Teton Valley and see for yourself why moving to Driggs is going to be one of the best decisions you will make.

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Can you provide some negotiation tips?

Sure, these tips are based on my own personal experience. I suppose I would have different tips for buyers, and for sellers. Also, these tips could be circumstantial, based on the situation. For instance, certain price ranges. As many of you know, it’s a struggle to find anything for sale under 300,000 right now. For that reason, I would not suggest to a buyer to write a low ball offer, nor a seller to accept one. Spending too much time negotiating can leave the door open to other offers in the case of the buyer, and prematurely accepting offers can leave dollars on the table for the seller.
Getting into a little more detail though, the first thing I would suggest for both buyers and sellers would be education. It happens all the time. Buyers have their own opinion, (which can sometimes be arbitrary) on what a property should be sold for. I have some on the seller side too, I am approached by sellers all time, and sometimes they already have their expected purchase price in mind. That is great for the sellers that are educated in the current market conditions, but sometimes it’s based on items outside market conditions. Usually sellers are above market in this circumstance, but I have also been approached by sellers who are in a position to liquidate quickly, and are far below market. Again, education and is extremely important.
On the buyer side, it is a good idea to obtain as much information about the seller as you can. Understanding levels of motivation can play a key role in a successful negotiation. Theoretically, with the way representation works, you really shouldn’t be able to obtain too much of this information, unless you are working with an agent who also represents the seller. If that agent does provide too much information about the seller, it’s a clear indication that he or she has no loyalty (or ethics) regarding their representation to either party. Food for thought.
The above can also be true on the seller side, though not as crucial. You really need an experienced agent, and one that shares your interests, not just an interest in the commission. Sometimes sellers can get the feeling their agent only has interest in the commission, but it’s important to differentiate and listen to their advice. How long have you been on the market? What are the competing listings? What are the chances tje property will appraise? All considerations that are extremely important. I have seen sellers turn down offers that are seemingly their  “one opportunity” and I have heard more than once “yes, I know you would like to receive a commission, but” then later ” you will probably laugh to yourself when I tell you this, but” my point here, get to know your agent. Work with an agent you trust, and know exactly what your agent is telling you. Education, and proper representation!

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