Woods Bros Realty knows how to weather the storm

umbrellaWe love our agents! At Woods Bros Realty, we give our agents the support, knowledge and tools they need to be successful. Through good times and bad we are there for them, working behind the scenes.

One example is the recent storms that hit our area. As a part of our commitment to our agents, we believed that it was important to keep them informed, allowing them to provide the best service to their buyers and sellers when it came to handling storm damage, to keep closings together.  Woods Bros Realty agents were prepared to advise our sellers and their buyers about how to approach storm damage and disclosures. And our one-stop shop approach really made a difference to our agents and clients. Regardless of the side of the transaction our agents were on, they knew what to do or where to go to find out how to proceed. Our own HomeServices of Nebraska Insurance provided insurance tips and information immediately the evening of the storm and our general manager’s “snippet” video arrived in our agents’ in-boxes early the next morning regarding reaching out to our clients and updating disclosures. In addition, our in-house legal counsel send out a blog reminding us about our storm addendum form available to address any issues and ease anxiety.

Whether they are seasoned real estate agents or new real estate licensees, our staff did their best to provide a network of helpful information to our agents, so they could continue to provide the best experience and service to our clients.

Woods Bros Realty has weathered many storms in our 127 years, and we are glad we can put that experience and ongoing education to work putting our agents’ and their clients’ minds at ease.

Coming Soon: An All-New WoodsBros.com

Woods Bros Realty announces the upcoming release of all-new company and agent websites.

Responsive websites

The company partnered with Reliance Network to develop responsive websites that can be accessed from any device—from smart phone or tablet to desktop computer or smart TV, all without having to download an app.

“We’re excited to bring our clients a consistent experience, no matter where they are,” said Woods Bros IT Director Ben Dinger. “We will have one place for buyers or sellers to come to get the most accurate, local and up-to-date information for their real estate needs.”

Reliance Network specializes in technology for the real estate industry and recently released a new real estate search that caters to the ever-growing percentage of mobile users. WoodsBros.com will be among the first websites to launch this new search.

Home Value Tool

Another first is that the new websites will have a home value tool unlike any other in the local market. People can enter an address and get three different computer-modeled valuations of their homes, including the Zillow® Zestimate® value. They will also have the ability to enter adjustments for renovations and upgrades or contact a local real estate agent for a more accurate estimate.

Neighborhood Match

The companies also partnered with LiveBy, a Lincoln-based startup, to introduce a beta tool to help match people with their ideal neighborhoods. Visitors to the new sites will be able to use the exclusive tool to discover neighborhoods that meet their identified lifestyles and desires.

LiveBy was co-founded by Cory Scott and Matan Gill, as a result of the JumpStart Challenge issued by Woods Bros in 2015. LiveBy also took part in the NMotion Accelerator program in 2015, and—through Woods Bros connections—will be expanding the beta test into several markets across the country.

“At our company, we build community,” said Woods Bros General Manager Shannon Harner. “What’s a better way to build community than to support our local entrepreneurs and innovators, while also serving our clients and neighborhoods? It’s a win-win.”

Other features for home buyers and sellers

Finally, the websites will continue to offer a “Property Watch” account for viewing all listings in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and a new “Market Watch” feature for area trend and pricing reports. There are new tools for home selling clients to receive weekly updates on their home’s activity online as well. Woods Bros agents will each get new responsive websites that include the new features.

The sites are expected to launch end of March or first of April.

School boundaries play an important role in choosing a neighborhood

Moving homes brings up a lot of questions that go much farther than, “Is there a walk-in closet?” or “What are the HOA fees?” If you have children, you’ll also be considering the schools that your potential new neighborhood is assigned to.

According to some sources, regardless of which part of Lincoln you choose for your home, you’re in good hands. In 2015 Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) reports “Lincoln Public Schools has been bestowed with the award of District of Distinction, prestigious national recognition from the District Administration magazine.”

The honor is “a national recognition program created by District Administration magazine to honor school districts that are leading the way with new and innovative ideas that work – yielding quantifiable benefits and that could be replicated by other districts. The winners were selected by a team of editors based on the success of their results, as well as replicability to inspire other school systems.”

But as Lincoln continues to grow rapidly, so does our school district. This map represents the preliminary elementary school changes and their correlating neighborhood school districts for 2016-2017. For all maps, visit the LPS website.

lincoln elementary schools

A Woods Bros Realty agent reports that of all out-of-town buyers choosing Lincoln as their next home for reasons other than job transfers or other family members residing here, quality of life is one of the biggest reasons to choose Lincoln. Low crime and great schools heavily sway their decision. The Realtor says that by the time an out-of-town buyer gets to Lincoln, they’ve already done their homework, and LPS is what they want. This is because our public school district fits in nicely with the “quality of life” they’re looking for.

Of course there are plenty of options in Lincoln besides the public school system, including a number of private and parochial schools. That’s exactly what makes Lincoln so great. Excellent schools regardless of your education preferences.

But if you’re curious about the LPS expansions, and what the new schools mean for you and your neighborhood, or potential new neighborhood, here is an easy break down of the new schools and which neighborhoods will be attending:

  • Marilyn Moore Middle School, which will be built near 84th Street and Yankee Hill Road. Lincoln Public Schools bought the land from the city with proceeds from a voter-approved $153 million bond issue. The $38.4 million school is scheduled to open in fall 2017.
  • Sally Wysong Elementary School, which will be built near 56th and Yankee Hill at 61st Street and Blanchard Boulevard. Also paid for with bond proceeds, the $18.6 million school is set to open in fall 2016.
  • The Bill Nuernberger Center for middle school children with serious behavioral problems is scheduled to open in fall 2016 at the former Bryan Community School, 1801 S. 40th St. The district has set aside about $4 million for renovation of the building, which used to house the district’s alternative high school.

(Information provided via the Lincoln Journal Star)

In short, Lincolnites are proud of our education systems, and we welcome the expansions. If you are partial to a particular school district, keep this info handy when doing your home search!

5 tips to pack like a pro

moving boxesPacking for a vacation comes down to one simple tip: sit on the suitcase and zip with all your might. But packing for a move can be a little more daunting. Especially when time gets down to the wire and you realize just how much stuff you have. So. Much. Stuff. If the big red Xs on your calendar are starting to stare menacingly at you as your moving date approaches, consider these tips to make packing a breeze.

  1. Simply get rid of the stuff. If there are 27 winter coats in your coat closet, narrow it down. Or sort through toys (when the kids aren’t watching of course). As a general rule, if you haven’t used something in the past six months, pitch it. Post items on Craigslist for a little extra cash, take all of those clothes the kids have outgrown to consignment shops, or utilize one of those new trendy aps like LetGo for a quick sale. Pile all of the leftovers into a box and gift your local Goodwill or the People’s City Mission.
  2. When the real packing begins one word will save your sanity: LABEL. Pack items by room. Keep kitchen items together, bathroom, clothes, etc. But most importantly, clearly write where these boxes need to end up in your new house: “Living Room,” “Upstairs Nursery at End of the Hall,” “Master Bedroom.” The last thing you want to do is rip open a pile of boxes in your entry way like a Christmas gift exchange gone terribly wrong.
  3. Instead of stuffing your entire wardrobe into boxes, with inevitable hours of ironing later, leave them on the hangers! Cover them in a garbage bag if you’d like, then when you arrive at your new home, voila, hang them right back up.
  4. Consider your carbon foot print with all those boxes. Find a friend who has recently moved and ask to reuse their boxes, or check a local grocery store for any extras they’re willing to let you reuse. Your agent might be able to help you find used boxes, too.
  5. Perhaps most importantly, don’t let the packing send you into a frenzy. Set small goals each day, and pack a little each day until moving day.

And when you’re finally moved in, take a moment to relax and enjoy your new home. Good Housekeeping offers this fun tip “Meet your neighbors the fun way. “It’s called a graffiti party and guests are given paint samples or markers to scribble games and notes on the wall.” Don’t be shy about hosting a gig sans furniture; this relaxed party theme is built around pizza and folding chairs.”

Chances are you’ll be painting anyway, why not make it a game and create new friendships along the way? If you don’t plan on painting your walls, turn it into an art project with an old pallet or barn wood. It will be a piece of art you’ll treasure for years to come, long after the stress of moving has passed.

Looking back on 2015 housing market, forecasting 2016

As we begin 2016 and reflect on the last 12 months, we would ultimately characterize 2015 as having been a very solid year for housing.  Early year-end numbers indicate that year-over-year sales nationally are up by about 10%, equating to roughly 5.3 to 5.4 million units of inventory (and compared to about 4.9 million in 2014).  The strong spring selling season in 2015 was indicative of the market’s overall strength, even while luxury sales activity appeared to have slowed slightly over the course of the last four months. Furthermore, as has been evident in the wake of the Fed’s December announcement, the long-anticipated interest rate increase is not predicted to have a large impact on home-buying activity in the year to come.

Locally in our Nebraska market areas, we saw a nearly flat year. Woods Bros Realty closed 3,157 total units, compared with 3,200 in 2014. However, the company’s closed volume is up 5 percent year over year. The luxury market, defined as homes $400,000 and up in the Lincoln market, was down in 2015 overall. Lincoln, Seward/York, Grand Island and Beatrice are all still experiencing a sellers’ market with fewer than six months of inventory available for sale.

residential market review 2015Looking ahead, here are some of the trends we’ll be watching:

  • 2016 will be a continuation of the housing market’s recovery: This will not be a “boom” or a “bust” year, but a “normal” one with reasonable expectations.
  • Millennials forming new households: This key segment of the consumer population has largely delayed purchasing homes; however, we are starting to see a shift from rentals to ownership among the demographic … and we expect 2016 to be a “break-out year” for these buyers.
  • Washington recognizes the need for affordability: We are seeing a move toward more normalized credit standards versus more risk-averse standards, essentially giving more qualified buyers the opportunity to own a home.  The banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have furthermore seen fewer foreclosures in the recent year, and we expect that trend to continue in 2016.
  • Boomerang buyers bounce back: Homeownership continues to be a very important dream among American consumers. While a number of people weathered the hardships of short-sales or foreclosures in the downturn, over the last five years, we have seen a gradual return of these buyers to the marketplace – another indication that the market has been successfully working through prior challenges.  People who may have been forced into rentals are now re-entering the market with home purchases.
  • By that same token, even with the dollar strengthening against other global economies, the American housing market will maintain its standing as a very safe place to park assets.

All that said, as the recovery continues and the strength of the industry grows, 2016 will be another important year for housing and its steady move toward normalcy.

Questions to ask to find the best agent for you

real estate agentWoods Bros Realty has more than 200 licensed Real Estate agents. While that number fills you with confidence in their experience and abilities, it doesn’t quite help you narrow down which one is best for you. Luckily, it helps to know which questions to ask.

Experience:

What areas does your agent have the most experience in? If you are a first time home buyer, ask your Realtor about their experience with buyers. You’ll likely have more questions than a seasoned home buyer. Your Realtor will be able to walk you through everything from disclosures to how to get approved for financing.

Services:

What services does your agent offer? Ask them to present a marketing plan for your home, complete with comparable sales in your area. If you’re a buyer, what is your agent’s availability? If your career keeps you tied up during business hours, are they up for after-hours home shopping?

Communication:

What’s the best way to stay in touch with your Realtor? Is the easiest way to reach them by text, phone call, or email? Do they have specific office hours when you can drop by for a chat? Keep the lines of communication open by knowing how your agent prefers to be contacted.

The Numbers:

Always ask your agent how they plan to price your house, or how they can help you present the best offer on your dream home. You may have your own numbers in mind when buying or selling, but trust the expertise of your licensed professional; they will have the info and track record to back it up.

As you navigate through names and faces of licensed agents, don’t hesitate to make that first phone call. If the face on a billboard, name on a “Sold” sign, or flyer stuck in your door caught your attention, call and get those questions rolling!

Choosing a full service Realtor is the first step to a successful Real Estate transaction, and by knowing the right questions to ask, you’re on your way to finding the perfect agent. As Realtor.com points out, “Remember, the REALTOR® is your advocate in the transaction, whether you are buying or selling. Once you have signed up with an agent to represent you, he or she is your face, your voice and your defense against all involved in the multi-layered home buying or home selling process.”

With so many licensed professionals to choose from, you’re bound to find the best advocate for you.

TRID Guidelines: Facts for Home Buyers

TRID Facts for Home Buyers

Beginning October 3rd, a new set of government regulations became effective for all real estate transactions. At first glance, TRID, which stands for TILA / RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule, seems overwhelmingly complicated. Here is a breakdown of a few fast facts that will help you understand how TRID affects you:

Why the change?

It may feel like a drag to jump through the newly designed hoops, but in fact the changes were implemented to protect you. TRID has even earned a slick nickname “Know Before You Owe.” In short, the changes mean that lenders can’t surprise you with their list of fees associated with your loan at closing. Instead, lenders are required to present an official document of fees at least three days prior to closing. This new protection means you won’t be tallying up what you owe with a pen in your hand as the clock ticks away at your closing. Instead, you have 72 hours to digest how your new mortgage–and its related fees–work.

New disclosures:

If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you’ve gone through the process of home buying before, you may remember the set of forms your lender presented to you; one after the initial loan approval, known as a Good Faith Estimate, and later, usually at closing, your breakdown of fees. Because of the TRID changes, you’ll now get that breakdown of fees sooner, and this new disclosure will look remarkably similar to what you already saw after your loan was approved. The only difference is this Closing Disclosure From will actually break down who is responsible for each fee; be it you, the seller, or a third party.

What’s the downside?

So it all sounds great, but what’s the catch? Because the new disclosures are time sensitive, and government regulated, if not presented properly by your loan officer the closing could be delayed. The good news is that loan officers face penalties and fees if that happens, which is an excellent motivation for your loan to be processed correctly the first time. If you’re unsure of where to turn, ask your real estate agent to recommend a loan officer; they will likely have many banks and loan officers that they trust, and in turn, you can trust too.

Is my Realtor affected? Your real estate agent will have to comply with any delays in closing, so more than ever they will want to work closely with you every step of the way: keeping lines of communications open and guiding you with answers to your questions. It’s also likely your agent has attended a TRID class or otherwise educated themselves, making them a great resource to you throughout the home buying process.

Kevin Burklund of Woods Bros Realty said, “With this huge change in federal regulations, buyers have to be attentive and responsive in order to close on time; it’s more important now than ever to have a Realtor involved to keep the transaction on track.”

Buyer’s Market vs Seller’s Market

sellers market

Lincoln’s been in a seller’s market for the last several years. But what does that really mean?

Clearly, a seller’s market benefits the seller. Right now Lincoln’s inventory of available houses for sale is extremely low. Sellers don’t have a lot of competition from other sellers, so buyers only have a limited number of options. The law of supply and demand tells us that when supply is low, prices will go up. It also means we’re likely to see multiple offers frequently – a larger number of buyers chasing a limited number of homes.

The conventional wisdom in real estate is that a balanced market – favoring neither the buyer nor seller – is a 6-month inventory of homes. That means if no other homes came on the market during that time, it would take 6 months to sell all the homes for sale.

In most price ranges, Lincoln currently has between a 1.5- and 4-month supply of houses. Advantage – seller.

At some point in the future, the market will shift, and buyers will have the edge. What will that look like? We’ll have an abundance of homes to sell – buyers will be able to wait longer for the right house, and won’t face as much pressure to pay top dollar. Sellers will have to make sure their home has that ‘wow factor’ and is priced correctly in order to sell quickly.

The market is cyclical by nature, and right now the sellers have the clear advantage. For buyers, though, interest rates are still very low, so if it makes sense to buy instead of rent, or move up from an existing home, they shouldn’t be completely discouraged. There’s opportunity for everyone – if you’re considering a move, let’s talk and figure out how we can make the market work in your favor!

Yes to the House: A Love Story

Less than a year ago, Jordan and Aspen were individually preparing for their uncertain futures. Jordan had been looking for a house to buy, and Aspen had been looking for teaching jobs in different states when Jordan first met her. Messages and texts led to a dinner date in Omaha.

“From then we just knew something was different, and everything clicked,” Jordan said.

Within months, Jordan brought Aspen in on his home hunt to get her input. She was hesitant at first.

The new couple quickly learned about the fast-moving local real estate market when Jordan almost put an offer on a house in their desired neighborhood only to find that he’d have to jump a little faster.

Then they found a house on the same street online. Jordan called his HOME Real Estate agent, Adam Wiekamp, for a showing the next day by himself.

“Afterwards I was sent lots of pictures, hoping for my approval,” Aspen said. “He was very excited about it, and before we both knew it Jordan put in an offer, and it was accepted.”

Jordan proposes to Aspen in their future backyard.
Jordan proposes to Aspen in their future backyard.

But Jordan had more plans in mind for the home. With the help of his agent, Adam, they contacted the home’s listing agent, Tammy Peter of Woods Bros Realty, to ask the sellers if Jordan could use the backyard to propose to Aspen before the closing.

Another piece fell into place; the home sellers were happy to help because they had also been engaged in the home.

Jordan enlisted his friends to string lights in the backyard and prepare a fire-pit. He made up a story about having to check out some rocks in the yard. What she didn’t realize is that his friends were hiding with three cameras and a video camera.

“I explained to her how much I loved her and got down on my knee and asked her to marry me,” Jordan said. “She was very shocked and surprised and loved that I picked our future home together as a location for our engagement. A place that we will hold special in our hearts will now be a place we come home to each night. “

Aspen said yes to Jordan that night and yes to their future house. Their parents eagerly awaited the news.

“It was great that the homeowners allowed us to have the keys that night to be able to do this,” Jordan said.

Newly engaged couple Jordan and Aspen
Newly engaged couple Jordan and Aspen

Can’t find that perfect home? Build your own!

Today’s low inventory of existing homes for sale is a challenge for home buyers. Building a new home can be a good solution for a home that meets your needs.

Low Existing Home Inventory

Buyers shopping for a home today are finding selection limited due to an extremely low inventory of homes for sale. Plus, homes in good condition are selling quickly, which can be frustrating for a buyer.

This makes it an even better time for home buyers to buy a new home or build a custom a home to meet their lifestyle and needs.

Low Interest Rates

Today’s interest rates are still low, hovering between four and five percent. Low rates mean a home buyer can afford more home than they could a few years ago. A reputable mortgage company can offer a wide range of financing programs to make it even easier to get into the home of your dreams.

Choose Your Neighborhood

There are a variety of areas in and around Lincoln with available lots for sale. A real estate agent specializing in new construction can help buyers find a lot in the location that fits their needs. Interested buyers can drive through some of the new neighborhoods to see which areas of growth appeal to them most.

Energy Efficiency

Today’s new homes save home buyers money on heating and cooling costs, as the efficiency standards have increased over time.

Some builders go above and beyond when considering energy efficiency. Compared with standard homes, Energy Starc homes meet strict energy efficiency guidelines, delivering hundreds of dollars in annual savings on heating, cooling and water bills. These guidelines also help protect the environment, creating less air pollution, and the Energy Star rating is becoming an important quality when considering resale value.

Spring Jubilee & Parade of Homes

With the Woods Bros Realty Spring Jubilee of Homes (April 27 and May 4), and the Home Builders Association of Lincoln’s Parade of Homes (May 11-18), the new construction season is getting under way.

Home buyers can tour brand-new homes throughout the area in all different styles and price ranges. They can then select from finished model homes and move right in or select a lot and floor plan and build a new home from the ground up.

Preview the Spring Jubilee of Homes here:

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