Sunday, October 15, 2017

ARE YOUR SMART DEVICES SPYING ON YOU?

            With the increasing sophistication of smart devices with cameras, microphones, and internet connections, have you ever thought about the possibility that your Apple smartphone, Nest thermostat, robot vac, nanny cam, or your smart refrigerator could be snooping on you?!  Even your beloved ALEXA, high-end Samsung Smart TV or your automobile could be a spy!
            " Anything connected to the internet can be exploited by hackers or by the government, " says Chris Dore, an attorney specializing in these issues. But before you hang a dark curtain over your smart TV and break out the tinfoil hat, there are a few things you can do to protect your privacy.

1. Change your passwords
Changing passwords is your first line of defense. We already know to do  this for our laptops and phones, but many of us don’t think about passwords for smart appliances. If the product  is "password protected,"  go to the manufacturer’s website to learn how to change it.

2. Update your software
Software updates, as annoying as they are, often address newly discovered security weaknesses. Homeowners who don't refresh their software leave themselves vulnerable to attacks. Always download new updates.

3. Cover your cameras and turn off voice automation
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg puts a piece of tape over the camera and microphone jack on his laptop—and you should, too.  This prevents hackers from listening in or watching you remotely.  You can also turn off the voice automation settings on your smart TV, and other devices.

 4. Unplug devices when they're not in use
For the most part, devices can't spy on you if they're not plugged in. So do more than just shut down your smart TV or laptop when you're not around, experts say, disconnect it entirely from its power source.
            These are just a few tips from experts in the field.  Some may seem like overkill, but with the proliferation of devices with cameras, microphones and with the added assistance of the internet, we are more vulnerable than ever.  Take heed, take care!



Source:  “Are Your Smart Home Devices Spying on You? How to Protect Yourself,”  by Clare Trapasso,                            realtor.com (March 8, 2017).

Sunday, October 8, 2017

PROTECT AND CHECK YOUR CREDIT INFORMATION

The recent Equifax data breach was one of the largest hacks on record – about 140 million Americans are potentially affected.  Yesterday’s news reported even more consumers may be exposed to identity theft than this original estimate.  The implications for buyers applying for mortgages is significant, since the data that was compromised includes social security numbers, addresses and credit card information, etc.  There will be an effect on mortgage processing both in terms of slowing down the process -due to more verifying and cross-checking of information by lenders - to out-and-out mortgage fraud.  As a consumer, if you have been affected, it will and likely increase your cost of processing.
            
What should you do to detect if your credit records have been compromised and better yet how can you protect yourself from fraudulent use of your credit identity?  Here are three worthwhile recommendations from security experts in the field:

1. Check Your Exposure – see if the Equifax breach affected you. Go to httpps://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html

2. Freeze Your Accounts - if you have been affected (and even if you have not but wish to better secure your information), contact each of the big credit-reporting companies to freeze your credit, either online or by calling ( TransUnion 888 909 8872, Experian 888 397 3742, Equifax 800 349 9960).  By freezing your accounts you will be able to use your credit cards but no one will be able to access your credit scores or get information without your knowledge or permission. 

3. Monitor Your Credit – many credit card companies offer a free service where you can check your credit regularly.  You can also purchase a monitoring service.  It’s far less complex to undo fraudulent activity if you pick it up early, rather than after months of activity.
            
These suggestions represent an added burden to you, but in this world where consumer credit files are so critical to being able to borrow for a home or auto or large purchases, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cures!”  At Beninati Associates, we’re looking out for you!


Source: “How Equifax Breach Could Hurt Home Sales,” realtor.com (September 18, 2017).

Sunday, September 24, 2017

MULTIPLE BIDS – WHAT’S A BUYER TO DO?

Low inventory and high demand has increased the frequency of multiple offers.  Homes that are new to the market are being sold quickly with many receiving multiple bids.  Even homes that have been on the market for a few months are receiving multiple offers.
               
How do buyers and sellers manage the process when thrust into the arena of multiple bids and bidding wars?  For sellers, the best advice is to prepare and discuss with your Realtor how you wish to handle multiple offers should they occur. 
          
For buyers, handling the process astutely may make the difference between being the winning bidder or losing the house to someone else.  Here are a few important things to consider:

1. Be realistic as to the price you offer.  Low ball offers generally only slow things down and as the bidding heats up may also predisposition the seller to opt for another buyer.

2.  Get preapproved and offer proof of funds for a cash offer– the seller will be more secure in accepting your terms if they know the cash is readily available.

3.  Pick a “walk away number”. It should be a range, and it’s best to do this before you start bidding.         Your range should be modified (up or down) as you receive more information on the property.  Finally,  be sure to ask yourself and your partner, “if we lose the house, will we regret not going higher?”

4  Be flexible as to terms.  This is something to talk over with your realtor.  There are situations where timing can be more important to a seller than a higher price.  We recently had a seller who wanted a signed contract by a certain date – the winning bidder was not the highest bidder but did fulfill the seller’s requirement.

5.  Once you select the property you want to buy, don’t dawdle.  Make your offer and counter quickly.  As more time passes, you are opening the door to other bidders.  Heed the advice of your Realtor, she/he knows what’s happening behind the scenes.

6.  Remember, the agent handling the negotiations is a New York State Licensed Realtor. He/she is bound by ethics and state licensing laws to treat all parties honestly and to submit offers and counter offers promptly.  You should trust what you are being told.


When there are multiple bids on a property, the challenge falls on all the parties to the transaction to treat each other fairly.  But ultimately, the seller calls the shots.  Remember, when a seller is more comfortable with a buyer because of terms, price, circumstance or because they were first, they will get the house!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Home Staging Speeds up a Sale


              62% of sellers' agents say that staging a home decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market, according to a recent survey on staging by the National Association of Realtors®.  These realtors know how important it is for buyers to be able to picture themselves living in a home and according to NAR's most recent report, “staging a home makes that process much easier for potential buyers," said NAR President William E. Brown. "While all real estate is local, and many factors play into what a home is worth and how much buyers are will to pay for it, staging can be the extra step sellers take to help sell their home more quickly and for a higher dollar value."
               77% of buyers' agents said that staging a home makes it easier for buyers to visualize the property as their future home.  38% of buyers' agents said that staging positively affects a home's value if the home is decorated to appeal to the largest number of potential buyers.  Almost all buyers' agents said that staging has a positive effect on buyers.
               50% of sellers' agents report the value added from staging averages between 3-9%.  While 5% of agents reported an increase of 11-15%.  49%  of buyers' agents, reported that staging a home increases its dollar value by an average of 3-8%.
               Realtors®  agree that the living room is the most important room in a home to stage, followed by the master bedroom, the kitchen, and then the outdoor space.   Beyond staging, agents also  recommend sellers should  decluttering the home and thorough home cleaning including carpet cleaning.
               At Beninati Associates, we have seen the positive results of staging – higher selling prices and faster closings.  We have a professional home stager, we have our own furnishings to enhance your home’s d├ęcor and there is no added cost for our clients.  Call us at 631 765 5333 and let us help you sell your house, with our staging  and  marketing expertise.

*Source:  NAR 2017 Profile of Home Staging, www.nar.realtor/reports/profile-of-home-staging.
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Remembering 9/11...

Monday is the 16th anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy. Each year we dedicate this column to honor, reflect and pay tribute to those lost in the attacks that so shocked this country and the world and continues to threaten peace. 

Our lives have been changed forever by the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the attempted attack on the White House and the Capitol. 

Let’s take time to remember the lost victims, the heroes that lost their lives working to save others, the brave passengers on Flight 93 who fought the hijackers and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, and all the family members left behind. Let’s remember the surviving heroes that risked their lives to save or recover victims in the aftermath and those lost from illnesses due to exposure from the aftermath of the attacks.

The United States of America is truly a great country.  We are blessed with a heritage of Freedom. Even when times are tough and even with all our challenges, even when we disagree, we stick together to protect each other and honor what we hold sacred.  The inspiring stories from the recent storm, Hurricane Harvey in Texas, do credit to the American spirit, the goodness that comes from within - our country’s true heritage.


May God Blessed America and Guide us through difficult times strengthening us with resolve to always do what’s right, and protect and preserve freedom throughout the world.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

STAGING OUTSIDE - IN

Staging the exterior of your home is just as important as staging the inside, perhaps even more important.   If buyers are turned off by the exterior, they often will not go inside.  If there are major exterior repairs that have to be made, discuss them with your realtor.  There are some that must be addressed, like a roof leak.  And some that should be addressed like making sure gutters drain away from the foundation and correcting a negative grade around the foundation.

There are other improvements that will help you sell your home as well. 

Clean your home's siding, walkways, windows and screens. A quick power wash will remove dust and mildew. If you decide to do this task yourself, be careful not to damage your exterior using too forceful a water stream. When in doubt, hire a professional.  While you’re at it,  clean windows, screens, exterior doors, and walkways.   Give your front door a fresh coat of paint – make it say, “Welcome!”

Clean your outdoor furniture.  Spruce up your existing furniture with a quick power wash, repair or replace it if it is beyond cleaning.  Dilapidated outdoor furniture just gives a bad impression.

Refresh your garden. Trim bushes, especially in the front of your home, remove weeds and dead bushes and trees.  Plant season-appropriate color or buy some pots of seasonal plants for the front entryway.  It is amazing what a refreshed garden can do to your home’s curb appeal.  Fall is coming, clear leaves often and particularly before the weekend.

Simple tweaks to the exterior of your home can have a big impact on your home's final selling price.  By improving the look of the outside of your home, you will increase the amount buyers are willing to offer and make your home the cleanest real estate listing on the block.  We can attest to that – we’ve helped our clients stage outside and in.  It pays off with a speedier sale and higher price! Call us at 631 765 5333 - we’ll help you too!

HAPPY LABOR DAY!!


Source: RIS Media, Blog, August 16, 2017, Charles Muotoh.

Friday, August 25, 2017

HOME PRICES CONTINUE TO RISE...

    The  median price for a home sold on Long Island, in July 2017 was $450,000 an 8.4% increase over last year.  Suffolk County reported a median sale price of $365,000, a 5.8% increase over a year ago.  The total number of Long Island residential inventory in July 2017 was 17,252 representing an 10% decrease over last July.              
          
     For the second quarter of 2017, home prices across the United States increased 6.2%, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The pace outdoes the previous peak observed in the third quarter of 2016.
        
       “The 2.2 million net new jobs created over the past year generated significant interest in purchasing a home in what was an extremely competitive spring buying season,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. “Listings typically flew off the market in under a month—and even quicker in the affordable price range—in several parts of the country. With new supply not even coming close to keeping pace, price appreciation remained swift in most markets.”
      
         Single-family home prices went up in 87% of the markets assessed in the report. Thirteen percent of the market areas saw prices up by double digits. At the national level, the median existing single-family home price was $255,600.

         
      For buyers looking to purchase on the North Fork this year, don’t let the lazy days of summer get in the way of your home search!  Homes that are properly priced are selling quickly, often within days.  So any delay - especially at the entry level of the market - and the home will be gone.   There are still great possibilities – look to homes that need updating or smaller homes that can be easily modified or expanded to suit your needs – and make your move!  We have a few great values available in this week’s open houses.  Come visit our open houses or call us at 631 765 5333, we can help you sort it all out!

 References: RIS News, “LI Housing Data for July 2017”;  RIS media.com, “Home Prices Surge on Strong Buying Season,” August, 2017.