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First Preston HT Celebrates 26th Anniversary

HeartTree26th.v4 copyOn February 14th, the First Preston HT family of companies celebrates 26 years of business innovation and exemplary customer service. First Preston HT extends appreciation to our employees, our national network of associates, and our clients who have helped to cultivate a legacy of business success and community service.

The First Preston HT family of brands includes:  First Preston, HomeTelos, HomeTracker, BidSelect, Lender Center, HT Solutions and Outdoor Quota Solutions.  To learn more about First Preston HT, visit  Remember to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Technology for Real Estate: Discover Which Companies are Tracking You on Facebook

tug of war shutterstock_63561718With free or paid apps and some websites, there’s a delicate balance between enjoying the  application  and protecting your privacy. Technology for real estate practitioners has exploded with hundreds of cool apps and devices within the last 5 years.

For most successful real estate professionals, social media is not an option; it’s a key strategic marketing tool and an efficient way to connect with your sphere of influence.  

Have you ever downloaded a free app or visited a site that offered to allow access via  your Facebook login? Happens all the time, right? Your login gives that entity access to your Facebook profile. It allows them to park inside your Facebook account, harvesting your information for years or decades, until you eject them. Years of your info can be mined and sold as the result of one login.  

Here’s a quick way to find out which apps are tracking you, what info they are collecting and how to stop them.

To see which apps are tracking you:

  1. Open your Facebook page, click on the settings icon at the top and far right of your screen. From the drop-down menu select “settings”.
  2. Locate and click the   “Apps “  icon inside the settings menu . (Usually on the left of the screen.)
  3. Notice the resulting list of apps that are “signed into your account”.
  4. At the bottom of the list notice and click the “Show All Apps” link. This will reveal the remainder of the list of apps that are tracking you.
  5. To the right of each app’s name, there is an “edit” function and an “X” mark.
  6. Click on the edit function to see what the app knows about you.  Adjacent to the “Your basic info (?) “  bullet point,  click the question mark to learn more details about data points being shared.
    •  I learned that the first app I clicked has my email address, profile picture, gender, user ID, list of friends, and “any other information which is rated public.”
    •  I noticed these statements, “ This app may post on your behalf, including status updates, photos and more. This app can also access posts in your News Feed.”
    • Check the settings for each app and modify any unwanted access by clicking the edit function to limit access or click the “X” icon to end the app’s access to your account. The app may stop working for you; so weigh your options prior to making your edits.

Hopefully this article will help users to strike the perfect  balance between enjoying your favorite apps and protecting your privacy.

For more information or detailed screen shots of the instructions above, check out a great article from Business Insider, written by Jim Edwards

Remember to Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT.

Five Top 2013 Innovations That Impact Real Estate

272F60BAE2F5E0A349E4742A1EB8One great hallmark of 2013 was rapid technological transformation. New apps and gadgets emerged in quick succession in a virtual leap frog of releases by major players.  The field of real estate is the primary beneficiary of several key advances. Here are five top 2013 innovations that impact real estate. These exciting advances flew onto our radar screens in 2013.

  1. Civilian Drones.  The aerial listing tour has become a reality. Visual capture of surrounding neighborhoods, parks and terrain from the sky, arrests the attention of shoppers, and multiplies the marketing appeal of virtual tours.  Drones facilitate indoor tours also; generating a virtual viewing experience that exceeds the scope of an in-person property tour.   Virtual retailers such as (Amazon) are working to perfect drones for package delivery.  Even restaurants are considering aerial squads of delivery drones.
  2. Wearable Tech Tools.– The Dick Tracy style wrist watch phone arrived.  Primarily a remote control for your cell phone,   some models have a healthy bundle of apps and capabilities.  Samsung CEO, J.K. Shin predicts their model will become “a new fashion icon around the world.”
  3. The 3-D Printer – What does the 3-D printer have to offer real estate? It could just change the housing industry forever.  Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California, has unveiled a 3-D printer which can reportedly “build a house in 24 hours”.  It’s a giant robot whose computer –directed nozzle ejects concrete in a custom pattern, creating walls. Tradesmen then install windows, doors and other necessities.
    1. The innovation has major implications for emergency housing replacement associated with natural disasters. It has implications for affordable housing across the globe and is also being studied by NASA for extraterrestrial possibilities.
    2. The innovative KeyMe App (a 3-D printer based innovation) allows users to print out new keys in less than 30 seconds (according to their website).  Customers are advised to take photos of each of their keys. When one is lost, replace it by forwarding the image to KeyMe and a replacement is printed and delivered.   Duplicate keys are routinely printed in KeyMe kiosks. They can even be customized with various logos and images for promotional or sentimental value.   
    3. A local news broadcast recently reported that a 3-D printer has successfully printed human tissue and skin. Research teams led by Dr. Thomas Boland of the University of Texas at El Paso, expect to custom- produce organs suitable for transplant sometime in the distant future.  That has nothing to do with real estate but was just too cool to pass up.
  4. Virtual Money—Manhattan real estate broker, Bond New York, reportedly accepts Bitcoin for real estate transactions. The firm is thought to be the first in the industry to green-light the virtual currency.  
  5. The Internet of Things—The possibility of our home systems and appliances communicating with our devices is now on the horizon. Google agreed to pay $3.2 billion cash for Nest Labs, a programmable home thermostat company.

Analysts envision the possibility that in the near future; upon departing your residence you might receive a text message from your refrigerator announcing that you are low on butter and milk required by the recipe you printed from the internet last evening.  It might further advise of the nearest grocer currently stocking those items at the best price.  Future listing descriptions might detail which listings contain interactive appliances and  systems and which protocols they are compatible with. There are many other innovations that impact real estate in a profound way. Which ones grabbed your attention during the year?

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Photo Courtesy of :  Contour Crafting and MSN Innovation





The Granny Flat Revolution | Back to the Future

Granny Flat 0x600Remember the in-law suite?  The concept has been re-imagined and re-engineered and is now so cool — it’s hot. Dressed in new energy- efficient upscale designs and finishes, some look more like honeymoon suites than in-law suites.

How hot is the in-law suite movement?  A  Google search for the term returned over 86 million results in .29 seconds.  In-law suites often referred to as Granny flats, facilitate a growing trend toward multi-family households, common decades ago.

NAR’s 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers indicates “fourteen percent of recent buyers purchased a home for a multi-generational household…” This is due in part to our economic climate.  A Wall Street Journal article by Neil Shah supports a different theory. Shah maintains that the increase in foreign-born seniors relocating to the US is a big factor. Shah stated “Foreign born seniors are four times more likely to live with their children”.  Regardless of reason, the trend is global. Many extended families are capturing additional living space via additions such as granny flats; while others choose new construction with self-contained secondary living suites.

Australian designers appear to be leading the industry with modular dwellings.  Some are built as stand-alone properties while others are integrated as secondary (back yard) structures designed to complement the architecture of the primary residence. They are so advanced; think of them as in-law suites’ on steroids.

Added quarters accommodate returning graduates, retired in-laws, art, photography or yoga studios, rentals, care-givers for children or elderly parents, etc. In some communities, granny flats are evolving into stand-alone affordable housing.  Austin’s Alley Flat initiative is one such venture.

Australian entrepreneurs have found great success with the back yard villa or granny flat. The Japanese version is the tiny house. The British know them as garden cottages.  In Fort Worth watch for accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

In his book, In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats: Your guide to Turning One House into Two Homes, author Michael Litchfield, explains the six types of in-law flats. The link above showcases “10 Chic Granny Flats” from Litchfield’s book, posted on spotlights 40,605 granny flat home design photos.  Most resemble upscale resort suites or pool houses with functioning kitchens and sleeping quarters.   Take a minute to scroll through. They are energy-efficient, and stylish.

Major metros around the country are amending housing ordinances, while establishing zoning and construction specs for this evolving category of dwellings. Multi-family homeowners are evaluating whether to expand current homes   or opt for custom new construction.

For 2014 and beyond expect to see more builders offering multigenerational floor plans. Consider developing a niche by focusing on multigenerational housing options. Bernice Ross with Inman News acknowledges this as a “prime opportunity in 2014”.  

Watch for self-contained granny flat modules, fabricated domestically or imported from abroad.  Check out local policy and valuation history for in-law suites. Keep a list of the best multi-family residential builders in your area. Use social media to ensure that your sphere of influence is aware of your special expertise.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Photo Courtesy of : In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats: Your guide to Turning One House into Two Homes

Top Technology Time Savers Worth Checking Out (Part 2 of 2)

Technology for Real Estate

Technology for Real Estate

We need a license before driving a car, practicing real estate or getting married. As technology pundit David Pogue noticed, there is no official certification required to navigate a computer. So most people don’t know what they don’t know about navigating a keyboard.

This is the second in a 2 part series unveiling top time-saving tips for working smarter in cyberspace.

  • Have you ever given a slide presentation and caught the audience gazing at your slides instead of looking at you?  In PowerPoint strike the “B” key to momentarily black-out the slide. Click “B” again to restore the view of the slide. To white-out the slide, click “W”.  Hit “W” a second time to restore it.
  • Need flight status. Google is an FAA database. Go to Google type the name of the airline and the flight number to get: aircraft location, terminal, gate, and estimated landing time.
  • Want to know how long it would take to fly from point A to point B? In the Google search bar type “flight time from city X to city Y”. The resulting list will even throw in a quick overview of the range of prices.
  •  Taking a trip and need a currency conversion?  In Google search bar type “convert” then enter the currency type and amount.  Example: “Convert 5000 dollars to British pounds.”
  • To highlight a word don’t drag the cursor across it, just double click the word. Drag the cursor to highlight additional words in a continuous stream.
  • Triple click to highlight an entire paragraph. This also works in Word docs.
  • Don’t delete highlighted unwanted content, to save time just type over it or paste over it.
  •  Shutter lag is common occurrence in cameras that cost less than $1000.00.  To photograph an object in mid-motion, pre-focus on the object before it is in motion by holding the shutter button half-way down.  When the object moves, press the shutter the rest of the way down to capture the action. This addresses the delay most cameras experience between the time you press the shutter button and the time the camera actually records the image.

To see a video demo of most of these tips check out the 5 minute video. The presenter keeps it fun. Feel free to share some of your favorite keyboard time-savers as well.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Remember to Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Source: TED Talks as published by Inc. Christina Desmarais.

Loan Limits Announcement Good News for Real Estate Professionals and Homebuyers

Team ApplauseOn November 26th, The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced conforming loan limits for 2014. According to a press release,  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming limits will remain at $417,000 for one- unit properties in most areas of the nation. For high-cost markets, one-unit property loans will remain capped at a maximum of $625,500.

FHFA’s earlier announcement signaling their intention to lower loan limits, ignited a firestorm of protests from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the California Association of Realtors (CAR) among others. CAR President Kevin Brown expressed his organization’s concern that “lowering the loan limits would have reversed the housing recovery;” in a press release from CAR he applauded the decision of Congressional lawmakers to make permanent the current loan limits of $417,000 for most markets  and $625,500 for high-cost markets.

“The 2014 loan limits are higher than 2013 HERA limits in several counties,” according to the National Mortgage Professional.  For a list of loan limits for one-unit to four-unit properties for your county, review the FHFA news release. The link  to the list is in paragraph #5.

For details on how the loan limits were calculated see pages 2-3 of the FHFA release.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Remember to Like us on Facebook and  Follow us on Twitter.


Federal Housing Finance Agency Press Release

California Association of Realtors Press Release

Top Technology Time Savers Worth Checking Out (Part 1 of 2)

Technology for Real Estate

Technology for Real Estate

Did you know you could check a flight status by typing the airline name and flight number into Google? It also converts currency and translates foreign words.

Technology guru David Pogue says there are numerous time saving tips and resources that most users were simply never taught.  They are not apps or new devices, but simple shortcuts that save key strokes, solve problems and allow you to work smarter.  We tested them out and decided to share some of our favorites.

To keep it short, we’re sharing our favs in a 2 part series. Here’s the first batch.

  • In your browser, instead of using the scroll bar to roll up and down the page; try the spacebar to scroll down 1 page per tap. To scroll back up hold shift button+ the space bar.
  • To enlarge the online screen view hold the “Ctrl key” down and tap (+) to enlarge the screen; hold the Ctrl Key and tap (-) to make the screen view smaller.
  • When entering a text on a phone, when you get to the end of a sentence, press the space bar twice.  It will insert a period and cap the first letter of the next sentence.
  • To redial someone just hit the call button. The last number dialed will display. Click “call”   to initiate the call.
  • To leave a message on a cell phone and bypass the instructions on “how to leave a message”, hit the # sign (AT&T customers). This will not work for all carriers. Experiment to learn the skip symbol works for various carriers.
  • Need a dictionary? Go to the Google search bar. Type “define” and the word.  Google will provide the definition as you enter the word. No extra clicks necessary.
  • Need to translate a French or Spanish word to English? Go to Google and type “translate” + the word. The translation will appear in a large box at the top of the page.

What are your favorite free technology time savers? Let us know and we may be able to publish them in a future segment.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Remember to Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.


Source: 5 Ted Talks That Can Help You Work Smarter. Christina Desmarais. Inc.

Bridging the Down Payment Cash Gap — (Part 2 in a 2 Part Series)


Improving Real Estate Markets

While most Americans see homeownership as a good financial choice, many are sidelined by 20% down payment requirements.  Recent surveys indicate that 31% of Boomers and 31% of Gen Y respondents consider 20% down payments a major obstacle.

According to a recent CNBC report, the housing industry activity has seen better days. Investor demand has catapulted prices up 12% year-over-year to “unsustainable levels” in some markets according to Fitch Ratings. Prior month mortgage applications fell 7%, refi apps swooned 8%, and home purchase applications tanked by 5% according to latest reports. Perhaps these trends and others have inspired the lending industry to showcase alternatives to the 20% down payment rule.

A large down payment, low debt ratio and a top credit score can typically qualify buyers for lowest interest rates and best mortgage terms. For well qualified buyers who don’t have a 20% down payment, banks are now showcasing conventional loans with 5% down payment options; while private and governmental sources fund and spotlight over 1500 home buyer assistance programs.

This is the second segment of a two-part series. We’ll spotlight seven down payment resources to help bridge the down payment cash gap.  First Time Homebuyers

Down Payment Assistance –Have you ever wished that there was a one-stop resource combining all of the available forms of down payment assistance in one place? Down Payment Resource (DPR) is a national databank of various forms of down payment assistance available throughout the country, including local, county, state, and federal programs in all 50 states. Programs include those reserved for teachers, veterans, healthcare workers, etc., as well as a multitude of private programs.

Multiple Listing Services across the country opt-in to the service, connecting local members who then provide access to their homebuyer clients. DPR Vice President of Business Development Beverly Faull states, “This is the only nationwide resource which aggregates more than 1,500 programs from over 1,000 providers into an integrated, online program finder.”

Major Banks & Credit Unions — Credit Unions, are jumping into the mix, offering attractive terms for qualified borrowers.

According to CNN news, several major banks such as Wells Fargo, TD Bank and Bank of America,  have begun offering loans with down payments as low as 5%. Some will even allow gifted funds to cover 2% of the sales price, leaving the buyer with a 3% down payment opportunity. Even million dollar property purchasers seek out lower down payment alternatives.  Market dynamics have shifted and it’s worth taking a second look at traditional lender offerings.

HomePath Mortgage—Available only on real estate owned by Fannie Mae, a HomePath mortgage is a conventional mortgage requiring 5 percent down with no private mortgage insurance.

 Shared Equity Financing Arrangements (SEFA)—First-time home buyers are again turning to the traditional parent-backed loan, but with a twist. Loans are now formalized with a profit-sharing clause for parents.  A legal agreement spells out the particulars such as who pays taxes insurance, maintenance, etc. and the length of the agreement. Profits are divided when the property is sold.

Veterans Administration (VA)—VA Loans, great for qualifying veterans, feature low or no down payments. It is possible to bypass private mortgage insurance.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Loans)—Rural property USDA loans may cover 100% of the price of the property. Mortgage insurance is required, however at lower rates than many other funding types. Buyers are often surprised to find that non-farm properties may qualify.

Good Neighbor Next Door Loans (—Qualifying applicants can receive a 50% discount on home prices. There is a 3-year residency requirement. The program is designed for law enforcement, pre-k through 12th grade teachers, emergency medical techs and firefighters.

While 20% down payments  dominated the lending scene for the last few years,  conventional lenders now signal a willingness to be more flexible on down payment options for well qualified buyers.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Bridging the Down Payment Cash Gap | 10 Evolving Resources

While most Americans see homeownership as a good financial choice, many find that buying is easier said than done.  Recent surveys indicate that 31% of Boomers and 31% of Gen Y respondents consider 20% down payments a major obstacle.


Improving Real Estate Markets

Creative down payment options are emerging and so is the debate about whether low down payments lead to default. The benefits of a sizeable down payment are well documented. As home price appreciation outpaces wage growth however, prospective buyers worry that while waiting to save a 20% down payment; home price appreciation and rising interest rates will price them out of the market.

One thing is certain; buyers at both ends of the price spectrum are now exploring ways to conserve cash while pursuing the home of their dreams.  Today’s segment spotlights four of ten financing options qualified buyers are exploring to help bridge the down payment cash gap.

Shared Appreciation Mortgages—In the luxury home market, shared appreciation mortgages are emerging as a way to own without exhausting cash reserves for hefty down payments.  Bloomberg BusinessWeek showcased buyer Jeff Uter, a business consultant purchasing a $780,000 property in Orange County, CA. Instead of investing the $156,000 down payment from personal assets, Uter funded half the down payment and accepted the remaining $78,000 from San Francisco –based investor FirstRex. The investor agreed to a 40 percent share of proceeds from the future sale of the property. This approach is limited to high-dollar properties primarily in California, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts and Connecticut. A number of luxury home lenders now allow such participation.

Navy Federal—Located in Vienna, VA, Navy Federal is reportedly the nation’s largest credit union. Members include the military, plus many but not all civilian employees of the military and Defense Department members and family.  Loans do not require private mortgage insurance (PMI). Spokesperson Dana DeSarno reported that their “Homebuyer’s Choice Program” provides 100% financing, for members not eligible for VA loans. Many of their borrowers are first-time homebuyers.

FHA Loans— FHA’s $100 Down Payment Program is still available in designated states. (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands). The program is available to qualified owner-occupant buyers, only on HUD properties which meet condition requirements for FHA financing.

In other states, qualified buyers can purchase HUD homes for 3.5% down with an FHA loan.  Mortgage insurance is required.

In the next segment we will review six additional funding options plus an online resource containing more than 1,500 down payment programs from over 1,000 providers.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Equity Crowdfunding | Finally Small Investors May Get a Piece of the Action

“Crowdfunding is rapidly changing the real-estate investment market, offering developers new ways to finance projects, small investors a way in, and the socially conscious an avenue to support their local communities.” – Forbes

Housing-MovementOn Wednesday, October 23rd a unanimous vote of the five-member Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) made headline news. The vote advanced a proposal which could re-define who gets to invest in “ground-floor” business opportunities. It could radically change how start-ups raise capital. The proposal has the potential to unlock billions of investment capital allowing investors to consolidate revenue to fund real estate portfolios or new products and ideas.

The proposed rules were introduced to support the implementation of Title III of the Jumpstart Our Business Startup (JOBS) Act. The intent of the legislation and proposed structure is to allow smaller companies to gather capital from a broader spectrum of investors, avoiding the need for high cost Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), or the pursuit of millionaire private investors.

Imagine a virtual Shark Tank, but with a lot more sharks. Instead of being limited to small panels of mega-millionaires, entrepreneurs could appeal to a virtual audience of mainstream backers, each investing blocks of capital in exchange for equity.

For the first time since the 1933 Securities Act, the proposal (if finalized) would open equity investment opportunities allowing  small investors to purchase a stake in promising start-ups. Currently such equity shares are reserved for “accredited investors” with a verifiable net worth of $1 million or earnings of $200,000/year for the most recent three years.

The SEC proposal created a structure (funding portals) for the new brand of financing and established limits for crowdfunding investors. Funding portals, will act as intermediaries linking business owners with investors online.

A company would be allowed raise a maximum of $1 million via crowdfunding per year.  Within a 12 month period investors would be bound by the following limits:

  • If annual income is less than $100,000 the limit is the greater of $2000 or 5% of annual income or net worth.
  • If annual income equals or exceeds $100,000 the limit is the greater of 10% of income or net worth. Securities purchased via crowdfunding would be capped at $100,000/year.

A major SEC concern is the potential for fraud. Many are worried that non-accredited investors may be less sophisticated and more vulnerable to deceptive offerings by scam artists.

The SEC has implemented a 90 day comment period to field questions and feedback on the proposed structure. Afterward, the Commission will review input and make a decision regarding implementation. Click here to register a comment with the SEC.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual real estate portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter .