A fast-growing form of cybercrime, wire fraud has led to major losses for homebuyers in recent years. Get to know what it is and what steps you can take to avoid it.
What is wire fraud?
Real estate wire fraud is a scam that targets buyers while making payments during the home buying process. Attackers have taken advantage of the fact that there are several people and entities involved in real estate transactions. Between real estate agents title and escrow companies, mortgage lenders and more, there are many steps, some of which involve sharing financial information and transferring money. This gives ample opportunity for scammers to slip through the cracks somewhere along the line.
The timing of wire fraud is typically during closing using a sophisticated phishing scam. Attackers apply the use of fake emails, phone numbers, or websites, often posing as the buyer’s real estate agent and directing them to allocate funds to a fraudulent account. Because the attacker will have scanned, scrubbed, and lifted your personal information in preparation for the scam, their forms of communication can often look familiar and legitimate.
The mission of the cyberattack is to get your funds into an account the attacker owns. To do this, it is common for them to say that you had previously sent funds incorrectly, that they were never received, that there are new instructions for payment, or that there has been a last-minute change in the closing process. These are all major red flags. It is imperative to take extra caution during the final steps of purchasing a home because transfers, once initiated, are difficult to remedy and can delay your closing process.
- Get to know the closing process: Talk with your Windermere agent ahead of time about what to expect throughout the closing process. Discuss payment options with your lender and ask specifically about instructions for wiring funds. It is safer to share this information over the phone than through email, as scammers could accumulate this information to use against you.
- Record contact information: Keep a list of the personnel involved in your closing process. Beyond your real estate agent, keep a record of contacts at your mortgage lender, title company, and attorney’s office. In the event that someone new reaches out to you with a request, confirm their identity with one of your contacts.
- Call to confirm: Call to confirm wiring instructions before sending the transaction through. Talk to a trusted representative and ask them to repeat the information to verify its legitimacy. After sending the funds, make same-day follow-up calls to ensure they were received.
- Trust your gut: If you receive an iffy email or phone call, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s the perfect time to reach out to your contacts, discuss your hesitancy, and get advice before proceeding.
The threat of wire fraud emphasizes the importance of working closely with everyone involved in the purchase of your home. If you believe you have been scammed, contact your bank or wire transfer company immediately and request that they issue a recall notice for your wire. Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and report the activity with as much information as you can gather. For more information about how to protect yourself from wire fraud, visit the National Association of Realtors’ Wire Fraud resources page.
As the “Official Real Estate Company of the Seattle Seahawks,” all of us at Windermere are proud to kick off our fifth season of partnering with the Seahawks to #TackleHomelessness. For every defensive tackle made at a Seahawks home game this season, Windermere will donate $100 to Mary’s Place in support of their mission to provide safe, inclusive shelter and services that support women, children, and families on their journey out of homelessness. Mary’s Place has provided resources, housing and employment services to the homeless in the greater Seattle area since 1999.
Thanks to the Seahawks’ defensive efforts last year, we were able to donate $30,000 to Mary’s Place, bringing our grand total to $128,200 raised over the past four seasons. We look forward to raising even more this year!
Our partnership with Mary’s Place is in harmony with the mission of the Windermere Foundation—to support low-income and homeless families in the communities where Windermere operates.
When it comes time to sell your home, first impressions are crucial. Improving your curb appeal helps to make the most of a buyer’s first glance and sets the stage for their interest in purchasing your home. The following projects are simple and inexpensive ways to enhance both your home’s first impression and its value.
- Lawn: A healthy, well-tended lawn goes a long way towards improving your curb appeal. Clean up all weeds, leaves and debris, and consistently water your lawn to give it that fresh green look. If you live in an arid climate, consider grass alternatives like artificial turf for the best lawn aesthetic.
- Plant colorfully: Adding color variety to your front yard will grab buyers’ attention. Align smaller plants, like groundcover and flowers, neatly within your flower beds, aiming for symmetry when possible. Use larger plants and trees to frame in your entryway or walkup. If your front yard doesn’t have flower beds, try adding hanging planters or window boxes.
- Lighting: Landscaping lighting boosts your curb appeal during nighttime, accentuates your shrubbery, and adds a welcoming touch for visitors as potential
Front porches set the stage for all your home has to offer. Improvements here will play a significant role in how comfortable potential buyers feel about the property and how inspired they are to explore the inside of the house.
- Door: Your front door is an opportunity to make a tasteful statement. Look at bold color choices that are within or slightly stretch your home’s exterior color palette. Take time to prepare the surface for a fresh coat of paint to make the color pop as much as possible. Try stylish doorknob options that accentuate the aesthetic to give your door some added flair.
- House numbers: New and stylish house numbers are an easy, eye-catching touch to the look of your porch. Look for styles that match with your exterior color palette and any exterior lighting fixtures.
- Go for comfort: Incorporating classic front porch elements like a porch swing, sitting bench, and other outdoor furniture gives a welcoming aura to the front of your home and creates a sense of comfort for prospective buyers.
- Shutters: Windows are the gateway to the inside of your home. Shutters of delicate fabric will bring elegance to your front porch, while wooden shutters deliver a solid, cozy vibe.
These miscellaneous projects will add the finishing touches to your home’s curb appeal and get it in prime selling condition.
- Quick maintenance: Small chores and minor fixes like cleaning gutters, repairing chipped paint, and cleaning windows are important for buyers with a detailed eye.
- Staining: Instead of replacing fences or garage doors, look into applying a fresh stain. This brings a refreshed look and is much cheaper than a full renovation or replacement.
- Power wash: Power washing your walkways and driveways makes a significant difference in curb appeal. If buying a power washer is outside your budget, explore rental options from the big-name hardware stores.
For homeowners looking to reduce their home’s carbon footprint, increase its sustainability, and add value to their property, going solar is an obvious choice. Understanding how solar works and how to maximize its benefits are key first steps in your journey to becoming a solar energy-producing household.
How does solar work?
The technology that turns your house into a solar energy-harnessing hub is called photovoltaics, more commonly known as PV. PV works by fielding direct sunlight and absorbing its photons into the solar panels’ cells, which then creates electricity that provides energy for your home. This energy reduces your home’s output of carbon and other pollutants, which translates to cleaner air and water.
With the sun as the power source, the majority of the power generation occurs during the middle of the day, making summer the highest producing season. But don’t worry, it all evens out in the end.
Rooftop panels work best when they are exposed to sunlight, free of shade or shadow from nearby trees or structures. Given the sun’s east-to-west path, south-facing roofs are best-suited for maximizing your solar power. To see if your roof is set up for success, consult a mapping service or solar calculator to establish your roof’s suitability. If your roof isn’t up to standard, there are options such as ground mount solar installations and community solar gardens that you can explore.
- Solar panels: Capture the sun’s energy
- Inverter: Converts the sun’s energy to a form that powers devices
- Racking: The foundation that holds your solar system in place
- Batteries: To store the energy generated
- Charge controller: To control how quickly the batteries charge
What are the benefits of solar power?
- Sustainability: Having a renewable source of energy coursing through your home reduces your household’s carbon footprint and increases your eco-friendliness.
- Savings: How much money you save by going solar depends largely on how much energy your household consumes and the energy output of your solar panels. The cost of going solar has continued to decrease every year, so you are more likely to save as time goes on. For information on state incentives and tax breaks, explore what options apply to your home by visiting DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency).
- Utilities: Whether your utility company charges a flat rate for electricity or charges variable rates throughout the day based on electricity production—i.e. higher rates in the afternoon, lower rates at night—solar power offsets the price you are charged for electricity. It becomes even more valuable during those higher-rate periods or during seasonal fluctuations in utilities costs.
- Sell it back: Homeowners can sell their solar energy back to utilities through “Net-metering” plans. When your power generation rate is greater than your household’s consumption rate, the end result on your electric bill is a net energy consumption. Refer to DSIRE for region-specific regulations and policies.
- Home value: A recent study by The Appraisal Journal found that homes with solar PV systems increased their sale price by an average of 3.74%, equaling a premium of $14,329.
Although the right solar solution looks different for each household, what remains true across the board are the environmental benefits and increased home values that solar power brings. Taking all this information into your research will improve your home’s renewable energy and reduce your carbon footprint.
July was another busy and crazy month for real estate sales in Snohomish County. A whopping 44% of all listings sold for over the list price – averaging 3% over the listed sales price. This does not mean that you can list your home at any price you choose and get a higher offer. These homes that are selling for over list price are pricing their homes to sell, and the market is telling them they have done a good job in pricing. The average market time for these homes was 6 days. The market (buyers) are very savvy on pricing these days, and that is reflected on the homes that sell fast, and those that don’t.
38% of the homes that sold in July did so for less than the list price, or had to lower their price before selling. Those that had to lower their price before selling took, on average, 55 days to sell. So, the question is, could the sellers that had to lower their price before selling actually have received more for their homes if they had priced it right the first time…and possibly received multiple offers with the price being escalated? The current stats point to that being a possibility. The key is to listen to your Realtor when deciding on a price to list your home.
Who would have thought, when the pandemic hit, that our real estate market would go absolutely crazy a few months later? At the end of June, in Snohomish County, we have less than 1 month of inventory. This are historic numbers. As is the average sales price…hitting a historic high.
Do you want a definition of a hot real estate market? Last month in Snohomish County, 39% of the homes that sold did so above the list price, with an average market time of 6 days. And an additional 20% sold for full list price. That is a combined 59% of the properties that sold for at least full price.
The culprit…lack of inventory. Last year we thought the inventory was low. One year later (June of 2020) the inventory is about half of what it was in Jun of 2019. How does this get fixed? There is no easy answer. Some don’t want to sell because they have no place to go…and many sellers won’t accept a contingent offer. Others do not want to move now because of the pandemic…the risk of having people enter their homes who might not be healthy. And many just stay in their houses longer than they used to.
But also, interest rates are also at a historic low level. This is pushing buyers who were on the fence to get in the game…low interest rates allow you to have more purchasing power on the same income. Thus, the amount of multiple offers we are seeing.
So many in the public are concerned about who has the best real estate app. We at Windermere Real Estate want to make sure we have the best real estate professionals to help you with the process. An app or a Windermere professional…it’s an easy choice.
I hear from many of our agents that many of their buyers are waiting for the prices to plummet before they purchase a home. With unemployment at such a high level and so many people losing their small businesses, the housing market just has to go down.
Let’s look at the numbers in Snohomish County for the month of May. Out of the 701 homes that sold, 46.6% of them sold for OVER list price, with an average market time of 6 days. And another 32% sold at the listed price. That, my friends, is the definition of a hot market.
One of the best indicators of a real estate market is by looking at the pending sales. For the month of May, pending sales were up 7.9% to last year…and a whopping 61.6% higher than the month of April. While the number of listings are down, those that put there homes on the market are selling…and fast.
In less than one month, Windermere Real Estate, through the Windermere Foundation, raised and donated $690,000. This money is given to organizations that provide food to local foodbanks throughout the state. The need during this time of crisis, is greater than ever. Please support your local foodbanks.