Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How to Find a Great Real Estate Agent


Jason Cohen is the founder and president of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, an informal real estate group which provides constructive advice to professionals considering property investments. Given his near-constant interpersonal work with other professionals in the field, Jason is well-equipped to offer guidance on the process of finding a competent real estate agent. Here, Cohen offers his thoughts.

What separates a great real estate agent from an ineffective one? In a social-media landscape where every realtor’s promotions are glossy and attractive, it can be hard for regular buyers and
sellers to discern whether the agents they research are actually the capable, honest professionals they appear to be online. However, there are some steps that real estate hopefuls can take to ensure a successful professional relationship before officially signing on with an agent. The following tips are brought to you by Jason Cohen, the president and founder of the informal real estate advising group, Jason Cohen Pittsburgh – consider observing them prior to committing to a real estate professional!

Check Qualifications
Every buyer and seller needs to make sure that the agent they hire is equipped to manage their needs. It’s especially important to find a professional affiliated with the National Association of Realtors – you can determine this by checking to see if the agent notes their title with a capital “R.” Those in the NAR pledge to follow a code of ethics, and will be held accountable for any professional wrongdoing in the field. This code protects clients from potentially troublesome action on the part of the agent. Clients should also check to make sure that the agent specializes in handling cases like theirs. For instance, an individual looking to buy a house should search for a realtor with an ABR certification: These professionals are Accredited Buyer’s Representatives, and have completed additional courses for representing buyers in transactions.

Review Agent Records
Clients should also direct their research towards answering a few basic questions: How long has the agent been in business? Are their current listings similar to yours? Does the agent have any marks on their record? While the first two can be answered through an online search or direct conversation with the agent, the last question should be directed towards the applicable state regulatory body, which will have a record of any concerns or complaints.

Reach Out to Previous Clients
Don’t be afraid to ask a potential agent for a list of former clients! Reaching out to previous home buyers and/or sellers will help you better understand the agent’s skill set, capabilities, and professionalism. Make sure to ask for details; how long was the client’s home on the market? How much did it sell for? Was the agent friendly and helpful, or were they professionally challenging? All of these questions will help you come to a decision when choosing a professional to represent your real estate interests.

For more helpful advice and intriguing articles, please visit Jason Cohen Pittsburgh’s blog at JasonCohenPittsburgh.org.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Handy Tips for First-Time Landlords


Jason Cohen has been an active investor within the Pittsburgh real estate community for nearly a decade. While he began his industry efforts by purchasing and renovating cheap residential buildings in high-potential neighborhoods, he has since expanded his investments to large-scale commercial and residential properties in vibrant neighborhoods. Here, Jason Cohen provides a few tips to new landlords.  

You’ve finally done it. You’ve purchased the building, touched up the paint, laid the carpet, and put your first investment property up for rent. But as the inquiries come in, you realize that the easy part is over – now, you have to deal effectively with your tenants. Jason Cohen Pittsburgh is an advising group operating in the city; as such, its veteran members have heard their fair share of first-time rental horror stories. It’s common for a first-time investor to be so caught up in the buy and the renovation process that they find themselves at a loss when they need to communicate professionally with the people living in their units. Unfortunately for landlords, the work doesn’t end when the contractors leave. Below, Jason Cohen, head of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh lists a few tips for aspiring landlords to take note of before opening their doors to tenants.

Be Assertive
Everyone has an off month now and again. Sometimes, a tenant can’t make a payment on the day it comes due – and in some cases, that’s okay. Landlords should be empathetic and understanding if a tenant faces tragedy or finds himself in a temporary financial crunch, so long as the tenant communicates the situation. If, however, the tenant chooses to go dark and refuse to pay the agreed-upon rental sum, landlords need to act assertively. You need the rent they owe you to keep up the building and make a profit. Being overly understanding to an elusive or underpaying tenant will only result in your missing needed funds. Be assertive! Don’t be afraid of pursuing a delinquent tenant for the money they owe you.

Check Credit and References
Never rent to someone who doesn’t have a job or has a credit score of under 600. Those without the means to pay rent or a history of regular repayment will inevitably leave you waiting for payments that may never come. Screen your potential tenants closely to ensure that they will be responsible, reliable occupants who will care for your unit and pay on time.

Don’t install marble countertops if your unit is in a low-income neighborhood. In all likelihood, those that inquire about your unit will be looking to pay a rent in line with those offered in nearby homes; if you try to cover a fancy renovation by asking a significantly higher rent, your prospective tenants will walk. Be smart, and don’t risk renovations that offer little return!

Be Organized
Organization is key to any successful business venture. After all, how will you know you made a profit if you have no documentation of the fact? Ensure your success by keeping organized and detailed records!

For more tips, advice, and real estate content, please visit Jason’s site at JasonCohenPittsburgh.org.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Choosing a Neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA



Jason Cohen has lived and worked as a real estate professional in Pittsburgh for over a decade. Over the course of his time in the city, Jason Cohen founded the informal real estate advising group, Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, which serves as a forum for investors seeking advice on their Pittsburgh-based ventures.  In this post, Jason uses his familiarity with the region to offer insights into a few prominent Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

A neighborhood is more than a collection of similar houses along a street. It's a community; a place with a culture and quirkiness of all its own. Those who hop from place to place in search of a house or apartment aren't just looking for four walls and roof, but for a place they feel resonates with their own personality and practical needs. As a vibrant and ever-shifting city, Pittsburgh has a little something to offer every person who sets down roots within its limits. Jason Cohen, founder of real estate advising group Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, has owned and operated properties in all of the neighborhoods listed below. All are wonderful in their own, unique ways - and all are worth considering as communities to call home!

South Side
Median home value: $109,000
While united under the “South Side” moniker, this region is technically two neighborhoods, the Southside Flats and the Southside Slopes. Both are excellent places for working professionals to settle, given the region’s excellent public transportation system and its proximity to the city’s Business District. With its many restaurants and nightlife offerings, the area also offers plenty of opportunities for post-work pursuits.

Oakland
Median home value: $155,000
If Pittsburgh needed to point out its intellectual center, it would have to indicate Oakland. Home to prestigious hospitals, universities, museums, and international cultural offerings, Oakland is the perfect home space for students, medical professionals, and academics alike. The area also boasts the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History.

Mount Lebanon
Median home value: $262,700
Technically a suburb of Pittsburgh, Mount Lebanon is a suburban township in Allegheny County, PA. Young families should seriously consider setting down roots in the area, given that the district is nationally-recognized for its school and has been awarded National Blue Ribbon School awards on multiple occasions. It’s a lively, vital area - perfect for families looking to grow!

Regent Square
Median home value: $264,000
For recent college grads kicking off their professional careers, Regent Square is the place to be. Ranked #1 by Niche as the Best Places for Millennials in Pittsburgh, the Square offers a multitude of subdivided homes and diverse entertainment options at a reasonable price.

Shadyside
Median Home Value: $334,900
Well-connected and close to the University of Pittsburgh, Shadyside is perfect for university students. The area boasts a wide selection of apartment listings and is home to a number of boutiques, shops, galleries, and nightlife offerings. An ever-changing and vibrant area, Shadyside is perfect for residents who enjoy living in upbeat, vital communities.

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Affordable Renovations for the Savvy Investor




House flipping requires strategy. Savvy investors know that slapping on a fresh coat of paint and changing a few doorknobs won't bring about a significant return on their investment. Jason Cohen, founder of the real estate advising group Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, realized this need for investment strategy when he bought his very first property. With the limited funds available to him at the time, Jason couldn't afford to sink money into unneeded updates; he needed to plan out his renovations and open the property to tenants without going over a set budget. Working on that initial project, Jason Cohen learned that a few carefully chosen renovations could net him a larger return than a few haphazard repairs ever could. Aspiring house-flippers should consider undertaking these worthwhile and inexpensive updates when they purchase a property!

Install new carpet
Stained wall-to-wall carpeting is an instant deterrent for buyers. Throw it out! The flooring below may surprise you; oftentimes, ugly carpets conceal beautiful floors that only need a little wax and polish to shine. If the floor underneath the old covering is unattractive, investors should consider purchasing and installing a new carpet. Either way, buyers will appreciate the clean, fresh appearance imparted by the touched-up flooring.

Replace Bathroom Odds and Ends
Investors don’t need to gut an older bathroom to make it shine. Grouting and caulking, while time-consuming, is an excellent way to return a grungy bathroom to its previously fresh aesthetic. Additionally, minor pieces such as sink faucets, towel bars, vanity surfaces, and medicine cabinets can be replaced at relatively low cost and up the attractiveness of the space.

Paint the walls
Never underestimate the value of a good paint job. A new coat can do wonders for an older space by imparting a sense of freshness to spaces that appear dated or run-down. When painting, investors should opt for a neutral color palette in order to avoid turning away picky buyers.

Consider your landscape
A buyer makes their first conclusions about a property before they ever step foot through the front door. All the time and money an investor spends on a property’s interior may amount to nothing if the shingles on its exterior are shedding or the grass in unkempt. Mind the landscaping! A quick mow of the yard and a bit of garden work doesn’t require much time or money and makes a tremendous difference to buyers.

Mind the budget
In the end, budget takes precedence. While a house flipper may want to completely renovate the kitchen or replace the plumbing in the bathroom, such pricey changes might not always be feasible. Investors should consider repairing rather than replacing, and ditch non-essential renovations if they find themselves spending more money than they anticipated.

Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net.