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Phoenix Arizona Real Estate Blog

Gina McKinley


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Home Safe Home - 8/10/2017

by Gina McKinley

My assistant was just talking about of when her family moved to Arizona in 1972.  Neighborhoods were an open and safe community for friends, family, and children to roam the neighborhood.  Children would walk to school, then coming home to the back door being left unlocked for easy entry if mom was not home.  Things have changed with time and the neighborhood Block Watch was set up to have a designated neighbor who was the "eye" on the block.  Times continue to change and a safe neighborhood and community is not as common as it was in the good old days.

Home is a place you should feel safe and secure. Sometimes, we take it for granted and unfortunately, we do need to remain vigilant about things we do that could compromise our safety. Here are a few tips to consider:Home Safe Home.png

  • Everyone loves an inviting home including burglars. Make sure it looks occupied and is difficult to break in.
    • Always lock outside doors and windows even if you’re only gone for a brief time.
    • Lock gates and fences.
    • Leave lights on when you leave; consider timers to automatically control the lights.
    • Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home; don’t tempt thieves with what you have in your garage.
    • Suspend your mail and newspaper delivery when you’re out of town or get a neighbor to pick it up for you.
  • Posting that you’re out of town or away from home on social networks is like advertising your home is unprotected.
  • Equally dangerous could be allowing certain social network sites to track your location.
  • Don’t leave keys under doormats, in flowerpots or the plastic rocks; thieves know about those hiding places and even more than you can think.
  • Trim the shrubs from around your home; don’t give criminals a place to hide.
  • Use exterior motion detectors and yard lighting.
  • Have an alarm system and use it when you leave home and go to bed.
  • Put 3 ½” deck screws in door plates and door hinges.
  • Have good deadbolts on all exterior doors.
  • Exterior doors should be solid core.

Considering a move to a safer home/neighborhood? Let’s chat about your needs. You can contact me at 480-355-8645 or

3 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Marketing

by Gina McKinley

Want your marketing to attract more buyers and sellers?

Regardless of whether you market yourself online, by email, in print, or anywhere else, there are three ways you can instantly improve the effectiveness of your campaigns.

#1 – Focus on Benefits, Not Features

A feature is a factual statement about a product or service.  Typical examples of features used in real estate marketing include:

  • #1 Agent in X area
  • Top-producer/winner of the X award
  • Neighborhood/local expert
  • CRS, GRI, etc. (any list of designations or certifications)

But people don’t hire agents based on features.  They hire agents based on benefits.  And a benefit answers the question, “What does this feature do for me?”

For example, let’s say you market yourself to homeowners as a neighborhood expert.  The question you must ask to turn that feature into a benefit is, “What does being a neighborhood expert do for potential sellers?”

Does it mean you’re intimately familiar with the comps and can ensure the highest possible price?  Does it mean you have buyers waiting for listings in the neighborhood and you can therefore save sellers the hassle of tons of showings?

Whenever you create a new marketing piece, ask yourself if it clearly shows the benefits of working with you.

#2 – Include Social Proof

Have you ever used Yelp to get restaurant recommendations?  Or, have you ever asked a friend or neighbor for the name of a contractor to repair something in your house?

If so, you’ve experienced the power of social proof.  In real estate marketing, using social proof means showing potential buyers and sellers that your past clients had positive experiences.

One way to do that is to share testimonials and success stories.  Another way is to display your ratings from sites like Zillow, Trulia, and

The more compelling your social proof, the more likely buyers and sellers are to contact you.

#3 – Have One Clear Call to Action

Every piece of marketing you use must have a clear call to action (CTA).  A CTA is a statement designed to prompt an immediate response.

Here are a few examples of typical real estate CTAs:

  • Call to receive a free neighborhood newsletter/update
  • Visit this website to get a free, instant evaluation of your home’s value
  • RSVP to this email address to attend a free seminar for first-time buyers

The mistake many agents make is including several calls to action in a single piece of marketing.  Doing so only confuses people.  And when marketing confuses people, they don’t respond to it.

P.S. – Be sure to track the results of your marketing materials.  Something as simple as a Google doc or spreadsheet will ensure you know what’s working and what isn’t.

P.P.S. - We are a top team in the South East Valley as ranked by Top Agents Magazine and RealTrends. We are currently hiring. The ideal Realtor® candidate is serious, motivated, and has integrity and drive. Please call us today!

Other People's Money for College - 7/28/2017

by Gina McKinley

Chandler PARENTS of 1 to 5 year olds: If you have great credit and some down payment (equity in your house) why not buy a rental that will be mostly paid off in 15 years? And the rents or a 2nd or even a re-finance, or sale might pay for ALL of the kids college costs! Read on as there is some great info here…

Consider the goal of funding a child’s college education in the future. If “other people’s money” in the form of a scholarship is not a possibility, there still may be another way to use some “other people’s money.”26458431-250.jpg

A $25,000 investment into a mutual fund paying 5% would earn $1,250 in the first year. Alternatively, the $25,000 as a 20% down payment to purchase a $125,000 rental home appreciating 3% a year would have gone up by $3,750 or three times that of the mutual fund in the first year.

The mutual fund’s growth depends on the value of the money invested. Rental real estate benefits because a 20% down payment controls a much larger asset because you’re using “other people’s money.” Leverage allows the investor to profit not only from the amount of cash invested but from the value of the investment.

With a 20% down payment and current interest rates, a typical rental would have a positive cash flow. In ten years, the equity could be $75,000. On the other hand, the $25,000 initial investment in a mutual fund earning 5% annually would only grow to about $40,000 in the same 10 years. It would require an additional $2,700 each year to reach the same $75,000 value.

Leverage is just one of the many benefits that make rental real estate the IDEAL investment. Whether you are saving for higher education, retirement or wealth accumulation, consider rental real estate. Using single-family homes as investments are attractive because homeowners have a better understanding than many other investments and self-management is a possibility.

In my team's years of recommending this a number of clients have gone through the learning curve of being a landlord and paid for their children’s college education…then sell the home once graduation is past. There may be a refinance to get cash out for certain years or even using the rent payments for the tuition bills. Buy one for each child. But do it early in their life!

If you would like some ideas on financing such a purchase and/or property management please contact me at 480-355-8645 or

How to Avoid Showing Buyers an Endless Number of Homes

by Gina McKinley

When was the last time you showed buyers what felt like an endless number of homes?  Showing property after property to indecisive buyers consumes a huge amount of time and energy.

The key to avoiding this nightmare scenario is helping buyers pinpoint exactly what they want before showing them homes.  Here’s a four-step process for doing just that.

Step #1: Set Expectations

Many buyers don’t understand the buying process.  They might feel they’re supposed to see as many homes as possible.  Or, they might not understand seeing tons of homes makes choosing one more difficult.

When you first meet with your buyers, set expectations about the buying process.  Explain how your job is to help them narrow their criteria so they don’t waste time viewing homes that won’t work for them.

Step #2: Ask What They Don’t Want

Buyers are often terrible at knowing what they want (especially first-timers).  But, they’re excellent at knowing what they don’t want.

After you’ve had the expectations conversation from step #1, ask your buyers what they don’t want in the neighborhood, home, lot, etc.  Take detailed notes and ask follow-up questions as necessary.

You’ll be surprised how much you learn about your buyers’ preferences when they tell you everything they don’t want.

Step #3: Review Listings With Them

Most agents send listings via email and never take the time to review those listings with the buyers either in-person or by phone.

Once you run your initial MLS search, schedule time with the buyers to talk through the listings.  Ask them the things they like and don’t like about what they see in the pictures, comments, and property details.

This step is critical because it either confirms or denies the information you gathered in step #2.  Only when buyers are looking at actual listings do you get the full picture of their preferences.

Step #4: Invest 5 Minutes

One of the reasons agents get stuck showing too many properties is they don’t invest five minutes to eyeball listings before scheduling showings.

In step #3, you reviewed the initial MLS search results with your buyers.  But, if you run a new search or set up an automated search, you might not have the chance to review the listings before your buyers receive them.

The problem is, no MLS search can capture every buyer preference.  And, few buyers look at all the details of a listing before deciding whether to see it.

That’s why you want to invest five minutes eyeballing each listing your buyers want to see before setting up the showing.  In many cases, homes that appear perfect for the buyers at first blush will end up rejected upon closer inspection of the details and remarks.

P.S. – If the four steps above seem like a lot of work, consider how much time they could save you.  A showing on a home that doesn’t meet your buyers’ criteria wastes at least an hour of your time and frustrates your buyers.

P.P.S. - We are a top team in the South East Valley as ranked by Top Agents Magazine and RealTrends. We are currently hiring. The ideal Realtor® candidate is serious, motivated, and has integrity and drive. Please call us today!

Assumptions are an Alternative - 7/21/2017

by Gina McKinley


FHA VA Assumption.png

OH do I have a story about a non-qualifying assumption from the mid 1980’s that was done in Chandler! Then the City of Chandler experienced exponential growth, ranking among the fastest-growing municipalities in the country And it was one of the reasons that…

In the late 80’s, both FHA and VA began requiring buyers to qualify to assume their mortgages. The main reason there haven’t been many assumptions in the past 25 years is that interest rates have been steadily going down and if a person has to qualify, they might as well do it on a new loan and get a lower interest rate.

Based on projections by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the MBA and NAR, rates for the second half of 2017 and 2018 are expected to be higher. When interest rates on new mortgages are higher than the rates of assumable FHA and VA mortgages in the recent past, it becomes more advantageous to assume the existing mortgages.

FHA and VA loans originated with lower than current interest rates have great advantages for buyers and sellers.

  1. Interest rate won't change for the qualified buyer
  2. Lower interest rate means lower payments
  3. Lower closing costs than originating a new mortgage
  4. Easier to qualify for an assumption than a new loan
  5. Lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher ones
  6. Equity grows faster because loan is further along the amortization schedule
  7. Assumable mortgage could make the home more marketable

An Assumption Comparison can help determine the savings and financial benefits of an assumable mortgage with a lower rate.

The process of assuming a loan is similar to getting a mortgage. One has to substitute your credit and liability to the lender for the original borrower and they are released from future liability on the loan. Given the rapid appreciation we have had here in the Phoenix area, often a 2nd mortgage or a HELOC might be needed to fill the equity difference. As a buyer you still need to qualify for both loans, yet if you have a large down payment and a home with a 2013-2016 era FHA loan fits the bill, it may be a possibility. And a great question to ask. It would be my pleasure to help you find a good loan officer to assist you. Just reach out to me at 480-355-8645 or

The 3 Questions Your Listing Presentation Must Answer

by Gina McKinley

Every time you step into sellers’ home for a listing appointment, there are three questions your presentation must answer.

Get the answers right and you win the listing.  Get them wrong and the sellers will choose one of your competitors.

Question #1: Why You?

The first question you must address is why the sellers should choose you.  If this sounds obvious, consider most agents make canned presentations that aren’t tailored to the sellers’ preferences.

Before you launch into your presentation, ask the sellers what they expect, want, and need from the sale of their home.

Are they willing to make repairs and upgrades, or would they prefer to sell as-is?  Do they need to sell in a specific timeframe, or are they flexible?  Do they have rigid expectations about the services an agent should provide, or are approaching the process with open minds?

Once you know the sellers’ expectations, wants, and needs, you must tailor your presentation accordingly.  It’s the only way you’ll persuade the sellers you’re the right agent for them.

Question #2: Why Your List Price?

Once you’ve persuaded the sellers you’re the right agent for the job, you must next answer the question of why they should agree to your list price.

One of the biggest mistakes agents make at this point in the presentation is failing to involve the sellers in the process of setting the list price.  If you’re doing all the talking while covering your CMA, you’re setting yourself up for pricing objections.

Instead, invite the sellers to comment on the similarities and differences between the comps and their home.  Encourage them to share any research they’ve done prior to your meeting.  And, be sure to gain their agreement on any adjustments before asking their thoughts on the final list price.

The more you involve the sellers in the process of setting the list price, the better your odds of getting the price you feel is right.

Question #3: Why Your Commission Rate?

The final question your listing presentation must answer is why the sellers should pay your commission rate.

If you’ve convinced the sellers you’re the right agent for the job, you’re most of the way to getting your full commission (whatever it is you charge).  But, you can still face last-minute pressure to discount if the sellers feel your fees are too high.

The key to overcoming commission objections is to show why your fees are an investment the sellers make to achieve the specific outcomes they want from the sale of their home.  Here’s where you’ll return to the expectations, wants, and needs the sellers shared with you earlier in the appointment.

When you link your commission rate to achieving the sellers’ desired outcomes, pressure to discount disappears.

P.S. – A prepared presentation is an important component of a successful listing appointment.  But, the goal is to get the listing, not to cover the presentation. If you discover parts of your presentation aren’t relevant to the sellers, or if you see their eyes glazing over, move on.

P.P.S. - We are a top team in the South East Valley as ranked by Top Agents Magazine and RealTrends. We are currently hiring. The ideal Realtor® candidate is serious, motivated, and has integrity and drive. Please call us today!

Family & Friends Mortgage - 7/13/2017

by Gina McKinley

Somehow it just seems right to give your kids a mortgage when they buy a house, if you can afford it. Wouldn’t it be great for someone to pay you 4-5% interest on a secured loan? Yes it is until the IRS sticks their nose into it. THEIRS??? Yep. Read on…

Anytime a lender and borrower can agree on rates and terms, it can be a good match but IRS has specific rules that govern the transaction especially when the parties are family or friends.26614035-250.jpg

The loan must be done in a business-like manner with a written note specifying the loan amount, interest rate, term and collateral. IRS requires that the mortgage be a recorded lien to allow the interest deduction.

Sometimes, a friends and family situation might have a less than normal interest rate on the mortgage. However, the rate charged in the note is regulated by the minimum applicable federal rate which is published monthly by IRS based on current Treasury securities. For July 2017, the rate is 2.57% for terms over nine years.

The seller must report the interest paid to them along with the name, address and Social Security number on schedule B when the buyer uses the property as their principal residence.  A mortgage between family and friends can be good for both parties. It may allow the borrower a slightly lower rate without the expenses of a traditional lender while giving the note holder a higher rate than they can earn in available investments.

Your tax professional can guide the transaction whether you’re a buyer or a seller and your real estate professional can help arrange to have the documents drawn and filed.

When you are faced with the idea of “helping your child” or a friend buy a home in Chandler, or just a loan, make sure you have the right advice. If you have any questions or need a recommendation for a tax professional, please give me a call today at 480-355-8645 or email me at

The Simplest Way to Get More Clients

by Gina McKinley

Getting more clients is often easier than we make it.  We spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on marketing and lead generation, yet we overlook the simplest way to generate business…

Talking to strangers.

Think about it.  Every day we’re surrounded by potential clients.  At the store, in Starbucks, and during our workouts, people who might have real estate needs are no more than a few feet away.

But, we rarely take advantage of these opportunities because striking up conversations with strangers can feel awkward.

That’s why I recommend reading the article “Three Scientifically Proven Steps For Talking With Strangers”.

It’s a quick read (five minutes) and will help make starting conversations with strangers feel natural.

Let me know what you think of it!

P.S. – Wearing your nametag or branded clothing is one way to meet more people, but it requires they start the conversation.  When you’re the one who initiates contact, you’ll find yourself meeting far more potential clients.

P.S.S. - We are a top team in the South East Valley as ranked by Top Agents Magazine and RealTrends. We are currently hiring. The ideal realtor candidate is serious, motivated, integrity, and drive. Please call us today!

Down Payment Problem - Are You Sure?

by Gina McKinley

There are many first time home buyers who think that they need to save up a large amount for a down payment.  Most of the time, waiting to save up funds can either price them out of a market with rising home prices (like the Phoenix area is now, especially in the lower price ranges) and they end up paying more for a house that they could have bought last year for less.  On the flip side, I have also spoken to first time home buyers who hear about the down payment assistance programs and have no money saved at all, and find qualifying difficult.  How much down payment to have can be a fine balance, and there are many different options available.

There is increasing difficulty for first-time home buyers to save for their down payment as indicated in the graph.  Several factors that contribute to this trend include rising rents, rising home prices, student loan debt and flat wages.down payment graph.png

Some would-be buyers feel they cannot buy a home today but a large part of those decisions may be based on inaccurate assumptions.

Nine out of ten non-owners believe they need ten percent or more for a down payment. The typical down payment for first-time buyers is six percent. VA has 100% loan programs as well as USDA for certain qualifying areas and buyers. FHA is known for 3.5% down payments. And FNMA and Freddie Mac have down payments as low as 3% and 5%.

There are gift provisions available for buyers who have an “angel” who would like to help them with their down payment.

There are ways to borrow against a person’s qualified retirement program for a down payment. It isn’t necessarily limited to the buyer but could include a relative. Interestingly, a son or daughter can borrow against their retirement to benefit their parents.

In some respects, having good credit and sufficient income is more important than the down payment. Don’t rely on “common knowledge.” Get expert advice and counsel to see if there is a way to advance your dream of owning a home.

In Maricopa County, we also have government down payment assistance programs like the Homeowners For Arizona, a 5% down payment grant for a conventional loan.  There is also the Home in 5 for FHA loans, where the grant can cover most if not all of your down payment.  However, this doesn't cover closing costs (it can be difficult in competitive price ranges to have the seller pay for them) so you'll still want to have some savings. Knowing what the best loan program for you is prior to looking for a home is one of the many reason's it's a great idea to talk to a lender first.  Contact me today at 480-355-8645 for a recommendation of some of the best loan officers in Chandler, Gilbert, and the rest of the Valley!

The Four Pillars of Time Management

by Gina McKinley

Have you ever struggled to successfully navigate a work/life balance or keep up with managing the day-to-day of selling real estate?

You’ll hear some people say time management is an oxymoron.  And…it is.  You can’t manage time.

What you can do is manage your activities so you get the most out of the time you have.

But, since time management is the accepted term, let’s assume just for today that time management and activities management are one-and-the-same.

Here are the four pillars of time management.  Use them to get control of your schedule and make the most of your activities.

Pillar #1 – Goal Setting

Setting both short-term and long-term goals helps ensure you complete only the tasks which bring you closer to those goals.

You can find plenty of goal-setting advice out there, but there are two things you want to remember.  First, put your goals in writing.  Second, share your goals with someone who can help hold you accountable to them.

Pillar #2 – Prioritization

When you’re staring at a to-do list a mile long, prioritization is the key to remaining sane.

Every day, select the 3-6 tasks you must complete to either hit your goals or prevent catastrophe (i.e. – getting necessary paperwork signed).  Only once you’ve completed those high-priority tasks do you move to lower-priority tasks.

Pillar #3 – Identifying Challenges

Identifying your personal time-management challenges is a crucial step toward regaining control of your schedule.

Maybe you fall prey to the lure of social media.  Or, maybe you compulsively check emails and voicemails at all hours of the day.

Only when you know your time-management challenges can you begin to address them.

Pillar #4 – Maintaining Focus

You can set goals, prioritize tasks, and identify your personal challenges.  But, if you don’t maintain focus while completing your work, you’ll continue to struggle with time.

One of the most popular methods for maintaining focus is the Pomodoro Technique.  Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Choose a task to accomplish
  2. Set a timer to 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a checkmark on a sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you get to four checkmarks, then take a longer break (15-30 minutes)

Start on the four pillars of time management today and begin to experience the relief of getting control of your schedule.

P.S. – If you find yourself constantly distracted by social media or incoming emails, try Freedom or Anti-Social.

Freedom is a program that shuts down your Internet access for a set amount of time.  Anti-Social is a similar program, but it only locks out Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, and other distracting time-sucks.

P.S.S. - We are a top team in the South East Valley as ranked by Top Agents Magazine and RealTrends.  We are currently hiring. The ideal realtor candidate is serious, motivated, integrity, and drive. Please call us today!

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Photo of Gina McKinley Real Estate
Gina McKinley
RE/MAX Masters
2390 W. Ray Road, Suite 4
Chandler AZ 85224
Cell: 1-480-779-9420
Fax: 480-355-8912

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