Will Pittsburgh be Home for Amazon HQ2?

Jason Cohen is a Pittsburgh-based real estate investor with over a decade of experience in his field. Cohen firmly believes in the value of research prior to investment, and took a considerable amount of time to research the risk and rewards inherent in the Amazon deal. Below, Jason Cohen outlines his findings.

How far would your home city go to attract Amazon’s attention? In August, the tech giant announced its intention to build a second headquarters in North America, prompting a deluge of enticements and bargains – some tinged with more than a little desperation. One tiny city in Georgia even went so far as to offer to change its name to Amazon if it was chosen. Bargains like these seem absurd, but it’s easy enough to see why prospective HQ2 cities would go to such lengths to attract attention. The tech giant promises to invest $5 billion in its satellite facility, and bring with it over 5,000 high-paying jobs. As Steve Glickman, cofounder and executive director of the Economic Innovation Group, puts it in an article for CNNMoney, winning the bid for HQ2 is akin to “winning the lottery […] [it’s] an event you can’t duplicate any other way.” With over 230 cities vying for placement, catching Amazon’s interest is a long shot – but some economic analysts think that Pittsburgh, PA has a solid chance of being the company’s next home.

Currently, Pittsburgh ranks in the #5 spot in Moody Analytics‘ list of top contenders. The Forbes-recognized analytical firm took factors such as business environment, available human capital, transportation availability, quality of life, and the cost of doing business when making their considerations. According to their report, Amazon’s ideal satellite site would offer a bargain tax package and affordable land, as well as a supply of workers and the means to support them via transportation and housing. Pittsburgh itself stands above its competition as an already-burgeoning tech hub and thriving city center. It also has the advantage of being within several Amazon executives’ home state;CFO Brian Olavsky, for example, is from Hershey, PA. The city declared its candidacy as many cities did: via a cheery video offering Amazon a home within its borders.

Given the immense potential investment and promise for unheard-of levels of economic growth, every city wants to snag Amazon’s HQ2.  But as a whole, real estate investment advisors within Jason Cohen Pittsburgh are hesitant to leap onto the pro-Amazon wagon. In the promise of incipient wealth, many cities have overlooked the glaring problems that will accompany the company’s second site. For a glimpse of what might come if Amazon sets its roots in Pittsburgh, one only has to look to California. On the west coast, tech companies have sparked massive growth in city economies – and dramatic housing shortages. Affordable apartments are hard to come by in cities like LA, where a 2-bedroom apartment can cost over $4,000 per month in rent, nearly twice the national average. Even the best deals come with a catch – and Amazon’s too-good-to-be-true promise of  investment is no exception.

Amazon hasn’t chosen a location for its second home yet, and its deliberations have become a constant topic of speculation. But perhaps the question should be turned on its head; rather than asking, “What city will Amazon choose,” we should wonder “Will our city accept Amazon?” In the glitz and glam of potential growth, cities have forgotten the high housing cost the company will unwittingly place on Pittsburgh’s current citizens. Amazon’s deal is built with fool’s gold – and those at Jason Cohen Pittsburgh urge those in the city to consider the risks before leaping at its potential rewards.

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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.

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.

As the founding member of the real estate advising group, Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, Jason Cohen is well-versed in advising both professionals and clients in the real estate industry. For more advice and content, please visit Jason’s site at JasonCohenPittsburgh.net.

5 Red Flags Home Buyers Should Take Note Of

As a veteran real estate professional working in Pittsburgh, Jason Cohen well-equipped to assess the risks and potential associated with a property. In this post, Jason Cohen uses his hard-won experience to highlight a few red flags that buyers should make note of when they tour a home.

With their new appliances, sleek countertops, and freshly-painted walls, remodeled houses are meant to impress. For a potential buyer conducting their first walk-through, the surface appeal of a touched-up house can be appealing; however, first-time buyers should avoid making a decision based off of aesthetic appeal. Unfortunately, a number of renovators choose to prioritize cheap cosmetic updates over more vital (and expensive) structural renovations – leaving the unaware buyer with the heavy financial burden of making expensive repairs. Don’t be pulled in by a flashy hack job – watch out for these warning signs when you walk through a home!

Cracks in the Walls

Contrary to what old horror movies might suggest, wall cracks aren’t par for course in old homes. Watch out for splits in brick walls, and makes sure to consult an expert if you think a wall fissure might be more than a cosmetic problem. Don’t take the issue lightly! Wall cracks can indicate severe structural issues and shouldn’t be left unchecked.

Old Roofing

The last thing a buyer wants to do after shelling out tens – or hundreds – of thousands of dollars on a home is sink even more resources into fixing its roof. When built well, roofs remain strong for roughly thirty years. When done incorrectly, they last for considerably less time and can demand as much as $30,000 to repair. Be proactive by enlisting the help of an expert to inspect the roof or asking to see the property’s inspection records.

Fresh Paint in an Old House

A fresh layer of paint usually isn’t something to worry about. However, if it seems as though a house hasn’t been fixed up beside a few patches of paint on the ceiling, beware! Some sellers attempt to cover up termite or water damage by painting over it. Make sure to ask the seller about any suspicious paint jobs before you proceed with the buy.

Water in the Basement

Properly maintained basements aren’t soggy. Moreover, buyers who see water in the basement should worry about more than cleaning on rainy days; according to home inspector William Kibbel, “The wettest crawlspaces (and basements) seem to be directly related to exterior drainage issues. Ground sloping towards the foundation, clogged or missing gutters, and downspouts not properly extended can all contribute to elevated moisture levels and even regular water intrusion.” If you have the funds and time to optimize a home’s exterior drainage problems, you should purchase the house. Otherwise, you may want to let the property go.

Uneven Flooring

Saggy flooring near a home’s bathrooms often indicates greater problems with the property’s plumbing system. Make sure to have an inspector check the plumbing, lest you find yourself with serious issues down the line!

Never, ever be afraid to ask questions. Buyers are entitled to the right to inspect potential purchases and ensure that they really are getting everything they pay for. Take walk-through inspections seriously, and don’t be fooled by a flashy renovation!

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net