Now, I get it …

The District of Columbia began to recognize same sex marriages. There was much consternation, but couples were married and life moved on. This year, the State of Maryland began recognizing same sex marriages. Those opposed shared tales of doom, but couples got married and life moved on.

Personally, I have been able to marry the person I wanted to marry and felt that everyone deserved the same right. I have family members that were in same sex relationships that traveled to another state to marry (at that time, they could not do so here).

It was no big deal. People closest to them had already accepted them as a couple. When family and friends are happy, most of us don’t even notice that their partner is the same sex. Usually, we have bigger fish to fry (like who will be stuck doing the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner). I was happy for for them. It was just another milestone, like any other event that occurs in your family.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I attended a wedding of two friends that had been together for over 20 years. It was like any other wedding, good food, good music and lots of catching up with friends. It was a celebration.

Then came time for them to share vows. The officiant turned and said, “Andy, do you take Tomas to be your lawful wedded spouse” (or something like that, it was a wedding and I wasn’t paying close attention). He replied “I do” and in an instant I realized this is so much more than a legal union.

The words had barely escaped his mouth and Tomas began to weep. His shoulders heaved and he turned his back and shook. At first, I thought ‘tears of joy” and then he turned back to us and shared “I never thought I would live long enough to hear those words”.

Now, I get it.  Freedom to openly be who you are and free to marry. Freedom from years of exclusion and oppression. Freedom to enjoy the same rights as everyone else. Freedom to step up and “legalize” a relationship that has existed for so many years.

Consider living under a cloud cover for year after year after year. Then one day, the sun bursts threw and casts a brilliant warm light on you. No longer doomed to the fringe. No longer going through each day without even casting a shadow to validate your existence. Free to be who you are with your soul mate, your partner, your best friend. Now I get it.

I thought I understood. I have never walked in their shoes. I just accepted them as Andy and Tomas, my friends. I do not know all that they have faced, nor do I know the challenges that lay ahead. I do know that the piece of paper certifying the marriage is a by product. They now can legally share all the good and bad marriage has to offer. They have been doing that behind closed doors for too long. They deserve their day in the sun.

Now I get it.

The reason …

Gosh, there must be thousands of real estate agents in the DC area. There are those that practice the craft full time and an even greater number that dabble on a part-time basis. There are men and women from every sort of background. The easy access to a license has forever created this large melting pot of self employed entrepreneurs seeking their piece of the pie.

I would imagine every single one of them has a reason why they became an agent. In conversations I have had with agents, the reasons range from the lure of a high dollar income to I had to sell my mother’s house so I got a license and a fascinating array of life situations that instigated their pursuit.

Consumers should have an inkling of why the person representing them chose to be an agent. It is not the only factor, but motivation surely is a significant factor when attempting to evaluate someone you are hiring to do a job for you.

I won’t speak for anyone other than myself. I can not pretend to know what events or reasons motivated anyone else. I know my roots and I know why I am here and why I have chosen to be an agent.

The reason.  Becoming a real estate agent was not the end goal for me. This profession allows me to follow the admonition of some of the incredible people that molded my core beliefs. I readily admit, I am a child of the 60’s.  I grew up in Washington DC.  I came of age during “Camelot” and the Kennedy administration. The civil rights movement transpired before my eyes. Martin Luther King, Jr spoke directly to the problems that festered in the North and South, in the East and West. He addressed the inequalities that existed in large cities and in rural hamlets throughout America. And when he spoke, I listened. I knew he was speaking the truth. (The oppressed can only point to results, the oppressors are privy to the mindset of those that do the oppressing. Simply put, white people readily shared their bile and hate for minorities  among one another. Publicly they all said something quite different.) Then another voice came into my world.

Bobby Kennedy was a light in a universe filled with darkness. He was a man born into privilege, that refused to allow his station in life to define him. He took on Joe McCarthy, the mob, the Viet Nam War and the rampant socioeconomic inequalities in America. He challenged us more than John Kennedy’s throwing down the gauntlet in his acceptance speech (“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what can you do for your country”). He envisioned a clearer picture of tomorrow that went beyond MLK Jr’s powerful promise ( “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”). Bobby Kennedy was best described by brother Ted, “This is the way he lived. My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

The reason? As a real estate agent, I am an active participant in facilitating the dream of home ownership. I am an advocate for my clients. I am in a position to make sure they are treated fairly and should something go awry, I can direct them to the proper channels. It is not a major undertaking. It is helping others. It is being able to focus on my clients needs. It is continuing to philosophically march with the thousands that demanded freedom and equality. I am not just a real estate agent, I am an agent for change.

The reason. I believe that what I do matters. I can not change anyone else. I can not force anyone to open their mind. I can champion equality. I can use the skills I have garnered to assist those in need. Every interaction offers the opportunity to lead by example. It may seem like I can not change the world, but I can impact my little portion and in just changing a tidbit, I believe you actually change the whole.

The reason. When my time here is done, I will joyfully recall, I did my best to leave this place better than I found it. So there you have it. I do this because I believe.

How can I help you?

Internet access stymies Blacks and other minorities

In a study, conducted by the Urban Institute for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it was determined that Blacks and other minorities were shown 17% fewer homes than whites. Based on the results of this study, claims are being made that Blacks and other minorities are still being discriminated against when seeking housing.

While I have no problem accepting that racial prejudice still exists in our society, I think the study comes up with a pre-conceived conclusion. 

The methodology used was to have two sets of “testors” call about property. White testors and those testors perceived (?) to be white were advised of 17% more properties than those that were a minority or perceived (?) to be a minority. The initial inquiries were made via the telephone. There is no indication that those tested were asked “did you think I was white or did you think I was a minority?”. 

Ivory tower investigations often lead to easy answers.

I am a Realtor. I get phone calls regarding listings. My first thought is not and never has been “Hmmm, I wonder if this is a white person on the phone?”. I am like just about every single agent I have ever known when it comes to a phone call. I am attempting to develop a relationship as quickly as possible. You see, we agents don’t make a dime unless we represent a client. A phone call on a listing is considered an excellent opportunity to garner a client and represent them in a sale. 

We are not trained to be concerned about their race. Agents are trained to gather information about the listing in particular and then gently pre-qualify the caller. Pre-qualification usually includes questions such as “Are you working with another agent?” (We have to follow the Code of Ethics and pirating someone else’s client is a big no-no.), “Have you spoken with a lender to determine how much home your are comfortable buying?” (There is little value in working with someone that can not afford a toaster much less a home.), “When are you available to visit homes that interest you?”(Determining when you can meet at the potential clients convenience is an important step in securing a face to face meeting.).  If possible, I try to determine the style, size and location that interests them. This process is not a secret. It is how we create clients.

The phone call is a battle of interests. The caller wants to see a home. The agent wants to develop a relationship. The success of both parties demands that the caller be focused on what they want to see and that the agent “gently” attempts to pry information that can be used in ‘bridge building” as the relationship continues.

Here is the thing that is not mentioned in the report. Almost all consumers go to the internet as their first source of home search. You can find homes for sale via a computer, a lap top, an assortment of “pads” and on your phone. Agents no longer control what is available. In most cases, we are told what the consumer wants to see. As the relationship develops, a client my focus on using one of our search instruments, (DC area search engine) but even then, the world wide web beckons and most venture through a multitude of sites looking for that perfect home.

Another thing overlooked in the report involves why some people were not shown as many homes as others. Most sources indicate that third party sites have an error rate of about 15%. This is not intentional and it is caused by the way various sites either upload their data, gather their data or in some cases it is the fault of bad data (GIGO- garbage in – garbage out). If someone is just using third party sites to create their wish list, they may ask to see homes that are not available. It happens.

I would love to see a study done on the use of the internet. Break it down by race, income, etc. You might discover that the results of studies like this actually point to problems deeper than the one suggested.

The article regarding the study in Inman News was interesting.(Read the article) I think those that point the finger at agents are taking the easy way out. It is interesting that there is no mention of any action being taken against any agent. No punishment, no penalty, just results tabulated in a think tank and assumptions made by people that don’t do this for a living every day.

I am a Realtor. I don’t care on bit about your race, color, national origin, sexual persuasion or any other personal identifier. If you want to buy a home, just let me know how I can help you. I don’t have the time or inclination to do anything else. I do this for a living and that requires that I actually represent clients. 

Oh, I will be glad to send you every home that meets your criteria. I will review each listing to determine if it truly meets your needs. I will share the same thoughts with anyone that calls. The only caveat in my offer involves the location you may be seeking and the price point you may be able to afford. I have to feel comfortable with the area that interests you. If I don’t know the area, you should use an agent that works in that area. As I mentioned, this is my profession. My compensation is directly related to the value of the transaction. I only develop relationships with clients that are pursuing real estate that will in the end pay me a living wage. Every agent has different thresholds and every agent has the duty and right to place a value on the service they offer. Neither of the caveats has anything to do with who you are as a client.

Realtors are not the bad guys. This study does not appear to dig deep enough to provide that conclusion.

Real Estate Services Cost Too Much

That is not a very popular statement within the real estate industry. And, to be fair, I can only speak to the costs incurred by consumers in Maryland and Washington DC.  Let me also add that I, as an individual agent, am powerless to change them. I should also add that the services I am referring to are those provided by real estate agents. While the cost for other services (mortgage origination, home inspection, settlement, etc.) vary from provider to provider, I don’t know enough about their cost structure to honestly include them in this piece.

Real estate services (in home sales) are paid primarily out of funds that transfer from the buyer to the seller at closing. In sales that involve a listing entity (either a broker or a builder) the amount of monies paid are dictated by the listing agreement between the seller and their broker (in new construction, the broker is often just another division of the builder’s corporate umbrella).  All commission rates are negotiable.  For as long as anyone can remember, individual home owners, wishing to sell their home have been presented with a commission rate of 6%.  This rate is not set in stone. It just happens to be the rate that almost every major broker begins and ends their negotiation.

There are federal laws prohibiting brokers from colluding with one another to set any rate. Most of them just happen to (wink, wink) offer the same basic rate.  The figure is so entrenched in the public’s consciousness, any deviation is referred to as a “discount” rate. Within the industry, those attempting to offer a rate below the “standard” are viewed in a negative fashion. The actual rate that consumers end up paying does vary. It is usually somewhere between 5% and 6%.

It has always been that way.

Ask any of the major brokers why the 6% figure is etched in proverbial stone and they will immediately share there is a cost to providing the services and over time it has averaged out and in order to do the things necessary to sell a home, it will usually cost 6% (this includes legitimate profit that any business has a right to seek).

There was a time when an agent listing a home in this area did have significant cost associated with the sale of the home.  Regardless of broker affiliation, an agent had to create several copies of the disclosures signed by the home owner. The agent had to make several copies of the listing to place in the loose leaf binder listing book that would be available to potential buyers that visited the office. The agent would have to create and print brochures to be placed in the home. The agent would have to order a sign to be placed on the property advertising it for sale. The agent would have to have extra keys made for the home to facilitate viewings. The agent would have to place a lock box on the property. The agent would have to design, print and mail postcards announcing the availability of the home. The agent would have to place ads in the Washington Post and local papers. The agent would have to hold open houses so that potential buyers could view the home. The list goes on and on. In addition, the listing agent has to share a portion of the commission with the agent that is representing the buyer of the home. (Strange. The seller has always been asked to compensate the individual that is working hard to have their client purchase the home for the least amount of money and under conditions that are favorable to the buyer.)

Times change. Commission rates remain the same.

The internet has changed the landscape significantly. There are no more loose leaf binders. As a matter of fact, the need for anything printed is fast dissolving into bits and bytes saved in clouds. The signs placed out front and the lock box on the door are re-usable items. Of course, they have a shelf life, but the cost is not a one time – one use event. Ads in the Washington Post and any other publication are done online (if they are done at all). Every broker has the ability to syndicate the listing of a home in literally thousands upon thousands of websites. It is one of the side benefits of being a member of the local multiple listing service. List is once and the information becomes publicly available all over the world.

Times have changed. The cost incurred by an agent selling a home should have decreased. (I do accept that as much as it would seem that costs for manufactured goods should decrease with the increased use of robots and overall costs for many things that should go down….they don’t. Savings from cost cutting measures are rarely passed on. Those savings are rerouted to the coffers of ownership under the guise of “rewards of capitalism”.)

Another mystifying fact is that the commission structure seems to be the same, regardless of the location of the property. This has been explained away with “everyone must be treated the same” and “the higher the value of the property, the greater the amount of marketing dollars needed to sell.”.  It does not matter if the subject property is a one bedroom condo located in the heart of the city or a three bedroom home in the suburbs or a two bedroom cottage in a rural area.  The commission remains the same if the home is 600 square feet or 6,000 square feet. There is no difference if it sits on .15 of an acre or 15 acres.  Most of the time, a seller has to pay 6% to sell a $100,000 home or a $500,000 home. The commission doesn’t change.

It would seem rather obvious that the amount being charged has no relationship to the item being sold other than it is a percent of the final sale.

One of the closely held secrets in the real estate industry is that often it takes more time and effort to sell a lower priced property than a higher priced property. (Note: this is a general rule that excludes distressed properties and vanity properties priced well over one million dollars).

From time to time, there are brokers that attempt to challenge this price structure. There efforts are impugned and ridiculed by the bigger players in the industry. It used to be, the only way to reduce the commission offered was to either offer an “a la carte” menu of services for a certain price or offer limited services for a certain price.  Now, it is quite feasible to offer full services at a price point below the industry “standard”.

All commissions are negotiable. The broker draws the line in the sand for how low they are willing to go. Agents, in this area, have to work under the supervisory umbrella of a broker. The broker has the final say. It does not matter what the agent believes, the agent can only do what the broker allows.

I am an agent. There are those that would suggest, if I don’t like being subjected to the final say of a broker, I should take the steps to become a broker myself. No argument from me on that. I just do not have the time or wherewithal to move forward in that direction.

I have just always wondered why real estate services cost too much.

I will end with yet another question….”Why does it cost the consumer the same amount of money if their home sells in one week or one month or one year?”

Note to any Federal authorities….I have no influence with any brokers and nothing shared is to suggest that anyone should collaborate on rates. I am willing to accept that it is just coincidence that all major brokers appear to charge pretty much the same rate.

Facts distort reality, buyers need to know what matters in their “run for the roses”

orbOn the first Saturday every May, attention turns to a horse race run in Kentucky.  Although, horse racing has lost much of it’s prominence, the quest for the Triple Crown still resonates with people all across the country. The Kentucky Derby is the first of the “jewels” in the crown (the Preakness Stakes, two weeks following and the Belmont Stakes, three weeks after that are the other two).  Each spring, three year old thoroughbreds are put through their paces and prepare for the big challenge. Various races are run from coast to coast to determine which of the horses will compete. Entry to the Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 horses.

In the past, the horses were selected based on total purse earnings from January 1st to the week before the Derby. This year, they changed the rules. Selection was changed to a points based system that gave more weight to longer races. Horses that primarily were very good at shorter distances (sprints of 6 furlongs, etc) were placed at a disadvantage.  The people in charge felt that since the Kentucky Derby was a one and a quarter mile race, it would be better to have horses that raced at longer distances have a better opportunity to fill out the Derby field.

So, faced with those facts, the experts began their prognostications with the premise that the pace for this years race would be a bit slower than ever before. In the past, horses that were primarily sprinters would race to the front when the gate opened. The pace (the time it takes for horses to reach each quarter mile) would be very quick. If a horse accustomed to running longer distances attempted to “keep up”, they would expend more energy than usual and it would compromise their chance at winning. The “rabbits” (the sprinters) would zip through fast fractions (pace) for the fist half mile or so and then “run out of gas” and the horses that were accustomed to longer distances would take over and usually win.  Any of the horses that were accustomed to longer races that attempted to run with the “rabbits” would usually fail to maintain that pace and they would begin slowing down when the leaders made the final turn and headed for the finish line.

The experts were focused on the potential pace of the race as if the horses had any meaningful impact on how fast they run. I have no doubt the conclusions made would have been accurate if they had just loaded the 20 best sans saddle, jockey and weight and let the horses just take off at the bell and run freely.

That is not how races are run.

All the experts overlooked the fact that there was a jockey sitting astride each horse. This year, 19 horses went to the starting gate. Each with a jockey aboard. Each jockey had been given pre-race instructions from a trainer regarding how the race should be run. Each of the jockeys sat in the saddle, horse poised for action in the starting gate. Each jockey looked down that track and dreamed of winning the Kentucky Derby. They were in control of the horse and their destiny.

The bell rang, the gate opened and the horses began their journey. Through mud and slop each jockey began to guide their steed. It was not a slow pace as predicted.  Over one third of the horse raced for the front of the pack. Seven of them reached the quarter mile point in a blistering 23.5 seconds. As they reached the half mile point, the leader had begun to pull away, but 4 or 5 rivals were bunched close behind and the clock showed a suicidal pace of 45.3 seconds had elapsed. The leader reached the 3/4 mile point in a torrid 1:09.8 seconds and it was apparent the horse was all but finished.  Every single horse that had contended for the lead began that slow motion backward movement that is peculiar to horse racing (they are moving forward, but appear to be either standing still or moving backward in relation to the other horses in the race).

When the horses reached the final turn and began their stretch run, it was the long distance runners that began making their move. Lost in the excitement of “and down the stretch they come!” was the fact that this Derby looked pretty much like every Derby in the past. None of the horses running had any clue about whether they were a sprinter or long distance runner.  They were all responding to the jockey in the stirrups.

The facts regarding which horses could run had little to do with the outcome. The race results were truly dependent on the skill level of the jockey and how each jockey asked his horse to run.  The leaders in the early stages of the race were the last horses to cross the finish line. At the 3/4 mile point, the top three finishers were 17th, 15th and 18th. The leader? Oh, he finished 12th.

All of the experts looked at one fact and immediately thought it was a major factor. They were wrong. Horses are all pretty close in skill level when they reach the Derby. Jockeys are the variable that often determines who will win and who will lose.

So, just remember when the experts proclaim that low interest rates will lead to more sales (not really) and the experts share that low inventory will make it next to impossible to buy a home (pure bunk), those facts are not what will control your success or failure in purchasing a home.

Your agent is just like that jockey. Choose wisely and your run for the roses (purchase of a new home) will end with success.

I know real estate. I know the DC area. I know which facts matter and which ones just cloud the issues. Call me, 301+509+5111.

DC Home for Sale Inventory is on the rise

Questions and AnswersCherry blossoms blooming are not the only pretty sight in DC this week. A short trip through any neighborhood reveals brand new “For Sale” signs. Announcements from brokers, large and small, in a myriad of shapes, colors and sizes proclaim DC home for sale inventory is on the rise. This morning, a search of the  area reveals listings everywhere.

American University Park has two listings under $500,000. A couple of weeks ago, there were only a few homes for sale there (all close to $1,000,000). You could spend a lot of time in the Adams Morgan area looking at homes for sale. There are over 200 homes on the market in an area that had little for sale last month. If you are still thinking about Brookland (the latest hot spot), almost 50 homes are for sale. It is the same all over the city. DC home for sale inventory is on the rise. Capitol Hill, Cleveland Park, Dupont Circle, H Street, Shaw and Tenleytown all have homes for sale.

If you would like to see any of the homes for sale, up close and personal, fill out the form below and I will make arrangements for that to occur at your convenience. After all, now is the time. DC home for sale inventory is on the rise.

Putting Doctors in a House

“Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick…”

If you are a physician, you know the phrase well. It appears in the fifth paragraph of the Hippocratic Oath. Of course, that portion of the oath goes on to affirm your purpose in visiting the home of a patient. Back in the day, Physicians often made “house calls”. Today, the practice continues to different degrees depending on your location. At some point, it became much more practical for the Physician to remain in one place and have the patients come to them.

But, let’s look a little deeper into those 14 words.  Of course, they were a preamble to a behavior when written, but today, they represent a beautiful truth about the life of a Physician and another purpose of visiting homes. I have worked closely with Docs since the mid-1980’s. My interactions included work with specialists, general practitioners, interns and residents. I have counseled them in private offices, doctor’ lounges and coffee shops. I have a pretty good feel for the challenges docs face.  I know another way of reading those 14 words.

Patients seeking remedies and healing are usually very thankful for the cure. From the outside looking in, few of them realize how many ‘balls must be juggled” to keep an office open. DRG’s, HSM’s, medical billing, contracts, etc are all buried beneath “Thanks Doc, I feel better’. Not many stop and realize the Physician move to the area “for the benefit of the sick’.

Most Physicians like to become a part of the community. (It should be no surprise that those that are the healing glue of an area seek out being a part of that area). Community service, even service that comes with a fee, is entrenched in the desire to serve a community.

When a Physician decides to purchase a home or establish a practice in a neighborhood, they are probably going to visit houses (or office buildings or condos). The purpose is to plant their personal flag and establish their place in the community. While, in some ways, it is accurate to say they are no different than any other home buyer or business owner, truth be told, their need of the community is counter-balanced by the communities need for them.

They deserve special attention and assisting Physicians in their home buying has always felt special to me. Once we begin an earnest search, I know I am helping them fulfill another interpretation of that Hippocratic Oath. Whatever house they visit in their home search, they do it for the benefit of the sick. Once they find that home, they become a member of that community and professionally become part of the healing process for their new neighbors and patients.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Sun Trust. They have a Doctor Loan Program. I have a relationship with the leading Sun Trust lender affiliated with this program. He not only works with individual Physicians, he is called upon to speak to large groups about the Sun Trust Doctor Loan Program. He has shared the overview below.

The Doctor Loan Program is a residential mortgage loan developed specifically for medical residents, interns, fellows, Doctors of Osteopathy (DO), and licensed medical physicians that have completed their residency within the last 10 years.

  • Available for both home purchases and mortgage refinances
  • Competitive pricing available along with special relationship discounts
  • Mortgage insurance is not required
  • Maximum of 80.00% Loan-to-Value (LTV) available1 for cash-out refinances
  • Both fixed rate and adjustable rate2 loans are available
  • Available in AL, AK, DE, FL, GA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, PA, SC, TN, VA, WV and DC; available in select counties in NJ and PA
  • No penalty for prepaying your loan
  • Gift funds or seller contributions may be used for closing costs

For licensed medical physicians who have completed their residency within the last 10 years:

  • Maximum of 100%1,3,4 financing for purchases and rate/term refinances with a maximum loan amount of $650,000 for well-qualified borrowers
  • Maximum of 95% financing for purchases and rate/term refinances with a maximum loan amount of $1 million1 for well-qualified borrowers
  • Maximum of 89.99% financing for purchases and rate/term refinances with a maximum loan amount of $1.5 million1

For Residents, Interns and Fellows:

  • Maximum of 100%1,3,4 financing for purchases and rate/term refinances for well-qualified borrowers
  • Maximum loan amount of $417,000

1State law may put further restrictions on the maximum loan to value ratio.
2Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) products have interest rates that may increase after consummation.
3Borrowers should note that 100% mortgage financing will result in no property equity until such time as the loan principal is paid down through regular mortgage payments and/or the property value appreciates. Additionally, if property values decline, you could owe more than your property’s value.
4A down payment may be required if the property is located in a market where properties are declining in value.

Now that may be a lot of information for those outside medical practice. For Physicians, I hope you benefit from it and if you are in the DC area and would like the assistance of a Realtor that understands the demands of your profession and will work diligently to assist you in the purchase of home, please take a moment and fill out the form. All inquiries will be held confidential.

5 things you need to know about viewing homes

You  have scoured the internet listings. Maybe you have a list derived from homes your agent sent you to review. In some cases, you may have a mix of what your agent has sent and homes you have found using one of the websites that list homes for sale. Now you are ready to go see them in person.

There are 5 things you need to know before you go out the door.

  1. Your agent has to review the list to make sure they are all actually still for sale
  2. Your agent has to make sure he is aware of information about each home and neighborhood.
  3. Your agent has to follow the showing instructions in obtaining permission for you to view each home.
  4. Your agent has to put together a route that will get you from the starting point to the last home
  5. Your agent has to keep you on schedule to reach and view each home on the list.

Viewing homes is not just a matter of driving to an address of a home that is for sale and walking through the front door and taking a look around. It first must be verified that the home is still for sale and available for viewing. It is possible that a home that was listed as “active” when you last looked on line, has gone under contract. Some websites are not updated and homes showing for sale have actually been sold long before they caught your eye. If you have found a home in one of the many vanity magazines that claim to have homes for sale, chances are that nothing you have seen is still on the market (those magazines actually are for the benefit of agents hoping to list other homes).  Homes that are for sale, may or may not be occupied. If they are occupied, the resident usually likes to know that someone is coming to view the home. If they are vacant, it is usually easier to get in the home and view it. Your agent will have to “scrub” the list and remove those that are not really available.

Once the list of homes you want to see has been reduced to homes that you can see, your agent has to review the pertinent data about the home. You may have questions about square footage, the approximate tax bill, the schools in the area as well as where is the closest shopping, etc. Your agent has to be able to answer your questions. In most cases, these general questions are part of your weaning method and getting back to you will prolong the process. At this stage, you are subconsciously evaluating each home. Answers that make it easier to include or remove a home from your final list are very important. Your agent should be aware of traffic patterns and possible commuting routes. Understand, in urban areas, finding a parking space is not a skill, it is the luck of the draw.

Every listing agent has been directed by the seller when the home is available to be shown. These instructions vary from home to home. There are lots of reasons that homes may not be available when you wish to view them. If people are still living in the home, they are selling a house but they are also doing their best to maintain some semblance of order while that occurs.  The listing agent includes showing instructions in the MLS listing. The instructions are not always finite. Often, the listing agent uses the services of a third party showing scheduler. A call must be made and permission granted for the time frame your agent plans for you to view the home. These “showing windows” have a beginning time and are usually confined to a 60 minute slot. If a home is vacant, you often have a great deal more latitude in times. The showing permission has to be followed. It is very important that you stay on schedule. If a home you visit is impressive enough that you want a longer look, have your agent schedule a second showing later that day or the next day. Don’t linger and throw the viewing schedule off. You may not be able to see all the homes on your list and you will never know if the one  you missed would have been “the one”.

In a perfect world, you would start at point A and move systematically to point B and so on. Showing homes just doesn’t seem to work that way all of the time.  Often, available showing times create the need for a back and forth flow to your tour.  It is up to your agent to orchestrate this journey. Each home and each availability time has to be put together like pieces of a puzzle. When complete, you will have a good picture of which homes you will visit and the order in which you will see them. Nobody is perfect and a system with so many variables can cause the best of us to falter. Your agent’s mission is to get you into each home you wish to see. Usually, that happens, but sometimes things change and you end up standing at a front door and discover it is not available to be seen.  It happens to the best of us. Keep in mind, the seller can restrict showings when ever they want. If you can’t get in, move on to the next home on the list.

Sometimes when viewing homes, you discover that the listing agent was a magician with a camera. Other times, when viewing homes you will marvel at a listing agent’s talent in describing the home. When viewing homes, what you see is what you get. Your agent has no control over the accuracy of photos presented or description used by the listing agent. Your agent is responsible for looking at the home and attempting to see anything that needs further investigation. Always remember that you are the buyer. You will be the one living in the home. If you ask the agent “What do you think?”, you are asking too broad of a question. You can ask about lots of things regarding the home or the area. Your agent (in most cases) will not be moving in with you, so “what they think” is not something they can easily answer. It is your job to walk around, get a feel for the layout, visualize your self and your things (furniture, etc). Most of the time, this will be accomplished rather quickly. Make notes and wait until you have seen all the homes before making a final yes decision about any of them. Remove any home as soon as you know it does not work. Stay on schedule. Your goal was to see a certain number of homes to make a good evaluation. You have to stay on schedule to accomplish your goal.

Viewing homes properly entails planning. If you follow your agent’s direction, you will have a successful day. You may not find the home of your choice, but you will definitely remove possibles from your list. Remember, it takes time to prepare and preparation is necessary for you to see the homes you wish to see.

Enjoy the journey, take notes and stay on schedule. Your home is just waiting for you to come by.

You are a buyer and found the ONE, now what

Happiness Heart

You can hardly believe it. Truth be told, it is not exactly what you thought it would be and then again “upon further review”, it is exactly what you hoped to find.

Sure, you started out with some general ideas. Maybe, things started coming into focus when you traveled around the area. At first, those “For Sale” signs were just multi-colored blurs on the periphery. The subliminal message was taking root in that tiny corner of your mind where dreams are born. Life changes doesn’t it. One day the apartment you’re in is sufficient, the banner flying high declaring your independence. It is the place where you learn the lessons of housekeeping, privacy and style.

No one can really pinpoint that moment when the walls began closing in. Maybe it was the morning you stubbed your toe, navigating through the apparently diminishing space between the bed and your dresser. It could have been that night you had friends over and the once spacious living room felt like phone booth. Then again, it could have been that moment, sharing a drink with someone special and suddenly two addresses just didn’t make sense anymore.

Today, you have been through the gauntlet and have found the place.  After what must feel like an impossible journey, you know where you want to call home. Your home. You have told your agent, this is IT!

Now what?

I can’t speak for every agent. I can only share a broad overview of the next steps taken if I were your agent. (note:that statement is tweetable)

While you have been visiting homes and tweaking your list (moving “must haves” to “like to haves” and adding new “must haves” to cover things you had not considered), your agent has been quietly keeping track of the market that includes for sale, sold, off the market, etc. Behind the scenes, data has been sorted, dissected and reviewed. Now that you are ready to move forward with an offer, the pieces will come together. While you share the good news with family and friends, the framework of the next step is being put together by your agent.

The first conversation will take place between your agent and the listing agent. On the surface, it may appear that the only thing being accomplished is gathering the necessary disclosures. Appearances are deceiving. Your agent is already beginning the negotiation process. Reviewing the listing agent’s history before the call has offered some insight but the conversation will season the statistical data and offer hints as to which direction the negotiation should take.

Your lender will also be contacted. A letter validating your ability to actually buy the home must be included with your offer to purchase. This is another conversation in which your agent will develop more information necessary for the ongoing negotiation. A discussion of how your offer will be prepared and what may be necessary for responding to any counter offer will take place.

Once all the necessary information has been gathered, your agent will go over the offer process with you. You will be asked to fill out a financial information sheet that will accompany your offer. This is basic information given to the seller so they will have a certain comfort level that you actually do have enough cash on hand to cover the amount of money you will have to bring to closing. The letter from the lender is but one piece of the puzzle. A seller will want to see the probable source of down payment, closing costs, etc. This is well within their rights. Money is not a “protected class” and if a seller is not comfortable with all the issues surrounding your financial ability to purchase the home, they can refuse to accept your offer.

Your actual offer will be prepared with the help of your agent. Forms that have been developed by the local real estate commission will be used. They include the basic contract of sale which outlines the terms necessary to make a legal purchase. In addition to the basic offer/contract, you will have addendum’s specific to the jurisdiction, others defining contingencies of the offer and even more that narrow the terms of the offer. You will also have disclosures about the property prepared by the seller that cover the condition of the home.

It may seem a bit overwhelming, but remember if it is not in writing, it does not exist. Your offer, once counter signed by the seller becomes the final contract of sale. It will provide the framework for the transaction.

Your agent will submit your offer.

You will discover that there are 60 long seconds in every minute. You will become aware that every passing hour has 60 plodding minutes. You will wait, and wait and probably wait some more. After all, the ball is in the seller’s court.

Attempting to determine the outcome based on the length of time you have to wait for a response is pure folly. Your agent can not possibly know all of the factors the seller is sorting through. You have come this far, now is not the time to bristle. You have done all that you can do. Until you receive a response, patience will be your sweetest ally.

what have i doneOf course, it is only natural for you to be filled with a little doubt.  Angst is doubts pain filled bedfellow. Cup of coffee or latte, maybe you do that every day. This is a major step. For most people, the biggest expense they have dealt with (other than college loans) has been an exotic vacation. This is all about the long term.  This is home.  Sure, it is not forever, but, it is today and this is a lot of tomorrows.

Anybody in your situation would be spending a few minutes here and there wondering about the decision.  Trust yourself, you have come this far based on desire and practical application.  You have followed the necessary steps to reach this point. The seller will respond and you will have the support and counsel of your agent to deal with any counter offer that might be made. If the offer is accepted, you will be shepherded through all the following steps in the process.

You have found the ONE. With the guidance of your agent, you can now proceed to see if the ONE is the ONE.

Just beginning? Fill out the form and get the support of a “REAL” Realtor

Buying a home and overwhelmed with the process, make a list

checklist

Buying a home can be overwhelming. You have moved past the dream and are now ready for reality. There is nothing that could have prepared you for what you are feeling.  First-time home buyers have shared the experienced with us.  The doubts range from not knowing what you think you should know to not being sure what you know is really what you should know.  Couples face the challenge together and single folks face it alone, but they both feel the uneasiness.  How could you feel any other way?  Just the basics are daunting. You are preparing to spend anywhere from a quarter of a million dollars to more than a million dollars.  You have been saving, and it has taken forever to accumulate that nest egg. Suddenly, all the sacrifices you have made are staring back at you.

You have done your part.  You may have spoken with a lender already or you may have just begun searching on-line looking at homes.  What next?  Well, before I go any further, let me share the list of things you need to have accomplished before looking at one more pretty picture of a home for sale on line.

This is your initial checklist. Taken one step at a time, it will be less overwhelming. For now, the long term goal is purchasing a home but you are going to focus on a series of short term goals, one at a time. Clear everything off your plate and follow these easy steps in order they are presented. The title by the number is the goal. The subtitles under the goal are steps taken to accomplish the goal.

  1. Establish your financial position.
  • Make contact with your personal banker, a rival local bank and a local Federal Credit Union.
  • Sit with each one and inquire about their loan programs. Share only what is necessary for them to give you a general idea of what they have to offer.
  • Once comfortable (you truly understand what is being shared, if not, go back a step) ask them to give you a general idea of what you can afford based on a payment that you are comfortable with making. Do not allow them to pull a credit report at this time. It is not needed and you want to keep the number of inquiries to a minimum so your FICO score will not be impacted.
  • Thank them for their time and give the information at least 24 hours to sink in.
  • Make a follow up appointment to discuss anything questions you have. Unless your personal bank is an online bank, you can have them prepare a pre-approval letter for you. The only caveat I will offer is that sometimes market conditions are such that Federal Credit Unions have better products. If that is the case, have the FCU prepare the pre-approval letter. Whomever you choose, they can pull your credit reports.
  • Understand, this is just the beginning of the financial process. You are not bound to any lender. As long as there is time for the loan to be processed prior to closing, you can switch lenders.

2.  Determine where you want to live

  • Stop the wide focus searching on the internet. Narrow your choices down to specific areas.
  • In urban areas, you will find neighborhoods and in the suburbs you will find developments.
  • Your focus should be on where the area is in relation to your job and what are the various ways you can commute between home and work from each area.
  • Once you have some areas in mind, go spend time in them. Visit on a weekend afternoon, Drive by in the evening. If possible, park you car (if you have one) and walk around. Get a real feel for the area. You will be able to tell more about the area by actually spending time there than any website will be able to relate.
  • If neighbors are out and about and you are up to approaching them in congenial fashion, stop and ask “what’s the neighborhood like?”
  • You will find that your visits factored with your commute will create a pecking order of preferences for you to use as an outline for your actual home search.

3. Select a Realtor

  • At this point, you really do need a guide, caretaker, interpreter and adviser. As you can see, if done properly, the process has already been quite extensive.
  • The Realtor will be the person that assists you in your search. Of course, you will spend hours in front of computer screens, dreaming and hoping. Your agent will be the one charged with providing you facts.
  • Your Realtor should have a deeper knowledge of the area than what you have gleaned in your visits.
  • The most important thing your Realtor can do initially is listen to you. It is your home search. There is no way it can be accomplished successfully unless the agent is on the same page as you.
  • Communication is vital. Keep in mind all you have put together to reach this point, You have to understand what is going on and how the process is proceeding.
  • The Realtor has the tools to fine tune your criteria and match it with available properties. Keep in mind, every listing presented or suggested is only a maybe. You will turn away more than you will choose to visit and you will visit more than you will opt to purchase. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ignore a suggestion. Again, it is your home search.

4. The Search

  • You are ready to begin the search in earnest. You have your financial base, your target areas and your Realtor. Now you can begin to separate the pretenders from the contenders.
  • A solid search can be done based on area, price, amenities (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, parking, etc.), and style of home (single family, town home, condominium) Note: price may narrow choices regarding location and some amenities).
  • It is important that you truly understand, your Realtor has access to every home that is listed in the MLS in your area. The same can not be said for the national search sites. National sites (Zillow, Trulia, etc) do not have contractual agreements with all multiple listing services and in some cases they are missing homes that are for sale or show homes for sale that have already been sold. That is just reality.
  • Your Realtor should be monitoring the MLS to make sure you are notified of every home on the market that meets your general criteria as soon as it is available.
  • Viewings must be scheduled. In some cases, visits have to be scheduled a day or two ahead of time. Your agent is at the mercy of the seller’s showing instructions. You should be able to give your Realtor the times that you are available to view homes and set up viewings at your convenience. It is your home search. Just remember, in many cases, it is not possible to call and set up an appointment for later in the same day.
  • Re-visit any home that you are considering to purchase. The first visit was just that, the first visit. The second visit should be a bit longer and you should take the time to visualize living in the home.
  • Do not be discouraged if it seems like the process is plodding along. When you walk through the doors of the right home for you, you will know it.

Now, you know you are financially ready, you know where you want to live, your agent has taken you through homes and you have found the one!

Sit down with your agent, he will help you prepare an offer that will present you in the most favorable position to the seller. You have gotten this far. The rest will be nerves. It may help you to make a list of all the reasons you have to be proud of yourself for reaching this point. Never discount the pride in accomplishment every new home owner feels when the receive the keys at closing.

Of course, if you reach step 3 and figure I might be a good choice, fill out the form. I would be delighted to assist you in your journey.