Snow! Head for the Emergency Shelters!

Atlanta and snow don't mix well. While we do get some snow each year, it hardly ever amounts to much. But when we get those huge 2" blizzards, we can be socked in for hours! 

Seriously, we have very little in the way of snow removal equipment since we hardly ever need it. They do apply a brine solution to the roads and that seems to help. And even if we did have the equipment, more often than not we get ice instead of snow. 

Today they are calling for about an inch of snow. The roads have been treated, all the bread and milk is gone from the store shelves, and schools are already closed for today. All this, and it was close to 50 degrees outside this morning when I awoke. It is good to be prepared.

 So instead of continuing my observations on the state of todays weather, I need to get out and find some bread and milk. Wish us luck!  

Rental Aversion

I admit it. I have rental Aversion. This is a disease that afflicts many real estate agents. It starts with someone asking for help finding a rental home. It quickly progresses to an eyelid twitch, followed by a neck spasm. The ability to speak can be affected as well, with the afflicted stammering and making no sense. It is a rough disease to deal with. 

Why did I come down with this horrible disease? Well it all started when leasing agents started offering $100 or less to agents who bring qualified renters to their property and end up renting. $1500 per month rents and $100 or less payouts. This means that I actually lose money on these deals whenever I work with a renter. In some states it is common to split the first months rent between agents and even pay again upon renewal, just not here in Georgia. 

Oh sure, I know the story about renters eventually becoming homeowners. I have seen it happen. About as often as seeing the unicorn walk through my backyard. So why do I even bother at all? Well, there are two really good reasons. 

The first, I take any and all referrals from past clients as long as I can physically and reasonably help. I feel as though past client referrals should always be considered to reinforce my appreciation to them for thinking about me in any real estate related business. 

Second, there is a large section of the real estate industry that is underserved by real estate professionals. These people have real needs and should not be ignored. I can't make a living serving only renters, but I can certainly help when I can. 

Looking to rent? (Twitch, twitch). Let's talk about it and see if for the same money or less we can put you in a home. 

Sellers Left a What?

Interestingly, sometimes Sellers leave behind things that they think the buyer might want, or is just too difficult to get rid of. For example, I have often seen paint cans left for the new buyers. In theory, this helps the new buyers identify what the colors are in the home if they need to repaint. For sellers, paint is notoriously hard to dispose of so in a perfect world, this works for both sides. 

The problem is that often the paint is years old, moldy, and/or dried up. A paper list of paint color information works much better. The buyer ends up trying to find a way to get rid of all the old paint. 

I also have seen grills, porch furniture, swing sets, and many other items left at the home as they leave. Luckily, the new 2019 contracts specifically state that not only does the home need to be "Broom Swept", but it specifically states that the seller cannot leave anything behind that has not already been agreed to be left behind in the contract. It also says that objects in the home cannot be removed without being replaced with substantially the same thing. 

In order to stay out of contract difficulties, make sure you have a professional Real Estate agent at your side. 

Did You Hear Me?

Good agents pride themselves on how well they listen. Good clients should listen as well. Here is a case in point. 

I recently spoke to a good friend who was looking to sell their home and purchase a single level home to get rid of stairs. They wanted to go look at homes right away. I asked, do you need to sell before you can buy? They surprised me by saying, no, their loan officer said we are approved for $650,000 with a VA loan and did not require them to sell their current home. I immediately suspected a problem, but realized that financial situations change. So we went looking. 

Several times in the next week I asked again about the loan process. The clients were adamant that they were "Approved". I still had my doubts and told them that I would suggest they talk again to their loan officer. 

You see, VA loans allow for an amount of total loans over a period of time. My clients last home purchase was with a VA loan, and that used up some of their VA loan amount availability. I believed this is what my clients had heard and misunderstood. I discussed this with my clients but they still said they were approved. 

Fast forward a week and we find the home they want. I ask them to go get the pre-approval letter from their lender and when it comes in, right at the top, contingent upon sale of their home. Once again, they asked me to look over the letter again, because it says they are approved. Yes, I said, but with a contingency. You see, these clients were so in to buying a new home, they did not listen to or understand what the loan officer was telling them. They also did not listen to me, their agent, as I gently inquired about their approval. 

Several lessons here. 1) I as their agent should push more forcefully when I suspect there is a mis-communication, and 2) Buyers should carefully listen to their agent and loans officers as they start the process of purchasing a home. 

New Home Sales - It's All About The Builder



New homes are much like new cars. As soon as you enter either one you see a beautiful clean home, with everything new. You are also surrounded by that wonderful aroma of newness. That smell that we also always say, If I could just bottle that smell and sell it! 

New is wonderful too in that it usually comes with a handful of warranties. The home could have a 10 year structural warranty, all the new appliances have their original warranties. What could go wrong? Cue the dark clouds across the sun with creepy background music. 

The contract you sign to buy a new home is usually written by the builder. When I write an offer for my buyers on a resale, I use a state contract vetted by the real estate board. These contracts go out of their way to protect our buyers and the agents that represent them. Not so much with builder contracts. 

The builders are not usually being nefarious. They are just protecting their own interests. And, most of the time these contracts do not get in the way of completing a sale. There are things to watch out for, however, and that's why the help of a professional real estate agent is so necessary even when buying that new home. 

So, if you are looking at purchasing a new home, hire a professional agent to help you navigate through the maze of issues. We can even bring some prerecorded creepy music to play at just the right time! 

Hidden Reasons to Hire a Professional Real Estate Agent

Did you know your real estate agent has superpowers that you are unaware of? It's true. Now, you usually won't find us in a cape looking to fly out a second floor window unless a deal has gone bad. But we do have hidden powers.

 For instance, it is critical during negotiations that your agent and the Buyer/Seller agent on the other side of your transaction get along. I have seen too many deals go sour, not because the buyer and seller can't agree, but because the agents are trying to out do each other thumping their chests. Professional agents learn quickly that they can help their clients better if they get along with others. 

The next super power? We carry clout. That's right. For instance, I showed a new construction home over the weekend and my client was asking me about getting things in writing from the builder. I assured her that all things promised will be put in writing. What keeps the promiser from doing what they promise? Well, the law for one thing, but the other is one of our super powers. If a builder causes issues with a deal, the agent has the ability to discuss this transgression far and wide by talking to other agents. This tends to put a damper on new sales for this builder by agents, and the builder would rather not get a bad rep amongst the agents they deal with. 

So, next time you look to hire a professional real estate agent, make sure to ask them what their super powers are. 

What do you mean it won't close?

Ever had to tell a Seller right before closing that the deal has died? These can be terrible words to hear especially if the Seller has already moved out and is anticipating the purchase of another home. I have seen this domino effect cascade through many closings, with the first default causing a chain reaction down the line. 

Does this really happen? Yes, it does. Fortunately, if a deal is going to fall through, it usually does so in the first week to 10 days after the contract is signed, or the due diligence period. Deals might end for many reasons including Buyer cold feet, an inspection issue that cannot be resolved, financing problems, and so on. 

What can be done to mitigate these issues? Make sure the home being sold is in the best shape the Seller can put it in. When an offer arrives, check the lender conditions carefully. Are the Buyers pushing the limits of their credit worthiness? Is the lender local and have good standing in the community? 

All these things and more are why Sellers hire professional real estate agents. We know how to watch for warning signs and help guide our clients around obstacles that could endanger the deal. 

Should I ask for the Moon?

I received an amendment to address concerns yesterday from a buyers agent representing buyers under contract with my seller clients. The email started off saying, "Tried to be reasonable about our requests..." This always worries me when I see this. It usually means the requests will be quite unreasonable. Luckily, in this case they were not. 

Let's go back to what is an amendment to address concerns. It is a form the the potential buyer sends to the sellers after they have done an inspection of the property. They ask for things turned up in the inspection to be fixed. I have seen amendments with one line item, and I have seen amendments with multiple pages. 

Sometimes a buyer will make a very reasonable offer on a home only to ask for the moon after the inspection in hopes that the seller will just lower the price in lieu of making numerous repairs. 

Don't ask for the moon when it is your chance. I suggest to my clients that anything health and/or safety related needs to be addressed. Certainly don't ask for aesthetic things like paint. If you ask for the moon the seller may just shut down and say NO to everything. If you are smart, you can ask for the important things and get what you want. 

Selling during the Holidays



No seller likes people tromping through their home and trying to keep it up during the sales period. This gets even worse during the holidays. 

I have clients whose home shown above was listed last Friday. They worked hard for quite a while to get it into showing shape. When we listed, they told me that they were having weekend company, but they would work around any buyers that wanted to see the home. 

Being the start of the holidays I was unsure about activity, but this home was priced in a very advantageous price point. 

Long story short, after 4 showings Saturday resulting in 2 above list price offers, we are under contract. Yes, we are in the holidays, but homes priced in this price point any time of the year are sure to generate lots of attention. 

If you are not sure if you should list your home now, talk to your favorite professional Real estate agent. They can help you decide the very best time to list your home. 

An Appealing Idea...

How does your home look from the street? Leaves in the gutters? Mail box a bit askew and in need of paint? Shutters missing, but only on one window? These are all items that fall under the category of "Curb Appeal". 

This is so important as the first impression a potential buyer has of your home is the one generated when they pull up to your home. They take in the scene and start to make impressions of your home before they even get in the front door. I have had buyers tell me as soon as we drive up to a home that they are not interested and do not want to even enter the home. 

Curb appeal. So, so important and often over looked by Sellers. Because of this, I produced a video that I send to all new sellers I list. It touches on a few ideas to watch out for and gets the seller to start thinking about how their home looks from the outside and what they might need to do to improve that look.Enjoy. 

Let's Buy It!  Oh, and we have to sell...

Many times Buyers looking to move within their community have a home they need to sell as well. For some reason they don't want to carry 2 mortgages at the same time, or can't. I don't blame them, Who wants to more than double their monthly costs of home ownership? 

So the dance begins. What happens if our home sells before we find another home to buy? Well, you will need to accelerate your home search or find somewhere to live temporarily. Many times Sellers have family in the area that will let them crash there for a time. Otherwise you may be checking out long term hotel stays or short term rentals. 

What happens if we find the perfect home to buy before we sell our home? If you need to sell first, you may need to place an offer contingent on the sale of your home. This means if your current home does not sell in an allotted time frame, you will be able to get out of your contract on the new home. This also means that your offer is a weak one due to the uncertainty built into the contingency. 

In either case, a good conversation with your real estate pro can help you figure out what you need to do and the timing for your deals. Just because you need to sell first, don't let that stop you from starting to look for the next perfect home. Good hunting! 

Communication - Noun

The Exchange of information between people, e.g. by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs or behavior. – Encarta Dictionary 

The above sounds so simple. We do this all the time, every day. We use words to convey our wishes and desires. We use facial expressions to convey how we feel. We use computers and cell phones to keep up with all the friends we would never even think about without these devices. In short, we communicate.

 But do we really? Maybe we are just going through the motions. 

The lack of communications seems to be at the root of many of the issues we face today. Why is it that something that seems so easy is really so difficult? 

I was working with an agent the other day and was speaking to her about a listing she had. I have clients who were very interested in the home. The listing agent told me that her clients were looking at an offer right now so if we were interested, I should submit an offer right away. I appreciated the heads up and related to her that my clients offer would be very close to their asking price but be contingent on the sale of a home. The listing agent indicated they already had a weak offer so send ours in and she would get it in front of the sellers that evening. Excellent! Throughout this exchange I felt as though our level of communication was great! 

I submitted an offer with exactly the same terms I mentioned to the listing agent with a 5pm deadline the next day. Then I settled in to wait…and wait…and wait. At 2:30pm the next afternoon after hearing nothing but crickets, I asked the listing agent if there was any news for us. My clients were on pins and needles. The answer? Oh, we took the other offer as it was much better than yours. 

I replied that it was good I got in touch with her to find out status so now I could at least get with my clients and let them know. The listing agent said in an offended voice, well I did not even know until noon today. My answer? It is 2:39 in the afternoon now. 

I am not sure why this irritated me so much. The agent had known they were taking the other offer for over 2 ½ hours and had not thought it necessary to let me and my clients know. Also, I told her exactly what my clients were willing to offer and she encouraged me to send it in, giving hope to my Buyers. 

Cool Hand Luke said it best when he said, “We seem to have a failure to communicate here.” 

When searching for a real estate professional to represent you either in selling a home or buying one, ask them for their communications plan. This will tell you if they even have one, and how they plan on working with you and others. Communication. It really is that important. 

What I like most about Real Estate...

When you ask a Real Estate professionals why they got into this business, you are likely to receive many different answers, but my answer is that I truly love meeting new people. In my past life I was in sales. I loved that too for exactly the same reason, getting to know clients and producing new long term friends.

I can count on one hand the number of people that I just did not get along with. It's thankfully a rare occasion, but it does happen. When it does, I am in a position where it is no problem for me to suggest another agent that I think would work well with them, and take my leave. 

My current clients will be listing their home and making an offer on a new home within the next two weeks. We have been working together for almost a year and they are returning clients. 

Due to health reasons earlier this year, I was forced to send these clients to a great agent I work with, and they were taken very good care of by her. When they contacted me again this past weekend we made plans to go see a home yesterday. They were very complementary about the agent, but stated, "We are really glad to have you back!" 

WOW. 

It's times like these that the Real Estate business for me is the best industry to be in. Thank you to all my past and present clients for being so nice. I look forward to seeing them as friends for a long time to come. 

Low Inventory, Higher Prices

For a while now, we have not had as many homes for sale on the market as we normally do. It has in the past several years gotten even worse. While current buyers are keenly aware of the fact that not much is available to them at this time in certain price points, they also know something else. Prices are rising. 

Its a simple microeconomics issue. Low inventory puts upward stress on prices. In the area I work, prices have been rising about 5+% per year. Not a bad return on investment when compared to the savings rates banks are paying out. 

Will this situation continue forever? I doubt it. Historically, though, over the past 80 years, real estate has averaged around 4% increases per year. Combine this with Government tax incentives and we have a built in wealth generator. 

What about property taxes, maintenance costs, upgrade costs? Yes, they all eat into your Return on your Investment, but in my mind, it is still head and shoulders above paying out rent every month that does not create personal wealth, and subject to yearly increases. 

Long story short, owning a home can be a terrific personal wealth builder. 

Gimme, gimme, gimme...

So, I was working with a buyer recently looking at fixer uppers. This buyer and I have worked together 3 times previously, and successfully. The home we were looking at was originally listed at $99,900, and was now at $89,900. My client says to me, lets go for it, but I want to offer $75,000, nearly $15,000 below asking price. No problem I said, partly because the home needs extensive work. Then he says, lets get closing costs too. On a cash deal this should amount to another $2,000 or so. 

We discussed this at length and determined together that this might be pushing the seller a bit too much and we dropped the closing cost request. I wish this were the case for all my buyers. 

Many times I see buyers offering way too low a price for a sought after home, then piling on the closing costs, and asking for a warranty, the washer and dryer, and a multitude of other things. This is not a good negotiation tactic. 

If you are unsure how far you should push a seller on pricing and other costs, consult with your real estate pro. This is one of the reasons we exist. 

Feedback, an elusive creature.

We real estate agents are constantly asking for or being asked for feedback. It is the holy grail in client communications. When agents visit our listings, we love to get first hand information either about what the agent thinks or what his clients think about the home. It's not so much about confirming our own opinions, but about keeping tabs on what is going on in the market. I add this information to my own observations when I am out previewing homes and I can effectively communicate this info to my sellers. 

It is also great to have this previewing knowledge when showing buyers homes. They may ask about something in the home and I can answer that I have recently seen this or that done in similar homes. When I preview or show a home, I take good notes and leave feedback for the listing agent that evening, because it is the right thing to do. 

Unfortunately, many agents believe that the only feedback they need to give is and offer or no offer. I disagree. I believe that the seller has been gracious enough to let me invade their home, look in all the corners, and put them out of their own home while I am there, that I owe them the courtesy of good feedback. It doesn't cost me anything other than a small amount of time. 

Feedback continues to be an elusive creature in real estate. 

Just go to YouTube!

I was working with some software yesterday that I am unfamiliar with and was having problems. When I asked the marketing director about the issue, he said, just go to YouTube. Well, I did, and within minutes I had my answer and was happily working away. 

Many buyers and sellers do this same thing with varying results. I often get sent properties from Zillow / Trulia and the buyer is all excited about the property. It is usually one that did not come up in my own search on the local MLS system. When I go check it out it is either not currently for sale, Pending already, or sold 5 years ago. In other words, it is not currently for sale. Buyers somehow believe that they can find properties better than their agent. 

Sellers are in on this too. They head over to one of the TV series devoted to home sales and take their cues from there. Or, they hit up a website that promises faster sales for more money if they follow their plan.Somewhere trust in Real estate professionals has eroded to the point where the general public believes they can do better. Sadly, this is probably the fault of agents who tell clients to go find a property and they will let them in. 

When choosing a Real Estate professional, find one you can trust. It is OK to look on your own, but a quality agent should be able to supply the best information you will find. 

Real or Cartoons?

We are having a wide ranging discussion in our office about photography for listings. Over time, we have finally gotten agents to start using "Professional" photographers. Overall, the quality of listing pictures has greatly improved. There is a problem, though. While most photographers are sending in good quality products, there are some that are using a method that highly processes the photos, rendering a cartoonish look. 

The photographers are saying that their clients love the look. From my end, I am seeing agents that are unhappy with the final product and even paying to re-shoot the job. 

My basic problem is that while I can immediately spot these photos, many agents just don't know about other looks or they like this look. I am also a friend of one of the main photographers and while we have had a conversation about his "Look" he says his clients love it. And they might. 

I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I wonder if the Seller's are being well represented by these cartoonish photos? 

I posted a sign, now what?

An agent recently contacted our marketing department asking for help on a listing that was not garnering much attention from agaents or the public. When we asked him what marketing he was doing he recited the usual, sign in the yard (No flyers or riders on the sign), listed in MLS (No captions on pictures), and, well, that was it. 

So, I went to preview the property. When I showed up the driveway was entirely covered with leaves and pineneedles, making the home look abandoned. There was fresh sod in the front yard, but only half way to the street. The rest was a muddy mess. Along the front of the house there was not a plant to be seen. The front door looked nice, though. 

The home was on a slab, and priced as a basement home. The pool in the back has the same issue as the driveway. The actual home was OK, not my style, but certainly saleable. All that was needed was some marketing work. Cleaning up the outside of the property, adding enticements at the sign, and contacting agents to let them know about the property. For just $20 the seller could have a nice single property website. So much had not been done for this property.

Marketing does not stop at the sign in the front yard. As homes begin to take longer to sell, marketing efforts for properties will become even more important. 

Nothing but Net!



Well, I just expressed in my title about all I know about basketball, and this post isn't even about sports. It's about the net amount of money a seller is looking for when they sell a home. You can get to this net several different ways. 

Many times I speak with buyers who wish to make a low offer AND are asking for a laundry list of items and their closing costs covered. I would like to own a mega yacht too, but unless I hit the lottery big, it probably won't happen any time soon. 

The seller knows what they need to get out of their home sale. When an offer comes in, they start calculating all the costs involved. Want the sofa in the den? That could be $1,000. Oh, and the complete master suite furniture? Another $5-10,000! Closing costs too? Add another $4-5,000. Oh, and Mr. Seller we are only offering 65% of your list price. 

I guess what I am getting at is that when a buyer makes an offer on a home, they should be cognizant of the net to the seller. If you load up on costs in your offer, your chances of success are limited. 

So, think about nothing but net! 

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