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Category Archive: ‘Thinking of Buying?’

Game On!


The 2br/2ba condo we are discussing in the UTC area is in a complex that enjoys high rents – this unit should fetch $2,000 per month easily.  Because of the quirk in the underwriting guidelines that won’t allow financing in condo complexes that have an eminent-domain action filed, we are looking for cash buyers only – hopefully an investor will find the rent appealing!

The previous buyer was anticipating a close-of-escrow date this week – we were at the finish line.  The seller wants to go back to renting the unit if we don’t find another buyer by Monday!

I marked the listing as ‘active’ again this morning, and I’ve already received two phone calls from agents!

We will be there 12-3pm for open house on Sunday too!

Posted by on Oct 19, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Real Estate Investing, Thinking of Buying? | 0 comments

More on Real Estate Disrupters


The gave free publicity to a couple of real estate start-ups here:

Let’s examine piece by piece:

Real estate agents used to be privy to a lot of information that home buyers couldn’t obtain on their own.

But now property listings, photo galleries, historic sales prices, school ratings and neighborhood crime rates are freely accessible to anyone with just a few clicks. For some assertive buyers, that’s an invitation to bypass an agent and, in the process, cut out the pesky 5% to 6% commission that is traditionally split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent.

To help buyers go it alone, or close to it, several real estate start-ups have emerged that promise an easier solution to a notoriously stressful and expensive purchase. By eliminating or limiting an agent’s role, customers save money and streamline the process.

Jim: New real estate companies have emerged every year, yet the landscape hasn’t changed.  Buzz words like ‘save money’ and ‘streamline the process’ sound sexy, but every agent can offer those.


It’s also leading to tensions with the hundreds of thousands of real estate agents around the country, who say the companies are shortsighted and overlook the skills that a professional agent can offer.

Jim: Tensions?  Hardly – you aren’t even a blip on the radar yet.

We only get tense when a start-up is spending $100 million per year on advertising (like Zillow). It would take a huge investment in people and marketing to really disrupt the business – when you get to that point, let me know and we will revisit. Until then, you can nibble around the edges like Aunt Bea and most other small enterprises.


When Wes and Laurel Duquette set out to purchase a home for the first time, the couple chose not to work with a real estate agent.

“We didn’t find an agent to be much of an advantage, yet they’re so heavily compensated for what they do,” Wes said.

Instead, they turned to Open Listings, a Y Combinator-backed start-up that replaces most of what agents do with an online platform. The Los Angeles company helps customers find a home on their own by creating a personalized feed of available properties that meet their requirements, and sending them emails of open houses.

It’s free for customers to use the service. Once a home has been purchased, Open Listings refunds customers half of the commission it receives from a successful transaction.

In April, the Duquettes purchased a three-bedroom, one-bathroom Manhattan Beach home for $1.34 million. Their refund from Open Listings was $16,000, which the couple put toward closing costs and bringing down their mortgage rate.

Jim: After this home was on the market for 28 days, Wes and Laurel paid $12,500 over list price for it.  When you aren’t willing to find a buyer’s agent who provides a real advantage, this is what happens – the listing agent will have his way with you.


Real estate start-up founders say the industry is ripe for change.

Jim: Agreed, and with half of the realtor population near retirement age (median age is 58), the home-selling business could be completely redefined by anyone who is willing to spend $100 million or more on advertising every year.


“Millennials expect things to be easy and transparent. They’re also used to making high-purchase transactions online,” said Shelley Janes, founder of SideDoor, an app that hopes to become the Ebay of real estate, where sellers can list their homes and connect directly with buyers.

Jim: More sexy talk that would work great as long as the buyer pays the seller’s price, there are no other competing buyers, and the house doesn’t have any issues with condition, financing, or appraisal.  P.S. Shelley Janes does not have a California real estate license.


The recent wave of new real estate start-ups isn’t the first time the agent-assisted model has been challenged.

But shaking up the industry has been difficult. For one, the National Assn. of Realtors is an influential obstacle when it comes to change in the industry.

“It’s a powerful trade association, and its cohorts are brokerages, multiple listing services, real estate associations and individual agents. They all work diligently to keep a buyer and seller apart,” said Joshua Hunt, chief executive of Trelora, a full-service, commission-free real estate agency. He said those who are part of the outdated system fight to keep things as they are to preserve current commission rates.

Jim: The idea that N.A.R. and its ‘cohorts’ have any influence on commission rates is an illusion.  Not only is nobody within the industry fighting to ‘keep things as they are’ (I wish they would), no one within the industry is fighting for anything.  Ten years after Zillow began, we are just getting around to having meetings to discuss what we might want to do about it some day.


Commissions in the U.S. are especially high. In Britain, Singapore and the Netherlands, they usually fall between 1% and 2%, according to a report by the International Real Estate Review.

Jim: Those agents are paid by the seller to process the paperwork – they are transactional agents who don’t provide advice, and aren’t obligated to disclose anything.  It is a model that could catch on here, but buyers and sellers don’t mind paying for advice.  It would be more likely that real-estate consulting companies would evolve.  It’s where these disrupters miss the boat – good help is needed to get deals closed.


Open Listings still uses real estate agents in the process, but in a limited way. No more driving prospective buyers around town, or keeping a lookout for the perfect house for clients. Those tasks all fall on the home buyer’s shoulders.

Jim: They are, in effect, transactional agents.  They employ eight agents in two offices – Los Angeles and San Francisco – and most are brand new agents (how much advice could they offer?).  The broker lives in Santa Barbara.


“More resources and online tools are good for consumers —  they provide a good picture of current market conditions, but employing a Realtor to help find just the right home to purchase and to negotiate on your behalf is key to a successful buying experience,” DeSanctis said.

Open Listings understands this, which is why co-founder Judd Schoenholtz says the company hasn’t totally removed agents from the picture.

Jim:  I agree that it is difficult for consumers to appreciate the value of good help until after 1) they need it, and 2) they experience it.  P.S. Co-founder Judd has had a California real estate license for 19 months.


The company is building tools to minimize the mind-numbing amount of labor that comes with home buying: viewings, forms and contracts, inspections. By saving agents time in the paperwork weeds, Open Listings allows its agents to concentrate on the piece where they can make a difference: getting an offer accepted.

“We’re able to refund that much of our commission because our agents only focus on the small but critical piece of the purchase cycle,” Schoenholtz said.

Jim: Just getting around to building tools?  You must mean robots and drones full of artificial intelligence, right?  In the meantime, who does the real work – providing advice each step along the way?


He said the network answers a real need for some agents.

“We’re offering [agents] the perfect arrangement — buyers that will really buy and less of the paperwork,” he said.

Open Listings, which launched last year and became profitable last month, says it has saved California home buyers more than $1 million since its launch. Its revenue has also doubled every quarter, according to Schoenholtz.

Its independent agents work for $25 an hour, plus bonuses and a commission split between Open Listings. There are currently 12 independent agents in the start-up’s network.

Jim: Agents who can’t keep up will love this idea – and the hourly pay.


But there have been hurdles. According to Hunt, agents and brokerages will go out of their way not to show a Trelora home, or have lied about the condition or availability of Trelora homes.

Jim: It is a very competitive business – it can get nasty.


Christian Redfearn, a real estate professor at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, said another issue is the high stakes involved in home buying.

“I have access to all kinds of data, but I’ve still got to talk to a human. I don’t want to overpay for property. Given how large the investment is, if I’m off by 5%, that’s a huge amount of money,” he said. “A good broker would know the market well, and it’s hard to put that kind of quality on a website.”

That kind of personalized hand-holding is one that Daisha Versaw, 38, missed when she used Trelora to sell her five-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Arvada, a suburb of Denver. The company saved her family more than $16,000, but it was hard on her nerves in some key moments.

Though Trelora agents were responsive when she had reached out, it was still up to her to ask for updates and to stay on top of things. When the resolution deadline drew near for inspections, for example, it was Versaw who informed her Trelora agent of its expiration. “I hated that I was the one reminding him of the deadline.”

Her advice to would-be buyers wanting to skip an agent: “Be prepared to take more initiative and advocate for yourself.”

Jim:  Get Good Help!









Posted by on Oct 1, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Realtor, Realtors Talking Shop, Thinking of Buying?, Thinking of Selling?, Tips, Advice & Links | 0 comments

Fall Buying Season

Image result for fall leaves color

The last third of 2016 starts on Thursday!

From Trulia:

For the first time in recent history, October surpassed June as the most popular month to get married. And these autumn-loving brides may be on to something: Although the spring months are notoriously the best time to buy real estate (as well as have a wedding), fall may be the new ideal season to buy a home.

Here are seven insights on why you should buy a home during the fall season:

1. There’s less competition

Competition for houses drops off in the fall, a time many people consider to be off-season in real estate. But there are still homes for sale — and in some cases, there’s just as much inventory as there was during the spring and summer. “[Fall] means new inventory and repositioned old inventory that did not sell in the prime season,” says Wesley Stanton, a New York, NY, agent with The Stanton Hoch Team.

This puts you in a great position to negotiate. “Fall homebuyers should consider making lowball offers, followed by more aggressive negotiation,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and director of education at Spark Rental. Davis points out that many sellers are very motivated to sell before the holidays. If possible, buyers should let these sellers know that they can close before Thanksgiving or before the school winter break.

2. Sellers are worn-out

Some sellers who put their homes on the market during the prime selling times of spring and summer might have been a tad overconfident by listing their homes for more than buyers were willing to spend. After months of no action, these sellers are often ready to make a deal.

“Sellers who were unrealistic earlier in the year about price will now be more willing to reduce the price come fall,” says Thomas Miller, a Washington, DC, real estate agent. “Because there [are fewer buyers] and because the sellers are now eager to sell, they are more inclined to take the low offer than wait another six months for spring to come around.”

3. Sellers are serious

Not all homes on the market in fall are summer leftovers. Some people need to sell in the fall because the timing is right. Maybe they were having a home built, and it’s now ready. Maybe they need to move because of a job. “The sellers with houses on the market in the fall tend to be serious,” says Sam Heskel, president of Nadlan Valuation, an appraisal management company in Brooklyn, NY. “That means sellers could be more open to negotiating and accepting a lower offer.”

4. You can take advantage of tax breaks

First-time homebuyers, take note: Although you can’t escape paying income tax, you can make a dent in what you owe when you become a homeowner. “Property tax and mortgage interest are both deductions you can take for your whole year’s worth of income, even if you closed on your home in December,” says David Hryck, a New York, NY tax adviser, lawyer, and personal finance expert. “Any payments that are made prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible. This can make a serious difference in the amount you owe the government at the end of the year.”

5. Fall is a safer time of year

Did you know that burglars have peak seasons? They do, says Sarah Brown, a home safety expert for “July and August are prime months for burglaries to take place,” she says. “Waiting until the fall [to buy] gives you an advantage when learning about a home and the neighborhood.” You’ll be settled in your home and can take precautions — like setting up that new alarm system — before the next burglary season rolls around.

6. You’re the center of attention

Because spring and summer are ideal times to buy a home, real estate agents are usually busier then. And that could mean you might not always get the attention you want. This is also true for other professionals you’re working with to buy a house. “Service providers, such as mortgage lenders and title companies, are moving out of the summertime sales swamp and can often respond more quickly,” says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association in Orlando, FL.

The same goes for movers. “Because summer is peak moving season, people often experience more delays and service issues, such as moving companies reaching capacity and running out of trucks to pick up shipments,” says Jack Griffin, president and chief operating officer of Atlas World Group. “The probability of experiencing a delay goes way down in the fall season.”

7. You can take advantage of end-of-year sales to outfit your home

There are bound to be improvements you’ll want to make after buying a house. You’ll also probably need to buy items to maintain your home, and if appliances weren’t part of the deal, you’ll need those too. Wouldn’t it be great to coordinate your home purchase with sales on items you’ll need? According to Consumer Reports, the calendar determines when it’s a good time to buy all sorts of consumer goods. In particular, September is a great time for buying carpet and paint. October means lawn mowers go on sale, and appliances and cookware are cheaper in November.

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Thinking of Buying?, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent, Why You Should List With Jim | 2 comments

Home Maintenance Costs


Back in 2009, we ran the first post entitled, Home Maintenance Costs:

After discussing the need for home maintenance with several clients  recently, I thought it would be a great time to review.

Every condo association in California is required to complete a Reserve Study so they are socking away enough money every month to repair and replace every item needed over time.  Homeowners should do the same!

Examples of things that need regular repair/replacement:  Air conditioning, appliances, BBQ, ducting, faucets, flooring, furnace, lighting, painting, roof, siding, sinks, toilets, windows, etc.

These are pure home repairs and replacements – they don’t include exterior maintenance or home improvements/upgrades/updating, which all matter too.

I came up with my own formula to estimate how much money homeowners should spend each year just on maintenance – try it out:

Age of home X square footage/15 = Annual spend

The 15 was derived from a reasonable number of years it will take to catch up on everything if you start today.  You may want to re-start again in year 16!

My formula is unscientific, but it is close enough.  Spend something!

Doing regular repairs will help you avoid multiple major expenses, and save you from needing a complete redo when it comes time to sell.

The joys of homeownership!

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Remodel Projects, Repairs/Improvements, Thinking of Buying?, Tips, Advice & Links | 0 comments

Home Evolution

Great article from our friends at jbrec:

High land prices in good locations generally force builders to build expensive homes. However, a number of builders have figured out how to build and sell entry-level homes to a growing demographic group. Builders are capitalizing on the rising number of affluent first-time buyers. These buyers tend to be dual-income, college-educated buyers with 10+ years of work experience who have delayed having children in comparison to their parents. For example, 23% of married couples had college degrees in 2014, compared to just 12% in 1990.  Below is our forecast by age group for 5.2 million more homeowners over the next decade.


Many of our clients have identified fantastic solutions to address the demand of this growing demographic. Knowing exactly what this buyer wants and building the right product in the right location is crucial for success. Here are a few solutions:

  • High-density detached can work well. There are many detached products (with private outdoor spaces) achieving 16+ du/acre. Detached homes are generally more desirable for young families and allow for lower HOA dues.
  • Smaller homes. With good design, homes do not need to be large. Entry buyers will trade off size (to some extent) for location and lifestyle.
  • Three-story homes can live well for families—if done correctly. The layout must be open and allow for lots of light. Consider rooftop decks in lieu of private backyards.
  • Energy efficiency can save buyers hundreds or thousands of dollars per year, helping them choose a new home over a resale. Being green can save the homeowner a lot of money. Be sure to include this as a standard feature and market it.
  • More sales success has been achieved at prices below the FHA loan limit. FHA’s low-down-payment options appeal to many buyers.
  • Private outdoor space is crucial. These spaces do not have to be large, just functional. Consider pocket yards, side yards, and rooftop decks.
  • Minimize homeowners association dues and infrastructure bond payments.  Entry buyers are payment sensitive and will usually trade a lower monthly payment for fewer community amenities, especially if the community is walkable to shops, restaurants, and entertainment.

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 in Builders, Thinking of Buying? | 0 comments

Buyer Survey – May 2016

buyer survey

Here are Zillow employees discussing with realtors their May survey of homebuyers.  Because Zillow depends on realtors buying advertising, their presentations are increasingly centered around why consumers need realtors.

I only made it to the 25-minute mark – the material is dry and somewhat dubious; maybe it gets better?  But the stat above was note-worthy.

Seven homes?  That’s it?

Posted by on Aug 6, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Thinking of Buying?, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent | 0 comments

Buying with Friends


I have bought with friends before, and I’ll never do it again – you have to reach full agreement on everything! 

And don’t do anything quickly! (bottom paragraph)

For some New Yorkers who have been priced out of New York City’s real estate game, pooling resources with friends and siblings has become the quickest path to homeownership. And while sharing a front door can put even the best relationships to the test, some are finding it’s worth the risk.

For Laurie Savage, a writer and restaurant server, and her husband, Garette Henson, a filmmaker, both 36, the arrival of their son, Fox Henson, almost 2, sparked the idea of buying real estate with a friend. That friend was Alix Frey, 37, whom they had met when they were all students at Sarah Lawrence College.

The group recently moved into a three-story two-family townhouse in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Ms. Frey, the director of the Blum & Poe gallery in Manhattan, occupies the top level while the couple have the lower level, including the basement and the backyard. The parlor level is divided between the Savage/Hensons and Ms. Frey.

For assistance in their search for a place to buy, the three, who had rented apartments in the same brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for eight years, turned to Marina T. Schindler, a saleswoman at Compass real estate and one of Ms. Frey’s close friends.

“It’s a really good way for people to work the system,” Ms. Schindler said. “Not everybody has that money for a down payment. They realize if they team up, they get more bang for the buck.”

It’s a complicated process, she added, “because they’ve got to have an agreement between each other, they have to trust each other, but it’s a great way for young families to make a bigger, better investment.”

The friends had originally looked at properties separately, almost immediately concluding that they were priced out of Fort Greene. As they expanded their searches to Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, the numbers still seemed shocking. “Alix was looking at a one-bedroom for $750,000. She wanted a two-bedroom for less than that,” Ms. Savage said.

“We realized we can get a better space if we buy together,” she said. “The apartments priced at what we’re each getting our units for were like tiny boxes. It was startling, the difference in the quality of what we could get. So very quickly we said we’re open to it.”

Read full article here:

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, Market Buzz, Thinking of Buying? | 3 comments

More on Millennials and Home Buying


The lightweight reporters who nibble around the edges don’t ever get to the point.  It doesn’t matter who wins the election, rich people are taking over.  Millennials and others will have to find a way to buy a home, or be at the mercy of rich people for the rest of their lives.

Trevor Burbank is single, 27 years old, and has been house hunting in Nashville for the last year.

“My rent’s going up in August, so I have to figure out what I’m doing,” he says.

The last time Burbank looked for a place was five years ago. He decided to use his down payment to start a business instead.

“There was a house that I really liked that was going for $60,000, and I saw the house being sold in the past few months for just shy of $300,000,” Burbank says.

There’s a big debate in real estate over where home ownership rates are headed, and whether Millennials — people who came of age around 2000 — will get into the housing market the way generations before them did.

Read More

Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in Jim's Take on the Market, The Future, Thinking of Buying?, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent | 7 comments

Lowball Strategy

typical agent

Have you seen a home sale close at a surprisingly-low price, and you said,

“Geez, I would have paid that!”

Usually the house has been on the market for months, and everyone else has forgotten about it. The seller doesn’t want to lower the price, but tells his agent, “Just bring me an offer”.

The agent revises the MLS remarks, adding gems like ‘Extremely Motivated’, and ‘All Offers Considered”.  A buyer who saw it earlier with another agent decided to approach the listing agent directly with an offer 20% below list – take it or leave it.

With visions of two commissions twirling around in their head, the agent tells the seller this is the best they could do. The seller really is motivated, so after months of failure at a too-high price, frustration sets in and he signs it.

If any seller is tempted to take a lowball offer – more than 10% below list – they should instruct the listing agent to immediately lower their list price to the midpoint between the offered price and current list price.

Let’s see who else is out there!

Watch how many you see that close at 15% to 20% below list and the listing agent represents both parties.  It isn’t enough to change the market, but a notable strategy.

You shouldn’t burn your old agent though – there are enough listing agents who are wimpy about dual agency and prefer that you have your own agent anyway. It is the same net to the seller, so he won’t care either.

Posted by on Jul 20, 2016 in Ideas/Solutions, Jim's Take on the Market, Thinking of Buying?, Tips, Advice & Links, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent | 0 comments

Multi-Gen Paradise

Lakeside isn’t far – it is centrally-located in San Diego County, and is a straight shot down the 52 and 67 from La Jolla.  It might be a reasonable compromise for those multi-gen buyers who would treasure two houses on a quarter-acre lot with citrus and avocado trees.  This property has been lovingly-maintained and owner-occupied for the last 30 years!


Here is a feature-length YouTube video tour:

Pueblo Road satellite photo

Posted by on Jul 17, 2016 in Boomers, Bubbleinfo TV, Jim's Take on the Market, Real Estate Investing, Thinking of Buying? | 0 comments