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Category Archive: ‘Tips, Advice & Links’

Homebuyer Tips 2014

808 Minnesota St UNIT 354, San Francisco, CA 94107

The son of a past client scored a good job in San Francisco a few years back, and is looking at 1-bedroom condos going for $700,000 – $800,000.

They wondered if I had any tips.

Good golly, at that rate I better come up with something!

HOMEBUYING TIPS

1.  Get a good realtor.  These high-dollar areas pay big commissions and thus, attract plenty of real estate licensees.  But you need a great agent who knows more than you do, and brings extra value to the equation.  Ask how many times they’ve talked someone out of buying a home recently.

Not only will a great agent make you feel comfortable about the price/value equation, but their market cred will help too – because good agents want to work with good agents.  It happens regularly that my personal relationship with the other agent makes a difference in the outcome.

How do you find a good agent? The best luck I’ve had is searching for agents at Zillow, but you have to read through sales histories and testimonials (in that order) of each agent to find the right fit.  Also check their recent sales history to see if they have been selling similar homes and/or working your area.

I don’t care what company an agent works for, because real estate is an individual sport.  I’m not impressed by the big realtor teams either – I want individual attention.  I reviewed the first two pages on Zillow for San Francisco agents, and found this one:

http://www.zillow.com/profile/Deborah-Nguyen/

An agent’s recent sales is the best measure, and not only is she selling 3-4 per month but she also lists her annual production too – and she was consistent during the downturn.  She has been a realtor for 20 years, and has over 300 closings submitted to Zillow.

She has three listings, which, in this market, is about right – if you are good, they should be selling, not sitting.  Plus she has a 1-bedroom listing for $735,000!  I don’t know if she  passes you off to an assistant, but if not, she’s a qualified possibility.

The agents input their own listings and sales history, and Zillow provides a form for them to email to past clients to solicit their testimonials.  But all of her client ratings were the full five stars, which is exceptional.

2.  Buy For the Long-Term.  You may get stuck with this one for a while, so make sure you get what you want and need.  Keep exploring other areas for alternatives you haven’t thought of yet.

3.  Know the Inventory.  You may only have minutes to make decisions, be prepared.  Get auto-notifications of new listings to stay up on the market, and go to open houses – not just to find a home to buy, but also to study the market patterns.  You may not buy this one, but when you see it go pending, know why somebody else found it attractive.  If nothing else, at least be an online expert that follows the data closely – and don’t be surprised if you keep seeing crazy sales; they are almost always attributed to buyer frustration and lousy representation.

4.  Get Pre-Qualified.  Once you select a realtor, get pre-qualified for a mortgage using their recommended lender - they might bring some street cred too.  You either use a 20% down payment or you don’t, and either is fine.  If you don’t want to use a 20% down payment, you can do an 80/10/10 (1st and 2nd loans) that will at least lock you in to a low-rate 1st mortgage for the duration.  If you end up with less than 20% down and only want a first mortgage, you need PMI – private mortgage insurance. But if you get lucky, you can have the seller pay the entire premium up front (around 3%), so it won’t cost you anything monthly.

5.  Know the Contract. With Docusign, the electronic-signature process, signing a contract goes a little too fast.  Instead of reading the contract together with your agent in the corner booth at the local coffee shop, today you just rapid-click on your phone or PC to imprint your initials and signatures and whoosh, off it goes.  Know what you are signing!  The two most important paragraphs are 3K and 14.

6.  Time is of the Essence.  It is likely that most buyers will lose at least one property because they don’t react fast enough.  I just had a case where I called the listing agent of a house that my clients had just decided to buy.  The listing agent told me that she had been working back-and-forth with a buyer and other agent, and had just received a counter-offer that was acceptable to her sellers – and she was about to send it to them for final signature!

In these moments, your agent has to say the right thing.  In this case, not only did I stop the agent from signing a cash offer, I got her to accept my financed buyers’ offer instead!

This is a fast-moving environment and each day the best deals get picked up – if you like a home, chances are somebody else does too.

7.  Consider Fixers.  Be picky about location and floor plan, because you can’t change those.  But most buyers shy away from homes that need work, which can open up opportunities.  Get comfortable with the costs of fixing in advance, and know what you are looking at.  You can get a full evaluation and cost estimate during your contingency period.

8.  Make Offers.  Once your first salvo goes over the bow, the comfort level improves greatly.  Include a love letter that tugs at the sellers’ heartstrings.

9.  What to Offer.  The price to offer is directly related to the time on market.  If it is the first week of the listing and you recognize it to be a good value, you will probably have to pay all the money. But I hate to offer full price, because in the first week the sellers want to dicker, and full price doesn’t give them anywhere to go.  If you know there aren’t any other offers, then come in $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 under the list price so the math is easy for the seller to split the difference.  If you hear subsequently that there are other offers, re-submit your offer with a higher price so you don’t get forgotten.

10.  Use Bubbleinfo.com as a Resource - You may not get any local-SF specific data but general information is available by using the Search feature at the top of the front page here.  For example, I typed in ‘Bidding Wars’ and got this link to a wide-ranging set of blog posts about winning a bidding war:

http://www.bubbleinfo.com/?s=bidding+war&x=0&y=0

You and your agent need to be bidding-war experts.  The low-end is what’s moving the fastest, and though $700,000-$800,000 sounds insane for one-bedroom condos, it is what it is.

Plan on devoting time and energy to this project.  The more invested, the better the results!

Posted by on Aug 3, 2014 in Jim's Buyer Representation, Jim's Take on the Market, Market Conditions, Tips, Advice & Links, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent | 2 comments

Move-Up Tips

not for sale

Hat tip to Susie for sending this in from CNNMoney:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/20/real_estate/home-sales-fear/index.html?iid=s_mpm

An excerpt:

Tim Trampedach, a 36-year-old business owner who lives in San Francisco, has seen his home’s value soar from $1.2 million to $1.6 million in the past three years. He and his wife want to move into a bigger place, but there are simply no homes within their price range in their Portrero Hill neighborhood.

“My wife and I are effectively locked into the house,” he said. “We can’t sell because we can’t afford anything else nearby.”

They would probably struggle to buy their existing home at its current value of $1.6 million, let alone buy a more-expensive home that would make it worth it to move.  If you just bought at $1.2M, jumping up to $2,000,000 or more is a big stretch.

But if you can make the jump financially, then how do you pull it off?

Here are more excerpts from the article:

In fact, demand is so high that real estate agents are actively seeking people who are willing to sell. “You get letters in the mail asking if you’re interested in selling,” said Jackson. “People knock on your doors.”

In mid-April she got an enticing, unsolicited offer on the house, which Zillow estimates to be worth $420,000.

“My husband and I talked it over,” she said. “We hemmed and hawed. It was too good to be true, but we worried: Would we find a house we wanted?”

The buyer agreed to give the couple until October to find a new place, so they took the offer.

One way sellers can protect themselves is to make the sale of their home contingent upon their ability to find another one to move into.

Patrick Matson and his fiance, Margarita Munoz, insisted on such a clause when they put their Anaheim, Calif. home up for sale. Up until last Friday they had an offer on their home, but their own search did not go well.

The couple had made offers on two homes in La Mirada, where they liked the school district for their four-year-old son. But both offers were rejected.

The homes they looked at were between $430,000 and $480,000, but were no bigger or better than their current place, which they listed for $415,000.

Discouraged, the couple decided to reject the offer and take their home off the market.

“It was not an easy decision to make, provided that we knew the folks who had an offer in on our home were going to be disappointed and it wasn’t what we wanted either,” said Matson.

The couple plans to make some upgrades to their current place and will try again in a year or two, he said. “Hopefully the market won’t be so competitive by then.”

You have to be able to buy high enough to make it worth it – my rule of thumb is 50% higher than the old house - AND be able to convince the seller that you aren’t submitting an offer contingent upon finding a buyer for your old house.  Having your buyers do their inspection and appraisal and then release their contingencies would go a long way to making your offer look non-contingent.

You may have to help your buyer with some costs to get to that stage, but to pull it off the move-up, you have to make bold and decisive moves, work with a great agent, and hope for some luck!

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Jim's Take on the Market, Market Buzz, Market Conditions, Tips, Advice & Links, Why You Should List With Jim | 2 comments

Buying-Difficulty Gauge

downtown-san-diegoLast week we saw that San Diego was #1 in the nation for least affordable housing compared to the renter’s median income.

This article ranks the Top 10 cities in America by median list price, with the highest eight cities all located in California (San Diego is #7):

http://www.housingwire.com/articles/29729-california-dreaming-be-prepared-to-pay-up

The data is from realtor.com, which not only tracks the median list prices, but they also log the inventory counts for each city.  The MLS coverage may not match up exactly to the metro areas, but let’s compare inventory-to-census populations to gauge the potential competitiveness:

Metro Area
Population
Active Listings
Pop./Actives
Median LP
San Jose
1,892,894
2,023
936:1
$699,000
Oakland
2,632,217
3,082
854:1
$499,000
San Francisco
1,566,101
2,140
732:1
$867,280
Seattle
2,740,536
5,339
513:1
$369,950
Denver
2,697,476
5,586
483:1
$335,000
New York City
8,405,837
17,560
478:1
$377,500
LA-Long Beach
10,017,068
16,238
477:1
$459,990
San Diego
3,176,138
8,569
371:1
$469,000
Houston
6,313,158
19,817
319:1
$225,000
Orange Co.
3,114,363
10,072
309:1
$599,999

Seattle and Denver don’t get mentioned on the highest-priced lists, but the difficulty of buying a home there is duly noted. The actual San Diego residential inventory today is 6,709, or a 473:1 ratio, which would push us up into the same group, and we’d have the highest median LP of those five areas.

Interestingly, the Orange County inventory is 64% higher now than it was a year ago, while the San Diego inventory is only 15% higher Y-O-Y.

http://www.realtor.com/data-portal/realestatestatistics?source=web

Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 in Inventory, Jim's Take on the Market, Sales and Price Check, Tips, Advice & Links | 7 comments

Research Your Realtor

biFrom 10 Things Before Opening Bell yesterday:

Below is a Q&A with Jim Klinge, the head of San Diego-based Klinge Realty and the creator of BubbleInfo.com, a realty blog.

***

BUSINESS INSIDER: What is the most underreported story in housing?

JIM KLINGE: The health of the real estate market. We’re back to peak pricing – and higher – around coastal San Diego during the toughest mortgage underwriting in the history of the world.

BI: What is the biggest change you’ve seen since the bust in terms of the typical buyers’ profile?

JK: No change – almost all are owner-occupants.  Surprisingly, having direct access to recent sales via the internet hasn’t made buyers more critical about price.  Over the last 12 months, it’s been the opposite – people are paying prices that are 5% to 10% higher than recent sales.  Because they are so familiar with the values, you’d think they would be more discerning, but the fear of loss supersedes all – they just want to buy a house, and are tired of losing.

BI: What is the biggest mistake buyers are making these days?

JK: Not researching realtors.  They think we are all the same, so they just grab one.

BI: What is the biggest mistake sellers are making these days?

JK: Not researching realtors.  Many just grab the one who mails them the most propaganda.

BI: How much higher can the Sun Belt markets climb?

JK: The prime markets could easily rise another 10% to 20%, price-wise, in the next 2-3 years.  But it will be on very thin trading, which makes you question how legit it is, and whether it will sustain.

http://e.businessinsider.com/public/2537853

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How/where do you research realtors?

Sellers:

  • Check the agent’s online presence - specifically, how do they present their other listings?  Are there vivid photos and actual video tours?
  • Search under ‘Find A Pro’ on Zillow, and check their number of sales, and client testimonials.
  • See if they are a Zillow Premier Agent – if they aren’t, then Zillow will advertise other agents on your house’s listing.
  • Does the agent use open houses to maximize the exposure?
  • If they have sold a few listings this year, then they have had multiple offers.  What are their specific bidding-war strategies to ensure top dollar?
  • Does your office expose and sell listings at the office meetings? (trick question here because most will answer yes, when ethically the answer should be no).
  • Who answers the phone? Excellent phone service is still preferred.

One question to ask: Can you tell me about your last bidding-war experience?

Buyers:

  • How many buyers have they represented in the last 12 months?  Getting buyers to the finish line in this hotly-competitive environment takes real skill, and the number of buyer sales demonstrates their ability.
  • Are there other agents involved – do you get passed around? If they answer yes, it isn’t a bad thing – you’d just like to know who the others are and what their skill set is.
  • Are they available 7 days a week? The market is cooking 24/7.
  • How do they position their buyers to win a bidding war?

One question to ask: “Based on my wants and needs, do you know of a couple of listings that would match?”  Not imperative, but if they can talk about actual homes for sale off the top of their head, you know you are dealing with somebody who is very active in your marketplace.

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in About the author, Jim's Take on the Market, Listing Agent Practices, Market Buzz, Tips, Advice & Links | 0 comments

Selling Early

In the previous video, Brandi mentioned that sellers enjoy a real urgency early in their listing period.  Today’s market is a good example – because every decent buy gets snapped up right away, all new listings get immediate attention.

The North SD County coastal region has been hot up to around $1,400,000 - homes priced above that have a much different supply-and-demand curve.

Here are the current active and pending listings of NSDCC detached homes:

Price Range
# of ACT
# of PEND
A/P Ratio
PEND Median DOM
UNDER $1.4M
256
235
1.09
15
OVER $1.4M
527
106
4.97
52

On the lower end, literally half of the pendings found a buyer in the first 15 days on the market.

This dynamic can be used by both sellers and buyers.  Sellers who price sharply from the beginning can help create a fever pitch, and have a bidding war push the sales price higher.  Buyers who see homes on the market for more than 15 days know that something might be missing.

Posted by on Feb 19, 2014 in Actives/Pendings, Jim's Take on the Market, Thinking of Buying?, Thinking of Selling?, Tips, Advice & Links | 0 comments

Preparing Your Home For Sale

Are you getting ready to sell your home?

CarlsbadCurb appeal is what getts buyers out of the car, and it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to improve.  Let’s start with what you can do out front to improve your chances of selling for top dollar.

Curb Appeal Tips

  • Take a photo of your house and show it to other people for suggestions.  When you are driving around and see a great-looking front yard, you can whip it out your photo and visualize how your home would look.
  • Add medium-to-large pots with colorful plants near the front door.
  • Paint the front door and install new handle.
  • New light fixtures, especially outside the front door.
  • Fertilize your lawn 2-3 weeks prior to listing.
  • Repair or replace any brown spots in your lawn.
  • Trim the trees.
  • Power-wash the driveway and sidewalks.
  • Don’t over-water the lawns.

Once buyers are out of the car and up the steps, the excitement, and expectations, begin rising.  Buyers have usually seen so many average-looking houses that they’re hoping it will be different this time!  Capitalize on other sellers’ failure to prepare their home properly!

To sell for top dollar, the interior needs to impress a buyer, but you don’t have to spend crazy money.  Here is my list accumulatated over the years – do as many as you can!

  1. Rent a storage locker and remove everything not in use.
  2. Paint the main rooms with neutral color (light gray or crisp khaki).
  3. Install new high-grade neutral carpet – it smells ‘clean’.
  4. Paint wood surfaces with glossy paint (baseboards and doors).
  5. Clean all glass – windows inside and out, plus shower doors.
  6. Remove pets (get sitter for a couple of weeks) and all pet odors.
  7. Clutter patrol – remove distracting smaller items in particular.
  8. Replace burned-out light bulbs.
  9. If you have an older kiychen, at least install a new sink faucet.
  10. Add new towels and pillows, flowers, plus fruit in the kitchen.
  11. Tune up your mailbox.
  12. Improve storage capacity in garage.
  13. Make closets look large and inviting – mostly by removing stuff.
  14. Create computer stations.
  15. Plant trees to block neighboring homes.
  16. De-personalize.  Buyers can get nosy about sellers.
  17. Secure the office – don’t leave out any bills or real estate contracts.
  18. The master bath will make or break a deal – go all out.
  19. Hire the professional cleaners the week of hitting the open market.
  20. Hire a great realtor!

Most good realtors are willing to stop by and give free advice on what they think you need specifically.  Get good help!

Posted by on Jan 18, 2014 in Thinking of Selling?, Tips, Advice & Links, Why You Should List With Jim | 0 comments

Buyers’ Remorse…and Sellers Too!

buyers remorseBuyers’ remorse is a real event that gets ignored by those in the business.  Agents tend to focus on plowing through their checklists without recognizing the human elements that arise.

Sellers have remorse too.

With all parties focused on that ideal fantasy sale, there is a natural letdown once the deal is done - and more attention put on the reasons not to move.  Here is how wiki sees it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buyers_remorse

My thoughts on buyers’ and sellers’ remorse:

SELLERS

  • Once there is a signed purchase agreement, sellers cannot rescind – there is no cooling-off period.  Be 100% certain about moving before you list your home for sale.
  • Have a sound strategy to conduct a successful bidding war.  Uncertainty breeds anxiety.
  • Be prepared for Round 2 – the buyer will likely want another piece of you once the home inspection is completed.
  • Complete repairs prior to selling to minimize stress in Round 2.  The buyers will make a much bigger deal about repair items, and could cancel over what seems to be minor issues.
  • Know where you are moving, who is moving you, and when/how much.  Uncertainty about your move creates undue anxiety about other issues.
  • Move out before the closing date, just in case you need more time.
  • Avoid the “evacuation move”.  If you do the panic-move, it could take weeks or months to re-organize your new home.
  • Expect to think that you sold too cheap, too early, too late, etc., and when you do, laugh that you read it here first.
  • Happy buyers close escrow.

BUYERS

  • There are no perfect houses – or sellers.
  • Having doubts is a good thing – it means you are examining the choice carefully.  Work through them one by one.
  • Regardless of market conditions, it will always be a challenge to find a quality house in good location – just due to the competition among buyers.
  • Have a teflon memory – don’t get remorseful about the ones you lose.
  • Don’t fall in love with anything.
  • Most houses need repairs/improvements – $25,000 to $50,000 worth.  Develop a comfort level with repairs and improvements.
  • Have a bidding-war strategy.
  • Plan the moving/improving in advance.
  • Happy sellers select their favorites.

Remorse affects people in different ways.  Many people can move on quickly, while others can really get bugged by it.  Having second thoughts is healthy, just keep them in proper perspective.

Get good help!

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Jim's Take on the Market, Tips, Advice & Links, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent, Why You Should List With Jim | 0 comments