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Category Archive: ‘Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer’s Agent’

I’m Here to Help

Blog reader ‘just some guy’ mentioned today that when he first thought about buying a house, he assumed I would be too busy to help, or that I just work the upper prices ranges.

He found out different – we stuck together for more than a year until he and his family found the right home.

If you are thinking of buying or selling, I have plenty of time for you.  The phone number you see here is my cell phone – call or text any time, and let’s at least have a conversation!

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent, Why You Should List With Jim | 4 comments

Primer for Out-Of-Town Buyers

Holiday visitors to San Diego might take a liking to our fair city, and wonder about our real estate market.  They may want to see a few homes for sale to sample the local fare.

A few thoughts for the unfamiliar:

1.  The local inventory has been picked clean.

Market conditions here have been excellent, and buyers have snatched up anything that resembled a decent buy.  All that is left are the OPTs (over-priced turkeys).  Any home for sale that has been on the market more than 30 days is probably 10% too high in price, or more.

2.  It probably won’t get much better.

We are due for a surge of inventory, but the prices on new listings will be influenced by the lagging OPTs.  Experienced home shoppers have given up on getting a deal, and instead are looking for the premium properties – only.

3.  New listings are likely to be rehashed.

We suffer from lax enforcement of the MLS rules here, and as a result, agents will ‘refresh’ (cancel and re-input) their listings – usually without changing the price.  Frustrated buyers and their agents think it is a hot new listing, and pay all the money; when in reality it’s been sitting on the market for weeks or months.  A few of these go pending each week – it works.  Buyer beware.

4.  Not many off-market deals.

Every time I check, the off-market deals only amount to 10% to 15% of all sales, which means you need to work with a good agent to snag one of the 85%.  Normal home-sellers demand the open-market exposure in order to achieve top dollar, so the off-market sales are typically the estate sales being sold by out-of-town heirs who want fast money.


School quality is a big driver of real estate demand.  The following are different areas of the North San Diego County’s Coastal region, with the scores of the elementary schools from, which isn’t a perfect measure but it’s all we got:

carmel valley map

Carmel Valley, 92130

The hot bed of local real estate action, due to the excellent schools and proximity to local employment centers.  All nine elementary schools are scored a 10; Sage Canyon, Ocean Air, Torrey Hills, Carmel Creek, Carmel Del Mar, Ashley Falls, Sycamore Ridge, Solana Pacific, and Solana Highlands (Solana Ranch not scored yet).  Decent houses start at $1,000,000.

La Jolla

All three public elementary schools in La Jolla are ranked a 10; Torrey Pines, Bird Rock, and La Jolla Elementary.  If you can find a decent house under $2,000,000, grab it.

Del Mar

Del Mar Heights Elementary scores a 10, and Del Mar Hills is a nine.  Expect to spend $1,500,000 for a decent house in the 92014.

Solana Beach

All schools score a 9 in Solana Beach proper, where you can buy a decent home in the low-$1,000,000s.

Rancho Santa Fe/Fairbanks Ranch

Those living in the RSF Covenant area can enjoy K-8 at the R. Roger Rowe School, and those around Fairbanks go to Solana Santa Fe – both schools score a 10.  Expect to spend at least $2,000,000 for something decent.


Three elementary schools rank a 10; Cardiff, Flora Vista, and Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary.  You can find decent houses in the $800,000s – only 48% of the homes sold this year closed over $1,000,000.


Carlsbad is the most populous town in the coastal region, and the furthest north, which plays a role for those who need to fight traffic daily going south.  There are five schools that score a 10, and all are in South Carlsbad; Pacific Rim, Aviara Oaks, Mission Estancia, El Camino Creek, and La Costa Heights.  You can still find a decent buy in the $700,000s, and 80% of houses sold this year closed under $1,000,000.  Carlsbad is split into three different school districts, which means getting to high school might be a trek.

All the high schools from La Jolla to Carlsbad rank 8s and 9s.

Yes, you can find houses for sale for less than mentioned here, but you really need a good agent – and I can help!

Posted by on Dec 17, 2014 in Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent | 13 comments

COE + 3

be on your way

Realtors tend to use industry jargon in their contracts, and regularly you’ll see the term, ‘COE + 3′ in a counter-offer coming back from a seller.  It means they get to occupy the home for three more days after the close-of-escrow date, at no charge – and usually no other written agreement.

Agents are very casual about these arrangements, because everything usually goes fine and the sellers move out as agreed.  They’ve never seen one go bad.

For buyers, it’s a nightmare waiting to happen.

An example: The seller (who was a realtor) was buying another home that was virtually brand new.  The buyer of her house agreed to the COE + 3 days, figuring that was plenty of time for them to move out.  But once the seller closed on the new home, she found that it needed modifications/improvements to suit their needs.

She hung out the buyer for two weeks, without compensation.

If it is a hot property and fresh on the market, the buyers don’t have much bargaining power and get stuck with COE + 3, whether they like it or not.

What can you do?

1. Don’t agree to COE + 3 days, especially if tenant-occupied.

2. If you do agree, then bargain with the listing agent that it’s in everyone’s best interest to complete our SIP form that spells out the terms of tenancy.

3.  If the listing agent refuses to include the SIP, then he/she is crazy – if the sellers don’t move after their three days, then the agent will get sued for damages too.  But how hard can you press them if they are threatening to take another offer?  Make the deal, and hope for the best.

4.  If you can include the SIP, be careful about the terms.  Use the form to ensure they move out as agreed, not to make a couple of extra bucks on 3-days’ worth of rent.  Sellers get bugged about renting their own house, and asking for a security deposit really sets them off.  I’ll forego both, and instead add a note at the bottom that any holdover rent past the three days be at least double the norm as an incentive to move.  Sellers always object to the amount, but I’ll point out that it doesn’t cost them a dime if they move as agreed.  The form covers other specific terms too; including maintenance, insurance, utilities, and buyer entry.

5.  Do your final walk-through at the last minute, and if you don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling that the sellers are about to move, then don’t close escrow.

Back in the day, we used to hand-carry a sellers’ proceeds check from one escrow company to the next for their closing – and they weren’t cashier’s checks.  It took an extra day or two to get the next escrow closed, so it was natural to give the sellers the time to close and move into their new home.  But today there is no reason to COE + 3, because we wire funds, and close concurrently every chance we can, even with different escrow companies involved (has to be the same title company).

Listing agents who insist on adding COE + 3 are just being tough guys and wanting to show everyone who the boss is – or on brain-dead automatic.  Unfortunately, they must be ignorant to the liability they are forcing on their sellers and themselves.

If you get stuck having to accept a COE + 3, be cautious about making your moving plans for an exact date.  If the sellers don’t move in three days, keep track of your expenses/damages and prepare for small-claims court – where you will win 100% of the time.  If you have to evict, it’s not the end of the world – it’s a three-month inconvenience for which you should be reimbursed.

Posted by on Dec 9, 2014 in Jim's Take on the Market, Listing Agent Practices, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent, Why You Should List With Jim | 5 comments

Variable-Rate Commission


A listing that just closed escrow had this in the confidential remarks:

Seller will pay 6% commission if property is sold at $735,000 or higher; seller will pay 5% if property is sold for less than $735,000 – commission to be split 50/50 between listing and selling brokers.

In this case, the home sold for $715,000, but the agents can still say they made a decent living – and the seller can say he got a break on the commission for accepting a lower price (the list price was $735,000).

I love the idea of our pay being performance-based.

If listing agents promise to deliver a certain price, and they don’t, then sharing the pain with the seller would be a fair proposition.

Likewise, if a seller wanted to incentivize agents to sell the house for retail (or retail-plus), then the paying of an additional reward, or bounty, could make a difference.

The new purchase contract we were discussing?  Yep, the buyer-agent’s commission is still not disclosed anywhere – buyers will never know if their agent got a bonus.

P.S. There is a category on our MLS to specify ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a variable commission, which serves as an alert to the buyer-agents that the listing agent has an incentive plan, and/or a dual-agency discount.

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Jim's Take on the Market, Listing Agent Practices, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent, Why You Should List With Jim | 2 comments

New Purchase Contract


The C.A.R does make some minor changes every year to our purchase contract, but according to Gov Hutchinson, the lead attorney for C.A.R., they haven’t made any wholesale changes in 12 years.  Gov was in town yesterday to review the latest version.

Here are my notes:

1.  The form is written by C.A.R. attorneys and is meant to protect realtors.  There are 10x as many lawsuits filed today as there were thirty years ago, yet the State of California’s population hasn’t even doubled in the same time.  Home buyers file more than 90% of the lawsuits against realtors.

2.  Buyers used to have 17 days to release all contingencies, but now the new boilerplate gives 21 days to release the loan contingency.  Most lenders can hit the 17-day mark, but it’s usually tight; so the 21 days is probably more realistic. But it does add a second contingency-release date, and more paperwork.  We surmised that in the real world, all contingencies might drag to the 21st day.

3.  The separate termite form was deleted, and its contents added to the ‘Request for Repair’ form.  Previously it was customary to include the termite costs in the original offer (and assigned to the seller), but now they will be a negotiable item after the inspection, as is the custom in Northern California.

4.  You regularly see these remarks, “Seller is exempt from TDS”, which applies if the actual seller is a bank, or a successor trustee who has in effect inherited the house.  But they are only exempt from having to use our specific TDS form, they aren’t exempt from disclosing everything they know about the property.

5.  There are times when the sellers will occupy the home for days or weeks after closing (a subject to which I will devote a whole post), but it is now stated in paragraph 9F that keys and passwords be delivered to buyer on the day escrow closes, regardless of possession.

6.  The big-screen TVs have been excluded for a while, yet their brackets remain with the property.  But this version added a second choice, if the box is checked – “[bracket] will be removed and holes or other damage shall be repaired, but not painted.”  This is on the purchase offer that the buyer is submitting, so they will be guessing on whether the sellers intend to leave the bracket, or remove it and repair the holes or other damage.

7.  If the buyer adds a phrase about intending to occupy the property for 12 months, it will negate the 60-day notice required to give a month-to-month tenant who has been living there more than a year. Instead, only a 30-day notice is required.

8.  There are two stigmas that are required to be disclosed – death and meth.

9.  Sellers have to disclose any insurance claims over the last five years – whether they owned it or not.

10.  This is a first – they added verbiage about what happens when a party won’t sign off to cancel a sale.  If either party fails to execute mutual instructions to cancel, the other party can demand that escrow release the deposit.  Escrow shall promptly deliver notice of the demand to the other party, and give them 10 days to object.  If they don’t object, escrow can unilaterally release the deposit to the other party.  The form authors couldn’t resist adding a final paragraph that escrow companies can still require mutual cancellation instructions at their discretion, which we’re guessing that most will do.

11.  This rarely comes up, but if a buyer cancels after releasing all contingencies, and the seller gets their deposit – he has to split the deposit with the listing agent.

12.  It is in the boilerplate that every dispute goes to mediation.  If both parties initial the arbitration agreement, then the dispute goes there instead of going to court.  Arbitration is cheaper, quicker, and private, but it is binding – there is no appeals of an arbitration decision.  If you don’t like that, then don’t agree to arbitrate.  Small-claims court is excluded, so disputes under $10,000 can go there for resolution.

Once a seller has a signed agreement, there are no back doors – if the buyers can perform, then they are buying the house.  Once the buyers release all contingencies, they are committed too – and will lose their deposit if they cancel later.  There is always joking at these seminars that nobody reads the contract – including the agents.  Get Good Help!

Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Realtor Training, Realtors Talking Shop, Thinking of Buying?, Thinking of Selling?, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent, Why You Should List With Jim | 5 comments

Truthful Home Reviews

The real estate industry favors sellers, and buyers are under-represented.  Here at the blog I’ve done my best to help educate buyers, and give you a fighting chance.  Here’s someone who wants to take it further:

An excerpt:

No one is fighting for the people buying houses. Everyone in the business is driven by one thing and one thing only: closing sales.

If houses get sold, brokers on both sides get paid and the world keeps spinning. Ads flow to listing sites, inspectors get paid, mortgage brokers get commissions and home improvements continue.

No one is incentivized to STOP you from buying a home.

No one is trying to PROTECT the buyer from making a bad decision (I know, brokers are supposed to … but they don’t get paid unless you buy!).

This becomes super apparent when you look at the descriptions of homes.

Everything is “charming” and a “compound” and “gorgeous” in the descriptions, but when you go see them they are “depressing” and “dark” and “small”!

So here’s a super simple idea: reviews that tell you, in brutally honest fashion, if you should move into this house or not.

If it’s a fair price.

If it’s a horrible block, if it has a bad landlord, or if the methadone clinic is hopping at 3pm when your daughter gets home from school!

Read full article here:

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Thinking of Buying?, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent | 11 comments

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!


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:

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 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:

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

JtR and Social Media

While we are at it, here’s another plug for my social-media outlets:

Facebook – Every post gets uploaded here, but that’s about it.  If facebook is your thing, it might be easier to follow the blog here, but no comments though:


Twitter – I love twitter and have 3,328 tweets, which is at least 1-2 per day.  You don’t even have to have a twitter account – you can follow them here at the blog in the right-hand column.  I usually include my synopsis in the first sentence – if it looks intriguing, click on the link for more.

My goal is to publish today’s current events in real estate – if you like maximum data input, watch the right-hand column, or click here to follow:


bubbleinfo mobile app

Bubbleinfo Mobile App – I think it works OK, though not many people are using it yet.  You can find it at the App Store or Google Play.


Jim the Realtor/Bubbleinfo Youtube account – A complete audio/visual history of the local bust and boom that started when I began receiving REO listings from Bank of America in April, 2008. There are over 1,700 videos with 2,037,056 views – thanks for the support!

This is recognized as the first video I did myself – it has 10,133 views:

The 1,091 subscribers get an occasional video that doesn’t make the blog, like this one:


The Pinterest account doesn’t get constant attention, but it has a decent foundation of real estate-related stuff.  There are 1,359 pins on 32 boards:


Instagram – I haven’t got around to Instagram yet, though Kayla should put some attention on it in the coming months.


Thanks for participating – I’d love to assist you with your next move!

Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in About the author, Drone, Jim's Take on the Market, Why You Should Hire Jim as your Buyer's Agent, Why You Should List With Jim | 0 comments