What You Need if You Want to Buy a Home

I’m a real estate agent, as you may know, and I love working with first time buyers.  It doesn’t usually result in a big paycheck for me, but I get to work with some amazing people and be a part of a huge event in their lives.  I consider it an honor to help them.  But many of my first timers are sadly surprised by what they need to have in order to buy a home.  Most think they can hop on Zillow, look at the estimated price, put that amount against their income and they’re good to go.  But there’s WAY more to it than that.  Downsizers, you are also running into sad surprise many times.

First, you MUST sit down with your lender and get pre-APPROVED.  Listen, a pre-QUALIFICATION is not worth the paper it’s written on, assuming there’s paper somewhere in the process.  So be careful about the online estimators.  If I am your agent, I am going to want you to get face to face…yes, FACE TO FACE…with a lender, so they know whom you are, and so that they can be held accountable for making the deadlines to which you will contractually obligate yourself. This is critical.  The lending process is fraught with potholes, and you need to be more than a number among hundreds of numbers.  You need that lender to know your NAME and be able to put your face with it.  And I will need to be able to verify/check on milestones as the process progresses.  BUT…you must have a letter from the lender that goes WITH your offer to the seller.  That’s the norm now.

And listen, the lender is GLAD you are there.  They WANT your business.  So go in asking what they can do for YOU today.

Next: It takes DISCRETIONARY cash up front.  You have to pay for inspections and you have to put up due diligence money AND earnest money (usually), and these days you should count on 15K and up, depending on your price point.  Now please listen to this.  You will get all of that back when you close, but if you WALK AWAY, the seller gets to keep your due diligence money and that can start at 4% of purchase price on average. OMG where am I going to get that kind of money?  Well you can be gifted quite a bit.  But you’ll need to talk to that lender person, the one you’re looking in the EYES, about that.

When you find a house you like, these days, sellers don’t have to pay your CLOSING COSTS, they don’t have to buy you a WARRANTY, they don’t even have to do repairs.  In other words, don’t look for a fixer upper unless you are a fixer and you have the money and skills already on board.  The seller is not going to help you out.  Why?  There are 20 other offers on the table that won’t ask for it.

Be sure your agent knows about any class action lawsuits about construction that happened during the age of the house you seek, and ALWAYS look in the crawl space.  Make sure your agent knows what red flags to look for while you are looking at the space and placing furniture in your mind.

Don’t change jobs.  Don’t incur more debt.  Your job history is SO important, and debt-to-income is critical.  Spiff up your credit score, pay off as much debt as you can, and save, save save.  Ya gotta have some cash if you want your offer to win out against the many others.

Buyers always have a list of must-haves, but also almost always veer WAY off of that list in the end.  So my advice is to have an open mind, because…it’s going to end up that way.

Let me know if I can help you; call me if you want to just chat.  And have a wonderful day!

I am Brenda Briggs

Coldwell Banker Advantage

Get Out of the Real Estate Box

The market is crazy everywhere, and I expect it will be until interest rates go way up, and/or until the supply of available homes catches up with demand.  Honestly, I don’t see that happening any time soon.  If it was a strictly economic issue, I’d think ‘crash’, and it seems like that should be looming.  But as long as you have 100 homes and 10,000 buyers actively looking, the insanity will continue.  Oh, and we have the national LLC’s stalking around buying up properties, turning our communities into rental communities.  So you’re competing with corporate money too.  Still,  it’s all about supply and demand…in my opinion of course.  You have to say that every time you open your mouth these days, even if the data bear out what you’re saying.

But here’s a good reason you should consult an experienced agent:  If you think inside the box (that’s such an overused cliche), you will never have an offer accepted…unless you pay way too much over list price for the property.  You have to think creatively.  It doesn’t have to be all about the money, although let’s be clear, money IS important and expected in this market.

More and more, sellers are asking for a lease-back period AFTER closing.  Why?  Because they are now also facing a housing shortage within which there’s a stampede toward every house on the market.  Think about it:  They can’t line up something to move TO while they market their existing home, because by the time they get their house sold to you, the one they want to go TO has sold three times (I’m exaggerating).  But you get the picture.  The seller can use your due diligence money to pay THEIR due diligence, but only if you give them some lease-back time to find a home, get their offer accepted, and get it under contract in the midst of the frenzy.  Two months is short time for all of that, really.

Buyers, this is a big risk.  You’ll be closing on your home you’ve sweated blood to buy, and now you’re going to let the ex-sellers stay there for potentially months.  So be sure they get renters insurance.  And make sure the appropriate paperwork is recorded, detailing the terms of the lease-back, including how you will handle any damage they do to the property when they move.  Yes, you can charge them rent, OR you can use some ‘free’ time or cheap time as leverage to encourage the seller to pick YOUR offer above the twenty others.  And, just so the wrench goes right into the gears, what if that ex-seller-now-buyer has to allow THEIR sellers to camp out for two months for THEIR lease back?  Risk.  Better know your limits because it could get complicated.  And you’d better have a good real estate agent who understands the pitfalls.

Times are complicated in real estate.  Market values are going up and up, because each time a home sells above what we call the ‘true value’, that home becomes a comp for other homes coming on the market.  I doubt there’s been a time when home values have gone so high, so fast.  In any case, current real estate transactions should be a team effort, with the principals and agents putting their heads together to figure out how to make the most of today’s market.

It doesn’t always have to mean paying out far too much cash; it could be a matter of communication between the agents  to find out what the other party wishes for or needs.  Trust me, everyone is stressed out in this market, and I think an act of kindness could go far.  Nobody expects that anymore, but it’s not always about the money.  Let the seller breathe a little bit if you can afford to, and sellers, if you NEED that contingency, tell your listing agent to publicize that in agent remarks.   Buyers don’t always like this idea of leasing back their newly purchased home, and that’s okay!  But it’s on the table more and more, so it has to be acknowledged.

The overarching theme here is that you need to have an agent (who is an advisor, right?) who understands the moving parts, how they work, and how one impacts the other.  That comes with experience and creative problem solving skills.  And trust me, not everyone has that talent.  Vet the ones you want to hire to represent you; be sure that person can explain how things work and be sure they are a team player, not a dictator.  It is unethical and actually dangerous, for real estate agents to tell you what to do.  You, buyer or seller, are the boss.  So BE involved, pay attention, and think outside the box.

And let me just add another couple of thoughts.  IF you have a seasoned agent, one who knows the market and understands the moving parts, LISTEN to the agent’s advice.  For example, if you have over leveraged your property, you cannot expect a buyer to pay for that.  It is THE MARKET that will determine your property value, and if you have borrowed too much against your house, no way the market can cover that in most cases.  Buyers are not dumb.  When I worked for a builder just before the crash in 08, I distinctly remember one of the big guys saying, “We’re just going to ignore the economy and keep on selling houses.”  I almost fell out of my chair over that one.  Well waiting for a buyer to pay astronomically more for your property than it is worth to pay off all of your debt, makes about the same amount of sense: none.  Oh, and just so you know, the good agents can see that from a mile away.  Trust me on that one.

And at last, remember that your real estate agent is bound by law to protect your privacy.  So be up front about your goals, what you want and WHY you want it.  Don’t make the agent figure out, for example, if you’re over leveraged.  Be up front about that so she/he can work on that problem with you.  We do love a challenge, after all.

And good luck.  Listen, it’s tough out here in the world of real estate, but you are all grown up and are now buying or selling property!    Please adjust your expectations so that you are not terribly shocked by the market, and believe that your agent has ‘got this’ as we say.  Breathe.

I’m Brenda Briggs, Broker, realtor

Coldwell Banker Advantage

Jeannie Robertson

I just found a Youtube video honoring Jeannie Robertson, and I was mortified.  She died, or ‘passed’ as she would say, and I had no idea.  It’s too soon; she needs to be here a lot longer.  She just can’t be gone.  “NO!”, I said.  No.

I loved her humor, loved how funny she was without ever uttering foul language or putting anyone down with vicious gossip.  She talked about everyday life…with a little twist…and she was hilariously believable, friendly, approachable.

I cried during her online service and then I went to her Youtube channel and subscribed so her videos would pop up in my feed.  One of her funniest was “Never Send a Man to the Grocery Store”.  I watched it again.  I knew the bit, but I watched it anyway, and laughed and laughed.  Even after death, she brings humor to a bleak world and made me laugh through my tears.

She affectionately referred to her husband as “Left Brain”, because he was an engineer with a PhD.  Analytical and literal in many ways, I suppose.  They are both gone now, and the world is a sadder place; but Heaven is brighter.

If you haven’t seen the grocery store bit, really, you need to watch it.  You’ll laugh, but don’t forget to notice the wonderful woman who tells the story.  She was amazing.  And Left Brain was always there at her performances, laughing right along with everyone else.  He left us in June.

Death is a terrible thing, circulating among us as it does, taking our favorite people from us, reminding us of the ‘circle of life’.  I miss the ones who have left this place, gone on to the next dimension.  I really miss them.  And it doesn’t seem like a ‘circle of life’ at all.  Then I remember that we are all made of energy, which goes on somewhere, and we don’t end.  I don’t feel much better right now, but I will.  Heaven, or whatever name you give it, is real, and there are some fine people there.

Watch Jeannie’s videos.  If you’ve never seen her before, you’ll be sorry you missed her in life.  But fortunately we have her on audio and video.  Fortunately she is here in those ways for as long as we are here and longer.

Thinking of Selling?

Let me share a secret with you about cabinet doors.  Are you excited yet?  You should be.  I found this company when I was frustrated with my kitchen cabinets and lamenting about the cost of getting new cabinets installed.  Well you gotta love Google.  I found https://www.cabinetdoorworld.com.  Instead of the WHOLE cabinet replacement, I replaced the doors, for WAAAAY less than you would think.  I got solid wood, painted the color I wanted (a perfect match).  And I got soft close hinges that upgraded what I had before…AND…they fit perfectly, right into the slots for the other hinges.  WOW what a difference.

Now this company does a big variety of door styles and colors/stains, so I am willing to bet you can find what you need.  SO…if you want to spiff up your kitchen for low bucks to garner high bucks on your sale?  Go online and check out Cabinet Door World.  In fact, I have two new doors for my bathroom vanity right now, waiting for me to install them.  WITH soft close hinges.  The cost was minimal and the return on investment will be great.

Check them out.

Keep Your Message Strong

Good grammar and spelling in America are disappearing from the landscape.  (ARE, not is)  So what?  Well, if you apply for a job and I review your resume, if I see blatant spelling and grammar errors, your resume goes right in the trash.  Period.  If a person can’t be bothered to learn BASIC spelling and grammar…or use the computer THEY’RE USING to look them up…they must be a lazy individual, or clueless. Notice the word is ‘they’re’ not ‘there’, for God’s sake. Either way, that’s not somebody I’d hire.

Try debating me online using those kinds of errors.  I’m done.  You’re no intellectual, nor even just a pretty smart person with a point to ponder.  Nope.  I win the debate.  If you don’t care enough about your discourse to learn how to organize and display it correctly in writing, you’re lazy. (YOU’RE, not your).

I see it all the time: Your the greatest!  NO!! It is YOU’RE the greatest.   Have you never read ANYTHING in your life?  And here’s one:  It’s to hot.  That’s supposed to be TOO hot.  TOO TOO TOO.  This is not rocket science, folks.  And by the way, MY computer underlines the incorrect grammar, ALERTING me that what I typed is incorrect.  How lazy do you have to be to overlook that little reminder?  Or maybe you’re just apathetic, another great quality.

I watch Youtube videos on TV instead of cable or antenna TV.  I enjoy seeing comments other viewers type in, because there are some very good insights and ideas out there, and some are just hilarious.  There are some natural comedians out there.  But when I see lazy use of language, I just assume it was a smooth-brain typing it.

Bottom line is this:  If you want to be taken seriously, especially in business or a debate, use a grammar checker or spell checker.  Hey, here’s an idea: Use both!  If this kind of thing were difficult, or rocket science, I’d understand; but this is BASIC spelling and grammar.  BASIC!  America is already a laughingstock in the world, justified in part by this kind of thing.  Have a little self respect.  I know; that’s dying off, too.  TOO, NOT TO.

Now.  If I were reading this, I’d be looking into the words I mentioned, to be sure I understood.  Yeah, that’s a dying art as well.

OH WHAT A REAL ESTATE MARKET!

These are tough time in real estate.  It’s a frenzy, and if you are the type of person who needs time to digest, I feel sorry for you.  I am that type of person as well, and to be rushed feels threatening.  But today, the ‘herd’ is thundering towards each home listed for sale.

So, two things:  1) Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone in a big way (or you will never get a home); and 2) Please don’t blame the rotation of the earth on your real estate agent.  We don’t like this market either.  Not one bit.

How Many Times Can We Explain Ourselves??

I saw a Youtube video, a young guy ranting and raving about his real estate experience.  Mostly he was badgering the buyer agent, WHOM HE DID NOT PAY A DIME.  He ranted about how the agent called to let him know a good home had just come on the market, and he rudely replied that, “NO I can’t go look at the house, I HAVE A JOB!”  Not realizing that the agent WHOM HE DID NOT PAY A DIME also has one that doesn’t end at 5 pm nor start at 8 am.  The real estate agent, WHOM HE DID NOT PAY A DIME, works 24/7, often for brats who don’t have a clue what real estate agents do, how hard we work, how much we try to satisfy the needs of buyers who don’t appreciate us, or even realize that THEY DON’T PAY  US A DIME.

He further ranted that when he DID decide to stoop to look at the house, the agent, WHOM HE DID NOT PAY A DIME, told him the house was under contract.  Well I WONDER how many times the buyer agent told this child that the market is HOT and there’s no time to goof around. You snooze, you lose.  If YOU have on your big boy panties and think you’re tough enough to buy a house, then you need to do what it takes to pull it off.  Whining does no good to anyone.

Then, the spoiled brad made fun of the buyer agent, WHOM HE DID NOT PAY A DIME, because he got a GIFT, from someone he disrespected, made fun of and…youuuu guessed it…DID NOT PAY A DIME.

So listen up: That agent did not HAVE to give you squat.  The SELLER paid her salary, you DID NOT PAY A DIME.  Furthermore, that big salary you think she got?  Pay ATTENTION NOW, that commission amount is for BOTH COMPANIES.  How many times can I say this?  COMPANIES.  The agents, who drive you around, keep watch for your special needs, wake up at the crack of dawn to check the market, callS you to find out if you’re in the MOOD to look at a house, takes care of all of the details, keeps you informed, spends her/his money to take care of you, gets NOT ONE DIME from you.  And the commission you are jealous about? That goes to the COMPANIES, paid by the SELLER, not you.  Your agent, whom  you did not deserve, based on your own behavior preserved on video made much much less than your small brain can imagine.

Did YOU thank her?  Did YOU GIVE HER A THANK YOU GIFT?  No, you didn’t.  Do do me a favor.  Sit down and shut up.

And answer this for me?  1) Whooooo pays commissions?  2)Whoooo gets the commissions?  That’s right 1) not you; 2) THE COMPANIES.

I feel better now.  It’s Sunday, and I’m off to work.  What are YOU doing?

A Small Advantage for Buyers in a Sellers’ Market

It doesn’t seem like there’s much for buyers to celebrate in this current market, but there is a slight bit of sunlight on the horizon.  That’s in the form of builders losing some of their once captive share of buyers.  Buyers are now seeing a nearly a year of wait time before their home will be ready; so the masses are turning back to existing homes.  Further, some potential buyers of new homes are getting called into meetings with their builders, where they’re told the price of their home has gone UP, forty, fifty, eighty or more THOUSANDS of dollars.  That’s due to the screaming rise in construction materials cost…due to constraints…whether real or created.  But that’s another day’s thoughts.

Builders are a critical part of our development, our economy.  They keep the housing market moving forward and they help buyers achieve their home purchase dreams.  And they provide thousands of jobs.  But they also cannot handle the load.  Not in this market.  Not today.

Because the wait time for new homes has become so long, in part because of demand and in part due to supply chain issues, buyers are coming back to the normal market of existing homes.  I can almost hear the sighs of relief from home sellers.

Each time I show property, I hold my breath until I find a window of time available and I hope the home doesn’t sell before I get my clients to it.  It’s still a zoo out here.  I am seeing some sellers being more reasonable about pricing and expectations about up front funds, because some of them have lost out to builders in the past.  So I am seeing some sense of reasonableness about due diligence amounts and even earnest money.  Did you know that many buyers are offering zero earnest money now?  That’s because the due diligence requirements are wiping out their discretionary funds.

I find this whole due diligence thing entirely ridiculous, because that money goes back to the buyer at closing anyway; so the whole idea is set up to HOPE the buyer walks away.

Builders are holding off releasing product until they have a certain amount of construction completed, thus making the time to close shorter, but that doesn’t help the bottleneck of supply.  Why?  Because the time to build is still stalled by supply chain constraints of pieces parts of a new home.

So what is this all about?  Well, buyers are getting a SLIGHTLY more reasonable market for existing homes, and any ray of sunshine is still a ray of sunshine.

It’s hard to be a real estate agent right now, folks.

The Age of Customer No-Service

We’ve had the stuffing beaten out of us and recovery is like trying to climb a mud mountain with a 200 pound backpack. It’s hard. It’s hard for everybody. Still, I have heard many people talk about the “good things about Covid”. Things like families getting to know one another again. People are gardening together and doing DIY projects around the house; people are getting to know other dog walkers and people jogging, and we’re enjoying it. People are discovering happiness in places they never knew existed. These activities, driven by a pandemic, have taken root and that is a great thing!

I have been shown such kindness in my own life that it breaks my heart, in a GOOD way. Total strangers have reached out to help me when they see me trying to lift heavy things, or move unwieldily objects. I have been utterly taken aback about such unexpected kindnesses, and have begun to really believe that our society is NOT completely full of hatred and discord. I am surrounded by kindness in my community, and I feel genuinely blessed. If you are alone, and if you watch the news of even see bits of it by accident, you can begin to feel like the wheels have fallen off; but they have not. Maybe it’s because more people are home these days, or because people have been slowed down by events beyond our control and haven’t picked up speed yet. Maybe it’s because people realize we actually are connected and we do need one another. But whatever the reason, my entire perspective has changed. And I cannot TELL you how glad I am about that.

There’s a flip side. Hate I said that, right? Well it is true. Everyone is healing, everyone is feeling a bit frayed around the edges and it seems like some are actually tearing. I am a real estate agent, so I am in constant contact with service providers, clients, attorneys and their employees, other agents…and that’s not even counting the usual suspects in my non-work life. It bothers me that I am finding a lot of curt, rude answers sent by email (because people won’t usually dis you in person) in response to inquiries I have to make. Our responses should be crafted as though we are talking to a CUSTOMER, because most of the time, we are. It is also noteworthy that we in real estate HAVE to pass along questions or concerns from one person to another, as a way of life. And of course in negotiations, it is ALWAYS worse when kindness is not a factor in the process. It should be; negotiations are not fights.

Here’s a good one for example: “The check has not come yet.” Okay, there should be a comma at the end of that clause, to say, “but it should be here within two weeks.” That would serve to provide valuable info for the person expecting a check, would take second to type, less to SAY, and would be…are you ready? Good customer service. IF the rest of the sentence is provided, then the person looking for check would know that it’s just not time yet. And what’s so bad about trying to be helpful? Not sure, but customer service seems to be leaving us. IS that a Covid thing?

Normally, I vote with my feet. When I am treated as though my presence and my money are an annoyance, I just go elsewhere. It’s really a waste of time to try to talk with people about it because rudeness can be a chronic condition that never heals; and, I am not into wasting my breath. But I think Covid has left footprints to a place that’s not so great, in that face-to-face interaction waned and we know that anonymity does not breed kindness. I think people in business and otherwise, tend to operate in the ‘silo’ paradigm, wherein actions happen in a closed off environment with no windows that enable us to see outside…where the CUSTOMERS ARE. So we need to be careful that we remember whom our customers are, and remember that in business, we’d kinda like those customers to stick around…and bring their friends and family.

And listen, sometimes ‘rudeness’ is caused people feeling overwhelmed and overworked and TIRED. We’ve all been there. When those situations exist it is even MORE important to take a breath and not be rude.

By the way, do you know whom your customers are? You are my customer, right now as you read this. I’m a customer to my manager, my clients are my customers, and I am a customer of the people who (God bless them) put out my real estate signs. They are MY customer when it is time for me to pay them for the work they did for me. See how that works?

The silo idea I mentioned is not new; it’s been talked about for years. It normally happens when, for example, a group of engineers work together every day, not actually connected to the quality department. Quality guys do their thing; engineers do their thing, and everyone gets so into their own work environments that they forget the other is even out there. Even when they depend on one another. What good does it do to be excellent among your peers when the quality department has its own set of parameters agains which you will be audited? And what good does a great audit program do with nothing to audit?

Culture comes from the top. If the idea of rudeness has infiltrated your work environment (due to Covid or not) and set up shop, then somebody at the top either condones it, or doesn’t know about it. But know that word gets around about a business culture, and in fact, one person can literally destroy a business by driving away customers. Take a look around you and think about how you interact with people. Are you trying to please your co-workers in the silo, or are you trying to perform great customer service, yes, even when things are overwhelmingly busy.

Long story short, I love the good things that have come out of Covid, but the rudeness caused by frayed nerves, frustration, whatever it is…needs to stop. Life is so much nicer when a stranger’s kindness can catch you by surprise and tug at your heartstrings. Kindness is NEVER a bad thing. Good customer service should be paramount in any business, and if it is not, well, I won’t be joining you.

Brenda Briggs

Realtor/broker

Coldwell Banker Advantage

Wake Forest, NC