Have You Hugged Your Lender Lately??

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Most lenders don’t bite.  At least none of MY lenders.  Point is, these are people to whom you should definitely have a conversation if you are in the real estate world.   Listen, things are changing in the real estate world (can you say interest rates?), and lenders change their programs to align with current conditions.

I always, ALWAYS, encourage my clients to talk to their lender FIRST.  Why?  Because you don’t really know what you can afford, for one thing.  Second, you don’t really know your credit score, most likely, because the ‘deep dive’ is what the lenders do and they find EVERYTHING.

Point is, there are some new programs out there that might get you enthusiastic again, out of the disappointment status you started feeling when rates went up.  Adjustable rate loans are back and don’t wrinkle your nose:  My first mortgage was adjustable rate, and I could refinance any time after year one.  Which I did.  One hundred percent financing is also back ‘in vogue’, meaning that the pendulum swing is enabling buyers to have a bit of leverage again (Thank goodness).  And USDA limits are different now; the household income is higher, which helps.  There’s a new ‘self employed’ loan out there, which helps those of us who itemize and claim deductions.  The deductions lower your ‘income’ according to the algorithm.   Now, we self employed folks can now get a mortgage based on our actual income, rather than what the tax form says.  It’s not a no-doc loan, but it uses tax returns. That’s all I know; consult your lender.

Thing is, there are OPTIONS, and you should explore them.  And different lenders have different products, so do some homework.  Tell them what you want to do and let them tell you what program they have that will help you achieve that dream.  I tell my clients not to be intimidated by lenders.  They are making money by having you as a client, so act like it.  Be as important to them as you actually are, and find out what THEY can do for YOU. 

Online is NOT the best way, by the way.  There, you are a number.  In person lenders get to know you and how you operate, and they know your NAME.  You can meet and talk about where you ARE, where you are GOING, and what you DREAM.  Look a lender in the eye.  Find one who has some battle scars, too.  They know the lay of the land, and are very good at digging out that perfect product for you.

Establish a relationship with a good lender, because they are important to have in your sphere of influence when things change in your life.  Plus, most of them are really nice folks.  I’ve met some who are not, so be careful, be sure they are telling you the truth, and comparison shop.

Don’t be intimidated.  They are people too.

And finally, you STILL have to prove you are able to buy before you make an offer.  So just go, get that letter, know your options.  After you talk to a lender, you will know how much house you can afford, thus avoiding looking at homes that are too small (maybe you can go larger), or looking at ones that are more than you can buy.  Once you see them, others may seem disappointing.  

I’m not a lender but I have some great lender contacts.  I’m Brenda, a Coldwell Banker Advantage real estate agent and Realtor.  Let me know if I can help.

The Truth is Out There…

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Here’s one for you: I’m just going to give you the information from science and you can think it over and make up your own mind. 

What a crock.  The atomic number for Nitrogen is 7.  You don’t get to think about that and choose your own number.  If you step outside that third story window, you’re gonna FALL.  DOWN.  You don’t get to make up your own mind about it! Gravity works.  Period.  There are many truths out there that you just have to believe, otherwise there is no foundation upon which to stand or build.  But we live in a ridiculous period of “everybody gets to make up his or her own reality”.  I used to say, “Kill me now.”  Today, nobody thinks that’s a joke and people are so MAD.  But what a ridiculous idea that every single person gets to decide whether or not the atomic number of Nitrogen is 7.  

I used to work in science, every day, all day.  There were certain chemical reactions or material facts that I used, depended upon, from which my analysis stemmed.  Truth.  Science is the pursuit of truth.  Now when I reached my conclusions, ultimately there would be a dollar amount associated with it, either for my company or for the company who bought the optical fiber we manufactured, or for a vendor who maybe supplied bad raw material.  I didn’t have to be involved in the money or politics, thank GOD; but, the answer was the answer and corrective measures went from there.  Nobody had to mull it over and see how they wanted the answer to feel, or how THEY thought it should be, and there were no politicians NEAR my lab.  Again, thank God.  Okay, let’s be honest.  Remember that word?  There were probably ‘politicians’ around in white coats, wanting to scratch and claw to the next level on the hierarchical ladder, but they were usually on the other side of the lab door.

Were my analytical results sometimes unpopular?  You bet your ass they were, but they were the results.  And if I didn’t know the answer by virtue of analysis, I SAID THAT.  Wouldn’t it be nice of some of the talking heads out here today would look us in the eye and say, “Sorry folks, we just don’t know what the side effects will be, but in 5 years we will know and we will pay you if your leg falls off.”  Hey, it wouldn’t be fun, but it would be the truth, right?  

I know, you’re wondering what a leg is worth. hahaha.  Don’t worry, these folks have enough to pay you.  It’s part of the plan.

I think the problem is that politics and money are the most important goals now, replacing Truth.  Now, we don’t know who supplies raw materials, or even the finished product many times.  We don’t know the credentials of the person who gives you that pill to take.  I used to say, “Somebody had to graduate at the bottom of the class.”  And that was when I assumed there was an ACTUAL college degree somewhere.  Today, we don’t know for sure, and we don’t know how much that person actually LEARNED if there WAS a degree, because these days, it doesn’t really matter.  Everybody gets one! Don’t believe me?  Watch how much BAD GRAMMAR is on your NEWS broadcast today.  Ask a random person to read a paragraph.  It’ll make your head explode.  What is the plural of phenomenon?  How do you pronounce corroboration?  Do you know someone who says, “I seen it?” I rest my case.

We are erasing truth from our existence.  How is that happening?  Well, if there are over 7 billion people on the planet and each one gets to design ‘reality’, we’re talking about complete, annihilatory chaos.  How do you like that word?  I had to look it up, but I DID look it up because I trust the dictionary.  Apparently this computer does not because it underlines the word in red.  See how this works? hahaha.  AND YET there is no alternative spelling.  Too funny.  My computer must FEEL like that word does not exist but it shrugged off the correct spelling.  But again, I digress.  

We live in a time where, if I do not agree with your perspective, you get to beat me up, or set out to ruin my reputation, get me fired, kill me. And it gets right back to truth.  What happened to TRUTH?  And why is YOUR opinion any better than mine?  Oh, this is why we used to talk or even debate.  Debate is not a bad thing, people.  Usually at the end of a debate, everybody is still ALIVE and there are no burning buildings.  By the way a debate is not one person badgering and bludgeoning another person into thinking exactly as they think.  Debate usually leads to other things to consider on the path to truth, which is often entirely or in part different from any of the prior opinions.  THIS is how we grow, how we progress.  No dead bodies, no burning buildings.

Truth is based on the word ‘trust’.  If you look at those words long enough they will start to look strange.  Trust: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; dependence on something future or contingent : HOPE (From Merriam-Webster dictionary).  Oh great, now we get HOPE into the compost heap.  That’s waning as well and now we know why.

Because of the incessant blitzkrieg of internet information (not usually true), we have NO idea what to believe or whom to believe anymore.  Most of what is posted is opinion…including this blog, by the way…and everybody has one.  Each and every person has an opinion about everything.  So it is your job, if you care, to …wait for it… seek the truth.  Oh hell, that sounds like work.  Yep.  It is.  And if your only source is the internet?  You have no credibility.  When I got my chemistry degree, my professor said, “You don’t have to know all of the answers, you just have to know where or how to find them.”  So, I never memorized the periodic table of elements. hahaha.  But I did know where to find it.  

Listen, there are people, entities out there who have figured out how gullible we are, how easily we fall for lies, how to manipulate us into badgering and bludgeoning others into THEIR way of thinking, which is this:  I want your money, all of it, and I want to control your life.  It feels like an effort to destroy our country but if you’ve ever LEFT this country, you’d want to come back, trust me.  Oops, trust.  But most of the people who want to annihilate the country don’t know what it’s like in other countries that are rubble and dust.  Something to think about.

Here’s another something to think about:  Are the ones badgering you invested financially in the thing they are trying to force you to buy, adopt, fund, drink, swallow?  These days, the politicians have huge amounts of stock in the companies they are trying to force you to TRUST.  Think.  How is this talking head going to benefit financially by controlling my mind?  GREAT question.

Look around you and maybe ask yourself why you’re so angry all of the time and ask yourself if you really like that persona.  Scientists are saying that such behavior can make you more susceptible to disease by the way.  There’s a lot of TRUTH that says rioting, screaming, burning things, fighting, being angry all the time…can make you more susceptible to cancer.  Read the book by Dr. Gabor Mate.  It’s eye opening.  Just saying.  And think about this:  If there are those who want to CONTROL society, whom do you believe will be the first ones in cages?  Oh yeah, the rabble-rousers who can’t be controlled. hahaha.  Better think about that.  I’m actually laughing.  We are such a mess.  Can’t even call us a society.  I am actually laughing because I still have hope.  It hasn’t been killed off yet.  That’s my science brain at work.  I know the truth is out there.  How to get 7 billion people to be open to other ideas?  That’s the kicker.

The bottom line is that there is an effort to erase truth, by people who want to confuse you, take your money, or want to take your power away from you, or okay, all of the above.  Sometimes a very small group with really loud voices can force you to adopt THEIR truth, which could be destructive and dangerous.  It is important, in other words, to understand the implications of trust, truth and hope.  These things matter to stability, safety, survival.  How am I going to tie this in with real estate, you might ask?  Watch this:

Look your lender in the eye, don’t ‘go online’.  You could be talking to a big hairy scammer in somebody’s basement who is not telling you the truth, who wants your info so they can take your money.  Look your real estate agent in the eye.  Ask questions, seek the answers you need, see if she knows the answers, see if she ever says, “I’m not sure but I can find out.”  Now that’s an honest person, a TRUTHFUL one.  You’ll know whether or not you can TRUST that person.  Have a conversation, an AUDIBLE conversation, because you can tell a lot about a person by listening to their voice.  And you can draw a plethora of wrong conclusions from text messages.  Look, I love texting and emailing and DMs and IMs and l-m-n-o-p’s, but how can I tell if I want to work with you?  By talking with you and by looking you right in the eye.  Until I see you and hear your voice, I don’t know if you’re a 10 year old kid having a bit of fun at my expense, in somebody’s basement. hahaha. Why are scammers always assumed to be in somebody’s basement?

Stay with me, still linking this to real estate.  Watch this:

I can help you find a great home where you can feel safe and secure while you find the truth.

Is that good, or what?  Call me.

I am Brenda Briggs, broker/realtor, Coldwell Banker Advantage, 919-210-6113. 

Real Estate in Uncertain Financial Times

There’s always something to make us go “hmmmm”.  These days, watching the news makes me hide in my closet.  This is going up, this is going down, debt ceiling is being raised beyond sight, no it’s not, yes it is.  OMG America is running out of food, building supplies, clothes are getting so thin you can see through them because fabric is so expensive (that’s funny, isn’t it?).  Stock market is going up, it’s going down, buy, sell.  Interest rates are going up….are they?  Yesterday this house was active, now it’s pending.  Why did the price go up?  Are they really stabilizing?? I thought I saw some go DOWN in price.  I can’t keep up.

So let’s just assume we are going into uncharted territory yet AGAIN, and put on our thinking caps.  Why?Because there’s not a doggone thing we can do about the financial ‘climate’, but we can absolutely navigate it.  Listen, I have stocks, and I’m not selling.  I’m buying, in fact.  But I do look at analysts’ reports as a guide.  These reports are educated guesses, right?  But there are a couple I trust and they are my true north on the rare occasions my charts don’t guide me exclusively.  Yep, I’m a chart person.  Don’t really need to know what the  stock is; I just look at the chart and go from there.  It works, too.

But REAL ESTATE, I sigh.  Okay there are some charts you can use, a lot of them in fact.  But listen, these days you also HAVE TO HAVE A STRATEGY, a strong one.  It becomes more and  more complicated as the weeks go by, and you MUST have an agent who understands ALL of the moving parts and how they fit together or bump against each other; and your agent HAS TO KNOW how to maximize your financial asset goals in light of these influences.  In other words, better grab some experience, folks; this is serious business.  And you’d better put on the big person (can’t say girl anymore) panties and learn how to handle some risk.  That’s just plain fact.  If you don’t have the stomach for it, then wait it out.  But waiting it out?  The real estate train is going to leave you in dust and diesel fumes, ladies and gentlemen.  You get the point.

So your agent should ask you: “What is your financial strategy?”  Now listen, we are not accountants, but if your goal is to buy a cheap house and flip it, that’s WAY different than finding the most house you can buy so you can stay there until you die.  There was probably a better way to say that, but you get the idea.  Still, and regardless, your agent SHOULD KNOW what you really aim for financially, with respect to this real estate transaction.  And by the way, a good agent can give you some good recommendations for lenders BASED on these goals.  It’s a good hand-off between strategists and guess what?  You need that.  It’s called experience and depth of bench in the career.  Ya gotta have connections.

The thing about uncertainty financially is that we are, I believe, at a critical point in real estate (oh yes, AGAIN).  If you are trying to buy and can’t find your price point house, then I strongly recommend adjusting your ‘requirements’ or your ‘dreams’.  Why?  Because there isn’t time for a stroll through the homes for sale. Remember the dust and diesel fumes?   I think we may soon see some inflationary effects, and that will effect your interest rate, your price point, whether or not you have a screened porch AND a patio and fire pit…you get the idea.  Don’t ever forget that real estate, now more than ever, is in flux.  Don’t nail down ANYTHING.  Keep your options and your mind open.  Every day is the time to review your strategy to make sure it still make sense.  Your agent should be driving that effort, by the way.  And if this makes you feel better about ‘flux’, almost ALL buyers end up with a house that was NOTHING like what they first tell us to search for.  NOTHING.  The best clients actually realize and laugh about that once they find their home.

I have always worked 24/7, and that’s really a good thing for you.  I wake up at 3 am, thinking about your house.  Really, I do.  And IF you have been straight with me about your strategy and your financial goals, then I had BETTER be thinking about your transaction 24/7.  It’s that complicated.  If we viewed real estate transactions BEFORE as a train running on the rails, rumbling along, now, it’s a bullet train and the cars are bumping together as they fly down the tracks.  People are using your due diligence money as THEIR due diligence on the home they want to buy while you buy THEIRS.  So if one falls through…I can’t bear to think about it.  The housing shortage rages on; therefore, so does desperation among would-be buyers.  This doesn’t have to spell disaster; it just means your agent has more and more COMPLICATED work to do.  Remember when I wrote about creative problem solving?  Well it’s not just a good idea anymore.  It is MANDATORY.

And ‘thinking outside the box’ is not the same thing as creative problem solving, folks.  Creative problem solving involves integration of your STRATEGY into the process, and you must have one.  If you talk to an agent who never says ‘strategy’, RUN.  Or, take 10 grand out of your bank and throw it in the fire.  Same result either way.  Agents have to UNDERSTAND the world of transactions well enough to navigate you through the rapids, because that’s how it feels.  And it feels like that because that’s how it IS.

I describe it as being like riding a tricycle up on one wheel.  Now, it’s like riding a tricycle up on one wheel REALLY FAST.  But the moment all three wheels are on the ground at once?  It feels great.

So, in this uncertain economy, choose a wise and nimble agent who understands how to move quickly when things change and will TALK you through the initial pathway (it’ll change many times), be sure that agent knows what she’s talking about, and for goodness sake do these four things: 1) Choose your agent with care and intellect (not emotion); 2) Have a deep conversation about strategy and get that understanding well into your heart and mind; and 3) Put on those big person panties I talked about because you must expect some stress and be able to handle it; and 4) Do NOT ask your agent to reduce her fee for you, because you have NO IDEA of the value you are getting.  None.

How to Communicate with your Realtor

In this day of hackers and scammers, it is important to remember that many, if not most, real estate agents have spam blocker software/apps on their devices. I pay for one that grabs ‘suspect’ calls and runs them through the test. That means that if you call me and your number is not in my contact list, or particularly not local or known to be spam, you won’t get through to me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk with you. In fact, just the opposite. I welcome calls from potential clients, of course. But I may miss you if the spam blocker grabs you before I do.

So a way around that is to text me, and say, “My name is _________; I would like to speak with you about listing my home” or buying. That way, I can save you as a contact and I WILL call you back. I PROMISE I will not bug you with sales or prospecting calls. That’s not how I roll.

If I don’t have a spam blocker activated, I can get as many as 6 spam calls in a 15 minute period, and in my business, that’s a lot of wasted time.

There are scammers who use text messages as well, but those people usually give up their dishonesty in the wording of the text. If it smells like a rat, it’ll just be deleted.

So if you’ve called and didn’t get through, please try a text message. I’d love to talk with you. And remember the spam blocker thing. That’s probably the reason you didn’t get through…to me or any other agent.

Have a fantastic day!

Brenda Briggs, Realtor/Broker

Coldwell Banker Advantage

Strategic Pricing Specialist

Short Sale and Foreclosure Resource

Certified Military Residential Specialist


What, you mean TALK??

Hello everyone. Here I am writing a blog entry to talk to you, rather than using my voice. Isn’t that ironic? Here’s another thing: That picture of me? Old picture. I can’t figure out how to change it.

I wish I could speak with you face to face (notice I said WITH you and not TO you), but unfortunately I haven’t met you yet. Hopefully I will.

It occurred to me this morning while I was exercising (no eye rolling; I really was exercising), the heightened importance of communication in this particular market. Remember I told you that we are in an historical market. Never been experienced, hopefully won’t be again. It is a feeding frenzy out here in the real estate world, and the balance of power has been eliminated. Not tipped; eliminated. Sellers have ALL of the leverage; buyers have none. Yes, homes are selling in the first 24 hours of listing and yes people are paying through the nose for that house, but the market is not fair right now and I’ll tell you why I believe that statement to be so. This will lead me back to the subject of the title. You know I like to wander.

First and foremost for me, is that first time buyers, first time move-up buyers, and downsizers are effectively shut out of the market altogether, unless they have a big fat savings account. These days, who has that? Right. Not many. You’re right there with me. You know about me, that first time buyers are my ‘first love’ in real estate. Most of my first time buyers are incredibly excited to have saved enough to pay their closing costs; they cannot throw thousands and thousands on the table in order for their offer to even be CONSIDERED. I’m seeing thousands of sad faces in my mind right now, thinking about how this market has closed the door on them. I don’t like that. At ALL.

First time buyers, you say? That’s right. Not the most money, but a great blessing to serve them. And by they way not ALL first time buyers have limited funds. Some these days are doing quite well for themselves. And I do work in all price points, but the first timers have the biggest part of my heart.

Second: Houses are selling WAY above appraised value, and having lived through the 2008 crash, I know that years from now…YEARS.. I’ll be presenting listing information to some people who are upside down in their home because they paid such a dear price for it. The market is overheated…due to supply and demand, which is legitimate…and this kind of heat can’t sustain. This scares me because I lived through this once before. But…this is also the market, working.

Third, I get to see the worst of our current social conditions, in that greed has dissolved in the solution of society to such an extent that humanity and greed are indistinguishable. In most cases, it has become a ‘how much can I get?’ rather than ‘how can I be a good steward in society?’ In other words, when the power landed exclusively in the sellers’ hands, many sellers stopped caring whether they sold to someone who would appreciate the flower beds, or who would appreciate the proximity to cultural events, or love the house, for example. It’s all about the money, ladies and gentlemen. And that money is in the form of elevated offer price and HUGE due diligence checks…just to have your offer in the running! No guarantees it will be ‘the one’. And that brings us back to ordinary working folks (like me) who can just sit down, read a book and KEEP SAVING.

Let me just qualify that last paragraph a little bit by saying that back in 2010, around the crash time, buyers had all of the leverage; sellers had none. Sellers had to BEG buyers to choose their home. And if a buyer DID make an offer, they were BRUTAL in their requirements of the seller: Below list price offer, low or no due diligence and earnest money, paint the whole house, put on a new roof, put in new appliances, put in new landscaping. And sellers did it, just so they could sell. Some sellers paid thousands just to get their home sold. What does this all mean? It means absolute power corrupts absolutely. Not my idea. It came from this quote by Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” But you get the idea. You give someone a huge imbalance of power and you are at their mercy. Period. Oh how I wish it were not so. But humans are humans. And so now, buyers are at sellers’ mercy, so to speak.

So…all of this said, it is IMPERATIVE that buyers and sellers, sit down and TALK with your real estate agent. It is so very important that you understand the environment into which you are about to step! Don’t think you can just read something on Zillow or Realtor.com, for example, and have the slightest clue how to navigate these waters! Listen, those are great websites. I use them all the time. But they can’t make you a licensed professional real estate agent. You know, if you go on a beginner white water rafting adventure, as a BEGINNER, you are likely to experience a 20 foot drop. As a BEGINNER. Keep that image in mind when you start as a beginner buyer or seller (everyone is a beginner in this historical market, by the way)! Why? Because the drop is 60 feet in real estate. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of real estate. The news is not always something you want to hear, or something that is going to make you feel good. Truth actually does hurt sometimes. But it is easier to navigate if it comes from a real estate agent that can tell you how to paddle AROUND that 60 foot drop.

Remember the days when you could offer below list price and wait for the seller to come back with a counter? That’s NOT how it works now. Sellers don’t usually counter. They just drop your offer in the ‘no’ pile and pick up one from the stack of other buyers who are operating in THIS market and offering their best right out of the gate. It’s NOT like the old days, folks. I cannot stress that enough, nor say it enough times. You, Mr and Mrs Buyer, are competing with people who have not even SEEN the house, but are throwing big money at it.

Some would say the answer is to just wait. Well sometimes waiting isn’t an option. Sometimes people HAVE to move. Rent? Have you see rental prices lately?? What this means is that your agent should be able to walk you through…all the way through…the things you will encounter. And you have to listen to your professional, licensed real estate agent. That’s so you can make good decisions having had time to CONTEMPLATE the implications! I don’t like to surprise my clients. I like for them to know what they’re doing, what they will do next week, and what may be coming around the corner. Why? Because that lessens their stress, and you know, if you’ve read any of my blog entries, that a key element of my business is to help my clients have as stress-free a transaction as possible. It’s my job to mitigate stress for you; that’s how I see it. Oh, it’ll never be stress FREE, but stress can be lessened.

Let me just admit that I LOVE electronic signatures, texting, emails…all the things that make info go faster (I used to work in the industry that made this stuff possible). But there are times when a face to face information exchange/Q&A session are crucial. This is one of those times. Sit down with your real estate agent and MAKE SURE he/she understands the market and its conditions. Make sure you’re dealing with a leader. And please, don’t do this and then drop back a decade at offer time and make a low offer, expecting a counter. That will lose the house for you. Every time.

Now…supply and demand. Where are all the houses?? That’s the issue. For every home on the market there are potentially hundreds of buyers. I’m going to estimate the by the time you factor in 1) who can actually get there to see it; 2) who can compete for it; 3) for whom is the timing right; 4) will they be able to do the repairs; 5) is the floor plan right; etc…you’ll end up with at least 10, maybe as many as 20, offers. Sellers are limiting showing time on the market because the showing schedule literally fills up, 8 am until 7 pm, right away. Sellers have to stay away pretty much except nighttime. No seller wants to do that for the long term, and they don’t have too. They’ll get offers in the first 24 hours, some sight-unseen. Yep, that’s the newest little competition. So now, showing options are getting limited and offers are coming without the buyers even laying eyes on the house. This is the market working. This is the environment into which you step in order to sell or buy. You must understand that. This is NOT the old way of doing things, folks.

Make sure your agent can guide you appropriately. That’s paramount. Your agent will share the market conditions with you, tell you where there are lower priced homes, if there are any. Those are usually in the ‘banished from the kingdom’ areas, or they are the ones that say “fixer upper” but really mean ‘dump’. Your agent can tell you how many days homes stay on the market in the area you like, talk about how to make a clean, strong, competitive offer. After you have gotten the lay of the land from your agent, please listen. It’s brutal out there and you actually do need guidance and advice. The internet is a great tool, but the internet doesn’t know my market, and it doesn’t know yours. So find a good…really good…agent.

I’m your girl, by the way. Call me.

Brenda Briggs

Realtor, Broker

Coldwell Banker Advantage


Understanding Value in Real Estate

Okay, I’m crusing around online again. BIG MISTAKE. So here GOES.

I think we can all agree that buying that perfect English Cottage home you’ve always wanted can actually be a nightmare if the home is falling apart under your feet. Even if you got it at a steal of a deal, a money pit can literally ruin you. It pays to know what you’re getting. That’s what I mean about value. Make sure you know what you are GETTING and what you are NOT GETTING, before you make a decision.

The same is true of your real estate agent, or even better, whether or not you WANT one. Yes, we live in an age of technology, and yes we can do most things electronically. But that’s not the purpose of your real estate agent. Your real estate agent can do all of the tech stuff you want, but don’t you want to know WHY you’re doing it? Wouldn’t you think it was a good idea to understand those e-forms you’re signing? Even better, wouldn’t it be nice to know why you need them? Oh, and who works for YOU? Is it that person telling you you don’t need an agent? Careful now, because often they work for the OTHER GUY. Nobody wants to leave cash on the table, so be careful about whom is representing YOUR INTERESTS. In other words, make sure somebody IS. CAN’T TELL? Call an agent.

Oh, yeah, remember that plumbing inspection you decided you didn’t need? Who do you call at midnight when you can surf in your house? ME! You don’t get to cry if you decided you knew everything and you didn’t need an agent or wouldn’t listen to the one you had.

People get wrapped round the axle about commissions, but did you know…God I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said this…the AGENT does not get that check! THE AGENCY, make that AGENCIES (plural) get that. When you seek the aid of a real estate agent, you’re hiring the benefit of their companies, with all of the expertise and tools to guide you through one of, if not THE, biggest financial transaction you’ve ever done. It pays to have a leader who knows the ropes and can guide you well through them. And every time you think we don’t earn our money, just text us and ask what we did for you today. Most of us will say, “You mean starting at midnight?” Because that’s often the case. While you are sleeping, we are often working for you. It’s not unusual for me to send out emails at 1 am. Oh and by the way, that nice magazine you get long after you closed? It came from me. Free to you, by the way. You’re welcome.

And yes, there are all KINDS of websites you can poke around in, but let me tell you, if it was that easy, there wouldn’t be licensing requirements and continuing education (ad nauseam) requirements and each year, a ‘general update’ with, in part, the latest and greatest potholes to watch out for. And, if it was that easy, everyone who took the licensing test would PASS. THEY DON’T. Listen, real estate agents are not just there to open the door for you. We work hard, all the time. We sleep with our phones and our laptops, and we get calls at midnight from clients having meltdowns sometimes. We get calls with pop-up questions, and we drive THOUSANDS of miles on your behalf.

We talk to inspectors for you, attorneys, surveyors, plumbers, roofers, handymen. We arrange inspections and make appointments with attorneys, we crawl under houses and into attics, and we do A TON of paperwork. We take classes and attend meetings to stay on top of changes, to real estate, to lending, to title insurance, to warranties. To mold, to radon, to septic systems and new construction. We grease the wheels of the process so you just show up and sign; we take the heat for you and the stress too. We are ALWAYS working behind the scenes for you, just to make sure you get a good VALUE in the transaction. So when you think we don’t do much, think again. You are able to think that because WE did all the work for you. The easier it was for you, the BETTER your agent was.

It costs MONEY to buy a house. We get to be the ones to tell you HOW MUCH. Somehow, that makes US the BAD GUYS. We didn’t TELL you to buy a house. We didn’t make the rules and laws, but somehow it is OUR fault you get to pay for your inspections and the attorney and title insurance and homeowners’ insurance. We control the rotation of the Earth, didn’t you know?

Marketing. Ah marketing. I have seen THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of HORRIBLE pictures of homes that have sat on the market forEVER. If your agent puts crap like that online for the galaxy to see, well you get what you deserve. Oh and if it was YOU who took the pictures? God help you. You have embarrassed yourself before the entire galaxy. And beyond. Good agents take marketing your home very seriously and you will not see dark, dingy photographs out there to ‘showcase’ your home. It just won’t happen. Oh, you can take your own photos? Give me a call about that in about 5 years. There is VALUE in professionally done photos and professional marketing that YOU don’t pay for.

I work in an industry where we are OFTEN treated like ambulance chasers. I have worked in industry, retail, science, management, on farms, in factories, and in real estate and NOTHING is as hard as real estate. Nothing. Real estate is 24/7, non stop, and people think they can automatically treat you like garbage when they get stressed. NOT ALL THE TIME, but a lot of times. People don’t handle stress well, and in a real estate transaction, somebody’s gonna be moving, which is stressful. Who gets the flack? The real estate agent, many times.

So in case you are wondering, there is VALUE in what I do. I give up my weekends for you, my holidays, my sleep; I take heat from attorneys and inspectors and lenders; I take all of the heat you throw at me and endure the knives in my back, undeserved I might add, and I still get you to the closing table and I STILL give you a very nice closing gift. Why? Because real estate agents are in this business because we like to HELP people. Even the prickly ones.

Yes. We have every bit as much value as the next worker you pass on the street. And in case you’re wondering, many of us are engineers, scientists, accountants, airline pilots, bankers, retired VPs, golf pros. So yeah, we have brains too. And you’re fortunate to have us in your corner, and I mean that.

Wanted: Experienced Realtors…

Just like other areas of life, there was a recent push to replace experienced real estate agents with “millennials”.  The thinking was that millions of home buyers would be people in this age cohort, that they would be THE buyers and that they would want to work with agents who were their peers.  Well that wasn’t on target, to put it mildly.  Many of the younger buyers are renting and paying off college loans, or even staying at home with Mom and Dad…not buying.  Real estate planners shouldn’t feel bad; retail made that mistake too.  Many of the millennials are educated, savvy, street smart and skeptical about anybody wanting their sparse cash.  They want details, they want to know their agent has a solid knowledge of the market and is well capable of walking them through the jungle of tasks associated with buying and selling a home.  In other words, millennials expect to be leaders and as such, their real estate agent had better be qualified to take that lead.

Millennials who do buy are not usually in the higher end market; rather, they are usually in the first time buyer and first time move-up buyer price range.  They, and other who ARE buying in the high end market do not want a “millennial” guiding the transaction.  Well, I’m a 10,000 foot view person.  I saw this stumble coming a mile and a half away.  Don’t get me wrong; I love young people.  The ones I get to meet and work with are very smart, very motivated and very sensible about buying.  They give  me hope for the future.  But young real estate agents are not well rounded, confident and knowledgable about the market just yet.  They deserve to grow and build a skill base, yes; but that doesn’t negate the value of experience.

So some of the same companies who were nudging the older agents aside are now actively recruiting experience.  It’s a shame that experienced agents are often overlooked by the ‘planners’ of the future of area market movement, and that that experienced agents are re-noticed only when the cavalry is needed.  But that’s how it goes.

My advice to you is this: Realize that you are making one of the largest transactions of your life, and that you should put that transaction in the hands of experience and knowledge.  That doesn’t mean someone who made a high score on the test, although that’s important.  It means someone who understands the nuances of the market beyond what the publications say.  It means someone who understands that prices in neighboring communities can be very different and why.  It means someone who has experience with inspectors and builders.  It means someone who knows how to spot hidden potential issues.  It means someone who knows what’s worth worrying about and what is not.  It means knowing the importance of pricing and how it impacts the overall market.  It means knowing how to put the most cash in your pocket at the end of the day.

I decided to write about this subject today because I have been working on a market analysis for the last several days, in a new growth-spurt area, where prices have jumped significantly in the last year.  I want to push my list price as high as I can…and be able to have it appraise at that value when the time comes.  This of course prompted a deep dive into that area and into that community, and a subsequent spreadsheet…mine, not a canned product.

One of the values I use, LOOSELY, I might add, is price per square foot.  And while this is the WRONG WRONG WRONG value to use in pricing a home, it does give you a nice snapshot of market activity at-a-glance, and it can be quite eye opening.  It was for me.  In my area of interest there were 3 of 14 homes I studied, which had VERY much lower sold price-per-square-foot.  This prompted me to look at the listing agency AND agent, and each case, the agent was inexperienced.  This costed the home owners/sellers a lot of money they could have made on their transactions and it hurt the overall market.  These low-ball prices will be put into the “comp” pot, and will be used by appraisers in pricing other homes for mortgages.  And this tells me nobody’s guiding these agents appropriately and nobody has told them the value of strong pricing.  Nobody has shared with them that listing with strong prices raises the entire market, which is actually our job…to protect the market.

So, while other home sold in the 118.00 price per square foot, these homes sold at around 108.  That adds up.  To loss for the sellers.  The moral of the story is this: If you hire inexperience, it will cost you.  You may never know it…which would be the best scenario.  If you do know it, you have to wonder where else you got short-changed.

I need to also say that sometimes it pays to price low if a quick sale is needed…for the SELLER, not the agent.  And that’s all I will say about that.

Bottom line: Be sure your agent is experienced enough to be a strong, successful advocate for you.  That’s what you are paying for.  This isn’t an opportunity to be trendy; this is your money at stake.  Experienced agents will understand that.



If I said it’s a crazy market would you think I’m repeating myself?  Well, it’s a crazy market.  There’s a housing shortage folks, which makes it the strongest seller market I have experienced.  For the first time in my experience, all of my buyer clients (and one seller) are BUILDING their next home.  That’s because…duh…there’s as housing shortage, and people can’t find a home they want to buy!  If they find one, there are five offers on the table already! ALERT!  TIME TO LIST IF YOU ARE THINKING OF SELLING!!  I’ve said that so much I’m out of breath.  Again, you can make the MOST on the sale of your home now, while there are people clamoring for a great home to buy and who don’t want to wait six months to build!

Remember when I said I couldn’t wait until the pendulum swung back to center?  When I was tired of my sellers getting the pants beaten off of them?  Well, I’m glad alright.  Sellers are now in control.  Like I said, the universe WILL balance.  Never fails.

But like always, there’s a “but”.

I find that many real estate agents negate the power of supply-and-demand when pricing homes to list.  For example…one-level living is the hottest thing going right now, except for senior living communities…which are also one-level living.  So if you have a ranch style home, you are in the proverbial cat-bird seat.  Now that only applies if you home is marketable.  I’ll explain later.

Back to pricing:  Yes, look at the price range of homes in your zip code and focus on your comps.  Then search for ranch style homes in the MLS AREA, and see how many ranches are out there.  If you find ONE or NONE?  Instant benefit to you, Seller.  You may now price at the high end of the range and expect to get it.  I recently had an agent lambast me in her feedback telling me that my listing was priced TWENTY THOUSAND too high. Well, we sold that house for the price I set.  Booyah!  Pricing is my strong suit folks.  I get it done.  If she had listed the house, well, not a happy face on that one.  And it would have hurt the market for the community too.

When you meet with me, I will ask you this, “What is your selling goal?”  Now that might sound stupid, but bear with me.  If your goal is to get rid of the house FAST, that initiates a different STRATEGY for pricing your home.  In other words, we might aim a bit lower in price, or come up with some enticing concessions.  But if your goal is to get every last penny the market will allow for your property, well that’s another STRATEGY, and its my favorite.  That means we price you at the high end of your range, but we expect to MAYBE take a bit longer to sell.  I don’t know about you, but I’d wait two or three more weeks to net 5 grand.  If you are not in a rush, relax and focus on your bottom line getting BETTER.

If your agent doesn’t talk strategy with you…ask why! There is more to pricing your home than pulling up some comps and taking an average!  Supply and demand MUST be considered!  If you have the only ranch style home with an acre or more lot in the whole area?  You just hit the jackpot on pricing; I don’t care what the other homes went for.

Understand that pricing your home is a many-faceted operation that takes time, it takes knowledge of the greater market, your LOCAL market…which sometimes means your exact community…and it takes an understanding of what you, the seller, want to achieve.

My goal in any listing situation is to get you, the seller, every penny I can get for you on pricing.  But if you just need to move on, we can change that strategy.  It’s a team effort and your agent MUST know your needs, not just how to average the sale price of three properties sold in the last three months.

Now, back to having your home “marketable”…People sometimes hate to hear this, but here is the cold, hard truth.  If you want TOP DOLLAR for your home, it MUST be in top dollar CONDITION.  That means you have to roll up your sleeves and do some cleaning and re-arrange or maybe even remove some pieces of furniture.  Remember we look at houses ALL THE TIME.  We know what sells and what doesn’t.  You HAVE TO DECLUTTER.

Buyers are buying space, not your decor.  Don’t fault the professional real estate agent when she tells you what you have to do to get top dollar.  Is your decor worth ten thousand dollars to your bottom line?  I’ve seen people say yes to that time after time!  Amazing!   I don’t have that kind of money to spare, how about you?  If you do, don’t worry about making your home “marketable”.

So…remember that if you want top dollar, the house must be WORTHY of it. If you are not willing to put in the sweat equity to get top dollar, do NOT blame your real estate agent! Instead, look in the mirror.  Remember that selling your home is a team effort and you…let me repeat…YOU are one half of the team.  So get involved, know your strategy, and get that home spiffed up to garner the best price!  If I’m your agent, I’m going to work very closely with you to get you that price.

Let me just add one more thing: Don’t start getting antsy.  If you have chosen a savvy real estate agent who has clearly understood your needs and laid out a great pricing strategy, listen to her and settle down.  Selling a home is nerve wracking I know, but you will shorten your life by pacing around being nervous.  Relax and let the strategy work.  You can count your money and your blessings later, trust me. And if you can’t trust your agent, you’ve got the wrong agent.  Just sayin’.

Interest Rake Hike

Well, we’ve been on the roller coaster of opinion about a rate hike for some time.  Latest news is that there won’t be one…but there might be one by year end.  I wonder how much it cost to have all of that discussion in the ether…but I could have done it free, right here.  MIGHT be one?  Please.  Seriously, I could have said that.  I DID say that, in fact.

Janet Yellen had some apparent brain “pauses” in her speech and was, according to CNN, seen by doctors when she finished.  It takes a lot out of you to predict the future politically correctly, I guess.  I’m not having any brain cramps, spending no money, and I can tell you exactly what will happen.  Here goes.  Note that I don’t have any wolves at my door that I know of.

OK.  Cracking my knuckles.  Here goes:  As soon as the “FED” decides they can successfully take more money into their coffers, they will.  There.  Not dehydrated, not feeling dizzy.  I’m good.  But make no mistake about it, the powers that be know that if they MENTION rate hike the economy…our THRIVING economy…goes running for the hills.  We have NOT recovered from the fall, we are not back to the pinnacle.  We’re not ready.  And I’m guessing that many of us have decided that its a good idea for us to keep more of our hard earned money, rather than sending it out in interest.  Call me crazy but I think that’s ALWAYS been a good idea, although believe me, I’ve paid my share of interest.

I have heard a hundred people say they don’t do credit cards anymore.  Why?  Interest.  People are buying so many homes there’s a housing shortage.  Why?  Interest.  It’s LOW.  How stupid do you have to be to think that the very thing people AVOID would be a good idea to INCREASE…for the economy?

Watch these people.  Watch how many times they threaten to raise rates and then back down because the ‘economy’ runs for the hills.  They’re testing the waters on a regular basis.  When the economy really IS strong and people have confidence it will stay that way?  Then it will be time to raise rates.  In the meantime, if you’re thinking of buying or selling, do it now before they pull that trigger.  Great time to list while there is a housing shortage…and to buy while rates are…I can’t believe it’s been low so long…low.

Do something joyful today.

On Being a Good Advisor…

Any good real estate agent is also a trusted advisor…or should be. Our advice is based on years of experience and heaven knows HOW many hours of classes and training and updates.  I know:  You can get a BOAT LOAD of information from the internet.  But listen up: That’s not good enough.  Here’s why.

A good real estate agent will know things about rules, the law, building code, builders, different areas and what that means to commute times and shopping, how homes are built and what to look for to find hidden issues, things you won’t find online.  We’ll know how to negotiate: when to hold and when to fold.  And I can’t say for sure, but I’m willing to bet my accuracy is better than most of the automated valuation systems when it comes to pricing a home to sell.  Your agent will have had boots on the ground where the internet has not trodden, and your agent will know things about buying or selling that the internet cannot convey.  So it doesn’t matter what kind of phone you have, which internet provider you use, what iteration of I-pad you have.  Your agent will win the competition.  Or at least this one will.

In other words, it would behoove (cool word) you to avail yourself of your agent’s expertise and realize that there’s one real estate agent in the car…and it ain’t you.  Yeah, I said ain’t.  I like that word.  It has personality.  And I’m a bit arrogant that way. I think I have a good enough grasp of the English language to tweak it when I want to.

But I digress. Bring along your smart phone because if you ride with me, you navigate.  I don’t want you to be bored.  Bring along your notes, your ideas, your opinions, because they matter.   But remember to ask a lot and don’t act like the realtor. 

I want my clients to be smarter than me in case we break down and I need someone to figure out the computer system operating my car…or to feel brave about finding a nearby repair shop.  I want my clients to be able to discuss the Hadron Collider with me or the latest news about time travel.  But I do not want them to try to be me.  First of all, they can’t handle it, and second…and seriously here…I’m the real estate agent with the license and training…and I’m very good at my job.  Let me do it and you?  Relax and enjoy the tour.  I promise to take good care of you.