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.

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


Don’t Kill the Deal

Getting Advice from Friends and Relatives about your First New Home

It turns out that I work with a lot of first time home buyers, and I am a HUGE fan of it. I love, and feel honored by, helping people with this first big step in life. Most of my first time buyers are smart, young, professional contributors to society and I appreciate them; and I make it my job to protect their financial input to their purchase. I just love helping them. Nearly all of my first time buyers make it to closing and actually into their first ‘move-up’ home. But not all of them. Some of them never get to the closing table.

I do a good job of helping my clients be ready and able to purchase when they find the home they love. That starts with finding a good lender, getting pre-approved, and looking at homes they can actually afford. In other words, they don’t find out at the 11th hour that they can’t afford the home they chose.

Most often, though, the ones that never get to close are the ones taking advice from ‘friends and family’ behind the scenes. These would be people who do not have a stake in the purchase, or do not have a realistic expectation of the process. In other words, they are not professional real estate agents! For example: Some parents forget that THEIR first home was 1000 square feet and needed work. They walk through the homes with their children with completely unrealistic expectations of the price point, and their child goes forward feeling disappointed. Parents walk through pointing out all of the flaws and elevating their child’s expectations beyond what the child can afford. Sometimes you have to start out without granite countertops and hardwoods throughout. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this: “You’re going to have to go up in price to get that.” So parents with the best intentions in this case, end up crashing their child’s dream.

Another example is the handyman dad who says, “I can build you a house’. Or…”Find a foreclosure that needs work and I’ll fix it up for you.” Well….first of all, those houses have to be bought as a cash purchase, because no lender will do a mortgage on them. Want to build from the dirt up, handyman dad? You have to pay cash for the land and here, that’s going to start at twenty grand for a lot in a less desirable area, more in the more desirable ones. Think about this: How many people do you know who have a regular job, that can go out and build a house in their ‘spare time’, and afford the cost. Think: Refrigerator, stove, dish washer, water heater, HVAC system, wiring, plumbing, roof, flooring. I don’t have any handymen like that in my contact list. Why? They do not exist.

So yes, family and friends can foul the whole process, and they do. Because they are not real estate agents, they don’t understand the process or market, and they don’t know the ‘rules’ for lending on certain types of property. Do they have the best of intentions? Most of the time, but not always. Some just ‘don’t like realtors’ and some always feel like someone’s out to get them. Those people are never happy, for anyone.

But. There are often parents and family who ARE interested in the happiness and success of their children. How can I tell? They come and meet me, and we sit down together and talk. I answer questions for them, and ultimately let them know that I am honest, excited for their child, and very good at what I do. It doesn’t take long before we are all on the same page and excited for the child buying her or his first home. And that’s the magic formula.

So, if you are a family member or ‘interested party’ who will advising behind the scenes, if I don’t meet you face to face, I expect you to cause problems. Not because you’re a bad person, but because you are not a real estate agent and some of your advice will be wrong, or just plain bad. Talk to me. Bring me your concerns and let’s talk through them. I love a team working toward a common goal. It’s the best way to succeed. Most of all, I want my client to be happy.

Stubborn and real estate don’t mix.

The One Hundred Thousand Dollar Stubborn Streak
(or, Blood is Shooting Out of My Eyes)

There is a …maybe a million dollar home which just sold for about ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS less than its value, primarily because of one outstanding attribute of the sellers: Stubbornness. I have to talk about this, people. I just have to. These sellers deserve to be applauded, even lauded for their supreme grasp of the phenomenon of stubbornness, because they took it to soaring heights and even paid six figures for the sake of holding on to it. They are my champions so far. Nobody else beats this streak.

Somebody will though. Somebody will. You can’t make this stuff up.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re lovely folks. But they take resistance to good solid advice, presented in the interest of getting them top dollar, to new heights. Or should I say depths. I should say depths. There it is. I am not the listing agent by the way. If I WAS I couldn’t write because you can’t write with an exploded head.

I’ve run across this tendency many times in my career. Usually the ones who own it best are the ones who think they are the Realtors, the ones with professional real estate training and professional real estate experience, even though they’ve never actually BEEN a Realtor. They think this because 1) they have big egos; 2) they think they are smarter than everybody else…everybody; 3) they hold Realtors in low esteem; 4) they don’t do well with separating emotion from business; and 5) they have bought or sold a home before. Okay and 6) they want to hold on to their ‘decorating’ theme…and I use that term loosely at times…even at the cost of oh say ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS!

I can hear all of the realtors saying, “AMEN!”. No, wait. Some are looking around and saying, “Are you kidding me? One hundred THOUSAND?” That’s right. I’m not kidding. Do I look like I’m kidding with smoke coming out of my ears over here??

You need to think about this. Just because you’ve been IN a courtroom, does that make you an attorney? Because you’ve had surgery, are you now a surgeon? If you’ve had surgery twice are you now CHIEF of surgery? I think some people think they ARE! If you look at beautiful art, are you then an artist? NO! So why would you think that just because you’ve bought or sold a home, or bought AND sold one, you are now a Realtor?? It makes about as much sense as the art analogy or any of the others. People, you are not the real estate agents; you are the CLIENTS. I should make a sign.

Gone are the days when realtors are the ones who can’t do anything else and that’s why they’re realtors. That was gone a LONG time ago. Realtors today are educated, strong, talented and up to the minute with stats on YOUR market. We have to be because everybody sues EVERYBODY these days…yes even CLIENTS (that would be YOU), whom we protect. We have a responsibility to you that we take very seriously. 

We protect you, we encourage you and we do our level BEST to make sure you get the MOST for your home that the market will bear. The way we DO that is by making sure you know how to be COMPETITIVE. We tell you what will make your home stand out and get that buyer to make an offer on your home, and we advise you about how you can make that offer SING, not hack like a life-long smoker about to keel over. You can listen to us, OR, you can disregard us and lose ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Here’s a good one. Even after receiving feedback after feedback about grandma’s quilt or the blue wall or the CLUTTER do you think ANYTHING gets changed? NOOOOO! You can’t make this stuff up! You really can’t! The market speaks and some clients pat their ears and say, “la la la la I can’t hear you”. Now I’m crying.

Can you tell I’m upset? I’M UPSET.

And these sellers are mad at the REALTORS!!!! We are the ones who warned you about being competitive, about LISTENING to the feedback and actually DOING something about it. We are the ones who tried to get you top dollar!! My head is about to explode. I can hear it expanding. I really can. It’s creaking.

There was no earthly reason for this house selling this low except for pure, unadulterated, boiled down, precipitated, strained, dried, sifted, freeze-dried, died in the wool STUBBORNESS. Now blood is coming out of my ears too. THIS WAS COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY, LOSING THIS KIND OF INVESTMENT DOLLARS!

Let me alert you. I have two college degrees, one in chemistry, a subject which makes most people cringe. And I graduated at the top of my class. The other degree is in business, where I studied marketing, economics, sales…I’m good at what I do and I’m qualified to have an ego just as big as anybody else. That’s why, if I visit you to talk about selling your home, you should listen to me. And you should listen to other realtors who have been down this road a thousand times and who tell you exactly what you need to do to be competitive in this market. We don’t make this stuff up, people. It’s based on data. Set aside the stubborn streak and think about what you might do with ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS. Is it worth paying that much to keep your grandmother’s quilt on the bed or that neon blue wall in the den? NO! IT’S NOT! For crying out loud, redecorate or paint! You’re LEAVING, remember? Is there still LOGIC in the world? I think there is, but why not in REAL ESTATE?? If you have a 14×14 foot room and enough junk in it to fill an 18×18 foot room, MOVE SOME STUFF OUT! Or, think about what you could do with ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS that you are about to flush down the gold plated TOILET.

You’re selling space, wide open space. Not your ‘décor’, not your grandma’s quilt, not that carving of an amoeba eating a shark. NOT that flower arrangement you made when you were on the crack pipe. SPACE is all you are selling. And not neon blue space. If you have to kick chairs and pillows out of the way to get INTO a neon blue room, LIGHTEN UP THE CLUTTER or kill me now. This is not rocket science, people. I’ve done rocket science; this ain’t it.
So there was this couple who sold their home for ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND less than market value, but they showed US didn’t they? I don’t think so. I think they shot themselves in the foot. Twice. Per foot.


Why Work So Hard?

Well, here’s another great reason.  This is a letter of reference from one of my first time buyer couples:

As first time home buyers, we were nervous about finding our first home and establishing a relationship with our agent. Brenda was referred to us by a mutual friend who admired her professionalism and wonderful spirit. Brenda left a wonderful impression after our first meeting. She LOVES first time buyers and helped us to understand the process, was patient and detail oriented when showing us each home, and offered support during each step. She understands the market and takes pride in her work, something that you will see after your first meeting with Brenda. She has a heart of gold and we thank her for making our first purchase special.


Real Estate Referral Letter

There is no higher compliment in my business than referrals from past clients. Not only does it help create a firm foundation for your business, but it just plain makes you feel good.  Here’s one that made my day:


Recommendation for Brenda Briggs

Selecting the right realtor can be a daunting task, as there are so many agencies and qualified individuals available in today’s marketplace.  After interviewing several, we chose Brenda as she was ‘down-to-earth’, easy to talk to, and very professional in her approach.  She more than exceeded our expectations!

Rather than feeling like just clients of hers, we felt “special”.  We knew that she was doing her utmost to find a buyer for our property.  She answered our calls and emails promptly, listened to all of our concerns, offered valuable advice, and made the whole process of selling our house run smoothly.  If she felt a room needed a special something, she addressed the situation herself, rather than asking us to do so.  She instinctively knew what needed to be done to make the house sell, and she succeeded in short order in a slow moving market.

Brenda excels at negotiations, and has perfected the art of dealing with buyers and sellers.  She possesses just the right touch when anxiety flares on either side, remains professional in all aspects of the transaction from the signing of the listing agreement to the closing, along with demonstrating integrity in her business relationships.  We always knew that she was there for us, representing our best interests at all times.

We appreciate all the extra work that Brenda Briggs did to make the sale of our property a reality.  We cannot recommend her high enough!

Jaine and Brian Parry

And by the way…these people are special to me.  I never knew them before I listed their home, but they are now a part of my history…and hopefully my future as well. 

Real Estate no-news

Guess what?  Real estate tastes are changing.  Well…no kidding.  People are always like a school of fish, aren’t we?  We follow the leader or change direction en mass as though a signal from outer space was just received.  This time, though, there’s an indication that some of the new trend behavior makes sense. 

Like this: McMansions are going bye bye in favor of smaller homes, ultimately for the energy savings of not having to heat and cool large spaces nobody uses.  Duh.  It’s getting less and less cool to have giant spaces in the age of ‘green’.  But the look of these smaller homes is still open and spacious, accomplished by fewer dividing walls, more careful decor to accent areas versus rooms, and lots more glass.

And here’s another one…stairs are losing favor.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  Baby Boomers are aging.  Who are we kidding; we’ve AGED.  One level is a good thing…again.  So all of the ranch style home owners who couldn’t get a showing are going to continue to be happy about the new trends.  But you’re going to have to update and maybe even knock downs some walls to open up the spaces…or cut the sale price to compensate.

Granite is still in.  That’s a good thing, because almost everybody either wants it or has it.  I shudder to think what’s going to happen when granite becomes passe.  Open spaces are still in and growing in favor.  Modern styles are back, sort of an early sixties throwback; lots of floor to ceiling glass and fewer walls to break up spaces, lower roof pitches, single level.  Ornate is packing up and leaving; lean and clean lines are in.  If it’s true that neo-Mediterranian is coming on strong, we should see stucco make a comeback.  Imagine that.

The kitchen still sells the house; no surprise there.  If you want to sell and your kitchen is OLD, you’re going to have to either update or compensate by lowering your selling price…a lot.  Almost every seller has to spend update money these days.  The best place to spend?  Kitchen.  Next place to update: bathrooms.  Now, how many times have you heard that?

And have you noticed that it’s the SELLERS who are the fixer-uppers now?  It used to be buyers who did the fixing.  Not anymore, at least not right now.  Oh that’s going to change back when the market becomes a seller market again, but for now…sellers have to ante up the renovation money.  Buyers want a kitchen they can walk into and start using. Period: End of discussion…for now.

Here’s some more no-news: neutral paint colors!  If your home looks like the Sherwin-Williams color wheel, you’re going to have to paint if you want to sell.

All of this is the  market speaking.  The schools of fish are still swimming.  If you want to sell your home and choose to ignore what the population at large are buying, then the simple, absolute conclusion is that you don’t want to sell your home.  You just don’t.  Your realtor, even the realllly good one, can’t sell what the market has zero interest in buying.  You might want to read that last sentence again.

If you’re buying, it’s a good idea to see what’s heating up in the market so that you buy smart.  You don’t want to buy a Victorian with small rooms if glass houses with two interior walls becomes the norm. And by the way, almost nobody lives in a house long enough to outlast the trends anymore.  I know, you think you will be the one…but the data say you won’t. 

And here’s one last thing: live like you want to while you own your home.  Paint all of the rooms electric blue if that floats your boat.  But when you’re ready to sell, remember this: you must appeal to the market or you will not sell.  People follow the trends.  Oh, there will be one person who would LOVE your blue house, but if that fish isn’t swimming with the school of other fish, swimming along JUST LIKE all of the other fish…it’s probably been eaten by a bigger fish already.  Paint.