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Friday, June 13, 2014

What’s Job One for a skillful agent?

As most of our readers know, we’re continually running little polls among our clients, readers, and friends.  One of these ongoing quizzes concerns the very foundation of a Real Estate agent’s work:  “What,” we ask, “is the most important task an agent can perform for you?”

As you may have guessed, the answers have surprised us.  Most commonly, the response from sellers is the research that leads to a reliable market evaluation of the property in question.

And as a rule, buyers too tend to emphasize the role of research. They want Nikki to sift the market, rule out the “impossibles,” and show them through only the most promising of affordable domiciles.

Among past clients, both buyers and sellers, there’s sometimes  mention of secondary roles, which might include the aid a well-connected agent provides in recommending helpful lenders and other professionals in the complex business of transferring property.  However, it’s the recurring clients-- the ones who’ve been through more than a few acquisitions and unloadings-- who usually nail the answer we expected.  

 “Negotiating!” smiled one of our clients.  “Without your expertise, we’d have jumped at an offer loaded with problems, or the one that threatened a serious conflict. Once we’d have accepted unnecessary contingencies, wasted a bunch of time, and ended up feeling like total Babes in the Woods!”

The truth is that unless a buyer shows up with an all-cash offer and an elastic time frame regarding the closing date, almost everything in the deal is negotiable.  When a home inspection unearths unforeseen pitfalls, a veteran agent can sort them out handily.  If a buyer or seller backs out after tying up a property for a lengthy stretch, the agent’s well-constructed contract usually offers some remedy.   When loans fall through, when appraisals come up short, or surveys reveal a boundary conflict, a competent agent negotiates through the problem and helps reach a solution that satisfies all parties.

Whenever you find yourself ready to interview Real Estate agents, never hesitate to explore their background in negotiating.  Ask how they’ve dealt with some of the pitfalls cited above.  A true professional can offer plenty of examples and probably enjoy remembering them.

“It’s true,” said Nikki. “We may be good at research, and all the tasks that grease the wheels toward smoothing out a successful sale.  But if your agent isn’t a top-notch negotiator, you’re not getting your money’s worth.”

You can reach Nikki at HolmesTeam@GoldRushGroup.net

Full disclosure is Real Estate’s “lemon law”

Ask almost anyone how they feel about the “lemon law” in auto sales and you’re bound to hear a resounding huzzah.  To refresh your memory, this is legislation that enables a car buyer to return a less-then-satisfactory auto within a reasonable time frame and get a full refund.
There’s a kind of lemon law in Real Estate, however, that doesn’t always have such an easy fix.  It’s known as full disclosure.  “The state of California extends very strong legal protection for buyers,” said Nikki.  “An alert agent is smart to counsel sellers to list anything and everything that might affect the value of a property in a negative way.”  Sometimes this is a wrench for the seller.  Who wants to disparage a house that’s about to go on the market?

But if full disclosure seems a boon to buyers (and it is), it’s equally so for sellers.  Much as it hurts to recite plumbing problems, leaky windows, even upgrades done without a permit, such candid admissions give prospective buyers a chance to decide if they want to take on these problems-- and often they do.

The real snag arises if the buyer resells the property without fixing the problem and then fails to disclose it.  The original owner is off the hook, but the second seller may be in for trouble.  “In the worst case,” said Nikki, “the new buyer may be very angry.  But usually the buyer’s and seller’s agents can get together and work out a solution.”

Non-disclosing sellers often deserve some sympathy.  Sometimes they don’t know the problem exists, or don’t recognize it as a hazard.  The annals of buyer discontent contain some surprising protests.

·        The shower stall was not fitted with tempered glass

·         The owner’s mother had died in the home less than three years ago

·         A rattlesnake had been spotted in the back yard

·         A neighbor was accustomed to burning his own garbage

·         The dog down the street was a nonstop barker

·         Previous owners had kept indoor cats

In older neighborhoods, new owners may discover that unpermitted upgrades were performed so long ago that local ordinances didn’t apply.  As the saying goes, these changes were “grandfathered” in.  However, if they haven’t caused trouble in all these years, they’re unlikely to be a problem now, and can usually be brought up to code or “retro-permitted.” 

“Happily, there’s a limit to how far back these protests can reach,” said Nikki.  “The house you sold 10 years ago can’t come back to bite you.”


We welcome your comments and queries.  Reach us at HolmesTeam@goldrushgroup.net

Seller’s remorse can spring from lack of planning

When some home-owners latch onto the idea of selling the family homestead, the whirlwind of necessary preparations can easily obscure the importance of planning beyond the final closing.  They’re swept away in a flurry of small repairs indoors, pruning and planting outdoors, often organizing yard sales.

“We see this happen more often in an up-market,” said Nikki.  “Owners whose homes have long been ‘under water’ suddenly discover they can now sell out and do better than break even.  Sometimes far better.  An experienced agent will usually counsel that there’s no need to rush, but others may cave in to fears of losing the contract.”

There are more than a few reasons seemingly successful sellers turn remorseful, but these usually stem from a lack of planning.

·        Sellers don’t know where they’ll live after closure.  They haven’t researched less expensive or smaller homes, and haven’t discussed renting vs. owning again.

·       If the sale is prompted by a job promotion or relocation out of the area, what once sounded like great news suddenly seems a wrench.  The sellers begin to reevaluate the loss of friends, good neighbors, church, and other connections they once took for granted.

·         Loss of a job.  Though the local real estate market is perking up, our rise in business is too often based on down-sizing and automation.  The plight of seeking a mortgage on a new home without regular employment is daunting.

·       Offers from buyers come in above the listed price.  What’s the first question you’d ask yourself in a case like this?  Wouldn’t you wonder if you should hold off selling and maybe net out more in a few months?  Maybe that experienced agent of yours was right in advising you to slow down.  This kind of seller’s remorse can be remedied by withdrawing your home from the market, but you will owe your agent due compensation for finding the buyers you asked for.

In its mildest form, seller’s remorse is a sentiment probably shared by every owner who ever turned over a latchkey.  After all, you’re leaving a citadel that will always encapsulate part of your life.  But as you now know, this syndrome can get costly if you fail to map out the next stages. 

“Always scope out possible new digs,” said Nikki, “and decide whether you want to buy again or rent.  If you haven’t locked up a new home, we can sometimes arrange for you to rent back your “ex-home” for a short time while you sew up a new domicile.  But this search works far better when you run it in advance, and not out of desperation.”