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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Debunking myths about Real Estate agents

Everybody knows a few things about real estate agents. Obviously they
must love houses, and condos, and building sites. But there are other
things we think we know, and which turn out to be urban --or suburban

• “At the top of the list,” said Nikki, “agents are not cut-throat
competitors. In almost every transaction, there’s an agent for the
buyer, and one for the seller. We have a common goal, and nothing’s
accomplished unless we synchronize our efforts. Sometimes we’ve
worked together in the past, and thus have a history of filling in the
potholes—and doing it quickly.”

• More than a few people think agents can cherry-pick the best
deals, grabbing up bargain properties as soon as they hit the
listings. Or maybe even before. “This is more than a myth,” said
Nikki. “It’s a violation of the agent’s license. Of course agents
occasionally buy homes for their own use, but in these cases they’re
obliged to observe some strict regulations. Such transactions don’t
take place on the QT.”

• Having signed a listing contract with an agent, what if the seller
finds an acceptable buyer on his own? Would you say the seller has no
obligation to the agent? “This problem rarely arises,” said Nikki.
“But if asked to consider it, many people would say no. The agent
didn’t do any work to earn a commission. But the agent’s contribution
to the sale began long before the listing. It began as the agency
built up the solid reputation and string of successful sales that
first attracted this client. It continued as the seller used the
agent’s time and expertise on marketing advice. In short, the
contract signed by the seller does carry some obligation.

• After getting a lot of help from a local agent, the buyers end up
acquiring a house out of town. And using out-of town agents. “The
myth here,” said Nikki, “is that although the buyers apologize
profusely, they think there’s nothing else to be done. However, the
agent should let them know that there’s a way they can help offset her
already-devoted time and knowledge. That’s by making sure the
out-of-town agents are advised they’ll be asked for a referral fee. At
no cost to the clients.”

Most real estate agents would love to see these myths debunked—as well
as a few others. “But the upside, “ said Nikki, “is that this is a
business where you build lasting relationships. There’s almost always
time to correct false impressions.”


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is a "Flipped" House the same as a Rehab?

Congratulations! You’ve found the perfect home. And also discovered
it’s a “flipper.” Is this a problem?

“There’s a wide gulf,” said Nikki, “between flippers-- we call it the
F-word—and investors who take on the serious rehabilitation of a home
that needs repairs and upgrades to make it market-ready. Because
flippers are driven by time and cost containment, they usually
consider it too expensive to investigate a home’s hidden quirks and
flaws. For flippers, the changes are mostly cosmetic, and carried out
using the cheapest workmen and materials.”

Rehabbers are a different breed. They’re often established companies
with a reputation to uphold, and they take pride in their work. While
flippers will sacrifice the unique or historic features of a home, to
give it a vanilla, please-everyone look, rehabbers search out ways to
enhance these features.

Rehabbers may be individual investors or corporations, but when they
put a home on the market, they can supply interested buyers with
information about the work they completed. Often, that may include the
names of the contractors and inspectors used, their license numbers
and even work history, as well all permits when they were required.

To go back to our opening, what fears would a flipper generate? That
the owner hasn’t lived there? That the plumbing and septic systems
hold nasty but hidden secrets? That the flipper used cheap materials
that won’t survive a couple of winters?
“These are all legitimate questions, and a reliable agent will make
sure you get the answers,” said Nikki. “If the seller can’t come up
with a summary of the work he’s had done, the inspections, and
corrections recommended in those inspections, it's wise to probe

"But if your queries are answered in detail, you know this house was
repaired and modernized by people who respect the property, who live
up to the full disclosure law, who offer warranties and make good on
them. Many wisely offer generous home warranties to help address any
unexpected surprises."

When investors of any stripe buy a home to resell, they know exactly
what price-tag it will carry when it goes back on the market. The
problem with a casually flipped house is that it may sound like a
bargain initially, but the buyer often ends up paying thousands more
to correct a hidden defect that the flipper never investigated. The
full disclosure clause applies only to flaws he knows about.
Rehabbers have generally taken the time to investigate the home's
systems and structure and have corrected defects they identify,
offering a more reliable choice for the new owner.

In appearance, flipped homes and rehabs all look great, sometimes
better than new. Only the paperwork will tell you if this is the home
of your dreams—or a potential nightmare.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

There’s a helping hand for reluctant sellers

“I know I have to sell, but I hate the whole idea!”
When a client interview opens like this, most real estate agents know they’re in for a certain amount of cheer-leading, hand-holding, and general bucking up. There are many reasons why sellers might dig in their heels at the thought of moving out. Some simply dislike change and disruption. Seniors and long-time home-owners say it feels like closing a chapter of family history.
One of the most common instances of seller reluctance crops up when the owner’s literally forced to down-size. We’re not talking here about empty-nesters envisioning a cute midtown cottage. We’re describing clients who are being driven into an independent
or assisted-living facility by declining health. Or seniors who can no longer manage the housekeeping and gardening chores their current home demands, but deplore the thought  of living “un-surrounded” by their keepsakes, collectibles, and heirlooms.
“With most of my clients,” said Nikki, “I often check the Rolodex for all kinds of recommendations to get the property into marketable shape. Plumbers, electricians, landscapers, you name it. But I have to say that I’ve found only one resource to handle the complicated business of helping sellers cross the barrier when they’d rather not.”
“New Leaf Senior Transitions is a company that might have been invented by anguished offspring who don’t know how to ease their parents into simpler living. Or maybe by real estate agents who know how many small maneuvers it takes to scale a big house down to 900 square feet.”
Staci Zabell, owner of New Leaf, specializes in these small maneuvers. New Leaf helps sellers decide which possessions they can live without and then arranges for the sale or donation of the rejects.
They’ve developed a unique packing system that pares moving costs down to the bone. And best of all, their “check-your-new-floor-plan” innovation encourages distraught sellers to refocus on a future with possibilities.

“In the past,” said Nikki, “these complications and many others, were farmed out to specialists of varying competence. Though it’s not an agent’s job, we always got called in when things went wrong. The arrival on the scene of this comprehensive new service is a boon to reluctant sellers as well as to agents like me." You can find their website at newleafseniortransitions.com, or email Nikki at Nikki@GoldRushRE.com, for more info on New Leaf.