The Foreclosure Moratorium: An Opportunity for Mom & Pop Home Sellers?

With the latest scuttlebutt in the housing industry centering around a rising political push for a large scale foreclosure moratorium by leading lending institutions, most are aware that Bank of America became the first to issue a temporary nationwide pause in foreclosures this past week. Though B of A is the first to stay their executions across all fifty states, JP Morgan Chase and GMAC agreed to halt foreclosures in the 23 states where foreclosure is a judicial process. The pressure to do so originated over procedural impropriety in several specific locales, and has snowballed into wholesale questioning of the internal processes of the major banks. Mounting concern over erroneous foreclosures spawned the voluntary cessation (expected to last several weeks). While Wells Fargo has spurned calls to do the same, it would not be surprising to see more institutions yield to the rising pressure and follow suit.

What does this mean? Plenty has already been written about this with homeowners facing foreclosure and prospective buyers in mind, so I won’t belabor those perspectives here. Suffice it to say that while any additional quality control that can prevent people from wrongly losing their homes to foreclosure would be a good thing, the upshot in terms of market reaction is likely to be a collective shrug of the shoulders. Not content to simply halt the actual act of foreclosure, B of A is temporarily taking their inventory off the market while the review is ongoing. It’s been posited that fewer listings will translate to a possible surge in prices, but this is pure mularky. The market simply does not react in a matter of a few weeks to any stimulus, as it takes time for consumers to make heads or tails out of new developments and how they translate to negotiable strength. On the contrary, I think this will make buyers who are already non-harried take even more of a wait and see approach. Rather than buying what is left, those who are not under a time crunch to get into a new house will probably just wait for the moratorium to end and for the withheld inventory to flood the market. In essence, we could be looking at an unintentional buying moratorium as well.

Though it would be foolish to anticipate a surge in values, the one segment of the consumptive spectrum that stands to gain from this turn of events is the non-distressed homeowner. With a small window opening for mom & pop home sellers to compete with significantly fewer bank homes for buyers, I would not be shocked at all to see a percentage gain of resale home sales while overall sales volume remains flat, or even declines slightly, in the coming weeks. I expect many buyers will choose to wait it out, but there are those who do not have the luxury of time. Be it a job relocation, family circumstances, etc, there are always buyers who need to buy now. With fewer distressed properties on the market, and likely buyer uncertainty over how this will translate to the short sale arena (will B of A process short sales while foreclosures are in limbo, or pause all such decisions? Will short sale sellers temporarily remove their homes from the market in anticipation of a reprieve?), this could be the traditional seller’s best opportunity to vie for buyers in quite some time.

Again, don’t misconstrue the knee-jerk hypothesis. The value of your home is not going to spike due to this temporary phenomenon, nor are you suddenly in the catbird’s seat. For those in an equitable position to sell, this window merely represents the best possibility to attract a buyer in months.

No screwing around – price your home right and get it sold while there are fewer alternatives for buyers. As a regular seller, with the tax credit gone as a buyer incentive and microscopically low interest rates and low prices not translating to appreciable gains in sales/values, you have to leverage every conceivable strength in this market to accomplish your goals.

Ready to sell your Scottsdale home? Contact us today to schedule a no-obligation consultation, but do it fast. When the moratorium ends and the holidays are fast approaching, it will be time to hunker down for another long, cold winter.

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How Do I Get the Best Deal On Real Estate Services?

Certainly, we are all aware that Real Estate fees are negotiable and that there is no set standard for the services of a REALTOR. Mind you, that does not mean agents are under any obligation to deviate from their stated rates, but it does mean that what Agent X quotes for his services is not to be mistaken for what Agents Y and Z might charge for theirs. That piece of legal housekeeping out of the way, there are means at your disposal for securing the best possible value on professional service from your agent. Follow this simple list of Do’s & Don’ts, compiled over the course of eleven years in the business, and you will give yourself the best chance at securing the lowest commission rate to go along with the level of service you demand.

Do:

  • Refer me business. This one goes at the top of the list for a reason. In a commission based existence, new sources of business are my lifeblood. While it seems patently obvious, many simply don’t think about sending potential clients to their agent unless prompted. The primary reason that the fees in a Real Estate transaction tend to be high is the risk to the professionals involved. Mitigate some of the risk in an “eat what you kill” profession by helping me find my next paycheck, and I am more likely to reward the added security with a concession of my own.
  • Provide me with repeat business. Unlike the wireless companies who are always offering deep discounts to new customers, I am far more likely to offer a lower rate to an existing client than the man off the street. As multiple transactions from a loyal client over the years will eliminate much of the reliance on cold business lead generation, we agents consider the client for life the holy grail of financial security.
  • Be pleasant to work with. Touchy-feely as it sounds, no one likes working for a Napoleonic boss. I deal with all types in this business, but I’m more apt to offer a better rate to those I’m eager to assist than the rabid seller in the Hannibal Lecter mask.
  • Do your homework. While I will inevitably have to help you unlearn a few things that you’ve gleaned from your internet sleuthing (amateur home evaluation via online calculator, anyone?), an educated client saves me time. That is additional time I can direct to procuring new business or coddling less prepared clients.
  • Provide me with an excellent product to sell at my recommended list price. Some listings are simply creampuffs. Beautifully appointed and priced right, I know without a doubt that it is going to sell within 30 days on the market. While I will earn my keep in establishing value and marketing to fetch a top of market sales price, such creampuffs are the closest thing to money in the bank that this profession offers. I’m not adverse to reducing my normal fee if it means planting a sign in the yard of a home that will sell quickly and generate a ton of buyer calls (new potential business).
  • Purchase with an eye towards future resale. This is an offshoot of the previous item. When looking for a new home, many buyers focus exclusively on their needs and budget. This is a mistake. Future value potential and desirability of the property across a broad spectrum of buyers is critical to not only your return on investment, but to its appeal to Real Estate agents as a listing sometime down the line.  I won’t turn cartwheels when you call me to list a home for sale with a funky, unpermitted addition. A tough property to sell means no discounted rate.

See the pattern here? The idea is to give a little to get a little. Take away some of the financial risk associated with the job, and I can work with you on the reward. On the flip side, there are surefire ways to relegate yourself to the going rate. Avoid the following list of don’ts unless you enjoy talking yourself out of a deal.

Don’t:

  • Ask me what I charge in advance of an initial consultation. It is human nature to want to cut to the chase, but lacking context, I have no idea whether your home is a creampuff or a dud. Further, demanding to know what I charge without giving me the opportunity to outline what services I provide for that fee raises a red flag. It sets an adversarial tone and tells me that you are likely going to be a grinder. Until you give me the opportunity to see the property, and/or you present me with a special circumstance that might make me amenable to a discounted offering, you are going to get quoted the standard fare. If anything, I might even quote a slightly higher fee than typical as I have no idea what I’m walking into.
  • Haggle with me. There is certainly no harm in asking me about my fees (how could you agree to do business with me without knowing the costs, after all?), or asking if I would be willing to reduce them. Instead of trying to junkyard dog me into a lower rate, however, offer me something of value (see list of DO’s) in return. I don’t respond well to coercion, and I negotiate for a living. Give me a reason to reduce my rate, don’t blindly demand it.
  • Own the only million dollar home in a $250k neighborhood. You must purchase and remodel/renovate shrewdly. Making poor initial purchasing decisions, over-improving for the neighborhood, or otherwise rendering your home difficult to sell is the single greatest saboteur of a better deal from me. Signing up for 6 months of marketing on an unsalable property will not put me in a generous mood.  You’ll pay full boat, if I opt to take the listing at all.
  • Play me off of other agents. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and one I can see coming a mile away. Fear of loss is a powerful motivator, just don’t be so obvious about it. A well-placed mention of the upcoming interview with another agent will work better than a full frontal assault of “Agent B said she’d list my house for ___%.” I know that I am likely competing for your business, and factor that into the rate I quote you. A subtle reminder won’t hurt, but a mugging will make me hold tight to my wallet.
  • Approach me on one of my listings directly under the misguided belief that I will reduce my fee if you do not have representation. This bothers me on principle. I may offer a cooperating broker a percentage of my fee to produce a buyer, but under no circumstances does that percentage vanish or adjust if I am the only agent involved. I am actually hesitant to handle both sides of the transaction, as it opens the door to twice the transactional liability, and certainly will not double my workload for free. Regardless, this tactic is akin to cutting your nose off to spite your face. Go get yourself an agent of your own who will negotiate a better deal for you rather than dinking and dunking around with a percent or two of agent compensation. Think big picture.
  • Ask me to reduce my fee if I find the buyer without the involvement of another agent. This is the flip side to the previous entry. Yes, I stand to earn a larger fee if there is no other agent involved in the transaction, but this approach is problematic in that you are essentially providing me with a disincentive to find your buyer myself. Why would I bust my behind and open myself up to the greater liability of handling both sides of the transaction for no additional reward? Such a commission arrangement essentially directs your agent to the couch, where he waits with feet up on the ottoman for a buyer’s agent to do his job.

I abhor the phrase “win-win.” So overused and misapplied to a business transaction. We are not Real Estate mediators, after all, but agents tasked with securing the best possible terms for our clients in the sale of real property. When it comes to the relationship between agent and client, however, it is the appropriate cliche. If we are to function as a cohesive unit to satisfy mutual goals, there are different routes to the “win-win” scenario. No need to butt heads when we each have things of value to offer in exchange for that which is most important to us. For consumers, that means making your agent’s job easier and directing future income potential his way. For agents, that means rewarding that consideration with quality, professional service at the lowest possible rate of compensation.

Symbiosis … it’s a beautiful thing.

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Listing Price Reductions: Go Big or Go Home

Note:  The following is the opinion of Paul Slaybaugh only, and, therefore, patently correct.

Unless you are trying to get under a specific price barrier, you are better off leaving your asking price alone than making a minuscule reduction.

Sounds contrary to logic, doesn’t it? And contrary to the groveling we agents typically employ to wrangle an unrealistic seller into the wakeful world. Why on earth would the guy who has been hammering you on price from the listing’s inception reverse course now that you are willing to acquiesce slightly?

Because a 5k price adjustment to a property that needs to come down 50k sends a signal to buyers, and not the one you think it does. Assuming I did not hit the hooch prior to the initial listing consultation and abet your decision to list the house for $404,900 (thus making it entirely likely that the eventual buyer for your house is not currently seeing it due to his searches being constrained by a 400k ceiling), such insignificant tinkering with the price essentially puts buyers and their agents on notice that you are not all that open to negotiation. Shaving a few measly bucks off the list price is equal parts admission that the current pricing isn’t getting it done, and revelation of an unwillingness to give up on the sales price targeted.

That’s a sales molotov cocktail.

If you move your listing price from $425,000 to $419,000, everyone and their mother knows you are still looking to command upwards of 400k.

Perhaps this is the message you hope to impart, but it makes you appear even more recalcitrant than you did prior to showing the modest reduction. Of the two primary goals of price adjustment – attracting a new group of buyers, and re-energizing those who have already seen the home – you accomplish neither. Adjustment for the sake of adjustment isn’t going to fool anyone and should not be prescribed haphazardly. It is just going to perpetuate the belief that, even upon further reflection, your opinion of value is not compatible with reality.

Many times buyers and their agents will put a home on the watch list if it appears to fit their needs, but is overpriced. That very first price reduction goes a long way in their determination as to whether your home is to be a viable contender. If you show a meager concession after 90 days on the market, they will intuit that you will not be open to an offer more in line with current values. Further, at the current rate of adjustment, it will take another 2 years for you to eventually work your way down to where you need to be. Adios muchachos, it’s on to the next contender for them.

If you really have no flexibility to drop your price, you are better served to keep them guessing as to your motivations and likely openness to negotiation. Better to show nothing than to show you are thinking about haggling in cents when the buyer is thinking in dollars.

If you need to reduce your price to break into the appropriate buyer demographic, bite the faux-equity bullet and do it. Doing so piecemeal not only alerts potential buyers to your likely miserly approach to negotiations, but robs you of the impact an appreciable change brings.

I know you don’t want to give your home away, and I would be derelict in my duty to let you do so. Just bear in mind that you cannot give away that which you don’t have. If your list price does not reflect current market value, you are fretting about closing the door on money that was never yours.

If you need to make a price adjustment, make it count.

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Hire Me, I Spent 50K to Dominate Irrelevant Keyword Searches!

“List with me because I dominate page 1 of Google for Scottsdale Real Estate, as well as Neighborhoods X, Y and Z!”

A familiar refrain.

Firmly entrenched in the Internet Age of Real Estate marketing, it would be reasonable for a consumer to expect his chosen agent to propagate every nook and cranny of the online world with the homes he has listed for sale. Actually, it should be a pre-requisite. If your home is not readily found by web surfing consumers, you might as well pull the sign from the yard and go stew in the cone of silence for the next six months. You may eventually find a suitor the old fashioned way, but demand falls off the map if your home does not frequent the same haunts as the consuming public. In other words, best case scenario is to expect a lower sales price and longer stint on the market if you are invisible to the online home shopper.

Your listing should appear on the major power player sites, such as Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, etc.  Your home should be visible on every competitor’s site via IDX listing (brokers have the ability to opt in or out of the IDX agreement, thus can choose whether to keep company listings close to the vest or allow their properties to be displayed in the search results on competing home search sites).  Your home should be marketed with scores of high quality digital pictures and/or virtual tours to stand out from the din.

What is not necessarily a “must” however is that your chosen listing agent dominate the first ten spots of Google for major home search terms.  Sacrilege, I know.

As one who partakes in the daily struggle for online supremacy, why would I acknowledge such a thing?  Because it simply doesn’t hold water to argue that I am all of that and a bag of Real Estate chips by my positioning at the top of the search engines for select key words.  It certainly helps me cultivate leads, but whether your ultimate buyer finds your home on my site or a competitor’s is of little consequence to you.  As long as the buyer finds you, who cares if your agent stands to double dip the commission or has to co-broke with a buyer’s agent?

Though I aspire to gain keyword dominance for a few juicy sequences that I covet, and guard those I have already conquered with a zeal seldom seen this side of the Spanish Inquisition, do not misinterpret search engine dominance for the be all and end all of internet marketing.  It is merely one arm of the octopus.  The one that gloms onto wayward buyers for the agent’s new business generation at that.

To a certain extent, a well-ranked website is the modern incarnation of the open house.  The odds of the buyer walking into my domain on a broad Scottsdale Real Estate keyword search and fitting your property are just as long as with its old school predecessor.  It’s great when it happens, but if website placement comprises the entirety of an online marketing campaign … good luck, Chuck.  Google placement is a valuable assistant to a productive agent, but it is not a home selling panacea.

While I may rank higher than some of my competitors, and lower than a few others, they all benefit my clients.  As each listing I take is displayed on all major search engine across the web, my properties are splashed across virtually every website that pertain to Scottsdale Real Estate.

In that regard, I guess you could say that my listings dominate the first 50 pages of Google. And really, my lead generation aspirations aside, what else matters?

How are you supposed to differentiate between prospective agents if website ranking is less important than you were led to believe? Assuming your candidates are equally adept at proliferating their listings across the web (a big assumption), you separate the wheat from the chaff the old fashioned way: knowledge, ability and experience. There are no shortcuts to the head of that line, whiz bang website or no.

And now, to reap the SEO benefits that will vault me to the top of the rankings, but do little to improve my ability to sell your home, I repeat today’s keyword phrase: Scottsdale Real Estate.

Page 1, here we come!

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Selling a Home in Scottsdale? Keep the Agent Bonus in Your Shorts.

Thanks, but no thanks.  Therein lie my in-depth feelings regarding buyer agent bonus compensation.

It’s a tricky business, this whole trust-building endeavor.  From the initial consultation with a prospective client, to the signing of the closing documents and all stops in between, a certain rapport and mutual belief in the positive intentions of each party must be developed to produce the desired outcome: namely, the purchase of the most appropriate property at the most advantageous terms.  With ample opportunity for an agent to unintentionally spit the bit along the way, warding off the encroachment of countless variables that would undermine the health of the relationship is an undisclosed facet of the job.  And what, pray tell, is the swiftest and surest endangerment of one’s relationship with the client?  Money.  More specifically, the belief, whether founded or not, that the agent is twisting his fiduciary obligation by putting his financial interests before those of the client.  That’s a relationship killer.  Once any doubt creeps into the mind of the client as to the motivation of his representative, you might as well go ahead and split the sheets.

I don’t want a bonus to sell your listing.

If your listing fits my client’s criteria, and you are offering me fair compensation for services rendered, I will show the property.  If you are offering compensation that does not meet my minimum standards, I will show the property if my client agrees to make me whole. Mind you, that’s a terrible disincentive to buyers and buyer’s agents alike, but run your business however you see fit.  What I do not require is any kind of additional spiff over and above suitable compensation.  An extra percent if the transaction closes in the next 30 days, a co-broke that is double the normal range of compensation, a week aboard the listing agent’s yacht after the close of escrow … all such supposed motivators are liable to call my judgment into question.

Am I really pushing property “x” because it represents that best value proposition for the client, or am I mentally slathering SPF 15 over my epidermis in preparation of the promised week in the Bahamas?

I’m not real keen on trying to explain to my client why I am grossing 20k on a $200,000 transaction while we are sitting around the closing table.

So while I appreciate the extra incentive a listing agent and/or seller may try to stoke via a buyer’s agent bonus, it calls my credibility into question.  Matter of fact, I will typically apply any such bonus (if monetary value can be readily affixed) to my client’s closing costs.  I maintain my reputation and my client gets an unexpected perk.  In fact, I would be in breach of my personal ethics, if not my fiduciary obligation, if I didn’t carve out such extraneous allotments for my client’s benefit.  If I am being compensated fairly for my role in the transaction, it is my duty to corral any additional nickels that fall out of the seller’s pockets for the buyer.

Want to expedite your Scottsdale home sale?  Put the agent bonus back in your shorts. Repackage the offering as a reduced price or concession towards the buyer’s closing costs. Make the terms more appealing to my client and you will produce the desired result. The seller gets his fast sale, the buyer gets more attractive terms and both agents get happy, referral-prone clients. Everybody wins.

If I want to go play Dread Pirate Roberts in the Caymans, I’ll do it on my own dime.

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What’s Mean and Grey and Stupid All Over?

There are dragons lurking in the dark recesses of your property listing.  Mean dragons.  Scaly, grey, mean dragons that might rise up out of their lairs and go all Godzilla on your potential showings if left unchecked.

And what, pray tell, is the name of these marauding reptiles?

“REALTOR Remarks”

Ah yes, that hobgoblin of good intentions in the multiple listing service that provides for private communication amongst local Realtors.  It gives me a good shudder just to type the name of the foul beast.  Suburban legend has it that if you say it three times in front of the bathroom mirror with the lights off, you will doom yourself to a lonely stint on the market.  Why?  Because the private portion of the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service which is intended to impart “eyes only” information to the Real Estate sales force is home to some of the most spectacular lapses in judgment this side of New Coke.

“Do not approach cage, monkey will bite!”

“Disregard water damage in hall bathroom shower.”

“Bring me an offer, seller needs to sell NOW!!!”

From the laughable (“House is better than pictures make it look”) to the horrific breaching of client confidentiality (“Divorce situation: husband not cooperative”), one little notation in the private remarks of the listing can torpedo the price you command for your home, if not endanger the sale altogether.  Alarm codes, additional showing instructions, agent to agent disclosures – all are intended fodder for the REALTOR Remarks section.  The mistake that is often made, however, is that anything goes so long as it remains hidden from the prying eyes of the public.

The moral of the story?  Read the full property listing before your agent inputs it into the MLS. While you will most likely view a copy of the completed listing once it hits the system, you will not be able to see what is privately disclosed to other agents.  You will want to see a copy of the FULL listing to ensure that your best interests have not been compromised by a few careless words.

You priced the home well, staged it to look its best, had it professionally photographed, toured and dispersed to the far reaches of the Internet.  Don’t blow it now, kid.

Of course, if you want me to avoid your home like the plague, make sure your agent denotes that it “smells kind of funky, but no known presence of mold.”

In the mood to receive offers that are 50% below your list price?  Instruct your agent to notify fellow Realtors to “Bring me any offer and I’ll get it accepted!”

Unless the Stargate in the study presents a clear and present danger to those who would tour your home, best not to mention the possible credit for intergalactic species remediation.

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