Moving Day – A Realtor’s Pledge

Moving Day

Moving day is never easy. Keepsakes overwhelm boxes. Boxes overwhelm trunks. Memories overwhelm hearts.

Leaving a house is simple. Leaving a home is sacred. It is something that demands reflection and resolve, whether the circumstances surrounding the upheaval are chosen or forced. Happy or sad. Not everything fits neatly into a box. Not everything is meant to. Hopes, dreams, smiles and tears stay behind, etching one’s passage just as clearly as the jagged initials carved into an old ash tree in the front yard. As deliberately as the carefully penciled height marks that chase each other up a kitchen door frame. Though you leave, you are never entirely gone. Your footfalls never forgotten.

Moving day comes for us all. And it is hard.

As your agent, I understand this. It is my distinct honor and privilege to guide you through this momentous transition. It is also a great responsibility. I thank you for your trust and vow not to squander it.

This is my pledge to you.

Is it Time to Sell My House?

As of this morning (2/24/12), there are 16,589 properties actively listed for sale in the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, well below our peak inventory levels in the 50,000+ range at the height of the foreclosure crisis. Moreover, there are currently more homes under contract (19,962) across the Valley than currently available to purchase. 7486 properties closed escrow in the last month. At this rate, our market has just over 2 months of inventory. The supply of quality homes is anemic to the point that multiple offers and bidding wars are erupting across the greater Phoenix area on new listings. By any reasonable measure, we have stumbled into a strong seller’s market early in 2012.

So it’s time to throw your house on the market, right? As in all matters, it depends.

The case for selling

You have been trapped in a home you couldn’t sell for the past several years. Eager to downsize, upsize, relocate, etc, you’ve put your plans on hold while the market languished. Not convinced that this break in the clouds isn’t just a temporary mirage versus a sustainable recovery, you aren’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Buyers are buying, and climbing over each other to do so. With the summer coming up, you are going to cash out what’s left of your equity so that you can finally get on with the next phase of your life before the winter/spring visitors leave, gas prices shoot through the roof and the market returns to its regularly scheduled slump.

The Case for Waiting

Yes, the market is changing. The Real Estate signs that once lined your street are disappearing. The last house on the block sold in a day for 10k over list price. It reminds you of the market conditions from 2005 that temporarily shot your value through the stratosphere. Now your house is worth about what you paid for it in 2002. You are tempted to throw your place on the market now that there are buyers for it, but you won’t have much left over for a down payment on another place. Further, you know this is the beginning of the recovery. Why sell at the low point when values should continue to climb for the foreseeable future? You’d like a new home that more closely reflects today’s needs, but aren’t willing to dump the current one at a price that might look low with a year’s hindsight.

The Case for Compromise

Can you cover your current mortgage by renting out your house? If so, and you have the financial means to qualify for another loan without selling, you might consider that route. For those who are optimistic that the current market is a sign of better things to come, this tactic covers two bases: 1) Secures the new property at today’s prices before appreciation takes further hold, and 2) Allows for holding on to the former property for another year or two of market gains before selling for a better price.

Which Road is Right for Me?

There is no one-size fits all equation for the buying or selling of homes. In addition to the financial variables at play, there are personal and emotional considerations that don’t fit neatly into a spreadsheet. The best advice I can offer is to take a close look at your chief objectives before deciding whether this is a “good” or a “bad” time to sell your home. Real Estate sales do not take place in a vacuum. The sale of a home must be considered in tandem with the subsequent purchase and vice versa.

It is a good time for sellers, in general, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an even better time coming, or that it’s the “right” time for you.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for a complete review of your unique circumstances to determine if now is the ideal time to take the Real Estate plunge. We pledge objective analysis and honest opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.

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On Seller Repair Refusals and Buyer’s Remorse

Surely, they won’t blow the deal up over THAT?

A refrain familiar to any working Realtor. Be it a frozen shut-off valve under the kitchen sink, a double-tapped breaker in the main electrical panel, a wobbly ceiling fan or a stubborn sliding glass door, there is a minor nit or five in most every list of buyer repair requests that follows a home inspection. A seller’s response to a list comprised of such nuisance items typically goes one of two ways.

1. The seller exhales deeply, thanking his lucky stars that the inspection gauntlet has been navigated with minimal carnage. The roof passed without mention and the balky A/C somehow managed to attain the proper temperature split, so he doesn’t look the gift report in the mouth. He signs off on the couple hundred dollars worth of repairs before the buyer changes his mind, thus closing the window for withdrawal from the transaction based upon physical defects with the property.

2. The seller goes ballistic. Enraged by the unmitigated gall of the buyer to bust his stones with inconsequential repairs on a multi-hundred thousand dollar transaction, he agrees to correct every item on the repair list EXCEPT the loose toilet tank.

This isn’t a brand &$%#ing new house, he rages. Besides, is the buyer really going to walk over something his worthless a$$ can fix with thirty seconds and a wrench?

The pragmatic seller opts for door number one. He signs off on the repair agreement, thus slamming shut the buyer’s dual-pane inspection window. At this point, unless the buyer’s loan falls apart, the appraisal goes awry or the buyer breaches the agreement (thus forfeiting his earnest money), the sale is going through.

The saucy seller kicks in door number two. Of the ten requested repairs, he agrees to nine, omitting only the most trivial bit of ridiculousness that pisses him off on general principle. He knows the buyer isn’t going to walk over a creaky door hinge, and his written response indicates as much.

What the seller may not be aware of, however, is that by denying any of the buyer’s repair requests, he has essentially prolonged the buyer’s “free look” period by another five days.

What? How did that happen?

Yep, it’s true. Stated right in the original contract (assuming the boiler plate language of the standard AAR purchase agreement was unaltered during the course of the negotiation), the buyer has ten days from the date that the contract is fully executed by all parties to perform any/all inspections. Before the 10th day elapses, notice of any defects that the buyer wishes the seller to correct must be provided. The seller then has five days to respond (no response indicates seller’s refusal to make repairs). If the seller agrees to repairs, the inspection period is over and a major walk-away contingency for the buyer is removed. If the seller does not agree to ALL repairs, the buyer has five more days from the receipt of the seller’s written response to decide whether or not to proceed with the transaction.

That’s right, ANY repair. No matter how trivial.

And while the buyer is unlikely to torpedo the transaction over a leaky sprinkler head per se, it does provide additional time and impetus to rethink the entire endeavor, for buyer’s remorse to take up occupancy in a fickle mind … for a superior property to enter the market and attract the attention of the buyer, YOUR BUYER, while he still has a transactional out.

Time kills deals. You don’t want to cede any more of it than absolutely necessary. What starts as a dispute over a teeny, tiny physical property deficiency can morph into a referendum on the purchase itself.

Is this really where I want to live?

Can I really afford home ownership?

Maybe a townhouse would provide less ongoing maintenance?

Big ticket items always need to be reviewed carefully, but don’t sweat the small stuff. I urge you, as a seller, to think twice before rejecting repairs that cost you little more than aggravation.

It might end up costing you a whole lot more.



Which Came First, The Real Estate Chicken (Purchase) or the Egg (Sale)?

Which Came First, The Real Estate Chicken (Purchase) or the Egg (Sale)?

One of the more confounding logistical quandaries that can arise in Real Estate is the classic chicken or the egg paradigm: Does one sell a house before knowing where he is moving, or does one buy a new house without having his current one sold?

No doubt, the dilemma of which cap to doff first has vexed many a consumer. Selecting the correct course of action is dependent, like most things, on a variety of factors. For the sake of clarity, we will keep things simple.

If you have a boatload of equity in your current home, have flexibility with the ultimate selling price and have the financial wherewithal (cash in hand or the ability to obtain a new loan that is not conditional upon the sale of your home) to purchase a new home prior to selling your existing one, then you are the rare individual in the enviable position to call your shot. To eliminate the prospects of a double move and the fear of obligating yourself to the sale of your home without clear knowledge of where you are heading, you will likely opt to buy first. Especially if you are not convinced that the home of your dreams is lurking in the market at present, it makes sense to locate the next property before committing yourself to the rest of the process.

As most buyers are reliant upon the proceeds from their current house to purchase a new home, however, the above scenario is a pipe dream for the less well-heeled. Most will face the stark reality that they are simply hamstrung on a purchase until they sell their existing house.

So how does one combat the fear of committing to destinations unknown when putting a home on the market?

The ideal method is to negotiate a purchase that is conditioned upon the ultimate sale of your home, but few and far between are the sellers who will entertain straight contingent offers of that ilk. The preponderance of bank owned properties and short sales in the present market makes the task even more arduous as contingent offers are simply not entertained by the banks. Only the most patient seller will take a flyer on an offer from someone who has to sell a property to make the deal work. And if you happen to find such a rare bird, you’ll likely have to overpay for the home due to the weakness of your position.

When purchasing first or conditionally is not an option, the best compromise is to make your offers after you have accepted a contract on the home you are selling, but before it has closed escrow. With a buyer in hand, it is considerably easier to approach another seller with an offer. More attractive than a straight contingency in which you still have to line up a willing buyer, you can structure your offer to be subject to the successful close of escrow of the contract currently in place. This is not only more appealing to the seller, but if you have negotiated a longer close of escrow on the home you are selling, you can build in a little time to locate a property and negotiate a contract, thus avoiding a dreaded double move. Timing the closings can be tricky, but if done correctly, you can move directly from one home to the other without having to put your gear in storage while you, the kids, your dog Sadie, and the goldfish check into the Holiday Inn for a few weeks.

Naturally, to make this scenario work perfectly, you have to do your homework in advance. Even prior to listing your home for sale, start looking online at the available inventory. Get in the car with your agent to look at homes that fit your parameters. Get preapproved with your lender so that you are ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, as the right home for you is often right for someone else, too. Wasting time getting your preapproval in place after you find the property opens the door to not only unrealistic window shopping, but losing an ideal candidate to a buyer who is one step ahead. Do your due diligence up front and you’ll be ready to enter the scrum as soon as your home attracts a buyer.

To be sure, coordinating the near simultaneous buying and selling of homes is a stressful undertaking. You will experience Exorcist moments in which your head spins around a full 360 degrees. Understanding the process and the steps you can take to increase your chances of success will limit the projectile vomiting, however.

So which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

It varies from coup to coup, but in the end, it’s all protein.

The Frankenstein House

The Frankenstein House

“Three fifty? Are you out of your freaking skull,” the rotund, little man bellowed beneath a reddening bald pate.

“You disagree with my analysis,” Maxwell Listers surmised. He was not unaccustomed to the question, though twenty six years of patient rebuttal had him rethinking the answer some days.

“You call that an analysis,” Ollie Meanders dismissed. “Even my senile mother in law could tell you this house is worth five hundred grand, and she thinks you can still buy a ticket to a picture show for a nickel.”

“I see,” Max replied, organizing the stack of comparable sales he had spent the past half hour explaining in excruciating detail. “Your mother in law would no doubt be swayed by the thirty two hundred square feet you claim to possess.”

“Damn straight,” Ollie confirmed, puffing his hirsute chest beneath an overmatched, crumpled white undershirt.

“Why, that three thousand square foot house one block over just sold for four eighty after all, and it didn’t even have a fireplace, did it,” Max agreed, leafing through his stack to the appropriate property listing.

Ollie stared at the agent with suspicion roiling in his beady eyes. He knew he was being taken for a ride, he just didn’t know where.

“Of course,” Max continued, “that was all original square footage …”

“So,” Ollie challenged.

“So original square footage is more valuable than added square footage,” Max concluded on cue, his silver hair lending more credence to the proclamation than the dirty blonde it had crowded out a decade earlier.

“What the hell is the difference,” Ollie pressed. “Thirty two hundred feet is thirty two hundred feet!”

The cords in Ollie’s sausage forearms rearranged themselves into angry knots beneath his taut, freckled skin.

“Think so,” Max asked, his arched eyebrows issuing a direct challenge.

“Well, sure,” Ollie sputtered. “Who cares … I mean, what does it, uh, matter if it, um …”

“Remind me, how many bedrooms do you have, Ollie?”

“Four,” the homeowner boasted, jutting his chin at the listing in Max’s hand. “Same as that one!”

“And did I miss the formal dining room somewhere when you were showing me around?”

“No,” Ollie said with slightly less confidence. “That’s where I added the fourth bedroom.”

“And how many baths?”

“Well … still just the one and a half,” Ollie admitted.

“How about parking,” Max asked.

“I, um, enclosed the garage to make the game room.”

“And this kitchen,” Max continued, looking about the small galley.

“Installed the granite counter tops myself,” Ollie crowed.

“And they are stunning,” Max allowed. “But does this room strike you as the hub of a thirty two hundred square foot home, or would you agree that it more closely embodies your home’s former life as a seventeen hundred square footer?”

“It might be a bit on the small side,” Ollie acknowledged. “But I converted the laundry room to a pantry for extra storage.”

Max scribbled something on a manilla folder marked “Meanders, Ollie.”

“These low ceilings ….”

“No, I don’t have the big, fancy vaults that some of my neighbors do,” Ollie ceded. “But do you have any idea how much it costs to cool that extra space?”

“And the back patio … wait. Where is the back patio,” Max asked, craning his sinewy neck to look past the homeowner.

“I enclosed that, too,” Ollie replied, slowly being sapped of his pugnacity.

“Ah yes, I see,” Max nodded. “That would explain the step-down and the funky slope to the roof line. A shame how it darkens the family room and eats up the backyard.”

“Should I put in some skylights?”

Max shook his head.

“You’d just be throwing good money after bad,” Max advised the crestfallen homeowner. “I’m afraid you have a Frankenstein house, Ollie.”

“Frankenstein house?”

“A Frankenstein house,” Max confirmed. “You took a perfectly good little home and created a monster – a big, sprawling octopus of a property, one incongruous addition at a time.”

“But the bigger, the better, right?”

“No, Ollie. Not necessarily,” Max corrected. “Your house doesn’t fit the needs or expectations of a larger family despite the raw square footage, nor does the new layout fit the single or couple to whom it would have originally appealed. You are stuck between buyer demographics. Homeseller Purgatory, if you will.”

Ollie buried his head in his hands.

“You just can’t juice a little house into something it isn’t,” Max added for good measure.

“All that work,” Ollie moaned. “All those trips to Lowes.”

“Wish you’d called me in sooner,” Max lamented. “Would have aborted Rosemary’s Baby here before it was ever conceived.”


“My apologies,” Max offered.

“Well,” Ollie breathed with a heavy sigh. “I need to move, but I’ve put way too much into it to sell it for three fifty. What do I do?”

Max took a moment to ponder their options.

“How’s your insurance,” he wondered.

“Insurance,” Ollie parroted with evident confusion. “Full replacement cost, why?”

“Fire bad,” Max suggested with a conspiratory wink.

The agent stood and lumbered out of the cramped kitchen with arms extended out in front of him like the monster fleeing an angry mob of torch-bearing villagers.


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