Question from today's short sale class

Realtor: “Jillayne I have nine short sales going on right now and,”

Jillayne: “Wait a sec, did you say NINE short sales?”

Realtor: “Yes, and here’s my question. One of my clients refinanced her Redmond home and took 89,000 cash out. Then she bought another home in another state with that cash. Now she wants to do a short sale on her home here in Redmond. It looks like she’s going to be short about 100,000. The lender on the Redmond home can’t go after her new home out of state, right?”

Jillayne: “Short sales are for homeowners in financial distress with no assets. The lender being shorted will ask your client to sign a new note/deed of trust in the amount of the shortfall and this new deed of trust will be recorded against your client’s new home.”

Realtor: “Yes, but their home is out of state. The shorted lender can’t do that, can they?”

Jillayne: “Yes, the lender can do that.”

Realtor: “But the home is in another state.”

Jillayne: “Your client is going to have to prove that they do not have any other assets. Just because a piece of real property is not located in Washington state doesn’t mean it’s not an asset. Washington state is not that special.”

Readers, why should lenders just randomly “forgive” the shortfall for all homeowners wishing to sell short? Especially homeowners who took cash-out equity loans to buy other real property. Surely there are some hard luck, true financial distress situations going on nationwide, but this is not one of them.

Besides, I thought homes in Redmond were holding their value.

Reminder: Homeowners selling short and/or in foreclosure should always obtain legal counsel. Google your state bar association to get started.

Blog Wars: It's everywhere.

The last month has been educational for me in a lot of ways about our industry and confirmed a lot of my thoughts, both good and bad. There is a lot of passion out there in the blogosphere and out in the work place. The one nugget I always come away with is that the real estate industry is full of very independent people who are fierce in the way they do business and in the manner in which they convey their positions on issues. Both in the work place and blogging, some are professional, others make fools of themselves, intended or not.

One common denominator I see is that people genuinely want to improve our industry, its function and image. The problem is, how can that happen with such fragmented independent practitioners that all play a part in this industry? There are so many moving parts with industry specific (lending, title, escrow, Realtors, consumers) internal self-serving issues. Perhaps this fragmentation of independent real estate practitioners is a core reason why the industry and associated moving parts has suffered from image and credibility problems for so long. Just take a recent look at all the folks that were operating under the radar over the past two or three years with criminal records.

Recently, I don’t know how many times on local or national blogs and forums, I’ve seen the quote from agents and loan officers, “sure be glad to see (insert any practitioner here) get out of the business,” or “I’ll be happy if there are less (insert practitioner) here as this market shifts,” and so on. Again, the problem is, everyone is saying it. It’s like each team praying to God…..”and help us beat the other team.”

Passion and Blog Wars extend far outside our real estate industry. That’s what is so interesting to me as a small business owner involved in the real estate industry and blogging. I know this is foreign for many of my friends and colleagues in the real estate business, but here goes anyway: The world does not revolve around real estate. The Blog Wars extend into every crack and corner of our society: soccer mom’s, politics, economics, Church, professional sports and the “Holy Land of Blogging” known as the technology and software industry.

10 Great Interview Questions for Agents

The Dumb Little Man (who is anything but…) just listed 10 questions he asked real estate agents along with the answers he got and the answers he wanted to hear.

How are you going to advertise my home?
Why are you saying my home is worth $400K when I think its worth $325K?
Is your realty company placing pictures on your website and other listing services?
Will you be at the closing or will you send a lackey?
Show me your municipal reporting on the area?
What are your stats?
How accessible are you?
What is your commission?
How can I prepare to show my home?
Can I have the names and phone numbers of the last 3 people that listed with you?

Note that this blog post got picked up by lifehacker and there are some interesting conversations going on over there as well…

Update: Just noticed I was a little behind on this story as it was already covered by both Jonathan and Erik. 🙂

A bit of staging magic goes a long way

This past weekend I attended a three hour class on staging. I was motivated to take the class because, as a real estate photographer, it helps to understand something about staging a property as agents frequently defer to me over last minute details of the home staging when I am on site doing the shoot. It’s not part of my job description but many agents have come to expect it and I do enjoy surveying a room and making simple, and quick, recommendations. I am fascinated by the psychology of staging and the dramatic changes staging can have on our perception and impression of a property.

Prospective buyers largely lack the imagination to see what one can do with a space so the seller, listing agent and/or stager need to provide it for them and hopefully do it well. In some cases it may be adding, subtracting or both. Immediately after my class I had a shoot that the listing agent had requested a few new photos as they had redone the staging since the original shoot. I think this is a great example of how a few changes really add considerably to the appeal of this condo. I especially appreciate the accent wall which was easy and inexpensive but really makes this condo, or at least the photo, look so much more inviting.

And to just pass along a tip to realtors from the class I took, get rid of dead vegetation in the landscaping. Especially in the front of the house. I walked by a home for sale in my neighborhood and I saw some dead plantings and I could see how detracting it was from the impression, or curb appeal, of the property.

I’d also recommend checking out Barb Schwarz’s existing book on staging and/or pre-ordering her new one that will be available in May.

Learn as much as you can about staging, regardless of who does it.

Your seller, (and photographer) will love you for it.



Redfin vs. Establishment

Redfin creates Red Faces

With Redfin I think they create red faces in the market, mostly from competitors, not their very own clients. With all the debating taking place (see last few comments) about variations of service levels and discussion about saving $20,000 in commissions but losing $100,000 in price for an agent’s (implying Redfin or similar models) lack of negotiation skill —an argument I disagree with—maybe the only way for consumers to feel like they are being well served is to set their own benchmarks for the people they entrust to help sell and buy homes. Realtors have exceptional value, but as an industry have allowed foolish internal cultural policy to dim the light. Instead of setting benchmarks for delivery of value that consumers get, industry insiders have to spend copious amounts of time trying to tell each other why a model will fail. If you want meaningful debate, invite consumers on a panel telling why one model worked for them vs. another. APB to Brad Inman…. try that.

No industry benchmarks

The real issue, in my opinion, is that consumers are given no tangible and bonafide benchmarks for placing value received for commission they pay. Why should consumers pay an identical commission like the “negotiable

Blogging at Ed.Con 2006

Yesterday, Russ Cofano and I gave another blogging seminar, this time in Seattle as part of Ed.con 2006 put on by the Washington Realtor Association.

[photopress:elvis_and_liberace.jpg,full,alignright]I thought the day went over really well and considering it was the first seminar we’d given to the “home town

Inman’s Innovation Awards!

Congrats goes out to all the contributors on Rain City Guide! We were nominated as a finalist for the “Most Innovative Blog Award” by Inman News. In my world, contributors are not only the people with their photo up on the sidepanel, but also those of you who return to give your comments on a regular basis. This site thrives off of your continued involvement!

The winners in each category will be announced in SF at the Inman Connect Conference. I’m definitely going to be there (I’m speaking on a panel on lead conversion)… Additionally, I would really enjoy organizing a meet-up of bloggers one evening. If you’re interested in joining us, then leave a comment below and I’ll send details as things get closer!

[photopress:Luther_engineering.jpg,thumb,alignright]In the meantime, I’m not proud to say that I didn’t know many of the non-blog nominations so I spent some time this evening on google researching the other companies nominated. Here are some notes (or at least links) I took while scanning the other nominees.

Most Innovative Brokerage

I wish Inman provided some more context so that I could know why they picked these particular real estate brokers. If anyone can let me know what sets these firms apart, please share!

Most Innovative Web Service

[photopress:Luther_engineering_2.jpg,thumb,alignright]Most Innovative New Business Model

Most Innovative Real Estate Blog

Most Innovative Real Estate Data Site

[photopress:Luther_engineering_3.jpg,thumb,alignright]Most Innovative Technology

Most Innovative Mortgage Company or Service

Most Innovative Media Site

Most Innovative Rental/ New Home Online Service

10 Questions for Home Buyers to ask a Real Estate Agent

I pulled these ten questions from a handout that the national Realtor organization published. There are good questions and, if used by a buyer, they should definitely give you a feel for the quality of the agent. So as not to be above the fray, I’m planning on adding my response to each of these questions as time permits.

1. Are you a full-time professional Realtor? How long have you worked full time in real estate? How long have you been representing buyers? What professional designations do you have?

  • Knowing whether or not your Realtor practices real estate on a full-time basis can give you a piece of the puzzle in foreseeing scheduling conflicts and, overall, his or her commitment to your transaction. As with any profession, the number of years a person has been in the business does not necessarily reflect the level of service you can expect, but it is a good starting point for your discussion. The same issue can apply to professional designations.

2. Do you have a personal assistant, team, or staff to handle different parts of the purchase transaction? What are their names and how will each of them help me in my transaction? How do I communicate with them?

  • It is not uncommon for high real estate sales producers to hire people to work for them or with them. They typically work on a referral basis, and, as their businesses grow, they must be able to deliver the same or higher quality service to more clients.
  • You may want to be clear about who on the team will take part in your transaction, and what role each person will play. You may even want to meet the other team members before you decide to work with the team overall. If you needed help with a certain part of your home purchase, who should you talk to and how would you communicate? If you have a question about fees on your closing statement, who would handle that? Who will show up to your closing? These are just a few of the many important considerations in working with a team.

3. Do you and/or your company each have a website that will provide me with useful information for research, services, and how you work with buyers? Can I have those Web addresses now? And who does the emails? Can I have the email address now?

  • Many homebuyers prefer to search online for homes and home buying information. There are certain privacy and comfort levels that you might appreciate in starting a preliminary search this way, and often it is just a matter of convenience, having 24-hour access to information. By searching the Realtor’s and the company’s Web sites, you will get a clear picture of how much work you would be able to accomplish online, and whether or not that suits your preferences. When I have a question, how quickly do you respond to emails?

4. Will you show me properties from other companies’ listings?

  • Some real estate companies do offer their buyers’ agents a higher commission if they are able to sell “in-house” listings. In such circumstances, there can be added incentive to show you a more limited range of homes than you might consider. If this is the case with your Realtor, you should be very clear on how this will impact your home search, if at all. You also should determine it this affects how much your buyer agents fee will be.

5. Will you represent me or will you represent the seller? May I have that in writing? How will you represent me, and what is the direct benefit of having you represent me?

  • The goal here is to ascertain to whom the Realtor has legal fiduciary obligation, which may vary from state to state or even locale to locale. In the past, Realtors always worked for sellers. Then the listing broker was responsible for paying the agent or sub-agent that brought a suitable buyer for the home. And even though the buyer worked ‘with’ an agent, the agent still represented and owed their fiduciary duty to the seller.
  • An additional situation in some states is dual agency. This is where the buyer decides to have the listing agent prepare the offer for him. A knowledgeable buyer may elect this situation which should be fully disclosed to all parties. In some states it also affects the broker’s/agent’s fiduciary responsibilities to the seller.
  • Although Realtors today almost always have a sense of moral obligation to buyers, this original type of seller agency still exists in certain areas. In other areas, a formal method of buyer representation called Buyer Agency exists to protect buyers. Find out what is available in your area and make yourself comfortable with the extent to which you will be represented.

6. How will you get paid? How are your fees structured? May I have that in writing?

  • This is an issue that can also be related to agency. In many areas, the seller still customarily pays all Realtor commissions through the listing broker. Sometimes, Realtors will have other small fees, such as administrative or special service fees, that are charged to clients, regardless of whether they are buying or selling. Be aware of the big picture before you sign any agreements. Ask for an estimate of buyer costs from any agent you contemplate employing.

7. What distinguishes you from other Realtors? What is your negotiating style and how does it differ from those of other Realtors? What geographic areas to you specialize in?

  • It should be important to know that your Realtor has unique methods of overcoming obstacles and is an effective negotiator on your behalf, but most importantly that your Realtor can advocate for you in the most effective ways.

8. Will you give me names of past clients who will give references for you?

  • Interviewing a Realtor to help you buy a home can be very similar to interviewing someone to work in your office. Contacting a Realtor’s references can be a reliable way for you to understand how he or she works, and whether or not this style is compatible with your own.

9. Do you have a performance guarantee? If I am not satisfied with your performance, can I terminate our Buyer Agency Agreement?

  • Understand that, especially in the heavily regulated world of real estate, it can be increasingly difficult for a Realtor to offer a performance guarantee. Sometimes you may find a Realtor who is willing to guarantee that if you are dissatisfied in any way with their service they will terminate your Buyer Agency Agreement. If your Realtor does not have a performance guarantee available in writing, it is not an indication that he or she is not committed to perform, but rather that he or she is willing to verbally promise some kind of performance standard. In fact, Realtors at Keller Williams Realty understand the importance of win-win business relationships, and that the Realtor does not benefit if the client does not also benefit.

10. How will you keep in contact with me during the buying process, and how often?

  • It’s a good idea for you to set your expectations reasonably in accordance with how your Realtor conducts business. You may be looking for an agent to call, fax, or email you every evening to tell you about properties that meet your criteria which are new on the market. On the other hand, your Realtor may have access to systems that will notify clients of new properties as they come on the market (which could happen several times a day or several times a week). Asking this extra question can help you to reconcile your needs with your Realtor’s systems, which makes for a far more satisfying relationship.