Home Sellers: You Get What You Pay For

October 1st, 2015

Have you ever thought about your experience buying clothing, and compared shopping at say Nordstrom, to shopping at a discount clothing store? Did you notice the service difference – sure, the Nordstrom employee works on commission, but that is actually a benefit to you if you need help finding the right outfits. He or she will go out on a limb to pick the perfect shirt, slacks, tie or accessories to make you look your best. For sale

Selling a home is the same. I always tell potential sellers when I meet them to discuss listing their homes that ANYONE can list a home – it is not rocket science. The part time mom/real estate agent who only works weekends, the new “green” 18 year old agent with his first client, or the experienced agent – they all can do it. But you have to make sure to ask the right questions and get the right information to assure that you truly get the best representation.

You may have noticed agents in your area who might boast that they will list your home for less than the competition – some for say a 1% fee, and others for flat fees. While this may sound great to you as a seller, make sure you interview a seasoned listing agent and compare what you will get from each – you may be surprised.

Here are the things you need to ascertain as a potential seller to make sure that your home will be marketed properly and survive the escrow process in order to close:

1. Responsiveness – Many discount brokers will take your fee and put your home on the MLS, but that is where the buck stops. If you have questions or concerns you may find it hard to ever reach them, let alone have issues responded to. Even “big” agents who list many properties have this issue – there are several of them in my area and I have helped clients sell homes who had worked with them before and were unsatisfied with their lack of responsiveness. This is important to you as a seller, because you need an agent who is your partner and can communicate both effectively and continuously throughout the entire process from listing to closing.

RE_cancel2. Marketing – Does the agent’s marketing budget mirror the commission you are paying? In other words, if the agent is taking a lower fee, is this going to cause your marketing to be less than superb? I can tell you that I get a LOT of real estate information in my mailbox, and about 90% of it is junk – poor quality, bad images/non-professional photography, grammatically incorrect/spelling errors. The way your home looks to potential buyers is what will drive them to want to see it – it is a feeling and a lifestyle that you are selling, not just a house with walls.

3. Communication with other agents and parties: Your listing agent needs to be able to effectively communicate with other agents, loan officers, lenders, escrow and title representatives throughout the sales and escrow process. This includes following up with showings and alerting agents of potential buyers of any changes or new developments with the property. Problems always come up that need to be addressed in order to stick to the time frames identified in the contract – make sure your agent knows how to do so and is willing to stay in touch on a daily basis.

4. Negotiations – This is a big one. Your agent must be a strong negotiator. Unfortunately many real estate agents are not strong in this regard, and many contracts do not come to terms or fall apart after agreement. Negotiation skills are needed not just at the start when a contract is received, but throughout the entire escrow period. Getting an offer is just one part – keeping those buyers excited about their new home until closing is another issue.

5. Paperwork – if you work with a discount agent/brokerage, make sure that your agent explains how the paperwork will be handled. Real estate transactions contain a LOT of paperwork, and they are all LEGAL documents! There are many consequences to filling out paperwork incorrectly, including law suits years after your home sells. You need to make sure your agent knows how to properly handle the paperwork and how to coach you in filling it out correctly so as to avoid legal ramifications.

The bottom line is that you usually get what you pay for – like comparing Nordstrom quality and service vs. Walmart quality and lack of service. Unlike buying a shirt however, selling a home comes with many legalities. Make sure you are protected and find an agent that will work hard for you to keep you informed, compliant and safe.

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New Carlsbad Listing – Great Yard and Neighborhood Location!

September 24th, 2015

Welcome to 1409 Turquoise Drive in Carlsbad! This home is offered for sale for $755,000.

This desirable floorplan in the gated hilltop community of Mar Brisa 02_aerial mage_02_mlsis filled with natural light and offers a spacious kitchen, 3 bedrooms plus an additional den/office/playroom, formal dining room and 3 car garage. Large master suite (with ocean peek a boo views), nicely sized private yard, and located close to community pool/spa. Bring your updating ideas – great lot!

Features include:

  • 3 bedrooms plus den/office, 2.5 baths, 2275 square feet
  • Large kitchen with center island and lots of cabinet space
  • 06_aerial mage_06_mlsWell appointed master bedroom with ocean peeks
  • Breakfast nook and formal dining room
  • Nice size rectangular yard with mature landscaping and large patio
  • 3 car garage
  • Close to community pool/spa/park area
  • Gated community
  • Low HOA fees, no mello roos
  • Carlsbad Unified School District


14_aerial mage_14_mls 26_aerial mage_26_mls image035

For more information and photos click here. To schedule a showing contact Broker Rachel LaMar at 760-310-9466. CA BRE license # 01399682.

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Top Negotiation Skills for Business People

September 15th, 2015

Negotiations are a part of many businesses, including real estate, and there is definitively an art/skill set used in negotiating on behalf of another person. No matter what type of situation or opponent you face, there are a few tips to help you be the best negotiator possible: th

1. Leave your ego at the door. This is perhaps the one thing many people don’t remember when entering into negotiations. Titles and experience can be good to share with your opponent, but you have to know when to use them. Waiving them around to prove a point just makes the other person annoyed by you, which in turn may lose you points and leave with less than you wanted to accomplish.

For example, if you are negotiating repair requests in a real estate contract with the other agent, arguing that you have never seen such a situation in your “15 years of experience selling 200 homes” will just irritate – you are not going to score any points there. Instead, you can point to a situation that may have been similar in another sale and discuss how it worked for both the buyer and seller. This is a much better way to show not only your experience and a similar example, but also to provide resolution and be helpful at the same time, in a positive manner – a much better way toward a resolution.

2. Listen. Many of us go into negotiations with intentions of being good listeners, but as soon as someone mentions an opposing view we tend to get defensive. In law school we learned there is a time to listen and a time to argue your own points. Listening means really paying attention to what the other person is saying – they too are representing another person and are entrusted with the same job as you, to do their best for their client. Most importantly, do not interrupt the person; instead, take notes so you can address any points that need attention when it is your time to speak. Remember that listening is actually helpful to you in presenting opposing perspectives.

3. Validate. Everyone needs validation, and whether you agree with the points presented or not, it is important to validate FIRST, before jumping into counter points: “I understand that your client is concerned about X because it will cause financial duress. Here is how my client views X.” Then offer a solution.

4. Don’t be reactive. This goes hand in had with listening – if you react or explode once a counter point is made, you are digging your negotiating grave. Practice taking deep, slow breaths and controlling your defensive mechanism. There is always more than one side to every situation, so keep that in mind; if you ever want to come to resolution you need to keep your cool and play fair.

There are many other great skills to use in negotiations, but these 4 are very basic and important. A great way to practice them is to have a friend, spouse or family member play the opposing side. They can even make it difficult for you by sticking stubbornly to their side – see how you can make your points without using your ego, by listening, validating and not reacting.


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Buyers and Buyer’s Agents: How to Avoid Losing a Sale

September 10th, 2015

Recently I had a sale fall apart at the 11th hour, and it could have easily closed had the buyer’s agent been in constant communication with his client’s mortgage professional. It was very frustrating for my seller, who was trying to accomplish a 1031 exchange and close the sale prior to closing a purchase – she ended up canceling a sale after issuing a notice to perform and close escrow. This could have been prevented, but a few people dropped the ball, including the agent.

If you are a buyer’s agent, please read on. If you are a buyer, also please read on and make sure your agent is doing his/her part to assure you close escrow on your next home. fault

If you are a buyer’s agent you must stay in constant communication with your buyer’s mortgage professional. You can never sit back and assume things are going smoothly. It is NOT the listing agent’s job to chase your client’s mortgage professional.

All buyer’s agents need to do the following in every sale, even if the mortgage professional seems to be on top of things – because the minute you know there is a problem, the better chance you have of helping to remedy it.

  1. Call and email the mortgage person immediately upon getting an offer accepted – introduce yourself and provide all your contact information.
  2. Forward the contract and related documents to that person right away, including a synopsis of deadlines (I like to email this and highlight it – even though the mortgage professional will have all the information in the contract, it helps to remind them).
  3. Check in with the mortgage person several times a weeks to get a progress report, or let him/her know right off the bat that you would like a progress report emailed to you on Tuesday and Friday, even if there is not much to say. If you don’t get it, call or email.
  4. Make sure you get any further documentation to the mortgage professional right when it is requested.

If you already have a relationship with a preferred lender you know how that person works, and that will undoubtedly help you and your buyer. I know when I am working with my preferred lender, and a few others out there who have great communication skills, that I will always know what is going on with my client’s loan and there will be no surprises.

As the old adage goes, no one can do it better than you can do yourself – so buyer’s agents: please take those words to heart and make sure you are on top of your transactions. You will make your clients very happy in doing so and you will be more successful.


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Just Listed: Carlsbad Cul de Sac Corner Home

September 4th, 2015

Welcome to 1415 Coral Way! Offered at $799,000 02_image_002_mls

Enjoy the great Carlsbad lifestyle in this corner cul de sac lot. This clean and bright home lives like a single story with a downstairs master, plus  2 bedrooms and a spacious loft upstairs.

Living room/dining room combo with hardwood flooring and high ceilings, functional family room with built in surround sound system and adjoining open kitchen with island and walk in pantry.  Water-wise low maintenance yard with room for entertaining, built in BBQ and French drain system, and picturesque
05_image_005_mlsside yard, A/C, central alarm system, low HOAs, no mello roos, gated community with pool, spa, parks, RV lot, and ocean breezes.

Features include:
• 3 bedrooms plus loft, 2.5 bathrooms
• Cul de sac corner lot
• Former model home
• Downstairs master suite
• Living room/dining room combo with wood flooring and high ceiling
• Open kitchen with large center island and walk in pantry
• Water-­conscious backyard with spacious patio, built in BBQ an picturesque side yard 13_image_013_mls
• Beautiful landscaping
• Central AC
• Central alarm system
• Built in stereo speaker system in family room and master bedroom
• Great loft upstairs for den, office, playroom, or convert to a 4th bedroom
• Second story computer desk
• 2 car garage with additional work area
• Gated hilltop community with ocean breezes, pool, parks, spas, RV lot
• Low HOA fees and no mello roos

• 2 miles to the beach, close to shopping, dining, and the Batiquitos lagoon
• Carlsbad schools

28_image_028_mlsFor more information please click here. MLS# 150048630. Call or text broker Rachel LaMar to schedule showings at 760-310-9466. CA DRE lic # 01399682.

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San Diego Calendar of Events September 2015

August 28th, 2015

I hope everyone had a great summer…enjoy September!

th9/1-12/26. Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure
Old town San Diego – 4005 Taylor Street

1-7. Circus: Science Under the Big Top
1875 El Prado, Balboa Park

1-11. Surf Culture Art Exhibition 2015
2226 Avenida De La Playa

1-28. Superhero Studio
200 West Island Avenue, San Diego

1-20. The Comedy of Errors
Old Globe Theater – 1363 Old Globe Way

4. Tall Ships: Spectacular Cruise
Hornblower Navy Float – 970 N Harbor Drive

8. Free Teen Dance Class
2650 Truxtun Rd – Suite 106, San Diego

9. Summer Movie: The Princess Bride th-1
789 W Harbor Dr, San Diego

10. Taste of Downtown 2015!
Downtown San Diego

13. FACE Foundation’s 5k Doggie Dash
5553 Copley Drive, San Diego

18. Dinner in the Library
Geisel Library, UC San Diego

19. Julian Music Festival
Menghini Winery – 1150 Julian Orchards Dr., Julian

21-27. San Diego’s Restaurant Week
Various Locations

25. Scholar Share’s Finger Painting
200 West Island Avenue, San Diego

th27. The Cat in the Hat
340 N Escondido Blvd, Escondido

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Best Negotiation Tactics For Home Buyers in a Seller’s Market

August 25th, 2015

Lately it seems the great listings are commanding multiple offers, and selling quickly. For buyers who have been searching the market for some time this can be frustrating, as a good looking listing can often sell at a higher price and the buyer is forced to compete with many others, some who may be better qualified on paper. So what is a buyer to do? images

Here are some great negotiation tactics that might help your offer be accepted:

1.  Offer the best price you can. By this I do not mean the “highest” price. The best price, in comparison, means the one that will appraise and that you feel comfortable paying. If the home is the highest priced home in the neighborhood, you need to weigh the possibilities – for example, is it probable that other homes will improve in the near future? In order to really understand the value of a particular neighborhood you need to consult with an experienced real estate agent.

But, you say, what about the other buyers, who may be willing to pay more? If a seller is only after a number than there is a chance that such a buyer may outbid you. However, keep in mind that unless that buyer is paying cash there is a chance the home will not appraise at the contracted price. That is why is is important to make a strong offer in other respects. Even if your offer is not accepted there is a chance they may come back to you if the current contract does not close.

2. Shorten up time frames. Sellers want to know as soon as possible that the sale has a high chance of closing. In California, the buyer has 17 days to investigate and remove all contingencies but the loan; the loan contingency is 21 days. I would not suggest shortening the loan contingency unless your lender says that will be absolutely possible (however, with the new lender disclosure laws it may be impossible, so speak with your agent and lender first); removing the inspection contingency in a shorter time frame can be possible, so it is something to consider. You can also let the seller know that if your loan gets approved in fewer than 21 days you are happy to remove that contingency earlier.

3. Should you write a letter to the sellers? This is a controversial topic and really is one that needs to be decided with your agent. It used to be that buyers who wrote a great “here’s who we are!” letter had a higher chance of getting an offer accepted (assuming all other aspects were equally promising), because it made the buyers real people and played on seller emotions.

4. Multiple counter offer situations: If you receive a multiple counter offer you have to be prepared to accept the terms or put your best final offer forward. Again, it is not always about just price, so have your agent find out exactly what the seller is hoping for. If the seller is selling an investment property they likely are focused on numbers; if the sellers have lived in the home for some time there may be emotions involved, in which case you can alter your response.

Today there is controversy about such letters because many say if an offer is not accepted there is a chance it could be due to prejudice – without going into a long list here you can imagine the possibilities. Regardless, this is a decision you need to make with your agent. It really depends on the situation but I still believe there are ways to write these letters to cater them more to the home and less personal.


It is important to remember that every market and each home sale may be different and present a different set of circumstances. It is important to speak with your real estate agent and lender and find out specifically what you can do to provide the best opportunity to have your offer accepted.

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HOA Pet Weight Restriction Kills Home Sale Days Before Closing

August 10th, 2015

I have seen a lot of HOA rules in my time as a real estate agent that I thought were pointless, some even downright ridiculous…but until last week I have never had a sale cancel because of one, despite efforts from all parties to garner an exception. After a board member insinuated it was my fault for not knowing the regulations (see below * to understand why this is not the agent’s responsibility), and after many attempts and conflicting information received, the parties were all left exasperated and very upset when the sale had to cancel at the last minute. th

HOA regulations can be beneficial, and in most instances I am all for them – I myself live in an HOA regulated neighborhood. I like the fact that my neighbor can’t paint his garage Pepto Bismol pink or leave a front yard full of weeds (although with current water restrictions most yards are looking that way anyway, but that’s a story for another blog). I understand the need for stricter regulations in condominium developments as well, since there are shared walls and many common areas. But in this particular case the home is a detached home in a small neighborhood of homes with small yards.

The regulation in this case was a pet restriction that postulates all pets, with the exception of fish, must not be more than 25 pounds total (so a cat and a dog together cannot weigh more than 25 pounds). The problem in my sellers’ case started when the HOA took 17 days to get the regulations out to the buyers – a week longer than is required under the standard California Residential Purchase Contract. Keep in mind that day 17 is the day (unless altered in the contract) when the buyers have to remove their contingencies (except for the loan contingency).

The buyers got the HOA docs on day 17 and immediately started reading through them so that they could remove contingencies. Lo and behold they discovered the pet weight restriction. They wrote a letter to the HOA asking if an exception could be made, as their dog weighed 15 pounds over the limit. For the next several days the buyers and their agent, and the sellers and I, all tried to appeal to the HOA and/or board members, but in the end we were given different stories – it was a unanimous vote against, it was a majority vote against, and that they couldn’t/wouldn’t vote on any exceptions.

th-1 After spending money on an appraisal, home inspection, and lots of time negotiating repairs and other issues, the buyers decided to cancel – they love their dog and could not imagine moving into a neighborhood where she was not welcome. It was a frustrating day for all involved.

* A note on agent “responsibility” involving HOA regulations and disclosure: I think it is important to note here that it is not the listing agent’s responsibility to investigate and disclose any HOA regulations. The reasons for this are obvious – these regulations can change at any time, and if agents had to keep up with what goes on at every HOA meeting for every property they list, they wouldn’t have time to do their jobs effectively; not to mention they could subject themselves to liability in doing so.

Now, if an agent happens to know of a regulation that might be a sticking point for buyers, s/he can use discretion as to whether to post it in the MLS listing under confidential agent remarks (I did that in this case after we went back on the MLS). The whole purpose of escrow officers charging sellers to order HOA documents, and the reason they are supposed to be delivered to buyers in 10 days, is to provide the buyers an opportunity to review them and make those decisions for themselves – one person’s frustration over a particular regulation may not be that of another.

The moral of this unhappy story is that the buyers lost their “dream home,” and the sellers had to go back to market, having lost the other buyers (it was a multiple offer situation). Had the buyers moved in and fought the regulation they may have lost, which could have cost them their dog. As a dog lover I understand why they made their decision, and as a human being I question the ability of a governing body to limit the weight of a dog – in my opinion it really is no one’s business and if a dog owner is a good one and makes sure their pets get enough love and exercise, it shouldn’t matter if the dog is 10 pounds or 80.

I plan to write another segment on this story from a legal perspective. If you find yourself in a similar situation there is some case law that may or may not help you on the subject, and some ways to determine whether such rules are actually enforced – if they are not your case could be even stronger…stay tuned.

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Carlsbad is One of the Hottest Housing Markets in the Country

August 3rd, 2015

According to Realtor.com, the San Diego market and Carlsbad in particular was ranked 8 out of the top 20 housing markets in the U.S. for July. The results were based on the number of views per listing with home searches on the Realtor.com site, as well as the median age of inventory in each market. This information mirrors reports that existing home sales are up – slightly over 3% month over month. th

Data confirms what those of us who live and work in Carlsbad have known for a long time – it is a wonderful place to live. Lets look at some of the reasons to love Carlsbad:

– One of the best climates year round, with an average temperature between 68-72°.

– Some of the cleanest, nicest beaches in San Diego county, including amazing surf spots

– 3 lagoons, which include trail systems and even one that includes water sports

– Miles of trails throughout the city

flowerfields– The Flower Fields

– Carlsbad Village

– Many beautiful parks, including Alga Norte Park with public olympic swimming facility, skate and dog parks

– Great shopping – Carlsbad Premium Outlets, the Forum Shops and great boutique shopping in Carlsbad Village

– Numerous dining choices, from casual eateries to micro-breweries, fine dining and many ocean view spots

– Home to top resorts like La Costa Resort & Spa, Aviara’s Park Hyatt and Hilton’s Oceanfront Resort & Spa

– Several top golf courses, including La Costa Resort, The Crossings, and Aviara Golf Club

There is so much more to do and see in Carlsbad…there is no better place to be!


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Buyers, Sellers & Agents Beware: Real Estate Hackers Want Your Information

July 24th, 2015

Hackers are always finding new ways to get into our information, and lately they seem to be focusing heavily on real estate transactions. They are doing this by breaking into your email accounts and finding information about pending property sales, which they can use to their advantage. images

The hackers find out what they can about transactions, including names and email addresses of parties involved in the transactions such as buyers, sellers, escrow or closing officers/companies, and other real estate agents. They then send emails posing as these people asking for purchase funds to be wired to accounts that they own.

How do you protect yourself from these hackers?

1.  VERIFY: Don’t ever transfer ANY funds without calling to verify amounts and account numbers. Even if the email looks like it comes from the escrow company, take a few moments to call anyway.

2. KEEP BANK ACCOUNT INFORMATION PRIVATE: Don’t ever provide bank account information – make sure that your escrow or closing officer handles this in a professional manner.  You should never give out your own bank account numbers. If there is a wire that needs to be made, all you need is the wiring information directly from the escrow company (or attorney if you are in a state that uses attorneys to close property sales).

3.  KEEP YOUR EMAIL ACCOUNTS PROTECTED: It is important to protect your email accounts as best you can. Change your email passwords often, and make sure they are not easy passwords to figure out. Do not use your birthdate, name, or other obvious information. Definitely do not use the word “password,” your birthday, numbers like 123 or your childrens’ names.  Try to think of passwords that do not make much sense and would be difficult to figure out, with a combination of numbers and letters.

There are some email servers that provide two step verification processes in order to log into email accounts. They use codes that are sent to you via a mobile app or text message – these codes are never the same but are required in conjunction with your password. Check with your provider.

Hackers will always pose threats, but you can lessen the chances of being victimized by being careful and vigilant.

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