Archive for the ‘buyer advice’ Category

Appraisals are Creating Issues…Again

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Appraisals are causing problems again for buyers and sellers for the first time in many years. Many appraisals are not coming in at value, despite comparables that support contract prices, leading to problems between buyers and sellers.

Prices have come up quite a bit in many areas in the last few years, San Diego County included. That means that when an agent goes to list a home there are usually comparables to support a higher price. But I keep hearing stories about homes that are not appraising, and it just happened to my buyers as well (even though the offer we wrote and had accepted had comps that supported our price).

So what is a buyer or seller to do if the appraisal does not come in at value?

1. Renegotiate. The first thing to do is to try and renegotiate the contract price. I had a home that appraised $8,000 under contract price (which was completely ridiculous given a smaller home had sold for more just months before). We tried to get the seller to drop the price to the appraised value, or at least meet us in the middle but he would not. He had received multiple offers and there were buyers waiting in the wings who would still move forward with the higher price.

2. Buyer contributes the cash difference. This means that the sales price will remain the same, and the buyer will have to put the difference between it and the appraised value on the table (come up with more money) in order to close. The bank will only lend on the appraised value, but this option allows the buyer to move forward and purchase the home.

3. Challenge the appraisal. This can be done only when there is information that the appraiser did not take into consideration that could alter the evaluation, such as comparable homes that were not reviewed, or maybe a comparable sale that closed immediately after the appraisal was issued which had a higher price, or a sale that closed which was not on the MLS. Or, there may be upgrades to the home of which the appraiser was not made aware. But a challenge needs validation, so the fact that parties do not agree with the appraisal is not a reason for a challenge.

4. Cancel the contract. This is the buyer’s right when an appraisal does not come in at contract value. However, it is important to take into consideration the status of the market – if inventory is low and there is a lot of competition it may be smart to stick with the sale, since getting another contract accepted could be difficult and the buyer could wind up paying even more money for the next opportunity.

In my buyers’ situation they decided to stick with the contract price (after the seller would not negotiate) and pay the cash difference. Since it was only an $8,000 difference this was the smart choice, as they ended up with a beautiful home that likely would have sold for even higher than their contract price had they canceled.

It is important to discuss options with your real estate agent and tax adviser or financial planner if needed. Every situation is different and buyers have to feel comfortable in their decision. But it is tough out there in certain price ranges for buyers right now, and inventory is low, so oftentimes it makes sense to stay the course.

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Home Buyers May Not See All Active Listings Online

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

If you are a home buyer or plan to buy or sell in the future, and if you are using a third party website online to look at inventory: Beware. Zillow and Trulia, two of the biggest third party consumer property websites in the industry, have recently changed their policies. This means that there are listings that may not ever show up on their sites – bad news for buyers, sellers and real estate agents.

Zillow announced to all agents that effective May 1 agents will no longer be able to manually upload listings to their sites (Zillow and Trulia). Since many MLSs around the country do not have agreements with Zillow to automatically transfer listing data (Sandicor, the San Diego MLS, included), the only way for listings to get on Zillow/Trulia after May 1 will be for each brokerage to have an agreement with the company. With so many brokerages many may not pursue such agreements.

This could hurt buyers worst of all, as those who are not working with real estate agents (who rely on the MLS for property data – the best and original source) may miss out on new listings. In a market with low inventory and multiple offer situations popping up, a buyer could lose out on purchasing homes.

Although this new rule is supposed to roll out on May 1, Zillow seems to not have waited that long. I had a listing that disappeared from the sites last week. I had to apply to my MLS to provide me with a number I can share with Zillow that will allow it to capture my future listings. But the process can take 7-10 business days – just enough time for a buyer to completely lose out on seeing and making an offer on a great home, and there are likely agents who do not realize their listings will or have disappeared.

My advice to buyers it to use only MLS sites – this means having an agent set up a search for you directly from the MLS. You can access that search and do a reverse search, which will allow you to see other listings. If you must use a third party site, I recommend Redfin, as they somehow pull from MLSs, and their data is updated almost instantly. They also provide more accurate value estimates on properties, in my opinion.

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Home Buyers: Purchase Now or Wait Until Prices Drop?

Friday, March 10th, 2017

This seems to be the million dollar question right now as home buyers survey the lack of inventory and multiple offer situations present in many markets. A strong seller’s market and high prices make some buyers nervous. So is it better to buy now or wait?

There are a few very good reasons why now is the time to make that home purchase:

Interest rates are rising – We have already seen this happen and word is they will do so again this year, likely several times. This affects mortgage payments and down payments, so jumping in and securing that lower rate now could be smart. It is also important to note that some lenders are charging a lot more for interest rate lock extensions, so that is something to think about if you have a long escrow period or are pursuing a short sale.

Lack of inventory – Inventory in many markets is still very low – San Diego County included. Many buyers cannot find properties to purchase and when they do there are often multiple offers, especially in the $650,000 and under price range. Cash buyers are out in force as well in many lower range markets, making it even harder for first time home buyers. Being picky is getting more and more difficult – right now is a good time to be preapproved and ready to write an offer once you find a home that meets your criteria. See the home as soon as it comes on the market and submit your best offer right away.

Prices are not dropping as we head into the “busy season” – Lack of inventory is making it difficult as demand outpaces supply. Unless this changes we will not likely see price drops in the busy Spring and Summer months to come. The buyer who decides to wait this period out may find herself down the road with still low inventory and higher interest rates.

Here is an example: A house that currently sells for $766,000 with an interest rate of 4.75% and a 20% down payment would yield a payment of a little over $4000 a month. To get that same payment down the road with a home price drop to $727,000, assuming a higher 5.125% interest rate increase, the buyer would be losing $1585 over 3 years. So even if prices drop 5% and rates increase 3/8th  of a percent, the buyer who purchases with a lower rate now will be ahead in the long run.

Uncertainty – Worry about the future and economy is still prevalent among home buyers. Uncertainty about taxes and home write offs, as well as the expected rise in interest rates, make some buyers hesitate to make big purchases. The real estate market, like any market, is cyclical. If you are buying a home with a long term commitment then it is a great time to do so, before there are more rate hikes.

Before you decide whether it is best for you to purchase now or wait, it is important to discuss your scenario with you accountant or financial adviser, an experienced real estate agent in your area and your mortgage professional. Information is power.

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Still on the Fence? U.S. Home Prices are Still Rising

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

The new housing report was released yesterday by Case-Shiller, indicating that U.S. home prices are still rising. Of course this is really area dependent, but if you are a potential buyer or seller you might feel worried, and justifiably so. Keep reading for important information and advice.

The report covers major metropolitan cities and states that prices in these areas rose by 5.27% in November – above expectations of economists, and also up from the previous month of 5.1%. What does this mean for buyers and sellers? Let’s take a look at some important considerations.

Local markets: Of course these studies are general and tend to focus on big cities, so it is important that you contact an experienced real estate agent in your local market to see what is going on in the area. But, the thing to take away from this data is that prices are not easing up. Combine that with the next factor…

Inventory is still very low: Again, your local market must be studied to get an accurate glimpse and set expectations (your real estate agent can help with this), but using my local North San Diego market as an example I know that this is painfully true. I have buyers who simply cannot find homes, and multiple offer situations in some categories – like properties under $600,000 – are still the norm. With low inventory and prices staying put or rising, a buyer does not benefit from waiting to purchase, especially considering the next factor…

Springtime is coming: Traditionally the “hot” season for housing, spring and summer are just around the corner. But in my view we are already in the heat of things. Hopefully more inventory will pop up as we head into that “busy” season, but honestly I think the entire last year and especially this Fall and Winter, can be considered busy in housing – at least here in San Diego. Waiting until Spring could put buyers in even more of a quandry, bringing an  increase in the buyer pool: more competition can drive prices up again.

The National Home Price Index also rose by 5.6% annually – up from 5.5% the previous month. High demand is causing these prices to continue on an upward trend. It is important to note, as some doubters or “bubble-talkers” as I call them, may believe, that these trends are NOT similar to those that occurred prior to the last housing crisis in the early 2000s.

How is this market different than that prior to the last crash?

1. Factors driving prices are not the same. Prior to the crash people were driven by speculation and anticipation of growth. Instead, healthy market factors like a strong job market and low mortgage rates are driving this market.

2. Lending is stricter. Lending requirements are not as loose as they were during the time prior to the last housing crash, so not everyone can qualify for a loan.

3. Demand is high but supply is not. Prior to the last market crash, there is a much lower supply of inventory in most areas. It is not so easy to find property to purchase. Many would-be sellers are afraid to sell, as they don’t know where they will move if there is such low supply and so much demand – so it’s a great time to be a seller if you have the time to wait it out on a subsequent purchase.

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The moral of all this information is that if you are a potential seller you are in a great position. But if you have to buy after selling you need to have a “plan B” in place – e.g. stay in a furnished month to month apartment or temporarily move in with a relative or friend will put these people in ideal situations to sell and wait for the right home. But buyers have it a bit tougher – the best advice I can give is to BE PREPARED. Get preapproved, start looking at everything in your price range and desired area – even those homes that may not be as upgraded as you like or in the exact neighborhood you wanted. Do your homework and be ready to pounce once you find that “right” home.

 

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4 Ways to Make Your Home Purchase Less Scary

Monday, December 5th, 2016

I read an interesting fact today: 44% of consumers find the homebuying process scary or intimidating. That is a staggering number of people who are unsure of the process and need guidance. The good news is that today it is easy to make finding your next home a fun and positive experience. checklist

Here is my advice on how to make the process not so scary:

Hire a great agent – Yes, there are many real estate professionals out there, and yes, some will make promises to the moon and back, maybe even tell you they will give you back some of their commission if you choose to work with them. But that does not make one a great agent. Here is what does: experience, local knowledge, intelligence, familiarity with the homebuying process, strong negotiation skills, great referrals.

Find a professional mortgage officer – This is another of those “must haves” when searching for a home that could either make or break a purchase. You need to find a great mortgage officer PRIOR to searching for homes. That person should have all of your data and necessary paperwork so he or she can issue a preapproval – this is important for two reasons: 1. it will tell you how much you can afford, and 2. You will have a higher chance of getting an offer accepted if you are preapproved.

Choosing a mortgage professional is similar to selecting a real estate agent – there are many who will talk the talk and even make promises, but you need to feel comfortable with that person – yes, it’s about getting a great loan but it’s also about making sure the lender can close your loan. If you do not know where to start it is often good to ask those you trust, including that great real estate agent!

Get educated and start your search way early -I tell ALL buyers that it is never too early to start getting ready to purchase a home. If you plan to buy in a year, two years that means you need to get educated and you should start now. Learn about different neighborhoods, their amenities, positives and negatives. If you have children look up local schools and see how they rate – talk to neighbors in potential areas you like and ask about the neighborhood, schools and anything else that may be important.

Most importantly, start looking at homes way before you are ready to buy! Most people hear this and ask me why, so I tell them that you will learn a lot about different areas, floorplans and so much more. When it does come time to buy you will know more about the areas in which you want (and don’t care) to focus, which will make the homebuying process way less scary! So get out there and visit open houses, schedule appointments with your agent and start learning.

It is also important to note that you can learn a lot about homes online – with so many informative real estate sites available at your fingertips you can learn about amenities and so much more.

Stay Organized: Use all the above tools to your advantage and create a folder so you can categorize those areas and even floorplans that have potential. If you are not planning to purchase immediately you will likely forget all the things you learn along the way.

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How to “Win” That Home in a Tough Market

Monday, November 28th, 2016

If you have been looking for a home recently you may realize that doing so has become tougher: there is less inventory out there and when a great home lists there are often multiple offers. So how does a buyer get ahead to secure a home when many others are in the same situation? Here are some tips. home-wrapped

Hire a great real estate agent. This is above all the number one way to find a home in a tough market. Not only can your agent give you advice about what price and terms may get you that house you love, but they are also locally connected, which can make all the difference in the world.

Here is an example – After losing out on a few multiple offer situations I found buyers a home through my connections with other local agents – one that had not gone on the MLS yet. In another situation, I notified buyers of a home that was about to come on the market (they lost out on purchasing my listing in the same neighborhood), and they got into contract prior to the home going on the MLS. Some say this is unfair for the other buyers out there as they never had a chance to see or bid on the home, but many real estate sales work this way. Those of us who work particular areas often stay in touch and know when there is a listing coming up. Having that on your side as you search for a home is priceless.

Be Paperwork Ready: There is no better advice than to be ready to make an offer. This means you need to be preapproved with a lender (the lender should have all your paperwork so s/he is ready to go once you write an offer, and you should have a preapproval letter). Have a copy of your latest bank or investment statement showing proof of funds for your downpayment, in order to submit with your offer. Your offer should be as strong as possible so speak with your agent to determine what needs to be in there and what may be left out in order to avoid a multiple offer situation.

Know what you want: Often this is difficult when one is focusing on multiple areas or neighborhoods, but if you really know those you prefer, including floorplans and other amenities, you will be able to act quickly to see the home and make and offer. Even if multiple offers do come in, being first to present can often be helpful. Start looking at areas and homes before you are ready to purchase – the more information you have the better and more prepared you will be when the time to buy is right.

All in all, buying a home in a low inventory market can be tough. With interest rates rising every day counts – if you can lock in a rate prior to another rate increase that is great – and it just means you need to be ready when that right home becomes available. Of all the above tips, having a great buyer’s agent is the best advice I can provide. Many people think they can find a home without an agent, but a good agent is worth her weight in gold when it comes to finding the right home.

Happy home shopping!

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3 Reasons Why You Need a Realtor When Buying a New Construction Home

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

A good real estate agent is golden when it comes to assuring that all your needs are met as a buyer – from searching for the right home to negotiating, to making sure all obligations are met as a buyer and that everything needed from the seller has been provided. It not just about getting to the close of escrow, but also about protecting your legal rights as a buyer and making sure there are no surprises once you do close escrow. house_shoppingcart

When it comes to the purchase of a new construction home many buyers end up using builder sales representatives, partly because they are there on site and make it easy, and partly because buyers do not know why this can actually be detrimental when it comes to their rights. Here are the top reasons why working with your own real estate agent can help you when purchasing new construction:

1. Dual agency dilemma: When you work with a builder representative, their first allegiance is to the builder. Once they represent you as well then dual agency comes into play. If you are a frequent blog reader you know how I feel about dual agency (click here to read more), and the dangers it brings. In the alternative, it is better if you have your own representation so that the allegiance is only to you – that person can look our for ONLY your best interests.

2. Extra set of eyes and problem solver: Once again, if you have your own representative Realtor to look over the new construction contract then s/he may point some things out to you that you might be able to alter to suit you better. For example, including items that do not come with the home, or extending deposit dates. A good real estate agent is there to assist you and make sure that you benefit. The builder does not care to whom it pays the commission – they just want to get the home sold. Even if you the builder uses its own contract (as opposed to state or local real estate association documents), your agent can still be with you while the documents are presented and help you decipher them.

3. No extra cost to you: Many buyers make the mistake of believing that if they work directly with a builder sales representative, they will save money on the purchase of their new home. This is not true – the builder takes into account the commissions when setting home prices. The builder wants to sell the home, and while it may  (key word – “may”) pay out less commission to an on-site sales rep, most builders do cooperate with brokers and advertise such. A buyer is not going to gain anything by working with an on-site sales rep versus an outside agent. In fact, an outside agent who is a good negotiator may be able to help negotiate perks and price adjustments on your behalf. Either way the builder is going to pay a commission, so why not take advantage of independent representation – someone who has ONLY your interests in mind and not those of the builder. There is no cost to you as a buyer.

When looking at the possibility of purchasing a new construction home, make sure you are well represented. Your interests should be first and foremost.

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Will Lack of Home Inventory Curtail Spring Selling Season? Buyers: Prepare

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Many agents and home buyers are aware of the current shortage of homes for sale in many areas. In California there is currently a 4 month supply of homes, where 6 months is the norm and heading into the Spring it usually is higher. When desirable listings do come onto the market there is a rush of activity and often a quick sale. What will happen to the normally busy Spring selling season if inventory levels do not grow? http://www.dreamstime.com/-image27659734

With interest rates still low and inventory levels down, it is more important than ever for buyers to be as prepared as possible to write a successful offer. Before buyers even start looking at homes, it is important to make sure to do the following:

1. Get preapproved. This is essential. You need to speak with a mortgage professional and get preapproved – not just prequalified – so that you know exactly how much of a loan you can afford and what you will need for a downpayment. There are different products out there so make sure you know which loans will work best for your circumstances. Talk to a qualified mortgage professional and get the preapproval letter before you start home shopping so you are ready to make an offer.

2. Find a good real estate agent. It is great to look at homes yourself online – in fact I always encourage doing so – but to have a skilled agent on your side provides you with an edge. Local area agents often hear of listings before they hit the market, or may even have “pocket” listings (contracted upcoming listings that are not yet on the MLS) themselves. Also, when a listing is on the MLS there may be important confidential agent remarks listed (that only MLS subscribers can see) that could help you prepare in writing an offer. Finally, some third party real estate sites do not list new properties immediately because they don’t sync directly with MLSs, so you may miss out on new listings that other buyers have already seen – even a day can make a difference in a tight inventory market.

3. Write the strongest offer possible. Depending on the circumstances you need to be ready to write the best “on-paper” offer possible, especially in situations where there are multiple offers on a property. Of course, you may not be able to compete with some things (for example, if another buyer is a cash buyer or offers over asking price when you are not qualified to do so), but it is still important to make the offer look as good as it can. This is another reason to have a strong agent on your side – she or he will advise you of the best tactics after assessing the situation, the comparable sold properties, the market and speaking with the listing agent. Your offer still may not be chosen, but there is a chance the one that is chosen could fall through, so you want to be the next best.

4. Be Ready! Make sure you are accessible by phone/text and email, and that you are able to view properties as soon as possible once they list. If a property lists on a Thursday and it looks like a home that meets all your criteria, waiting until the weekend to view it may increase the competition. Even in cases where the seller wants to wait the weekend to evaluate offers, getting yours in first could put you in a better position.

5. Keep an open mind. Check out homes that you may not necessarily find appealing on line, or may not be in your preferred neighborhood. Sometimes buyers reject seeing a listed property, only to later realize that it could have been a great home for them. Pictures can be deceiving, and for the right price a home that needed something to make it “perfect” – like a little updating, could be a great home for you at the right price. The same goes for a home outside of your desired neighborhood.

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3 Reasons Home Buyers Should Not Work with Listing Agents

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

The concept of dual agency – where a listing broker also represents the buyer in a real estate purchase transaction – has been a subject of contention for a long time. Most listing agents dream of representing both the seller and buyer, as it leads to a bigger paycheck in the end. Of course there is a lot of paperwork both sides must sign to indicated that they are aware of the dual agency – this of course is designed to protect not only the parties to the transaction but also the agents and brokerages (hint hint: to try to prevent lawsuits). th

Opponents to dual agency – and I happen to be one (in most cases) – argue that the listing agent’s first duty is to the seller, and that can hurt the buyer in the long run. Here are 3 reasons why buyers really should have separate representation when purchasing a home:

1.  Allegiance to seller first: As a representative of a seller, an agent has a duty to uphold the sellers’ best interests. A buyers’ agent has the same duty to the buyer. If one agent represents both parties, you can see how this could be a big problem for one party – and the buyer is the one who usually gets the short end of the stick. For example, let’s say the seller tells the listing agent something about their situation that will affect the price or other aspect of the sale. The buyers’ agent’s job is to get the best price for the buyer, but the listing agent’s duty to the sellers (to not disclose confidential information that could affect price or other key components of a sale) clashes with the duty to the buyers – how can you get the best price for your buyers if you cannot tell them what you know on the seller side that could help them? Someone is getting left in the cold, and it is almost always the buyer.

2.  Negotiations: The agent is often privy to certain information that will help in negotiations on behalf of the seller, such as the sellers’ bottom line price or other information that could assist in negotiating on their behalf. As mentioned above, this could detrimentally affect the buyers’ negotiating powers because the agent’s first duty is realistically to the seller. It is imperative that buyers have a representative who looks out for their best interests exclusively.

3.  Agent Misunderstanding. As you can see, there are big problems in representing both parties. One of the biggest of all, unfortunately, is that many agents do not understand the legal ramifications of doing so. Many brokers do not oversee these sales closely enough, and the agents are left to handle them to the best of their abilities. This can and does lead to lawsuits down the road if the agent is not careful what s/he says or does, discloses or doesn’t disclose. You can see how it is the buyer who will suffer.

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While I am a proponent of separate representation for the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction, there are situations where dual agency can actually be a benefit for all parties involved (commission alone should NEVER be a reason for an exception). One example is where the seller is financing part or all of the buyer’s purchase. The dual agent can be instrumental here in figuring out details. Of course, separate agents for each party can also do this. Some other situations do make sense at times, but the bottom line is that if you are a buyer you should have someone looking out for your best interests first and foremost. When you call a listing agent about a property their goal is to sell it. With a buyer’s agent that person’s goal should be to sell you the home that best meets your needs, with the ability to represent your interests exclusively.

If you are in the market to purchase a home or income property, strive to find an experienced and informative area agent to assist you – one who has strong negotiating powers and a keen sense of the legal aspects of the sale. If you do find yourself in a dual agency situation, make sure you involve the agent’s broker so that your best interests are not jeopardized.

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Keeping the “Real” in Real Estate

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

The real estate business has definitely evolved over the last few decades, with the growth of technology being the main contributor. But when it comes down to it, working with a real estate agent is not just about finding a savvy salesperson, but rather it is about finding someone who truly has your best interests at heart and is willing to work hard to find the right property or sell your home, at the right price, with the best terms. It is not so much a sales relationship as it is a trusted adviser relationship. An agent plays many roles throughout the buying and selling process – researcher, chauffeur, adviser, negotiator, paperwork coordinator, and therapist – to name a few. For sale

As they always will, many people try to come up with ways to find and convert “leads” to clients, from advertising to cold calling to handing out cards to people all day long and asking for referrals from past clients, friends and family members. In the last year I have seen some interesting attempts to woo potential buyers and sellers, and although I am impressed with those who are trying hard, I must say I have been surprised at some of these methods:

1.  Recorded Calls: I received my first recorded sales call from a real estate agent last year. I was surprised because the agent, who had a lot of enthusiasm, sounded like he was trying to sell me a used car. He went on and on about how he could help me buy or sell a home, and about his strengths as an agent. Now, I must say that selling real estate is not difficult – anyone can do it. BUT not everyone can do a great job at taking care of the PEOPLE, the clients. I have always said that this business is not about houses, it is about people.

2.  Print Marketing: Marketing via mail and email has always and will continue to be a very strong way for the real estate agent to get business – s/he creates a lovely flyer or brochure and lists skills and past sales and testimonials to make her/him look amazing. S/he even uses words like “Number 1 agent” and “Top agent,” “sold more homes than anyone else.” The trick is that many agents can say these things by putting a spin on the information, and these statements can be true.

justice-scalesMany of these advertisements actually constitute ethical violations in my opinion (and I have been trying to get the rules changed to prevent this, but that is another story). For example, if you are a broker who oversees say 30 buying agents, and among those agents your brokerage or team sold 100 homes last year, how is it ethical for you yourself to claim you sold over 100 homes last year – you did not do that personally, your agents contributed many of those sales. But to the average homeowner who receives your marketing piece, you look like you have done more business than anyone else. Glossy marketing pieces with claims to being “the top producer” do sway the average Jane and Joe many times. Like the political arena, I think that if agents are going to make claims like this they need to explain the truth behind the claims.

3. TV Commercials and movie theater advertising: These types of marketing can also be valuable, but again the time is limited and the agent has only a few moments to convince you of how incredible they are at their job. There is no fine print – but if it gets you to remember their name and call them then the piece has achieved the goal set by the agent. Again, anyone can make a great marketing piece that makes them look like the best agent ever – and of course that is what all salespeople try to do.

4. Broker Calls to Agents About Homes “Coming Soon” to the Market: This newest method is interesting, and is aimed at local area agents. A broker has an agent make calls to other agents’ voicemails, reading from a script about a home that is not yet listed on the open MLS but soon will be – they tell the agents (it seems agents are chosen based on who sells the most in a given area – not all agents receive these calls) that they are giving them a chance to show the property to their buyers before it hits the MLS. Now, if you happen to be an agent working with a buyer and get a call describing the perfect home, this could be a win-win for your client. But if you are an agent and do not get that call, or if you are a buyer looking online and waiting for the perfect home to pop up, you are truly at a disadvantage in such a situation. So this can be a good or poor method of advertising, depending on how you look at it.

5. “Coming Soon” Listings Posted on Third Party Sites: There are some third party sites (such as Zillow and Trulia) that allow agents to post “coming soon” listings. Not all agents can do this – they must pay to become an elite member of these sites, and then they have the “privilege” of posting such properties. It’s great for the agents – they likely get at least some calls from potential buyers – but for those buyers who are not looking on those sites they get the short end of the stick if the home sells before hitting the MLS. Similarly, agents can send out e-flyers or emails about listings that are coming to the market soon, and if this is done fairly (sent to ALL agents in a county), then that is a great advertising tool. It is not fair to the potential buyer who is not working with an agent and who waits for properties to list on the MLS, but of course this is just one of the many benefits of working with an agent (we tend to hear about up and coming listings from many industry sources – agents, appraisers, lenders, sellers, etc.).

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From my perspective I believe that all agents should be able to advertise and “sell” their services and skills. But I think there are 2 rules that need to always be adhered to by real estate agents and brokers: 1. Keep it classy. 2. Be honest and ethical. If the local real estate associations who govern agents and make rules set out to make the rules stricter, I think it would be beyond valuable to potential buyers and sellers.

If you are looking for a real estate agent, remember to get the full picture – what can s/he do for you that is different from other agents? Make sure you will not be just a number – some agents have teams of people working for them and they represent many clients – if you like this than great, if not you may want to look for an experienced agent who treats you like you are the only client. Everyone has different needs, so make sure you get all your questions answered and find the person who is best able to help you; shiny materials and boasts about being a “top producer” should play into your decision minimally (although you do want someone who can sell your home with strong marketing and advertising abilities), but you need to feel comfortable with the person and what s/he can offer you.

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