Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category
Friday, December 28th, 2012
There has been a lot of speculation as to what will happen in the real estate market as we head into a new year. Here is my take on real estate market resolutions for 2013:
Home prices will rise, slowly. Based on the current market and the rise in prices in 2012, especially toward the end of the year, I believe that prices will continue to rise, although at a very slow pace. People who are thinking they should wait to sell in order to make a big profit will be waiting a long time, but those who see the opportunities – demand, low inventory and continued historically low interest rates – have the chance to sell in what will slowly become (if it’s not already) a seller’s market. Those homes that show very well and are well-maintained will garner the most interest and could set trends for neighborhood comparables.
Interest rates will remain low. Because of continued uncertainty with the economy interest rates have to remain low. If the feds raise them at this volatile point, when Americans are just beginning to feel comfortable spending again, albeit cautiously, it would be devastating. I do not believe that such a risk is healthy and thus I think rates will stay low for some time.
Inventory will rise. This one is hopeful, but I truly believe that due to the fact that markets are becoming seller’s markets, more people will decide to list their homes in the coming year. 2012 was a difficult year for inventory in most areas, and San Diego county was no exception. Multiple offer situations on the first day properties listed were not uncommon, and many buyers ended this year without the new homes they so desired, feeling frustrated. I think savvy homeowners will see the silver lining in selling their homes as we head into the new year.
Distressed sales will slow. Many lending institutions and federal and state governments vamped up programs in 2012 to assist troubled homeowners, and the numbers from many of these programs indicate that they are working. There are still many more people who need assistance, but I believe that we will see fewer foreclosures. Most banks seem to have warmed to loan modifications and short sales, bypassing the rush to foreclose.
More underwater homeowners may be able to refinance in the future. There is finally a rumbling about extending refinancing programs to those non-equity homeowners who fall outside of the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac loan requirements – this could be HUGE and prevent a slew of foreclosures and even short sales down the road…this will be the real estate story at the top of my watch list in 2013.
All in all, the housing market it improving. It is important to mention, as I always do, that every market is different. If you want specific information about your area/market, consult with a qualified local agent before making any decisions about buying or selling real estate. One more caveat – keep in mind that market improvement is relative. The above analysis is based on numbers that show improvement in the local San Diego market, as well as reports from trusted sources and personal experience working in the local market.
I think 2013 will be a great year for real estate. Please let me know if I can provide any information about your San Diego home sale or home search, and have a very happy New Year!
Thursday, November 8th, 2012
The election is finally over…thank goodness, because all the negativity and blaming was getting annoying. I actually found it hard to log into Facebook or turn on the television. So now we are faced with an important task, no matter who you voted for: moving forward and healing this country. Most importantly, it is time to stop bitching and griping, because that won’t help anyone – there is no easy button to push.
Here are some things we can learn from the election to help us become better Americans and better people:
1. Decide to be a do-er, not merely an observer. People like to complain and place blame on others when things don’t go their way. This is just human nature, and some folks are louder than others. It’s ok to voice your opinion, and we are lucky to be able to do so. But those who do nothing but complain need to take heed: things will never get done if you just sit back and watch (and complain). I think this is a very good time for every American to ask, “how can I help?” Jump in there and make a difference. If you don’t think you can, then you may not truly understand what it means to be an American.
2. Listen. When we get upset we tend to not listen. You can be upset about election results, but what you do from there will determine your happiness. The key is to LISTEN. Listen to other solutions, suggestions, and theories, then think of ways to put a plan into action.
3. Compromise. You cannot change results most of the time, but what you CAN do is use your great ideas and share them, in the hopes of making things a little bit better. Oftentimes you will need to compromise, so do not let that stubborn voice prevent you from making positive changes…you have to sometimes start small, remember? Don’t go into things with an “it’s my way or the highway” attitude. SHARE, LISTEN, and then see how you can help in a positive way by giving in a bit.
4. Start making a local difference right away! (this goes hand in hand with number 1) If you feel there are simply too many things that need to be changed, you need to pick one and get started. See how you can help in your hometown. Upset about school issues? Volunteer and help create new programs for students. I have done that in the bullying realm, even though there was a lot of resistance at first, and boy did it feel great to bring such an incredible program to our district and students. Sometimes you have to start small and focus on one thing at a time, but don’t let people say you can’t make a change!
Finally, if you are unable to learn anything of value from the election, you may want to move out of the country, because there are those of us who want to make America strong and vibrant again…your negativity just creates too much interference. The problems we have today cannot be put on the shoulders of one person, or one administration. We need to get moving in the right direction again, and every one of us can help to do so.
If you still want to move out of the country after all the above advice, please keep in mind that if you live in San Diego, I can help you sell your home! [Hopefully I made you laugh!]
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
Last week was a little bit crazy…it started off with a funeral and ended with a wedding. In between, real estate kept me busy – trying to close a few escrows, fighting with a bank, writing offers, and trying to find a better solution for a buyer that didn’t involve suing a seller. In other words, a normal week, buttressed by stark reminders of mortality and blessings. Which makes one think…
We all know that life is precious, but it is so easy to forget that and get caught up in the day to day banalities. We have the tendency to go about our routines and get through each day, but many of us do not really think about our blessings unless we are reminded of them – such as when we see a sunset or sunrise, a new baby or a puppy, a rescue, or a sick or scared person smile.
I like to think of my blessings often, but like you, I am guilty now and then of getting through a day without doing so. Life is busy, and often one has to just deal with what is on the plate that day in order to move forward to the next set of tasks. Last week provided me the opportunity to really think about all that I am grateful for, and the fullness that comes from being satisfied with my place in this world.
How is this related to real estate, you might ask? I believe everything in life has it’s place and time. I have some buyers who are waiting to find the “right” home, and some sellers who are deciding when is the “right” time to list their property for sale. In the last year I have had to go way beyond the norm to get offers accepted for people and to close escrows, and I have worked harder than ever. I know that things will work out as they are supposed to, and I will continue working hard until my clients are satisfied.
The other day on the freeway (on the way to the wedding), a man driving very recklessly cut me off and almost hit me. I put my hand on the horn and he flipped me off. Unbelievable, yes. But I felt sorry for him – he was not truly living and accepting responsibility. Being upset at strangers when they have done nothing wrong (or worse, when you are the one who made the mistake!) suggests it’s time to reevaluate!
We should all enjoy the ride and the lessons we learn every day in life. All we can do is our best, but more importantly, we should all strive to appreciate this life and the challenges we face. So…if you haven’t found your dream home yet, that perfect investment property, or if you don’t think it’s time to sell your home, don’t worry. The time will be right when it is right. In the meantime, keep your focus and enjoy every moment, because you will never live that moment again.
Have a wonderful week!
Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s bulk sales plan, whereby certain banks will allow third party institutional investors to purchase multitudes of bank owned (REO) loans in bulk, is moving ahead at full speed, and is doing so quietly.
Against pleas from members of Congress, the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) and others involved in the real estate industry, this program does not offer much for the market nor for individual communities and neighborhoods. In allowing institutional lenders (the identity of which is not being disclosed) to purchase this lender “shadow inventory” (that inventory that is owned by the lenders but not yet on the market), there are several threats to the housing market that are concerning:
• It could bring comparable prices down. Just at the time when home prices are starting to come up, and when demand is high with low inventory, selling large numbers of bank owned homes at discount prices could have significant effects on neighborhoods.
Also alarming, current market data may not have been used. According to C.A.R., old market data may have been used to value the homes that are being sold. With a market that is moving upwards this could create a big problem in some areas, establishing lower sales prices for homes, which in turn bring down the values in those neighborhoods. I know that if it were my neighborhood, and all of a sudden 10 homes sold in the area for way under current comparative market value, I would certainly not be happy. This could be a big problem in areas such as the Inland Empire (Riverside County).
• Increased losses to taxpayers. If these bank owned properties are sold in bulk at discount prices, the burden will fall upon us, the taxpayers, via increased losses on the sale of these homes.
The solution is to put these homes on the market as traditional lender-owned sales. With the market prices trending upwards and the lack of inventory, this is a perfect time to do so. It seems asinine to not consider such an option, as it will save taxpayers, keep the market moving, and keep prices moving up instead of down. And we can’t forget that if these properties sell at higher prices, the lenders also benefit as well!
If you agree that bulk REO sales should not be allowed in California, please contact FHFA:
Federal Housing Finance Agency
400 7th Street SW
Washington D.C. 20024
Graphic courtesy of Dreamstime
Monday, May 7th, 2012
Unethical people stink. We can find them in every profession, including real estate. I certainly have seen my share of such types and I know many other agents who have stories of their own. The frustrating fact is that many agents do not report ethical violations, and these people continue to work in such a manner. What can we do about it? It’s simple: REPORT THEM.
For those who are unaware, real estate agents and brokers, like many other professionals, are bound by a strict code of ethics. If you have never read the code you should – it is built on the idea that we are dealing with legal situations and that we represent others in these situations. It promotes professionalism and respect for our colleagues, and asks us to strive to do right by our clients, colleagues, our profession, and by society. It is something we should each read at least once a year.
There are a few ways you can report violators:
1. Report to your local association. This is the quickest way to deal with an ethics violator. Associations may differ in their processes, but my local association has a simple way of doing so. First, a complaint form is filled out. It is submitted along with a written statement and any documentation that the complainant might possess. The complaint is reviewed by a committee, and then is scheduled for a hearing if found to warrant such (the complaints are deemed to be factual). The respondant is notified, has 15 days to respond, and then both parties attend the hearing.
Many agents do not bother reporting violators because they do not want to face the respondant, or because they do not want to go through the time the process requires. But it is worth it to do so, because these unethical people will just continue to do what they are doing, and you could prevent innocent people from being hurt or damaged due to such actions.
Punishment: The local associations do not have the authority to take a respondant’s license away, but if they feel there are issues of public trust involved they can report the issue to the Department of Real Estate (DRE), which does have authority to revoke licenses.
The local boards can place a letter of warning in the respondant’s file, levy fines, require them to take ethics classes, and suspend membership from the association. If the agent’s association membership is suspended it will be published in the national database, where everyone can see it.
2. Report to the DRE. The DRE’s role is to investigate potential violations of real estate law, such as financially related scenarios (e.g. where an agent/broker took monetary kickbacks), or loan fraud. Punishment is stricter, as the member could lose his/her license.
Check your agent’s status! You can check whether there have been any issues with your real estate agent/broker by clicking here. For agents and brokers, click on “Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons,” and them enter the required information.
If you are a buyer or seller and feel your agent may have committed an ethical violation, contact his/her broker. You may also want to contact their association and see what options you have in reporting them.
As professionals we need to report violations by other agents. If you are in a transaction and there is something fishy going on, you need to save all copies of communications with the other person, and any other evidence. Do not worry about getting involved in an investigation – we as a profession are only as strong as we choose to be. If we do not report those who don’t follow laws and rules, we are only hurting our profession and ourselves.
Friday, April 20th, 2012
Real estate agents or any professionals, take heed: Do you edit everything you send out? Do you read EVERY document the other side sends over involved with a sale? Do you read the contract (even better yet, have you EVER really read the contract in it’s entirety)?
In the real estate profession, as well as many others, there are those who are detail oriented, those who are completely sloppy, and just about all kinds of people somewhere in between. But it will never cease to amaze me when agents do not check their work product before sending it out. There is absolutely no excuse, as you are dealing with contracts that have legal ramifications.
If you represent somebody in a legal transaction, you better make sure you do the following – not only is the risk of a lawsuit great, but your entire reputation is on the line. As an agent, you are required to represent your clients to the best of your ability. If you cannot do so, you may need to seek another profession.
1. Read. This is so basic a requirement, yet it never ceases to amaze me how many agents do not read contracts, both before and after they have written them. First of all, if you have never read the required forms, you should! Once you have filled it in on behalf of a client, make sure you go over it with a fine tooth comb and fill in items you may have missed, change those that need changing, etc. If you forget to check or uncheck a box, it could cost your clients money, heartache, loss of a sale or subject them to a lawsuit. They are trusting you!
2. Explain. It is important to go over the contract with your clients before and after it is written. Explain to them what the terms mean, and make sure that you have conveyed their wishes properly.
3. Proof/edit. This instruction applies not just to a contract or other document you have written, but to everything you do. I am often dumbfounded by some of the marketing pieces I receive in the mail from real estate agents – typos, improper grammar, unfocused photos, blurry words…I would never send anything out like that! Even some big agents in my area do, and it usually makes me both laugh and feel angry…after all, it doesn’t raise the bar too high for the rest of us, does it?
4. Put all communications in writing. As a lawyer I know how important this is – even if your client is your family member. If you have a conversation with a client, make sure to send a message referencing what you discussed, and keep all communications in an email folder. If anything happens down the road, like a lawsuit, this is the only way you will be able to prove what was discussed.
5. Admit when you don’t know the answer, and get help or advice! It is ok to not know the answers sometimes – we all face this issue, and we are only human. Admit that you do not know and then find someone who does. This applies to tricky situations too, where you have to make a call. Getting the feedback of another whom you trust (like your broker, or if you are the broker, another trusted broker or attorney) could be a major difference in the outcome. The California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) has a free legal hotline for members, as most associations do – take advantage of it.
6. Do your homework first. No matter what you do you need to investigate before submitting any offers, taking any listings, or venturing into a short sale or lender owned property. Contact your title representative and find out if title is clean and find out about liens on the property. Contact the listing agent and make sure s/he knows what they are doing if it is a distressed property. Pull up the assessor record. Don’t ever jump into something blindly without knowledge of what you may be getting into – it simply isn’t fair to your clients.
7. Always act professionally. This applies not only to your interactions with your clients, but also to fellow real estate agents and brokers. There are too many people in many industries who do not treat others in a professional manner. Eventually you will sink yourself with a bad rap if you can’t be a true professional. Real estate agents all know whom they don’t want to work with in their area…you don’t want to be that person.
As in any profession, there are always bad seeds who will tarnish things for the group as a whole, but if we all make sure that we do right by our clients, colleagues and by ourselves, we will not only make others happy, but we will also feel happier and have a productive career.
Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
With the onslaught of social media and the digital age many people, myself included, lament the loss of humanization – that personal touch, face-to-face contact, handwritten notes and handshakes or hugs. In the interest of doing things faster and getting more accomplished in a shorter time, we tend to overlook the most important part of relationships, the things that make us stand out, seem more “real,” helpful and caring.
Humans need to feel appreciated, and if you are appreciated in your business you will be successful. Those who are appreciated are those who go beyond the norm – making sure their clients are satisfied, being available, moving around schedules to accommodate, and most importantly, listening and saying “thank you.”
We need to show people we appreciate them, whether it is our dry cleaner, the driver who let’s you in front of them, your client or anyone else. Saying “thank you” goes a long way.
One of the best books I read on the topic was The Thank You Economy, by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary talks about how we can use technology and social media, and still thank our customers and colleagues with a personal touch. If you have not read it and you are in any kind of business, I highly recommend it. He truly understands that business requires a human element, and he shows how you can use technology to your advantage and the advantage of your clients.
So next time someone needs something from you, take a moment to help them, and do it with a smile on your face no matter how busy you are. Most importantly, thank them when you are finished. Thank them for choosing to call you, for asking for your help, for working with you. Remember, there are others out there they could have chosen, but they contacted you. If you are thankful, not only will it pay off in the long run, but it will make you feel amazing.
Lastly, please teach this important lesson to your children. They need to understand the power of gratitude (sadly, many do not). Thank you for reading my blog!
“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.”
“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.”
Sarah Ban Breathnach
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
If you don’t listen to the news and do not know about SOPA and PIPA, especially if you are in the real estate industry or are a buyer or seller, you need to understand what it is and how it might effect you.
SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA , Protect IP Act, threaten the entire internet, and will have a big impact on how we use it. The bills, backed by the entertainment and music industry, as well as other big companies, will allow for the control of content on the internet, in order to prevent piracy. If you have a website and you post copyrighted content on your site, your site could be SHUT DOWN! It could be something as simple as posting a family photo on Facebook, where there is something in the background that is copyrighted, or posting a video on YouTube, where a copyrighted song is playing in the background – Facebook and YouTube could be shut down.
For Realtors, who rely on content sharing daily through multiple listing services, as well as photos and videos, this could be bad news. It would effect the consumer’s ability to search for homes, see videos and photos, and visit real estate websites. I have no doubt that the majority of real estate blog sites would be shut down under this new legislation, as well as millions of other blog sites. I know that to go through the hundreds of blogs and photos on my own blog site would be an exhausting task, and that there is a chance I might miss something that is copyrighted. Could I afford to have my website and blogsites shut down? NO!! I would likely have to find a new career.
Many websites and blogsites went black today in protest.
SOPA and PIPA are scheduled to be voted on by Congress on January 24. I urge you to call, email and write your local Congresspeople to tell them you are against these bills. The entire internet is at risk.
Monday, December 5th, 2011
No matter what business you are in, if you work with people there are some things you should always do if you want to be successful. By successful I don’t mean financially, although if you do possess these qualities that will follow, but successful in making your clients truly feel well cared for. For Realtors, it’s not just about closing the sale, but making sure our clients are represented properly, are informed throughout the process, and that they have a strong partner and watchdog from beginning to end.
If you want to make sure you are giving your clients the best, you need to possess the following traits. This by no means is the entire list, but those which I feel are the most important.
1. Listening skills. If you cannot truly listen to your clients than you may want to find another business. Listening is key to understanding your client’s goals and desires, their fears and insecurities. There is nothing more important than being a good listener, since you are representing your client’s interests. It will also give you an understanding so that if you need to tackle tough issues you know how to approach them without offending your client, creating anger or stress, or coming across like you do not care. In our fast-paced world it is easy to want to move along quickly, but take the time to really listen…you will be amazed at how much easier it makes your job, AND how much happier your clients will be!
2. Honesty and humility. Honesty and trust must be earned, and that is especially true in fiduciary relationships, like Realtor-client. Explain everything, take time to point out the possibilities and consequences of each action, even if your client is an experienced home buyer or seller. If a client asks to do something that does not feel comfortable, let them know. Trust your instincts. Always be humble and use praise as a tool – compliments are wonderful, and you should be happy. But also tell yourself that you need to keep learning, keep educating, so that you can continue to provide the best service as the market fluctuates and needs change.
3. Accessibility. Nothing makes me more frustrated than a representative who is inaccessible. If you are helping me through something, you better be there when I have questions or need something! So many Realtors do not heed this advice, and I think this is one of the biggest mistakes one can make. You surely are not helping your clients or colleagues if you don’t answer your calls, emails, and texts in a timely manner.
4. Respect for colleagues. It’s not just about your clients, but also your colleagues – other Realtors, escrow officers, mortgage professionals, title reps and others with whom you work. If you have a listing you need to call people back, provide information that is requested. Not doing so has a big impact on your own clients, and on your reputation in the industry as well.
None of the above traits are any you have not heard of in the past. But it is important to remind ourselves, especially in such a crazy world and an evolving market, that beneath it all we are simply human. Sure, we all want to make a living, but the only way we will survive this business is by putting our clients first and treating everyone with respect (even those peers who don’t seem to deserve it), including ourselves.
Sunday, November 27th, 2011
The economy has created troubling times for many people and institutions, and it is interesting to look at how the states are dealing with these problems. California is no exception, and is trying to help revamp the state budget so it can run more efficiently. What are the biggest problems in our state, and how can they be better handled?
Prisons: There was an article in the OC Register today about the rising costs of annually housing a prisoner in California – which has doubled in 10 years to $46,700. The majority of this cost comes from health care and security. The article points out that a year at Harvard costs around $50,000.
So what is the state of California doing to help curtail the overcrowded and overly expensive prison system? It is laying off those employed by the system, including those who actually help inmates get to a place where they can re-enter society, such as prison psychologists. The state is also releasing prisoners incarcerated for “lesser” crimes. Surely there is a better way to reform our prison systems…?
I believe our prison system needs to be focused on rehabilitation for the lesser offenders. They need counseling and need to be able to learn how to make a living. The recidivism rate has always been in the high 90th percentile, but we can turn that around if we approach it smartly. The hard core offenders need to do their time – rehabilitation should not be the goal for these prisoners, as they will never reenter society.
Schools. Many of California’s schools are in dire trouble (again). Locally, the Carlsbad Unified School District faces an $11 million shortfall next year. The district has been trying to figure out how to deal with the cut, including sending out a survey to parents asking where we think cuts should come from. Some of the choices included cutting teacher and administration salaries, programs, and shortening the school year or individual school days. Should we even be considering any of these, considering that our children are continuously outperformed by students in other nations? We need to motivate teachers and students, not alienate them.
With a decaying educational system and annual budget cuts, tough choices lay ahead. We need to get rid of tenure, and retain teachers who are excellent educators – not just because they have worked longer. We need annual reviews of teachers and Principals, as well as administrative staff, to make sure they are doing the best job they can. We need smaller class sizes again, to benefit learning. We need to incorporate technology more and bring back electives that teach trades, and provide more options with career counseling. We need to closely monitor student performance and give the districts more authority to set priorities and make decisions, because every area and every school could face different challenges.
There is possibly help on the way, via the Think Long Committee for California. They have some hefty proposals and the ability to infuse money into the system by revamping the state tax system via taxes – many are against this, but we can’t waste any more time arguing about alternatives when there are none presented that will help us achieve our educational goals.
The bottom line is that California, like many other states, needs to prioritize. I am all for raising taxes if it is truly going to benefit our schools. I say this from a non-partisan point of view, with education being the priority. If we turn our education system around chances are down the road it will have an effect on our prison system as well. I know we can do it.