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.
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.
April 18th, 2017
Sellers get ready! Not only are we about to embark on the busy Spring/Summer selling season in real estate – which actually seems to be well under way – but according to Zillow we are entering the best 2 weeks out of the entire year to sell a home.
Zillow reports that the period between May 1-15 is the BEST time of the year in which to sell a home. The study found that homes which sell during this time sell on average 18.5 days faster and for more money (1% more than the average listing).
It is important to note that some areas may have different results, so I suggest contacting an experienced agent in your neighborhood/surrounding areas to find out when the best time to list your home may be, and how the market is doing.
In Carlsbad CA for example, the market is currently very hot. Many homes are getting multiple offers and inventory is historically low, so desirable homes are selling quickly. Buyers are waiting for homes to pop up in certain neighborhoods; I get many phone calls from agents asking if I know of any upcoming sales in a neighborhood in which I have sold many houses.
The bottom line is that if you are considering selling your home, now is one of the best times to do so. There is a healthy buyer pool out there so contact an experienced agent and find out what you need to do to be sale-ready.
April 13th, 2017
If you are a listing agent or a seller who has hired an agent to sell your home, this is an important rule that is often ignored by agents – and it can cost home sellers a sale. It is not written down anywhere and is not required, but it is necessary in order to assure smooth closings. What is this rule? Listing agents must prepare reports for appraisers.
As long as I have been listing properties I have been preparing reports for appraisers. The appraiser, who is sent out by the buyer’s lender to evaluate a property that is in escrow, may not know the neighborhood well or even be from the immediate area. He or she also may not understand why a similar home sold for more or for less. Since the buyer’s agent is not allowed to communicate with the appraiser it is in the best interest of both parties that the listing agent take this advice to heart and come prepared.
I have had many appraisers tell me that they did not need me to meet them at the property or prepare anything, but I still do both and I have to say that almost all of them end up spending at least a few moments at the end going through my report with me.
Here is what I include in my appraiser reports:
1. A brief but concise analysis of all comparable sold properties – usually within the last 6 months, comparing and contrasting them to the subject property. I also let the appraiser know if there were multiple offers, as this can attest to the fact that many thought the property value was accurate.
2. A list of any upgrades or improvements in the subject property
3. Analysis of any pending sales, including prices I can usually obtain from the listing agents to help
4. A comparative market analysis sheet that lists all the comps and the pending subject property
5. All relevant listing sheets (for each property analyzed)
6. Any relevant sales statistics graphs for the area, and
7. A listing flyer
I have never had a listing that did not appraise.
Every listing agent should be sure to include this report as one of their duties. It is the duty of a listing agent to represent their sellers to the best of their abilities, and this simple step – which usually takes about an hour (more for tricky comparable listings) could make a difference in getting the buyer and seller to closing.
April 9th, 2017
Today I witnessed complete selflessness and kindness by an unknown man in Oceanside. I was driving home from work on westbound Highway 76 and traffic was moving fast. All of a sudden I saw a man starting to cross in front of oncoming traffic – it was very scary and I was luckily able to stop in time.
The man held his hand up while he moved across the street to try and stop traffic…in order to help a mother duck and her ducklings cross the highway. Several drivers did not stop and some ducklings were run over. The mother duck was frantic and was literally dodging traffic with her ducklings scrambling after her – they were almost hit multiple times. But with this man’s help they made it across the road and I believe 4 ducklings survived.
I don’t know where the man came from – he could have been on the other side of the road at the light or he could have stopped his car in the eastbound lanes to save the ducks, but I do know that he truly risked his own life to safe these creatures, and I wish I knew who he was so I could thank him. There was nowhere for me to pull over and by the time I could have turned around I probably would not have reached him in time. There are not many people who would have done what he did, and it is proof that people care about others, about nature, about doing things larger than just living life for themselves alone.
THANK YOU to the man who saved the ducks. It brought tears to my eyes to watch your daring act of love. You are a hero and an inspiration.
March 16th, 2017
As many in the real estate industry anticipated, the mortgage interest rate has been raised, and predictions are that rates will go up again, possibly multiple times this year. What does that mean for home buyers, sellers and the real estate market in general?
1. Inventory will likely remain low. Since inventory in most markets is already low the rise in rates could keep it that way. That is because home sellers who were considering selling may choose to stay in their homes. Those who have low mortgage rates currently may decide not to make a move if their new rates will be higher – it will all depend on numbers for many sellers. OR – there is always a chance that rising rates may cause some to sell quickly in order to prevent being locked into their homes for potentially years to come…it will remain to be seen.
2. People may be priced out of markets. If there are fewer homes on the market then home buyers will have a more difficult time finding homes due to high demand and low supply, which normally creates higher prices. As competition heats up, some buyers – likely many first time home buyers – will be priced out of the housing markets in many areas. Unless home builders supply the market with new inventory there could be a stall ahead.
3. Cash buyers will continue to play a role. In many markets, especially condo and townhome markets priced at $650,000 and under, I believe cash buyers will continue to be out in force snatching up these properties. Many first time buyers will have to contend with these cash buyers, and usually that is a losing game for the buyer who is getting a loan (since cash buyers do not require appraisals and can close more quickly; not having to rely on a lender to get the sale closed is a plus to many home sellers).
4. Rental market will continue to be saturated. If the above holds true then the already saturated rental market will continue to be busy – landlords will be able to make good money and raise rents because there will be plenty of renters needing homes who will pay the higher prices if current tenants cannot. This point correlates with the increase in cash buyers that we have seen lately in the “lower end” markets – many of them have been purchasing the lower priced properties for income potential, and it is a great time to make money in the rental market.
5. Real estate industry could see changes. With less inventory real estate brokers and agents could see a big change in the industry. Much like the exodus of sales people during the foreclosure crisis of 2008-2011, I predict many agents will again leave the business because they will not be able to survive in such a tight market. I also predict agent commissions will go down if there are fewer homes which sell faster.
The bottom line is that the real estate market in many areas, at least here in San Diego County and others in California, is still “hot,” but it is getting more difficult for people to get into it. This could affect future home ownership rates and the real estate industry as a whole.
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.
March 3rd, 2017
Home buyers these days have many hurdles to jump through in order to finally purchase a new home, from finding a home, to making an offer in possible multiple offer situations, to actually getting to closing without other issues. One such issue is appraisal – with inventory so low and prices climbing to meet demand it is not out of the ordinary for an appraisal to come in on the low side. But have no fear – there are a few things you can do to keep the sale moving along.
1. Renegotiate price/ compromise. If the home does not appraise there is always an opportunity to renegotiate price with the seller. Either the price can be negotiated down to the appraisal price, or the buyer and seller can agree on a compromise (for example, if the appraisal comes in $10,000 under contract price the parties can split the difference – buyer pays $5,000 more in cash and seller lowers the price by $5,000). However, if the seller had multiple offers there may be another buyer willing to pay that high price just to get into contract, so sometimes a seller will not renegotiate. It is always worth a try though, because if the other potential buyers are getting loans the seller could wind up in the same position.
2. Pay the difference with cash. Lenders are only concerned with the appraisal only because it affects the borrower’s loan-to-value ratio. The lender will only make a loan based on the contractual amount or appraised value.
3. Seller can carry a second loan. If you cannot lower the price and the buyer cannot pay cash over appraisal value, the seller can offer to carry a small second loan to make up the difference. The problem with this is that often the interest rate is higher than normal, but you can negotiate with the seller
4. Challenge the appraisal and ask for another to be ordered. Depending on the type of loan the buyer is obtaining this can be a possibility. If there is a good reason to challenge the appraisal with a conventional loan, say the appraiser was from out of the area or did not know the reasons why comparable properties sold for different prices (maybe your home is highly upgraded or has a better lot or view, etc.), then the appraisal can be challenged and you can ask for a second appraisal. Make sure that you provide comparables and an analysis of their sales to the new appraiser or to the lender – a job that the listing agent should have done (but even if s/he did there could still be other issues that did not bring in the appraisal value to the contract price). Talk to your agent and mortgage professional and figure out a plan that works best.
5. Cancel the sale. If there are no other options available the buyer has the right to cancel the sale without losing any deposits (unless otherwise agreed in the contract).
The bottom line is that there are potential solutions if your appraisal does not come in at contract value, so don’t panic. Make a plan with your agent and mortgage professional and see what you can do. Most of the time there will be a valid solution.
February 19th, 2017
The real estate market in Carlsbad is strong but there is still a shortage of inventory. Although Zillow reports that market is currently a buyers’ market, I do not agree (at least not in certain price ranges), as we are still seeing multiple offers in some ranges. Higher priced homes seem to be accruing slightly longer market times than “starter” homes (condos and townhomes from about $650,000 and under).
The median attached home list price in Carlsbad is currently just over $549,000. Home sellers are in a great position at this time, as the market still favors a strong seller advantage, with no change in average asking price per square foot (average of $379). Average market time was 76 days and 22% of properties had a price decrease last week. From my position in the trenches with buyers I am finding though that many properties under $650,000 are literally going into contract in a matter of days, often with multiple offers.
Single Family Homes:
The median list price for single family homes is currently $1,049,900, and the 199 homes in Carlsbad (as of last week) have been on the market an average of 90 days. Pricier homes (those over about $1 million) seem to take longer to sell than those under $800,000 – one Carlsbad neighborhood that typically sells in the high $700,000-low $800,000 range can’t keep inventory on the market more than a week, and homes are selling over asking price with multiple offers in days. Although inventory and market action has been trending downward, inventory is sufficiently low to keep the market labeled a seller’s market.
Sale values have risen in some Carlsbad markets 7.5% over the last year and are predicted to rise 2.7% in the next year, according to a study by Zillow, making it a great time to be a seller.
February 10th, 2017
Real estate agents wear many hats – from negotiator to chauffer to therapist, and that’s just for starters. A real estate agent often must take clients by the hand and walk them through the home search or listing process, as well as the subsequent purchase or sale transaction. But there is one thing that agents need to keep in mind during these busy and sometimes emotional times – responsibility for clients.
Responsibility for one’s clients as it relates to agency comes in many forms – some are spelled out in the ethics code (such as the duty to disclose), and some come from law (such as anti-discrimination, personal injury, tort and criminal law). But many situations with clients fall into a gray area when it comes to responsibility. One of those most important is the responsibility to accompany clients when viewing a property. If an agent does not do so there could be legal ramifications, say for example if an injury or property damage occurs.
Here are some tips to use when showing property to keep you and your clients out of harm’s way and avoid potential legal action:
1. Never let clients visit a property alone. While this seems obvious to many of us, I have read stories of agents giving clients one day lockbox codes or passing along entry instructions. As the representative of your clients you need to understand that this action can land you in hot water – unless you have been authorized by the property owners in writing to allow your clients to enter on their own (and I still would never allow that). Let’s just say there are a handful of legal issues here – from trespassing to other issues of someone gets injured or breaks something, or leaves a door/window open which could allow a thief to access the property.
2. Make sure you stay with your clients as they tour a property. Again, if you allow your clients to wander off it could cause problems. If it is a large property you especially need to stick with your touring clients. Make sure you and they have access to all areas of the property. If your clients have small children and there are potential hazards (steep or dangerous areas or animals, for example), make sure your clients do not wander off alone without permission and without you at their side.
3. Ask the owner or listing agent if you are allowed to access areas about which you are unsure. If there is a part of the property that you are not sure about, ask the listing agent or owner if you have permission to explore there. For example, a guest home, separate structure or animal pen, or flowing water. Oftentimes a listing agent will specify whether such areas are able to be viewed, but if not don’t ever assume.
The bottom line is that if your clients are not in your presence while touring a property, they could end up creating problems or suffering injuries to themselves or their property. If they were being careless and wandering around without permission, they likely will not have rights to recover for injuries suffered. Make sure to establish this right off the bat in order to protect yourself and your clients.