Posts Tagged ‘home sellers’
Monday, May 22nd, 2017
Today Zillow announced that it has test-launched a new program called Instant Offers, which it claims will help home sellers and agents. But upon close inspection this program is full of legal caveats for home sellers and agents alike.
The new program claims to offer options to home sellers so that they can avoid traditional marketing such as open houses and photographs. Here is how it works, according to what I read: a seller decides to use the program, which offers 3 options –
1. Sell directly to investor buyers: Without placing the home on the MLS it is offered to investors for purchase – almost like a For Sale by Owner listing. The investors can make an offer. At that point the homeowner can decide whether to take the offer or list on the MLS with an agent the traditional way (Zillow will recommend the agent). Zillow will benefit financially from the agent referral as more agents will want to advertise with Zillow). It is not clear how Zillow will benefit financially when sellers do not want to work with agents, but maybe there will be some kind of agreement between it and the investors.
2. Sell to investor buyers and use an agent recommended by Zillow to assist with the sale: If the homeowner wants to list their home Zillow will recommend one of it’s “Premier Agents.” These are agents who pay Zillow for advertising. Zillow wins here (like above) because 70% of its revenue comes from these agents who advertise.
3. Reject offers and list on the MLS with an agent: Zillow will of course recommend one of it’s Premier Agents (note that Zillow is NOT a broker, rather these agents achieve this status by paying Zillow money to advertise their names and services).
Ok…so you may think this is good – it gives home sellers options. But here are the other points to consider for all home sellers:
1. Potential lower sales price – investor buyers typically do not pay high prices – they offer a quick sale but the catch is that they want to save money. For those who have to sell quickly this could be a good thing, but for those who want to realize top dollar this is not the answer. If you have a home that is a true fixer upper an investor buyer is great as well, but there may be competing investor buyers out there on the open market and you could end up getting more if you have multiple offers, so choosing the Zillow program really puts your back against the proverbial wall.
2. High Fees – People always complain about high fees for selling homes. This program appears to charge a 9% service fee to those who choose to sell to one of the Zillow partner investors. Rather than pay such a high fee for a likely lower net sales price, it’s better to interview professional skilled area agents. Standard commission rates in CA are around 5% but commissions are negotiable.
3. THE LEGALITIES – Selling a home is a legal transaction, with contracts, paperwork and deadlines that are imperative to get right in order to prevent a lawsuit down the road. Although Zillow says it will recommend the seller work with an agent to get through the paperwork process with the new program, sellers have the option to forgo this. This is problematic, to put it mildly.
If I can give you one piece of advice only when it comes to selling your home, it would be this: have a lawyer review all your paperwork, including seller disclosures. If you do not want to hire a lawyer, make sure your agent has a good broker and have that broker review all your paperwork (or better yet, find an agent/Broker who IS an attorney). There are also many highly skilled agents who know what they are doing – find one.
4. Errors and Omissions insurance and lawsuits – Every broker (at least here in CA) must carry errors and omissions (E&O for short) insurance. It protects them in the event of a lawsuit brought by a party to a real estate transaction. Here’s the biggest problem with Zillow’s new program – Zillow is NOT a broker. If a home seller opts into the program and elects not to work with an agent, who is going to assume liability for contractual paperwork? What happens if disclosures are not filled out correctly, or if there is a problem with the home that is discovered after closing? The seller is put in a very bad position.
Agents could be hurt by this new program if they do not advertise with Zillow, as they will not be recommended by the company program. This is a lose-lose for hard-working professional agents everywhere who do not choose to pay money to Zillow, as home sellers in their areas may not even come across those skilled agents if they opt for the Zillow recommended agent.
These and many other questions do not have clear answers and as an attorney I say this program is fraught with potential problems for home sellers. So while Zillow may think the Instant Offer program is a great new “thing,” in my opinion, or until I see otherwise, sellers should steer clear. This program is in a test phase right now and is only available in Las Vegas NV and Orlando, FL.
For more information on the legalities of selling your home please contact a skilled attorney or broker in your area, or feel free to contact me with any questions by responding to this post.
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.
Thursday, 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.
Sunday, 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.
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.
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.
Monday, January 2nd, 2017
San Diego is definitely a desirable place to live, and as one of the most visited places in the United States it’s no wonder why – we have the best weather, beautiful beaches, great food and nightlife, culture, incredible places to walk and hike, and so much more. There is nowhere else I’d rather live!
As we head into the new year here are some of the happening stories highlighting San Diego and the local real estate market.
San Diego Ranked 5th “Hottest” Real Estate Market in U.S. – Realtor.com ranked San Diego as the 5th “hottest” real estate market in the country. This is great news for the local market. The story pointed out that demand has especially grown since the election, likely due to increasing mortgage interest rates, and that the low supply levels heading into the new year will keep prices high – great news for sellers. Median sales time is 53 days in San Diego county, compared to 88 days nationwide.
San Diego Remains Top Destination for Foreign Buyers – We still rank as one of the top places for foreign buyers, especially those from China and Canada. San Diego is up there with Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco as the top places to purchase property in California. Speculation that this trend will continue in 2017 as many feel the US economy and the dollar will strengthen.
San Diego Home Sales Could be Protected by State Supreme Court Ruling – I have blogged about “dual agency” many times, and my position has always been that real estate agents should not be able to represent both the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction. The reason for this is that I feel it is virtually impossible to exercise a fiduciary duty to both parties – it can create too many conflicts of interest. The California Supreme Court seems to be coming closer to agreeing with this sentiment.
In November the court ruled that “a listing broker has a fiduciary responsibility to the buyer and the seller when his brokerage firm is representing both, setting a significant precedent for obtaining and sharing information in residential and commercial transactions.” While there are currently disclosures required which allow such situations, this ruling could be paving the way to no longer discontinuing them in the future…stay tuned for more.
If you need any information about property in the San Diego county area please feel free to contact me. Happy New Year!
Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
There is something important that all home buyers, sellers and agents need to be aware of and it is very easy to discover: making sure all parties on title have signed the listing agreement and the residential purchase contract (and of course all further documents that relate to the sale).
It is extremely important that all listing agents check the property deed prior to having sellers sign a listing agreement. It is not hard to do and takes only a call to the title representative. You cannot rely on what the seller(s) tell you, as they may not even realize that there is another person on title. Recently I sold a home on behalf of my buyer clients. I pulled up the tax records and saw there were 2 sellers named as owners. I drafted the offer with both names. Due to complicated circumstances one party was going to sell and the other was going to sign an interspousal deed transfer, but that was not signed yet. We got around it but it was a very strange situation and a bit risky.
Another home I sold recently had 3 sellers, but only 2 were named in the tax records; however the deed showed there was a third party on title (parent of one of the sellers). The listing agent was not aware of this and we had to get the third seller’s signatures on all paperwork after the contract was accepted. Luckily that third seller was cooperative – this may not always be the case.
If someone who is on title does not sign all paperwork then technically there is no contract, as the law states that all owners on title need to agree to a sale. You can imagine the legal repercussions down the road if things are done improperly! The good news is that the title company will catch this and it can be corrected, but not if the other person who has not signed decides to be uncooperative.
If you are an agent, this is something you should know, but believe it or not many agents have listing agreements signed without checking with their title department to assure that all parties on title sign the agreement. Similarly, buyers agents need to check the deed before writing offers to make sure this is the case. If you are a buyer or seller, you should ask your agent to make sure s/he has all the correct information at the time of listing or writing an offer.
Friday, October 7th, 2016
It has been an interesting time lately in the real estate market, and it is difficult to figure out exactly what is going on – is it slowing down, is it still hot…many people are confused. It really depends on your specific area, but there are some interesting things going on in my local markets…let’s take a look.
Multiple offers – still?! Yes! There are still some of those crazy multiple offer situations going on out there, and believe it or not they make it look like a seller’s market in the heat of summer. But this is not happening everywhere. It seems – at least in my neck of the woods in North San Diego – to be happening with condos and towhhomes that are very nicely upgraded, in good areas, and priced up to $550,000. Just last week I wrote an offer on a townhome for clients. The offer was super clean, priced over asking price, which was already stretching the appraisal potential, and a quick close in 30 days. We received a multiple counter offer asking us in essence to come up higher, remove the appraisal contingency at the outset, reduce all other contingency periods, and specifying that the sellers would make no repairs. We lost that one (I would never allow a buyer to remove an appraisal contingency unless they insisted, after being fully aware of the consequences).
Buyers are not jumping as high: Yes, this may sound like it contradicts the above paragraph, but it is true in most cases that buyers are not giving into inflated prices any longer. Most buyers (with the exception being the above scenario) are taking longer to find the right home, and then trying to negotiate the price. Much of the real estate news I read follows this position – after a crazy summer with prices inflating many buyers who missed the boat (or even those who intentionally waited out the crazy buyer storm) are finding that they can negotiate prices down and for that matter do not mind waiting until homes have some market time to make offers. This to me indicates the slow approach of a buyers market.
Fewer listings, fewer escrows opened: As is normal after the end of the summer season, listings are not as plentiful. But even after a fewer-than-usual-listings summer the Fall numbers continue to drop. Fewer escrows were opened in the last month compared to summer months. If this continues – fewer active properties, steady demand – it could spur the seller’s market to stick around for a bit…which means we could see prices rise. Interest rates will play a big part in this equation, as of course will jobs – people have to be able to afford homes.
In a nutshell the market is a bit hard to predict right now and doing so requires focusing on the specific community in which you are searching. For those buyers out there who are ready, willing and able to purchase my advice is to not rush into anything (unless you find your absolute “must-have it” dream home – but even then you need to be careful), consult with an experienced real estate agent to make a plan, stick to your budget and stick to your guns when negotiating price, repairs and other items.
Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
Attention home buyers and sellers: home inventory is growing. Over the last few years we have seen decreased inventory in many areas, including here in San Diego County. This has made it tricky for many buyers as supply has not met demand, but has been positive for sellers as the seller market picked up speed. But inventory appears to be growing and there are many extenuating circumstances that make now a good time to sell or buy real estate.
Home ownership holding period – Over time most homeowners have tended to occupy their homes on the average for about 6-7 years before selling. But over the last few years this number increased and many sellers were staying in their homes 9-10 years due to economic factors. However, there has been a trend downward lately due to equity increases and market conditions.
Equity – The last few years have brought equity gains to many homeowners, and low interest rates make it a great time to buy – this combination is positive news for housing. But like any market there will be a correction in time, where equity stops rising as quickly. Here in San Diego County we are starting to see slight slow downs with sales – sales prices are dropping slightly and many homes are sitting on the market longer.
Seller Market – It has been a seller’s market for some time now, due to lack of inventory in many housing markets, combined with a healthy demand. but with external changes on the rise more sellers will likely consider selling due to strong market conditions and other economic factors that may make them question how long the equity rise will continue. As inventory increases it may turn into a buyer market so long as demand is still prevalent and supply increases.
Economy – There are several economic factors that may influence a seller or buyer, and moving forward these will likely play a role in decisions to buy or sell. For buyers, low interest rates and international economic conditions that affect our US economy could play into the decision- making process. As markets are cyclical most buyers and sellers know that low rates will not last forever. The looming Presidential election could also factor into housing, as well as international situations like Brexit and terrorism.
The bottom line is that no one has a crystal ball. Many predictions abound and feeding into them can make a buyer or seller crazy. Each individual has to consider their own factors – equity, supply, prices, external and personal economic factors. Talk to your accountant and an experienced real estate professional – but don’t wait too long because the market will change at some point.
Monday, May 23rd, 2016
If you are a real estate agent or a home buyer you may notice that the market is obviously low on inventory right now. Being that it is the “selling season” of Spring/Summer, and since there are a lot of buyers out there looking at homes, there are many situations involving multiple counter offers and homes selling for well over asking price…all great if you are a seller. However, there are also some fishy things going on out there and it is frustrating to agents and their buyers.
Let’s take a look at what is happening:
1. Homes listed well over comparable value. Many, and I mean a LOT, of homes in North San Diego are being listed over market value – some slightly and some way over. Buyers, who normally would avoid such homes until the price drops, are flocking to them and making offers anyway. No one seems concerned that the home likely will not appraise, and if one buyer walks there are many more who will step right in. This is pricing out first time homeowners and bringing prices up…you may think the latter is good, but it is dangerous because such inflation could create problems for the market – especially when there are many buyers who have incomes that will price them out of neighborhoods they should have been able to afford had prices reflected comparable sold values.
2. Many sellers are taking a long time to respond to offers – even very strong ones. If a buyer makes a very strong offer over asking price, many listing agents are waiting for 4 or 5 days to even respond, during which time they collect more offers. Many then submit multiple counter offers to all bidders asking for the best and highest price. This prices many potential buyers out of the running, and most already submitted an offer slightly over their budget.
3. Sellers are refusing to make repairs or pay for reports. In a seller’s market the seller knows s/he is in the driver’s seat, and many sellers are countering back stating the home is sold as is, and that they will make no repairs and pay for no reports – like termite reports. They want the cleanest offers possible with the least amount of money out of pocket. This means the buyer can get stuck with multiple repairs, termite work, etc. If the buyer is already paying top dollar for the home, s/he has to make sure those things are affordable. No one wants to see a new foreclosure wave hit in a few years.
4. Appraisals are not coming in at contract value – but that is not deterring sales. I have not had problems with appraisals on listings (I don’t market properties in the “insane” price category), but have heard from many agents who have. Even if the home does not appraise at contract value, there are plenty of buyers who are willing to pay the difference in cash if sellers will not negotiate prices down to the appraised value. They feel that is the only way to secure a home purchase in these crazy times. Does this sound like 2003/2004 – “pre-crash” – to anyone else besides me?
5. Overly aggressive listing agents seem to be multiplying, and they are not being cooperative. There are many listing agents who are ruthless and even rude. They don’t care that your buyers love the home and have been looking in that neighborhood for a long time, or that they wrote a very strong offer and submitted it first. To these agents, it’s all about playing the game and finding the highest bidder. Some agents do not return calls and emails, and some violate the Realtor code of ethics – a few may even commit fraud. It is extremely frustrating for buyer’s agents, who are trying to find a home for their well-qualified buyers.
6. Pocket listings and homes listed “off the MLS” are increasing. Many agents are marketing their listings on third party sites like Zillow, and not placing them on the MLS – the cooperative tool used by Realtors to benefit all parties looking in particular areas/price ranges. While it is their right to do so, it makes a problem for buyer’s agents whose clients may see these listings and want to visit them – but when their agent calls the listing agent to make an appointment she is often told that the seller is not paying a commission to buyers’ agents. Imagine you have been helping your buyers for months to find a home and now you cannot show them this one home because the broker will not cooperate with your broker. It puts buyer’s agents – who play an imperative role in protecting buyer’s rights – in a very sticky situation. You may ask why listing agents do this: the answer is so they can find buyers who will work with them, thus saving the seller from paying out a commission to the buyer’s agent. Hopefully the California Supreme Court will soon put an end to double ending sales and this will no longer be a problem.
I am a bit concerned and hope that we are not heading into trouble in the real estate market. I hope that agents keep in mind the spirit of cooperation that is inherent in our business – we all need to work together and be fair. If we do not then buyers and sellers will not be protected from future lawsuits, and many people will be priced out of the housing market – which could cause a domino effect with local economies and eventually the US economy.