Google in Marin?

If you haven’t heard the rumor by now, you should probably think about getting out more. The word on the street is that Google is going to move into the Fireman’s Fund building on San Marin Drive in Novato. I’ve gone from hearing about it once a month, to once a week and, now, almost daily. So…is it true? The only thing that I am absolutely certain about is that nobody knows.

My apologies to those of you who thought I might have an actual answer (I hate when people do that to me).  I will share what I do know, which, unfortunately, isn’t much. In April, the Marin IJ ran an article discussing the move of Fireman’s Fund to Petaluma, which is set to take place in November 2015. In that article, the commercial real estate agent who helped Fireman’s Fund rent out some of the excess space they’ve had at their facility over the last few years was quoted as saying that he’d heard a rumor that Google, Facebook, “and a few other companies from the South Bay are looking at it.” From what I can tell, that statement is all we’ve got so far. From that point, people may have taken that 3rd, 4th or 5th hand account as truth or evidence that it is actually happening, but that seems to be a rather far stretch of the imagination.

Even if Google, or any of these companies, have actually looked at the site, which has yet to be confirmed, that doesn’t mean that it’s a done deal. As those of you who have purchased a home or even rented an apartment know, you have to look at many different possibilities before picking the final location. This could mean that Google is looking at dozens of properties before getting on one knee and proposing to the future Mrs. Google.

The Vice President of my company even called the City of Novato to try to get a possible confirmation or any information at all regarding the rumor, and all they said was, “yeah, we’ve heard that rumor too.” So, everyone in the know is either being very discreet about the facts or nobody really knows, although I think it’s safe to assume the latter.

To add a little fuel to the fire, I was just talking about the rumor with a friend of mine who has a friend who has friend (yup, I just did my friend’s aunt’s dog’s veterinarian said…) but isn’t that fitting with how much speculation has been swirling around this non fact for the last few months? Anyway, this person is somehow involved with employees that may or may not work for Google and she supposedly has asked these people if it’s true and they supposedly confirmed that it was. So, again, take it for what it is…

I’m not saying that it’s not going to happen, just that until Larry Page puts out an official statement declaring Google’s intentions, we should all stay realistic about the lack of information we have.

That being said, if you’ve been on the fence about buying property in Marin or Sonoma County, it’s probably a good idea to stop getting splinters because, if this thing does pop, you might find yourself priced out of your desired market. Novato and Marin won’t be the only places affected by a high-tech mega company moving in. The ripple will reach from Petaluma to Santa Rosa and even Napa County as well.  Anyone else out there sufficiently scared yet?

Read my update to this topic here: Update to Google Moving to Marin County: April 2017

Home prices in Marin have risen, has yours? Find out now for free. Click the following link to find out: What’s My Marin County Home Worth?

 

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Getting Pre Approved Is Simple

If you’re thinking about buying a home, the FIRST thing you should do is find out what your price range is by getting pre approved for your loan with a mortgage broker. Getting pre approved is simple and can be done very quickly either over the phone or by email. If you just want to get a ballpark idea of what you can afford, you can call a mortgage broker and tell them your financial information. Based on your answers, the mortgage broker can tell you how much of a loan you would be approved for, what price house or condo you can buy and what your approximate monthly payment would be.

To get an official pre approval that will allow you to submit offers on houses, the mortgage broker will need to verify all your financial info and check your credit score, but that is easy as well. All you have to do is email, mail or deliver the following documents for the mortgage broker to review:

  1. 2 Most Recent Pay Stubs
  2. W2’s from Last 2 Years
  3. Tax Returns from Last 2 Years (if self employed)
  4. Bank Statements from Last 2 Months

That’s it! It’s much less painful than most people think. I can put you in touch with two or three different mortgage brokers that are very good at what they do and super easy to work with. There’s no obligation or pressure and you can then decide who you want to use. It really doesn’t have to be that hard. Buying a house can actually be fun and exciting instead of stressful and overwhelming. Piece of cake!

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Actual Home Values Vs. Zillow’s Zestimates

If you’re trying to figure out how much your house is worth or how much you should be paying for a house you’re interested in buying, Zillow is not a good resource. Zillow obtains the information it displays by paying 3rd party data collection companies. Because the data is not coming directly from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is where the actual sales and listings are recorded, it is prone to errors. I continuously see properties listed as sold that either didn’t sell or sold for a much different price. These incorrect sale prices then skew the estimates of other similar properties in the neighborhood. The same goes for current properties for sale. A lot of the listings are either no longer available or have incorrect details or both. This is not to say that I don’t look at Zillow, which I am known to do on a regular basis, but it’s really only to get an idea of what pricing ballpark a property might be in. That’s about as far as it goes—it’s a fun tool, but should never be relied upon. To get an actual valuation you need to have someone physically view the property who has also viewed other similar properties and knows what those properties are selling for and why. Everyone knows about location, location, location, but Zillow has no way of knowing what condition, condition, condition any given house is in, and that is where the rubber meets the road.

The following is an article from the LA Times that further discusses the discrepancy in Zillow’s Zestimates. There are actual examples of how far off Zillow can be and is. It’s a quick and interesting read, so check it out.

When “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell asked the chief executive of Zillow recently about the accuracy of the website’s automated property value estimates — known as Zestimates — she touched on one of the most sensitive perception gaps in American real estate.

Zillow is the most popular online real estate information site, with 73 million unique visitors in December 2014. Along with active listings of properties for sale, it also provides information on houses that are not on the market. You can enter the address or general location in a database of millions of homes and probably pull up key information — square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths, photos, taxes — plus a Zestimate.

Shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to real estate agents — and to one another — as gauges of market value. If a house for sale has a Zestimate of $350,000, a buyer might challenge the sellers’ list price of $425,000. Or a seller might demand to know from potential listing brokers why they say a property should sell for just $595,000 when Zillow has it at $685,000.

Disparities like these are daily occurrences and, in the words of one agent who posted on the industry blog ActiveRain, they are “the bane of my existence.” Consumers often take Zestimates “as gospel,” said Tim Freund, an agent with Dilbeck Real Estate in Westlake Village. If either the buyer or the seller won’t budge off Zillow’s estimated value, he told me, “that will kill a deal.”

Back to the question posed by O’Donnell: Are Zestimates accurate? And if they’re off the mark, how far off? Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff answered that they’re “a good starting point” but that nationwide Zestimates have a “median error rate” of about 8%.

Whoa. That sounds high. On a $500,000 house, that would be a $40,000 disparity — a lot of money on the table — and could create problems. But here’s something Rascoff was not asked about: Localized median error rates on Zestimates sometimes far exceed the national median, which raises the odds that sellers and buyers will have conflicts over pricing. Though it’s not prominently featured on the website, at the bottom of Zillow’s home page in small type is the word “Zestimates.” This section provides helpful background information along with valuation error rates by state and county — some of which are stunners.

For example, in New York County — Manhattan — the median valuation error rate is 19.9%. In Brooklyn, it’s 12.9%. In Somerset County, Md., the rate is an astounding 42%. In some rural counties in California, error rates range as high as 26%. In San Francisco it’s 11.6%. With a median home value of $1,000,800 in San Francisco, according to Zillow estimates as of December, a median error rate at this level translates into a price disparity of $116,093.

Some real estate agents have done their own studies of accuracy levels of Zillow in their local markets.

Last July, Robert Earl, an agent with Choice Homes Team in the Charlottesville, Va., area, examined selling prices and Zestimates of all 21 homes sold that month in the nearby community of Lake Monticello. On 17 sales Zillow overestimated values, including two houses that sold for 61% below the Zestimate.

In Carlsbad, Calif., Jeff Dowler, an agent with Solutions Real Estate, did a similar analysis on sales in two ZIP Codes. He found that Zestimates came in below the selling price 70% of the time, with disparities ranging as high as $70,000. In 25% of the sales, Zestimates were higher than the contract price. In 95% of the cases, he said, “Zestimates were wrong. That does not inspire a lot of confidence, at least not for me.” In a second ZIP Code, Dowler found that 100% of Zestimates were inaccurate and that disparities were as large as $190,000.

So what do you do now that you’ve got the scoop on Zestimate accuracy? Most important, take Rascoff’s advice: Look at them as no more than starting points in pricing discussions with the real authorities on local real estate values — experienced agents and appraisers. Zestimates are hardly gospel — often far from it.

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Financial Benefits of Owning Vs. Renting

Taxes:

  • Mortgage Deduction: As a homeowner, you are allowed to deduct the mortgage interest from your tax obligation. For many people, this is a huge deduction since interest payments are typically the largest component of your mortgage payment in the early years of owning a home.
  • Property Tax is Deductible: Real estate property taxes paid on your primary residence and a vacation home are fully deductible for income tax purposes.
  • Some Closing Cost Deductions: The year that you buy your home you can claim the origination fees on your loan, even if your purchase is structured so that the seller is paying the closing costs.

You Build Equity Every Month
Your equity in your home is the amount of money you can sell it for minus what you still owe on it. When you make your mortgage payment each month, part of the payment reduces the amount you owe, which then increases your equity.

Forced Savings Plan
Every month you pay your mortgage and build equity is like a forced savings plan that can become valuable to your overall financial health and wealth.

Capital Gains Exclusion
If the home is your primary residence for at least 2 of the last 5 years, you don’t have to pay taxes on the profit up to $250,000 if single and $500,000 if married.

Over Time, Buying Is Cheaper Than Renting
In the first few years, it may be cheaper to rent. But, over time, as the interest portion of your mortgage payment decreases, the interest that you pay will eventually be lower than the rent you would have been paying. In addition, you are not throwing away all that money on rent. If you’re going to pay to live somewhere, why not pay off your own mortgage rather than someone else’s.

Bankrate.com has a good calculator to help you figure out how much you’ll actually be saving in taxes. Check it out here:

Tax Savings Calculator

Cost to Buy a House

What does it actually cost to buy a house? This question is usually answered with something like, “we won’t really know until we have all the information.” Yes, it’s difficult to say because every purchase is different and there are many factors involved, blah, blah, blah, and nobody wants to be wrong, however, answering this question with a non answer doesn’t help when you’re trying to figure out what your actual expenses are going to be, so here is the cleanest APPROXIMATION of what it will actually cost to buy a house. I’ve also put links to tools and made notes on how to calculate a couple of the numbers on your own.

Itemized List of Costs from Highest to Lowest:

  1. Down Payment (3.5% of the purchase price if you do an FHA loan all the way up to whatever percentage you’re willing to put down)
  2. Mortgage Insurance (Only applicable if putting less than 10% down)
  3. Property Taxes (Paid up front for the current 6 month period and prorated from the day you take possession of the property)
  4. Loan Origination Fee (What the bank charges for lending you money to purchase a home)
  5. Homeowner’s Title Insurance (One-time fee at purchase)
  6. Escrow Fee (Cost for the escrow account and officer)
  7. Homeowner’s Insurance (The first year is paid at time of purchase)
  8. Lender’s Title Insurance (One-time fee at purchase)
  9. Home and Pest Inspections
  10. Additional Inspections or Estimates from Professionals
  11. Appraisal Fee (Cost for professional appraiser to estimate property value and provide a written report as mandated by the lender)
  12. Deed Recording Service (Cost to have someone physically record deed at the County Recorder’s office)
  13. Notary Fee (Cost to have closing documents notarized)
  14. Credit Report Fee (What the mortgage broker charges to run your credit)
  15. Bank Wire Transfer Fee (Cost to wire money from your bank to the escrow account)

Estimated Cost if You’re Buying a House for $600,000 with 3.5% Down:

  1. $21,000 – Down Payment
  2. $4,632 – Mortgage Insurance (Only applicable if putting less than 10% down. This is an upfront premium paid at time of purchase. There will also be a monthly mortgage insurance premium).
  3. $3,750 – Property Taxes (This is the most you would have to pay at closing for a house worth $600,000. The property taxes will be prorated for every day you own the home within the 6 month billing period at approximately $20 per day).
  4. $2,000 – Loan Origination Fee (This fee is the hardest to predict so this is a major ballpark figure. There’s a huge variation depending on your mortgage broker and the bank you’re working with. It also depends on what kind of credit they’re giving you and what interest rate you’re taking or how many points you’re buying).
  5. $1,800 – Homeowner’s Title Insurance
  6. $1,200 – Escrow Fee
  7. $1,000 – Homeowner’s Insurance (First year paid at time of purchase)
  8. $775 – Lender’s Title Insurance
  9. $750 – Home and Pest Inspections
  10. $500 – Additional Inspections or Estimates from Professionals
  11. $500 – Appraisal Fee
  12. $130 – Deed Recording Service
  13. $100 – Notary Fee
  14. $30 – Credit Report Fee
  15. $25 – Bank Wire Transfer

TOTAL = $38,192

Tips and Links for Figuring Out Your Own Scenario:

Note: It is possible to structure your offer so that the seller gives you a credit to pay for part of your closing costs. This allows you to pay less money out of pocket at the time of purchase.

Upfront Mortgage Insurance (Usually only required if putting less than 10% down):
Multiply the loan amount by .008 (.8%).

Property Taxes:
Property taxes in Marin and Sonoma Counties can be roughly figured by multiplying the purchase price by .0125 (1.25%). Example: if you buy a house for $600,000 and multiply that by .0125 then your annual property taxes will be approximately $7,500.

Title Insurance & Escrow Fee:
The following is a link to a fee estimator for Escrow and Title fees. It works on a sliding scale based on the purchase price and loan amount. You can plug in the numbers that apply to your purchase:

Title Insurance and Escrow Fee Calculator

Title Insurance Simplified

Title Insurance is an important part of a real estate transaction, but buyers and sellers often get confused about what it is and what it actually does, so here are the basics:

What is Title Insurance?
Title Insurance protects the buyer, seller and lender against serious financial loss due to a defect in the title. A defect could be a lien, claim or encumbrance on the title to the property.

Title Insurance for Buyers:
There is a one-time cost for the policy at the time of purchase. The title insurance will cover claims arising from issues that could have been discovered in public records as well as “non-record” defects that were not discovered during the title company’s investigation. The title company will not only satisfy any valid claim made against your title, but it will pay for the costs and legal expenses of defending against a title claim.

In addition, if you’re getting a loan from a lender to purchase the property, your lender will require that you pay for a title insurance policy for them as well.

Title Insurance for Sellers:
As a seller, your title insurance policy guarantees that the title to your property will be marketable when you decide to sell your home. The title insurance policy protects you from financial damage if the title is rejected by a prospective buyer.

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The Home Selling Process

Step 1:
Find the Right Agent
If you’re reading this, you’ve already completed this step. Boom! My number is (415) 845-2518.

Step 2:
Maintenance and Repairs
Spend the money and have a professional home and pest inspection performed. Yes, having to spend $500 – $1,000 on inspections hurts, but it allows you to correct and/or disclose any issues prior to putting your home on the market, which will ultimately maximize your profit and eliminate surprises.

Your additional profit will more than cover the cost of the inspections for a few reasons: 1. A “clean” house that doesn’t require any repairs will usually be rewarded with a higher sale price, 2. Estimates from inspectors tend to be high, but those are the numbers you’ll have to work with, 3. By disclosing everything up front, you eliminate the buyer’s ability to negotiate a reduction of the purchase price based on those estimates, 4. By using your own people to fix any issues, you can control the cost and there won’t be any unknowns to worry the buyer.

This “unknown” aspect scares people, especially first-time buyers, and they’ll try to make you pay for it. The buyer will most likely have their own inspections performed, but there shouldn’t be any new information or discoveries, although that can happen.

Step 3:
Staging, Decluttering and Cleaning
While you’re getting all the maintenance and repair issues completed, you should also focus on how to make your home appeal to the most buyers. Think minimal. Remove EVERYTHING that doesn’t need to be there. This means all personal items and knick knacks—no more family photos or your favorite collection of shot glasses from around the world. Keep it basic, clean and simple. Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in the rooms of the house, and they won’t be able to do that if all your stuff is in the way and drawing their attention elsewhere.

Rooms should be set up to maximize the space. Get rid of additional pieces of furniture that can make the room seem closed in and heavy. Even if this means that you won’t have all your stuff right where you want it, you’re going to have to sacrifice a little bit of comfort in order to sell your home faster and for more money.

Be sure to allow as much light into every room as possible. Open blinds and curtains or even completely remove them, especially if they’re dated and bulky. Everybody likes light and bright. Brightness creates a warm and happy feeling and that’s what people want to experience when they walk into a home and as they go from room to room.

Also, think about painting walls and recaulking tubs, showers and sinks. The cleaner and fresher everything looks and feels, the better. Once all of these things are done, have your home professionally cleaned. Again, having to spend $150 – $200 hurts, but it’s another investment in your future profit. A professional cleaning will really make your home sparkle and set it apart from the competition. Buyers are picky. You don’t want to give them any reason to move on to the next house. If there are too many negatives, your house will be eliminated as an option and that buyer will be gone forever. The more buyers you can get to write an offer on your house, the better your situation will be, not just for the sale price but for the terms as well.

Step 4:
City Resale Inspection
Most cities require a resale inspection that is typically paid for by the seller. I will order and schedule this inspection, which typically costs between $200 and $400 depending on the city. These inspections are used by the city to update their records and determine what actually exists at the property. They also look for any work completed on the property that was not properly permitted. The city resale inspection will be included in the disclosure package.

Step 5:
Disclosures
You must complete a Disclosure Package for buyers to review prior to making an offer. This process usually takes 1 – 4 hours depending on the home, but I will sit down with you and go through each page to make sure you’re fulfilling your obligation to the buyer and protecting yourself in the future. Providing this package to buyers up front allows them to submit offers based on full disclosure, which will also limit their ability to negotiate after the fact.

Step 6:
Pricing
We will have discussed the value range of your home during our first meeting, but now that we’ve established at what condition your home will be sold (based on the home and pest inspections, staging and any repairs or upgrades you’ve made), we can determine the actual list price and strategy for sale. The strategy will depend on the current market and what you’re comfortable with, e.g., today we’re seeing multiple offers on pretty much everything priced well, and sellers who are willing to price their home at or just below market value are creating a bidding war that is actually driving up the price and netting them more money in the end. Each house and neighborhood is unique, so we’ll develop the strategy that will work best for your home and your goals.

Step 7:
Marketing Time
Even before your home officially goes on the market, I will create interest by teasing it to the public.

Here are the things I do for my listings:

  • Professional Photos Taken (once repairs and staging are complete)
  • Virtual Tour Created
  • Direct Mail Postcards or Letters to the Neighborhood
  • Advertisements in Local Newspapers and Magazines
  • Professional Property Brochure
  • Individual Property Website, e.g., http://www.77MainStreet.com
  • Networking with the 450+ Agents in My Company as well as Other Agents and Contacts in the Area

Once the home is officially entered into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and goes on the market, it will appear on over 1,000 websites.

My personal listings then get the following:

  • Email Flyer to Every Agent in Marin, Sonoma and San Francisco Counties
  • Featured or Enhanced Listing on Zillow.com, Trulia.com and Realtor.com

Step 8:
Your House Goes on the MLS and is Officially for Sale
Ideally, we’ll have your house hit the MLS on a Monday or Tuesday. This will maximize exposure and limit days on market as well as allow us to ride the momentum of being a new and fresh listing.

Step 9:
Broker Open House
I will hold a Broker Open House aka Broker Tour the first week your home is on the market. These open houses are on a Wednesday or Thursday depending on what city your home is in and they last for 3 hours. This is the time your home will be open so all the local agents can come and preview your house for any clients they may have.

Step 10:
Showings
Now that your house is on the market, it is extremely important that it’s easy for agents to show it to their clients. Ideally, the house will be vacant so people can go any time, but that’s not always possible. If you’re still living at the house, you can either set times when the house can be shown without an appointment or showings can be set by appointment only, i.e., agents will call me with a showing request and I will call, email or text you to make sure that time is okay.

The reality is that, especially in a market with a good amount of inventory, vacant and easy-to-show homes will almost always be viewed first. If those homes don’t work for the buyer, then they will figure out how to schedule an appointment to see the home that isn’t as easy to see. Obviously, every situation is different and having buyers schedule an appointment to view your home might be necessary. If that is the case, you need to be agreeable and flexible—you should do your best to make the requested time happen because that might be your only shot with that buyer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a seller deny a request to a buyer and that buyer never came back. You may think that asking them to come at a different time isn’t a big deal, but something that small is often enough for a buyer to move on to another house. You may have accommodated the first 8 showings and this is the only time you’ve rejected one, but, for the buyer, this is their only experience with you and could be a sign of how you’ll be to work with should they decide to submit an offer on your house. It’s best to start out on a positive note, so a small sacrifice of your time might be what it takes to get your house sold the fastest and for the most money. Keep this in mind: the more showing requests you deny the longer you’ll have to deal with your house being on the market.

Step 11:
Offers
Depending on the market and pricing strategy, we may be able to set an offer date. In a strong seller’s market like we have today, we can put the house on the market on a Tuesday, have the broker tour on Wednesday or Thursday, an open house on Sunday and then accept offers on Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week. This strategy allows you to create buzz and ride the momentum into a successful sale. If the real estate climate is different, we will discuss the best way to get your home sold for the most money.

Step 12:
The Escrow Process
Congratulations! You’ve accepted an offer! The day after you deliver written acceptance of your buyers’ offer to them is the first technical day of the escrow and time periods. A typical offer will have about 10 days for a buyer to complete their investigations, 17 days for them to have an appraisal and receive full loan approval and 30 days to close the transaction. If you’ve followed my advice and had your own inspections done and had the buyer sign off on those reports at the time they submitted their offer, then the 10 day investigation period should be relatively smooth. Basically, they’ll just confirm what was in the reports and verify that they can obtain title insurance as well as homeowner’s insurance. They will also continue the processing of their loan including having an appraiser visit the house and determine his/her opinion of market value. By the 17th day, the buyers should have their loan fully approved and be able to release all their contingencies. From that point, you’re on the home stretch and will need to meet with the escrow officer to sign your closing documents. On the 30th day, the property will officially transfer to the buyer and the escrow officer will release any funds due to you. If you opted for a wire transfer then you should expect the funds to hit your account the next business day after closing.

The escrow process above is a little oversimplified as many things can and do happen throughout each transaction, but this will serve for our purposes as a general understanding of what to expect.

Step 13:
SOLD!
You are free and clear! Hopefully you were able to achieve your goals and are ready for the next chapter in your life.

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Making an Offer in a Multiple Offer Situation

MARIN AND SONOMA COUNTY MULTIPLE OFFER SITUATION
After years of wallowing in a down market that favored buyers and allowed them to pick and choose the terms that worked best for them, we have now seen a considerable shift in favor of sellers. This is great news for those of you who took advantage of a down market and crazy low interest rates. For the rest of you would-be homeowners, you’re now faced with a tricky situation—the dreaded multiple offer scenario. Here are some tips that I use with my clients for getting their offers accepted when competing with other buyers on the same house.

STEP UP TO THE PLATE
Don’t mess around and try to figure out what price might get you the house. If you love the house and you want it to be your new home, figure out what it’s worth to you. In other words, at what number are you going to be upset when you find out someone else was able to buy the house for that price? When competing, you always need to put your best foot forward from the beginning. Make your highest and strongest offer initially, not when it’s too late and the seller has already decided to work with someone else.

PERSONALIZE YOUR OFFER
Either you or your agent should write a cover letter and submit it with your offer to the listing agent and sellers. In that letter, give them details about your personal story and why you love the house and want to make it your home. Did you grow up in the neighborhood and attend the school down the street? Are you getting ready to have your first child and looking to move to the suburbs to begin your new family? Do your parents live a few blocks away? Many sellers are extremely attached to their home and it means a lot to them to know you’re going to treat it with the same respect and care that they did.

That being said, realistically your story will only get you so far, i.e., the amount of money the seller is going to net almost always wins out in the end, however, if your offer is close (within a few thousand dollars) the seller might consider taking slightly less to ensure the house is going to the right person. If the seller isn’t willing to take less money, your story might be enough to get you a counter offer to match the price being offered by someone else just because they like you more.

At the bottom of the letter, add a picture. Did you recently get married? Put one of your wedding photos on the letter so they can see you and identify with you as well.

In general, just do what seems to make sense and think about what you would like to hear and see if you were selling your house and looking at offers from a bunch of different people.

KEEP IT SIMPLE AND CLEAN
Don’t nitpick little details that don’t really matter. You want to be easy to work with and show the seller that you’re willing to be accommodating. If there are any signs that you’re going to be anything but accommodating, the seller will happily choose one of the other 7 offers and never give you a second thought.

Many agents like to write one year home warranty plans to be paid by the sellers into the contract as standard practice. This method was fine a couple years ago when it was a buyer’s market, but, when you’re competing, it’s little things like this that could cause you to lose the house to someone else. In addition, home warranties are fairly worthless and more hassle than they’re worth, but that’s a topic for a separate post.

Keep the close of escrow to a maximum of 30 days (unless the seller indicates they want or need a longer close, then be open and willing to give them whatever they want). Even if you’re going out of town for the week that you’re supposed to be closing or have a big project at work due that week, it doesn’t matter. You either want the house or you don’t. When you’re competing, you need to be willing to make some sacrifices to get it done. If you’re stressed out for a couple weeks because it’s not the ideal timing, then you’re going to have to accept that. The alternative is losing the house to someone else who is willing to do what it takes to make it work.

HAVE THE RIGHT AGENT
Your agent may be a bigger factor than you realize. The listing agent knows that they will have to work with your agent very closely throughout the escrow process, and they will make recommendations to the seller based on what they do or don’t know about your agent. If the listing agent has worked with your agent before and they have a good relationship, that’s a big benefit for you because the listing agent will be more likely to want to work with your offer. Even if your agent hasn’t worked with the listing agent, there are many things your agent can do to help your cause. I personally make sure that I’m on the ball by asking the right questions and make myself available when the listing agent has questions for me, whether through email, text or phone conversations. Nothing throws up more red flags for me when I’m listing a property than when a buyer’s agent is asking me questions that show me they’re not knowledgeable or they’re going to be difficult to work with. Having any sort of difficulty with communication before even getting into contract ALWAYS means problems throughout the escrow process. This means that if there are other options, as there are in a multiple offer situation, the seller is going to be much better off choosing a buyer with an agent who knows what they’re doing and is easy to work with.

HAVE THE RIGHT MORTGAGE BROKER
This is essentially the same as having the right agent. As a listing agent, if I see red flags with the buyer’s mortgage broker, then this will be a major negative for that buyer. If your mortgage broker is hard to get in contact with and doesn’t respond to simple messages or emails within a couple hours (at the most) then you’re not doing yourself any favors by continuing to work with that person. Not only will they hurt your offer, but these are great indicators for how they’ll be throughout the entire transaction. There are deadlines that have to be met, and, if your mortgage broker doesn’t meet them, it could cause you to lose all your negotiating leverage or even completely lose the house. Find somebody who’s there for you and is an asset to your home purchasing team, not a detriment.

CONCLUSION
As a buyer, competing with other buyers to get a home is not an ideal situation, however, if you surround yourself with the right people and are willing to step up to the plate and be accommodating, you will be the winner in the end. Buying a house is stressful, but, if you have the right people on your team, a lot of that stress will be eased by your confidence in their ability to perform. Always remember to focus on the big picture—when it’s all over, you will have the house of your dreams and be a proud homeowner!

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