Sunday, March 8, 2009

What to Look for In a Real Estate Agent...
Often I am asked what to look for in an agent when people are going out of town. Obviously, I will choose the perfect person for them if they allow me to do so, but it is always good to have a basis of what makes an agent a 'good agent'.

1. Trust:
If you cannot trust that the agent is telling you the truth about everything from the contract, to what other people are saying about the home, to being sure you trust they have your best interest at heart. Trust is the number one thing you have to have with the agent you choose to work with.

2. Like- ability:
I have seen many people choose jerky, slimy, sleazes for their agent and all I can ever think is, why in the world would anyone want to work with that person? Then if you ask how it's going, the appalling part is that they tell you they know the agent is slimy, but they appear to be successful with lots of listings... If you the client doesn't like your agent, there is a pretty good chance other agents don't like your agent, thus don't want to work with them and don't want to show their house if they don't have to. (Plus, some appear to have a lot of listings and I am shocked to find who sells a lot and who lists many or puts their name everywhere...Apparently, the more you spend marketing that your successful, people think you are)

3. Diligence/ Has TIME for You:
Finding an agent that will devote their time, energy, and care about finding the right home or buyer just for you by listening to your wants and needs is crucial. Do you need to sell fast, regardless of price OR have the time, but need the money?
Someone that will do their best to serve your needs you would think goes without saying, but many agents have other jobs (therefore, have limited time, energy, and experience to work for you) AND some take on too many clients, so asking an agent if they will have the time for you at the outset AND finding out if real estate is their full time job is important. Plus, some are strict on when they take/ return calls and the hours they work. It is important to ask or you will never know if the agent you choose works this way.

4. Be Sure They Have Experience OR At Least Experienced Support:
Having a new agent isn't all that bad, as long as they have someone that they run their contracts by so that you as the buyer or seller is covered. Real Estate contracts, technology is always changing so having someone who stays up on the changes is going to be best able to serve you. Real Estate school, the test, the classes to get licensed tell you nothing about how to write a contract or sell real estate, so experience is everything in Real Estate. Even people 20 years in the business are learning something new everyday. They haven't even experienced every scenario because everything changes constantly. Its a dynamic industry.

5. Be Sure They Spend Time/ Money on Marketing on the Web (...if your a seller):
The difference between an average and great agent is all in the marketing. If the agent does not spend money marketing on the web (the number one place people find homes) to add extra pictures, content, enhance and spotlight your listing, your listing is going to be passed over.
Pictures are the number one thing people want to see when they are looking at homes to go see in person. is the number one real estate website and feed over 70+ searches that come from other sites, such as the New York Times, when you click on their search, really its Be sure they have good pictures in their other listings or their portfolio. You never know what your getting unless you ask and a great agent will show you step by step their marketing plan and what they will do for you.

6. Constant Communication:
A great agent will let you know when to expect to hear from them, how often and by what means. Text, phone calls, email, fax; all of these are great, easy ways to stay connected. Be sure the agent is up to speed on all these technologies and has a plan of how they will keep in contact with you regularly.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I thought that this was a very interesting article.

The real skinny on why Appraisers use foreclosures to value your home!
By Mary Thompson-Certified Real Estate Appraiser

Okay first let me BUST a MYTH out there. The administration is telling people that even though YOU are not going to get bailed out while your neighbor who is going through foreclosure is, you should be happy because YOUR home will not suffer further loss in value if we can get these foreclosures sold and no longer sitting vacant, etc.

While there is truth to this it sure does not make those of us who have been working hard to keep our mortgage payments current feel a whole lot better. Many will start falling behind on their payments just to get bailout help...sad but true.

But here is the real deal on how appraisers are dealing with the valuation of your home in this foreclosure crisis. We DO NOT typically use foreclosed sales to compare against your home. We first evaluate your individual neighborhoods, streets, subdivisions and trust me when I tell you it can vary street by street in today's market.

If and only IF your subdivision, street or neighborhood is full of foreclosures, more so than your typical arms-length transactions, then we WILL using foreclosures as our primary source for analysis. WHY? because these sales have now defined your neighborhood. If there are more sales in your area which are not foreclosures then we will use those sales primarily.

Therefore your home may NOT necessarily decline in value due to a few scattered foreclosures in your area. Now here is where it gets a little muddy in the water....If you have a home right next to yours or a couple of doors down that has been foreclosed upon and especially if it looks "run down" and obviously vacant, this WILL have an effect on the value of your home to some degree regardless of the number of foreclosures in your area. WHY? because if you were looking to buy a home and the one next door to yours is quite frankly and eye sore, this has an impact on how the market perceives your home. Sad and not fair but true!

The foreclosures in your area or on your street and their proximity to yours have an effect from that point outward as if in a circle. The further the foreclosure/s is from your home, the better off you are!

Again, let me repeat, if you only have a few foreclosures scattered about your development, street (unless you only have a few homes on your street) or defined neighborhood, chances are you are not going to be heavily impacted as appraisers will use non-foreclosure sales whenever it is reasonable to do so and is not misleading to the lender to do so.

One thing I want to make clear! Appraisers do not determine the value of your home...Let me repeat this. Appraisers DO NOT determine the value of your home.....The MARKET DOES! We analyze the market and as long as we do this correctly and as long as we utilize properties that are truly comparable to yours and make the appropriate adjustments for any variances, then the market LEADS us to the appropriate opinion of value....So don't blame the appraiser for the value of your home okay? It is the market you need to blame.

One final note. Appraisers are supposed to protect banks from lending risks. Banks need appraisers to analyze NOW more than ever what the market is doing, what the value of the property is currently, what the trends have been and where they are likely headed.

Banks & Mortgage Companies in the past did not really care too much about the fact that we were trying to protect their interests as they wanted to close loans. Sad fact but true and that is why we are in this mess Today. Appraisers many times are considered a necessary evil and Lenders pressured many Appraisers to do what they wanted. Unfortunately many succumbed to that pressure.

Banks are now going the opposite direction and running scared. They are dictating to appraisers what the comparable properties should be. They are non believers in what our reports are telling them. Before they wanted the highest possible value, now they want the lowest. They are telling us based upon some National Report that we MUST report our area as declining! Well here in Georgia there are some area that are NOT declining but STABLE. I personally do not let lenders dictate to me and I know for a fact I have lost business over this...but I digress...

Bottom line is they are still not letting us do our jobs! We have no vested interest in these properties, if they had let us do our jobs from the start, we would not be looking at a Trillion Dollar plus spending bill. Can you tell I am just a little frustrated? I AM!

So as a consumer what can you take away from all of this. Keep up with what is going on in your neighborhood and do not let lenders determine the value of your home. You get a copy of your appraisal report, review it carefully. If you do not agree with it, protest it! Many banks use review appraisers who either have not even seen your home or who have only driven by your home to refute the original appraisal report. Don't let that happen to you because these review appraisers do not know the home like the first appraiser!

As Realtors, you can do the same thing. You have access to the same information we as appraisers do and even more than we do as you guys see many of the INTERIORS of the comparable properties used by appraisers which we do not see. Sure we have photos of the interiors if you post them on MLS/FMLS but the pictures do not always tell the whole story! So help your clients in this lending process by not letting them reduce or change the value of the first appraisal report without good reason