S.A.V.E.R.S. – An Acronym You’ve Likely Never Heard of

So for a bit of a change of pace from the regularly scheduled real estate banter, this morning I want to talk about something that we all can relate to. Our mornings. What does yours look like? A few years back, I read a book which changed the way I looked at my mornings. More specifically, my morning routine.

In Hal Elrod’s, “The Miracle Morning”, he broke down the 6 components to a great start to your day. Amazon Link —-> Here

They make up the acronym of S.A.V.E.R.S and are as follows: 

S – Silence

A – Affirmations

V – Visualizations

E – Exercise

R – Reading

S – Scribing (Journaling)

He puts forth to all of his readers a “30-Day Challenge”. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How the hell, do I fit all that in? I barely have time to shower in the morning!” While Hal presents this as a comprehensive program, I have followed him over the years and he has admitted that focusing on a few of these every morning is likely more realistic and I tend to agree.

How many of these things are part of your morning? 

Are there some you wish you did, but don’t? 

Is there something you think is missing that you have found helpful? 

Hal states there is one that is the most important… can you guess which one?

Will You Be My Transactional Licensee?

Most topics covered here at #asksethanything are what I call “front-facing” issues. Mostly using terminology and examples which are relatable and easily to understand. Today’s topic is easy to understand, but odds are you haven’t used your realtor as a “transactional broker”.

Typically, when a realtor assists a consumer with buying or selling a home, they are bound by a fiduciary responsibility. Meaning they have to look out for your best interests, maintain confidentiality and obey your directives. For this (and many other services), brokers are paid a certain commission. However in some corners of the real estate world there is a less dutiful role we realtors play in the consumer’s life: The transactional licensee.

This role is where the realtor essentially facilitates the sale between two parties who have found each other on their own. A “paper pusher”, for lack of a better term. They make sure the necessary steps are accomplished in order to get to settlement. While they’re not bound by confidentiality or loyalty, the transactional licensee is still on the hook for the following:

  • the seller will accept a higher price
  • the buyer will accept a higher price
  • The seller or buyer will agree to financing terms other than those offered.

The transacational licensee still owes the following to their client:

  • Exercise reasonable professional care
  • Deal honestly and in good faith
  • In a timely fashion communicate all offers and correspondence between parties
  • Comply with Real Estate Disclosure Law
  • Account for escrow monies
  • Disclose all conflicts of interest
  • Provide assistance with documents
  • Advise the client to seek expert advice outside the scope of their expertise
  • Keep the consumer updated about tasks needing completion
  • Disclose all financial interest in services rendered to the consumer

Overall, this can be a great way convey property without the expense of attorneys (In PA, we don’t use them very often unless we get in trouble). We realtors can line up appraisers, municipal inspections, settlement and coordinate the entire transaction. This happens to be fairly popular with landlords who wish to sell to their tenants or a transaction among family members. So if you have a lead and arrange your own real estate transaction with another party, it can be really helpful to bring in a realtor to ensure it goes smoothly. Again, it is at a deeply discounted fee and can save everyone some money.

Why Pre-Approvals Are All the Rage Right Now! No Seriously.

You’ve decided. You want to buy a house. Congrats. That’s awesome. It really is. I’m happy to help you from now until settlement too. But I need something from you mmmk? It’s called a “preapproval”. I once read a poll that said that couples are more reluctant to talk about their finances than their sex lives. Fortunately for anyone reading this, the underlying reasons for this is beyond the scope of this article. LOL.

There’s a few reasons buyers don’t want to get preapproved. One being that they think they’re good and it’s just a formality. Another being they don’t want their credit “dinged” until they find something. (this is especially true with those who have recently rebuilt their credit. Sometimes, people just hate talking about money with others. Below are a few things to consider to overcome this misguided reluctance and on your way to getting the home of your dreams!

Knowing How Much You Can Afford – I’ve have buyers in both situations. One where they think they can afford more, the other where they are sorely mistaken. In all these situations, KNOWLEDGE is POWER! The guidance from the lender ultimately will direct us in the right direction.

Not Wasting Any Time – A real estate purchase can be a lengthy process depending on what your criteria is. Trust me, it’s not that I don’t wanna waste my own time (although that would be preferable), it’s that it is very hard to go through all the excitement of looking for a home, browsing, finding the right one and then being told essentially “You’re not good for it, you’re too high a risk” by the lender. It frankly just pisses everyone off.

Selecting the Right Loan Program – More times than I can count, my lender partners can size up a borrower and find a great loan program for them which alters how we search for a home and write up an offer. Having this information before even finding the home is invaluable.

Discovery of Hidden Lending Issues – This is the one I think most are afraid of. If there’s any doubt in the lender’s mind, this is the one I usually have to work hard to uncover. This behavior originates from the same part of the brain that prevents people from getting regular check ups with their doctor. Often times, I remind my buyers that nothing happens in real estate for borrowers until the money arrives at settlement from the bank. If that can’t happen, there’s no sense in getting all riled up with the other fun (and sometimes stressful) aspects of a real estate transaction. Lenders can do amazing things and justify a ton of things to their underwriters (the people who really approve your loan) to get your loan through.

Overcoming Emotional Hurdles – This is a little more obscure one, but I remind my team all the time that if a buyer won’t get preapproved after they’ve insisted, a siren needs to go off. Not until they get a lender to look at their finances do they exit the “tire kicker” status of our clientele. Something amazing happens though when a preapproval is attained. The buyer has a clearer vision of what they can afford and adopt an “I can do this attitude”. It also ensures your agent that you’re serious about the process which means they are gonna be much more proactive. Hate to say it, but I have countless people who come out of the woodwork every year and never do anything because they’ve never gone through the necessary process to prepare for a home purchase.

Overall, my team and I will work with anyone who is serious and have the lenders to get the job done. Getting preapproved is not commensurate with a colonoscopy either. Any borrower who is somewhat organized can be preapproved in about 24 hours.

Any questions or need an excellent lender for either a purchase or refinance of an existing home, please reach out.

FHA Financing: Is it Right for You?

I recently closed a couple deals involving FHA financing and get questions about this loan program all the time. For those of you asking what exactly an FHA loan is, it’s a fair question. Essentially the “FHA” stands for Federal Housing Administration and these loans are a product introduced as part of the New Deal in the 1930s. (Full history here) Historically, this was an offering for lower income borrowers (or more risky) who would otherwise be unable to get financing. In a nutshell: It’s federal assistance. These loans come with some pros and cons and while I won’t unpack all of them here, here are the broader strokes.

PROS

Lower credit limits – As stated above, these loans are designed for those with non-stellar credit and often have other debts. FHA loans are composed in such a way that offsets some of those risks which I will describe in the CONS section

Lower down payment requirements – Often FHA loans only require 3.5% down which is a great way for borrowers to hold on to their cash. Conventional loans usually call for at least 5%+ down payment.

DTI (Debt-to-Income) Requirements – Many conventional loan programs require a mix of overall debts to overall income ratios at a certain level. FHA is able to look the other way in some cases and sneak borrowers in with less the prime ratios.

High Income Borrowers – These people can still qualify for these loans. A reputation associated with FHA is that it is only for poorer borrowers but I have had many clients who make well over $100,000 who have utilized this loan product.

CONS

Higher Mortgage Costs – Borrowers usually are forced to pay what called “MIP” which is mortgage insurance premiums. This is both upfront and an ongoing monthly cost. So while you can get in cheaper on the front end, the higher monthly costs can be prohibitive

Appraiser repairs – FHA appraisals are a bit different in that they can call for certain repairs which are associated with safety. They will make sure there are GFI outlets near water sources, handrails, smoke/CO2 detectors in the home, no peeling paint (on homes built before 1978) etc. FHA does this ensure the property is up to its own standards. Conventional is much less concerned with these items if at all.

Lower loan limits – So currently the loan limit in PA is $431,25 for FHA. This means that if you’re putting down only 3.5% you are gonna be hard pressed to purchase anything much above $450,000. In most markets, that is a sizeable home and keep in mind it varies by location. For example, it is currently $822,375 in Los Angeles County, California.

Unpacking this loan program further is best left to your lender, but these are the bullet points I wanted to highlight. FHA financing can be a great tool for those who really wish to purchase a home, but have had a tough run recently or getting their financial act together. My team and I have a stable of lenders who do these loans all the time and happy to connect you if you think this loan program is right for you.

Is It OK to Use a Part Time Real Estate Agent?

Using part-time agents is not necessarily the worst thing in the world. As a full-time agent, I have had both good and bad experiences with them. This is not an indictment of their character or intentions, but much like any other profession it’s best to employ someone who lives and breathes their work rather than it being a second thought most days. This is likely to ruffle feathers because that seems to be the world we live in, but below are some of the reasons part-timers have less likelihood of truly serving the needs of their clients.

Experience – Part-timers are rarely weather tested like full time agents. This makes sense right? If someone is an agent all day, every day, they are more likely to have learned the tips and tricks of the trade along the way. This can be a major issue during inspections, negotiations, understanding how to write up contracts, etc. There’s no better teacher than experience.

Time – Especially for buyers, using a part-time agent can be less than convenient if they don’t have the flexibility in their schedule to get showings scheduled immediately or get offers drawn up and submitted prior to the deadline. On my team, I usually partner with another agent on all my buyer clients for this very reason. Time right now is of the essence.

Negotiation Skills – Having your head in this business every day allows for an agent to study best practices and truly understand the complexities of this business. When you’re submitting an offer alongside 5+ others, knowing how to stand apart is super important.

Relationships – I have won more than a fair share of bidding wars because of previous relationships with listing agents. Conversely, I will feel more comfortable going under contract with a buyer’s agent (this is ultimately up to the seller which buyer is selected) where we’ve done a deal prior. Again, if 4 offers are exactly the same and the seller asks for a recommendation and I will mention that I know the other agent, it will a lot of times sway that seller in their selection. Part-timers are less likely to be in that group since well… they are part-timers and less likely to have done a deal before with me.

My final statement: I am not saying part-time agents can’t get the job done, but in a market like this, I would highly recommend the use of someone where this is their main occupation.

Got more questions for me or would like more details? Go ahead and #asksethanything. Let’s chat: 610.804.2104 or asksethanything@gmail.com

Screw the Bidding Wars. Can We Just Build A House, Seth?

I’m not gonna lie, it’s tough out there for buyers. That’s no longer a secret at this point. It seems anything with four walls and a roof is selling with multiple offers in a matter of hours, not days. (this actually isn’t the reality, but I can talk about that another time). Buyers right now are masking up, seeing the home for a few minutes and placing offers with waived contingencies and escalation clauses (Ask me more about this if you don’t know what these are).

But what if I told you there is a much less hectic process? One where you get to select where your home is built, what amenities it contains, the layout, the finishes, etc. Welcome to the world of new construction! The fact is that builders are unable to keep up with demand right now and the reason is many buyers are ditching the resale market (non-new homes) and deciding to just build their own house instead. There are pros and cons to this approach, but most of my clients enjoy a pretty smooth process when deciding to build their dream home. I will discuss just a few of them below:

Pros:

  1. No bidding wars. This is a huge one. There are certain buyers who just refuse to engage in them. Either they are adverse to the drama of a bidding war (most aren’t dramatic BTW if your agent knows what they’re doing), have a principled objection to paying top dollar or some other reason, but the fact is that building your home is a pretty calm process and if a buyer is looking for a more controlled environment, it’s something that can be ideal.
  2. Built it to suit you. There are many buyers who buy their dream home and STILL have to make modifications after settlement. This is more out of pocket cost and disruptive once you’ve moved in. New construction allows for the buyer to select layout, finishes and even the lot in the community and it’s basically done when you move in. This also allows them to also align their home’s look and construction with the latest trends in real estate. HGTV anyone?
  3. Resale value usually holds. Since it is new(er) for many years to come. Buyers do like new and even if the house is 4 years old and you have to sell it, it should retain value and appeal to the marketplace. Keep in mind, builders don’t typically construct homes in areas that are overly speculative (although they can in certain areas of the country) which means they’re in desirable locations in terms of highways and schools.

Cons:

  1. The waiting. The fact is that new construction is having to keep up with demand, so that means you can’t visit a site, pick a house, write a check and move in right away. They can’t build them fast enough right now. Depending on the builder and the particular house you’re looking to build, it can be anywhere from 3 to 12 months before the moving truck pulls up.
  2. Builder limitations. These home builders are trying to build houses as fast as they can and so that means their ability to customize every little thing in a house is either not possible or will cost you more cash during the construction process. Every time a buyer wants to change this or that, the most common refrain is, “Sure, we can do that, but there will be a custom charge for that.” For some buyers that is ok if their budget allows but too many custom changes to a house can make that affordable new house a money pit. Thankfully, the builder is usually transparent with these costs.
  3. Paying a premium. New construction is much like a new car in that depending on what phase the builder is in (Phases describe whether the builder has just starting building homes or on their last few), you can pay a premium. You can get a discount if the builder has just a lonely sales trailer and nothing built yet because they are trying to get homes sold. Another time is at the end when builders are trying to sell those last few homes so they can move on entirely from the job after several years. But don’t forget you’re building a house. Everything is new, so be prepared to generally pay a premium for that.

At the time of this writing, I currently have three clients under contract for new construction with Toll Brothers, Rockwell & Deluca. All of them initially thought they’d buy existing homes and were pleasantly surprised by the offering of some of these companies.

Warning: If you choose the route of new construction, BE SURE TO CALL YOUR REALTOR TO MAKE THE INITIAL CONTACT. (This includes not registering on the builder’s website) Otherwise, the sales representative can claim what’s called “procuring cause” and have a right to represent both you and the builder which is no bueno. It is important that you have your own representative to guide you through the process and be your advocate.

Got more questions for me or would like more details on this process? Go ahead and #asksethanything. Let’s chat: 610.804.2104 or asksethanything@gmail.com

Sellers Have Leverage Right Now, But Buyers Will Still Balk at These Things!

The worst kept secret in the real estate world right now is that it’s a seller’s market…meaning it is an environment where selling a home is not as difficult as in other markets. After all, sellers have the goods, right? There will be a line of buyers just dying to waive inspections, appraisals, pay WAY over ask and move in, right? Not so fast. While there is some truth to this and in 2020 I personally had a lot of success in getting the absolute best offer for my sellers, there are some sellers who take it too far and think putting a sign in the yard is enough to get top dollar. The truth is that buyers out there can overlook a lot, but no matter the market they will pause at the below items.

  1. Structural – From small cracks above your door frames (not a huge deal) to bowing foundation walls, there is a wide range of defects in this category. Most inspectors are not structural engineers and won’t professionally advise on the scarier stuff. Hiring an engineer is not cheap and even then, they have trouble signing off on things to make the buyer comfortable. These types of defects can be perilous to a seller if the buyer cannot be assured the home is safe.
  2. Moisture – From a mustiness in a basement to water flowing right through your foundation wall this category really scares people. Not only do people worry about flooding, agents should advise their clients about the long term effects of mold exposure. Buyers are often hesitant to take ownership of a home which has water issues because it usually isn’t a straightforward fix… it often requires troubleshooting and further exploration. The seller will sometimes be asked to fix prior to settlement, but even then the buyer is always gonna wonder every time it rains whether the issue will continue.
  3. Smells – Smoke, pet odor, moth balls, mold…you name it, I’ve dealt with it. Many agents will claim that an ionizer is a quick fix, but my experience is that it is merely temporary. The source of bad odors go beyond just cleaning the air. Usually these odors are embedded into the flooring, furniture and walls. This means wholesale change is required for removal and can be quite expensive depending on what you’re dealing with. A key here is that there is no partial approach here and you need to remove everything which contains the odor…I have had sellers put new carpet into a home with heavy pet odor and the carpets simply absorbed it wasting $1000s of dollars. Best to consult with someone prior to remediating this issue. Remember the odor is simply air and it gets into absolutely everything.
  4. Stucco – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE… if you have a stucco home, be sure your agent has past experience with it. I have done several deals representing both buyers and sellers involving bad stucco and it does not need to be a deal killer, but your agent needs to know their way around a stucco inspection report, be able to talk about it and have contractors if needed. If your home was built within the last 25 years (general rule), your agent should recommend a stucco inspection for sure. This is arguably the most costly potential repair for any seller and agents need to be able to talk about this in a way that exudes calm & confidence. Depending on certain factors, please note that a full stucco remediation can be anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 to remediate. (Yes, you read that right) Again, you need an agent who has the strategies to best deal with these issues to keep a buyer in contract.
  5. Bad Septic System – The more rural the area, the more likely there is to be a private sewer system (septic) on the property. Much like stucco, your agent should really understand this issue and you should verify this prior to hiring them as your agent. Most buyers will elect to inspect the system and often the seller will be responsible for fixing any issues since these can be costly repairs. The difference with stucco is that a septic system is underground and not necessarily straightforward to buyers which can give them some added hesitation. The last resort with a failed septic system is a total rebuild which will involve the county health department and engineers. This involves abandoning the old system and putting in a new one. In other words, lots of time and money. No bueno.
  6. Neighborhood – Sorry sellers, buyer still don’t want to live next to a guy who collects scrap metal, doesn’t mow his lawn regularly or ever throws anything away. These are just a few things that will have my buyer turn around and say “nope, where’s the next house”. Other honorable mentions in the category are deteriorated exteriors, mildew on the side of the house, extra cars parked in the driveway, ugly fences, overgrown vegetation etc. The unique issue here is this is something that literally can’t be fixed by the buyer since it’s not their property and asking a neighbor to clean up their mess rarely goes well.

So there you have it, my top reasons why buyers will walk away. As I said, sellers have a sizable advantage since there is little housing inventory across the country, but it does not get you out of having to maintain and repair serious defects with the home. After all, it is still a large purchase for most buyers. Got more questions for me? Go ahead and #asksethanything

Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Realtor?

You get your favorite nighttime gear and cozy up for a night of peaceful TV bliss, turn on the tube and happen upon the one and only HGTV. As you watch the agents on these shows you’ll notice they tour their clients with ease, spirits are always high & there’s never a whiff of tension or difficulty. Usually, the realtor asks which home they like the best (Spoiler Alert: they’ve already bought the damned house they are selecting which accounts for the terrible acting performance by these “buyers”), they make a selection, shake hands, roll credits, done. That was easy, right? Nothing to it… “Maybe I could become a realtor one day” you think to yourself.

Not so fast. While finding the perfect home and having them arrive at a decision is quite the accomplishment, what I just described above is just when things start to get interesting. How about deciding on what to offer, what contingencies and timelines, deposit amounts, settlement date? What about the loan? Are these strong buyers? Do they need an FHA, USDA or VA program in order to qualify? Do they need money from mom and dad (gift monies)? What about inspections? Have you worked with this lender before? Title has their act together, right? What if the house gets struck by lightning right before settlement (happened to me in Berwyn, PA in 2018). What if the 5 year old roof leaks a week from settlement? (happened to me this year) What if your buyer backs out?

Am I freaking you out yet? That’s not my intent. My point is this is a harder job than most realize and in reality, there’s more than meets the eye to most jobs. To be fair, this is not the hardest job in the world and would never claim that, but most, don’t see what happens behind the scenes. The sleepless nights, the elevated blood pressure, the late nights and early mornings… To make things worse, realtors are often included in lists of the least trusted occupations alongside car salespeople & lawyers. OUCH! Are we having fun yet?

But let’s get back to you. Do you think you have what it takes to sell real estate? If you’re not sure, let me go through a few of the things you need in order to succeed:

  1. The Ability to Self-Start: It’s sounds cliche but you need a “why” attached to the job. Believe it or not, I don’t roll out of bed at 5am just dying to deal with septic inspectors or process paperwork. I do this job because I get to help people navigate the largest investment of their lives and it has the potential to pay me the amount of money I need to make everything possible for my family and I. Keep in mind though, you won’t have a boss and need to take action on your own every day. 95% of agents fail in the first few years and inability to really understand this can torpedo a real estate career before it ever gets started.
  2. A Business Mindset: Congrats! When you’re a realtor, you’re a business owner! Don’t believe me? In real estate, you have ongoing fees, expenses, subscriptions, income, employees and you file taxes at the end of the year. In PA, realtors are treated as independent contractors but it’s still essentially a business. The agents I see fail the most are the ones who bring an employee mindset and hope to be fed business by their broker. They do little to no marketing and wait for business to come to them.
  3. Problem Solving Ninja – There is literally not one deal I have closed which didn’t have a few issues. Some, of course, prove perilous to the entire deal but most are just those little hiccups which can hijack an entire afternoon as you broker a solution. You must understand that you’re hired to get to the settlement table and that means putting out fires 7 days a week…even if it’s not necessarily your problem or you caused it.
  4. High Emotional IQ – Real estate can be super stressful. Much like being a problem solving ninja, you also must be an emotional ninja. Knowing when to back off and stop texting your client about an issue is just as useful as knowing when to tell them like it is and prevent them from making a mistake they’ll regret. This unfortunately is difficult to learn and is mostly gained via experience.
  5. Knowing Your Docs: The real estate documents are the backbone of any deal. Knowing them can keep you out of court and safe from the ire of dissatisfied real estate clients. When I got into this business, I endeavored to study the hell out of them. Many realtors only consult them when there’s an issue where I use them proactively in a transaction to keep things moving toward settlement. 

Is real estate the most difficult profession on the face of the planet? Hardly. I personally find real estate extremely rewarding and wouldn’t have it any other way, but there are some days where it’ll drive you nuts. Getting the opportunity to help people, design my own business and having no ceiling in the income department makes all the septic tank failures and rejected loans worth it! 

OMG! My Appraisal Came in Low! What Now?

You’ve gotten the home under contract, you’ve negotiated inspections, you’ve started to call movers and plan for your next phase when all of a sudden a terrible wrench is thrown into your transaction that causes heart palpitations:

“The appraisal came in low”

Now to everyone out there who just read that last sentence and think to themselves “So What?”…allow me to explain this as simply as I can: When going under contract for the sale of a home, there is a portion in the agreement of sale where it defines the terms of the loan. Usually this is called a mortgage contingency and buried within that is ANOTHER contingency; the appraisal contingency. What this does is ensure the lender is lending the appropriate amount of money on the property… in other words, is the lender getting its money’s worth. The minute this low appraisal comes to light, the buyer and seller are what they call “out of contract”…meaning that one or both parties are not in compliance and can no longer settle as originally agreed.

The following are the most common outcomes from this dreaded scenario and how to keep the deal alive:

  1. Desk Review – As soon as you get a low appraisal, everyone should request a copy of the report to review. The appraisal itself uses what are called “comps”, which are similar properties that have sold in the recent past. In some cases, the agents can find other suitable comps the appraiser might have missed and agents/lenders point these out, but generally are not very receptive to changing their report after its submission. The fact is appraisers do this all day for a living and more than likely they’re right and you’re wrong, but a strong lender and agent can jump up and down enough on an appraiser to save the buyers a little money or better yet, save the deal entirely. Rarely, there is a blatant miss by an appraiser, but it can happen.
  2. Seller Drops the Price – No seller wishes to do this but the truth is that a low appraisal is usually not low at all. In the current market, sellers have the upper hand when it comes to getting what they want from buyers going into contract but a low appraisal is one of the rare moments where the power dynamic is flipped. After all, if the buyer can’t get financing then they can usually walk away and get their deposit monies.
  3. Buyer Brings More Money – If the seller has entertained multiple offers and selected yours, they can hold firm and ask the buyer to come up with the difference. Sometimes this is not an option since people are stretched thin getting into houses as it is. (no extra cash) Also, some just have a principled objection to overpaying for a home. If the seller is really dead set on getting their price, they can boot the buyer and go to another buyer who lost out. The only catch is the new buyer would then be forced to get another appraisal which run the risk of getting an even LOWER value.
  4. Buyer & Seller Meet in the Middle – In this case a compromise is reached and everyone shares the pain a little bit. This isn’t as common as you might think since most buyers and sellers will leverage their advantage accordingly. For example, if a buyer is under contract on a house that had been on the market for quite some time and senses weakness in the seller, they may threaten to walk. This would in turn force the seller to reconsider their position. Poker anyone?
  5. New Lender – In even rarer circumstances, you can actually get a new appraisal performed, but this would force the buyer to switch lenders which means more credit checks, due diligence and paperwork. Like in Option #3, there is a chance that the appraisal could come in even lower than the previous one. Theoretically, you could keep getting new appraisals (for conventional loans) until you got the value, but the buyer would fork out roughly $400 for each one.
  6. Loan Restructure – In certain circumstances, there are ways to revamp the loan to make it work, but the appraisal amount usually is not changeable. Therefore, a work-around needs to be had and it usually means borrowing a little less and then freeing up cash to overpay for the property. You read that right…buyers sometimes have to overpay for the property in a robust seller’s market like this. Sellers have got the goods and buyers know it.

It’s worth noting I have had all of these things happen to me and low appraisals are not total deal killers. You do enough deals where buyers and sellers are pushing the upper ends of market values, it’s bound to happen every once in a while, but having skilled and experienced real estate professionals are key to navigating the potentially choppy waters.

If you have any questions on anything I’ve discussed, I hope you will reach out to me via 610.804.104 or asksethanything@gmail.com

How Do I Select the Right Real Estate Agent?

September 2020

It’s a great question. One that people grapple with often, but perhaps not enough. Most know several agents, but can make the wrong selection just based on either not knowing their background or worry over having to tell them “no”. This can be a neighborhood realtor, the relative, the old high school classmate, etc. You should know that ultimately this decision is YOURS and there are several factors that come into play which I will describe below and some are more important than others, but all are worth consideration. My hope is that this will allow you to make a more deliberate decision when your time comes to hire an agent.

Part Time/Full Time – Rarely is a part time realtor going to be as well suited for your real estate needs as a professional who does this all day, every day. Part timers come in different forms…some are semi-retired, but most never really got started and do this as a “hobby” (good grief) or just to add some supplemental income to the household. This usually means less experience which can lead to clunky real estate transactions, missed contingencies and lack of market knowledge. They also often have less connections in the business which means they don’t know as many contractors for repairs and less of a chance to know their counterpart (the other agent). Read further why this is no bueno.

Personality – A couple things on this… first of all, you don’t need to be “besties” with your realtor, but your personalities should be at least compatible. Another less considered aspect is that strong, gregarious personalities get more deals done. If you have an introverted, reserved agent this sometimes equates to more difficult negotiations (selling your position). An outgoing, emotionally savvy agent is more likely to make that connection and make people see their point of view which will lead to signed contracts, smoother inspections and ability to handle problems as they arise. This isn’t to say that realtors have to be the life of the party and some can come on way too strong, but it certainly helps in standing out when in a ten-way bidding war. Real estate agents are salespeople after all, not home showers or real estate enthusiasts.

Accessibility – Speaking of bidding wars, I have personally engaged in a 17-way bidding war (I won it by the way!) If the house is decent and properly priced, you’re likely to see multiple offers on it in this market. From a buyer’s perspective, your agent should be at the ready to show, make calls and put together paperwork in short order. In this day and age, one can see a property hit the market, show it and submit an offer within a matter of hours. Not days. Every realtor worth their salt goes on vacation so it’s important to ensure they have arranged for coverage in case the perfect home pops up while they’re away. In fact, I have personally gotten that call from a friend who has an agent they can’t get a hold of and they ask me to write up the agreement of sale! Thank you very much!

Experience – How many deals does the agent get to the settlement table a year? It’s a fair question and one that you should ask them. I would say that if your agent isn’t closing a deal a month, you’re at the edge of having a realtor who is either not really hungry or unable to get deals done in enough volume to give you assurance of their capabilities. Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need a realtor who does 100+ deals a year since they aren’t doing most of the work and their team is handling 95% of it. Be prepared to be “handed off” in that case. Someone who does a couple dozen deals a year is a nice mix of track record and you can be more certain that you’ll be working with he or she through all stages of the transaction.

Specialties – There is a misconception that all realtors can handle all types of transactions. You’d be amazed at the sub-specialties we realtors develop over time. Some by accident and some by design. A high-end luxury realtor on Philadelphia’s Main Line (home to some of the country’s best real estate) is not going to be your go-to if you wanna become a Section 8 landlord. Conversely, an agent who specializes in investment properties might not be the best for selling your primary residence. Those different specialties require different real estate languages. Sure, they could muddle through but is that what you really want?

In closing, it is important to be wary of the agent who claims to know everything about all areas of real estate. I can appreciate the irony of that statement since my hashtag is #asksethanything and even the name of my blog (www.asksethanything.com) implies that very thing. However there has always been a caveat to that assertion in that if I don’t know the answer, I will find someone who does and, if needed, hand you off to someone who can more easily assist you in achieving your real estate goals. For most people, their home or real estate investments involve high dollar amounts, so be sure you think through who the best person is to help you along the way. I strive to help as many people as I can in any given year, but will be honest with you if there are professionals better suited.

If you have any questions on anything I’ve discussed, I hope you will reach out to me via 610.804.104 or asksethanything@gmail.com