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

What’s It Been Like Being a PA REALTOR During COVID?

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By: Seth Lejeune (no,seriously)

On May 19th, 2020 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania became the last state in America to allow real estate services during COVID. Granted, most states (and countries) never discontinued this sector of their economies, but after several weeks of stalled transactions, heavy restrictions, double mortgage payments and inconvenience to many of its citizens we real estate agents are able to start helping our clients again!

This article won’t be discussing the prudence of this hiatus in real estate and for that you can turn to your neighbor turned epidemiologist turned constitutional scholar. LOL.

In March when the shutdowns began to occur, it was like having a hole ripped through my sail as I was starting the America’s Cup. The Spring market, flush with new listings and buzzing with activity, was upon us and I was churning out deals for my clients. Then we were dead in the water (Ok, I am done with the sailing metaphors). Overriding the implications of a stalled real estate market were graver concerns of public health and disruptions of society across the board. These concerns remain as of this writing…

For the Seth Lejeune Team and all of us at RE/MAX Homepoint, this time has not been wasted… After about a week of adjustment and realization that real estate in any form simply was not going to happen, my team and I went to work on educating ourselves, brushing up on best practices, and getting our business plans together. Instead of us all being “keyboard warriors” and complaining about our circumstances, we all focused on what we could control. We got more certifications, explored new areas of the real estate business, read books, watched webinars…you name it, we absorbed it. In totality, this has allowed us to be super prepared for this day… the day we would reopen…

If you follow my blog, you know that I have written on more general topics in recent weeks…topics such as your “New Normal“, The Wisdom of Simplicity & Productivity Hacks. I’ve discussed these since at that time, I felt this is what people needed to hear and focus on (and perhaps I needed to work through these ideas as well). I hope you’ve enjoyed these topics as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about them…

You can expect this blog to continue in this vein, but I will be also focusing more on relevant real estate topics since this is going to be very important for you all and what you now need to hear. As always, my mission here is to provide you with relevant real estate information!

But for RIGHT now, I’m ready to work and feel very blessed to have a job to return to… I know many Americans are concerned they won’t when this is all over. For me, this time will be spent solving as many problems as I can for my clients. Whether they wish to buy a 3 million property in Villanova or they need me to walk them through the foreclosure process, my goal is help everyone I can! Lots of coffee and long days but I promise to get to as many of you as I can!

Stay healthy and safe everyone! I’ll see you all out there!

“How Much is My Home Worth In COVID?”

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This is the “big kahuna” question these days…It’s the one you might be afraid to ask… or too angry to ask, but in times of uncertainty the question of home values are top of mind and people come to real estate pros for answers. People’s emotions are all over the place right now, so I would like to offer you my steady hand during this time.


I am offering you a special invitation for a completely free call with yours truly to discuss your “hyper local” market and the value of your home. These are completely for your information only. Even if you’re not my client, never have been or never plan to be, I feel pretty strongly that someone needs to step up and set the record straight when it comes to real estate… and that person might as well be me. I’m confident that you will find it helpful (and reassuring). I am also looking to chat with my out of state friends/family who have general real estate questions.

“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” ~ Pasteur

Click HERE to schedule a time to chat….


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“Can You Help Me….”

Whether it be a client, high school acquaintance, business colleague, family member, etc. rarely does a day go by where I don’t get a request for information, a referral or advice. As many of you know, for the last 5 years I have been sporting this #asksethanything hashtag on social media and it has caught on. One of the reasons I chose real estate as a career was for the fact that I saw many in the Great Recession get stuck in a house, make bad decisions and lose lots of money. One of my missions is to make sure the people in my circles make the right decisions and get hooked up with the right people!

It can be daunting at times as I attempt to help as many people as I can. Requests come in all shapes and sizes. Some people want straight up real estate advice. Other want names of contractors. Others need help with their mortgage strategy or an insurance quote.

Often times, I get a prelude to a request to say, “Hey, not sure if this is your expertise…” or “I know you don’t specialize in this, but…” Nonsense. While I don’t specialize in everything, I have spent close to 20 years building a network of people who probably do. Simply put: If I can’t help you, I probably have someone who can.

Therefore, if you should need anything during this time, I want you to reach out so I can get you the answers you seek. I want you to #asksethanything. (Yes, I just referred to myself in the third person) That’s what I’m here for.

Check out this handy dandy info-graphic I created to show what people ask me about on any given day:

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Most of these I can handle directly since they are real estate related, but my industry is tied to others such as contractors, insurance, divorce attorneys and mortgage professionals. As I said, if I am unable to give you guidance in a specific area…I can get you hooked up with someone who can! So don’t be shy… go ahead and ask me anything!

 

“What Can the Year 1985 Teach Us About Today?”

1985

By: Seth Lejeune

It was the year of the Goonies, Back to the Future and too many great songs to count. (RIP Prince) “What can 1985 teach us about today?”

I’m fairly certain that everyone has (or at least I hope they do) a year or era of their lives where their recollection is one of pure innocence and simplicity.  For me, this year was 1985. As the youngest of 6 siblings and a full time job romping in the woods, those are the times that make me sentimental of my childhood. As I venture into middle age, I naturally find myself drifting back to those days with my curated memory, realizing we had a whole lot of fun and laughs back then. No digital devices, no internet, no Google, lots of board games and outside activities. If we needed something, we had to wait for it. We had to pick our Xmas gifts out of the Sears catalog by circling them. If our parents were late, we had to sit idly by and wonder where they were only to see that heavenly over-sized station wagon pull in a few minutes later …the symbol that everything was going to be ok. Overall, we experienced more discomfort back then, but we were still capable of being happy. In fact, were we happier? I’ll get back to that…

Since mid-March 2020, the posh regularities of life have been stripped away by an external force. Leading up to this time, we were overworked, overbooked & controlling. We all knew these things about ourselves… we would joke about it at parties or rhetorically ask ourselves privately when the hell we were gonna slow down and why we felt the need to fulfill all these obligations. Who were we trying to please anyway? What were we trying to prove?

Say what you want about social media but it does provide an interesting window into the mindset of people. As shutdowns began, it was apparent people were having trouble letting go of their old routines and obligations. But as time went on, something unforeseen (and predictable at the same time) began to happen. People starting letting go. Letting go of the “needs” and “wants”. Letting go of the structure. Realizing that their ways weren’t going to work in this “new normal”. Some have struggled more than others with this… some have hit their stride by now.

The question is really this: What if the key to cracking the code of this new reality is to reflect and remember we were all able to live perfectly well with a lot less in our own 1985. What if instead of fighting with our kids about “screen time”, we shove them out the door into the backyard? What if we stop worrying so much about perfection and focus on contentment? What if everything we need is right here, right now… it was simply hidden by all the extra stuff we were told by the world to integrate into our lives.

Is simplicity what we all thought it might be? The “way out”… not sure, but we’re gonna know one way or another in the coming weeks. I, for one, hope so…

Operating Partner and Leader of The Seth Lejeune Team at RE/MAX HOMEPOINT. Founding Partner at BWB Capital / asksethanything@gmail.com / 610.804.2104

What Does It Mean When It says “Pre-Foreclosure” on Zillow?

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By: Seth Lejeune

It’s inevitable. I get the random text from a client or acquaintance with an address and something that read, “Whoa… is this for real?” or “Why hasn’t this shown up in my MLS portal?” I then hop on my trusty MLS to find no such address for sale. Hmmmm…. AHA! It must be another of these pre-foreclosures!

What’s a “pre-foreclosure” you ask? Well, unbeknownst to most people, your mortgage is recorded in public record. Meaning that if one does enough digging they can see how much money you borrowed to purchase your property, when you borrowed it and what type of loan. These public records are available to Zillow along with lots of other information. Usually your mortgage goes unnoticed by these public sites, but in the case of a pre-foreclosure your lending institution has filed what’s called a “default notice” on the property. In English, this means that the homeowner is behind on their mortgage and the lender has noticed and taken an action.

These homes are listed by Zillow because for those in the real estate profession, this can be useful information. For example, if someone is behind in their mortgage, there is a chance that owner would perhaps sell their property at a discount to get out from underneath of it. In other cases, those investors may wish to assume the mortgage. Overall, it can be seen for investors as a head start on the eventuality of a short sale or foreclosure. Keep in mind, only the most seasoned and unflappable of my fellow realtors/investors have the guts to call these homeowners.

Imagine the following scenario: There’s a family of four. One of the spouses handles all the finances and has not worked up the courage to tell the other they’ve fallen behind on their mortgage payments. Now imagine an inbound call from an investor to the land line (usually the one in public record) to the spouse who is unaware of this situation. The agent uses a sales script like, ” Hello, I’m calling because I noticed your home listed on Zillow as a pre-foreclosure and didn’t know if it was worth me coming by to talk about a way I could help you out of this situation. Would that interest you?” Needless to say, this would be jarring for anyone who thought their mortgage payments were on track. Almost always it’s a hang up or some kind of angry response to this kind of a call. This is one of the uglier sides of real estate investing, but it exists and I know people who find deals this way.

As for the rest of us, a pre-foreclosure is either a sign of things to come (short sale or foreclosure) or a little public shaming to make sure that people continue to pay their mortgage. So the next time you see your neighbors house pop-up as a pre-foreclosure, you now know what you’re looking at. Do with this information as you see fit.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, please note I am a certified Short Sale & Foreclosure Specialist (SFR) and am happy to help you.

Operating Partner and Leader of The Seth Lejeune Team at RE/MAX HOMEPOINT. Founding Partner at BWB Capital – asksethanything@gmail.com / 610.804.2104