“Should I Buy a Home in This Market?”

Hello everyone!

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of my podcast!  This time, I am here to offer my advice to you if you’re looking to buy a home in this RED HOT market.  Buying a home in this market can be incredibly difficult due to the competitive nature we are currently in, but still incredibly rewarding to get into something to call your own.

If you like the podcast, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss any others, and check out our past episodes as well!

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Market Update – February 19th, 2021

It’s a crazy real estate market.  There, I said it.  How can you tell you ask?  Allow me to elaborate.  The first thing is that in many of the markets I work, there are fewer than 2 weeks inventory.  This is especially acute in the sub $750,000 range.   But even in the higher price points those number don’t go Crop3much above a month’s worth of inventory.  That said, I am seeing more homes come on the market which is seasonally consistent with historical trends.  It is the hot spring market after all.  This is also the first week over week that inventory actually went up in 2021.  Here in the Conejo Valley the number of available homes listed for sale went up 8% this week.  But that means it went up by a whopping 14 homes across all price ranges. What’s this all mean you ask?  It’s a seller’s market and it’s changing the way agents search property, sellers price property and buyers write offers on properties.

First, let’s start with agents.  (Search homes here)  In the past, I would set a parameter of price and area.  This of course is unchanged.  But then I would sort and start scrolling through in order of price.  This is where I have changed.  I now sort by days on market first and I start with zero days and stop at 3-5 or I may go out a week.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, this market is so hot that I want to get shack1me emails out to my clients right away on anything new.  Second, if it hasn’t sold in 5 days, there’s something wrong with it.  Now I want to pause on this to let that sink in.  Something wrong with it.  OK, so I don’t really think there is anything wrong with it per se, but it’s likely mispriced for what it is.  Funny thing about why a home doesn’t sell.  If you find an objection with a home you just need to put the phrase “At that price” at the end of the objection.  For example, the yard is too small… at that price.  If it were $100K less would you say the same thing?  Probably not.  The condition is awful… at that price.  I don’t like the location… at that price.  See how that works?  Now in this market, since it’s so hot, if a home has gotten an offer, there’s a reason and that reason goes away with “At that price.”

Regarding Sellers, the above is notable because when setting a price you have to ask, are you better off pricing it a little under and hope you get multiple buyers competing or a little higher to test the marketplace? If you choose the latter, that’s perfectly fine and in fact many times this is the exact course I recommend.  Understanding this is one way where a great agent differentiates themselves from the masses. (Contact Tim here)  But if you are a seller getting ready to price your home, you have to ask yourself this question: If I come in too high, how much am I going to have to reduce to get multiple parties interested enough to come and look or look a second time?  If I were typing this on my phone I’d put the emoji with all the teeth showing because in California, at $10,000 or $20,000 price reduction don’t mean nuthin’!  If you haven’t sold in 45 days, no one is racing to your door for a $10K cut, well that is if you’re over $500,000 asking anyways…  Not only that, go back and reread how agents are sorting listings.  Again, this is a crazy market, but a seller can still blow it.

As for buyers, you guys know how brutal it is out there.  My buyer just lost out on an offer in the Rancho Park area of West Los Angeles.  And yes, I do work the City incase you were asking… Anyway, the charming 1927 Spanish Bungalow was expanded to 1,700 square feet, had a Wolf range and the carriage house (garage – but only wide enough and long enough for a Model T or horse and buggy) which in this case was  finished with high tongue and groove ceilings and HVAC, was listed for $1,595,000.  We were one of 110 showings and 40 offers.  We offered $1.7M, $105K over ask.  The sellers actually only countered the top 9 of which 5 were all cash.  The counter by the way, also BiddingWardemanded a 15 day close and no, repeat no contingencies.  Not loan, appraisal or most importantly, as is – no investigation contingency.  In other words, once your earnest money is in escrow, it’s subject to forfeiture.  Nuts, right?  So, what does that mean if you’re a buyer?  The answer is if you see a home and really like it, don’t get hung up on the asking price.  It is not the same thing as the selling price.  Asking if designed to get multiple offers, will get multiple offers and the price will go higher.  Therefore, you need to look at any home in the context of other similar, alternative homes you could buy at the same time and if there aren’t any, or you’ve lost out on some already, you have to step up and give it your best shot.  My counsel to my Westside buyers was that I thought the home was going to go for $1.8 (it’s actually is in escrow for closer to $1.9 BTW) and that whatever their upper, upper limit was for that property – and it was an amazing never-move kind of property and location – go in with that.  So buyers, do not assume you will get a counter if there are multiples in play. Sellers who receive a lot of offers, while excited, are exhausted too.  They want the process over just as bad as all the buyers.  This means they’ll pick the smallest number to counter they think they can to get the best price and terms.  Sorry for the tough love but that’s how it is right now and for the foreseeable future.

Oh, what about appraisals you ask?  Simply put, it’s a problem so you need to be prepared that you might have to come up with additional cash.  I will say this about appraisal, first they are backwards looking so in every appreciating market since the dawn of time (Think caveman here: Baku: “Grog.  I give you 5 brontosaurs femurs and a wooly mammoth tusk for your cave.”  Grog: “What?  Baku, you a crazy man.  That last year price.  Cave worth 2X that today!  This a hot market!”)  (See Tim’s latest cave listing here)  Yesterday’s closed sales data doesn’t support today’s rapidly rising home values.  caves-in-oregon-1080x675But also, the appraisal isn’t telling you what the home is worth.  Value according the National Association of Realtors is defined as follows: “A home is worth what a willing buyer and willing seller agree on without the presence of duress.”  You offered, they agreed, that is now market value by definition.  In fact, even though you’re paying for the appraisal, it’s not for your benefit at all.  The appraisal is for the bank’s benefit so that when they go to sell the loan, they can substantiate the loan to value ratio with an accompanying appraisal.  Don’t get hung up on what one appraiser says, especially when if it does come in low, you’ll want to say to the guy or gal appraiser, “Oh yeah?  Find me one for that and I’ll buy it!”

If you like what you read here, please reach out and let me help you sell YOUR cave for top dollar.

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First Time Homebuyers Episode 9: Closing & the Final Stretch

The final episode of our First Time Buyer’s podcast!  Thank you guys for sticking around with us.  In this final episode, we finish up the buying process with the closing, and the final stretch of getting everything done.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the podcast! We would love to hear your feedback! You can reach us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

If this podcast seems like it’s the right fit for you, and you’d like me to assist you in this process and make it painless and easy, give me a call (805-427-3008) or send me an email (Tim@1000OaksRealEstate.com).

You can also check out our listings here!

Enjoy the podcast below, and stay tuned for future episodes!

Posted in County Line, Disclosures, Home Buying, Home Selling, Market Conditions, podcast, Real Estate, Thousand Oaks, Tim Freund | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Time Homebuyers Episode 8: Contingencies

Welcome to yet another episode of our First Time Homebuyers podcast series!  In this episode, we talk about contingencies!  Learn what contingencies are and what they mean when they come up during your real estate transactions.

So, take a seat and enjoy the podcast! We would love to hear your feedback! You can reach us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

If this podcast seems like it’s the right fit for you, and you’d like me to assist you in this process and make it painless and easy, give me a call (805-427-3008) or send me an email (Tim@1000OaksRealEstate.com).

You can also check out our listings here!

Enjoy the podcast below, and stay tuned for future episodes!

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California: What is to Become of Her?

The following are excerpts from a recent conversation with Lady California.

Tim Freund: “So Lady California, you’re looking a less than your usual sunny self.  What can you tell my readers about your current health?”

Lady California: To quote one of the millions who have come to and thrived in our golden state, Mark Twain, “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”  It is true that Covid-19 is devastating our state.  No Doubt about it.  The reality is, we are like our own nation here except that we are not able to stop people from other states from coming in like a true sovereignty would. As a result, our state is a magnet to the virus’ expansion.  Furthermore, as the breadbasket, import-export hub and technological center of a nation of 330 million people, we could hardly do that to the rest of the other 49 states.  If we ever did, the damage to those states would be catastrophic.

TF: Wow, when you put it that way… since this is a real estate and economic blog, let’s talk about what’s happening to real estate in California.  (Search homes here)  I mean home-prices-rising-twitteryou must be seeing a mass exodus of residents fleeing your over-taxed, over regulated and terribly expensive place, right?”

LC: Again, this is exaggeration.  Yes, Elon Musk has said he’s making his home elsewhere and taking a fabulous native California business enterprise, in part with him.  This should not come as a great surprise given, his company’s stock price has skyrocketed and he’s seeking someplace that will tax him less than I would.  That said, don’t be surprised if you see him cruising around both ends of our state.  Our climate is far more amenable than Texas. 

TF: Well, it would seem that maybe the high state tax rate is contributing to he and others leaving the state, don’t you think?

LC: Yes, and all those tree hugging liberals, oh and don’t forget about the high homeless population.  Look, there’s a reason such incredible enterprise can foster here.  One big reason is our free and experimental thinking. 

TF: The homeless problem is pretty intolerable right?

LC: The homeless issue really comes down to local land planning and NIMBY’s trying to hold on to what they perceive is theirs.  I admit it is a dichotomy that in a place where new ideas and innovation thrive and prosper, those same elements conspire to keep things “As they were.”  It’s a little like how we do so much outside our home, yet in many towns, don’t even know our neighbors, instead choosing to stay in our own four walls.  As for our housing shortage, it’s really the lack of construction that is the true culprit. 

TF: So why do people stay then?

LC: The great weather has something to do with it, don’t you think?  But beyond that, the afore mentioned freedom of thought and the entrepreneurial spirit is a big part too.  The san-diego-heroability to think and create without the limits of preconception.  That freedom blossoms here like no other place on earth.  That’s why people want to live here and why they stay here.  People from all over the world dream of life in California and our immigrant population is one of the many catalysts of our success.  Back to your earlier question, are people are selling and leaving?  There’s always people coming and going when you are a state as large as California.  But have you noticed that when one leaves there’s someone right behind them to buy that home, plant roots, start a new company?   California is where dreams come true.  Our history is the American Dream. 

TF: But what about the high taxes?

LC: OK, so not to get too political, but since you’re bringing up taxes… if the Federal government gave California a share of the Federal tax revenue equal to our contribution, we would not have to tax our residents nearly as much.  But when you are forced to carry and subsidize over half of the nation with your tax dollars, the money to serve our own population has to come from somewhere.  It’s funny how easy some find it is to criticize California when their state is on the California dole.

TF: Ouch.  So let me try and circle back a bit here.  Regarding the housing situation, are you saying that people aren’t leaving the state en masse?

LC: That’s exactly what I’m saying.  Take the Conejo Valley right there along the LA/Ventura border where you sell as an example.  If more people were leaving, why is it that you are selling more homes than people are listing?  I mean you would know better than I, what’s happening to your inventory?

TF: You’re right about that.  We are selling more homes than are coming up for sale.  (Contact Tim here) Our inventory is less than half of what it was a year ago, yet we are selling an above average number annually.  I guess it’s like you said, as soon as one person leaves, there’s someone right there to buy their home and take their place.

LC: Ah-Ha!  So, what you’re saying is that people are lining up to buy homes even though it’s being reported that people are rushing to leave California?

TF: Yeah, I guess I am.  I suppose that’s one way to deal with population control, price people out and they leave… weird but OK…

LC: Look, the cost of living here is problematic, there’s no denying it, so we need to build more housing for people to live in.  As for the people who leave their job and start over in Texas or Idaho, they can and should if it’s the right move for them, but for most, leaving is just not desirable despite the high cost of residency here.  Were you aware that people in California live longer than any other state except Hawaii?  Why do you suppose that is?

TF: If I had to guess, a healthy lifestyle?  Healthier eating?

LC: That’s part of it.  There’s also better health care here – you’ve heard of Covered California, I presume?  But the biggest issue is the quality of life.  The ability to surf in the morning and ski before sundown.  When you are the farm of the nation, you get the best food.  Have you tried the strawberries from Oxnard recently?  This because the California farmer is the best!  They have the best soil, best air and best sun – though climate change shu-USA-California-LosAngeles-ManhattanBeach-702538294-Chones-1440x823is certainly creating a host of new problems, especially with water.  When you have lots of open space you get to go out and do things.  When you have great job creation, people find work they enjoy doing and when you have tighter regulations, your water and air isn’t as poisoned as it is elsewhere.  It used to be, but our determination to care for the planet and each other has changed that, though it’s always a work in progress.  California is leading the country in solar and electric vehicles, emission control etc.  Virtually every trend, be it environmental like conservation and preservation or physical like yoga, skateboarding or mountain biking, takes hold here first and that improves American life nationwide. 

TF: OK, I’ll buy, but what do you see going forward?

LC: Once we get the virus more managed, we will boom.  How many places can boast Universities like UCLA, CAL, UCSD or UCSB; Stanford, Cal Tech, Cal Poly and a state university and community college system that is the envy of the world?  That educational opportunities in California are the backbone of our nation’s greatest innovation.  Of course, people leave but nowhere would people rather live more than California when given the choice.  That’s why so many companies start here, build here and thrive here.

TF: Well on that note, I wish to thank you and best of luck to you and the Golden State.

LC:  Thanks for having me Tim, it’s been my pleasure.

All opinions expressed herein are of the guest and do not necessarily represent those of the author or The REC.

Posted in County Line, Disclosures, Home Buying, Home Selling, Market Conditions, Market Conditions, Real Estate, Refinancing, Remodeling, Seller Advice, Thousand Oaks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The American Home 2021: Trend Towards Home Improvement Continues

Everyone agrees that amongst some of the biggest surprises brought on by the Covid-19 Pandemic, is the trend towards home improvement.  The obvious need for a home school, home office or two in many cases and the need for at home entertainment in light of the lockdowns, cannot be understated.  I drive my neighborhood and see painter’s vans, contractor’s trucks and huge dumpsters everywhere.  I hear construction in many of the neighborhoods I sell.  It is clear, that the home needs to be more functional and versatile than ever.  Since home improvement is not going away anytime soon, I thought I’d run through a few of the interesting things I’ve discovered and even some I’ve implemented in my own home. It’s not novel to say that the kitchen is the most important room in the house.  However, the trend towards open and great room floorplan design/re-modification, does create an issue with the messy kitchen, especially when multiple people are working from home.  One solution making its way onto the scene is what De Giulio Kitchen Design of Chicago has named, the Layered Kitchen.  The concept is that you have the “show” Bernalda_COP_Kitchen_Thumbnailkitchen and the “prep” kitchen.  The former being the center island often with stools for casual dining or working on a laptop, that is open to the family room for all to see.  Clean and open.  The latter is described as a prep kitchen, but this doesn’t have to be a second full sized kitchen rather, a back area or sectioned off partial room.  It can even part of an adjacent laundry.  This back “layer” would have a disposal sink, maybe a second dishwasher and a small workspace for cutting and chopping.  Your blender and food processor and maybe even coffee station can be part of this “second kitchen” as well.  Again, this doesn’t have to be a huge space, rather one that is just large enough to get the prep work done, but small enough that it’s out of sight and can be closed off.  It is not intended to take a ton of space from some other part of the house.  Many of our Asian communities have adopted a similar idea for cooking with a wok.  We find the “wok kitchen” listed as an exciting upgrade feature in many high-end homes in places like San Marino and Arcadia (Search for homes here).  Often, all it consists of is a place with a single burner gas range and a wok-holding grill and of course a super powerful vent hood. Another interesting remodeling trend is the granny flat or ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit).  I have written about these before, but in an article I read by designer Barbara Ballinger, she suggests people are putting a shed in the back and not just for storage (which is a huge problem with so many studying and working out of the home) but rather, as an office or play room as well as a visitors’ sleeping quarters.  Now before you start imagining some chainsaw horror flick or grandpa’s tin shed filled with lawn sprout_exterior01tools and spiders and smelling of gasoline, check out this Boulder Colorado company called Studio Shed.  These guys are doing some amazing things.  Like a number of companies out there, they are offering prefabricated ADU’s but they are also offering prefabricated sheds.  These “sheds” start at 8’x10’ and can go as large as 10’x18’.  You can get them with prewired electric, windows, doors including walls of glass and French doors. I mean, these things are cool!  Some are even designed to be music studios, an amenity very dear and close to my heart.  (Read about Tim here) I priced one out at 10’x12’ or the size of a typical bedroom, added electric, French doors with dark aluminum and a wall of glass, with cedar shake siding (so we’re talking tricked out by their standards) and the total was $24,248!  Now of course this doesn’t include permits if required nor does it include the footings, deck or pad that the shed needs to be mounted to, but still, that’s amazing and it looks so cool! It’s important to know that you don’t have to spend a fortune to make really nice and inspirational improvements to your home.  Paint is always a good idea and guess what?  Color is making a comeback!  Whether that’s color of cabinets or walls, bold is back.  Houzz reports in their Kitchen Remodeling Trends of 2021, that while white cabinets still remain most popular, there’s a move afoot to have the lower cabinets have color, while the uppers remain white.  Hardware is another place to make improvements too.  If you have a tract home, maybe it’s time to change the door hardware from the 1990’s brass to something different.  One modest change if you don’t want to replace all the hardware, is to use gold hardware on cabinet pulls and bars.  If you are looking for a little inspiration on color, the British paint colorists at Farrow and Ball have put out a host of paint colors inspired by The Natural History Museum in London.  With “colours” like Skimmed Milk White, Lake Red, Imperial Purple and Scotch Blue, you see that color is back! Finally, let me share a couple of little things we’ve done to our home since the pandemic started.  Like most of you, we found ourselves cooking a lot more since the pandemic started.  Having professional quality cooking tools seemed like a necessary item so we bought some All Clad D5 pots and pans from William Sonoma.  They look beautiful but they took up a lot of room.  To solve our space demand issue, we hung a cool pot rack we’d purchased from Amazon, from the ceiling.  (I did it myself I’ll have you know) 2021 Pot RackSince the All Clad is not only functional but beautiful, our kitchen took on an entirely new look and this, frankly, made cooking in the kitchen an inspirational experience.  Lastly, now that winter is upon us, we finally bought a gas fireplace insert in a kit with blue colored glass.  ($400 from our local fireplace store.)  What a change!  Instead of using real wood as we’ve been doing for years though sparingly due to the mess, I now have instant contemporary ambience in my family room!  Not to mention a great way to warm the space on a cold winter day while I work from home.  OK, it hasn’t been cold in Southern California so far this season, but the glass does look cool and I do rather enjoy working in front of the fire.  And while these subtle improvements may seem like little things, often times little tweaks are all a home needs to become more functional, homier and perhaps just a little prettier.  And after all, when it comes time to sell, I can assure you, pretty sells.  (Contact Tim here) Done something interesting to your home?  Let me know!
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January 5, 2021 – Real Estate Predictions Podcast

Hello everyone!

Thanks for taking the time to join in on listening to my podcast.  In this episode, I talk about my predictions for the real estate market in 2021.

The market is looking to have some incredible opportunities for sellers, as demand is super high while inventory is super low.  If you’re looking to sell your home, now has never been a better time!

If you enjoy the podcast, I’d love to hear your feedback!

And if you’re looking to sell OR buy a home, I’d be more than happy to help represent you and give you some great information and referrals to great people to help make this process and easy as possible!

Call me today and let me show you why 2021 is a great year for real estate!

Posted in Economics, Home Buying, Home Selling, Market Conditions, Market Conditions, podcast, Real Estate, Refinancing, Seller Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Predictions, Predilections And Possibilities For 2021

Well, I’m glad this year is over, aren’t we all?  For many, the suffering will unfortunately continue.  For most, however, I believe 2021 will be a year filled with possibilities.  Case-Shiller just reported another monthly increase to property values, with the year over year the most since 2014.  Never one to shy away from attempting to be a soothsayer, I will do so again today and down the road we can look back and see how I did.  In case you don’t wish to read any further, spoiler alert, the real estate market will remain hot and prices are going to rise.

Inventory, or lack thereof, will continue to be the story.  There are not enough available homes to satisfy demand.  When demand eclipses supply, prices rise. 

Prediction #1 therefore, is that prices are going to continue to rise to new heights. That said, all real estate is local so a quick look at our local market (Check the Conejo Valley’s active listings here!).  In reviewing the past 7 years, inventory for our little valley is always lowest January 2nd.  For those of you who follow me, you know I track the numbers closely.  The fewest number of actively available homes for sale in the Conejo Valley at year end since 2014 was 302 and the highest was 415.  There were 414 homes available at the start of 2020.  Today we have a whopping 194 units for sale, less than half.  I’m no rocket scientist, but in an area that normally home-prices-rising-twittersells 2200+ home a year, to have less than 10% as available inventory to start the year, it’s easy to predict prices are going to continue to rise in the Conejo Valley and I expect that to be true everywhere as well.  By the way, if you are looking for a real estate tip and a market that is lagging, look no further than Las Vegas which according to Shiller rose the most modestly of any Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in the country.  Obviously gaming, travel and leisure are the driving forces of Las Vegas economics.  Expect a disproportionate rebound there once the virus is under control and life returns to normal.

Prediction #2, interest rates will stay low.  Why do rates go up?  Inflation.  Is there any evidence of substantive inflation?  Not really, certainly not wage inflation and most definitely not with unemployment over 9%.  Fed Chairman Powell has said, rates will remain at zero and the Fed has increased its threshold or tolerance of inflation to above its historical target of 2%.  In other words, there must be a substantial increase in inflation – not just the threat or risk of it – to force the Federal Reserve to raise rates in the next 1-2 years.  I would argue in fact that serious inflation is a thing of the past and long-term low rates a thing for the foreseeable future.  Every country is spending and printing money in response to the pandemic and I believe inflation is relative: currency to currency, labor market to labor market, commodity to commodity.  Think about it, since WWII there’s only been a couple long periods of sustained and substantial Screen-Shot-2020-04-03-at-9.53.58-PMinflation.  Right after the war itself and 1973-1983 right?  Triggered by the oil embargo and Nixon’s de-coupling of the dollar from gold (the elimination of the Gold Standard) this period is really the only time inflation has ever really been “out of control.”  Sure, there have been moments in time like the mid 1990’s, mid 2000’s where the economy ran hot but this was relatively short lived.  These were times where the threat of inflation led the Fed to move rates slightly higher and that knocked inflation down right quick (Connect with me on LinkedIn).  You could argue that the lack of substantive inflation over the past 20 years is because a hawkish Fed controlled the economic environment as they are chartered to do and they avoided it but at the expense of growth.  I would argue that painfully low growth and low inflation is a result of globalization and in particular the globalization of labor.  You could even trace it to China’s entrance into the WTO if you want to really drill down.  Inflation is worth keeping an eye on for sure, but globalization inherently has kept costs down and forced productivity higher, which in turn has eliminated the threat of substantive inflation.  Lower rates mean prices will continue to rise.    

Prediction #3, demographics and recent trends will continue to conspire to keep inventory low and demand high.  Millennials will continue to buy and keep demand Millenialshigh.  Heck, they are just starting household formation.  They will be driving home buying for the next 15 years and to channel The Carpenters, they’ve only just begun (View my website here).  Simultaneously seniors will continue to age in place and not sell which further constrains inventory and finally new construction will fail to keep up with demand, especially true here in California.  I don’t think anyone will argue with this.  Axiom, theorem or conjecture, call it what you will, I’m going with “it’s the plain and simple truth.”  Increased demand in the absence of increased supply means prices are going to continue to rise.

Prediction #4 is that by this time next year, unemployment will be half of what it is now. Still not to pre-pandemic levels but much better than it is today.  Hopefully, the new administration can push through some real relief for states so government doesn’t have to lay off a bunch of people and some specific help for tenants and landlords.  Lower unemployment and economic relief for those hurting the most also means foreclosures will likely be held at bay and all this means, you got it, prices will continue to rise.

There you have it, my best guess for 2021.  Time will tell if I’m right, but I think everything about this next year suggests the real estate market is going to be strong and yes, prices are going to rise. If you’d like to talk in more detail about the market and my predictions, you can contact me here.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Home Buying, Home Selling, Loan Modification, Market Conditions, Market Conditions, Real Estate, Seller Advice, Thousand Oaks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Letter to Santa

Artboard-1-8-2I know it’s been a long time since I wrote you, like maybe 45 years ago?  You’d know better than I… I’m writing you now because I have a few requests that I’m hoping you can deliver this Christmas.  Oh and by the way, you’ll be pleased to know none of these require you come down a chimney.  Although, I know with Covid you may be struggling and if that’s the case, I can always use a good chimney inspector.  Think about it. Okay, so here goes:

  1. I’d like more listings please. And I don’t mean for me personally, although that would be nice, but I mean in general.  In case you hadn’t noticed, we are at an historic low level of inventory here in the Conejo.  As of today, there are just 256 homes of all sizes and prices actively for sale (check out those listings here).  I don’t need to tell you, that there are a lot of boys and girls, many of whom are Millennials just now starting household formation, asking for a new home this year.  They are getting pretty desperate and would take just about anything.
  2. Pool homes with nice yards and lots of bedrooms. With all the people leaving the city and coming to the suburbs in response to the stay at home orders, remote work freedoms and home schooling demands, we are seeing unprecedented requests for homes with space, places to go and things to do.
  3. Since I’m asking for more listings, would it be too much to ask for homes that have been remodeled? With rates so low, most buyers would rather pay extra for amenities and finance those upgrades than pay cash for them.  It only makes sense, right?
  4. I know this is a reach, but can you make a disproportionate number of the listings, single story? See, if we had more one story’s, our older neighbors would choose to sell and buy one of those single story’s, rather than age in place like they’re doing now.  By aging in place instead of historically downsizing, our inventory is being even further constrained.
  5. Lastly, could you hold the fort on our pricing situation? It’s getting so most average folks even with the low rates, are having a hard time making sense of the skyrocketing prices (Contact me here).  We’re running into appraisal problems and let’s not even bring up affordability.

See, that wasn’t too bad right?  Nothing to load onto the sleigh, no roofs to climb or chimneys to shimmy, just some good old fashioned wishful thinking.  So, bring “home” some good holiday cheer would ya, St. Nick?

Thank you in advance,


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Home Sellers: Things to Watch Out For

I started my real estate career selling new homes for Shapell Industries and S & S Construction.  I hadn’t been on the job but 6 months when in a rare conversation with Mr. Nathan (Shapell), he says to me in his heavy Polish, Holocaust surviving accent, “Young man, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation…” (long silent nervous gulping pause) “And a minute to destroy it.”  Whether it was the way he said it, the way he looked at me when he said it or his in general commanding authoritative demeanor, I took his very serious words to heart.  Later that evening I concluded there was absolutely never going to be deal and client that could ever be worth sacrificing my reputation.  As a licensed real estate broker, my licensure and thus my ability to work and feed my family was at stake.  As a result, my reputation amongst the Realtors in my community is of the highest integrity, something I’m not ashamed to admit, I am very Twilightproud of.  The reason I tell this story is that not every agent works this way.  In no way am I suggesting that most or even many agents aren’t honest and of integrity – most agents actually are – rather it is to bring to bear a few things I’ve seen recently so that if you see them, as buyer or seller, you’ll will recognize them.  A few bad apples can spoil the bunch…

Over promise and under deliver.  As a rule, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  So, if an agent says to you, “I have a buyer for your home” or “list with me I have a buyer for your home,” be a little wary.  For example, you are interviewing a couple of agents to possibly list your home for sale and one of the agents says they have a iStock-539271055-1030x861buyer and then, just sign here… let me suggest a couple things you should consider.  Let’s start with what he is actually saying: I have a buyer prospect and if you list with me, I’ll sell your home right away. First, if true, note the word prospect.  A buyer is someone who’s put ink to paper.  Until that time they are just a prospective buyer for your home.  Many Realtors use this “close” as a way to secure your listing.  Should you find yourself in this scenario, instead of signing a full listing agreement, try “That’s great.  Let’s do a Single Party Listing and I’ll pay a full commission and you can represent both sides.”  A single party listing is just that, a listing for one specific buyer.

If the agent actually does have a buyer, they’ll agree and deliver that buyer since they “get the full commission and do both sides” which is clearly to their benefit.  Whether or not that buyer offers on your home, you’ll learn if that agent was honest or just handing you a line to get your listing (Visit our website here!).  Since trust is the most important characteristic to consider when hiring an agent, you’ll know you have a trustworthy agent.  The second thing to consider in this statement is the question, do you actually want to sell off market to the first buyer brought through?  In some circumstances, this is amazing and exactly what suits you best.  What could be better than to have your home sold for market value without having to prepare the home, stage, declutter etc. and have a bunch of strangers through?  This is especially true during the time of Covid.  But will you get market value on an off-market sale?  And how would you know?  If you find yourself in this situation, make sure your agent goes over the comps so that you can see for yourself, if the price being brought to you is in line with the market comps.  If it’s during the tight inventory market like we’ve had, the answer may be it’s not because when prices are rising, comps which by their very nature are backwards looking, may not reflect the reality of the market at that moment you’re selling and you may be leaving money on the table.  That said, we always negotiate price and terms and if not having to prep your home for sale and show it to a bunch of people is important to you, you may conclude that leaving a little money on the table in exchange for ease of selling, is well worthwhile.

The bait and switch.  Using the example above, some agents use a “shill” buyer to tie the property up and get the listing and then when that guy backs out and you’re disappointed and all, they’ll approach you with either another buyer or sometimes themselves, but they come with a substantially lower offer (Follow us on Facebook here!).  For example, after the shill does a couple of inspections and backs out, an unscrupulous agent might say to you, “You know Ms. Seller, I like your home and I feel bad that Mr. Shill Buyer didn’t move forward.  The only thing is, knowing what I know about the property, I can’t pay your asking price for the property.  But I would be willing to pay “X” instead.”  Now it’s possible that this all above board.  It’s also possible that it’s not.   In a situation like this, the first buyer could be legit but backed out for whatever reason and the agent really does feel badly about the guy pulling out and also the things wrong with your place really do knock down the value, on the other hand it could be a scam.  When a seller has an offer only to lose it and then has to face starting over, they often just want to end the process as quickly as possible.  Get rid of the pain as it were.  This is what these vultures prey on and they drive the price down and then generously “take it off your hands” – at a below market price.

Tie you up to buy time.  Just the other day I listed a terrific single-story home in Simi Valley, Ca (Click on the Photo Below!).  On the first day of showing, I get an offer $10,000 PineView2over ask, 20% down, no loan, appraisal or investigation contingency!  WOW!  A perfect offer!  In this situation the attraction is that the moment the deposit arrives, it is in play no matter what discovery reveals.  Naturally, the seller took it right away.  In my MLS, when a home goes under contract, the home must show as under contract, pending or contingent per our MLS rules.  However, this was right before the first weekend.  Per the contract the buyer had 3 days to deliver their 3% good faith or earnest money deposit.  So, prior to making the deposit, they ask to go back to see the home again.  Not an unreasonable request.  So, what happened?  Upon second visit, the buyer changed their mind and cancelled.  OK, so that could happen, right?  Yes it could but the reason it happened in this way I believe, was because the agent and buyer having lost out on several other bids, decided that if they could tie the place up, they could leisurely decide if was really the right place rather than get into a bidding war (Visit us on LinkedIn). So, they tied it up so they had more time to consider the purchase.  Is this unethical?  If intentional yes, but how could you ever prove it?  You can’t, but it is a potential trick you should be aware of.

Request for repairs is time to renegotiate.  In California the buyer has a period of time to investigate and inspect.  Because we are in a competitive market, some agents advise their buyers to overbid to get the place and then use the repair request to renegotiate.  Over the summer I had a deal where the buyer paid $130K over my client’s purchase price just the year before.  They weren’t happy but after several counters, they agreed and we opened escrow.  Then they had every inspection known to man and their conclusion was the place needed $75,000 worth of work.  We just closed a year ago and had our own inspections which revealed no such need.  They came with a repair request credit of $30,000.  “Less than half of what it needed,” the agent said.  Well you can imagine the seller’s carpet-cleaning-690x445response and after several somewhat heated discussions over the course of an evening with the other agent starting at $30K then dropping to $15K and then $7,500, the buyer finally asked for nothing.  We see this a lot with things like roofs, sewer laterals and chimneys which are very expensive to repair and so the buyer will bring in “their” guy who of course makes money how?  That’s right, by quoting a ton of work and getting some of it.

Look, these are just a few examples of things to be watchful of and I am by no means suggesting anything bad about Realtors in general since of course I am one (Email Me).  As a rule, most experienced agents are experienced for a reason – they’re honest and to remain in business, stay that way.  I am however suggesting that when money is involved, people can lose their moral compass and because in the case of real estate it’s often a lot of money, it can happen a little more easily and frequently than we care to admit.

Posted in For Sale By Owner, Real Estate, Tim Freund | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments