People Die, Get Over It

This has to do with the odd stigma of “in home death” and the increasing trend of people choosing to die peacefully, with dignity, in their home.

I showed a home awhile back – a little one story. It was filled with “old people” furniture; you know the kind: the narrow backed, scalloped couch with a quilt like stitching, in a silky floral fabric. It was a Grandma’s home. In my grandmother’s home, we were never allowed to sit on that furniture and the same was true in many of my friend’s homes too… plastic carpet runners and arm rest covers. In this particular home, the closet was filled with clothes; women’s clothes, no gentleman’s clothing. Since I see a lot of homes, I make it a habit of sleuthing the story behind the seller. This can often shed light on their motivations and give my client an advantage when it comes to negotiating. For example, if there are only women’s things in the bath and closet, I might surmise there was a divorce forcing the sale, especially if there are no pictures of the dad or husband around, but title shows ownership in two names. Or if there are only women’s clothes and toiletries but there are husband/dad pictures all over, this often indicates the spouse has passed away and the surviving spouse has to sell, perhaps for financial reasons. I know, you might be thinking that this is sleazy or low, because it gives the buyer an upper hand in negotiating, knowing that the seller is in a disadvantageous or distressed position. Remember however, that my job is to represent the buyer in this scenario. The seller has their own representation and when I am the listing agent, I educate my sellers on the importance of “neutralizing” our situation… If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know I maintain that not all Realtors are the same.

So back to the little old lady’s home… It was clear to me that her husband had long ago passed and the empty refrigerator left me with only two conclusions: Mrs. Seller had gone into an assisted care facility or she too had passed away. I pointed this out to my client and that it was very possible the woman had passed away in her home. My client immediately said that I needed to find this out because if she had passed in the home that would, “creep him out”. I said “Really? People die all the time…” but he had a real problem with it. As it turned out she did die in the home; peacefully, surrounded by her family, at the tender age of 92. Lucky lady, don’t you think?

My wife’s 82 year old uncle passed away several years ago. He was given the choice of dialysis which would mean just 3 good days a week and maybe prolong his life a few months. This man was a tough guy from Detroit. They called him Big Al because he backed down from no one. Al was 5’6″. Given the options presented to him, he told his wife from his hospital bed, “Take me home sweetheart, that’s where I want to go.” He died 10 days later with his family around him, in the bedroom he and his wife spent virtually every night in for the past 35 years. He went on his terms. Lucky guy.

In California a seller is required to disclose “death on property” for three years. It’s considered a material fact that “affects the value or desirability not known to or within the diligent attention and observation of the parties”. The problem I have with this is that the Baby Boomers and their predecessor the “Greatest Generation”, are more and more electing to die at home rather than in the hospital or hospice. And can you blame them? Yet this “material fact” costs those left with the property, thousands and thousands of dollars because of the requirement they disclose the death on property. If they could afford to wait to sell for 3 years and one day, they would not be required to sell at a “death on property discount”. Hardly seems right.

Some years back, I sold a home where a young man took his own life. It was messy and very, very sad. The parents had cleaners come in, cut out the stained carpet; it smelled of bleach. They then packed their clothes and a few essentials, never to return. They depended on me to get the home “sell ready”. We painted, carpeted, refinished cabinets, scrapped ceilings, put in recessed lights, granite and new appliances. We re-plastered the pool. But we had a “Stigma” house and there was no way around it. In this scenario, I absolutely should tell prospective buyers about the suicide. It really was a material fact. Think about buying O.J.’s home or where the Manson murders took place. Clearly there is a duty to make a buyer aware of what had taken place. By the way, to combat the “stigma” of the young man’s death, I brought in a holistic healer, who burnt sage and spent an hour in the home, “cleaning up the vibe”. She said to me, “doesn’t it feel warmer already?” I figured what the heck, who am I to say there’s not something to it? I sold that home in three weeks in a brutally bad market, but at only about a 10% discount – not bad considering the events that had taken place.

My point here is that there are differences in deaths. Natural death does not seem to me to be a disclosure that should be required. Unnatural or violent death, that’s something different and I understand the need to make a prospective buyer aware of this. But if someone goes naturally I think we need to have a discussion about how “material” that event is. I mean consider England or Europe; there’s probably not a 300 year old home that hasn’t had someone die in it at some point. But here in America, where we are a relatively young nation, and especially so in California and those of us within the suburban sprawl even more so. We know the history of these homes because they just aren’t that old. But this is going to be an ever increasing problem as more and more people over the next 30 years are going to choose death with dignity, and want to pass in their home and it’s just not right that the choice should result in a lower sales price. We consumers and we real estate professionals are going to have to accept this and come to terms with it, because one thing is for certain, we all will go at some point and hopefully like Big Al or Grandma of the little one story, in our home, surrounded by our family and buyers are just going to have to deal with it and get over it.




Posted in Disclosures | Leave a comment


You’ve made the decision it’s time to sell your home. You’ve hired a Realtor to advance this cause and now you have to prepare your home for sale (Contact Tim Here). There are several things you can do to get more money that don’t cost a lot of money, but none are more important than cleaning.

This may sound ridiculously obvious so let me elaborate. When I mean clean, I mean really clean. To a buyer, clean tells them the seller has taken pride in their home and if they’ve done a great job of keeping it clean, perhaps they’ve also done a great job with the maintenance of the home. Living Room 2Clean also means they can move right in. Upgrades, no upgrades, if it’s clean, they can move in. If the home isn’t clean no one is moving in; not until it’s been cleaned. This takes time and time is money; your money, money that you leave on the table because the home wasn’t clean enough. So here are some tips about cleaning.Take a granite counter for example. If you have expensive granite counters, don’t ignore them. They should never be sticky or gritty. If you have granite counters, wipe them down with a clean sponge or cloth and then dry them. Then use a product like Granite Gold to really polish them up. A clean granite counter should feel smooth and polished to the touch and when you look at it in the light from a low angle, you shouldn’t see any wipe marks. Make sure you feel under the bullnose too. This is where sticky likes to hide and your buyer will notice it. If you have tile, attack the grout. For some kitchens you will need to bring in outside help in the form of steam cleaning. This is a process much like carpet cleaning, where a hand held steam cleaner injects hot cleaning solution and then extracts the dirt and soap out of the grout. This will make your gray and dark grout, sparkle like new. It’s really quite remarkable. The hardest part of this process is finding the company that does it. It works on the nastiest kitchen grease or shower mold. This also works wonders on your tile floors where repeated mopping and kitchen grease has embedded grime and darkness into your grout. Steaming will make it sparkle! And don’t forget to re-caulk afterwards. The caulk that came with your home 15 years ago has long since dried and separated. In a shower it turns pink or has irremovable black spots. Get a razor blade and a tube of white latex caulk. Cut out the old and squeeze a nice even bead around your sink and toilet base, wipe away with a damp towel. In the shower use clear silicone. Not handy enough? No problem! A handyman can knock it out in no time for cheap and man will your bathroom thank you and so will your buyers.

Speaking of grease, take a look at your stove vent hood. Odds are you’ve not cleaned the underneath nor the wire filters recently, most of us don’t. But every time you turn on your hood, air, dust and grease are passing through those filters. Put them in the dishwasher along with you metal cooktop grates and wash them. If they don’t come clean, consider buying new ones, they’re not expensive and it makes a world of difference for both sight and smell. If you have the old style, non-sealed burners, another part you might consider replacing is the tin pans under the grill; a clean piece of foil is lame, don’t do it. Take that a step further, look at your oven racks. If you’ve used the self-cleaning feature with the racks in, the stainless steel shine will have come off and they’ll be difficult to slide and may even look a little dusty or rusty. If this is the case, buy new ones. They’re not super expensive and can make your oven look a lot newer inside. I’m not making this up, buyers look at this stuff and the nicer every detail looks, the more move-in ready your home appears. That has real value to a potential buyer and they will pay extra for it.

One area that’s missed a lot is the outlets and switch plates… I have a seller right now that has the cleanest home on the planet. I mean to tell you, her home is clean. (See for yourself.) One of her tricks is Clorox wipes. She uses these on her switches and outlets. If you take a moment and look at the tops your switch plate covers and the switches themselves, you will probably see a small line of dark dust. You should clean this. Try a dry brush first and see if that does it and then go with the wet clean, it’s a little easier if you get the first layer off before using the wipes. Here’s the thing, often when you turn the switch on to clean, you don’t notice the dust. That’s because it’s usually in the off position for most of the day’s hours so the top of the actual switch gets dusty but when you flip the switch on, you can’t see it anymore. I like to say that the way you can tell a really clean home is by the switches and plate covers.

Every Realtor will tell you to have your windows and screens done, but don’t forget the tracks. This is especially true for lower windows that sometimes get hit by outside sprinklers. The dust in the tracks becomes like a grimy, gritty sludge and if you have a dog, it will often have dog hair in there too. Totally gross and you may have never even noticed it! This is some tedious work, but do it and it will mean more money in your pocket.

On the topic of dust, be sure you dust your light fixtures, ceiling fan blades, tops of your door jams and behind things like plants, TV’s, pictures and inside bathroom drawers and medicine cabinets. Hair in the brush drawer is not saying “Buy me” to any prospective buyer and neither is a rusty old medicine cabinet. You can easily replace a medicine cabinet. “Whoa” you say, “Really?” Yes really. If you think for one minute that not doing this won’t enhance your home, then you really need to do it because if you don’t think it matters, you’ve never done it. It matters! Remember, the thinking is, if you’ve got a super clean home then you probably have maintained the integral components of the home too, like A/C and roof. When a home looks neglected on the cleaning, it often portends to other neglect that will cost the future homeowner big money down the road. Remove this potential objection and you’ll sell faster and net more money.

Shower doors and enclosures are often a problem. This can be a little tricky if you have really hard water. Calcium deposits can be impossible to clean and can even etch your enclosure. This means you may need to buy a new glass enclosure. This can cost $1,000 or more, but we’re talking about relatively small money in the big picture and if a buyer looks at your nasty shower door hinges, their immediate reaction is going to be “I need to remodel the bath.” Cha-Ching! They’ll want a big remodel discount off your price. That’s not to say that if your bath needs to be remodeled a new shower door or enclosure is going to save the day, but if your bath is in otherwise decent shape and just the corners are gross and the glass has impossible to clean calcium, spend the money and get new glass. $1,000 out of pocket to potentially make thousands is money well spent.

Carpet cleaning, carpet stretching, carpet patching. If you can’t afford new carpet or just won’t do it and assuming it’s not entirely hideous (in which case replace it no matter what!) at least have it professionally cleaned and if it’s buckling, have it stretched. By the way, if there’s a stain, get a carpet guy to cut a piece from somewhere and patch it in. Many times you can “steal” from one room or closet and use that to patch with, while buying a new bit to put in its place. You can always find a little remnant for an out of the way closet that no one will notice if the carpet is just a little different. But an ink, bleach or pet stain in an obvious place is going to cost you. So if you won’t replace, at least patch.

Pets. Oh how we love our pets, but pets smell. Make sure you bathe your pets and then go buy them new pet beds, toys and blankets. BluzySo often I walk into a home and it’s Dog City. The house is clean but the dog bed reeks of stinky dog and it makes the whole house smell. Buy them a nice new cedar filled bed and you’ll thank me for it. Heck, so will your dog. Same for cat box. Clean your cat box daily and change the litter often. Even if you’ve got the battery powered, cover kind of box and clumpy litter that lasts a generation without changing, change it anyway! By the way, don’t forget about the land mines in the back yard. Don’t wait four days and do a bulk yard pick up or wait for the gardener to do it. Your buyer is going to walk into your back yard and if it’s gross it reflects negatively on your home and you. Worse, what if they step in it and track dog poo onto your carpets. Yikes! And don’t forget to sweep regularly especially along the wall and in corners where pet hair gathers.

Finally about smell, don’t get plug ins and be very careful about infusers. You don’t want to over power the room. The buyer will immediately be turned off and assume you are hiding cigarette smoking or pet odors. Instead pick up some pleasant smelling potpourri. Subtlety is key when battling odor.

I could go on and on about cleaning tricks and tips, but I think you get the idea. Cleaning is the least expensive and best thing you can do when preparing your home for sale. Take the time and do it right and be thorough. If need be hire someone to do it for you. You don’t want a little cleaning to stand between you and the maximum sale proceeds you’re entitled to, but failure to clean properly will do just that.

Posted in Real Estate | Leave a comment

Redfin Goes Public

Friday Redfin, the online real estate brokerage went public.  Investors liked it and the stock RDFN, went up 45%.  Yet even with that, it’s market cap is under $2B.  Why is that I wonder?

Real estate is and always will be a local business.  It’s also a very personal business.  It is true that Realogy which owns Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and Sotheby’s as well as relocation behemoth Cartus and Warren Buffet’s acquisitions of Real Living, Prudential and Brookfield Relocation are examples of corporate investment into the local business of real estate, it is equally true that the only thing those companies really bring to the local business of real estate is some branding.  Relocation is the jewel here because relocation is corporate.  In the end, those companies are only as successful as the individual efforts of the individual agents.  Kind of like Herbal Life is only as successful as it’s network marketing sales people.  It’s all about the people working the business, not the corporations.  So where does Redfin fit into this minefield of local entrepreneurs and can it be successful?

In 2011 I was at a conference of my brokerage’s new relationship with Real Living and Brookfield in New Orleans when I found myself in the elevator with the CEO of Brookfield.  I introduced myself and asked him, why the heck they were trying to reinvent the wheel and develop new software when all they had to do was buy Redfin.  They had the best software in the industry I explained.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  I explained that my younger clients loved Redfin.  Moments later in the same elevator going down, I found myself standing next to then Real Living CEO Harley Rouda Jr.  I introduced myself and he said, “You’re the guy that told Brookfield to buy Redfin.”  I love it when my reputation precedes me…  My idea was then dismissed I was told, because Redfin was in huge debt and an acquisition like that would prove very expensive.  To Harley Rouda who is currently running as the Democratic challenger to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, I think you’ll be great, just don’t cite passing up on Redfin as one of your great achievements.  Redfin has great software, they really do.

The problem with Redfin isn’t that Redfin agents are somehow less qualified or unprofessional, this is not the case nor is it that traditional agents discriminate against them, as some have asserted, rather that real estate is a relationship game.  And while I’m not going to give them my secret sauce of success, I will say that until they understand what a Realtor does, they will only be a marginal player.  Discounts only go so far.  Redfin is banking on the Millennials to be their fodder for the future.  I can assure you, aging baby boomers probably think Redfin is a fish or a bird and they are not going to be hiring some internet person to sell their home.  Truth be told, Redfin is really more of a buying site than a listing broker.  It is also true that Millennials are very comfortable with doing their own research and for this Redfin is outstanding.  In many ways, it is superior software to my Multiple Listing Service, but that’s a whole other discussion.  However, while research is a big part of house hunting, going through the home buying process is another thing entirely.  I have been in escrow with Redfin agents.  Gad zooks is what I say to that.  There’s always someone different you’ll be working with.  Unlike when you hire me, you work with me, Redfin’s model is based on a division of labor and different folks do different jobs throughout the process.    Recently I completed one deal that was a Redfin listing.  The representation of the seller was at best distant and un-involved.  I mean the agent wasn’t at the inspection, didn’t deliver the keys, the owner did, wasn’t at the walk through… It was basically a for sale by owner.  There was one agent as the contact but I never met him.  There were other people handling the papers, someone else doing disclosures.  It was pathetic really.  I felt terribly for the seller.  He left $1000’s of dollars on the table which was just fine by us, but as a career real estate broker it was unpleasant to watch.

Redfin agents often show my listings and to their credit they will do more transactions than I will ever because discounting by definition, is a volume game.  Redfin is a discount broker.  The rebates however don’t come close to the money I have personally witnessed being left on the table by the Redfin client.  If you are not paid by commission and you are a volume discount person, what kind of representation would or should you the consumer expect?  Get real right?  If you don’t think you get what you pay for, you’re nuts.  We are talking about the single most important investment of your life!  When a local Redfin agent calls to show one of my listings, before I even set the appointment, I find out what they know about the client and if they can’t demonstrate a good knowledge of their  pre-qualifications and the client’s situation, urgency, motivation etc., I don’t waste my time anymore.  Redfin may sell a lot of homes, but they must show far more homes than a traditional broker because they don’t know their buyer.  The same agent may or may not work with the client.  Since the buyer does the research they initiate the contact.  By contrast a traditional broker is paid by successfully finding and negotiating the transaction.  And unlike a Redfin agent who is paid on salary, the traditional agent wakes up unemployed every day.  Eating is a great motivator to work really hard, do the best possible job for your client and hope your brilliant efforts are rewarded by a referral of a friend or family member in the future.

So Redfin has great software.  I even use it myself sometimes and they may even increase their market share over the coming years, but my experience has shown that Redfin corporate doesn’t understand the real estate business yet.  Most corporate real estate entities do some training but are primarily tasked with branding and recruiting.  In the end, real estate is all about relationships; the relationship with the client and the community not the relationship with a corporation.

So my advice?  Use Redfin for your research if you like but call me so I can help you.


Posted in Home Buying, Home Selling | 2 Comments

What The Heck Kind Of Market Is This?

I have some clients that just love real estate.  They watch HGTV and Millionaire Real Estate Agent, Fix and Flip etc.  They are on Zillow or Redfin all the time, it’s a passion for them yet when it comes time to buy or sell, they’ll call me because no matter how much they learn online, they don’t want to mess with a major financial decision without a professional’s help.  “The Real Estate Guru” one young client said his parent’s call me.

One of the things that I help my clients with is interpreting the market.  For example, a couple of my clients are convinced we are in a bubble, rates are going to rise and the market is due for a correction.  That would be great for them as buyer’s… if only it were true.  As you probably know if you follow my writings, I am a stat guy.  I follow my local numbers as close as anyone except maybe my friend and manager Chuck Lech (checkout the LechReport here). He’s given me some great data this month and I’d like to interpret that data for you.

Currently the Conejo Valley has just 350 active listings (search available inventory here).  This is very low. supply_demandv2 In fact, it hasn’t been this low since we had 281 active listings in February 2013.  The important thing here is that back then, from January to June of 2013, prices rose on average between 15-20%.  Demand out weighed supply so prices rose.  Also noteworthy today, is that the number of homes priced under $750,000 is down a whopping 48% vs. 2015 and 34% vs. 2016.  Plainly put, prices in this range are rising as demand out strips supply.  Delving  deeper, I’m drawn to the contrast of homes between $750,000-1,000,000 vs. $1,000,000-1,500,000.  Naturally one would assume that as the price range rises, demand would wane, inventory would rise as affordability declines and it would become harder and harder to find buyers as you go up in price.  But that is not what is happening, to a point anyway.  The data shows us that in the $750-1,000,000 the inventory is virtually unchanged when compared to both 2015 and 2016.  Here we are finding many of the homes that were in the sub $750,000 range but as prices have risen, were pushed up to the new category.  That explains a little bit of why the sub $750,00 inventory is so low.   When looking at the $1-1.5M range, inventory in 2015 and 2016 were identical but that number is down 35% in 2017.  Once again that means prices are poised to rise in this range.  But what about this $750-$1M range?  Shouldn’t the pattern of lower year over year inventory apply here as well?   And if it doesn’t, what gives?

Allow me put on my speculation hat for a moment.  We know interest rates have risen over the past year.  We also know we live in an area that has not seen substantial income growth.  I’m thinking part of the problem is that homeowners with homes in the sub $750K are finding it difficult to make the move into their natural next place, the $750K-1M range so they aren’t selling (see homes that have recently sold in this price range here).  hsThis explains in part why the inventory is acutely low under $750K.  While this could be purely about affordability it could also be that they don’t like the home selection in this range as much as the home they currently own. That, coupled with a higher interest rate thus higher cost of ownership, why move?  I suspect this is magnified in the west end towns of our Valley like Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks west of the 23 freeway.  Why?  Perhaps this is a result of higher paid employment in LA; you know, Los Angeles city pay vs. local employment.  People living in the east end of the Conejo Valley, commute to Los Angeles where incomes are higher.  The recent Rotary/CLU Economic Forecast breakfast made it very clear that income growth, job growth and population growth in Ventura County is basically stagnant.  We have an aging population as younger people can’t afford to live here especially in the Conejo Valley.  While zero population growth may be the most concerning in the macro picture, slow job and income growth hits us in the wallet and that’s about as micro as you can get.  Looking at the rise in demand/shortage of inventory for the $1-1.5M range, I’d suggest that perhaps those buyers have experienced superior income growth and/or superior price appreciation for existing homeowners.  Not coincidentally, there’s a greater concentration of these properties in the most eastern edge of Ventura County and into Agoura and Calabasas.

Whatever the reason, the fact is you’d have to go back to 2005 to find more sales between $1-2M than we had in 2016.  With demand obviously high and inventory declining, one has to conclude there will be upward pressure on prices.  Supply and demand is a lot like gravity.  We might think we can defy it for a moment, but eventually it catches up with us.

To the question of are we overheated or over valued (are we in a bubble?), I’d say no. Lending is still very restrictive so only qualified people are buying. Moreover, I’ve just speculated on why some ranges are stronger than others but to the greater question of inventory, we can’t forget 2 important facts affecting California inventory: We stopped building for the better part of 6 years from 2007-2013 so our natural growth of supply is way, way behind historical averages and foreclosures. By some estimates, this number is in excess of 700,000 units. This trend (Allow me to remove my speculation hat and climb on my soapbox for a sec…) is unfortunately worsening in Ventura County as a result of poor land governance by local municipalities and by the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) mentality. As recently as two weeks ago the City of Camarillo turned down a proposal to build much-needed homes at the bottom of the Camarillo grade.grade Reasons cited were traffic
concerns and the loss of the “Gateway” view of a farm field (immediately adjacent to an existing subdivision mind you) entering the Camarillo plain. This fool’s errand ignores that traffic is increased by not building not the other way around. In fact, the CLU group stated that as a result of slow growth policies, 80,000 cars travel into the Conejo Valley while just 40,000 leave every day. This is because there’s insufficient housing closer in but no shortage of employment. Another reason most people are unaware of, is that our supply was shrunk incalculably by the banking industry’s behavior during the financial crisis. Just as the real estate market was showing signs of stabilizing, say around 2012, major lenders, their books filled with defaulted properties, decided it would be better for them to sell off the foreclosed assets in bulk sales to investment firms and hedge funds like Blackstone and American Homes (located right here in Agoura Hills). These firms converted large numbers of foreclosed properties into rentals. They fixed them up and they rented them creating privately held or publicly traded REIT’s (Real Estate Investment Trusts). To be clear, we are talking about thousands of homes in California alone. These homes are for all intents and purposes were permanently removed from the saleable population because of strict Wall Street guidelines governing REITs.
When you add all this up you get a picture where affordable housing is disappearing. Inventory is going to remain tight and until such time as we find ourselves in a recession, nothing is going change this course nor slow price appreciation down.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Home Buying, Home Selling, Real Estate, Thousand Oaks, Tim Freund | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Effects On Real Estate Of Trump’s Executive Order On Immigration

If you live near a big city or one of our coasts, you were probably pretty surprised and likely disturbed to hear the President banned entry or re-entry of immigrants from one of 7 Middle Eastern and African countries.  From the various reports I’ve read, you were probably less affected if you lived in middle America.  Maybe there aren’t as many immigrants there, though that would seem odd since immigration is such a lightning rod issue in middle America.  To try to bring home the impact and implication of this Presidential Executive order, you need look no further than its potential effect on real estate.

I have a listing in the City of Thousand Oaks.  It’s been on the market for about two weeks.  In that two week span I had 5 offers.  While we in real estate don’t look at the color of our client’s skin, we can’t help but notice their country of origin.  Often times our clients were born abroad.  Very often they are here on one type of visa or another working for one of the many tech or biotech companies that have made their home in California.  In the case of this specific listing, the 5 offers I had were from buyers whose point of origin was from outside the U.S.  I had 3 offers from Chinese nationals with visas to work here, all engineers or scientists.  I had an offer from a young family from Iran, but presumably of Armenian descent based on their last name.  In their letter to the owners that accompanied their offer, was a picture of them and their two babies with Santa caps on in front of a Christmas tree.  The fifth and final, which was the highest and an all cash offer, came from an international biotech businessman from Iran.  He wanted his wife and children here so his girls could attend high school and college in California.  We took this man’s offer.  It was the highest by a small margin and was all cash.  We signed off on the offer on Friday, opened escrow and planned for inspection Monday.  On Saturday the man flew home… to Iran.  My immediate reaction upon hearing the President’s order banning people from Iran from entering our country was concern for my seller.  He and his family have relocated and was thrilled to get such a great offer from such a great buyer, but that was before the Executive Order banning Iranians from entering our country.  I’ll never forget sitting in my car Saturday morning listening to Fox News on satellite radio and thinking, my God, we are now in a binding contract with someone who may never be able to re-enter our country.

I have to assume the President was well intentioned in his ban, but here I am, a Realtor in a suburban community in Southern California and my client’s and I have been directly, immediately and negatively affected by this Presidential Executive order.  2 out of my 5 offers were buyers who were born in Iran.  3 from China.  Could they be next?  Aside from all the terrifying possible implications about racial and religious profiling, just strictly talking business, this action is bad for business.  It’s bad for real estate and it’s bad for the tech companies that have provided so many jobs world wide because they depend on these highly intelligent and highly skilled workers to do the work that there aren’t enough qualified Americans to do.  Just look at the outcry from Microsoft and Google.

When you think about all the foreign property owners in the U.S. you can’t help but be more than a little concerned for the American real estate market.  I mean what if foreign owners feel that American real estate is no longer a safe place to invest?  What if they begin liquidating?  In Nazi Germany when the Jews had to sell either as forced by the government or out of desperation to get something for their assets, they sold at a steep discount.  We saw what happened during the Great Recession to real estate values when distressed sellers and banks sold en masse, value plummeted.  I’m not suggesting this is what is going to happen but I am suggesting that this creates an air of uncertainty and uncertainty is bad for real estate and bad for business.

Bad for business.  Never thought President Trump would be accused of that.


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It’s Mine


It’s mine, it’s my house.  It’s a cute little bungalow; it’s a darling condo with a view of the greenbelt; it’s the estate home I deserve, with the pool and outdoor BBQ… oh the steaks I’ll grill!  Heck I’ve worked my tail off to get here.  I’m so excited!   We just closed. I can’t believe it, it’s mine!

Real estate.  I help people buy and sell real estate.  It’s what I do, helping people with that most important decision.  This is what it’s all about.  It’s the feeling you get.  The satisfaction.  To own a home, your home.  This is real estate.  Real estate is homeownership, real estate is life; there’s nothing better, no moment prouder, none more satisfying.  Owning a home means more than a roof over your head, though it is that.  It’s getting somewhere that our parents did – or never did.  It’s about making all the sacrifices of saving.  It’s cleaning gutters and cleaning floors.  It’s calling plumbers and air conditioning guys and telling the landscaper he needs to spend more time weeding and less blowing.  It’s trips to the paint store and Home Depot.  It’s Thanksgiving, prom and birthdays.  It’s bringing home baby; it’s hugs, lunches, it’s saying goodbye.  Goodbye to friends.  Goodbye to kids; goodbye to pets, God we love our pets… is there anything better or anything harder?  And it’s goodbye to the one that spent a lifetime with you; finding a book with a picture as a page marker.  It’s remembering.  It’s forgetting.

Real estate is home.  Home is life.  Your home, my home, our home, this life.  This is real estate and this is home.

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When Should You Consider Doing A Pocket Listing?

I was recently on a listing appointment when the seller asked me, “Do I have to go on the multiple listing?” I was a bit surprised by this and asked my elderly seller, why they wouldn’t want to go on the public market place when that’s where they get the greatest exposure and likely result, the best price? Her answer was very telling. She said she didn’t want to go on the MLS because she didn’t want a bunch of people going through her home. Interesting right? I mean how the heck does one sell one’s home without being “On the market?”

Studies suggest that the 3 most stressful things in life are death, divorce and moving and not necessarily in that order. boxesWhat my client was saying in the example above was that she just wanted her home sold and didn’t want to go through the process of selling. (Ask Tim about your home here) But is that even possible and more importantly, if it is possible, is it realistic and even if realistic, will I be doing right by the seller if I do the listing in this way? The answer is yes.

When a home doesn’t go on the MLS but is an active listing (listing agreement has been signed) it’s called a pocket listing. A pocket listing is where an agent and seller sign listing papers but intentionally agree to not go on the multiple listing service. To keep it, “In the Realtor’s pocket.”  In my MLS rules, a broker must publish a new listing within 48 hours of signing or else have the seller sign an exclude from the MLS document. Pocket listings are frowned upon by the Association of Realtors.  Why?  The reason for the tight timeline and the exclude document is that in years past an unscrupulous agent might tell a client that they are on the market when in fact they are not. The reason this evil agent might do this is obvious: to sell to their own buyer their listing earning both commissions for themselves. Obviously if no one knows about the listing, the listing agent has a much better chance of selling it themselves, right? A quick aside: Dual Agency is allowed in California provided both parties are fully aware of the dual agency relationship. When only one side knows of the relationship, this is called a Divided Agency and it’s illegal and the quickest way for an agent to lose their license.

In our story, my elderly client just wanted her home sold. She’d been in the home nearly 60 years and the whole thing was entirely overwhelming. Being a SRES, a Senior Real Estate Specialist (click here for more on what a SRES is or contact me for more information) I am acutely aware of the difficulty our seniors face when finally making the difficult decision to move. Clearly this was the case with my client. The question then moved from “Yes, I can do a pocket only listing,” to “How am I going to do this?” It’s interesting really. sresPocket listings aren’t the least bit uncommon in the ultra-luxury market. Often times a home is sold in a “Private sale” and only becomes known through public records and from scuttlebutt as people hear about a big sale and word gets out. Let’s face it, there are only so many people in the world that can spend $50M+ on a home therefore being on the MLS is not always required. But in the more moderate price ranges it is quite challenging to sell a pocket listing. So how would I do it?
Faced with this task I told my client that I’d first market to select Realtors that I knew worked in the neighborhood. Since I have a frequently visited website ( I would add the listing as a Featured Home to my website as well as include it some of my mailers and marketing pieces in a way to inform my circle of friends and past clients of this great pocket listing all the while without giving up the address. There would be no sign of course and I explained it was likely to take more time than a normal listing. As someone who lists a lot of homes, I have the advantage that people call me for information on my listings. This allows me to tell people inquiring about one home for sale, that I had this other pocket listing too. All of this pleased my client, but I bet you’re wondering, will it work?
I put my plan into action in late fall. I showed the home a couple of times using word of mouth but to no avail. Then I included it in my bi annual newsletter, The County Line Gazette (Click here to receive your copy of the County Line Gazette). gazz-prt-scLow and behold I got a call from a Realtor. Understand that I don’t send my newsletter to other Realtors but that’s who called. “How’d you hear about it?” I ask. “My client’s parents got something in the mail from you and knew their kids wanted a home like this so they’d called me,” the Realtor said. Cool! Perfect! This is exactly what we wanted. I showed it and guess what? That’s right, they wrote an offer. You can imagine how pleased the seller was. She really didn’t’ think I’d sell it and then when I got her a good price without having to have “People go through her home,” she was thrilled.

Another time a pocket listing is a good idea is when the seller is only somewhat interested in selling.  In this scenario, a seller might engage a Realtor by saying something like, “If you have someone who’d be interested in my home, I’d be willing to sell if the offer made sense and the price was right.”  Often this is the seller whose not terribly motivated and doesn’t want an agent to spend a bunch of time and money marketing their home when they really aren’t sure they want to sell or someone who doesn’t want the task of always keeping their home “Show ready.”  As an agent who does pocket listings, I don’t love this kind because working for a unmotivated seller isn’t what I like to do.  It’s typically a waste of time.  Still, it can work and is especially useful when working with an agent who is very active in a certain neighborhood where the likelihood that they might have interested buyers, is better.
A pocket listing isn’t usually the best way for a seller to sell but it has its place and can be used effectively in the right situation. And sometimes, it’s is just what the doctor ordered.

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