Date Archives April 2014

Home Buyers’ Remorse

1 out of 4 buyers have buyers’ remorse? That number struck me.

Further –

Thirty-two percent of Americans who bought or sold a home in the past 10 years and used an agent felt their “agent was OK, but I never really felt they were on my side or very helpful” and 8 percent said their “agent was one of the worst parts of the home buying or selling process.”

Achieving 100% satisfaction is an impossible goal, but it’s worth striving for.

I’ve witnessed shoddy real estate practice since I started in 2001 but nowhere near 32 percent. I’ve heard from enough clients about other transactions in their lives to believe the 8 percent is probably right on, and perhaps a little bit low.

My buyer clients come to me seeking guidance, advice and insight into the home buying process, and that’s what I strive to provide. As my mom told me when I was starting out (and over and over throughout my career) – real estate agents don’t make decisions for our clients; I try to help my clients make good and better decisions.

I joke with my clients about the gravity of the home buying situation – I want to convey the seriousness of what we’re doing together but also try to take the edge off. When we’re moving through the decision process about what to they should do, I’ve found myself saying, “don’t worry – it’s only the rest of your lives and a huge pile of money.” Because it is. The decisions my clients make are likely to affect the rest of their lives and most importantly, the rest of their kids’ lives. That matters way more than whether I get paid a commission.

And to the ultimate buyer representation question: ask my clients if I’ve ever been one to dissuade them from walking away. My role is not predicated on my getting paid; if I got paid based on the number of times I’ve advocated for my clients walking away, I’d be wealthy. (I’m karmic and professionally wealthy though)

Next – where’s my incentive if I get paid more if my buyers pay more?

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Bad Data, Sexual Offenders and Property Values

Question everything. Always.

You can search for sexual offenders in Charlottesville and Albemarle (and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia); but how do you know if the data is accurate?

Now that sexual offender data display is becoming more commonplace, how long until consumers start to eliminate areas outright because one sexual offender is nearby? What recourse do homeowners have?

Story after story shows that consumers don’t seem to mind that the big real estate sites don’t always have the most current or accurate real estate listings. Zillow is said to be a “starting point” in the process; but what if they end up being the only point consumers (wrongly) reference? It seems that many of my clients warily use Zillow, but I also know that they understand that Zillow is but one point in the research process and that all information on the internet needs to be vetted.

Sellers already care when the Zestimate for their home is absurdly and wrongly low – and they have no viable recourse to remedy said Zestimate. What recourse would homeowners have if the real estate search sites they use allow searchers to, say, filter out homes that are within one mile of a sexual offender?

What does one do about inaccurate sex offender data? It’s fairly easy for me to demonstrate how a zestimate is crap. It’s another thing for me as a real estate professional representing my clients to research the current and accurate location and then discover whether the offender is a violent offender or an innocuous one.

A study from a few years ago noted that sex offenders’ presence may devalue a home by 17%.

They find a reduction in housing prices of 17% within a tenth of a mile of an offender’s home, and find significant changes in price up to a third of a mile.

What if the referenced sexual offender is no longer there? Is Zillow (or whichever data provider, but they’re the big dog) liable?

Inman News brings this story back to the fore with their story yesterday. Sexual offender’s presence tends to elicit binary responses – either “yes, I’m willing to risk (whether personal or financial) living close to a sexual offender or no, I’m not willing to risk it. And Inman poses the question:

But even if the data is accurate, buyers might misinterpret it. Many offenders have not committed crimes that are as nearly as heinous as many might initially assume.

* If you’re a client or potential client, ask me for a story about a sexual offender in Charlottesville whose crime and presence in a neighborhood almost caused my clients to not buy.

There are nuances to data that demand more than a binary response. Is this the result that we want?

The data also could help herd offenders into enclaves, depressing home values in some neighborhoods and scaring away families with children.Research published by four professors from Longwood University in Farmville, Va., in late 2013 found that sex offenders tend to cluster together, and that such clustering increased from 1999 to 2009 in Virginia.

Read the whole story.

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Building a New Neighborhood in Charlottesville – Lochlyn Hill

Community. It’s amazing how many of my buyer clients identify “community” as one of the top three criteria they’re looking for. We’re aiming to build that in a new neighborhood in Charlottesville.

My clients have heard me talk about this “coming neighborhood” for about two years; now dirt is finally moving, roads are going in, utilities are being run and house plans are being finalized.

Lochlyn Hill is a new neighborhood in Charlottesville – 5 minutes to downtown Charlottesville by car, 15 minutes or so by bicycle, with only local (mostly small) builders, with the focus being community and building homes. We’re focusing on building homes – and community – instead of more homes, our goal is to authentically and organically build a neighborhood.

Curious? I’ve posted a FAQ below, but thought you might be surprised (I was) by the view at the entrance to the neighborhood.

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Monday Morning Reading – 21 April 2014

– My mom liked my April monthly note; you might too! Interested? Subscribe now and I’ll send you April’s note.

– Getting into and around downtown Charlottesville has been a bit challenging for a while and now they’re asking the question – How will West Main Street be traversed after 1800 apartments and a hotel are built? Slowly. Very, very slowly. (one might think this conversation could have been had before approving nearly 2000 apartments, but that’s just me)

Getting a mortgage is getting a tiny bit easier. This is a good thing.

Student debt holds back many would-be homebuyers. Duh. Costs to attend college go up every single year, government keeps subsidizing student loans so colleges have no incentive to lower costs and debt loads keep rising. I know I’m a broken record, but this isn’t going to end well.

If the courts move out of Downtown Charlottesville, the relatively efficient way real estate transactions are closed in Charlottesville will change dramatically.

Albemarle County school class sizes are going up. So are real estate taxes in Albemarle County.

– It would be mighty cool if an artist like this was in Charlottesville.

Tesla is trying to remove the middleman in selling cars. There are some interesting parallels to the real estate industry in this conversation.

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Photos and Floorplans – A Buyer’s Response to my Monthly Note

4949 Lake Tree Ln First Floor Plan

If the “open rate” for my monthly note is only 2% yet it generates this kind of response, I’ll be happy. I’ll lead with “thank you” to the reader who took a great deal of time to email me this response, and for the three stories her response has generated.

Part 1 of 3 …

This month I asked what you (consumers) would change about the real estate process.

A reader responded – (bolding mine)

I wish house listings included a floor plan, even if it were a rough, not-to-scale, sketch. We’d be able to understand better if a house would or would not work for us if we knew the relationships of the rooms to each other. If the agent/photographer is good, we can sometimes get this from the photos — if they are presented in a rational, spatial sequence, and include the transitions from one space to the next — but the quality of the photos is many times misleading (if they look good) or downright awful.

(It amazes me that owners allow their agents to post pictures that are dark, out of focus, include inadvertent selfies in mirrors, or show clutter and junk that could have been picked up and moved out of the field of the photo for 30 seconds.)

Look – providing floor plans isn’t a difficult task; it’s not inexpensive, but neither are houses.

I noted the advent of affordable floor plan technology in 2010. I hand sketch floor plans all the time – just Saturday I drew for a client a house I’d seen a few days’ prior. From memory on a piece of scrap paper, and it worked (maps are useful when combined with verbal descriptions). I don’t know my older daughter’s phone number (which she’s had for 5 years) but can typically recall the layout of a property I saw five years ago.

I’ve written many, many times (and so have my clients!) – since at least 2007 – about real estate photos. The only thing that will change poor photos being used is for consumers to demand more. I send the photos to my seller clients before using them on anything – I want to make sure they both approve and feel good about how we’re marketing their homes.

I’d love to be able to provide recent examples from the Charlottesville MLS of head-smashingly bad photos – photos so bad I wish I could call the seller and ask them what they’re thinking. In one example, I know the agent consistently takes bad photos, and the seller would have known that if they’d spent 30 seconds researching. That the seller permits these photos to be used is confounding, but there you go.

Floorplans – yes, they cost money. So do professional photographers. So do professional Realtors’ services.

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