Andrew Wetzel's Musings

May 27, 2017

The “4-Ps” of Marketing Real Estate

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 5:19 PM

Real Estate, even if well-priced, will NOT sell itself.  As a Realtor I consider myself a “marketer” rather than a salesperson.  Buyers are much more likely to find or have my property listing information presented to them than I am to present it to them (who knows where the buyer for your house lives right now?).  In fact, with all due respect, the term salesperson has negative connotations.  I am a “conduit” or a bridge between my clients and the Real Estate market place.

When I started in Real Estate in 1996 I began to formulate how I would present my ideas to potential clients and I developed one that, at least to me, makes all the sense in the world and yet, I have rarely had a potential client know what I was referring to when I called my marketing concept by the name it was taught to me.

Back in the day I needed to take a basic marketing course (I think it was called Marketing 101.  Go figure!) before I could start taking MBA classes.  That course was phenomenal and taught me a concept that is enduring.  It is called the “4 P’s of Marketing“.  Apparently the course was abandoned after I took it and everyone who ever took it forgot the concept.  Oh well!

The basis of the concept is this:  anything that is made available for sale has 4 aspects to the process and your success depends on understanding and implementing them as part of an overall marketing plan.  Here is how I describe the “4 P’s” to my prospective Real Estate clients.

PRODUCT:   in order to sell anything, you need to know what it is.  Obviously in my case it is a piece of Real Estate, generally residential.  The “product” has two intrinsic aspects called features and condition.  Sellers need to know how their “product” compares to other “choices” a prospective buyer has and they need to decide whether they are selling the “product” “as-is” or will make repairs or upgrades.  Some sellers over-value what they have (sellers see memories while buyers see “utility”).  Part of this is expecting a higher “return” on improvements.  Buyers may want to consider the differential cost of buying something decorated to the seller’s taste as compared to a house that can or needs to be tailored to their wishes. 

PLACEMENT:  this is the “location” (remember, it HAS to be a “P”).  This is very important:  it relates to schools, property taxes, insurance and a variety of other “environmental”/ lifestyle factors.  As an example, I live and work primarily in Delaware County PA.  There are many examples of municipalities that literally sit across the street from each other.  Two essentially identical houses can vary in “market value” by tens of thousands of dollars depending solely upon which side of the street they sit on.  If you do not care about the property taxes or the school district, you can save a lot of money by buying on one side.  This example clearly shows the “cost” of living in different areas.  Bottom line:  you cannot change this so do not worry about it!  Buyers may want to consider this as far as possible “appreciation”.

PROMOTION:  We are in the Internet Age and we are dealing with “Internet Empowered Consumers” (IECs).  The “gatekeeper model” is DEAD:  over 90% of consumers shop for Real Estate online.  If they cannot find your property listing, they may not know that it even exists.  Slow or non-existent traffic can kill your prospects for a sale and cost you money.  What is the typical reaction to a slow moving property?  PRICE REDUCTION!  Sadly, I have seen many Real Estate listings have their value eroded when “marketing” and not pricing was the problem.  If you are on a well-traveled street a sign may offset some of the damage.  The key point here is that, for many listings, the Internet is how consumers will first “see” it (this is like your “first showing” but without the inconvenience) and decide whether to look inside.  I have written a number of Blogs on how important something as seemingly simple as “data entry” is to a seller’s success.  Proper “promotion” may even create a little competition!  Buyers need to consider whether they really understand how to “find” the property listings with “data entry” issues.  An experienced Realtor should know some tricks!

PRICE:  In theory, this is the #1 factor in determining how successful you will be and this is a mixed blessing:  you control it BUT if anything else works against you (ineffective promotion, product issues or location challenges), it can be very costly.  Again, even a price reduction may not work if people do not know your house or property is “For Sale”.  The good news is that EVERY property has a price at which it will sell!  Whether that works for the seller or withstands a lender’s appraisal is another matter.  Buyers need to consider that many houses still have competition and will achieve the “asking price” or higher so they need to know that they may not get a second bite of the apple when making an offer.

I believe that understanding and embracing this concept (the “4 P’s“) and these 4 aspects will help you sell your house.

Of course, it all starts with HIRING WISELY!

Thank you for reading.

 

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Planning to SELL? “Discount” Commissions May NOT Be Such a Bargain!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 5:07 PM

You have decided to sell your house and are considering your options.  There are so many choices!  One that you should be wary of is the “discount” commission.  I have ALWAYS been told that “you get what you pay for” and it is so true in Real Estate.

Let me submit that Real Estate offers numerous “business models” ranging from “full service” (like me) to “limited service” (marketed as “you pay for the services you actually use.  Be very careful what you leave out!!!) to “discount Brokers” (they say they do what I do for less.  Perhaps.  But, perhaps NOT!).  Some agencies will only charge you a small fee to get your listing online and then they let YOU handle EVERYTHING else (this means calls for appointments, letting people in, receiving their inquiries, receiving and responding to any offers and handling all the details that are so vital to getting you to the settlement table).

I respect that we have many different business models and am only suggesting that consumers make sure they really understand what they are getting for what they pay.

Unfortunately, we have a two-part problem.  One is that too many consumers do NOT fully realize what we do after the listing contract is signed, the “For Sale” sign is installed, the multiple listing service and Internet sites are “uploaded” and the highlight sheets are delivered.  Frankly, those are the “tip of the iceberg” but extremely important to a successful sale.  Technology has made this part easier and most buyers can readily find listings to look at.  That, however, should not make a seller feel that we are worth less because we really earn our money after the buyer finds the house (assuming they present an offer and we “settle”).  Keeping up with technology costs us yet I have not increased my fee.

Assuming that I market a house effectively, meaning that buyers and their agents can find it in their searches, how quickly a house sells really depends on how realistically a seller prices their house.  Unless a buyer is paying cash, which is rare (I would also mention that cash buyers generally expect to pay less as they are not tied to a loan approval or lender’s appraisal), a sale has to appraise.  Emotions aside, buyers will coldly evaluate a house based on location, features and condition.  A seller picks their competition when they price their house and buyers want a value.  I wonder if I could raise my fee if a house stays on the market longer than expected?

Rather than looking to cut our fees because it is easier for buyers to find their houses, sellers should be grateful that technology helps bring buyers and sellers together.  Sellers need to understand how much work it takes to make an agreement produce a sale.  The “average” “for sale by owner”, referred to as an “unrepresented seller”, will accept the challenge and rise to the occasion as far as making flyers, advertising and setting up appointments.  Where they lose steam rapidly is when someone calls and expresses interest in making an offer.  Look at my Real Estate designations and education and know that I have been in this business full time since September 1996.  No disrespect intended but can the “average” seller really expect to do what I do after watching television, reading a book or attending a seminar?  Probably not.  Having sold or bought a house before does not make anyone “experienced”.  The overwhelming majority of “unrepresented sellers” will soon give up and contact a professional.  That should tell you all you need to know about trying to save the fee/ commission.

The second part of the problem is US:  many of US simply do NOT tell YOU everything we do so you may assume that we do little.  Frankly, some of US should be working elsewhere.

I do understand that it is “normal” to try to save money and that many sellers simply need to “cut corners” to be able to take the next step in their lives.  I am simply suggesting that this should lead to an open and honest discussion with a Real Estate professional so that you do not undermine your plans.  There are some sellers who simply cannot make a move at any given time.

Let me conclude with two thoughts.  First, selling Real Estate is more complicated than it looks and the process offers no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!  A house is a big investment so choose your options wisely.  Second, it is easy to appeal to the “average” seller with two “gimmicks”.  Agents can suggest a higher listing price than I would.  This is both stupid and deadly:  the house may not get shown, it probably won’t receive much interest if shown and, if you manage to sell it, it probably will NOT “appraise” anyway.  The added time on the market may result in a lower eventual selling price than you might achieve if you started at a realistic asking price.  Alternatively, they may offer to work for less.  Do you really want to have an agent who so quickly gives up their own money representing your best interests???  If they are working for less they need to have more volume and they need to sell your house as quickly AS possible to minimize their own costs.  How concerned might they be about getting you a few extra thousand dollars?  If an agent agrees to work for less, please make sure that what you offer the buyer agent is competitive so that you do not discourage showings.

Again consider your options wisely.  They are not all as attractive as they may appear.  I would be happy to answer your questions and go into further detail if you wish.
HIRE WISELY!

Thank you for reading.

 

The Spring Market is ending. What should we do?

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 4:50 PM

You may have tried selling your house this Spring and not succeeded.  Perhaps you had planned to put your house on the market but the process was delayed.  What should you do?  Should you wait until next Spring?  Perhaps you can be ready for the second-best time of year (typically September is a good month).  Believe it or not, many sellers seem to believe that there is an “invisible hand” at work here and that they have little to no control over the market.

Let me be quite clear:  a properly priced and properly marketed home can sell anytime.  In fact, houses sell each and every day of the year!  If a house is over-priced or unable to be found in online searches (this is my definition of poor marketing) by a “ready, willing and able buyer”, the chances of selling are greatly reduced.  The fact is that people’s reasons for buying are varied and their desire or need to buy may be unpredictable so I always ask my seller-clients what is important to them?  If they want to wait for what they hope or think is going to be a better time, so be it but that may mean delaying their own plans and, if they are going to be buying another house, doing so could be co$tly whether measured in emotions and/ or dollars.

The question about when to sell usually comes up in the Fall or Winter.  I tell my prospective Seller clients that people who are out looking at houses in colder weather tend to be fairly serious, that houses usually look “their best” at that time of year and that if they are NOT on the market they will NOT sell.  Inventory “tends” to shrink as “fair weather” (literally!) Sellers don’t want the aggravation of showings while they are preparing to celebrate the holidays.  That helps those houses which are made available.  It can also come up after the start of the New Year and I offer the same advice.  Some will listen; others will not.

The “should I wait” question is interesting.  That depends on how serious a Seller is as far as what their level of urgency is.  Assuming there is no financial duress, what are the ramifications of NOT selling?  I often hear that Sellers are looking to change their life style.  In that case, why would anyone put their happiness “on hold”?

Obviously there are numerous other factors to consider but the simple, direct answer is that the answer to this question depends on YOU and NOT the temperature outside or your perceptions about the market.  What works best for your circumstances?  Decide that and then decide what is realistic.

HIRE WISELY!

Thank you for reading.

 

The Difference between “Vision” and “Action”

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 4:38 PM

I tell my clients, both Buyers and Sellers, that EVERY Real Estate transaction has “Five Steps to a Sale“.  In fact, I created a Word document describing these steps and posted it on my web site (AndrewWetzel.com).  I tell my clients that you may cut corners and one or more steps may evolve quickly but you have to “touch all the bases” to complete the transaction regardless of the amount of the sale or location of the property.

The “Five Steps” essentially involve three distinct phases:  vision/ planning; action; settlement.  In the vision/ planning phase Buyers and Sellers each have unique tasks to accomplish.  Both need to decide which Realtor to use, when to start the process and what expectation to have as to how and when the process will (hopefully) conclude.  Sellers need to determine an asking price, consider what (if any) preparation must be done prior to marketing the home, discuss how the home will be marketed, determine a course of action should the results be insufficient to generate a sale and make plans for after the sale among other things.  Buyers need to talk with a lender to determine what they can and are comfortable spending, determine where they want to consider living and what they really need in a home among other things.  The planning phase must include setting expectations/ bench marks that will be “re-visited” as needed.

The action phases for both will be a natural extension of the vision/ planning phase and, frequently, additional planning will need to be done as actions generate (or do not generate) “expected” results.  For Buyers, “action” involves reviewing potential properties (meaning looking at printouts and online postings), previewing them (meaning driving by before going inside), actually seeing them, evaluating them to review their plans, adjusting their plans, making an offer and other things.  For Sellers, “action” involves allowing showings, responding to feedback, taking responsibility for what happens when results are unsatisfactory, adjusting plans/ expectations and other things.

Now, lets discuss the disconnect when “vision” or “action” are missing.  Of course, either or both can derail any expectation of reaching settlement.

For Buyers:  they may do all the work necessary but never quite get around to looking at houses.  I have seen prospects seemingly fall off the face of the earth after talking to a lender and having me set up automatic emails with new listings.  This is relatively painless for Realtors even if it wastes time and creates frustration.  The sooner this happens the better for all concerned.  On the other hand, Buyers who want to start looking at everything on the market without a plan are real time wasters.  Experienced Realtors know that EVERY Buyer must talk to a lender before “shopping”!!!  Unfortunately, some Realtors start showing house after house after house and, even though they start to get the feeling that their efforts are going nowhere, they fear ending the relationship.  I cannot tell you how many times agents have told me that their buyer is only now getting “pre-qualified” when providing “feedback” after a property showings.

For Sellers:  a number of them put their property on the market, are “shocked” when they come to realize that the demand for their home is much less than they expected (this is demonstrated by few showings and/ or low or no offers) or they change their mind about selling and they take their home off the market.  This can happen even if the Realtor did all they could to explain the market to the Seller.  On the other hand, there are Sellers who get offers that they are afraid to accept because they never quite determined where they would move and what that would cost are out there.

The bottom line is that it is our job as professional Realtors to set the expectations early on and make sure that Buyers and Sellers have a realistic “vision” and are prepared when the “action” starts.  We can’t look into their souls and know if they are serious and that is part of our challenge.  Some clients should pay us a retainer up front!!!

HIRE WISELY!

Thanks for reading.

REALTOR: Realtors Earn A Living Taking On Responsibility

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 4:29 PM

What is a REALTOR?  Unfortunately, for those of us who are really REALTORS, the term has been mistakenly used to refer to all Real Estate Agents.  While both terms, REALTORS and Real Estate Agents, have much in common, there is one significant difference:  a REALTOR is a member of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) and that means we subscribe to a formal Code of Ethics.  That is the “responsibility” referenced in the title phrase.  This may or may not mean that the average REALTOR is more ethical than the average Real Estate Agent but I would respectfully question why a consumer would entrust what is perhaps their biggest financial transaction to someone who (1) is NOT required to honor a formal Code of Ethics and (2) who is not a member of the largest professional association in the United States?

Through the National Association of REALTORS, the REALTOR community has consistently advocated legislation that helps to promote and to protect home ownership.  For example, NAR has been instrumental in preventing politicians from raising the “Realty Transfer Tax”, saving both Buyers and Sellers lots of money.  Many Buyers struggle to accumulate money to pay their “closing costs” and any savings makes buying a home more likely.  Sellers should be able to have their equity protected rather than adding to the government tax collection.  Space does not permit me to go on but there are countless other success stories.

Hiring a REALTOR also means that you are working with an Agent who is committed to a formal Code of Ethics.  Should you have reason to believe that your Agent failed to abide by the Code, you may file a complaint with your local Board of REALTORS.  As a former Co-Chair of my Board’s Grievance Committee (we reviewed complaints to decide which moved forward to a formal hearing) and as a current Co-Chair of our Professional Standards Committee (we hear the “cases” and evaluate whether a violation of the Code of Ethics occurred), let me tell you that we take complaints very seriously.  Our reputation is hard earned and too easily compromised.  If your Agent is not a REALTOR, there are ways to file a complaint but that is more difficult and there is NO Code of Ethics.

If you would like a copy of the Code of Ethics, please contact me or search online.  It is NOT a secret even if your Real Estate Agent never mentioned it.

In closing, the fee you agree to pay your Agent is negotiable but there is no added cost to hire a REALTOR.  However, there may be a difference in the delivery of service.  Does it make sense to take that risk with your largest asset?

HIRE WISELY!

Thank you for reading.

How to be a SERIOUS Buyer! Part 7 (of 7)

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 4:07 PM

You have done all of the planning and the hard work and found a house that you really like.  So, what do you do now???  The answer is “it depends”.  For this post I am assuming that you are buying a residential property that you will actually live in.  If you are an investor, your process will most likely be different.  Disclaimer:  if you are represented by an agent, please discuss what to do with them as this post is just my humble opinion.

How the residential Buyer proceeds will depend upon several factors.  For example, is this the first house you have seen?  Most Buyers do not buy the first one but maybe you got lucky.  Are you really comfortable with the location?  Is this house really the “ONE” that you cannot live without or is it something you think you can get at a “good price”?  Are you a risk taker and willing to “gamble” on hard negotiating?  Depending on how the Seller perceives the market, this could lead to “unintended consequences” if you bid really low and make further negotiating awkward.  This is a pivotal moment:  you and your agent really need to discuss a strategy you can live with.  There may not be a “do over”.

Here is a “peek” inside my mind.

First, I work for my clients and have a fiduciary responsibility to “protect and promote their best interests” (Article One of our Realtor Code of Ethics).  If they ask me to write an offer I will BUT, if I think they are in a panic OR considering buying a home that is substantially different from what they have told me they want or need, I try to make them really think about it.  This is a big decision and mistakes are costly.  One of my favorite stories involves my NOT writing an offer for Buyers (with three small children) leaving for an out-of-state wedding who were concerned that their house was settling in 6 weeks and they had no place to go.  We discussed a game plan and they thanked me for stopping them from making a really bad mistake.

Second, we need to sit down and do “the paperwork”.  There are forms that a Buyer needs to complete and there is work that I need to do.  Some of this can be done ahead of time but many Buyers find the “right house” unexpectedly.  This part involves three aspects.  One:  I need to provide Buyers with an estimate of their closing costs based on what they intend to offer (the lender should have done so already and theirs will probably be more accurate than mine at least in terms of the lender’s fees).  If they are not sure what they will offer, I can use “full price” to show them the “worst-case scenario”.  In a Sellers’ Market offers may come in “over asking price” so I have to plan accordingly.  One thing to understand is that what a Buyer offers is like CASH to the Seller but mostly just an addition to their “projected” monthly payment.  I do not want to minimize it but a few thousand dollars could be the difference between getting a house or not and the monthly cost for every extra thousand dollars offered is a few dollars (I usually estimate that it costs about $5 per month for every extra $1000 offered).  Two:  I research the property itself (how long has it been on the market, have there been any price reductions, when was it last sold, etc.).  This will give my client some information to think about as they determine their “bid strategy”.  You would be amazed at how many agents do NOT know that a listing has been on the market before the current marketing effort!  Three:  I do a CMA (a Competitive or Comparative Market Analysis).  This will tell us what similar houses have sold for (the “range” of values), what any seller concessions may have been, etc.  Ideally, I will have given the Buyer a blank Agreement of Sale and we would have discussed it, especially the inspection clauses.

Third, we discuss a “strategy”.  What a Buyer chooses to do is up to them; my role is to provide guidance and answer their questions.  For example, in a competitive market the Buyer might want to consider that they may get to make only ONE OFFER.  Even in this market there are some houses that sell quickly for full price or more:  Real Estate is truly “local” and “values’ can change block by block.  In a competitive situation there are a number of ways to “elevate” your offer (they include the price, seller concessions, the earnest money deposit, mortgage amount, inspections, settlement date, etc.).  A winning strategy involves proper planning and presentation.  The Buyer’s agent has much to do with whether an offer gets accepted or not.  A strong agent may help a “weak” offer to some extent and a weak agent can hurt any offer.

The final part of this strategy involves discussing what happens next.  I tell Buyers to think about how high they would be willing to go.  I want them to think about the process and have something in mind if and when I call them back with the Seller’s “counter-offer”.  The Buyer and their agent must be available to each other.  Some processes evolve quickly (for better or worse) while others drag on (especially “short sales and foreclosures).  Listing agents are different:  some are easier to work with while others will try your patience.  Focus on the goal and do your best.  This can be a very frustrating process as most people do not like to wait or have others make decisions for them.

An unsuccessful offer restarts the process with another house.  While frustrating, a prepared Buyer just needs to re-commit to what they already started and, perhaps, learn from this situation.

A successful offer presumably ends the “marketing” of the house (depending on “contingencies” and Seller’s instructions to their agent) and starts the “inspection” phase and finalizing the mortgage for the Buyer.  This phase is best discussed between a Buyer and their agent.

Remember:  it is not over until the Buyer has the keys to the house and the Seller has the Buyer’s money.

Happy house hunting!

HIRE WISELY!

What is an Effective Price Reduction?

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 3:59 PM

P R I C E  R E D U C T I O N.  Are there any other two words that can elicit such a negative, deep-down reaction from a Seller?  As a REALTOR, a price reduction is a marketing tool, nothing more and nothing less.  I understand that when an agent says “let’s reduce $10,000” that most Sellers won’t just say “great idea”!  However, there are two points I want to stress as I elaborate on my professional opinion.

First and foremost, I would like to be able to assume that an agent and their client discuss pricing at the outset and that, even if both parties disagree about the price, there is some reasoning as well as a follow up plan.  Some Sellers like to “try” a price.  Depending on the market (including the amount of competition), the time of year and the Seller’s “motivation” for selling, that may be a valid thought as long as the Seller does not expect the agent or Broker to “go broke” marketing an over-priced property with limited appeal.  As I mentioned in another post, most of my Seller-clients were already unsuccessful with another agent.  It would be all too easy to recommend a price reduction since most people think that the only answer when a property is not selling.  In my experience, price is NOT always the reason for failure.

A complete market analysis will help me evaluate that but I frequently suggest that we keep the price the same to see if my marketing efforts will succeed.  On occasion I have actually felt that the price was too low and was successful with a price increase!  The “bottom line” is that I want my Seller client to walk away from “closing” with as much money in their pocket as possible (of course, that changes when the Buyer is my client!).  Whether they are buying something else or putting the money under their pillow, like the tax dollars they pay, it is the Seller’s money.  Asking for a price reduction as your first strategy, unless agreed to previously, does not demonstrate “putting your client’s interests first”.  I have seen several properties where the listing agent got the Seller to take reduction after reduction OR reductions that made no marketing sense whatsoever!  The key point is that an effective price reduction either “positions” your property where different Buyers will “find” it OR makes it more competitive with other choices that a Buyer may have.

Second, I understand that Sellers have expectations.  If you price a house at $300,000 dollars, no matter what an agent says, many Sellers become “attached” to that number.  A few years ago I had a Seller who really did not understand the marketing process and was too attached to their property.  The property had originally been listed at $499,900 and the contract “expired” after 164 days with no reduction.  I met the Sellers and told them that their house had issues that severely limited its appeal (very busy street, rancher, cosmetic repairs needed) and suggested an asking price of $450,000 to start with the idea that that might be too high (there were not that many houses available in the $400k -$500k range so the numbers look a little different when compared to a lower price point).  They wanted to list at $459,000 which, while only $9000 higher than my suggestion, placed the house in a different “position”/ “search bracket”.  After a month with little activity I recommended a reduction.  They declined to even discuss it.  After the second month I was able to meet with the wife and strongly encouraged a reduction.  She was firm in declining and said that they “had already given up $40,000”.  I asked what she meant (I knew but I wanted to hear her explanation) and she said that she felt that her house was worth the original asking price of $499,000.  My listing contract “expired” and they have used several agents since then and continue to own the house.

Pricing is one of the “4 P’s” of marketing Real Estate and it is the one aspect that Sellers have the most control over.  The current market has changed some of the “old thinking” so pricing is more critical than before.  It requires a definite strategy and a plan.

HIRE WISELY

Why I Got Into and Stay Real Estate

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 3:51 PM

In the day-to-day activities of being a REALTOR it is important that we remember that this is really a “people business”.  Given my background in management and client service, I look at selling properties and working with Sellers and Buyers as a “short-term project” with a series of underlying “tasks” that need to be managed/ accomplished to attain the ultimate goal of my client.  Some of these tasks “stand alone” while others are interdependent and, when “things go right”, they fall like dominoes.  I fully understand the responsibilities of “agency” and “ethics” but, at times, the focus can shift to the tasks rather than the people.

Most of my clients are Sellers and most of them were already unsuccessful with one or more agents before allowing me the opportunity to help them.  Sadly, many were talked into a price reduction when it was poor marketing that kept them from selling!  It is very rewarding to help Sellers reach their goal.  For some, this simply means selling an investment property.  For others, their property needs to be sold so they can move into a more desirable area or a bigger house.  Selling an “estate” allows family members to move forward in their lives.  Some simply cannot afford their house any longer or have decided to sell for any number of reasons.

Very early in my career I saw an elderly couple really struggle with the moving process.  They could no longer remain in their family home because of health and mobility issues.  Unfortunately, they had little help from their grown children and packing up years of acquired possessions created much unanticipated and needless stress.  That really taught me to look beyond the obvious:  getting a signed sales contract is really just the end of the marketing process but possibly the start of a lot of work for Sellers.

Residential Buyers (as compared to Investors) present a different opportunity, especially if they are buying their first home.  For some, the dream of owning their own home is a long, difficult process that many take for granted.  Some think they cannot afford to buy and helping them reach that goal is very rewarding.  The present economy makes each step even more difficult than in the past and some Buyers get so frustrated that they actually consider stopping the process.  Many turn to renting (often more expensive than paying a mortgage!), which, unlike the old days, becomes a vicious cycle too often preventing people from saving for a “down payment”.

Fundamentally, all REALTORS are “allowed” to work for Sellers and Buyers but a relatively small percentage are specifically trained/ certified to do so and not all are equally capable of assisting both types of clients.  I am an ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative), an SRS (Seller Representative Specialist) and I am certified to teach agents the courses required to earn both designations.

HIRE WISELY!

How to be a SERIOUS Buyer! Part 6 (of 7)

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 3:39 PM

Let me start with a recap.  Please read my earlier posts if you want to “fill in the blanks”.

You have gotten “pre-qualified” with a reputable lender and determined how much of your hard earned money you want to spend, you have determined where you want to live, you have established a manageable list of “must have” features (along with some “nice to have” items) and you have a list of “possible matches” for your search criteria as well as a game plan to ensure that you get regular updates.  So, what do you do now?

First, assuming you have picked an agent to provide you with regular updates, make sure that you are comfortable with the plan.  Obviously whatever “arrangement” you make with an agent is your business BUT understand what you are doing.  For example, TREND (the MLS we use in this area) has an outstanding feature called “automatic email prospecting“.  I can set up a “prospecting file” for a Buyer and, after they “subscribe” to my incoming emails (the MLS has “anti-spam” rules), they will receive updates as often as they like when something happens that impacts their search.  This includes brand new listings, price-reduced listings (either “within” your “range” or “into” your range) and “back on the market listings” (when deals fail or when showings resume).  These emails go out automatically, “matching” listings with the search criteria entered for Buyers.

As with any search, the results are only as good as the data input and the MLS cannot analyze “subjective” criteria.  Over time most buyers will adjust their search criteria as some features gain importance while others seem less important.  The goal is to have multiple choices to consider.  Given a choice, I would rather risk sending you some property listings you do not like than not sending you something you will like.  The simple fact is that serious buyers need to look closely at every property listing emailed to them as soon as they can because you never know when something spectacular will come your way.

Second, whatever system you use, you have to look at the new information to make it work for you.  For my clients, this means making it a priority to check your email frequently, depending on how often you want updates.  However you do that, please remember that the MLS has over many, many buyers receiving updates and there is no way to know how many other buyers are seeing the same properties as you.  Who do you want to get the information first, them or you?  Many houses are lost by the slightest delay.  I can tell you that another one will be there for you but ….

Open the information and review it.  I highly recommend that you drive to the house and look at the exterior and, equally important, the neighborhood.  In the “good old days”, I recommended that Buyers visit a neighborhood three times BEFORE making an offer (one or more of these will include a look inside AFTER the initial neighborhood visit to eliminate areas and houses that do not meet your needs).  Ideally, the times will include a weekday (daylight does wonders when evaluating a neighborhood), an evening (how much parking is available?) and the weekend (curious about your potential neighbors?  Prefer to live where there are children?).  How much you want to do to choose a house is up to you.  It is hard work but shortcuts are costly!  I can only offer advice.  Most of my Buyers clients buy after seeing inside 10-12 houses (they eliminate many more online and by looking at the neighborhood) AND they remain in their house much longer than “average” because they usually buy houses that really meet their needs.  Of course I get less “repeat business” than many agents but the process is “about YOU!”.

Two additional thoughts.  First, I suggest that buyers do not readily dismiss properties they “think” will not meet their needs.  While driving to see a house that does not appear to be viable for you, doing so may take you into areas with which you are not familiar so that may open your eyes and mind to something you may have otherwise overlooked.  Second, if you are getting many updates you may want to add to your “wish list” to narrow your choices.  Alternatively, if you are getting very little, if possible, you may want to cut back a little.  Your choice of course!

When you decide to buy a house, you are BUYING the NEIGHBORHOOD!  Just ask anyone who found out too late that they did not like their neighborhood.  It always seems that everyone else knows what they did not.

Please read my other posts which will cover a variety of topics on making and negotiating offers, handling inspections and many other aspects of buying and selling Real Estate.

Thanks for reading.

How to be a SERIOUS Buyer! Part 5 (of 7)

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 3:25 PM

The search is underway!  The next challenge, unless you have already “hired” a Realtor to “represent” your interests, is to not only get information about all currently available properties that match your “minimum” criteria BUT to set up a system to ensure that you will be notified as new matches become available.  Knowledge is KING!  That is what they say about web content but that statement is just as true when it comes to searching for a new house (or any other product!).  You could have the best possible list of houses TODAY but guess what?  Each and every day, every day of the year, new houses come on the market, houses go “under contract”, deals fall through (some houses will come back on the market), house prices get reduced (some houses will get reduced within your price range; others will get reduced into your price range) and other houses simply go off the market.

Here is a simple test:  have a Realtor (I would happily assist you with this if you are looking in Delaware, Chester or Montgomery Counties) email you a list of properties (you could get a printout but the follow up is more tedious) and save that email.  Then open it up in 7 days and see what happened (each house entry is really a “link” to the property information so changes in status and price will appear when you open the email).  Do this again in 14 days if you wish.  Then do it in 30 days.  The list could change dramatically.  There is one flaw:  no new properties will have been added to your list!  The point is that you need regular, updated information.  Other Buyers have it.  If they are looking at the same type of property that you are, you may miss out completely on a house or be at a disadvantage if they find a house first.  I completely understand that looking for a house involves work BUT it is a short term effort that is so important.  Realtors make it easier!

It doesn’t matter how much time you have or what web sites you use, a Buyer simply cannot stay “current” without the help of a Realtor.  While Internet sites give you the opportunity to receive updates, I contend that their information is not as current or as detailed as what we can offer!  That being said, you need to make certain that your agent knows what you want and that they provide it.  This is a service-oriented business and you have many choices as far as which Realtor to hire:  tell us what you need and hold us accountable.  Agents have a variety of ways of doing business and they should be responsive to your needs.

If you really want to search without a Realtor, be prepared to risk being less informed than others competing for properties with you.  I will assume that you will use a Realtor.

Thank you for reading!

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