Andrew Wetzel's Musings

August 5, 2019

The PAR Listing Contract, Paragraph 13: ADDITIONAL OFFERS

Filed under: Buying,Ethics,Hiring an agent,Marketing,Multiple Offers,Price,Selling — awetzel @ 3:09 PM

I created and am teaching a class on representing sellers from the Consumer Notice through settlement.  As part of my preparation for the class I reviewed the PAR Listing Contract in detail.  I have always questioned two specific statements in paragraph 13 which is titled ADDITIONAL OFFERS.  I have worked around these two statements in my own business and used the classroom as a way to see if other agents agreed with me.  Most did.  Here are the statements and my thoughts.

Line 118 basically says:  “Unless prohibited by Seller, if Broker is asked …, Broker will reveal the existence of other offers”.  While I understand and appreciate that we have to be honest, our primary duty as stated in Article 1 of our Code of Ethics is to protect and promote our client’s interest.  Generally speaking, I am not sure that telling an agent or a buyer that you have an offer on a property really helps the seller especially if the offer is not something they are likely to sign and/ or the buyer wants to avoid what may not really be any viable competition for the property.  The question demands a yes or no answer, not a maybe.  Suppose you have an unopened email or a package that you know contains an offer for a property you have listed.  You may have no idea about the details:  it could be full price or above asking or well below.  There could be contingencies that are unacceptable to your seller client.  Are you supposed to tell others that you have an offer?  Again, you cannot say “maybe”.

I offer two alternatives for rewording the sentence to be more proactive.  One would be a statement that the agent will not reveal the existence of other offers unless authorized by the seller.  Or it could state that the agent is authorized.  Either way, the statement is plain and simple.  This may be semantics but I like these phrasings better.  The other alternative would be a check box offering the seller the choice to accept or waive disclosing the existence of other offers at the time of signing the listing contract.  When the disclosure is waived the agent would respond by saying they are not authorized to answer the question.  Again, if authorized the answer is an honest yes or no.  In addition, suppose you say yes or no and the circumstance changes, perhaps an offer dies or one comes in.  Does the seller or the buyer’s agent or the buyer expect a real-time update?

At the very least, my hope would be that there is a greater likelihood that a conversation would take place than is probably happening now and that is a good thing.  Too many of my seller clients who have worked with other agents before hiring me have told me that they were negotiating an offer or heard there was interest and then nothing happened.  When I mentioned my concerns to my students I sensed that many never gave a thought to the downside of this:  some buyers run the other way when they hear about competition and line 118 does not differentiate between viable and non-viable offers.  Of course, we have many different business models and if a property is located in a market that thrives on any type of competition, disclose to your heart’s content but one size does not fit all.  We have to know our clients, their circumstances and their local market.

Within the same paragraph, line 120 states that “ONCE SELLER ENTERS INTO AN AGREEMENT OF SALE, BROKER IS NOT REQUIRED TO PRESENT OTHER OFFERS”.  My office policy has always been to present any and all offers and let the seller decide what to do.  Admittedly this may require their seeking legal advice if they like the latest offer even though under contract with another buyer with their having no apparent right to terminate the existing offer without creating a default.  Experience tells me that the grass is not always greener but it is their house!  Either way, the client is the boss and gets to make those decisions.  I advise and they decide.

My questioning this particular statement has a more basic rationale:  when a seller signs an agreement of sale, we are required by MLS rules to change the status within 3 business days.  In addition, our Code of Ethics Article 3 and RELRA require that we disclose the existence of accepted offers.  The keyword is accepted meaning that a contract has been signed.  It is the right thing to do.  Bright MLS offers two status choices:  A/C, meaning active under contract, or PENDING.

A/C technically means that the seller is still allowing showings, presumably as a way to limit the damage should the contract fall through while PENDING stops showings.  Buyers sometimes wonder why and we have to assure them that they have a viable contract although some find this unsettling and it can affect the process.

Many agents, whether it is their thinking or their client’s, use A/C and, while true or not, agents have always complained that agents who use the A/C status often do not allow showings which is a violation of our rules and makes no sense.  That is a separate matter but, given the likelihood of using A/C rather than PENDING, it makes no sense to have the seller agree that we not present any additional offers while we seem to be encouraging them.  I think we either need to change this statement or offer options depending on the MLS status chosen.  Again, let’s force another conversation.  We live in the age of scanning and email with electronic signing.  Real Estate is a people business and yet technology seems to separate us.  Sometimes I see the negative impact of that when I am asked to mediate a dispute or chair a panel hearing an ethics complaint.  The root of many problems is a failure to effectively communicate.

Of course either statement could be modified by changing the contract itself as I am doing or by using an addendum.  The question is whether either happens or is the seller put in a precarious position perhaps by an agent who does not understand the potential consequences.  Given that buying a house is typically the largest purchase someone will ever make and that the process itself is emotional enough even in the best of circumstances, I think we need to better prepare our clients for what may happen and that means making it easier for agents to explain the steps in the process and what may go wrong.  While having a sale fall through can be traumatic, it does not come close to how a buyer or seller feels when the process got in the way of itself.  The damage cannot be easily undone.

I know that no one wants longer contracts but I see these two statements as problematic.  On a related note, our state required property disclosure statement is almost the same number of pages as our state purchase agreement.  That is amazing to me!

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

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May 4, 2019

Multiple Offers: To Disclose or Not?

Real Estate offers many opportunities to peer into the personalities of people with whom we work.  Sometimes what we find is not what we expected.  As a professional I have laws and a Code of Ethics to guide me as well as my integrity and value system.  My clients have the same except for the Code of Ethics, of course.  One topic that brings this into focus is that of “multiple offers”, meaning that more than one buyer is actively interested in buying the same piece of Real Estate.

Some buyers are so interested in a specific property and so willing to compete for it with others that they will plunge into the deep end of the pool to do whatever they can to win.  They may start with their “highest and best offer”.  Others, despite being interested, are either risk-averse or perhaps distrusting of others when told there is competition.  Some may wish to avoid competition to prevent over-spending or they may need to meet a deadline for finalizing a move (meaning that they cannot go back-and-forth).

One of my favorite analogies is comparing buying and selling Real Estate to “playing poker”:  each party wants to know more about the other than is readily obvious.  Buyers may want to know whether there is competition for a specific property.  Some people, including licensed agents, may think the answer a matter of courtesy or simply being honest.  However, the PAR listing contract is the governing document.  The language in paragraph 13 (“Additional Offers”) states that “Unless prohibited by Seller, if Broker is asked by a buyer or another licensee(s) about the existence of other offers on the Property, Broker will reveal the existence of other offers”.  A separate matter is whether the actual terms are confidential or not.  Absent a signed “confidentiality” agreement, the terms of an offer should not be considered confidential.

Let’s assume that the word “existence” means written, executable offers and not the mere expression of interest from someone.  If the seller permits this disclosure, the listing agent must say “yes” or “no”:  they have to answer truthfully!  If prohibited from answering the question, the agent must respond with words to the effect that they are not authorized to answer the question.  Is providing knowledge about competition in the seller’s best interests?  How important is the “if asked” aspect?

One of the primary reasons that a seller should hire a professional is to rely on our knowledge and insight.  The Internet and your friends and family may or may not provide a great deal of data and information but a professional can put it all together.  I tell my seller-clients that I assume that I AM PROHIBITED from making this disclosure and discuss my thinking with them.  I may ask them to change that later but I have never had a seller disagree.  Which is more likely:  a buyer will make an offer when they know there is competition OR a buyer will walk away when they do not know?

Taken literally, if not prohibited from answering the question, a listing agent would have to disclose the existence of low offers which may not interest their seller-client.  Does that make any sense?

Unfortunately, many buyer-agents do not even ask if there is competition.  I am told that many listing agents are allowed to disclose the existence of other offers and think it a great strategy but should they disclose that without being asked by the buyer’s agent?  Many buyer-agents do not even make the effort to confirm that a property is still available.  Bright MLS allows listing agents 3-business-days to update the listing status so an “Active” property may not really be available.  Can a buyer be harmed by their not knowing that someone else purchased the property?  At the very least, time was wasted preparing an offer.  Even worse, perhaps their showing should have been canceled!

Strategies may differ but it must be noted that the seller is the boss and makes the decision about disclosing.  An experienced agent can advise but is compelled to abide by their client’s wishes.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same.

April 24, 2019

Why is the Initial Marketing Time so Critical?

Your house just hit the market after weeks of planning and cleaning and dreaming about how it would all turn out!  Would you get full price, any unusual requests or conditions, would you be able to find a new home that made leaving your present home easier to handle?  Everything seemed possible.

Then NOTHING HAPPENED!  The market essentially yawned.  What does this mean?

Even though getting your home on the market created so much anticipation and disruption in your life, let’s look at the other side of the equation.  You dipped your toe into an already churning market with however many prospective buyers already looking and evaluating and making decisions.  Whether you are in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market, there is a good chance that you will not see every prospect looking for a house like yours but you would like to see as many as possible.  Of course there is no way to know how many are looking right now so let’s take a broader look at what is possible.

How many buyers will enter the market tomorrow?  How many have already decided to make an offer on a specific house or are currently negotiating one?  How many have given up, deciding to wait for whatever reason?  You may be able to appeal to any of these, including buyers already “under contract”, as long as they like what you have and they have a way to end their current process.  However, your listing MUST be able to be found in their search results or they will not even know it is For Sale.

Let’s go back to my original point.  I would argue that the current number of prospective buyers is greater than the number who will enter the market in the next few weeks.  So, if none of them makes an offer, what do you do?  Perhaps some will come to see your house and do nothing.  They could change their mind later if they were getting their finances in order and/ or evaluating the overall market before taking action.  Or not.  Perhaps one of more will make overtures that could become promising if your agent knows how to handle that opportunity.  Or not.  The real question is how long do you wait before taking action to increase your odds for succeeding?

You can wait for the market to re-form or you could attempt to hook a buyer already looking but not committed to a house.  How do you do that?  If you are satisfied that your house is being properly marketed, meaning that, other than the price, it will come out in the proper search results, the price has to be a concern.  If you think that your competition has more to offer than your house you could wait until they all get contracts.  Of course, new competition will present itself.  It always does.

Patience is a wonderful thing and I respect sellers who are patient but, at some point, unless a seller decides to remain in their present home, something has to change.  You cannot keep doing the same thing over and over and over again.  A seller has two controllable variables:  the agent they hire and their asking price.  Sometimes changing agents is good as it provides a different perspective.  Changing your price requires a strategy and it may affect your overall plan, especially if you are buying another house.

A price reduction has to accomplish one of two things:  it either has to motivate a buyer who knows about your house but has not made an offer OR it has to re-position your house to a new group of buyers.  Pricing is important and taking a reduction just for the sake of taking one, especially if marketing is THE real problem, only serves to lower your proceeds and perhaps impact your options.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

Why I Enjoy Being a REALTOR®

After working in retail for a number of years I decided to make a change.  Like many, I was fascinated with Real Estate and made plans to get my license.  I did three things to prepare myself for the adjustment.  First, I started reading books about sales and then about Real Estate.  I read 12 books on sales and then 4 about working in Real Estate.  I stopped when the books got redundant and I felt that I knew enough to move forward.  Second, I selected 4 different Real Estate companies to contact and interview.  I found two of them interesting even though I was not yet ready to make a commitment.

The third step was time consuming but critical:  I wanted to try a sales position to make sure it was something I could enjoy before pursuing a career in Real Estate.  While many of us think it too easy to get licensed, it does require investments in time and money so I wanted to be prepared.  After becoming comfortable in sales, I was ready to commit to a Real Estate company.  The rest is history.

I took an extra step and became a REALTOR® which means that I belong to local, state and national REALTOR® Associations and subscribe to a formal Code of Ethics.  I have also taken many courses and earned several designations and certifications to improve my knowledge so that I can better represent my clients.  I consider myself an advisor or consultant rather than a salesperson.  As an Associate Broker I am allowed to call myself that whereas a basic licensee is not.  I work for sellers and for buyers, advising them and helping them reach their goals.  I view our relationship as a partnership although they get to make the decisions.

Like many, I had a mixed perception of “sales people” and did not want to use persuasion to convince people to do things that were not in their own best interests so that I could earn a living.  Sadly, I see people in different sales positions whose only goal seems to be to make money.  This can be especially problematic in Real Estate given the costs involved and the impact on people’s financial situation.

As a seller agent, I have enjoyed helping sellers move on in their life, many times helping sellers who had tried and failed to sell with one or more other agents.  Listing contracts typically “expire” as a result of over-pricing and/ or poor marketing.  People move for a variety of reasons and they need to determine whether the selling price or the length of time before selling is more important to them.  I have helped sellers who wanted larger or smaller homes, wanted a better neighborhood or school district for their children, were tired of dealing with tenants, who were selling estates of family members as well as other reasons.  I can assist a seller with the preparation generally required before we market a home and make it available for showings and offers.  There are many more details along the way than most sellers realize just as there are a variety of reasons for selling Real Estate.  All agents are not the same!

As a buyer agent, I have helped many purchase their first home, their next home or an investment property.  This can be very interesting if they are selling one property to buy another.  I enjoy showing people houses where they can begin a new chapter in their life or continue on their path.  Having children involved can make it more fun.  There are times when their children do not want to move and there are times when seeing children excited about their new adventure makes the process very fulfilling.  When people buy a home they are buying a lifestyle, making it a very important decision.

Helping clients these days is more complicated than it was during my first few years.  The Internet has changed things and it often adds confusion to the process.  It helps sellers by exposing their properties to the public and allows buyers to shop online for houses to consider.  It can be a great tool but it has its limitations, primarily for buyers.  Many buyers start the process by searching online to identify houses to consider buying.  That can be fun but it can lead to their paying less attention to the preparation required to make a formal offer to a seller.  Some buyers start by contacting a number of listing agents and looking at a number of properties.  Many can get overwhelmed.  Choices are great but can cause confusion!  A serious buyer needs to “position” themselves to be able to make a formal offer to a seller.  This is especially true in a competitive market.  Timing can be everything.

A buyer needs to get pre-qualified with a reputable lender to arrive at a price range for them to consider and determine their wants and needs, including locations.  Their plans will likely evolve but there should be a starting point.  If their market is competitive, any delay in preparing to make an offer could pose a problem.  Some buyers will find themselves unable to obtain the financing they need to make a purchase; others may need to do some work to get financing.  If they find out either after falling in love with a house that can be devastating not to mention being a waste of their time.

Even if there is only a slight delay in getting financing, that may allow a competing buyer to close an offer before they are even in a position to make an offer that a seller will respond to.  My best advice is to get pre-qualified and hire an exclusive agent before spending too much time “shopping”.  I also tell my clients that it may be best to ignore most of what you read online as most information is very general in nature and may have little relevance to any individual house search.

As with retail, I enjoy interacting with people and helping them navigate an endless variety of circumstances.  Unlike retail, selling Real Estate requires a longer interaction.  We establish deeper relationships with our clients than with a retail customer.  That being said, too many confuse the two types of purchases:  buying Real Estate is NOT a retail transaction.  Even if financing is not needed, a Real Estate purchase may take a few weeks and will generally include a number of “contingencies” that must be met to keep the process moving forward.  There are typically several points where either party may change their mind.

I believe that, despite the influence of the Internet or perhaps because of it, our role is more important than ever.  A professional, ethical and knowledgeable Real Estate agent was always expected to educate their consumer.  Today, I find that I often have to uneducate them as far as showing them that what they think they know may not be accurate and could be holding them back.  So much of the information the public relies on is incomplete or wrong.  While they may have access to date and information, I can provide knowledge and insight.  This does not always sit well with our clients.

I have seen a lot over the years.  In addition to working with buyers and sellers, I also teach other REALTORS®, I mediate disputes between agents or between buyers and sellers and I sit on hearing panels making decisions about possible violations of our REALTOR® Code of Ethics.  You cannot make up the things I have seen.

I have been protecting and promoting the best interests of my clients since 1996 and always tell people that, when you are planning to sell or buy Real Estate, there is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

Bright MLS Quarter 1, 2019 Housing Report for Delaware County PA

Bright MLS has released their Residential Market Report for single family homes for the first quarter of 2019.  In today’s podcast I will discuss the results for Delaware County Pennsylvania.  If you would like information about this or any other County in the Delaware Valley, please contact me.

The report compares the current results to one-year ago, same quarter.  As with all Real Estate statistics, two things are true.  First, the performance within individual zip-codes can and will vary significantly from the overall County.  Real Estate is local and results can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and even block to block.  There is no such thing as a “national” Real Estate market so, whether you may be looking to buy or sell, please contact me for details about your areas of interest.  I can provide current information and keep you informed about the evolving market.  Deciding whether it is the right time to sell or buy is a personal decision typically involving a number of variables.  I posted an article on that topic on my web site AndrewWetzel.com that offers several ideas to consider.

My second point is that, unfortunately, all Real Estate statistics involving sold data is stale.  While a sale may be settled or closed today, the real question is when was the offer negotiated?  Typically sales take 45 to 60 days to close so the market today may be different.  Up-to-date information is important!

As far as the statistics, 1099 properties were settled this year with an average “selling price” of $264,674 and a “median” selling price, meaning that half of the sales were higher and half were lower, of $200,000 compared to 1224 settled last year at an average price of $247,389 and a median price of $190,000.  The CDOM or “cumulative days on the market” for settled properties dropped to 81 from 85.  The underlying data shows a wide range of results among the 49 different municipalities in Delaware County.

Which number is more meaningful, median or average?  We can debate that but what really matters is how your property or one that interests you compares to those appraised and settled with similar location, features and condition.  Appraisers rely on nearby settled properties so average or median pricing loses some validity but may provide insight for both the short term and the long term.

What about the properties that did not sell?  Many came off the market and remain unavailable.  Houses may get showings without generating offers unless buyers think they are priced within the range of their perceived “worth”.  Most property listings whose contracts are canceled or allowed to expire have asking prices considered high for their market and/ or they were poorly marketed, meaning that some buyers may not have known that a house was even available to purchase.  Of course this may well depend on the ratio of buyer and sellers so there is more to this than raw statistics.  If a market has a lot of inventory, some buyers may not be willing to even look at houses priced high compared to the rest of the market.  While sellers may be open to negotiating their price, many never get the chance to do so.  I will happy to discuss specifics with you.

It is worth noting that the weather, despite minimal snow, was somewhat harsh early in 2019 which slowed activity although that has changed in many markets.  The overall economy is doing well with some adjustments here and there.  Pushing statistics aside, what are you planning to do?  Real Estate is generally a long-term investment unless you are looking to fix and flip it.  There are opportunities out there.  As with the stock market, it is very difficult to pick the best time to make a move.  All you can do is get the best available information, determine what is in your best interests and then start the process.  I am a phone call or email away and getting started is easy once you take action.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

Remember:  HIRE WISELY.  We are not all the same.

Multiple Offers: To Disclose or Not?

Real Estate offers many opportunities to peer into the personalities of people with whom we work.  Sometimes what we find is not what we expected.  As a professional I have laws and a Code of Ethics to guide me as well as my integrity and value system.  My clients have the same except for the Code of Ethics, of course.  One topic that brings this into focus is that of “multiple offers”, meaning that more than one buyer is actively interested in buying the same piece of Real Estate.

Some buyers are so interested in a specific property and so willing to compete for it with others that they will plunge into the deep end of the pool to do whatever they can to win.  They may start with their “highest and best offer”.  Others, despite being interested, are either risk-averse or perhaps distrusting of others when told there is competition.  Some may wish to avoid competition to prevent over-spending or they may need to meet a deadline for finalizing a move.

One of my favorite analogies is comparing buying and selling Real Estate to “playing poker”:  each party wants to know more about the other.  Buyers may want to know whether there is competition for a specific property.  Some people, including licensed agents, may think the answer a matter of courtesy or simply being honest.  However, the PAR listing contract is the governing document.  The language in paragraph 13 (“Additional Offers”) states that “Unless prohibited by Seller, if Broker is asked by a buyer or another licensee(s) about the existence of other offers on the Property, Broker will reveal the existence of other offers”.  A separate matter is whether the actual terms are confidential or not.

Let’s assume that the word “existence” means written, executable offers and not the mere expression of interest from someone.  If the seller permits this disclosure, the listing agent must say “yes” or “no”:  they have to answer truthfully!  If prohibited from answering the question, the agent must respond with words to the effect that they are not authorized to answer the question.  Is providing knowledge about competition in the seller’s best interests?  How important is the “if asked” aspect?

One of the primary reasons that a seller should hire a professional is to rely on our knowledge and insight.  The Internet and your friends and family may or may not provide a great deal of data and knowledge but a professional can put it all together.  I tell my seller-clients that I assume that I AM PROHIBITED from making this disclosure and discuss my thinking with them.  I may ask them to change that later but I have never had a seller disagree.  Which is more likely:  a buyer will make an offer when they know there is competition OR a buyer will walk away when they do not know?

Taken literally, if not prohibited from answering the question, a listing agent would have to disclose the existence of low offers which may not interest their seller-client.  Does that make any sense?

Unfortunately, many buyer-agents do not even ask if there is competition.  I am told that many listing agents are allowed to disclose the existence of other offers and think it a great strategy but should they disclose that without being asked by the buyer’s agent?  Many buyer-agents do not even make the effort to confirm that a property is still available.  Bright MLS allows listing agents 3-business-days to update the listing status so an “Active” property may not really be available.  Can a buyer be harmed by their not knowing that someone else purchased the property?  At the very least, time was wasted preparing an offer.  Even worse, perhaps their showing should have been canceled!

Strategies may differ but it must be noted that the seller is the boss and makes the decision about disclosing.  An experienced agent can advise but is compelled to abide by their client’s wishes.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectation!

Remember: HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same.

March 25, 2019

Data Integrity: How Accurate is/ was your Property Listing?

Filed under: Buying,Ethics,Hiring an agent,Marketing,Price,Selling,Technology — awetzel @ 5:42 PM

What is “data integrity”?  It means that the data we collect, store and report is accurate.  What do I mean by data?  It could be the status of a property listing (is it available to see and buy? Has it been put under contract?  Has it settled?), the price, the type of property and its features.  I want to relate the importance of accurate data to three different groups of people, all part of a sale.

Let’s start with buyers.  A seller needs a “ready, willing and able” buyer to complete a sale.  Whether a buyer hires an agent to search the MLS or they search online, the expectation is that properties matching what the buyer is looking for will appear in their search results so they can evaluate whether to take the next step or they will not know a house is even available to consider.  If they cannot find it in their search results, they will not see it and they will not buy it.  Even worse, a listing agent may not know there is a fixable error and ask the seller for what may be an unnecessary price reduction which reduces their proceeds and still not make it any easier to find the property in search results.  I have many examples and will share two.

  • Early in my career a buyer identified two possible elementary schools for her daughters to attend. She drove the neighborhood and found a “For Sale” sign on a house, called me for information about the house and asked me to search the area for homes like the one she was fortunate to find.  I found several other houses for the family to consider but the one she saw was not in my search results.  The listing agent had entered the wrong zip code.  Imagine if she had not seen the yard sign and the house had remained on the market unsold.  She would have missed seeing the house they bought and the sellers may have been asked to lower their price.  By the way, the family is in the same house many years later;
  • A frustrated seller called me. His property had been on the market recently and his listing contract expired without a sale.  He called me to see what I could suggest.  I looked up the property, discussed it with him and quickly found a major error:  the MLS showed the house as having a single bathroom.  He said it had two full baths.  People searching for two full baths did not know his house was available even after he reduced his asking price.  This is sad and avoidable.

In addition to limiting the number of available houses for buyers to consider, which could lead to a buyer not seeing their best options, errors will affect a market analysis.  Buyers usually want to know what comparable houses have been selling for before they make an offer.  Houses that are not accurately listed as well as those whose statuses are not correct could impact a buyer’s perception of what to offer, perhaps causing them to lose a sale.

Similarly, a seller looking to price their house according to its location, features and condition may be relying on incorrect or incomplete information.  Their house could sit on the market unsold or they could accept less than they should have.  Over the years I have seen a number of houses not properly reported as being sold.  Instead, the listing contract expired or the agent withdrew it from the market making it look like the property did not sell which is often interpreted as meaning that the price was too high.

The last person this misinformation can impact is the appraiser.  They evaluate selling prices based on reported comparable sales.  They can only rely on what is reported even if it is inaccurate (how would they know?).  In addition to the status, appraisers rely on pictures, features and the public remarks to try to identify the prior sales most like the house they are appraising.  What is the cost of inaccurate information?  If it falsely appears that a buyer paid too much, the process may stop unless the seller lowers their asking price OR the buyer comes up with more money OR they somehow work it out.  Mortgages are based on a percentage of the appraised value so errors matter.

To conclude, data integrity is a BIG deal.  Many of my seller clients were unsuccessful with one or more agents before we met.  Many of their property listings contained at least one error and there were often errors serious enough to prevent a sale.  In many cases I was able to improve their chances simply by adjusting the marketing to enable potential buyers and their agents to actually find their property in their search results.  It is like a “Google search”:  how many inaccurate entries do you see before getting the result you were looking for?  You may give up or never find the best answer for your search.

Today many buyers start their searches on the Internet before contacting an agent which only magnifies the potential damage as they may not be as proficient identifying listings as a professional is.  People rely on our training and our experience which is why a higher percentage of consumers use our services than ever before.  I do not mean this to sound like a commercial but this is what we do.

Of course there are times when price may still be an issue especially if the length of time on the market needlessly scares buyers into thinking there is something wrong with a house.  Either way, a seller should not have to suffer a financial loss because their agent failed to do their job.  In  addition, many of my clients say that they never saw their MLS sheet with a prior agent or searched online to see how their property information looked, if it was even there.  Some said that their agent never gave them a copy of their printout and that may be true as I suspect that many know they have not generated a good listing printout.  Many listing printouts, in addition to being incomplete as far as features, lack pictures or offer only a few bad ones, some taken with cell phones, and have no public remarks section or have a poorly written remarks section that is boring, incomplete or loaded with bad spelling and poor grammar making them hard to read.

The MLS syndicates the information on your listing printout to the major search engines we all know as well as thousands of others.  If the MLS is not done well this only magnifies the problem:  “garbage in; garbage out”.  Your printout is literally like a resume.  So, unless your house is on a well-traveled street exposing your “For Sale” sign to lots of traffic, the MLS and Internet may be the only ways anyone will know you want to sell.  Does that make you feel comfortable?  What is the cost of delaying your plans or being asked to accept less money than you should?  What does your printout look like?

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations! 

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

How Sellers Sell Real Estate: Who is the Typical Seller?

Today I want to discuss the 2018 NAR or National Association of REALTORS Profile of Buyers and Sellers.  The report comes from a survey using 129 questions mailed to over 155,000 home buyers who purchased a primary residence between July 2017 and June 2018.  7191 were returned.  The focus of this podcast will be buyers who sold one home to buy another.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

  • NAR has been collecting seller data since 1985 when the typical owner remained in their home for a median time of 5 years. In 2018 that number was 9 years which suggests that buyers may want to think long-term about their investment.  What appears to be a solid investment today may look different later.  Unfortunately, I still see sellers who paid more for their house than it is worth today and that can delay being able to sell it;
  • Sellers between the ages of 18-34 typically sold within 4 years while those over 75 sold after 17 years;
  • The median selling price was 99% of the final asking price. If you are an owner whose house is not attracting serious interest, meaning offers, this is important to know.  Many buyers think they are better at negotiating than they really are and are hesitant to start with their “best offer”.  In a very competitive situation they may not get a second chance.  On the other hand, a buyer may prefer to make an offer on a house closer to its market value to avoid having an appraisal issue or risk losing their second choice to another buyer when their offer on a house expires.  Whether a listing agent should disclose the existence of other offers is debatable but this should only be done when a seller allows it.  In some markets and with some buyers, competition may be welcome.  In others, not so much.  Sellers may also think themselves better at negotiation than they really are so they need good advice from a trusted and respected representative.  Ego can be a terrible thing to overcome.  Last point, showings are nice but they do not guarantee a sale;
  • 13% of houses purchased sold for more than asking price with 26% achieving the asking price and 24% selling for 95% or less than asking price;
  • The typical seller was 55 years old;
  • 68% were repeat sellers while 32% were selling for the first time;
  • 70% who purchased another home stayed in the same state; 16% moved to another region; 14% stayed in the same region but a different state;
  • 44% bought larger homes; 29% bought a similar size; 27% down-sized. The age of the seller strongly correlates with these statistics;
  • 50% bought a newer home than they sold; 28% bought one the same age; 22% bought an older home;
  • 47% spent more than their selling price; 27% spent less;
  • The most common reason for selling was that the house was too small (15%), followed by moving closer to friends and family (14%) and job relocation (13%);
  • 29% of first-time sellers cited size as being too small whereas repeat sellers cited moving closer to friends and family (17%). Selling is an expensive proposition so having to move in the short term because you outgrew a house or simply needed more space can be costly;
  • 91% of all sellers used a Real Estate agent with only 7% being a FSBO. 91% is the highest result recorded despite the presence of the Internet.  The % of FSBOs has steadily declined since 2000 even though the Internet was thought to have helped with exposure;
  • The median selling time for all sellers was 3 weeks. There is a correlation between the % of the final asking price achieved and the length of time it takes to sell.  While it can be a distracting obsession, many buyers look at the “days on the market” as an indicator of a home’s desirability and may avoid homes that are simply over-priced although they have no issues.  Houses that sold within 2 weeks or less achieved 100% of the final asking price whereas houses on the market for 17 weeks or more achieved only 94%.  Keep in mind that many houses are reduced in price to attract attention so looking at the final asking price as compared to the selling price is only one part of the story.  Sellers determine the asking price but buyers determine the value.  If nothing else, easy access to the Internet has allowed buyers to competitively shop meaning they at least know what is on the market although relying on valuation algorithms is risky.  Houses tend to get the most activity within a week or two of hitting the market.  Once the current supply of buyers knows a house is for sale and no one buys it, something has to energize and existing buyer or other buyers have to start their search;
  • 44% of sellers used buyer incentives to attract interest. The top two were home warranties and closing cost assistance.  These are not guaranteed to get the job done and should be discussed at the outset;
  • 64% of sellers were “very satisfied” with the process; 25% were “somewhat satisfied” and 12% were dissatisfied;
  • The overall median selling price was $259,900. Remember that this is a national number.  The median selling price for FSBOs was $200,000; for agent-assisted sales it was $264,900 and for FSBOs who eventually used an agent the median selling price was $227,900.  This clearly shows the advantage of hiring and paying a professional.

The bottom line is that this can be a very confusing process.  This NOT a retail transaction!  It is typically costly enough without making expensive mistakes.  Unless you do this regularly, I respectfully suggest that you trust a trained, experienced professional.  Whether you want to trust your most valuable asset to someone with little experience or someone who has a long track record is up to you but any professional is likely to know more than an average seller looking to save a few dollars.  I understand that signing a formal contract with someone, even if recommended to you, is quite a leap of faith.  Most of us can offer options to increase your comfort level.  After all, we want to make sure that you “fit” with us as well.

Selling Real Estate is unique compared to most typical purchases:  not only is it much less frequent than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering its own challenges.  If you would like to discuss selling or buying or if you have any thoughts about this, please contact me.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations! 

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

Living Up to Being a REALTOR®

Filed under: Ethics,Hiring an agent — awetzel @ 5:17 PM

While becoming a Real Estate agent is relatively easy compared to many other professions having less impact on the public, becoming and remaining a REALTOR requires an added commitment to a formal Code of Ethics.  Living up to its ideals takes effort; failing to do so has consequences for the agent and the public.

Many in the profession believe that it is far too easy to get a Real Estate license.  Until recent changes were made in Pennsylvania, you needed to take two 30-hour classes, pass a test in each and then pass a state test.  That requirement has been increased which is good as neither of the classes really prepare agents to help sellers and buyers with their largest purchase.  Much of the “real-life” training, including how to run your own business and understanding the law, the rules and regulations, the paperwork and the process of completing a Real Estate sale continues to fall on the agent and their office.  Most agents who change offices seem to feel that their office did not support their professional development.  While perhaps true, an agent must be motivated and take the initiative to learn more.

Becoming a REALTOR requires attending an ethics class and joining a local REALTOR association.  Why wouldn’t someone take that extra step as the benefits far outweigh the additional effort and cost?  Perhaps if the public understood and embraced the difference between agents and REALTORS that would change.

To maintain a Real Estate license, you needed to complete 14 hours of state-required mandatory continuing education every two years and a nationally required ethics course every four.  Our local association requires that we complete an additional course every two years which covers the content of national course.  While recent changes in Pennsylvania changed the requirements for entering Real Estate and maintaining your license, which is a good step, it is still harder to become a hair dresser than to get a Real Estate license.

In addition to the ongoing education requirement, we have to pay dues for renewing our license and continuing to be members of our REALTOR association as well as paying other ongoing assorted fees.  Compared to many people who start and run their own businesses, we have it easy.

There are well over a million REALTORS in the United States, about half of all Real Estate licensees.  As I have explained, a typical licensee really has to do little to earn the right to advertise him or herself as a REALTOR.  However, I strongly believe that we need to do a great deal to live up to the high expectations we place on each other and ourselves even if many in the public think we are all the same.  The most obvious difference is that REALTORS have a Code of Ethics.

I would like to draw a distinction between being a REALTOR and earning designations or certifications.  I am an Associate Broker and hold several professional designations and certifications offered by the REALTOR community as well as performing several roles for my REALTOR association.  Earning these credentials and meeting the challenges associated with each of them took a great deal of time and effort.  They have ongoing obligations and I have to live up to their standards!  You can learn more about them and their requirements and see my professional qualifications on my web site.

It will be interesting to see how the profession evolves over time.  All agents have minimum standards as established by the PA Real Estate Commission while REALTORS have a higher set of expectations as exemplified by our Code of Ethics.  I would like to see all agents comply with our Code of Ethics regardless of whether they are members of our association or not.  I think the public deserves the accountability that goes along with such a set of established standards.  That probably will never happen so, at best, I hope that the public comes to realize the difference between agents and REALTORS.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

March 23, 2019

The Courtesies of Showing Properties to Clients

Filed under: Buying,Ethics — awetzel @ 4:57 PM

The preamble of the REALTOR Code of Ethics states that REALTORS “are zealous to maintain and improve the standards of their calling and share with their fellow REALTORS a common responsibility for its integrity and honor….  They identify and take steps, through enforcement of this Code of Ethics…, to eliminate practices which may damage the public or which might discredit or bring dishonor to the real estate profession”.

Our most basic purpose is to bring sellers and buyers together.  We are matchmakers.  Typically the formal process starts with showing a prospective buyer properties that interest them.  Most showings require scheduling and confirming a specific appointment before entering a property.  Whether occupied or not, regardless of the type of property or its usage, someone owns it and our profession requires that we respect the private ownership of Real Estate.

The concept of showing properties should be simple:  a listing agent shares the instructions for accessing the property, a buyer learns about a property and expresses interest in seeing inside to see if it matches their wants and needs, they meet an agent for the tour and evaluate what they saw compared to other possibilities.

While a listing agent and seller have no idea whether a buyer is serious about buying or can even qualify to offer the seller what they want or need to complete a sale, the minimum expectation should be that the agent and buyer show up within the scheduled time frame, that the property be entered in accordance with the seller and listing agent’s instructions, that the people respect the ownership of the property as well as any personal property inside it and that, when they leave, they leave the house as they found it which typically means that they turn off the lights and lock the doors.  Unfortunately, some of this seems difficult for some agents and buyers.

For whatever reason, one of the constants in listing Real Estate for sale is that some agents either fail to show up within their scheduled time frame or they do not come at all.  There are going to be times when showings run longer than planned which may affect arriving on time for the remainder of the scheduled tour or when there are problems with traffic.  The remedy is to call to see if it is possible to change the scheduled time so that the seller knows what is going on.  It is not acceptable to just assume that you can enter someone’s property whenever you get there.  The owner may have thought you were not coming and was not prepared to welcome you at your convenience.

The larger issue is when an agent and buyer do not show up at all.  It should be assumed that a courtesy call will be placed to advise the seller that the showing has been canceled.  The showing may or may not be rescheduled but, at the very least, the seller should be told if you are not coming as scheduled that day.

Common sense dictates that selling Real Estate is going to be quite different from simply living in it.  Showings are not always convenient no matter how much a seller wants or needs to sell, even if the property is vacant.  Sellers do not know whether they are having their time wasted but they generally endure even if it means delaying a meal, changing their plans or doing something that accommodates someone they do not know.  Inconvenience is one thing, it is expected, but failing to show up for an appointment without canceling is rude, unprofessional and shows a lack of courtesy and respect for others and their property.  Again, there may be a perfectly valid reason but this happens too often and most agents will never call to apologize or explain what happened.  This reflects badly on our profession and causes some members of the public to think poorly of us.  We are collectively responsible for upholding the image of our profession and any individual can damage it.

I take the time to explain to my clients what can happen with showings.  It is part of my role but I find it embarrassing to need to do that and too many of my clients know all too well why I have to do this.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

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