RSS Feed

Category Archives: Thoughts from my inbox

Thoughts From My Inbox…..Fair Housing

While going through my Inbox this morning I came across an email from PAR (Pennsylvania Association of Realtors) reminding us about Fair Housing rules and regulations and that the state sends out “testers” to see if we are complying.  Fair Housings sounds pretty straight forward even to the layman.  We cannot discriminate based on race, gender, religion, familial status, sexual orientation or disability.  Makes sense.  The rule of thumb I have always been taught and follow is to treat everyone equally.  A trainer of a Fair Housing seminar once said “If you are nice and helpful to one be nice and helpful to all…..if, on the other hand, you are rude and callous to one you had better be rude and callous to all.”  I thought that was funny at the time but have remembered it and I treat everyone with respect, am helpful and work to the best of my ability for all.

Often, though, I get questions about school districts, especially from those who are relocating from other areas.  This is a sticky issue as it falls under the “steering” umbrella of Fair Housing which puts me, as a Buyers’ Agent, in a very gray area.  Everyone has preferences in school districts and it is often the district you live in and where your children attend school.  So how do we, as agents, help our relocating clients make good, informed choices when buying a new home for their families?  First and foremost, I treat everyone the same and recognize that my preferences are not necessarily my clients’ preferences.  I tell everyone that I am prohibited from recommending a particular school district by law.  The reality is that everyone has their own thoughts on what constitutes a good school district anyway and I am quick to point that out.  One family may have musicians and be looking for a great music program, others may have athletes and are looking for exceptional sports programs others, still may have special needs children, or gifted children and may be looking for districts with specific programs for their specific needs.  So it is really impossible for me to tell anyone which, of the many school districts we have to choose from here in the Philadelphia suburbs, might be best for them.  So…how do I deal with this all important aspect of the home buying process?  I ask questions.  I find out more about what is important to my clients in their children’s’ education, I recommend they explore the many websites available to consumers, I tell them about the Inquirers yearly School Report Card that is available online, I suggest they call the districts we are looking for homes in to get their questions answered by the districts themselves, I suggest they ask their co-workers, friends and family members what their preferences are as they will most likely get the real “skinny” from people they trust and I recommend they visit the schools…but call the district first as schools will require you to have an appointment to actually enter the building.

So there are ways we can be the same helpful, respectful, knowledgeable agents in this aspect as we are with all the other aspects of the home buying process.  So…when you ask me, “What is the best school district?”  you will understand that there is no one answer to that question.  I will give you avenues to get the answers you are looking for and show you homes in the school districts you have chosen but, in the end, the choice is yours….and really….one of the things that makes the  Philadelphia area so fabulous to live in is that we have so many great school districts to choose from!

Advertisements

Thoughts From My Inbox…Seller Inquiry

Thoughts From My Inbox…Seller Inquiry

So, I got an email from a homeowner looking to get his home on the market yesterday.  The email stated that I came highly recommended by an ex-neighbor as a Realtor that really goes the extra mile in all ways for my clients.  I love it when I get these phone calls and emails.  Real estate is a referral based business and I work hard to ensure my clients think well enough of my work that they do refer me to family and friends.  My elation quickly came to a halt when I read the entire email, however.  This homeowner recounted all the ways in which I worked for their ex-neighbor to get their house sold…the Just Listed postcards, the great photos on the internet, the Brokers Open with lunch, the public open houses, the great flyer with community info to entice buyers to want to know more, the prompt feedback after showings, the great negotiating tactics and the list went on and on.  Great!  He really got a good picture of what I am all about.  I sold his neighbor’s house in 2007, however, so now I have digital marketing to add to my repertoire that was not available to me then which really makes my marketing plan as comprehensive and technologically savvy as they come.  I know, I know, you are wondering what the problem is…..well….now we get to the crux of the email.  This homeowner informed me that although we are in a challenging market and that the last homes that have sold in his neighborhood have sold for less than his neighbor’s, he wants his home to sell for 20% higher than his neighbor’s sold for in 2007, he loves my aggressive marketing plan and feels it is a good fit for him AND he wants to pay a 3% total commission ONLY if he gets the full price for his home.  If he gets less he will pay a sliding scale dependant upon how much less it is.  Hmmmm….I think maybe I have misunderstood so I give him a call to introduce myself and get some more information.  Nope…no misunderstanding…so I have to ask the question….”What are you thinking, Mr. Seller?”  Whereas our local market is showing signs of modest and slow rebound, values are still at about 2004 prices.  Yes, homes are selling quickly IF they show well, are in good areas and are priced very competitively.  Homes that are overpriced sit on the market and eventually sell for less than they could have if they had been priced properly in the first place!  Because homes sit longer agents work longer and harder than ever to get them shown, under contract and to settlement.  When there are so many homeowners out there who “get it” and are happy to pay a good, successful Realtor their commission to get their homes sold, why would I even consider this proposal?  Well….I am not.  I thanked this homeowner for his interest but suggested that he is really looking for another agent and another marketing plan.  When I work with my clients I provide a full service marketing approach, have years of expertise that allows me to guide my clients through to settlement and am paid a fair, full service commission for my efforts when, and only when, the property does go to settlement.  I suggested that if he decided he really did want a full service marketing plan then he should call me back.  I would be more than happy to discuss how I successfully get homes sold.  So I ask again….”Mr. Seller….what are you thinking?”….just sayin…….

Thoughts From my Inbox….Buyer Counseling

Thoughts From my Inbox….Buyer Counseling

While in the midst of my normal Monday morning routine, checking for new listings for my buyers, reviewing showing feedback for my sellers, reading and answering the leftover weekend email and chatting on the phone to clients about a myriad of topics and issues, I find in my inbox an article from PAR Just Listed, the PA Association of Realtors publication, about a HUD study done on the benefit of buyer counseling.  After reading the article I thought…Good information.  I should post it on my Facebook business page The Selling House Mom as an informational piece to pass on to my followers.  But wait!  Why should anyone be told to be counseled before buying their first home?  When a buyer comes to me as a first time home buyer I spend an extensive amount of time talking, educating and, yes, counseling them on what it takes to buy that home and then what it takes to own it.  My  buyers know to get pre-approved for a mortgage and to look at their finances to know not only how much house they can buy but what a comfortable payment looks like.  Often we then back the purchase price into the payment amount to ensure they can make those payments.  My clients get many versions of closing costs for homes they are interested in so they understand the differences in mortgage costs at various price points, down payment amounts and mortgage products.  When they have targeted homes or neighborhoods they like we discuss  how  location, condition and pricing affects those homes’ current and potential future value.  I know a first time home buyer is, on average, going to be trading up in 5-7 years and what they do today will greatly impact what they can do in the future.  The agreement of sale is gone over thoroughly so the buyer understands their responsibilities and their protections within the agreement and the risks they face if they vary from what they have agreed to do.  They are highly advised (some would say strong armed..hence my moniker “The Selling House MOM”) to obtain a home inspection and are counseled in what a home inspection does and does not do for the buyer.  They are given pamphlets and websites for reference on environmental hazards such as lead based paint, radon and mold.  Then I  wonder…..aren’t all Buyers’ Agents educating their clients in the same way?  I guess not, hence the need for HUD to offer consumer counseling.  So, for all of you buyers of real estate out there who are looking for homes and do not understand the costs of buying and owning a home, understand what makes one property more valuable or desirable than another, know what the agreement of sale you signed really means to you or were not advised to get a home inspection….read this article and get yourself to one of HUD’s buyer counseling seminars.  It will be worth your time and may save you money…..just sayin…..