April 26, 2007

Changes In The Market

My last post mentioned that we, in Utah County, are experiencing a “Seller’s Market”.   That is and has been true for a while.    In my office’s last sales meeting, however, we were presented with information that suggests that things may be stabilizing.  Listings have been down from the norm for about 1 1/2 to 2 years but the last information we recieved shows the number of listings to finally be on the rise.   With more homes available, buyers can finally be more picky about which homes they want to buy instead of duking it out with other buyers for the few that are available.  

This is not bad news.  We have been experiencing higher appreciation rates which have been good for a few pocketbooks but in the long run, it is much better to have a more stable market.   By stablizing now, we hopefully will be spared the “crash” that so many other markets have already experienced.  I would much rather see appreciation remain slow but reliably steady for the long term rather than the frantic “few make a killing in a short time” market which always crashes and burns after a short term.  Our local ecomomy will be better for the homeowner in the long run when things stabilize before they crash as they appear to be doing. 


Filed under: Real Estate — Susan @ 4:12 pm

April 23, 2007


So many people have little knowledge of what is involved in selling or buying a home. Most people think that all a REALTOR® does is find a buyer for the seller, or if you are a buyer, find you a home. Many sellers decide to sell on their own because they think they can easily find their own buyer. Buyers these days are using the internet to find their own homes before contacting a REALTOR®. So, what do they need us for?

First, I do not want to minimize putting buyers and sellers together. We do have more resources to get that job done than the average person. Right now, it is still a seller’s market in Utah County, so if you put a “For Sale by Owner” sign in the front yard, the odds are that you will bring in an offer or even multiple offers within a short amount of time. What happens next and how to keep yourself out of court is all a mystery to too many people who find themselves in this situation.

Putting a buyer and seller together is just the beginning. Yes, as I said before we are experiencing a “seller’s market,” but, in a normal market, it takes time to do this and it can be frustrating for sellers when it takes longer than they anticipated. But, when the offer finally does come in, there are so many things to consider. In Utah, all contracts must be in writing. I have heard so many FSBOs tell me that they have an offer but with a few more questions, I find out that they have no contract. They have taken their home off the market because someone came along and told them verbally that they wanted to buy the home. Now what?

Price is only one issue. I started out with good negotiation skills but, in a changing market, I still learn something new with each transaction. Price is only the starting point. The seller wants every penny he/she can get while the buyer wants to save every penny he/she can. So, the price is finally negotiated. That is still not the end as most might believe.

I have heard of too many unrepresented buyers that give the seller the earnest money directly with their offer. How will you ever get it back if the seller disagrees that he owes it back when the deal goes sour? Most people, buyers or sellers do not understand earnest money. The majority of my buyers have thought, until I explain it to them, that once they give the earnest money, it is gone and they may have to walk away from the deal without it no matter what. Some have put off buying a home because they do not understand how you can know if you really want to buy a home without gambling their earnest money. The majority does not understand that the earnest money is to secure and prove intent and that both sides must perform. It does not automatically get forfeited by either party depending on the circumstances. I can save my clients money on that issue alone.

When a home goes under contract, both parties must perform certain things. That is where I really get to work. Representing the buyer on one deal or the seller on another determines what course of action I will take for each. There are deadlines that need to be met by both parties. There are other negotiations along the way: Inspections, repairs, appraisals, loan applications and denial deadlines. There are mountains of legal paperwork, understanding the contract and the consequences of failing to perform, the hours of phone calls, and persuading other related personnel to perform before they cause you to forfeit, etc. can all cost my client money if I do not know what I am doing and stay on top of it.

Luckily for my clients, I am well experienced with the procedure. I know the particulars of the process and I have made it my objective to learn and overcome new ones everyday. My job goes far beyond putting buyers and sellers together and that is what is so great about what I do. There is no way to really determine the real value of the service I provide to my clients who, in the process almost always end up being my friends.

To copy the popular commercial from a seller’s point of view:

Finding a buyer for your home = 6%
Getting the price you wanted for your home = $300,000.
Preventing a lawsuit = $15,000
Letting your REALTOR® have all the headaches so you don’t have to = “Priceless”

Filed under: Buying,Real Estate,Selling — Susan @ 12:36 pm

April 19, 2007

It Does Not Make Sense

I have been bewildered since the shootings at Trolley Square and now Virginia Tech.  It saddens me that these things are becoming an almost common occurance in our lives.  I do not comprehend the mentality of wanting to end the lives of others.  I guess I can kind of understand the desparate, hopeless feelings of someone wanting to take their own life but what makes someone think that it is in any way a good idea to take others out with them?  It is sad and senseless.  As a Christian, I think that the most important thing that Christ tried to teach us was charity, which is Christlike love.   I think he just wants us to try to learn to love each other the way he loves us.   I know it is hard some, maybe most, days to just try to not get annoyed with people but how does anyone let it fester into such hatred that the thought of killing anyone can even enter the mind? 

My reslove, the only thing I can think of to try and make this pain go away or at least become more managable, is that I am going to try to be more sensitive to others.  I want to rid myself of those feelings of annoyance toward my fellowman and try harder to be a friend to those that need a friend.   It is such a small thing but it is all I can think to do and maybe it is better than sitting around feeling helpless and afraid to go out in public anymore.   

Filed under: Personal,Real Estate — Susan @ 8:58 am

April 16, 2007

A Question from Amber

Amber asks:  “My husband and I are looking at moving to Utah within the next several months. As first-time home buyers, what can you suggest so that we can find a nice and affordable home? I am an educator and he is a police officer. I have heard there are benefits that come from both of these professions when buying a first time home. Is this true? Thanks!”

Yes, there are programs that can help you get into your first home based on the fact that he is a police officer or you an educator.   There is one specifically that I am familiar with called the Good Neighbor Next Door program.  This program is intended to revitalize certain areas.  To be eligible, you must be a firefighter, EMT, law enforcement officer or a teacher.  You must be employed full-time and agree to live in the home for 3 years after purchase.  Except the law enforcement officers, you must also serve the area where the home is located. 

There are specific requirements but this program in essence allows a member of the above mentioned professions to buy a home at half price.  Basically, the home is purchased as normal but half the purchase price is made with a second loan which after 3 years is forgiven.  Some of the guidelines are:

The home must be a specifically designated HUD home.
It must be located within a designated revitalization area.
Offers must be submitted only through a real estate agent.
The successful bidder is selected by random lottery.
Must fulfill the owner occupancy requirement.
Qualifier must remain employed for 1 year.

There are other requirements as well that we can discuss if you want to pursue this.   I have personally worked with teachers to bid on these homes when they come up.  These homes don’t come up too often in Utah County, but there are a few designated areas in Provo and Orem so far.  It is worth looking into.

Filed under: Real Estate — Susan @ 9:54 am

April 15, 2007

REALTORS® Get You More

People decide to sell their homes for different reasons.   Whether the reason is a job transfer or just a “move up”, most sellers underestimate the process.   Luckily for my clients, that is where I prove the value of my services.   Hiring a REALTOR® is the smartest thing most sellers can do to protect themselves financially as well as legally.   First of all, REALTORS® get more money than For Sale By Owners. National data shows that, on average, FSBOs get 15-22% less than their asking price, while REALTORS® typically cost a seller closer to only 8% (*6% commission cost plus 2% sales price to list price ratio).   Even after paying a commission, the seller using a REALTOR® statistically still comes out with more money in his/her pocket.   The average sales price for FSBOs is $198,200, while the average home sold by a REALTOR® is $230,000. 

I have tried to think of reasons why this is true.  I have a few theories.  One being that people with less expensive homes may have less income and therefore have less room to negotiate so decide to not pay an agent; while more expensive homes are owned by people with higher income and put more value on good service.   

I know this to be true, at least, in the Luxury home market as profiles suggest that people that can afford a luxury home want luxury service as well.  Luxury home owners/buyers eat at expensive restaurants, stay at 5 star hotels, and shop at service oriented stores.  They want and are used to being pampered.  They don’t scour newspaper ads, waste valuable time driving themselves around, or make their own appointments, etc.  They hire the most competent professionals to take care of all those details.   

 Another reason I have come up with for the difference in cost to seller are the large number of investors that purposely target FSBOs.  Their strategy is to go from FSBO to FSBO and offer about 20% less than the asking price.  They entice the seller by saying “I’ll give you X amount, cash at closing.”   (At closing, the seller walks away with cash whether the buyer paid cash or financed the deal with a loan.)  If the first seller declines, they move to the next.  The odds are in their favor that they will find a seller that will take the offer.  Investors that use this tactic do not target REALTOR® listed homes because they know that agents are experienced enough to know the true value of their listings and they recognize that REALTORS® are skilled at negotiating.   

Another tactic investor’s use is to go through the home and verbally run it down.  “Look at this, this will cost a fortune to replace, there is too much work here, this home is not worth the asking price, that other home is a much better value than this one.”  Uninformed sellers often get intimidated by this and second guess their asking price.  By the time the investor is finished with the seller, the seller may feel like paying the investor to take the home off his/her hands.   

There are many things to negotiate when selling a home other than price.    What happens when the home does not appraise at the sales price?  What if they buyer gets refused for the loan?  What if the home inspection finds serious problems with the home after you are under contract?  What happens if they buyer wants to back out at the last minute for no reason?  There are so many things that can happen during a transaction that can kill a deal.  Every time I start to think I have seen it all, I hear of, yet a new problem to learn about…learn how to protect my client from that situation.   That is my job, to use my experience and expertise to get/save my client the most money, save them the most time and trouble and protect them to the greatest extent of my capability.   

* Commissions are negotiable between the seller and each agent.  There is no set commission rate.

Filed under: Buying,Real Estate,Selling — Susan @ 6:26 pm

April 14, 2007

Home Warranty Plans

I have only seen a couple of transactions in the last few years where the buyer did not request a Home Warranty plan to be paid by the seller as part of the offer.I also have not had a seller, so far, that was unwilling to pay for the plan. It is wise for both buyer and seller to have a Home Warranty plan in place. A plan can give the buyer peace of mind and the seller protection. Anyone can purchase a Home Warranty plan. You don’t need to have your home listed to be protected.

I recommend that a seller order a plan at the same time the home is listed. Most companies offer a plan for the seller which covers the duration of the listing or until the house sells. Once the home is sold, the cost of the plan comes out at settlement so there is no out of pocket expense. Also, at closing, the plan is transferred to the buyer for a 12 month period. It is like having 2 plans for the price of one. As I said at the beginning, almost all buyers ask the seller to buy them a Home Warranty plan. The seller is most likely going to pay for a plan anyway so it is wise to be covered during the listing as well for no extra cost.

What exactly is a Home Warranty plan? A Home Warranty plan is like an insurance policy against a break down of a system or appliance in the home. Each Home Warranty Company may have small differences in coverage, cost, and upgrades. Typically though, a standard coverage will cover unknown conditions in the water heater, appliances, faucets, plumbing systems, electrical systems, garage door openers, etc. Upgrades are usually available which may include heating and/or cooling systems, washer/dryers, jetted tub equipment, swimming pools and hot tubs, etc. The cost can also depend on the size of the home, most being standard up to 5,000 sq ft.

How does it work? A seller orders a plan through his/her REALTOR at listing. Three weeks later, the dishwasher suddenly springs a leak, the seller calls the Home Warranty Company and they send a service person out to the home to fix the dishwasher for a small fee of approx. $45-$65. The home gets an acceptable offer the following week and four weeks later, the seller, at settlement, pays for the plan as part of his closing costs. In my experience, it typically costs approx. $245-$350. The buyer moves in and two weeks later, the garbage disposal breaks down. The buyer calls the company and again they send a service person to fix it and charges the buyer the small service fee. The home is covered for 12 from the closing date. Homes with a Home Warranty plan statistically sell faster and for more money while protecting both the buyer and the seller. I purchased a home not too long ago. The seller paid for a standard coverage policy for me and I personally paid for an upgrade for the hot tub that was included with the home. I had never had a hot tub before and decided that was a good idea. It turned out to be a very good move since the hot tub did not work and spending an extra $150 saved me an estimated $1,000. We found several other small problems with appliances which were all fixed for $55 each. I personally am sold on Home Warranty plans.

There are many Home Warranty companies out there and it may be confusing to know which ones are a good value or not. I have access to information that can help you make the best choice. Contact me if you are interested in a Home Warranty plan.

Filed under: Real Estate — Susan @ 4:54 pm

April 12, 2007

Not All Agents Are Created Equal

Real Estate professionals tend to have a bad name. There was time when one study showed that we ranked right up there with Used Car Salesmen in trustworthiness. That is sad and a little unfair. I know that there are a few real estate agents out there that are not honest or good at what they do but it is common in any profession for the few to make it harder for the many.

There are many “For Sale by Owners” (FSBOs) out there and the most common reason for trying to do it unrepresented is because the seller wants to save the commission. I may write someday about how that often backfires for them and how statistically, they actually end up losing as much as 20% of their list price instead of the 8% it costs to hire a professional (6% approx for the commission and approx. 2% list price to sales price ratio). But that is another day.

The other top reason for a seller to go FSBO is that they have had a bad experience with an agent in the past. I have worked with several clients that have told me how great it was to work with me and how surprised they were that I had made the experience such a pleasant one. They are usually surprised because their previous experience was not good. I can’t imagine not giving the best service possible to all my clients.

Even so, I have had one client that was not happy with my service. I hate to admit that and I still go over it in my mind and play the “if only” game with myself. It boils down to a case of mismatched personalities. That is an important thing to keep in mind when hiring an agent as a buyer or a seller. Each real estate agent has his/her own personality so one agent might be the greatest for one client but not for another. Too many buyers and sellers choose the first agent that they run across and I think that is one of the reasons that people end up having a bad experience.

Another thing that causes problems on the listing side is that a seller often chooses the agent that will work for the lowest commission. I believe that, generally, the public does not know all that is involved in a real estate transaction. Because of this lack of information, they underestimate the importance of hiring a true professional. There are 2224 agents in Utah County at the moment. There are only 2664 active listings in Utah County right now. Obviously, there are starving agents out there. In Utah, a Real Estate License must be renewed every 2 years. 90% of the new licensees drop out by the first renewal. I have heard it said that 10% of all the agents do 90% of all the business. Have you heard the expression, “You get what you pay for?” Commissions are negotiable but typically, the agents that are “in demand” do not need to offer discounts to win business and if they are in demand, it is because their clients enjoy working with them.

The best way to find a reputable REALTOR® is to ask for a referral. Ask friends and family who they used and if they were happy. Testimonials are another type of referrals. If you are planning to buy or sell in the near future, please read my “Letters from Clients.” I strive to offer the most professional service that is possible to all my clients. I would like to talk to you about how I can make my services work for you.

Filed under: Buying,Real Estate,Selling — Susan @ 10:53 am

April 10, 2007

Types of Agency

The Utah Division of Real Estate has gone to great lengths to help people understand the different types of agency in a real estate transaction. However, most people don’t know much about it until they are trying to buy or sell a home. I have found that most tend to feel confused about it until it is explained.

Seller’s Agent

When someone decides to sell a home, they usually call a REALTOR® to market the home, wade through the paperwork, and take care of the other legalities. Finding a buyer is only one small step in the process. Most of the work happens after the home is under contract. This is a Seller’s Agent or the Listing Agent.

Buyer’s Agent

When someone is looking to buy a home, they should call a REALTOR® early on to assist the search, manage the negotiations, handle the paperwork and help with the inspections and evaluations etc. In the past, all agents represented the seller. The seller paid the commission which made all agents, even the ones that brought the buyer, a sub-agent of the seller. No one was looking out for the buyer. The law has since changed and now the buyer is entitled to his/her own representation. The law also now requires that an agent have a representation agreement with his/her buyer. This is a Buyer’s Agent.

Limited Agency

In the past, agents had all the power over buyers because they had a special book that was almost the only source of homes on the market. Now, buyers are using the internet to do most of the searching before they contact an agent. This saves time but does not reduce the need for the buyer to have his/her own representation. Too often what happens is that the buyer will find a home on his/her own and will call the listing agent about the home. In most of these cases the buyer will end up buying the home using the listing agent. This is what the state of
Utah calls “Limited Agency”. The agent at that point becomes a limited agent in that he/she represents both the seller and the buyer. It is called “Limited” because the agent must act neutral to both parties, not doing or saying anything that will weaken the position of either party. This type of agency is not uncommon but occasionally one or both parties end up feeling as though the agent favored the other party somehow. You can avoid this by insisting that you have your own representation. In any agency situation, in the state of Utah, an agent must be associated with a Broker. When you hire an agent you are hiring the Broker who appoints the agent to act in his/her behalf. Often, one agent represents a seller while another agent in the same office represents the buyer. This puts the Broker in a “Limited Agency” position. The Broker must then remain neutral but each agent will still provide full fiduciary responsibilities.

Filed under: Buying,Real Estate,Selling — Susan @ 1:25 pm

April 6, 2007

Avoiding a Lawsuit


Selling a home can be a complicated process. To make matters worse, a seller often places himself in a position to wind up in court. 95% of all Real Estate litigation is buyer’s sueing sellers. With our current market favoring sellers at the moment, many sellers are deciding to go it alone because they are finding success at bringing in the offers. The FSBO, (For Sale by Owner) signs are starting to pop up now that spring is upon us. It is understandable to want to save a little money by doing it all yourself, but here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sued.

Use state approved Real Estate Purchase Contracts, not just the office supply type.

Know what it says and understand what it means.

Make sure you have your Seller’s Property Condition Disclosures and fill them out honestly and completely.

Have all other state required disclosures. You can be fined (and not a small amount) if you don’t provide the proper disclosures, so, be aware.

Observe the Fair Housing Laws. You can be found guilty of violating them even if you did not intend to discriminate.

Handle the Earnest Money properly and know how it is to be distributed if there is a dispute.

It may be wise to get your home professionally inspected, especially if the buyer decides not to get one.

A Home Warranty plan is also a good idea.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when selling your house. However, the best way to prevent yourself from winding up with a

huge judgment against you is to hire a professional REALTOR ® . I have made it a personal goal to understand the Real Estate Purchase Contract thoroughly, and to educate myself above and beyond the state requirements. I follow standards of practice in my client’s behalf

that are designed to minimize risk. I strive to provide my clients the most professional service possible. If your objective in selling

unrepresented is to save money, you may have it backfire on you when you lose in court and have to pay a substantial settlement.

If you are thinking of selling your home on your own, you may want to talk to me before making that decision.

Filed under: Buying,Real Estate,Selling — Susan @ 9:34 pm

April 5, 2007

Real Estate Designations

REALTOR® Designations Defined

I wanted to explain the different designations to help you understand how each one makes the agents that earn them better candidates for your business. As I thought about how to write about each one, I realized that the best descriptions I have found were already explained by my friend and colleague, Harry Rodas, on his website. So, with permission, I have included his explanations of the designations you may see associated with a REALTOR’s® name.

Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) is a professional real estate designation recognized by The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

* The ABR designation is awarded by The Real Estate Buyers Agent Council (REBAC) to REALTORS® who meet all course and professional experience requirements. Requirements include additional education classes, passing exams, and proof of closing a specified number of real estate transactions representing buyers only.
* The Real Estate Buyers Agent Council (REBAC) was founded to promote superior buyer representation skills and services and is an affiliate of The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

* The ABR designation helps real estate agents enhance their buyer representation skills, and provides proof to prospective buyer clients of their proficiency at meeting the special needs of buyers.
* REBAC supports its members through a variety of benefits and publications designed to keep members informed of developments in buyer representation and to assist members improve their business.


Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) is the highest Designation awarded to real estate sales agents in the residential sales field. The CRS Designation recognizes professional accomplishments in both experience and education. Since 1977 the Council of Residential Specialists has been conferring the CRS Designation on real estate agents who meet its stringent requirements. These requirements include taking intense courses, passing exams for each course, and having a high level of residential real estate sales experience.

Important Points About The CRS Designation:

· Only 4 percent of all REALTORS® have earned this prestigious credential.

· CRS education is considered “top shelf” among the experts.

· CRS designees have access to one of the best networking systems in the country to help relocating clients.

· Council members were involved in nearly 25 percent of all residential real estate transactions in the

United States.

· CRS designees get information about the latest sales and marketing techniques, and changes in the law that benefit home buyers and sellers.

REALTORS® Who Hold The CRS Designation Possess The Following:

· A high level of professional experience and sales

· The highest standard of professional ethics

· Extensive experience in residential real estate transactions

· Strong technical abilities to meet the demands of today’s market


· GRI is One Of The Highest Professional Designations a REALTOR® Can Earn

· GRI Requires 90 Hours Of Specialized Education and Passing Exams for Each Class

· GRI Required Course Study:
Business Plan, Marketing, Understanding the Residential Real Estate Marketplace, Technology, Power Presentations, Contact Management, Financial Analysis Software, Internet Service, Legal Aspects of Residential Real Estate, Loan Fraud, Trends and Impacts, Environmental Issues, Taxation, Fair Housing, Ethics in Real Estate, Financial Calculator Skills with Real Estate Applications, Investment Analysis and Commercial Real Estate.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) says that REALTORS® who hold the GRI designation…

  • Are nationally recognized as top performers in the real estate industry.
  • Have dedicated their time and money on real estate education to bring you quality service.
  • Are up to date on the latest real estate trends and issues.

I hope this will help you to understand how an agent with these designations behind his/her name will help you choose a better agent to represent you in a transaction. I have made it a personal goal to obtain each of these designations. I already have earned the GRI, I am more than half way done with CRS and plan to have CRS and ABR by the end of this summer. I consider the knowledge I have gained from the classes I have taken so far invaluable to me and to my clients. I believe that years of experience do not compare to the knowledge that earning these designations can give an agent. I am dedicated to offer the most professional service and I have no doubt that earning these designations has and will continue to help me do that.

Filed under: Buying,Real Estate,Selling — Susan @ 8:28 am

Older Posts »