Friday, November 28, 2008

Who Is Your Mama?

I said I would do an occassional blog on other than real estate issues. I am a political junkie and I am going to step into that pond here.

In the past election, I did not like any of the candidates very much. In the end, I had a choice of McCain or Obama or a totally wasted vote. While I have a lot of problems with McCain, I do not think Obama ever verbalized a position with which I agreed. No brainer. Vote McCain. Lesser of two evils.

I have to say, and I am not going to go deep, I think for the "Race in America" issue, Obama is good. It was the only reason I even considered a vote for him. But, what you stand for is far more important than if you wear a dress or have a bit darker pigmentation. So, why am I rehashing this issue? Because it is important to understand what I am NOT. I could care less that Obama is Black. I could care less that he is recently from Chicago. I could care less he was born in Hawaii--BUT HERE WE ARE AT THE QUESTION!!! Was he?

We just do not know where he was born. Personally, I think Hawaii. Having lived all over the world, I can not imagine a woman leaving the American medical system to have a baby overseas if she does not have to. Further there does not seem to be a history showing she went there. I am also not too stressed over technicalities arising because his parents took him to Indonesia for a couple years.

Regarding Obama's birthplace and state of being a Naturally born American, I have the following positions.

1. You SHOULD have to prove your eligibility to run for this office. You have to prove it to do virtually everything else. I would be content with there being some government agency who has this as a duty. With the massive amount of legal and illegal immigration we have experienced over the past 30 years, this issue will only get worse. Let's fix the problem before it is a problem. Let's define what is and is not a naturally born American. (Are my children? All were born before their foreign mother obtained her citizenship. Two were born overseas in military hospitals. Should the officials of our representatives abroad, both business and government, be able to have their kids run for president? This is NOT a partisan issue, but, it is an issue.

2. Because this IS an issue and an issue that can be answered quickly, simply, cheaply and without controversy, why does Obama continue to act like his birth certificate is a classified document? This defys logic. It also bespeaks arrogance. It is also consistent with everything Obama did through the race. Hide your past, dissemble, lie and make adjustments as the lies are found out. Those of you who thought Bush and Cheney were secretive may have a real shock in store for you.

3. I do not care what the Governor of Hawaii said. It was vacuous and did not address the issues. Even then, that is not the correct venue.

4. With current technology, the birth cirtificate posted on line by the "Stop the Smears" site is completely meaningless.

So, Mr. President elect. Do your administration a favor. Do yourself a favor. Do the American people a favor. Tell the state of Hawaii to release your birth cirtificate to the FBI so they can put this question to rest. Untill then, your refusal to do this makes many of us who did not buy the question in the first place begin to wonder if there is not some fire under all that smoke.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I hate to monopolize the conversation, but...

The Multiple Listing Service, AKA "MLS". Is it good? Is it evil? Is it a "monopoly"? Just what is going on here?

In short, the objection to the MLS is "The public does not have FULL access to the system." Of course, much of the data IS easily available. For spokane, go to and you can search properties there.,, and hundreds of other sites also provide significant access to MLS information around the US. But, the commenters were correct, John Q does not have the same access as do MEMBER Realtors.

The other major point of objection was the exclusion of For Sale By Owner (FSBO) properties from the MLS and most other sites tapping into the MLS and the lack of listed properties on the FSBO sites.

The net result was to search any neighborhood, there was no central clearing house where all the data could be perused at one time. Several non-realtor bloggers felt this "monopoly" was wrong. Here is where I stand!

I pay about $50.00 a month plus one time fees, lockbox fees etc etc etc as does every other Realtor in town to support the collection, compilation and maintenance of this data. Additionally, each Realtor pays their office a split of every commission much of which goes to support the people who manage the data and provide it to the MLS for input into the system. Folks, creating and maintaining this system is very expensive. It is unrealistic to expect people who pay for and work on this system to give the information away.

Because most realtors in any area are MLS members, any buyer can see any home that is available with one point of contact! This is a huge benefit.

What does the MLS do for you? It pulls together a huge amount of information, sales, listings, expired listings, property histories, property data and historical data. It let's your Realtor quickly figure out the likely value of the home you want to sell or the home you want to buy. Also, it puts the majority of homes for sale in any area into one bucket. While it does not include FSBO's, recent evolution of the system has permitted "flat rate listings" where the FSBO pays a realtor to list his property in the MLS. One complaint about this was the FSBOs were "required to pay a compensating broker commission" (CBC). I am going to talk about that at greater length in "Show Me the Money" but for now, I will leave it to the reality of "If they do not pay a fair, competitive CBC, they probably won't get much cooperation from realtors because no one wants to work for nothing!

The MLS is responsible for the data that populates virtually all the real estate sites people look at that involve listed properties. is paid for from the dues realtors pay and loads MLS data every 24 hours., and many other sites also draw directly from MLS input. These sites are free to the public and let you search in significant detail. I still recall looking for Spokane property while I was in Thailand and the internet real estate venues were in their infancy or even perhaps the mothers were still in a state of pregnancy. I much prefer the current system.

IF you work with an agent, you will have access to all the detail available. The solds, the actives, the listing history of any property, huge data pertinent to that property and the sales history for any area that interests you. You do have to pay to play, but, that pay is usually wrapped into the sales cost of the house.

What is the biggest effect of the MLS? I think it has evened the market out significantly. Believe me, waiting for that unsuspecting Californian with a lot of money to come and pay you three times what your home is worth is just not going to happen. The MLS and associated sites on line make determining asking value very easy. If you are working with a member agent, you can access the solds with the same ease.

In the end, the MLS resulted in a market where you do not get massively ripped off because you do not know the market and you can not get rich quick by finding someone who does not know the market.

Monopoly? No. (2000 realtors to choose from with all kinds of business models in my area). Beneficial? Absolutely. Call your realtor today for quick access!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cry Me A River

Sellers and buyers are often their own worst enemy. They struggle with many burdens which they just can not overcome. Their weakest point is their emotions.

Yes! We are emotional beings. God made us that way. Cold hearted people with zero feeling are the saddest of all individuals. There is a place and time for everything.

If you are a Buyer you need to use your emotions when determining where and in what you are going to live. Obviously, this is important. After you figure that out, throw away your heart and engage your mind.

Likewise, Sellers, it really does not matter that Uncle Willard made that pie table and Aunt Millie made a hundred thousand pies on it, 380 of which you ate while growing up. These are sweet memories for you. They are meaningless to your buyer. They like cake!

Check your heart at the door. There is really only one thing that matters to you as a seller. The Bottom Line.

I think the most common complaint from Sellers, especially older ones who have not bought in the past 20 years is "Why should I pay his closing costs? No one ever paid mine. (See the emotion oozing out of the statement?) Who really cares. The only number that matters is the one on the check. If that is enough, you should be happy as can be. Take that trip to the Bahamas.

Buyers, on the other hand, seem to feel any offer they make is just and generous. Probably not. The Seller is just not going to leave Uncle Willard and Aunt Millie's pie table in the house. That puppy is gone!

So, Buyers, ask away but do not expect to get it all or even any of it. Look at the numbers and see if the counter works.

Sellers, we agents, especially in this market, are going to be really, really creative to get things done. That is our job. Do not get wrapped up in indignation when the Buyers offer 30k less, want the tractor, lawn mower, tiller and the cats, not to mention expecting you to pay 8k in their closing costs. It may not be rational, but, does it work? Do you walk away w/ what it takes to make you content, if not happy?

Do not sweat the small stuff. Park your heart at the door and look at the numbers. Vizualize drinking pina colladas on that old pie table at the Beach and sign the papers.

Tell me, Who do you Love?

I read the other day about an individual who had submitted an offer on a repo as had two other persons. He was upset because his realtor would not tell him how much the other offers were. (Unless the agent was a dual agent, she should have been able to disclose this IF SHE KNEW. This is a topic I will try to cover in another epistle.)

He felt there was a conflict of interest because he had called the listing company, talking with this lady who offered her services when she discovered he did not have an agent. She was not the listing agent. So, let's talk about Who does my agent love?

In Washington State, we are subject to the Law of Agency. As a less law is better law guy with a rebellious spirit, I admit to loving this law!

First, it is possible for me to write an offer without representing either of the parties. I am just providing the paperwork and filling it in. In this case, I facilitate and do what the warring parties tell me to do.

I might represent the Seller. We call this the listing agent. In this case I do his bidding and seek to get the highest possible price for the Seller and the best possible terms.

I might represent the Purchaser. We call this the selling agent. When I wear this hat, I try to get the lowest possible sales price with the most personal property and most favorable terms possible.

Sometimes, I represent both parties. We call this Dual Agency.

Confucius described this situation many centuries ago when he wisely observed "A man who straddles a fence gets a sore crotch." This really is the toughest situation of all. We really are trying to please two masters. Christ told us we would end up loving one and hating the other. I have not found that to be the case in this situation, but dual agents become more of a facilitator than a negotiator.

In many cases, this actually helps both parties as it removes a lot of confusion and miscommunication. Also, this is a situation where some agents might be a bit more willing to negotiate commission. For myself, I typically give up one percent--6% becomes 5%. This is always subject to how much work is involved, how much of a pain in the neck the clients have been and other variables. Some agents just do not negotiate.

Regardless of the representational relationship, agents often walk a fine line trying to meet their parties' needs to sell or buy without giving away too much information. Do not be surprised by agent appearances of wishy washiness. This is where the clues are hidden. Pay attention!

After all, the agents' jobs are to get their Sellers' property sold, their Buyers into a home and in the dual agency case, become a preacher and create a marriage between the Buyer and the Seller.

Just because two agents are in the same company, it does not mean they represent the same person. Usually, they do not.

Finally, the burning point of the law is, while I have a lot of options as to who I represent, I must disclose to the client what our representalional arrangement is. This is why this is a great law. It gives you freedom to do anything you need to do, but, protects the client because the client knows where he stands with you and can protect himself accordingly.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Where's The Stinking Address!

Did you ever wonder what was up with real estate advertisements? What is the MATTER with these stupid agents? They do not put in the price, they do not put in the address, they leave this, that or the other obvious pieces of necessary information out of the ad.

Now, you have called on ten ads and NONE of the properties are in the area that interest you. NONE of the properties are what you want or you just had to leave messages! Your blood pressure is up to 200 over 180. (Good is about 130/80 or a bit less). What is wrong with these miserable agents?

As Pres Clinton says, "I feel your pain." But, there is a reason AND a solution to avoid the hassle.

Real estate agents pay for their ads out of their commissions. Generally, the company is not a participant in these costs. My advertising bill exceeds $20,000. per year and is only second to my salary (which I pay myself from my business.) I advertise for two reasons. First and foremost, I need to get my listing clients' properties sold. Second, I need to find buyers.

If I put all of the information about the property in the ad, I limit the responses to the very few people who might actually want that house. My business flourishes, even in bad times, because I pick up a healthy number of buyers who call on my ads. Sometimes they actually buy the listing they called on, but, usually not.

OK, OK, you do not care about my problems and you shouldn't. But, how can you avoid the frustration of calling a hundred agents to talk about 99 properties you could care less about?

Easy. Find an agent who works the area(s) or types of properties you might like. Get "married" to that agent and let him/her provide you with the information you need. He/she will be happy to provide you huge amounts of information on most homes. In this age of automation and computers, you can designate an area, price range and other details and receive, at least in my area, an email notification of every property that fits the criteria as soon as it is listed.

Does that mean you will not be reading ads and magazines anymore? Probably not, but, now, you just give a list of the ads to your agent and he will get you details on all of them. This is part of the service we do for our LOYAL clients. I often call half a dozen agents about their listings to service my clients.

In the meantime, I will continue to bait my hook with 2/3rd's of a juicy worm to try and draw as much interest as I can.

Now I lay me down to sleep

This is always a depressing time of year for me. The sunny, warm days of summer are long gone. The days of working outside 'til 9 PM are a fond memory. The clock just sprang back and at 4:30 in the afternoon it is dark. I have not got my barn completely ready to accommodate working at night because there is no heat.

I sell real estate for a living and we know how that is going.

I love my plants and was happy to have day lilies blooming here until late October, a real abnormality. But, I got out my weed-whacker and whacked all of them down to the ground a week ago. A year's work and growth now just chopped up weeds.

To make things worse, it looks like the country is going to elect an abnormal number of democrats, and liberal democrats at that. My democrat friends are virtually in an ecstatic stupor.

I have bought a great sack cloth suit, some ashes and am looking for a public square where I can sit, throw the ashes over my head and moan.

My friend asked me to go to McMorris's victory party Tuesday night to watch the election, but, I declined. I told him I needed to be in a place where I could cry like a little girl as the returns come in.

But folks, the NEXT national election is only 4 years away! In a mere 51 days or so, the days will start getting longer. Six weeks after that, the tulips will start pushing up from the ground. Spring is not THAT far away.

My real estate year has been pretty good and I thank God for that.

Life is cyclical and today's mourning contains the seeds for tomorrow's joy. So, I will plant the seeds, gird my loins, thank God for the many blessings he gives. I will seek to look up, not down. I will persevere and with God's help un-funk.

Catch you on the rebound!

PS The older of my sons is here for a couple weeks from the middle east. My daughter is going to visit for the coming weekend and my youngest son's last college check is due in January. Life is great after all!