Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is The Real Estate Industry Benefiting From Technology Advances?

It is, and in many areas. We’ve come a long way from the time when we were excited about being able to put our phone handset on a modem and dial up a computer for Multiple Listing Service information. We could even print it out on a thermal printer! Today we can get the MLS information on our cell phones, with much more detail.

How we handle contract documents was first enhanced by the facsimile machine technology, and is now very exciting. We can scan and email, email directly from the generating program, efax, and fax with high speed laser fax machines. Borders and oceans are no longer the cause of inconvenience and delays. Not only can we email the contracts, we have the ability to communicate with clients with phone and even video phone via the Internet. This instant and direct communication is very important in our business, especially in today’s real estate environment of rapid change. The client must be kept apprised of market-affecting factors so they can make their decisions appropriately and in a timely manner.

The marketing side of real estate has been radically changed by technology. From the easy to use yet powerful software programs that allow agents to be “desktop publishers” of their flyers and print-advertising layouts, to the omnipresent Internet – source of information and place for major marketing efforts, the computer is essential to today’s agent. With laptop or cell phone, we can access information from anywhere. We don’t “write” offers on the hood of the car anymore – we break out the laptop and generate professional typed contracts. The miracle of one hour photo shops has been replaced by instant digital cameras. Agents se thee daily, not only for the still photos, but to create Virtual Tours where a Buyer can look at a home from the comfort of their home.

The average Buyer today spends eight hours looking online before they call an agent.
"Click Here for the "All Northern Nevada" MLS Some acquire great knowledge of the property they are looking at before they even come to town, and many check the property and neighborhood out via satellite photos. Buyers are very smart these days – agents need to be technologically smart to keep up and serve them properly.

Our Advice: Your agent can use technology to gather information about your Buyer or Seller that was unthinkable just a few years ago. Such information can have translate to financial gains and time savings for you. Technology is great, but it doesn’t replace a knowledgeable agent. Computers only know things in black and white … real estate has many gray areas. Your agent must work with you to determine what you might not even know yet … what it is you really want/need in your real estate. The combination of a good agent with good technology skills is exciting and will benefit you greatly.

NCR paper (no-carbon-required in case you forgot) was once revolutionary and industry changing. Compared to today’s industry changing devises that is like a bow and arrow versus a light saber.

Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, or , or email us directly at 775-781-5472.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I Want A Good Buy … Should I Buy A Short Sale or Bank-owned Property?

It is possible to make a good buy in either of those situations, but both have related challenges in their respective purchase processes. The reward for successfully working through the challenges can be a great purchase price, but be aware of the path you are embarking on in either case.

There are many more bank-owned properties in the region these days than we’ve ever seen before. The banks don’t want to own homes and are usually quite motivated to sell them. When buying a bank owned property understand: a. It can take time for the bank to respond to the offer. b. The bank will have you sign their own documents prepared by their battery of attorneys that serve to protect the institution, and only the institution - the last one we did had a 16 page addendum of bank-protection language. c. You will need to inspect the property to your own satisfaction. d. They aren’t too flexible after the contract is signed so be sure to be very specific in your offer as to what you want, when you want it, and how things are to be done.

The Short Sale process is more ambiguous, but generally the property is in better condition as the owners are still living in and maintaining it. Most lenders are now recognizing the benefits of cooperating with agents in the Short Sale process and are doing so. When buying a Short Sale property understand: a. The Seller’s agent must provide specific information to the lender when submitting the offer – make sure the Listing Agent knows this and is prepared to do so. b. If there is a Second Deed of Trust there may be delays caused by the Second lender, if a different entity than the First. A Second lender can even kill a sale entirely leaving foreclosure by the First as the only alternative. c. The status of a Notice of Default, or lack thereof, can have a bearing on lender motivation to cooperate. d. You should inspect the property, however you will have good knowledge of its condition and maintenance status from a willing Seller in this process.

Our Advice: Don’t underestimate the motivation of Sellers that aren’t in a distressed situation. Their motivation may be dominated by other than financial factors. The timing and terms of your offer can be more important than price to the right Seller. Whether you buy from the bank, get the right short sale situation under offer, or buy a well priced home in a conventional manner, weigh the process against your objectives – what type of home you want to buy, when you want to close escrow, and what obstacles can you tolerate emotionally, financially, and time-wise. Your agent can help you evaluate each of these owner situations and how you can best achieve your personal objectives in each of them.

These are exhilarating times in the real estate industry. Buyers have many opportunities for good buys if they are willing to put in the time and study necessary to effect a good buy. Short Sales, Bank-Owned property, and foreclosures aren’t the only way to make a good buy … consult your professional agent. Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, email us at , 775-781-5472.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I keep hearing about “going green” … is there a benefit?

Indeed there are benefits to “going green” when buying or remodeling other than the obvious environmental relief. With utility costs rising, and technology improving, the utility savings are greater than ever before for such simple changes as proper insulation, high efficiency heating and cooling systems, etc. Of greater interest to most, however, are the interesting financing opportunities available for those taking green action including Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEM) and Future Value Financing (FVF) programs.

The EEM/FVF concept is based on the premise that a more energy efficient home will have lower utility bills. That savings can be considered income with these special loans, allowing a homebuyer to qualify for a bigger loan. Some interesting benefits of various loan programs include the possibility of: a. Minimum 2% stretch on the borrower’s debt to income ration plus one of the following – Lower interest rate, Discount on Closing costs and/or origination fees, Paying for the cost of the home energy rating,; b. Adding the cost of the energy efficiency improvements to the principal of the loan at no compromise in the loan-to-value ratio … you can finance 100% of the improvements without increasing your down payment.

There are ways you can finance the energy efficiency improvements to be completed after the close of escrow and enjoy the benefit of an EEM. In such situations you can also enjoy the benefit of FVF, where the home is appraised at the Future Value it will have after you complete your improvements … before you do the work.

Our Advice: If you can’t quite qualify for your desired home this might help you qualify for more house so you can buy the home you really want. With the recognized utility savings being available for mortgage payments, and the Future Value of the home being used as the appraised value, this might just be the answer to your situation. This not only applies to new homes, but can be implemented on resales or when you refinance your existing home. You can have a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) report done for $150-400. That report will tell you the energy efficiency status of your home and provide you with a list of things you can do to improve its energy efficiency. The HERS report is required for receiving green mortgage benefits. The Nevada Legislature came very close to passing a law requiring every home to have a HERS report on transfer so be advised that this topic is not as far out as it sounds at first blush. In fact, its simplicity and many benefits make it a “far out” program. Cool.

Green mortgage programs can be more complicated to explain than common loan programs, but don’t let that deter you from investigating its potential for you. The right lender and real estate agent can walk you through the process. We thank our associate, Dick McCole, for his contribution on this subject. Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, or , 775-781-5472.

Monday, February 4, 2008

How I Came to Grips With An Unprofessional Lender! Or ... An Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks!

So ... here's the scenario. I sold a beautiful home to buyers that were absolutely thrilled with their new purchase. They decided to finance their purchase with a loan company that they contacted over the internet - a National company but none the less, off the internet. I recommended three reputable lenders, (one the same company that they elected to use) that I personally know but these borrowers decided to work with a lender who made them promises that they wanted to hear.

Long story short, when the loan docs arrived at title, they were not what the borrowers believed they were receiving and not what they originally ask for. The following is a letter that I sent to the Loan Processor from the original loan company that outlines our experience with that Loan Representative. (Of course I've changed the names to protect the innocent!)


Dear Loan Processor,

Thank you for your assistance with the loan for Mr. and Mrs. Borrower for the property located at 123 Anyplace, Nevada. I also appreciate you sending the appraisal along for Mr. and Mrs. Borrower. We understand that the appraisal is not good to any other lender; we just wanted to see what the report said.

I must tell you, I received a very nasty phone call from Bill - not his real name. (Mr. and Mrs. Borrower's Loan Rep with the first lender) later in the afternoon after I originally spoke with you (the loan processor from the original company).
Bill - not his real name was very curt with me, very rude and very unprofessional. He basically accused me of undermining the Loan From Your Company to give the business to my "Buddy".

Let me set the record straight for you and anyone else who cares to know what happened. We were scheduled to close this loan on January 10th. On January 8th I got a call from the Borrowers in the late afternoon. They were concerned because they had not been advised how much money they had to send, they were worried about being able to close on time, and they were basically in the dark. I told them that I would get all the info sent to me, email it to them, and go over the details with them over the phone so that when they got the package Fed Ex, they would know what they were signing and what to expect.

I got the HUD, the loan conditions, the note and new loan form emailed to me, sent them on to Mr. and Mrs. Borrower that evening and told them to review them and that we'd comb through everything over the phone the following morning. The plan would have been for them to then receive the package Thursday by FED EX, sign the package, and send everything back to close on Friday as planned.

They called me early Thursday morning and told me that they were very unhappy with the loan conditions, the amount of money they had to put down and the lack of communication they had regarding the loan process. They felt everything was so stacked against them, and they were so troubled by the loan process, that they were just going to walk away from the purchase and the loan and forfeit their $5,000 earnest money deposit.

I was very very surprised because they loved this house and had been so very happy with their purchase. They bought a builder's model for a wonderful price. Everything was just what they wanted. I knew in my heart that they really must be troubled to just walk away, and lose $5,000.00 to boot.

Of course, I hated to see the whole thing unravel at the last minute so I made a call to a lender that I work with from The Other Lender. This lender had talked with the borrowers initially before they entered into the process with Bill - not his real name ; he had their credit and knew what they had originally discussed. He took a look at the situation, and sent me a few options he felt he could make work for the borrowers.

On Friday morning I sent the borrowers an email with the info that I had and suggested they think through their options and make sure that they really wanted to just walk away. I knew the seller would extend for them and I felt confident the lender would be able to perform as he outlined. I sent the email and ask them to just call me after they had time to sort it all out.

On Sunday I got an email from the borrowers saying they still wanted the house and were going to call The Other Lender on Tuesday to see what they could work out. On Tuesday afternoon I got a pre-approval letter from The Other Lender. I extended the contract with the Seller and Borrower, and called the original loan company, out of courtesy, to let them know what had happened and to ask for the appraisal. Your (The processor's) number was the only one I had because of the Loan Docs. I told Mr. and Mrs. Borrower I would notify the original company that they were not going forward with the loan so that they didn't have to.

So ... Bill - not his real name called me and was very upset - understandably. I don't know what kind of loan fees he packed in there but, what ever it was, he lost that commission. He accused me of interfering with his loan, that I had "no business" being involved, and that I should have called him not my "Buddy". He said I didn't know what I was talking about and the borrower was completely aware of all the costs, the changes, that she had to pay off a car loan, and that her ratios were so low that my "Buddy" would never be able to get them the loan they wanted. I don't know what he talked about with the borrowers during the course of the application process; I do know they were confused and not happy with the results of his effort!

Well, now it's 3 days later ... I have loan approval with $30,000 less in total expense to the borrowers including down payment, no paying off car loan, no paying off outstanding medical bill, desktop appraisal in and approved, docs are ordered and the rate is much less with a lower payment.

I told Bill - not his real name that I am not his problem, his poor follow up and customer service is his problem. He almost cost these good people a $5,000 forfeited deposit, losing the home they really wanted and me a very nice sale. It IS my business to take care of MY customers and I am entitled to get involved!
I know Your Company is a great Company - personally I have three loans with your company and recommend one of your loan reps from the Carson City Office all the time. I routinely give each buyer I work with three names and let them interview and choose the lender they like. I don't know how these borrowers ended up with Bill - not his real name or what your internal operation is.

This is what I do know. The situation was not a happy one. You ( The loan Processor) were very professional and very helpful when I spoke with you. I could not have asked for better service, you listened and helped me achieve what I needed on behalf of my clients.

I have been selling real estate for 32 years, my partner and I have sold and closed hundreds of homes and know a "smidge" about this business. It's my opinion that Bill - not his real name was unprofessional and rude to me and possibly to the borrowers, as well. I believe he tried to jam them into a loan that was not in their best interest and not what they wanted ( Why?). Was it to increase his fee? We can only speculate. Something made them very very unhappy with the whole experience.


So, here's the deal. As agents it's not only our right but, most assuredly our obligation, to get involved with the financing process of our customers.

I'm personally tired of snotty nosed kids trying to tell me how to operate my business and what I should and shouldn't do. These particular customers were , ultimately, best served because I involved myself and helped them find the loan they wanted to achieve. I've been hesitant to be too pushy so that my customers don't think I'm steering them to anyone.

Well, I think you possibly can teach an old dog new tricks! Maybe this is my bad. I've probably been too safe and not been assertive enough to help my customers get the best financing that they can.

Well, enough said, lesson learned! I won't make this mistake again!