Posts Tagged ‘Home Buyers’

I’ve never been one to toot my own horn, but an occasional blast is OK I guess.  This is true particularly when one is in a business where clients have many choices of service providers such as real estate.  So, I’ll take this opportunity to let you know that for the second straight year, I’ve been voted a “Five Star Real Estate Agent” in the greater Charlotte area market.  This is for real estate activity during 2011.  Most of my work is in southern Iredell and northern Mecklenburg counties, but does extend into north Iredell and the neighboring counties- Catawba, Cabarrus, Rowan, etc..

The survey is directed at recent homebuyers who have the opportunity to rate their real estat agents both positively and negatively.  According to the Five Star Professional website, “real estate agents are evaluated by consumers based on customer service, integrity, market knowledge, communication and negotiation skills, closing preparation, helping you find the right home, marketing the home being sold, and overall satisfaction.”

The Five Star designation is given to less than 7% of the real estate agents working in the subject area who got the highest ratings.  These designated agents will appear in the December issue of Charlotte Magazine.

If you participated in the survey, thanks for your support.  My goal is to be sure that my clients believe they’ve received service from me that was top notch and exceeded their expectations.

You can go to the Five Star Professional website HERE and see what other professionals in several financial oriented fields have been selected.

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It looks like the economy is starting to pick up some steam.  As a result, we’re seeing more people moving from one part of the country to another.  Sometimes they have the assistance of a company relocation department to help them find good real estate professsionals to help them.  Often, though, they are on their own in finding Realtors to help them sell their current home and find a new home in their new location.  Yes, they can just “Google” the area to find local Realtors, but that’s somehow not as satisfying as having a real estate professional recommended to you based on their history and performance.  As in all types of business, a personal referral is the highest quaility referral because the results reflect on the referring individual.  They want to be sure they recommend a highly qualified person for the job.

ImageColdwell Banker makes it easy for me to arrange a great referral.  We have people all over the world who are relied upon by their local relocation departments to help people who are leaving or entering our area.  I’m one of those Realtors, and often get the opportunity to work with people who have a need to list or buy property.  When someone I know needs to move from any area to any other area, I can help them connect with one of these excellent agents through our Relocation Department.  They don’t have to add the worry of finding a good real estate professsional to all the other concerns of moving.  Our “Relo” staff will contact their counterparts in any part of the world and use their knowledge of qualified agents to recommend one to the folks needing their service- no more “choose and hope.”  The client can be assured that they will have a chance to interview a superb professional who can smooth all the bumps in the road.

So, if you know someone who’s thinking of moving and in need of a recommendation for a real estate professional in the area from which they’re moving or to which their moving, I can help.  Just have them contact me.  I’ll explain everything about the process.  My greatest pleasure from this business is having the ability to make what can be a scary process of moving into a really pleasant experience, and make great new friends as we go through the process.

Call me.  I can help.

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I just finished the 4th of July week working with a couple moving here from Illinois for a new job.  We spent all week looking at homes for them and their family.  Of course we looked at many resale homes in different neighborhoods, but also looked at several new construction homes.  They finally chose a new construction home for several reasons regarding the floorplan, yard and overall neighborhood.  One of the factors that won them over was price.  They bought in a neighborhood in Mooresville that is like several in the area in that it was started by one builder who ran into problems during the economic downturn, and the neighborhood was bought by another builder or developer.  The new builders who buy under these circumstances often get the lots and infrastructure at a very good price.  That enables them to price their new homes very competitively.  They have to be priced well in order to compete with resale homes, many of which are foreclosures or short sales which often sell at relatively low prices.  In some cases, the new builders have re-set the price range of the neighborhood to lower levels to attact buyers who now tend to look at overall lower price points.  That doesn’t do the original neighborhood owners any good since it makes it harder for them to sell is they choose, but that’s what has to be done by the builders to compete.New House Under Construction

This is a particularly good time to buy new construction because of these circumstances of builders buying less expensive property.  I suspect that this peculiar situation will eventually come to an end.  Most of the well-located neighborhoods that were available to builders have been purchased and are selling out.  When the builders want to expand, they well may have to pay more for the land and will have to pay for installation of infrastructure (surveys, roads, sewers, street lights, etc..  At some point, particularly as the inventory of all for sale housing drops further, they will no longer be able to offer such great prices on new houses.

If you’re thinking you’d like to move and buy a brand new house, now’s likely the best opportunity you’ll see for a long time.  Often the builders can offer special incentives on options, equipment and mortgage rates to add to the value of the deal.  Many builders are also carrying inventory homes that are ready to go or close to it so that you can choose final colors and finish materials.  Even the custom builders are eager to build something for you at a good price.

Let me know if you want help with that!  Builders market to real estate agents all the time because they know we are working with the bulk of buyers.  They don’t discount their prices by selling directly to buyers, and buyers are well-served by having an agent working for them to help them get the best negotiated deal.  We do this all the time, so are not intimidated by the process.

Call me if you want to investigate what’s out there.

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I was visiting my daugher in Chapel Hill last Sunday for Father’s Day and saw an article in her Raleigh News and Observer that caught my eye.  It’s a column by Amy Hoak of MarketWatch on why mortgage rates are so low. It offers a good fundamental explanation of why we’re seeing such low rates and gives some idea of what may change that in the future.  It also has some additional interesting info quoted from Clear Capital such as, “Clear Capital recently reported that national home prices were up only 0.1% in the second quarter, from the year-early period. That’s far from the 3% to 4% appreciation expected in a healthy market.”  They go on to say that this is a first in quite some time, but still a necessary first step.

If you’re interested in the state of the real estate market both in terms of interest rates and home prices, I’d recommend you take a few minutes to read this well-written article HERE.

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Many people in the real estate buyers’ market become interested in homes that are governed by home owner associations (HOAs).  Sometimes after they’ve bought their home, they discover that something they want to do with their property is prohibited by the CCRs- Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions- of the subdivision.  For some homeowners, these restrictions seem excessive, and worth bucking.  The trouble is that when they bought the property, they also agreed to abide by the rules set up originally by the sudvision developer and later overseen by the Homeowners’ Association of which the buyer is a member and pays HOA dues.  This was covered in the avalanche of words and papers that are part of the purchase contract and closing paperwork.  New home sales reps and Realtors should be sure that their buyers are given the opportunity to review the CCRs before they sign the paperwork.

If you already live in a subdivision with CCRs and you’ve never taken the time to read them, now’s a great time to do that.  It may keep you from doing something to your property that will run afoul of the HOA and waste time and money.  If you can’t find your copy, your HOA or management company can provide a copy.  They are also in the public records and can be found on your local Register of Deeds web site, although sometimes it takes some digging to find them.  If you need some help doing this and are in the Mecklenburg/Iredell/Lake Norman and surrounding counties, I’ll be glad to help. Just call or email me.

The degree of detail and restriction of different CCRs varies all over the map.  Some are fairly limited and others quite extensive.  They all are there to help protect the value of the properties owned by the HOA members, but various developers and HOAs differ on how much control and what details are necessary to do this.  Ultimately, if owners and HOAs disagree, things can get serious up to and including foreclosure on a property for failure to pay dues or fines.

Radio station WFAE recently addressed these issues on Mike Collins’ show Charlotte Talks.  He hosted several knowledgeable folks there to talk about the ideas behind HOAs and CCRs, and discuss issues and trends in that world.  It’s slightly less than an hour long, but worth listening to if you live in a planned community or are thinking of buying in one.  A link to the show is HERE.

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Having gone through the recent holiday season and the social gatherings the holidays bring, I once again got asked a particular question very frequently.  Fortunately for me, lots of folks know I’m a Realtor, so they ask me how’s the market.  Of course, most don’t plan to move anytime soon, but like lots of people, they view the health of the real estate market as a bellweather for the health of the overall market.  My standard response lately has been, “Houses are selling, buyers are buying.  My buyers are quite happy.  My sellers are not happy.”  The reasons are that in fact, our sales volume has been going up over the last six or seven months.  However, that has been accomplished at the expense of overall pricing.  Look at the chart below which shows average per square foot prices (including land) for our local multiple listing service area based on a 12 month moving average.  Prices have been going down in each price category.

Ave price per sq. ft. CMLS 12-11

Fortunately, our inventory is also going down from 12.5 months of inventory in December of 2010 (at then current sales rates) to 9.1 months of inventory in December of 2011.  As inventory goes down, we will eventually get to an equilibrium point where there is balance between buyers’ market and sellers’ market.  Historically that has been at 5-6 months of inventory. Only then will we likely see an overall increase in prices.  Another question for which there’s no easy answer is that of how many foreclosure homes will be added to the market over the next few years.  Lenders don’t want to dump all of their inventory on the market at once since that would dilute the prices of all homes on the market.  Foreclosures are currently down to 2007 levels according to a report on MSN Real Estate HERE, but the article explains that there are underlying issues that could change the rate of foreclosure in the future.

One reason for encouragement here in the Lake Norman NC area is that according to recent reports, North Carolina is one of the top five destinations for people moving from other, largely northern, areas.  See the article about this HERE.  Real estate agents in our area can attest that many of the buyers they are working with are from northern states, and many of them have come at the recommendation of friends who’ve already made the move.  As they move to our area, they will help to reduce the excess inventory and finally see some increase in home prices.

I keep an eye on expert opinion on the economy from many sources.  We don’t yet have full agreement that things are turning around, but I certainly see more positive than negative outlooks now, and that’s encouraging.  For homebuyers, that positive sentiment and confidence in the future is key to their willingness to sign on the dotted line.

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I was talking with my bride yesterday about the differences in our work schedules.  She’s a teacher in the Mooresville school system and has short-term and long-term lesson plans to follow, and specific things to accomplish.  She works very hard to make all those things happen on time and with great academic results.  Sometimes, it puts a heavy load on her to get it all done by the appointed time, but she gets it done.  I, on the other hand, have long-term plans, short-term plans, intermediate term plans and spur of the moment plans in relation to helping my clients finally either sell a property or buy a property.  When I wake up in the morning, I have some specific things I want to accomplish.  They may have to do with marketing my services, marketing my listings, searching for properties for my buyers, or working on the details of upcoming closings.  As it turns out, it’s a rare day when my morning plans match my end of the day accomplishments.  That’s because the business of real estate has a tendency to be somewhat reactive to unexpected results on inspections, appraisals, repairs, calls from brand new clients, calls from current clients, and a myriad of other things that will throw off the plans for the day, or week or month. 

Real estate agents have to be very flexible, creative and understanding of everyone’s priorities in order to keep from going nuts.  They’ve also got to have those characteristics to keep their clients from going nuts, too!  I’ve often told my clients that one of the unappreciated roles of an effective real estate agent is to act as a “shock absorber” for their clients.  We know that clients, both buyers and sellers, are excited and somewhat anxious about making their plans work.  Good real estate agents put considerable effort into managing all the variables and surprises than can crop up to make the path to a closing a bumpy one.  We do our best to anticipate those bumps, but “stuff” does happen in spite of our best efforts.  That’s when a good understanding of the process and good relationships with our service providers can help smooth out those bumps.

I’ve had 3 buyer closings on the books for several months, and I took special care to spread them out on the calendar.  But “stuff” showed up on two out of three, and now this week I’ll have all three closings within two or three days.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy to have these three closings, but that’s not how I’d plan them.  We just have to take a deep breath, and do what needs to be done to make all clients involved happy.  If we do that and remain calm, the visit to the closing table will be a welcome finale to the long transaction process, and there’ll be no last-minute surprises.

Surprises are great for Christmas, but not for closings!

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Yesterday was one of those days that stick in my mind as a Realtor.  That’s because I closed on a Lake Norman property and got a verbal agreement on another Mooresville property on the same day.  That’s the kind of day I really like. House Deed The funny thing is that the same thing happened last month.  I mean, what are the odds on that?  In any case, I’d like to think that this is a confirmation that there are ready, willing and able buyers out there even though we’ve got all kinds of difficult issues in our economy.  The fact is that in spite of the negative news, there are always people out there who want or need to buy real estate due to a job move, have a need to downsize or upsize, or are ready to fulfill a dream that they’ve been working on for many years.  The ups and downs of our economy can affect people whose choice to move is optional.  For example if they want to have more confidence in the future of their employment, they may choose to wait and see how that turns out.  But there are many others whose personal circumstances allow them to make the decision right now.  The goal for sellers is to ensure their home is very attractive and priced right, meaning competitive with the alternatives (their competitors) in the market.  The house that is going under contract for my buyers this week is one of 18 we saw over the weekend.  Those 18 were selected out of a list of 93 properties that met our search criteria.

Yes, there’s lots of competition out there, and getting an offer almost seems like winning the lottery.  Fortunately, sellers can improve their odds to better than lottery rates by following the advice of their listing agent on condition, presentation, and price.

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Yesterday Coldwell Banker held a meeting in Charlotte to give their area agents additional information about the effective use of all the technology that they make available to agents and their clients in marketing and buying homes.  I attended and added some useful tools to my repertoire.  I’m a pretty “techie” guy for my age- my bride says I spend too much time on computers- but I continue to just be amazed at all the cool tools we have available to us.  When I started in the business ten years ago, our technology uses were pretty much summed up with basic cell phones, a simple agent web site and understanding how to use email.  I was quite familiar with all of those things then, but little did I know how much more would be added to the tool kit!  Ever since then, keeping up has been kind of like trying to drink from a fire hose.  Social networking, blogging (!), texting, virtual tours, QR codes, Google tools, computer tablets plus many more technologies all have come about as important or potentially important tech tools that agents must evaluate, learn and apply in order to make the most of their time and efforts in effectively working for their clients, both buyers and sellers.

If you’ve kept up with digital technology over the last 20 years, you’ll notice that there is always a constant stream of tech goodies coming on-line that the developers absolutely guarantee will be the answer to everyone’s prayers.  “They’ll transform your life for the better.  They’ll save you time.  They’ll enable you to leap tall buildings with a single bound! (dating myself)”  Of course, also if you have the perspective of looking back on those 20 years, you’ll understand that some of these goodies catch on, and other flame out of existence pretty quickly.  Case in point- when’s the last time you drove by a “Talking House?”  The folks selling this stuff to real estate agents are constantly coming up with new gadgets.  Back when real estate was booming, they could sell plenty of shiny things to new agents who’d hope that their investment would pay off with lots of new business.  Most often it wouldn’t, and many agents spent plenty, made little, and eventually dropped out of the business.  But back then, there were plenty of newbies coming along to replace them.  Now, not so much.

The point here is that it’s good for us agents to keep up with technology and use it when it benefits our clients.  Thankfully, Coldwell Banker United, Realtors, my company, makes a large investment in providing tools which are actually useful and the training on how to effectively use them.  It gives us a great advantage over many other companies and agents.  However, there’s no technology that can provide experience, good judgement, good negotiating skills and knowledge of all the pitfalls to avoid that defines a good real estate agent.  When you’re thinking about using the services of a Realtor®, please do find one who uses lots of technology to your advantage, but remember that it all comes down to a contract handled by agents with good people skills and knowledge of real estate law that helps all parties achieve their real estate goals.

Come to think of it, if you’re in the area and need some help on real estate, just call me!

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Several weeks ago I was driving to Raleigh to attend a meeting of the Board of Directors of the NC Association of Realtors.  About an hour into my drive, I got a call from a reporter from The Statesville Record & Landmark, Donna Swicegood (I know, but I was using my “Bluetooth” earpiece).  I knew Donna from my days managing a Century 21 real estate office in Troutman.  We met while both serving on the board of the Statesville version of Crimestoppers, so it was good to hear from her. 

Donna had been assigned to work on a special supplement called Investing in Our Community, and one of the articles she was writing focused on the local real estate market.  She proceeded to ask me some questions about the local real estate market and the advisability of purchasing real estate right now.  Of course, no self-respecting real estate agent would ever generally advise against buying.  But also no self-respecting real estate agent would advise someone to buy when it was not in their best interests, given their particular circumstances.  The fact is that in every market, up or down, there are people who need to sell and people who need to buy in order to reach some specific goal in their plans.  It may be because their family is growing, they’re moving for a job change, or the kids have flown the nest and they want to down-size.  All kinds of people have all kinds of stories and reasons to do what they need to do.  It’s the role of a good Realtor® to understand what people need to accomplish and help them get it done.

So with that in mind, I answered Donna’s questions and looked forward to seeing the results in print.  The overall thrust of my comments were that if you have a desire or need to buy real estate, I don’t think prices are likely to drop substantially from where we are now, so waiting for lower prices is risky.  The risk is that even if prices go a bit lower, interest rates, which are still historically low, may very well start back up, wiping out any savings on mortgage payments.  The economists just can’t predict with any accuracy what will happen in the next 6 to 12 months, but one thing we do know right now- housing is relatively affordable compared to years past, so trying to time the market may not be wise, particularly if it makes sense in terms of your housing goals.  Our area continues to be a popular destination for people who want to move from other parts of the country, and we’re starting to see some positive indicators on the economic front.  As demand picks up, so eventually will prices. 

You can read the entire article here: R&L Special Edition 5-1-11 Suther Quotes

Thanks to Donna Swicegood for the phone call and interview.

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