HOW TO PRICE YOUR HOME TO SELL: Obtaining the best price when selling your home while preparing for appraisal issues

You have decided to sell your home and have set an appointment to meet with your Realtor.  There are many things to discuss during the listing consultation, but one of the most relevant today is pricing.

You may think that is obvious.  After all, you will be looking at the comparable sales as a guide to determine the price you set for your home. But in today’s market, it’s even more important. Why? In most areas of San Diego County, we are experiencing an extremely low inventory of homes for sale – one to two months in many areas. This means that there has been a change in the market and not all appraisers are responding to that.

Appraisal issues are usually fueled by the difference between the price that buyers are willing to pay in today’s competitive market and the appraisals that are based on comparable sales that are two to three months ago. This is especially an issue for first time home buyers who are already competing with investors offering cash, over asking price, with no appraisal contingencies.

Sellers are often dealing with multiple offers in today’s market, giving them the opportunity to obtain the best price for their home, but also to negotiate the best terms. They may have the option to select between investors or first time home buyers; cash buyers, buyers obtaining conventional, FHA or VA financing.  Whether or not your Realtor thinks there may be an appraisal issue is an important discussion to have.

Your listing agent must take the lead when it is appraisal time. I recommend meeting the appraiser at the property and bringing information about the market. If there are multiple offers on the property, that is vital information to convey. The listing agent should be knowledgeable about the comparable sales – were the extenuating circumstances that brought a low price (death on the property, condition, school districts, distress sale).

Sometimes, the issue is an appraiser coming from out of the area. It’s impossible for an appraiser coming from Orange or Riverside Counties to have knowledge about the individual communities in San Diego. Yet, we still see out of area appraisers completing appraisals in San Diego. This was brought about by the initiation of appraisal management companies (AMC’s) that most lenders are now using. These AMC’s often keep half of the appraisal fee charged (the fees used to go directly to the appraisers), and many appraisers are saying they can’t afford to work for half of the fee. So, you may be getting the cheapest and fastest appraiser.  You may not be getting the best appraiser, one who knows your local market.

My advice, price your home based on the most current market data and keep in mind that there may well be appraisal issues in today’s market. Be ready for that possibility and have a plan to deal with the situation if it does happen.  An experienced listing agent can help you every step along the way.

FINDING THE RIGHT REALTOR: What It Takes To Buy A Home In San Diego Today

When I started working with my clients James & Sharon in June, they were really excited about buying their first home. They thought it would take about a week or two to find a home, write an offer, and have it accepted.  But, the rapidly declining inventory of homes for sale in San Diego County, especially in the under $275,000 price range, quickly shattered that illusion!

After viewing many homes, finding out that there were already multiple offers over the asking price, having three offers rejected because other buyers bid over what my clients could afford, we finally had an offer accepted and have since closed escrow. But, it’s not easy!

You are going to need an experienced agent…this is even more important in a competitive market. You need an agent who knows the local market, the other agents in the market, and the market trends. You need a veteran with a good reputation. Why? If there are multiple offers on a property, having an agent with a great reputation may give the listing agent the push they need to recommend the seller take your offer over others. The listing agent and sellers need to know that your agent is a pro who closes transactions.

In the lower price ranges, expect to pay the asking price or more!  With multiple offers now the norm, there really is no point in coming in low, you only diminish your chances of having your offer accepted, or even countered.

Write a biography about you and your family (or have your agent do it). Do you have kids? Where do you work? What do you love about the home? Send it, along with a picture of your family, with the offer. For my clients James & Sharon, it meant they had the edge over the competition. The sellers connected with their family and wanted them to have the home.

Example: I have a home listed for sale, under $275,000, a traditional sale. We had multiple offers. While I advised the seller to counter with all the buyers, they chose to work with only one family. Why?  Because the seller thought her parents would have loved these buyers being the ones to buy the home. They made an emotional connection.

True, in the case of bank owned or investor owned properties, this might not help. But with more and more traditional sales coming on the market, it can mean the difference between you being the lucky buyer selected or not!


So you think you are ready to take the plunge and buy a home in San Diego. What’s the first step? Well, buying a home is a big step, especially if it’s your first home purchase. After all, it is the largest purchase most people make. It requires thought, preparation, planning, sometimes sacrifice, and the LAST step in the process is looking for a home!

  • Unless you are a veteran or active duty military eligible for a VA loan, you will need a down payment, somewhere between 3.5% and 20% of the purchase price. With some loan programs, you can obtain a “gift” of the funds from a family member. You will also need normal closing costs, 3% of the purchase price is average, but it can be more or less. You can request that a seller pay some or all of the closing costs. If you are asking the seller to pay the closing costs, you don’t have as much negotiating power when it comes to the price. In today’s market, you can expect to pay the asking price OR MORE if you are asking for closing costs.
  • Now is the time to meet with your lender and become pre-approved for a loan. Yes, BEFORE you go house hunting! The lender will need tax returns for the last two years, your most recent pay stubs, copies of your bank statements, information about all your current debt and more. Start collecting the information so it’s easily obtainable when you need it.
  • The lender who is loaning you the money to purchase a home will require that you have some money in “reserve” for an emergency. Even if you have family members willing to “gift” you the down payment and closing costs, you need to have some money saved. Once you are a home owner, you will be responsible for repairs and maintenance on your home. Plumbing leaks, dishwashers break, windows are broken. And, if you are like most people, you will want to make the home your own with paint, maybe carpet or flooring, new furniture or appliances. Now is the time to start the discipline of saving your money! It may mean fewer lattes, fewer dinners out, or skipping a vacation. It will be worth it!
  • Do not buy anything on credit now. It will affect the purchase price of the home you can buy. Wait until AFTER you have closed escrow to buy the new car, furniture, washer and dryer. Do not co-sign a loan for anyone else.
  •  Make a wish list and include everything you want in a home…the area, the size, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, garage, pool or no pool, fixer upper or not, etc. Next, divide the list into “Must Haves” and “It Would Be Nice If It Hads”. Realize that you won’t find everything on either list in any home. Be realistic.
  • Your real estate agent will meet with you and discuss what you want in a home and advise you on what you can and can’t expect to find in your price range in the area you desire. A good agent will take the information and find the homes that meet your requirements. They won’t show you homes that don’t. Why would you want to see them anyway?

The home buying process will be exciting, stressful, and sometimes tiring.  Achieving your goal of home ownership is the ultimate reward!

Is It A Good Fit: How To Choose to Realtor To Sell Your Home

ImageHaving sold homes in San Diego for over 20 years, I am still surprised how many people really have no idea how to choose a Realtor to sell their home. But then again, why would they? Selling a home isn’t something people do every day. Most families are staying in their homes for over five years before selling now, some much more than that.

It might surprise you to know that many real estate agents do not keep in touch with their past clients. Why? A variety of reasons…some were part-time agents and haven’t remained active in the business.  Some agents say they are afraid to talk to their past clients; they just don’t want to know about problems. Some agents are off to find the next sale and maintaining relationships just isn’t a priority. Unfortunately, it is true that most people do not hire the agent who represented them when they bought their home to help them sell it when the time comes!

So, how do you find a good agent? My advice is to ask your family and friends if they have an agent they would recommend. Then find out:

  • Is the agent in the business full-time?
  • Does the agent have a track record of actually selling homes?
  • Can the agent provide references?
  • Does the agent belong to the National Association of Realtors and the state and local Association of Realtors – not all licensed agents are “Realtors”.
  • Does the agent know the local market?
  • Does the agent have a marketing plan?
  • Does the agent have a professional website and presence on the internet?
  • Does the agent return calls, emails, and text messages in a timely manner?
  • Does the agent understand the legal documents they are preparing and asking their clients to sign?
  • Will the agent take the time to make sure you understand the contracts, the process, and anything that comes up in the process?
  • Is there good chemistry between you and the agent? Sometimes personalities just don’t mix, that’s okay!
  • Will the agent give you advice on how to prepare your home for sale?
  • Does the agent review the most recent comparable sales in your area to determine the asking price?

For most families, their home is their largest asset. Finding a professional and experienced Realtor to help protect that asset is an important first step in getting it sold for the best price, within your time frame, and with as little hassle as possible. Taking the time in the beginning to find a great Realtor will save you money, headaches, and will make the process much more enjoyable, maybe even fun!

     My beautiful mother-in-law…

Jim & MomMy beautiful mother-in-law…she turned 90 years old in November and it was while attending her 90th birthday celebration in November that we realized that her “forgetfulness” was really dementia.  She brought her four boys up attending the local Methodist church, but she was raised a Christian Scientist and those beliefs still have a hold on her. She does not like going to the doctor and has avoided them as much as possible in her later years.
Mom had a happy marriage, full of the usual ups and downs, but she and my husband’s father had a good life. They had four sons whom they cherished, loved, and celebrated as unique individuals.  She became a widow 20 years ago and 15 years ago found love again with a widower who lives nearby. She has been truly blessed in loving and being loved by two truly good men.
Now we watch this lovely, graceful woman as she battles dementia. We feel blessed that she is happy and that she laughs at her memory lapses, she isn’t angry or distressed. We are happy she still knows us and trusts us.  As the fog of this disease shrouds her mind, there are still moments when she seems like her old self. And, there are moments when I think she knows exactly what is happening.  As we talked after a wonderful Saturday morning brunch, she said, “I don’t remember my age, but I know I am really getting old”, and she seemed content in that knowledge. After all, she has led a happy life.
As we said our goodbyes, the twinkling eyes and lovely smile are still there. I hope they will be there the next time we see her. How I will miss them if they are not.

Is The San Diego Home Market Changing?

   Yes, you heard correctly, the real estate market in San Diego is looking up!  After five years of a downturn and a year of relatively stable prices, local experts say we may see 3 to 5% appreciation in real estate this year and a sales volume increase of about 10%.

Why is this happening now?  The number of sales that were bank owned was down 25% from March 2011 to March 2012.  In the May 2012 edition of “Econoplay”, I was quoted:

“Local real estate forecasters are calling for 3% to 5% price increases this year. They also expect volume sales to increase by around 10% over 2011,” Pontzious noted. Cash buyers and people who can put down large down payments also seem to be ignoring low appraisals and buying anyway. “If they continue to do that, it will drive prices up,” she said, noting that appraisals are losing credibility because of their over-reliance on distress sales.”

The inventory in most parts of San Diego is extremely low and we are seeing multiple offers on many properties. Remember two to three years ago when it was so difficult for home buyers to have their offers accepted? We are seeing that again in some areas.

My advice?  If you want to sell your home this year, get it on the market now!  If you are buying a home, be prepared for multiple offers and be prepared to pay full price or over in many instances.  Have questions? I can help!

Are Short Sales For You?

With so many of the homes on the market today being short saleImages, they are something every buyer needs to consider.  Before you jump in with both feet, though, there are some things to think about! 

  • This is not your normal transaction. No matter what terms you and the seller agree to, the lien holders may not agree, and you are back to square one. The lien holders may make seemingly arbitrary decisions or requirements. That is the name of the game! 
  • You will not get a great “deal” with a short sale. Yes, the price may be discounted some, and that may not be worth the wait. The will banks have an appraisal or valuation of the property….we all have access to the same information, so value isn’t a secret. You will see short sale listings priced below market value in some cases. This is to encourage buyers to write an offer so something can be submitted to the lien holders to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t mean that the lien holders will accept the price you offer, and they often do not. You can expect to pay close to market value for a short sale in most cases.
  • Short sales do require experienced agents on both sides of the transaction…it is not time to work with a novice! Especially the listing agent should be experienced with short sales or you may waste months of time.
  • If you do not have extra money for repairs, do not make offers on short sales. In most cases, they are sold in As-Is condition and neither the sellers nor the lien holders will make any repairs. There may be exceptions, but don’t go into a transaction expecting it. If you are purchasing with FHA or VA financing, the property needs to be in good condition. 
  • Short sales take a long time!  The fastest closing I have seen is about 45 days, many take several months…up to a year or more. In our area, 90 to 120 days is normal. So, if you need to be moved in a certain time frame, short sales may not be for you.
  • Remember that even though the short sale process has, in many cases, improved, not all short sales will be approved. Some will never close escrow and will go into foreclosure. 

KCM posted a great article about short sales, you can read here.

Do You Love Where You Live?

I love where I live. 

Living “in the country” brings me a sense of peace and tranquility at the end of the day.  Today, my husband and I watched a Golden Eagle soar over our house and land on a tree overlooking our property.   What a majestic being he was. I wanted to grab my camera, but we couldn’t move without disturbing this giant bird and ruining the moment. So, we stayed put, transfixed as we watched the eagle look for his evening meal.

We all like different things – some like the country, like I do; some like living in the mountains, the beach, in the city, in the suburbs, near a school, near public transportation – we are all drawn to something.  Sometimes that changes over time. What we like when we are 25 may not be the same as when we are 35 or 60.

Sometimes, we dream of where we would really like to live, and that can lead to a goal and a plan to achieve our dream.

So, do you love where you live?  Where do you dream of living? I would love to know, so let me know what and where your dream home is!

I LIKE What I Do!

I like what I do….I mean, I really like what I do.  I have always liked looking at homes, all types of homes. The homes I dreamed of owning and living in one day.  The quirky and unique homes.  The homes that needed work….but, oh, what they could be!  The homes that were too modern for me.  The homes with too many stairs or with the yard that was too small.  Homes with the great views. Even the homes I hated!

I even like going on home inspections!  Boy, what you can learn on a home inspection!  I have almost never had a home inspector not find problems with the electrical system…home owners have this thing about “I can do it myself “when it comes to the electrical systems in their homes. Really, unless you are an electrician, not a good idea! I have learned about foundations, the good, bad and ugly. HVAC systems, how they work and why they don’t. I have learned a lot about how to maintain your home.

Of course, I love looking at the gardens, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, any kind of garden. You can tell a lot about someone by looking at their garden! I have noticed many more vegetable gardens in the last few years; people are beginning to find the joy of growing their own veggies. I love our vegetable garden and am always looking for new ideas. Of course, I love flowers. Having fresh cut flowers in my home makes me happy.

So, I guess its natural that seeing a client’s face as I hand them the keys to their home, or their settlement papers when they sell a home, is so rewarding. What a high to see a young couple walk through the door to their first home. How bittersweet it is to close the door after helping an elderly client sell their home of many years as they go on to the next phase of life. How exciting to help investors make a great investment and reap the reward, or help a family move into their long anticipated dream home.

I just love it!

Your Selling Window May Be Closing!

One thing I am sure of, there is no way to “time” the market, whether you are buying or selling.  Yes, you can make an educated guess about when we are at the bottom or top of the market, and you might be one of the lucky ones to get it pretty close. But, we never know when we have pulled out of a down market, or start the downward spiral in an up market until AFTER it happens!

All indications are that the banks will be releasing more foreclosures in 2012 than in 2011.  What does this mean to you? Well, if you are selling your home, get it sold now before more inventory hits the market.  With inventory low in most areas of San Diego, some sellers are getting multiple offers on their properties, pretty nice!  If you are a buyer, prices and interest rates are great. If you find a home you like, jump on it. Prices may decline some more, but they may not — every area is different. But if prices do decline it means you will have more competition.  Make your move now!