A True Hero

imagesIndependence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Why?   I guess because it’s about getting together with family and friends for picnics and barbecues, everyone bringing something to share, lazy summer days and warm nights. And, of course, fireworks.

Working with military families, helping them sell or buy homes, is a natural part of my business since I live in San Diego, a very military town. I am proud to call the many military families I have helped “my clients” and love helping them. They hold a special place in my heart.

When my husband was raising the flag on the flag pole in our yard the morning of July 4th this year he had the opportunity to talk with one of our neighbors. When he told me about the conversation, it struck a chord with me. And, later in the day when our neighbor stopped by, I learned what makes a true hero.

Ron is in his 80’s now. He has been married to his best friend and soul mate for about 60 years. Ron is a quiet man, pretty private. He is an old school kind of guy, always polite, never would tell an off colored joke in front of a “lady”.  I have been “Miss Terri” to him since we have known him, about 18 years I guess.

Ron doesn’t share too much about himself. It comes out in spurts, over years. I knew Ron was an orphan, but did not know much else about his childhood. Turns out his birth certificate reads “Infant Male Unknown Last Name”.  Ron didn’t have a name growing up. He was in orphanages and foster homes pretty much his entire childhood. No one ever gave him a name, not a real name. He was called things, but never by his name.

He was in and out of foster homes until he finally stayed in one place. He had a foster-brother, son of his foster parents, and he liked this brother.  When he moved to San Diego  and wanted to join the Navy, he found out he had to have a name on a birth certificate. His brother’s name was Donald, so he took Ronald as his name, along with the brother’s last name. Imagine being 18 years old and finally having a name.

Ron served four years in the Navy during the Korean “Conflict” (never was called a war). He was even in shark infested waters for 16 hours once.  He has never wanted to call attention to himself and talk about his time in the Navy. Talking about it yesterday brought tears to his eyes.  That’s a tale for another day.

So why is Ron a hero to me? This man overcame a childhood that no one should have to endure. He served his country with honor. He married a wonderful woman and they have a great marriage, are devoted to one another. He owned a successful business and raised a family.  He doesn’t seek recognition of any kind, nor does he want it. He is just an everyday kind of guy. The kind who make this country great.  He is my hero.

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.

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!

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!

Home Inspections for the Home Buyer

When a buyer finds the home they love, their offer is accepted, and escrow is opened, the next step is having the home inspection.  Most home buyers have no idea how to select a home inspector, and will often make their decision on price. But, this is definitely NOT the time to shop for the least expensive inspector. You need a reputable inspector, one who is a member of the professional organizations for home inspectors in your area, one with experience, and one who has references.  In our area, an inspection of a home will run from approximately $450 to $600.

A home buyer usually pays for three items up front…the appraisal, the credit report, and the home inspection.  If the transaction does not close, they will not be reimbursed for the appraisal or home inspection (in most cases).   Home buyers need to remember that the purpose of the home inspection is to make sure the major components of the home are operating correctly….is there something that would cause you not to purchase the home if not corrected?  It is not a time to start asking for cosmetic repairs.  The inspector’s job is to find things wrong with the property, and they will!  Buyers are usually buying a previously lived in home. Some are lived in “considerately”; others are lived in a bit “rougher”.

I have rarely had an escrow fall out because of inspections.  A seller wants to sell the home and a buyer wants to purchase it, so we usually work out any issues that may arise.

Are You Sitting on the Fence ….. Waiting?

I see it everyday, cash buyers here in San Diego buying property….single family homes, condos, and apartments buildings.  They are coming to San Diego from all over the country.

Some are even coming from other countries. They can’t buy property fast enough.
So why are so many people here in San Diego sitting on the fence? Waiting to make a move and buy a home, or buy an investment property and start building their wealth?

For first time home buyers, you have to live somewhere, right?  You can continue paying rent and helping someone else build their wealth, or you can buy a home to call your own, where you can paint the walls any color you want, hang pictures wherever your want, grow a garden, have a pet without huge deposits. Did you know that you can sometimes spend less money owning your own home than you pay in rent?

Some of the best bargains in San Diego County are found in San Diego’s best kept secret….East County.  The communities of El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee, Lakeside, Alpine, Jamul, Descanso, and Pine Valley offer fantastic values.  How about a 5 bedroom home on 1.5 acres with oak trees and a seasonal stream for $484,599?  Yes, you can find it in Alpine.  What about a great investment property — a condo for less than $100,000? It’s in El Cajon.   Looking for a custom home with a view…have you checked out the communities of Horizon Hills or Hidden Mesa?  Want some privacy and a place for horses?  Have you seen Dehesa Valley?  Amazing values there!

Don’t miss out on the great opportunity this real estate cycle is offering…..its there for the taking!

How Can It Be A Good Time To Buy AND A Good Time To Sell?

I get asked this questions a lot!  How can this be so?  Well, because buying or selling a home is a very personal thing.  No situation is the same.  People are different and have different desires and needs.

We hear and read so much contradictory information about the market, it can be confusing.  The information coming at us is uncertain, so it’s no wonder that people are uncertain about what to do.

We have all read about the great reasons to buy:

  • Interest rates are at historically low levels
  • There is a good supply of homes for sale; prices are still at affordable levels
  • If interest rates go up 1% you can afford about 10% less in price
  • It’s a great time to buy investment property, or a second home

What are the reasons to sell now?

  • If you are going to move up, you will come out better in the long run. You may sell at a price that’s lower that what you want, but you will also be buying a home at a lower price than you could have a few years ago.
  • If interest rates go up a percent or two, prices will probably come down further.  And, rates are expected to go up.
  • Investors are still coming into our area, San Diego, with cash. 28% of the sales in San Diego County last year were cash sales, many from out of state buyers.
  • Most importantly, where do you want to be for the next one to eight years?  If you are happy where you are, great!  But if you want to move during that time, do it now!

I recommend that you obtain the information you need to make a good decision for you and your family, not what’s good for your friends or neighbors.  Talk to a professional about the market, look at the numbers, see what makes sense for you!

Don’t Believe Everything You Read!

Just read a great article from The KCM Blog, “Don’t Believe Everything You Read”,   . It’s probably not the first time we have heard that saying!

It is really difficult to sift through all the information the media is putting out there – the housing market is crumbling, the housing market is getting better, there are no sales, prices are going up, etc.!

In San Diego, where I work, the market is fairly flat; prices are still on the decline in most areas. Sales are down in some areas, but not all. The bottom line is that homes are selling every day.  If you are a buyer, there has not been a better time to buy a home, with the inventory, the prices, and the interest rates. This is a once in a generation time to buy a home….my advice is not to wait.

If you are a seller, prices are expected to continue to decline for a while; we are anticipating 3-10 percent in San Diego depending in where you live.  So, if you are thinking about selling, this is the time to do it!  It will probably be years before we see a significant increase in the price of homes.

In the last two years, I have worked with more cash buyers and more sellers who own their homes free and clear than in the previous 18 years.  When out-of-state buyers are bringing cash into California to purchase real estate, you know it’s time to buy!

So, if you’re on the fence, get off – let me help you get all the facts you need to make a well-informed decision about real estate!