Real Estate Agents

QUESTION: My best friend just got her real estate license. Should I list with her?

I read somewhere that the average person is friends with 5 real estate agents. If that’s true, the good news is you'll have 5 people you know and trust who can help you buy or sell your house. The bad news is you can really only work with one of them.

The other bad news is that most newbies don't last very long in the business. The attrition rate is high, with 87% dropping out in the first 5 years. And of the agents currently working, most of the real estate “business” that you see around you (an estimated 80%) is being conducted by the top 20% of the agents in the area.

Listing with a friend can be a high-pressured situation, especially if he or she is new to the business. Of course, you want to help them but the truth is, they are learning the ropes on your largest financial asset – and that’s something you need to be aware of going in. Because an agent’s “education” can hit a seller in their wallet.

We’ve all gotten the call from someone we adore: “Hey, I just got my real estate license!” But it’s still wise to ask ourselves: Of the 5 real estate agents you may know, who's still learning on a the job? Who's getting ready to drop out because it just isn’t as easy as it looks? Who's in the 80 percent, struggling to put together a few deals a year?  Who's selling real estate only on weekends and after their day job on Tuesdays?

I can tell you from my 13 years experience and over 200 homes I’ve sold, the more you’ve “seen” in real estate deals, the better equipped you are to service your clients.

Pricing Your Montclair Home: What's the Sweet Spot?

5-back-iconWhen you're pricing your home, it's always tempting to ask for a bit more than you expect - to leave a little room for negotiating. But this strategy actually doesn't work.

According to industry experts, houses priced 10% over their ultimate selling price typically receive no offers. In fact, even houses priced a mere 5% too high will typically get showings, but no offers. If you start too high, you'll have to gradually lower your price over time until you find someone willing to buy.

In real estate, "gradually" is not great.

No one wants their house to sit on the market. Not you. Not your agent. The DOM (Days On Market) of a home is the leading indicator as to whether it is priced appropriately.

In Montclair, the average DOM is 50.

Examples of homes priced too high: 363 Park Street - Original price: $1,450,000; DOM-370 Offers started when price was dropped to $1,199,000

18 Capron Lane - Original price: $1,200,000; DOM-170 It sold when the price was lowered to $989,000

Even a house listed at its "correct" price - that is, the price it is likely to sell for - may not be ideal for the seller. Studies show that the market responds most enthusiastically when houses are priced just below their true value.

When a home is listed at about 5% under its ideal sales price, the property nearly always sells for more than asking, and often substantially more. This doesn't make complete logical sense, so it requires a leap of faith on the part of the homeowner. As a seller, you need a strong stomach and a good realtor who knows the market and how to price at that sweet spot.

Here's what happens when houses are priced to sell:

117 Haddon - Listed $699,000; Sold $826,000; DOM-11 19 Windsor - Listed $699,000; Sold $838,000; DOM-9 131 Wildwood - Listed $899,000; Sold $111,0000; DOM-10

When clients ask me how much negotiating room there should be when pricing their Montclair home, the answer is none.

If you'd like to talk about home pricing, or get a better sense of the market, call me. I love to talk real estate! 973.809.5277

*Studies performed by Jeffery Otteau of the Otteau Valuation Group www.otteau.com

Another Happy Client!

There isn't much more stressful in life than buying a home - and especially buying your first home. You can get a sense of what it's like to work with me if you spend some time reading reviews on Zillow. Here's a recent post that made me feel great about doing the work that I do:

"Lina helped us purchase our home recently. As first time homebuyers, we had many questions going in, but Lina patiently and confidently guided us through each step of the process. Lina was professional, reliable and very accessible, returning callskeep calm and addressing questions and concerns efficiently.

We very much appreciated that she took the time up front to learn about our family and the type of home and neighborhood we wanted. She did a very nice job of only bringing to our attention homes that met our criteria.

Lina was very well versed in the local real estate market and was able to teach us more about the geography and detailed attributes of the many different neighborhoods in town. From beginning to end, Lina was calm and patient but knew when to push, frequently offering the right piece of information and guidance at the right moment. It was a pleasure working with Lina, and we look forward to many happy years in the home she helped us purchase!"  -- K.T.

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation!

Atlas Van LinesOne of the most frequent pieces of feedback I get from my clients is that I'm very knowledgeable about and good at explaining the ins and outs of real estate sales. I think that's probably true, largely because I believe the more people know, the better they are at both buying and selling.

So, today, I want to pass on some information about relocating.

If you or your spouse are making a work-related move, the employer may offer a relocation package. They may offer to pay for your closing costs, pay for your move, even buy your house if it sits on the market too long. Most of the big corporations use a relocation company, like Cartus, which provides various services and resources - one of which is to set you up with one of their contracted real estate agents, usually one from a corporate-owned real estate company.

However, you are not obligated to use their recommended agent or agency.

The reason I mention this is because it's often not made clear to sellers that Cartus will work with any agent, usually with no financial ramifications to the seller. Meaning, if you worked with a real estate agent that you really liked when you bought your house, you can use that same agent to sell your house - even if a corporate relocation package is part of the picture.

This comes as great news to many sellers who have already built a trusting relationship with a local agent. Or to those who prefer to use an agent recommended by a friend.

If you're selling your house for a business move and you've been offered a relocation package, let's talk. I can explain to you how the system works so you can make decisions that make you happy. I've been told I'm very good at that kind of thing! 973-809-5277

How Accurate is Your "Zestimate" ?

This LA Times article about Zillow estimates is from a year ago, but it recently resurfaced on my social media pages and seems worth sharing. For homeowners, Zillow seems like the best thing since sliced bread. A do-it-yourself tool to determine home values. Unfortunately, it's not the last word in valuation and is often controversial.

Zillow uses an Automated Valuation Model  (AVM), which is an algorithm that takes into account location, price per sqft, lot size, etc by relying on publicly available data from comparable properties. Sometimes this data is old or just simply wrong.  It's not a bad system for very general ideas about home value, but it doesn't account for anything unusual (good or bad) about your home.  AVMs tend to overstate the value of homes that are in poor condition or in an awkward location (like next to a gas station).  Similarly, they understate the value of homes that have fabulous recent renovations or are walkable to the NYC train.  It's a little like the real estate equivalent of an automated telephone customer service system. It's good for only the most basic information gathering.

And, as this article points out, "Zestimates" aren't even especially accurate - on average they are off by 8%.

Working with an experienced agent (i.e., me!), you'll have access to all the same type of automated information available through Zillow AND the expertise of someone who knows what the inside of the comp homes look like.  So, together, we can make a smart marketing plan if you're a seller, and realistic decisions about bidding if you're a buyer.

I'm happy to come over and tell you what your home is worth. Buying and selling homes is nuanced and subjective. It's not about algorithms. It's about lifestyles and dreams.

A Short Post About Tiny Houses

Tiny houses seem to be all the rage right now. I'm intrigued by the idea of people living in a 200-250 square-foot house, although I can't imagine doing so myself. I recently came upon this video of tiny houses that are being built as apartment "units," which can be removed from the "apartment building" and moved anywhere.

My first thought was, Wow, this could put real estate agents right out of business. My second thought was, Hmmm, for a tiny house it sure can store a lot of wine.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is fascinated by the emotional wherewithal of people who opt to live in suminimotives-tiny-house-9ch efficient quarters. This hilarious essay in Medium struck a chord with many of us who just don't get it.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to think I could live in a home where I could see everything I own just by craning my neck. But how would I host Thanksgiving? Where would I put the Christmas tree? For that matter, where would I store the Halloween candy? And would any trick-or-treaters even come?

Obviously, I'm not ready to make the big move to a tiny house. Not so for my son; he says he's going to build one in the back yard so I can't nag him about cleaning his room.

If you're ready for a move and are still in the market for a big people's house, I have inventory in all shapes and sizes. Give me a call and let me show you around! 973.809.5277

Montclair is"Buzz"-ing

buzz aldrinOne of the many things I love about Montclair is its creative vibe: How many other suburbs can boast an art-house cinema, an internationally-recognized annual film festival, a jazz club, and a dozen or so art galleries?  Next month, though, my town will be focusing more on the sciences than the arts when it honors a hometown hero--astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Aldrin was the second man (after Neil Armstrong) to walk on the moon. He is also a graduate of Montclair High School's Class of 1947, where he played on the football team. He'll be back at Montclair High School on June 2 to receive the first-ever "Key to Montclair" and see the unveiling of  a plaque commemorating his historic flight. The event is open to the public, and I'm sure it will be mobbed, but I'm definitely planning to attend.

As a Montclair Realtor who loves walkable communities, I can't wait to meet the man who walked all over Montclair before walking on the moon.

 

The Glamourous Life of a Montclair Real Estate Agent

A virtual superfund site in the back of my car

When I first became a real estate agent seven years ago I envisioned spending my days flitting from open house to open house, picking up a decorating idea here, a tea sandwich there.  I imagined driving an upscale German car (after all- your car IS your office in real estate), wearing the lastest Marc Jacobs.   Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case.

On the day of my last closing, an orange HazMat suit would have been a more appropriate outfit.  After hiring a clean-out company to empty the house of a seller who had moved across the country, I was dismayed to find out that they don't remove or handle household chemicals (old couches -yes, weed killer - no) .  With only hours before the closing, guess whose job it is to get rid of the 80 bottles of various unmarked liquid?  And, BTW... you can't just pour this stuff down the drain.  Thank goodness I drive a station wagon.