Competing buyers

Q:

You’ve been recommended by several of our friends, but before we commit to working with you, we want to be sure that you will work exclusively with us to find a home in our price range and with our housing requirements. Is it possible to have such a contract?

A:

Unfortunately, not. Any active Realtor will usually be working with at least a few clients in each price range and category of home. I can understand how that might be frustrating but to have only a single client in each price point or category of home would certainly not lend itself to making a living.

For each category, like waterfront, acreage, view or inland near town, for instance, I usually have three to four parties looking seriously to buy. When a new listing comes on the market I send that listing to each of those clients. I occasionally show a home to more than one set of clients, but it is extremely rare that two clients will be ready to jump on a new listing and make an offer right away. If that were the case I would refer one of them to another Realtor since I can’t represent two buyers for the same property.

The race goes to the swiftest when it comes to buying in the Puget Sound region. We have an inventory of only around 200 homes each year to sell on Vashon. That’s in all price ranges from $300,000 up to over two million. For folks who limit themselves to specific areas of the Island or very narrow parameters, there may be only two or three properties a year that will come close to satisfying their requirements. If they’re not ready to jump and make an offer quickly, it’s likely that they will never be able to buy here.

In 29 years of selling real estate on Vashon I have only had one instance where I had two buyers both ready to make an offer on the same property. I referred the second couple to another Realtor and they made their offer with her.

No real deals

Q:

I know that my husband was upset the last time you spoke to him and I just wanted to apologize. He thinks that you didn’t really properly represent us when we made an offer. We lost the bid and now he wants to blame you. I’m sure you did everything you could to help us get the house.

A:

He may learn, after he makes more offers that are well below asking price, that most of our homes sell for over asking price, some for significantly more. He seems to think he can get a real bargain if the home has been on the market more than a few weeks. There are a few good buys out there, but most of those are fixers, which you specifically said you didn’t want. At this point, I’m afraid that you’re out priced for the type of home you require. The home you offered on sold for well over asking price. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is the market we have.

Buying here is always difficult because we have so little inventory. In each price range and general category there may be only five to ten homes a year that come on the market.  Had you purchased a home a year ago, when you first started looking, you would have been living here a whole year and would have been able to afford your perfect home. That’s no longer true.

I’ve had to “fire” several clients who don’t understand that if you want to own a home on Vashon you must make that your priority. So many times, I send a new listing to a client, one that I think will fit their specific needs, but they are on a vacation, or too busy with their social life to come out and look at the house before it sells. If you continue to expect to get a real deal as well as find the exact home you require, you may have a better chance to find what you’re looking for if you widen your search to other Puget Sound areas.

 

Questions about Title

Q:
I’m really confused about the title to the property I’m buying. You sent me the title report from the title company, but it looks like pages of disclosures and stuff about what they won’t cover and aren’t responsible for. The rest of it is “exceptions”. I don’t know what any of that means and there are some things in these exceptions that look confusing and even could be a problem.
A: 

Most buyers never look at the title documents and therefore lose the chance to discover issues and problems as well as benefits to the property they are buying. You will sign off on this report so if you don’t understand it you need to ask. I am not a title officer, but I read every word of these reports and call the title company with questions.

I’ve read hundreds of title reports, so some things are virtually identical in all of them. You are right that there are disclosures and the usual disclaimers. The point is that as the buyer, you are solely responsible for reading and accepting what is written in that report. Easements, government requirements, covenants, and any extraordinary exceptions should be well understood before you move forward.

I always use the title addendum when I write an offer. I’ve seen enough problematic title issues to believe that having the buyers totally happy with the title report is important. Real estate brokers are encouraged by our industry not to even read the title. We are told that since we are not expert at understanding the documents we should refrain from interpreting them for buyer. We are not attorneys.

That may be true, but if I see that a neighbor has the right to cut down your trees for a view or build a road through your property or require you to pay into a maintenance agreement I will call it to your attention. You have just a few short days to be satisfied with the report so use your time wisely. Ask me specific questions and talk to the title officer or to your own attorney.

 

Spend more money?

Q:
Our lender has just approved us for a higher price than we told you we were prepared to spend when we started looking to buy. It will be a stretch, but it gives us more options. None of the places we’ve seen really excite us and we keep hoping something better will come up.   So, please keep sending us new listings but go up to a higher price.
A:

I’d be happy to do that, but I also want to caution you that as hard as it is when you are excited about buying a home, it’s only prudent to purchase something well within your means. You have kids and that means you need a college fund. Education is getting more expensive and you want to be sure the money is there when they’re ready to attend college or a trade school.

I’ve seen families spend their last dime to get a “nicer” house, only to be totally strapped for years. We also had a deep recession just a few years ago and those with no deep safety net sometimes lost their homes. I’m not trying to stick my nose into your financial business, nor am I suggesting that you are not financially savvy and good planners. I know that the house hunting process can affect the way people act and it is sometimes counterproductive to their best interests.

Another reminder I’d like to share with you is that no one gets exactly what they want here. With only around 200 houses a year to sell on Vashon it’s not likely that you will locate your “dream home”. Most buyers end up happy and satisfied with something different than what they started out hoping to find. It’s really the beauty of the island, the peace and quiet, the good schools, the safe community and the wonderful people here that really matter.

Last, but not least, so many of our homes are going for over asking price, so you need to work under your top price so that you have some wiggle room if you have to bid higher.

Becoming a Real Estate Broker

Q:
I’ve been thinking seriously about becoming a real estate broker andfriends have recommended that I talk to you since you’ve been in the business so long.  I signed up for a class that’s required but I don’t know what else I should be doing.
A:

This is a very challenging business and it has become more complex with each passing decade.  That isn’t necessarily a bad think if you like to be challenged, love working hard and look forward to lifelong learning.  The best thing you can do, after you get your license, is to interview with local real estate offices.  This very much an “on the job training” sort of business.  The classes you take to get a license will give you only the most limited and basic information.

A good real estate office should have an on-going educational component. You should be assigned a mentor who can show you the basics and be available to answer questions. It’s common these days for Realtors to work in teams. Often one of a team is far more experienced and you can learn a great deal from them. Ask questions and do research. Learn to be comfortable with county records and maps, the multiple listing service, the legal forms we use and real estate terminology.

You will be required to become a member of the multiple listing service. They offer many classes to help you get started with their various systems. You should also join the King County Board of Realtors. They also offer classes all year long to keep us up to date on the latest trends and most recent changes in the law. They also adhere to a code of ethics that is critical to understand. Those brokers who are successful over a long number of years, with repeat clients and referrals from former clients, are the ones who have learned to treat everyone in a transaction ethically and with respect. I learned a great deal just listening to those around me when I first started in a traditional real estate office 30 years ago.