Top 6 reasons you should hire a professional Real Estate Agent

The house-buying and selling processes can be tricky, to say the least. Luckily, there are professionals (like me!) to guide you through it! I recently sat down with a first time home buyer who doesn’t understand the value of a real estate agent. He wanted to know what I do as he can find the houses himself.

The rubber really hits the road when you find the house you want to write on. This particular buyer was interested in a house, but now it is pending. If he had an agent working on his behalf, that agent would have called the listing agent, found out if they were looking at offers on a specific day or as they come and then find out if there is interest in the home. That all could have been communicated to this buyer and they might have put in an offer.

We are all very busy, and real estate can be a stressful process, taking up a lot of time on top of everything else you have going on. Why wouldn’t a buyer want an experienced professional to help them? It doesn’t cost them a cent as the seller pays the commission. For a seller, it is very apparent why you would hire an agent, but here are the top six reasons. At the end of the day, I think it is about trust. Do you trust this agent to work in your best interest?

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1. Neighborhood Knowledge

Agents either possess intimate knowledge or they know where to find the industry buzz about your neighborhood. We can run a neighborhood comparative market analysis, in addition to pointing a buyer where more data on schools, crime, demographics and open house listings exist.

2. Price Guidance

Contrary to what some people believe, agents do not select prices for sellers or buyers. However, an agent will help to guide clients to make the right choices for themselves. Buyer’s Agents will ask buyers to weigh all the data supplied to them and to choose a price. Then based on market supply, demand and the conditions, the agent will devise a negotiation strategy.

3. Market Conditions 

Real estate agents can disclose market conditions, which will govern your selling or buying process. Many factors determine how you will proceed. Data such as the comparative active/pendings/solds of similar homes, median and average sales prices, average days on market and ratios of list-to-sold prices, among other criteria, will have a huge bearing on what you ultimately decide to do.

4. Education & Experience

You don’t need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a real estate professional who does. Henry Ford once said that when you hire people who are smarter than you are, it proves you are smarter than they are. The trick is to find the right person (back to trust). For the most part, they all cost roughly the same, so why not hire a person with more education and experience than you? We’re all looking for more precious time in our lives, and hiring pros gives us that time.

5. Professional Networking

Real estate agents network with other professionals, many of whom provide services that you will need to buy or sell. Due to legal liability, many agents will hesitate to recommend a certain individual or company over another, but they do know which vendors have a reputation for efficiency, competency, and competitive pricing. Agents can, however, give you a list of references with whom they have worked and provide background information to help you make a wise selection. If an agent has a great reputation amongst their peers, it can help a buyer get into contract. Agents want to work with agents that are professional, communicate and are known for a smooth process.

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6. Negotiation Skills & Confidentiality

Top producing agents negotiate well because, unlike most buyers and sellers, they can remove themselves from the emotional aspects of the transaction and because they are skilled. It’s part of their job description. Good agents are not messengers, delivering buyer’s offers to sellers and vice versa. They are professionals who are trained to present their client’s case in the best light and agree to hold client information confidential from competing interests.

So, next time you’re in the market for buying or selling, and start thinking it’d be easier and cheaper to do it without an agent, think again! These are just a few of the reasons why hiring an agent ends up being the best way to go. Give me a call if you’re looking to buy or sell!

A new closing at 831 Niagara!

Recently, I closed a sale on 831 Niagara in Concord. I was thrilled to help Ann & Andrea as they retired and are ready to move on to the next chapter in Chicago.

I met them about five years ago with another past client, Teresa Debarard, who works for the Coast Guard with Ann & Andrea. They wanted help buying the home they were renting, so I met them, checked out the house and discussed the process. The seller only wanted to use their own agent to save on commission, and since they had been living there they already knew about the house. I understood and said let me come over and show you the comps and give you recommendations for inspections and what you should be looking at regarding price.

Over the years, they made some wonderful updates to the kitchen, yard, RV pad, and had an amazing backyard made for entertaining. When I came to take the listing, Ann said they were working with me because all those years ago I provided insight and information for them to make a more informed decision even though I would not be part of the process. I truly believe it is always best to give first and help people make informed decisions weather or not they end up working with you. It comes back in so many wonderful and unexpected ways!

YardHouse: Apps & tacos at the bar!

You may have heard of YardHouse, which is a relatively popular restaurant chain famous for its yard-tall beers. They recently opened a new location in the East Bay, and I went to check it out!

We had a great time sitting at the bar and ordering a variety of appetizers and tacos. The spicy tuna roll came highly recommended, however it isn’t a roll, it is more like a round dip. The parking lot was full and there was a wait for tables.

When I was living in Germany, we would occasionally go out and get a yard of beer in these very tall hour glasses. The only difference was they had wooden holders to prevent them from being easily knocked over. They also didn’t serve a stack of onion rings. But here all forms of tasty food (that isn’t so good for us) are available at every turn and corner. So when you are looking for a good vibe, a tall beer, and some food, check out the Yard House.

Event Round-Up: June 15th

It’s officially summer, in case you missed that massive heat wave at the beginning of the week! Time to plan around pool parties, trips to the beach, and picnics at the park! Here are some fun, local events for the next month or so happening in the Bay Area:

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Exploratorium: Self, Made (thru Sept. 2)

A really cool-looking exhibit about self-discovery that is on display for all ages at the Exploratorium all summer. Find out what makes you, you at this interactive-heavy exhibit. Information here.

Walnut Creek: Uncorked (June 20th)

The best restaurants in Walnut Creek offer delicious food, you’ll get to sip wine and walk through downtown, and mingle with the rest of the local community at this annual event. Get tickets here!

Walnut Creek: Music and Movies at the Park (June 21st)

This summer movie and music series will start at Tice Valley Park on 6/21, showing Bumblebee and playing the Rossmorr Band. Music starts at 7 p.m., and the movie starts around 8:30 (at sundown). Bring your family! Information here.

Pleasant Hill: Summer Concerts by the Lake (June 23)

Every other Sunday in Pleasant Hill, you can enjoy free music by the lake from 6-8 pm. On this date in particular, you can take in the sounds of Midnight Flyer. For more info and a full schedule, visit:
https://www.ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us/888/Festivals-Events.

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The Mercury News

Orinda: CalShakes (July 3rd)

Can’t beat a great outdoor venue for some small-time theater. Though the run on A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be over at CalShakes, you could take up The Good Person of Szechwan or plan ahead for House of Joy or MacBeth later in the season. Get more info here.

More apartments to come in WC Transit Village

As you may have noticed, the Walnut Creek BART station has taken on some renovations. There is now a new large 900 space parking structure along with a bus terminal at street level on the southwest side of the Bart station. Now, the loading zone is on the opposite side and getting there is trickier than it used to be as you can’t get in and out of area the way you could before.

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WCTransitVillage.com

This is all part of the transformation to the Walnut Creek Transit Village which is starting to taking shape. In addition to all the construction of apartments and condos on the side streets around Walnut Creek BART (see past blogs), they are building a mixed-use development with 360 apartment units, shops, restaurants and public plazas in the northwest lot next to Pringle Ave. It is supposed to have all the amenities you’d expect from a modern housing development (co-working space, pool and spa, rooftop deck, bike repair lounge, fitness center, etc.). Currently, there is a fence surrounding this old parking space and lots of weeds.

The second part of this project, on the corner of N. California Blvd. and Ygnacio Valley Rd. will have about 240 units and 12,000 square feet of retail space. That is expected to break ground next year. Combined with all the other new living areas around BART, the station really is being transformed into a living/shopping village.

The renderings look beautiful and the BART police station rendering turned out exactly like the finished product. As with any new development, the city requires some sort of art work to be installed and the most recent garage addition recently added their personal touch. We’ll discuss these pieces later in a separate blog post. My son visited me this weekend, hasn’t been in Walnut Creek since last August, and he feels it has really changed in nine short months. Our once sleepy town has grown up and continues to transform.

When appraised value is not market value

Sometimes, when the market is in a state of extremes, appraised value does not equal market value. Things are not appraising equally right now because the market stalled at the end of 2018, so homes sat and price reductions occurred. Now that the rates have dropped, buyers are back out, prices are up, but the comps are still off. Here is my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending with more:

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HomeLight

Because the market is heating up again, we have had several appraisal issues recently where there were simply no comparable sales available to support the contract price (despite multiple offers at that price). Because the agents involved in the transactions were frustrated, I thought it was necessary to repeat this blog.

Ten offers over $1 million; appraisal comes in at $850,000

We once had a transaction in Berkeley, CA involving a property that was listed for $850,000, and there were more than 10 offers for over $1 million. The market value for that property was clearly over $1 million because there were so many buyers willing to pay over $1 million in an open market. The appraised value, however, was much less because the highest priced comparable sale in the area was only $850,000. The appraiser knew about the other offers and he knew the market value was probably over $1 million, but he was constrained by appraisal guidelines.

The appraiser could only use comparable sales within one mile of the subject property that closed within the last three months. He could not correlate to the other offers or similar pending sales at all. So, the appraisal came in at $850,000 and this is clearly a case where the appraised value did not equal the market value. This happens all the time in “hot markets” where there are multiple offers and prices are increasing too fast for comparable sales data to keep up.

Why appraisers can’t “push” values

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Credit.com

Further, if appraisers push value too far in an attempt to support a contract price, other issues arise. An underwriter will likely call for a full review of the appraisal that will probably result in a significant cut in the value. Or worse, if the appraisal makes it past underwriting, investors may refuse to buy the loan on the secondary market because they are unfamiliar with Bay Area markets and the property appears overvalued on paper.

In any case, prior to the meltdown in 2008, appraisers could correlate to other offers and even pending sales to some extent, but nowadays they are not allowed. Appraising is all about closed sales and tight appraisal guidelines, and not always about estimating market value.

Art Town: Untitled?

There is a new, and maybe unfinished, piece of art near my office by Walnut Creek BART! You can see in the pictures below that it’s a very interesting structure comprised of multiple circles – some of which have openings among them.

There isn’t really any information online and no plaque at the structure itself, so I do wonder what the origin of this piece is? I want to know if it was designed to look old and rustic, or if it’s just incomplete (or old, and I’d just never noticed it before!). Does anyone know?

Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill: authenic Chinese food!

One evening I was working late and another agent had asked me some questions. Then she asked if I was hungry as she was going to get some dinner and wanted to treat me for my help. She is Chinese and recommended going to a Chinese restaurant. I said only if she orders the more authentic dishes so I can try them, as I always get kung pao chicken.

It was delicious and I would have never ordered the items we did. Sichuan can be spicy, so Kathy, my co-worker, was concerned I might not like it. Below is fish soup in a spicy sauce that we got only half-spicy. That is where the bowl of rice really comes in handy: you grab some fish, douse it against the rice, and then eat both. The rice helps absorb some of the heat.


We also ordered their signature tofu dish. Again, it would not be something I would normally consider and it was my favorite! I would order this again. These pictures don’t show anybody there, but there were two groups and I left them out of the picture. By the time we left, there were another give groups eating!

For an authentic Sichuan meal, I’d definitely recommend checking this place out! Just don’t go for the standard Chinese fare and ask your server for what they would recommend as the house special.

A survival guide for sellers living in a fully staged home

Nicole Solari, a broker in Northern California with The Solari Group, wrote a funny, interesting article recently that I wanted to share below. This version has been slightly edited for length, and includes my own commentary at the end. Enjoy!

Most of us are reasonably familiar with the litany of woes sellers and buyers typically experience. One of my agents, however, is getting an all-too-real refresher course in the twists and turns of selling a personal residence when it’s fully staged.

We accidentally created a manual on exactly how to pull of something spectacularly awful as living in a staged home while it’s actively being shown. So, if you find yourself advising sellers how they should cope with living in a staged house while it’s actively being shown, suggest these 10 survival skills to them:

Leave for the first few days the listing is active.

The best way to cope with living in a staged house is to put off doing it for as long as possible. Not everyone can afford this expense, but, at a minimum, a nice long weekend away seems to be worth the cost!

Stop thinking of staying in a staged house as living. It’s not. It’s camping.

Have realistic expectations to make the temporary inconvenience more bearable. Think of the extended stay as a camping trip, so it will be more tolerable. It’s a relatively accurate description of the “lifestyle” anyway.

Establish sensible advance-notice periods to insert in the showing instructions.

The agent needs to guide the discussion regarding how much advance notice sellers need to prep the property and vanish with kids and pets in tow. Giving two hours notice before a showing seems reasonable to most buyers and agents, and most often give more.

Don’t do anything that spatters, like cooking. Or eating.

Sellers shouldn’t use the oven. They shouldn’t microwave anything potentially explosive. And, they most certainly shouldn’t fry anything unless they’re prepared to wash down the stove and everything surrounding it immediately after use. When dining in, the menu should be limited to salads (as long as dressing spatters are rigorously prevented), sandwiches and other things that aren’t messy, such as takeout. Ideally, they’d just eat at restaurants or directly over the kitchen sink.

Shower at the gym, and have a hairdresser on speed dial.

Sellers want to be clean and buyers want to see a flawless home. Having a shower in showing condition means cleaning and its surrounding glass relentlessly and hand drying it every time it’s used. However, the gym shower is much more simple!

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Keep necessities in easily hidden bags or covered containers in every spot necessary.

Although I would never look under the bed, my seller assures me, if I did, I would find the bathrooms scale, a box of makeup, a bag containing soap, toothpaste, and floss, dog toys, a bag of allergy medications, and a set of pajamas. All I can say is thank goodness (and our stagers!) for bed skirts.

Give in to an obsessive need to clean, tidy and touch-up paint.

There’s nothing like having to get a property ready to show multiple times to focus a seller’s attention on minute details, and that’s good because buyers see everything. Suggest sellers keep cleaning supplies, garden gloves and tools, trim and wall paint, and brushes together in an easily accessible – but hidden – spot.

Protect the stager’s furnishings against every weird mishap conceivable.

If a seller soils or damages a rug, piece of furniture, lamp or perfect accessory, the loss to the stager is more profound than most sellers realize. The cost to replace an item is often significant, plus it can be difficult to locate a replica of the spoiled item, especially if it’s a unique size or style. It pays to protect them! So, sellers should plan to live like monks. They should try not to walk on the rugs or eat or drink near anything that’s not theirs.

Do NOT change the dog’s diet or routine.

Even with the best coping skills, sellers are stressed. And their pets (as well as kids) are double so. Nothing is as it usually is. And sellers’ little ones are involuntary conscripts in this process. So, sellers need to keep as much of their routine intact as humanly possible. And, whatever they do, urge them NOT to try a new dog food while they’re living on someone else’s rugs!

Hire a cleaning service.

The constant wiping, cleaning, and tidying soon gets to every seller. If they can afford it, hiring a professional cleaning service to come in on a regular basis is respite care for stressed-out sellers. You’d be amazed at what a memorable and welcome gift that can be.

It might seem a little overboard, but their are agents out there that will suggest all these things. I am more of a middle of the road. Get the house looking stellar, take professional pictures and then keep it as tidy as possible. Having a caddy that goes under the sink with all your shower and morning routine items is just fine. Many people go away the first weekend of an Open House and if you have kids, that adds a whole different dimension of keeping a place tidy. Just picking up the toys and putting them in a basket may just suffice.