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Michael Schaller's Blog

By Michael Schaller | Broker in Agoura Hills, CA
  • Simple precautions for wary realtors

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Agoura Hills  |  August 5, 2009 11:18 AM  |  1,649 views  |  No comments

    Real estate isn't exactly as entertainingly hazardous a profession like ice road trucking, but it does have its share of incidents like every other seemingly mundane job. This tragic article shows that even in our day in age, incidents happen that bely the apparently riskless nature of our work. Let's face it, active realtors will probably meet with more strangers in unsecure locations than an undercover cop. At Century 21 Adobe, we always keep a priority on our agents' safety so we've discussed the dangers and necessary precautions in our office meeting, but we can't limit our concern to just our employees. Here are some simple precautions you can take to ensure that your real estate success isn't hindered by any unfortunate occurences.

    1) Communication: Keep your cell phone on you and adequately charged at all times. Make sure you check in with your office prior to an open house and that someone or several someones know where you're supposed to be. Tell neighbors in the area of your open house so they may also be a passive lookout for your safety. Smart realtors will also take this as an opportunity to market themselves to new prospects.

    2) Reconnaissance: Before letting strangers enter a home, go in first yourself to make sure all windows and doors are properly closed and, especially in vacant houses, it hasn't been taken up by squatters, as a surprising number of agents in our office have complained about. If these pests looking for a free roof are present, do not attempt to reason with or remove them yourself, but rather call the local authorities. Like the bear in its den, squatters can be rather vicious if they are approached in their makeshift habitat, especially if startled from sleep.

    3) Secure the Area: Make sure to call the current owners to prepare for the visit by hiding away all cash, valuables, weapons, and prescription drugs. One of our agents has an experience of over $25,000 worth of diamond jewelry being stolen from an open house while it was vulnerably lying out on a counter. Also make sure to close and lock all windows and doors at the conclusion of the open house.

    4) Personal Precautions: Taking a hint from Jason Bourne, allow clients to walk in front of you at all times and never leave yourself cornered in a room without an escape route. If two groups arrive at the same time, make one wait outside while you show around the other. Having people wandering around is when mischief is most likely to happen. If you feel the necessity, carry pepper spray on your person as an additional defense.

    With these simple steps, you can ensure your personal safety, leaving you to focus on your sellilng success.

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  • Attention to details helps homeowners sell fast in a buyer's market

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Agoura Hills  |  July 20, 2009 12:55 PM  |  1,638 views  |  No comments
    Your boss has just given you the career opportunity of a lifetime, but the job is in another state. Soon you discover that moving your family to another city may be one of life's hardest tasks. The thought of leaving behind old friends and schools for a strange town can be frightening. The biggest challenge of all, however, it to preserve the equity in your housing investment so you will be able to purchase a similar home in the new location. Not to worry. Even in these uncertain times homeowners can sell at very satisfactory prices in a reasonable period of time. The secret? Pay attention to details, utilize marketing savvy, and price the home to sell quickly. The following tips can help you get that "sold" sign up fast.

    SELECT A SAVVY REAL ESTATE AGENT, one with a successful track record in your neighborhood, backed by resources that extend into outside housing markets. Make sure the agent prepares an effective listing of your property, one that outlines all the features that make your home unique. Also, it's smart to prepare a separate fact sheet that can be distributed freely to all interested buyers. In soft time, offering the agent a bonus if the house sells within 60 days can work to the homeowner's advantage.

    OFFER THE RIGHT PRICE. Start with a price that is reasonable for your neighborhood and the size of your home. Comparing the price of your home with similar nearby listings is an easy way to be sure you are offering the right price. Comparing the opinions of two independent appraisers will also help you avoid over-pricing.

    PAY PART OF THE CLOSING COSTS, usually 3 to 5 percent of the loan amount. This will attract those first-time buyers who are short on cash for down-payment and closing costs. Offering to turn over personal property such as washing machines and dryers, refrigerators, and flower boxes can also attract buyers looking for the best deal.

    ACCEPT CONTINGENCY AGREEMENTS. Make your sale contingent upon the sale of the buyer's home. This takes away buyers' fears of juggling two properties and mortgages at the same time.

    TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CORPORATE RELOCATION TRADE. Be sure that your broker is connected to a relocation network, one capable of bringing in buyers from distant places. And, of course, try to get your employer to provide you with relocation assistance, too.

    MAKE YOUR HOME STAND OUT. Fresh paint and flowers can go a long way in impressing buyers. Tend to such details as mowing the lawn, fixing stubborn door knobs and sliding doors, and straightening up the basement. Remember, your home's appearance on the day it's shown can make or break a sale. The bottom line is that sellers should take the time to make their home as attractive as possible. Compiling helpful tips for the buyer about school districts, utility bills, and directions to the nearest shopping mall can go a long way in selling your house quickly.

    With a little work and an active real estate agent, chances are good that your house will sell fast in today's buyer's market.

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  • The death of commission sales?

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Agoura Hills  |  July 16, 2009 12:55 PM  |  1,662 views  |  1 comment
    An interesting new innovation to the real estate industry seems to have gained in popularity recently, and that is flat fee real estate. We are all familiar and completely accustomed to the current modus operandi of agents and that is to take a commission, typically 3% of the property value going to the realtor from both sides of the transaction. It's the old standard model and has worked brilliantly since Moses led the Israelites away from their depreciated foreclosed homes in Egypt to the promised land of new swanky beachfront property along the Dead Sea.

    Still, just google flat rate real estate and you'll find many agents like this guy touting his daring to break from tradition. He and his fellow rebels are part of a new process that is definitely significant now, but the question remains: will it spread?

    Charging a flat fee for real estate certainly makes some sense. It's like an analogy I heard about Coinstar machines, which charge 8.9% of all the money they turn into cash. Say you have 100 dollars worth of pennies and 100 dollars worth of quarters. You put them both in and get $91.50 from each bag. However, the bag of quarters contained twenty-five times less coins and thus was 25 times easier to count, so how come it was charged the same high rate?

    In real estate, is it really twice as much work for an agent to sell a million dollar house than a half million dollar house? It's essentially the same service in each case, though maybe a little more walking to do during the tours.

    Still, such a huge deviation from a tried-and-true practice that has been in use forever isn't likely to happen any time soon because people like the Palos Verdes agent (http://www.mygrpr.com/grclips/parsed/CA_e043_01072009_1_1.pdf) who made $183 million in sales last year, translating to an income of about $11 million by the standard 6% commission, would never stand for that. His deal is just too sweet right now.

    So in the end, commission sales will probably remain on its throne right next to the qwerty keyboard, as systems that have spawned more efficient and logical replacements, but win out in the end out of familiarity and tradition.

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