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Sarah Goulart Nathe's Blog

By Sarah Goulart Nathe | Agent in Bourne, MA
  • Why Hire A Buyer's Agent?

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Massachusetts, Agent2Agent in Massachusetts  |  March 16, 2011 8:27 AM  |  470 views  |  4 comments

    Recently, I was contacted by a new client who found me online.  She asked to see a particular home and I spoke with her a little bit about the home, their criteria, and then did some preliminary work to set up the showing while she confirmed the time with her husband.  A few hours later, she called me to tell me that her husband has decided that in their home search, he only wants to work with the listing agents of each individual home they look at.  I spoke with her for a little while about what a buyers agent can do for them and while she understood my points, she eventually said that she didn't want to cause a marital dispute over it.  Being a married woman myself, I completely understood, but it sparked my desire to formulate a blog post about the benefits of a buyers agent.

    So....Why Hire A Buyer's Agent?

    Many people think that a buyer's agent is simply someone who makes an appointment and unlocks a door.  People think to themselves 'I can call and make an appointment with the list agent myself.'  While that is true, buyers who think this are really doing themselves a disservice.  A good buyer's agent does SO much more than just set up appointments and let you into homes.  A buyer's agent has your best interest in mind throughout the entire transaction.  He or she has full fiduciary duties, including loyalty, to you.  In addition, your buyer's agent will provide the following for you:

    Obedience: The agent will obey the client’s instructions as long as they are legal and are according to the contract.

    Loyalty: The agent will keep the client’s interest ahead of any other party, including the agent.

    Disclosure: The agent will disclose any knowledge that will benefit the client.   This can include known history of a home they are viewing, anything a selling agent may disclose to them, etc.

    Confidentiality: The agent will not disclose any information about the buyer (ie. who they are, their business, financial, or personal affairs, motivations, etc.) throughout the entire transaction.  This can be important in negotiations.  If you are negotiating with the selling agent, his or her duty is to their client, not you.

    Accounting: The agent will account for all documents and funds in the transaction.  They will be in constant contact with you during the transaction to make sure you meet all deadlines and remain in accordance with the contract.  They will also make sure that extensions are filed when necessary, protecting you in the event you have to back out.

    Reasonable Care: The agent is expected to advise and guide the client through the process.

    A good agentis not just a door opener. We search for homes on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and in other places (For Sale By Owner sites) so you don’t have to. We watch the market closely and can advise you on different areas you may be looking in.  We schedule showings by calling each brokerage one by one and we do preliminary research on each home you will be viewing. When we show you homes, we disclose to you anything we know about the home (good or bad).  After you find the house you like, we prepare an offer by pulling comparable homes and helping you come up with an offer that will get accepted by the seller at what will hopefully be the lowest price. We are expert negotiators and we will make sure you do not pay over market value for a house....unless YOU decide you want to.

    After you have an accepted offer, we help you through every step of the transaction.  We can help you find inspectors, real estate attorneys, contractors, mortgage companies, or anything else you may need.  Working in the industry, we usually have compiled an excellent list of people who can help you and also have your best interests in mind. 

    Finally, one comment I hear a lot is that buyers can 'save' more by buying a house directly from the selling agent.  First of all, given everything I've written already, I can't imagine the 2-3% 'savings' is really worth it....but what most people don't understand is that there is no real savings for the seller when a buyer doesn't have a buyer's agent.  When a homeowner signs a listing contract, they sign for a percentage (let's say 4-6%).  Normally, unless there is some other arrangement, when the buyer doesn't have an agent, the selling agent gets all of that.  So there is no real savings at all.  Obviously laws in different states may change that and there may be some 'dual agency' issues that change that, but for the majority of homes in my area, this is the case. 

    So please, if you are looking for a home, find a good buyer's agent.  You will be glad you did.

    Sarah Nathe
    Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

  • Bigger Down Payments Lead To Second Thoughts

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Massachusetts, Home Selling in Massachusetts, Agent2Agent in Massachusetts  |  March 5, 2011 12:31 PM  |  517 views  |  1 comment
    I found this article interesting enough to share.  Most people would agree that until 'recently' in history, buying a home with less than 20% down was unheard of.  Then came the 'good' years with 0 down home loans, some even rolling closing costs into the loan.  For that and other reasons, we are where we are in today's market.  So what do you think?  Are you happy to see the government and banks requiring more money down on home loans or are you unhappy because it is hurting the real estate business?

    I myself am torn.  I never want to see people in over their heads financially.  I also want to see the real estate market rebound and give more people the opportunity for homeownership.

    Bigger down payments lead to second thoughts

    February 20, 2011

    The down payments demanded by banks to buy homes have ballooned since the housing bust, forcing many people to rethink what they can afford and potentially shrinking the pool of eligible buyers.

    Last week, the Obama administration called for gradually raising down payments to a minimum of 10 percent on conventional loans, meaning those that can be bought or guaranteed by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And mortgage data show that private lenders are already pushing sharply higher the required down payments, mainly to mitigate their risk as home prices continue to fall.

    The median down payment in nine major U.S. cities rose to 22 percent last year on properties purchased through conventional mortgages, according to an analysis for The Wall Street Journal by real estate portal Zillow.com. That percentage doubled in three years and represents the highest median down payment since the data were first tracked in 1997.

    The move to force home buyers to lay out more cash is driven mostly by banks, who have found that larger down payments discourage delinquencies by increasing the buyers' exposure to loss and reducing the impact of declining prices. Many home buyers placed little, if anything, down during the boom.

    A 2009 Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis study concluded buyers who made smaller down payments were more likely to default during "unfavorable economic circumstances, such as a housing market slowdown or job loss."

    Higher borrowing costs and heftier down payments could send housing prices falling further. Last week, 30-year fixed mortgage rates rose to 5.05 percent, their highest level since April. "If there is a scenario where the government talks about raising down payments to 20 percent on conventional loans, you would absolutely crush the housing market," said Peter Norden, chief executive of Real Estate Mortgage Network Inc., an Edison, N.J., brokerage.

    For now, borrowers who can't afford such hefty amounts are flocking to alternative programs, such as loans for veterans or those backed by the Federal Housing Administration, creating a parallel—and growing—mortgage market for riskier borrowers and those who don't qualify for conventional loans.

    FHA-backed mortgages, which require 3.5 percent up front, made up about half of loans for home purchases last year, according to housing-research firm Zelman & Associates, but borrowers often pay higher interest rates and must pay private mortgage insurance, often driving their monthly payments higher.

    "There's no question that the tightening of criteria unquestionably prices households out of the market," said Zillow economist Stan Humphries. "The middle ground buyer is the one having to fight to get a conventional mortgage."

    Nikki Lavoie is among them.

    Six years ago, she and her then-husband bought their first home in Middletown, Del., through a veteran's loan, and have very little equity in the property. Recently divorced, Lavoie expects to make a small profit on the sale of the four-bedroom home, now under contract.

    That leaves her with a 5 percent down payment for a town house she plans to buy and share with her 14-month-old daughter. Once, that would have been enough.

    "A conventional loan "» unless I had 20 percent, that is not even an option for me." said Lavoie, a 29-year-old who works for Delaware state government.

    Because the town house is in a rural area, Lavoie qualified for a United States Department of Agriculture loan, which requires no money down. She is saving what would have been her down payment for appliances and furniture.

    The median down payment hovered around 20 percent in the late 1990s and began to creep downward in 2001 in the nine cities Zillow analyzed.

  • To Sell An Apartment, No Detail is Too Small

    Posted Under: Home Selling, Agent2Agent  |  February 23, 2011 3:50 AM  |  385 views  |  No comments
    Check out this article in the NY Times regarding selling.  It could be a great article to share with your sellers who are wondering what details they can do to sell their property.  I personally need to tell my husband that those Christian Louboutins I so desperately want could even be  a write-off!
    Published: February 21, 2011

    On a recent Thursday morning, Jamella Swift, a Citi Habitats broker, was trying to anticipate every detail that would prevent a buyer from purchasing the two-bedroom condo she was selling in Bedford-Stuyvesant. She put a full-size bed in the bedroom so buyers wouldn’t think the room was too small. She dragged in a Lucite coffee table to create the illusion of a larger living space and set up three floor lamps to supplement the recessed lighting. Ms. Swift hoped that the $5,000 she had spent would help her land $395,000 to $425,000 for the apartment.

    Ms. Swift learned how much details could detract from the value after representing a couple who was ready to buy an apartment for more than $7 million. The apartment had a rainy, musty smell that Ms. Swift thought the selling broker could have fixed by buying a dehumidifier. Ms. Swift’s client backed out.

    “It could have been a done deal,” Ms. Swift said. Brokers say small moves can alter the ultimate sales price of an apartment by 5 to 10 percent. The calculations are irrational, and buyers are usually unaware they are doing it. But chipped plaster or broken bathroom tiles can knock $500 to $5,000 off an offer, $1,500 floating walls can add $50,000 to $70,000, and a $10,000 paint job easily adds $50,000 to the price, according to an informal survey of city brokers.

    Some more recent examples they provided of real estate math:

    Clutter: Subtract 5 to 15 percent. Douglas Heddings, founder of the brokerage Heddings Property Group, watched two West End Avenue apartments that were exactly the same come up for sale at the same time. One apartment, where the sellers cleared out all of their spare toys and books, sold quickly. The second, more cluttered apartment lingered on the market for more than a year and sold for 15 percent less.

    Fresh towels and throw pillows: add $25,000. Geraldine Onorato represented a client selling a two-bedroom where the buyers received offers for no more than $450,000. Ms. Onorato spent $700 on a fresh bath mat and fluffy white towels and brought in an offer for $475,000.

    Dirty rugs: subtract $5,000. Before Ivy Paterni, an agent with City Connections Realty, brought to market a one-bedroom apartment at 5 Tudor City, she knew buyers would focus on the off-white living room rug that had grayed with time. “Nobody wants to buy a home that at any point in its history was dirty,” Ms. Paterni said. She bought a sandy white $400 rug at Northeast Floor Covering, bought some extra plants and had the seller repaint the apartment neutral cream. She is listing it for $499,000 and estimates that without these changes she would have had to list it for $494,000.

    Regrouting tile: add $100,000 (to a $3 million apartment, that is). Deanna Kory, a Corcoran broker, advised the seller of an eight-room apartment in the West 80s to spend a few hundred dollars on regrouting. “If you see a bathroom that needs a lot of grouting, you think it needs to be ripped up,” she said. She estimates that grouting, along with moving around furniture and adding lighting, will bring in at least $100,000 more for a $3 million apartment.

    New fixtures and appliances: add $250 in rent. Chris Mercogliano, a local landlord, was shopping for a tenant for his $1,800-a-month two-bedroom apartment at 508 East 78th Street. He spent about $1,600: new outlets and light switches ($100), tiles for the kitchen and dining area ($500), four new light fixtures ($40), blinds for three windows ($75) and a new stainless steel stove, microwave and refrigerator ($1,000). It rented for $2,050 a month.

    New lights: add $32,500. Michael Akerly of Rutenberg Realty had been trying to sell his two-bedroom apartment at 15 Broad Street for a year for $949,000. He received an all-cash offer for about $800,000 and a second offer for $885,000. He took it off the market, rented it for a year and paid a professional lighting designer $150 for advice. He spent $2,000 replacing his chandelier and ceiling fan with two large drum lights. In two weeks he had an offer for $917,500.

    Replacing cabinets: add $107,000. Frances Katzen was recently selling a one-bedroom apartment in Murray Hill, at 245 East 35th Street, that she advised her client to list for no more than $310,000. After he spent $20,000 on new kitchen cabinets and paint, she listed it for $429,000, and it went to contract for $417,000.

    An expensive shoe closet: worth every dollar. Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier has found that when buyers walk into a closet filled with Christian Louboutins, they are likely to pay more of a premium than what the seller spent on her shoe collection. She advises sellers, “You can buy 25 pairs of designer shoes, put them in your closet, and they’re going to get more than you spent on them.” That’s because, Ms. Kleier said, “people want to step into your life.”

  • MAR releases Market Index Report

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Massachusetts, Agent2Agent in Massachusetts  |  February 16, 2011 9:32 AM  |  327 views  |  No comments

    January REALTOR ® Market Index up from December as Price Index Down
    Both indexes continue to trend down on a year-over-year basis 
    WALTHAM, Mass. – February 15, 2011 – The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) today announced that the January REALTOR® Market Index (RMI) was up from December, for its second straight month-to-month gain.  The REALTOR® Price Index (RPI) was down from December for its first month-to-month drop since September 2010.  Both indexes were down from the same time last year.
    “Snow continues to be the theme as everyone has had enough, but despite those conditions, REALTORS® who responded to the survey feel better about the market than they did the month before,” said 2011 MAR President Laurie Cadigan, broker/owner of Barrett & Company in Concord.  “As we saw with closed sales in December, respondents feel prices are coming down, which will benefit the market and make homes more affordable.”
    In January 2011, the REALTOR® Market Index was 21.11, which was up 8 percent from the December 2010 score of 19.54.  This is the second straight month-to-month increase.  On an annual basis, the January RMI was down 38 percent from the 34.3 score in January 2010.  This is the eighth straight month that the year-over-year RMI has gone down.  Measured on a 100-point scale, a score of 50 is the midpoint between a “strong” (100 points) and a “weak” (0 points) market condition.
    The REALTOR® Price Index was down 5.86 percent in January 2011 compared to the same time last year (49.57 in 2010 to 46.67 in 2011).  This is the seventh straight month that the RPI has gone down.  On a month-to-month basis the January index number was down 2.17 percent from the Home Sales Price Index number in December 2010 of 47.70.  This is the first drop after four straight month-to-month gains.
    When REALTOR® members were asked what impact the multiple major snow storms in January would have on their business over the next few months,  55 percent responded that the impact would be negative (40%) or significantly negative (15%).  Thirty-eight percent thought the impact would be neutral, while 8 percent thought the impact would be positive (4%) or significantly positive (4%).
    About the REALTOR® Index Methodology:
    The Massachusetts REALTOR® Market Index (RMI) and Price Index (RPI) are based on monthly responses from a random sampling of Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® members on the state of the housing market.  More specifically, the survey asks members two basic questions pertaining to the real estate business in their market area in Massachusetts.
    1. How would you describe the current housing market?
    2. What are your expectations of home prices over the next year?
    In addition to these standard questions, the survey each month includes one wildcard question that changes each month and is based on an industry hot topic.
    The RMI is calculated in the following way.  Respondents indicate whether conditions are, or are expected to be “strong” (100 points), “moderate” (50 points), and “weak” (0 points).  The results are the average score for each question.  A score of 50 is the threshold between a “strong” and a “weak” condition.  Similarly, the question about home prices over the next year (REALTOR® Price Index) is calculated using five categories: “Rise 0-5%” (75 points), “Rise 5%+” (100 points), “Level” (50 points), “Fall 0-5%” (25 points), and “Fall >5%” (0 points).
  • Are buyers really 'liars'?

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent  |  February 9, 2011 3:15 PM  |  243 views  |  4 comments
    Tonight, while whipping up a batch of my famous Chicken Parm, utilizing my electric oven, I got to thinking about a saying I hear a lot in the real estate world......'buyers are liars.'   When I was searching for my home, one of the 'must haves' on my list was a gas range oven.  Another was that the home HAD to have 4 bedrooms, along with a few other 'must haves.' 

    Do you know where I live now?  In a three bedroom home with an electric range.  I remember driving through the neighborhood and seeing the sign in front of this house thinking 'WHY hasn't my agent shown me this home? This neighborhood is everything we are looking for!'.  Well, as it turns out, the home had three bedrooms and I had stressed the importance of four to him over and over.  Now, this was before I was an agent, but did I fit the mold at the time? Was I a liar?  No, my agent just didn't know what I really wanted, only what I said I 'needed.'

    When we go out with buyers we always ask them the standard questions.  Price range? Size requirements?  Number of bedrooms? Amount of land?  Condo/Single Family? Etc. Etc.  We take those answers to help us narrow down what homes we will show them.  Often times, as the process continues and you start to show them houses that don't fit all of the criteria, they find their 'perfect' home and you scratch your head in wonderment because the home is almost NOTHING like they described. 

    I believe the answer to 'are buyers liars?' is no....we just have to listen and delve a bit more into WHY their criteria is what it is.   Do they want two acres of land for privacy?  Then maybe homes with less land that abut conservation land would work for them.  If you limit their search to only homes with 2+ acres, you could miss their perfect home.  Do they, like me, need an extra room that would serve as a guest room?  If so, maybe a three bedroom home with a separate office would work for them. 

    My advice and what I practice is to take the time to listen to them. Get to know your clients. Show them that you care. Educate them and gain their Trust. 

  • Google Real Estate, Off The Maps!!

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent, Property Q&A  |  February 7, 2011 4:36 PM  |  303 views  |  No comments
    As someone who utilizes the Google Map Real Estate function on a daily basis, I was sorry to see this.
    January 26, 2011 12:20 PM PST

    Google closing door on real estate in Google Maps

    by Tom Krazit  

    Real estate for sale around CNET's downtown San Francisco headquarters, as listed in Google Maps. Google will be retiring the feature in a few weeks.

    Google is taking the real-estate listings in Google Maps off the market.

    Citing "low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real-estate Web sites, and the infrastructure challenge posed by the impending retirement of the Google Base API," Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Earth and Maps, said today that the listings would disappear by February 10. For a few years Google has allowed Google Maps users to search for both rental and for-sale listings in a given area, relying on listings uploaded by real-estate companies.

    Search Engine Land notes the comment of a U.K. real-estate company, PropertyPals.com, which said it saw "minimal traffic from maps" during its participation in the service, despite Google's attempts to promote it across search results pages. But many top-tier real-estate companies simply didn't participate in that process, preferring to attract users to their own sites during the initial shopping process by simply relying on regular Google searches.

    McClendon didn't rule out an eventual return to this type of service, but Google will first have to figure out a way to allow the easy upload of real-estate listings now that Google Base has been dropped in favor of Google Shopping APIs, which don't support listing types such as real estate or jobs. The larger challenge might be convincing the real-estate industry that they would see increased sales from allowing their listings to appear on Google Maps.

    Other Google services used by real-estate companies, such as implementing Google Maps on their own sites, will not change, McClendon said.

    Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-20029680-265.html#ixzz1DK5CaKNb
  • Trulia Has Highest Concentration of First-Time Homebuyers Among Top 3 Real Estate Search Engines

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent  |  February 4, 2011 10:53 AM  |  207 views  |  4 comments

    Trulia Has Highest Concentration of First-Time Homebuyers Among Top 3 Real Estate Search Engines

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - January 31, 2011) - Trulia.com, a leading site for real estate professionals, homebuyers and sellers, today announced the results of a comScore report, which show that Trulia has the highest concentration of first-time homebuyers among the top real estate search engines. According to the report, 43 percent of Trulia's audience consists of first-time homebuyers. Realtor.com's audience has 31 percent first-time buyers and Zillow's has 28 percent, making Trulia the #1 site to reach active and engaged first-time buyers.

    According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly 50% of homes were purchased by first-time homebuyers in 2010. First-time homebuyers are new to the home search process and typically need more guidance than repeat buyers. Savvy agents are using Trulia Voices and Trulia Pro as platforms to share knowledge and connect with first-time homebuyers on a daily basis. This is proving to be a good lead generator for agents that are active on Trulia.

    "Out of all of the people who've contacted me through Trulia, about 90% have been first-time homebuyers," said Deborah Bremner, an agent in Brentwood, CA. "What makes Trulia so appealing to homebuyers is that it allows a consumer who's looking online for an agent to choose who they want to work with. On other sites, you don't necessarily know the caliber of the agent you're reaching out to, but with Trulia, you can determine who sounds like someone you'd like to work with. My client was extremely happy with the experience of being able to pick her agent on Trulia."

    "It's not surprising that Trulia has the highest concentration of first-time homebuyers. Trulia serves as an invaluable resource for prospective buyers, providing rich home search data and access to more than 500,000 registered real estate professionals," said Georg Gerstenfeld, VP of Business Services at Trulia. "Our goal is to help consumers make smart real estate decisions and connect them to agents who can help them through the home buying process. Not only are agents providing consumers with valuable knowledge, but making these connections with buyers seeking help allow agents to win clients and close deals."

    Since being introduced in early 2007, more than 1.5 million contributions have been made in the Trulia Voices community. It is the largest and most active real estate community on the web. 

    The first-time homebuyer data was pulled from ComScore's November 2010 Plan Metrix report. Per this report, a first-time homebuyer is defined as someone that bought their first home in the past six-months, or is very likely/somewhat likely to purchase a new residence in the next six months.

    About Trulia, Inc.
    Trulia.com is the fastest growing online real estate site focused on empowering buyers, sellers and renters with smarter tools to help you find the right home. Trulia is headquartered in downtown San Francisco and is backed by Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital. Trulia is focused on helping you find the home that truly meets your needs, and delivers on what's most important for you. Ultimately, we built a smart real estate search experience bringing together local information, community insights, market data and national listings all in one place.

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