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Suzanne Macdowell's Blog

By Suzanne MacDowell | Agent in 07856
  • Should you use a 'flat fee' company to sell your home?

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Morris County, Home Selling in Morris County  |  October 17, 2014 3:59 AM  |  35 views  |  1 comment
    A homeowner here on Trulia asked this question today.  They wanted to know if real estate professionals 'boycott' listings by flat fee companies in his area.  This is an important question and a wide spread misconception.  I don't know of a single real estate professional that 'boycotts' any listing. I find the suggestion offensive, in fact. I will say this, flat fee companies do a lousy job of marketing homes.

    Most buyers these days start their search on the internet. They want to see lots of high quality photos, they like to see lots of detail about the home, and they like to see virtual tours. Most flat fee companies limit the number of photos, do not offer virtual tours and do not provide a lot of detail. Professionals syndicate your listing to multiple real estate websites including Trulia. Most flat fee companies do not do that.

    A lot lf real estate professionals will give the homeowner staging tips.  A flat fee company won't do that for you.  Realtors will make suggestions for lawn care and maintenance, a very important point since, once a buyer sees something on line that appeals to them, they generally drive by the home.  Curb appeal can be crucial at this point because if the buyer still likes the home afer the drive by, they will generally make an appointment with their own realtor to see the home.  A flat fee company will not do that for you. 

    A lot of realtors will host a 'broker open house' and provide a catered lunch to local realtors so they will come and tour your home. It's a terrific way to get the word out and let the agents think about which of their buyers might be interested in your home, or to keep it top of mind when new buyers come along. Most real estate professionals will host a public open house so that buyers, neighbors and the general public can come see your home.  Even if they are not buying themseles, they may know someone who wants to live in the neighborhood, a flat fee company won't do that for you.  

    Flat fee companies have a pretty poor record of success for a reason, and the reason is NOT that other realtors 'boycott' their listings. I would consider these factors carefully when deciding how I wanted MY home marketed.
  • Bankruptcy may not solve your foreclosure problems.

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Morris County, Financing in Morris County, Foreclosure in Morris County  |  October 15, 2014 8:57 AM  |  25 views  |  No comments
    I am seeing a disturbing trend lately.  Banks are NOT foreclosing!  Oh, they begin foreclosure proceedings, but them they just sit back and wait.  What they are waiting for is a mystery, for the market to improve, for homeowners to recover financially and modify their mortgage, or just because they are overwhelmed, who knows?  But they are, nevertheless, NOT foreclosing.

    This was a particularly distressing discovery for a recent client of mine.  He had filed for bankruptcy more than four years ago and discharged both the first and second mortgages on his home in bankruptcy.  His bankruptcy attorney told him to just sit back and relax, do nothing, and wait for the bank to foreclose on the home.  Which is just what he did and who could blame him?  After all this was the advice of an atorney.

    Fast forward to today.  My client once again qualifies for an FHA mortgage because more than 3 years has passed since the bankruptcy was discharged.  He has no negative information on his credit report, his score is good and he has money saved up for a down payment and closing costs.  Then, suddenly, only 2 weeks from the scheduled closing date, a delinquency notice hits his credit report.  The bank that held his first mortgage has sold the 'bad paper' to another, much smaller, much less savvy, mortgage company, knowing full well the debt was discharged in bankruptcy and the smaller bank can never collect (talk about fraud??)  and the new note holder has reported the payments as delinquent. 

    We began our investigation and learned that, while the complaint in foreclosure was filed, the home was never actually foreclosed on.  My client still owns the home.  He not only cannot get a mortgage NOW, we have no idea WHEN he will be able to get one, all because the bank dragged its feet and did not foreclose. 

    We continue our investigation to learn what we should do.  Do we list the house as a short sale?  Or will the short sale show up on his credit report and ruin his chances of getting a mortgage for another three years?  Do we offer a deed in lieu of foreclosure?  Will that open a whole new can of worms?  We are working with our real estate attorney to find a solution, but this much is clear.  The bankruptcy attorney knew NOTHING about foreclosures and mortgage underwriting, if he had he would have told my client to short sel the property in spite of the debt having been discharged in bankruptcy.  But hind sight is 20/20. 

    My advice to underwater homeowners, sell the home short whether or not the debt is discharged in bankruptcy.  You can't depend on the mortgage servicer to do much of anything, you have to take the bull by the horns and determine your OWN future!
  • United Law Center Defeats Bank in Mortgage Mod. Trial, Yields $15.7 M punitive award

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent in Morris County  |  August 15, 2014 5:58 AM  |  58 views  |  No comments
    "...the ruling is a message to all banking institutions that they’ve taken advantage of folks long enough and the country is really tired of it."

    There is only ONE way to 'punish' a big corporation and that is to hit them where it hurts, in the pocketbook! The award, while it seems excessive, is probably miniscule in comparison to the profits made each year by the mortgage servicer. Meanwhile, the mortgage industry is going nuts and making all sorts of inaccurate claims, going back to blaming borrowers and saying it is all the government's fault, and pay no attention to the lobbyists we sent to influence government actions. Well, guys, apparently the jury felt differently.

    Here are two different viewpoints on the verdict:



  • Dear Colleagues - Please do not text in the middle of the night!

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent in Morris County  |  August 11, 2014 5:36 AM  |  55 views  |  7 comments
    I keep my phone on all night and leave it next to my bed.  I have a very good reason for doing this, I have friends and family who have ongoing health issues and who may need to reach me on an emergency basis.  This makes the current trend of clients and colleagues texting in the middle of the night particularly annoying. 

    I have a colleague who, in my opinion, abuses text messaging.  We are currently working on a transaction together.  This morning, Monday, at 7 am he began texting me about the mortgage commitment.  Now, I certainly know, as I am sure he does, that the bank does not open until 9 am.  There is absolutely nothing I can do for him until 9 am.  Nevertheless, he insists on texting me repeatedly asking, 'should we be worried' and even after I said 'no', he continues to text.  If this were the telephone and not a text it would be considered harassment.

    I understand some people think the beauty of texting is that the recipient can answer at their leisure.  Well, this particular colleague does not, apparently, see it that way. I have tried ignoring him until I have an answer, however, an unanswered text will result in two, three, four or more follow up text messages. 

    Dear colleagues, I value our relationship and communication very much, however, please, please, please do not text me in the middle of the night or at a time when you know there is nothing I can do to help you.  There is nothing so important that it can't wait until morning, and after 9 am.  If you are afraid you will forget, write it down.  Just, please, do not interrupt my sleep or my morning coffee. 
  • The State of the Union -- depends a great deal on real estate

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Morris County, Agent2Agent in Morris County, Foreclosure in Morris County  |  January 28, 2014 10:22 AM  |  482 views  |  No comments
    In all the talk of budgets and jobs one thing seems to have gotten lost, the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act of 2007.  Yes, the housing market is strong and getting stronger, but jobs are lagging and as a result many families still face foreclosure and/or short sale of their homes.  Unless this Act is extended, they will also face tax liability on the forgiven debt.  In New Jersey, because our home prices are relatively high, it is not unusual to have $100,000 of the debt forgiven in a short sale situation.  If the client is in a 30% tax bracket (also not unusual) that means they would, in effect, have an additional $100,000 of 'income' and incur a tax liability of $30,000 on top of losing their home.  This is unconscionable, unforgivable and unacceptable.

    I called both my Senators and my Representative in Washington today and encouraged them to have some compassion, show some mercy, and work to extend the Act.  Won't you please join me?
  • La Vie En Rose

    Posted Under: Rental Basics in Morris County, Rentals in Morris County, Investment Properties in Morris County  |  January 23, 2014 4:41 AM  |  476 views  |  No comments
    Yesterday I took a rental client out to look at high end townhouses and single family homes in a very upscale town here in Morris County, NJ.  These were expensive units, asking $3000 approximately, per month for rent.  And what did we find?  Pink!  Lots and lots of pink!  Pink bathrooms, pink carpets, pink, pink, pink.  Oddly, at least one of the kitchens had been updated, but the bath was still pink.  And in the others, pink carpets. 

    Landlords, take note, nothing screams DATED like pink.  Get rid of it!  Yes, we like looking at the world through rose colored glasses, but not in the bathroom!  LOL!
  • Bed Bugs, Yuck!

    Posted Under: Rental Basics in Morris County, Rentals in Morris County, Investment Properties in Morris County  |  October 11, 2013 3:30 AM  |  549 views  |  4 comments
    Every body has heard of the recent outbreak of bed bug infestation, but how much do you know about protecting yourself and your rental properties?  Or for that matter, about potential remediation should an infestation occur?  Any idea as to what methods actually work?  Cost?  Or whether those costs can be passed on to the tenant who brings the bugs with them when they move into your rental property?

    Bed bugs are nasty little creatures!  They feed off of human blood and, once they invade your property, they can be very difficult to get rid of.  Interestingly, cleanliness has little to do with whether or not you and your tenants will be infested.  You walk into a home or property that has been infested, the bed bugs 'hitch a ride' perhaps on your pant leg, perhaps in your luggage and, when you get home, instant infestation!

    Once in your home, the little buggers like to hide deep inside mattresses, furniture and, of all places, electrical switches and receptacles.  The best indicator you have an infestation is the bites themselves.  Oh, sometimes you will see the 'carcass' or even a live bug, but most likely you will just wake up bitten and itching. 

    Chemical sprays are only sometimes effective in getting rid of the problem.  The reason is the females, and the eggs they carry, will go running for the walls, trying to get as far from the killing spray as possible, even going into the adjacent apartments, until the danger is past and then they will come right back out.  For any significant infestation, the treatment should include the one thing we know will kill these creatures, and their larvae and their eggs, HEAT! 

    An exterminator will likely bring in a 'bug sniffing dog' to confirm the presence of bed bugs. They will likely recommend that adjacent apartments be evaluated and treated as well to prevent the bugs from simply changing locations. Once confirmed they will start with a pre-treatment spray of chemicals along baseboards and electrical outlets and switches.  Furniture will need to be moved away from walls, electrical appliances unplugged and switch plates removed.  Bedding will need to be stripped and switch plates drawers removed from dressers, etc. It's quite a procedure!  Then, several days later, the infected area will be sealed off and heated to between 130 and 150 degrees and kept at that temperature for several hours.  Anything and everything that can be affected by the heat will need to be removed, pets, plants, candles, medicines, aerosol cans, and anything sweetened with artificial sweeteners.  But, the heat will kill the bugs, their larvae and eggs.  It is the ONLY truly effective treatment for larger infestations. 

    Finally the exterminator will return within 10 days for a final spray of chemicals, just to be safe.  Some will even provide special mattress covers that will seal any bugs that may have managed to survive inside so that they either suffocate of starve.  Most treatments are NOT guaranteed and the cost can run into the thousands of dollars. 

    Some State and local governments are considering requiring landlords to have apartments evaluated by a licensed extermiantor at every change in tenants.  Even if not required this is probably a good idea.  It establishes that the unit is not infested at the time the tenants move in.  The cost is somewhere around $200 which is a bargain compared to the approximately $2000 per unit it will cost to exterminate adequately.  At that point, if tenants bring bed bugs with their furniture and belongings, it will be their responsibility to arrange for and pay for the extermination. 

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