Don’t hire a hack

It is becoming my life’s work to eliminate hacks from the real estate industry.

Every day thousands of internet geeks wake up and try to figure out how to make Realtors the Travel Agents of that year.  Expedia killed Travel Agents.  Why?  Because they provided minimal value and couldn’t articulate their value beyond “I have access to Sabre and can shop reservations for you”.  You can shop tickets now on Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity, Orbitz and about a hundred other sites now.  The information is all there.  Hotels can be shopped on anything from to the Westin’s own website.  The real estate industry is in danger of going the same way.

Realtors are currently up in arms about Zillow’s new instant offer roll out.  I’m not worried about that.  All that needs to happen is one seller lets one buyer into their house and gets robbed or worse and that’s the end of that.  There will be other onslaughts.  We must be eternally vigilant.

The elephant in the room is the fact that my industry needs to clean house.  We need to rid ourselves of the hacks.

Hacks come in all forms.

There are those who don’t bother to educate themselves.  Our test is easy to pass.  I passed my Broker’s test after a night of drinking.  I hadn’t had time to study and figured I’d get a report of what I needed to study and go back and take it for real at a later date.  I was 45 minutes late and had to sign a waiver.  And I passed it.  The thing is, I knew that there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know.  It is my practice to take a minimum of one class per month to further my real estate knowledge.  I travel four times a year to conventions and seminars to further my ability to serve my clients and I have two business coaches.  I care about doing the best job possible for my clients.  My team has a rule: If you see an opportunity to one plus our client’s experience, it is incumbent upon you to take that opportunity and make that client’s experience even better.  Sadly a very small percentage of my colleagues take the same approach to this business.  90% of real estate sales are handled by 10% of the agents.  The other 90% fight over the last 10%.  They don’t have the experience and won’t do the work to get better at their jobs.  Yet consumers still hire them.  I am sad that those clients won’t ever know what it’s like to work with a great Realtor.

There are those that just do a crappy job.  MLS photos.  How freaking hard is it?  iPhones are very cool.  Don’t market someone’s $500,000 house with your freaking phone.  Hire a professional real estate photographer.  Listing agents have one major job, market the client’s home to get the best exposure resulting in the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time.  Seriously.  Would you buy this?


Doesn’t that client deserve better from our industry?  It’s embarrassing.

There are those who do not have any ethics.  They need to go.  They say things to clients they have no business saying.  One just fell apart because the buyer stopped by an open house on the way to the house they in contract to buy.  The open house agent, talking out of his butt blew the transaction.  What he represented as fact about the subdivision was in fact folk lore and the buyer cancelled the transaction.  Total hack.  Agents cannot talk to clients under contract with another agent beyond casual conversation.  Unscrupulous listing agents routinely tell them they will get the house if they do business with them so they can “double end” it.  Don’t hire these hacks.  They lie to their clients, they don’t do what they need to in the time they need to do it because they don’t understand the contract.  They write unreasonable offers.  They don’t educate their clients.  Don’t hire these hacks.

Before you hire an agent, ask them how many homes they’ve sold in the last year.  The average agent sells six.  A house every two months is not enough to build what I call Deal IQ.  Deal IQ is acquired when an agent has done a lot of deals.  Something comes up and they know what to do because they’ve been there before.  Only a good, well practiced agent can do that.  In this market, with your largest financial asset at stake, I don’t know why you would want anything else.

For more information on how I properly market homes call me at 925-381-2998


Is there such a thing as too much information?

We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge. ~John Naisbitt

We all know about Zillow, and Trulia, and Redfin and of course there’s bankrate and Quickenloans and Lending Tree and and ZipRealty and and and and…and who knows what else.

Then there are all the counterculture real estate sites.  Like the guy that tells everyone not to buy real estate because there’s a bubble, although he can’t really define what a bubble is except that real estate is really really expensive right now.  Remember a bubble is a function of a fundamental flaw in the marketplace.  Appreciation is a function of demand in the marketplace.  Never and I do mean never confuse the two.  And now you’re smarter than that guy.

Opinions are great I suppose.  There’s a saying about opinions, and like a certain body part, everyone has one, which speaks to the valuation of a lot of opinions.  Some of course are based on facts, but in today’s visceral political world, even facts have become optional.   Personally, I prefer facts.  And data.  The thing is, there is a lot of data out there.  Now you have to identify accurate data sources.

How do you identify accurate data sources?  It can be difficult.  For years and years the government has not considered the unemployed that have just given up to still be unemployed, yet they are in fact jobless and would like a job.  While everyone gets all jacked up when that number is good and the stock market has a gay old time, that number has been false for about 30 years give or take.  Garbage in, garbage out.

As a Realtor, I really get to feel the pulse of the buying public when I hold an open house.  I’ve heard it all.  Sometimes I just stand there and think “Dude, you will never own a house, why don’t you just go to the game?”  Other times I think “Whose stirring your Kool-Aid?”  The theories out there are amazing, including all theories that have anything to do with a sitting President.  And I’ve been in this business since 1976.  I’ve been through a few sitting Presidents.  They leave and I shake my head wondering where they got their information.

As Realtors we have access to the most accurate information.  We have access to all of the sales and while many of the websites pull from our sources, the truth is many of them scramble the information or label it in such a way that the end user can’t decipher it for any meaningful purpose.  The next piece is now that we have that information, what to do with it?  Well, it’s good information when it comes directly from the source, but there are a lot of variables you just can’t see on the internet.  Like are the floors uneven?  If so, is that the foundation or an anomaly?  What does it cost to fix?  I sold a house for some clients last year that had rolli-polli floors.  They had several contractors through and the foundation was fine.  They evened them out as best as could be done without rebuilding the house and moved on.  There are people that will tell you that is a foundation problem without any understanding of foundations.  My personal home has numerous cracks and doors that open about half the year.  There are people that will tell you that is a foundation problem and stay away.  It’s not.  It’s adobe soil.  There isn’t a house in the Bay Area that’s been looked at by more contractors.  Sometimes the soil is full of water and expands.  Sometimes we’re in a drought and it contracts.  Sometimes the bedroom door sticks, sometimes the bathroom door sticks.  You can’t see that from pictures on the internet so you have to actually see the homes.  Good Realtors are looking at homes every single day.  Does the house smell good?  Seriously.  My house smells like dog.  I can’t even smell it I’ve been living with these guys for so long.  Yet I know it does.  If I were to sell my home I would have to accept the discount or move out and eradicate the dogness that is my home.  The internet will not tell you that my home smells like dog and that’s why it sold for $25,000 under what it should have.  Or that I moved out, replaced all the carpet and window coverings, painted and got a premium for the recently upgraded home.  As a typical internet user, you cannot see our Realtor confidential notes, you won’t have all the information.  You don’t know that the reason the house sold for $25,000 under asking was that the former owner hung himself in the garage.  Or that a horrible crime was committed inside the home.  Or that the home was the scene of a drive by shooting ten years ago.  Garbage in, garbage out.

That’s where a good Realtor comes in.  They’ve seen all of those homes, they are selling a good number of homes, they are working with a good number of buyers and sellers and they know what’s going to happen next.  I call it Deal IQ.  I had a client yesterday who has a family member that is in the industry in another area in another function.  He asked about why we had two days to look at inspections and release the contingency.  In our area, that’s the standard right now.  Seller paid for these inspections and it was take it or leave it.  I would have loved to have a week to pour over these inspections but I had to read them that night and my client had to make a call within about 48 hours.  Insane, but if you’re actually working the market, you know that this matters.  The internet won’t tell you if the seller took on all sorts of inspection issues or got a credit or if the repairs were done.  Garbage in, garbage out.

Pick a place you are comfortable with.  It doesn’t matter what it sold for in 2014, 2004 or 1984.  What matters is can you afford it.  I’ve had buyers tell me they aren’t going to pay $100,000 over what the seller picked the property up for 6 months ago.  Forget the seller did a full remodel, gambled that the market would hold and is now placing the refurbished home on the market while paying a commission to have it sold.  If you wanted it for $100,000 less you had to have been in the market six months ago and have had to be willing to gamble.  That’s the difference.

The guy I think has it best is Dave Ramsey.  Real estate is an asset.  Whether it appreciates or depreciates in a certain cycle, at the end of the day, it has some value.  I would argue that it would have value until there was a nuclear event affecting that quadrant.  Until then, it has value.  Perhaps for housing, perhaps for agriculture, perhaps for commercial venture, but it is tangible and has value, even if that value is low.  As Gary Keller says “It is the one asset that will never depreciate to zero.”  We have established it as an asset.  If we are talking about primary housing, then it provides shelter.  As the loan is paid off, equity grows, even in a contracting marketplace.  Every rent payment made to a landlord increases their equity and decreases yours.  Dave says if you can afford to buy a home you should.  It’s the only credit he thinks you should utilize!


Are we in an housing bubble?


Well, no.

Well, maybe.

Well certainly not like what you’re talking about.  That’s right.  If you asked that question you are thinking about 2006 and we are not in that kind of bubble right now.  Great!  Now let’s all head out to yoga class and find our namaste.

Not so quick there Bucko!

You can go back to the beginning of my musings and you will find me saying “Business is cyclical”.  Over and over again.

What does that mean?  It means, and if you paid attention in your economics class you can skip over this part, businesses expand and contract in the natural course of their life.   How they react in times of contraction determines the length of that life.  Businesses that did not save for a rainy day and/or over-leveraged may find their life shortened by those decisions.  Real Estate is a sector in the economy.  It is cyclical.  It expands (goes up) and contracts (goes down).

At the end of the day, unless you’re going off the grid, you’re going to need to live indoors.  When we are talking about where to live, that matters right now.  Right now regardless of what the market is doing.  If the market is super high and you’re not planning on going anywhere and you can afford the payment, ride it out.  Why?

Real estate is the only asset that you can purchase that will never depreciate to zero.  In the US at least.  I would caution about other countries and their practices regarding foreign nationals, for instance, American cannot own real estate in Mexico under many circumstances.  But that’s another article for another day.

Let’s take a look at the cost of waiting.


Can you afford to wait?

Now let’s add your mortgage interest deduction into your tax picture, can you afford to wait?

Alright, fair enough.  Now consider the capital gains exemption of $250,000 or $500,000 for a couple.  Now can you afford to wait?