If You Can Search The MLS, Why Do You Need An Agent?

July 24, 2009

homesalepriceFrom agent Greg Swann in the Arizona Republic:

Here’s an intriguing question: Given that it’s so easy to search for homes on the internet, why do you need a buyer’s agent?

Face it, if you use the MLS search tool on my web site, you’re seeing exactly the same listings I see. And you know better than I ever could what you like and what you don’t like.

By now, the home search process is at best a partnership between the agent and the buyer. In some cases the buyer and I will work together to perfect our search criteria. But many buyers simply search the available inventory on their own, emailing me the MLS numbers of the homes they want to see.

So why do those buyers need a buyer’s agent?

Realtors hoarded the MLS data for so long that even they came to believe it was the source of their value to buyers. But this is very far from the truth.

You don’t need me to search for listings, although I’m happy to do that. And you don’t need me to open lock-boxes. You need a buyer’s agent to guide you through what is in fact an arcane and perilous process — potentially a financial disaster. You might not need me to find your next home, but you need me to make sure that you get it — or that you pass on it, if that is what is truly in your best interests.

A skilled buyer’s agent will write the kind of purchase contract that will prove surprising to you at every turn, with every term and condition tailored to achieve your best advantage. Your agent will supervise the inspection process and negotiate the optimal solution to the repair issues. Your agent will be prepared for every pitfall in the escrow process.

If you bought and sold houses every day, you could do all these things yourself. It’s because you don’t — and because the seller and the listing agent are looking to take advantage of your naivete at every turn — that you need a skilled buyer’s agent as your steadfast champion in the home-buying process.

Greg’s post is right on the money. Personally, I like to help my clients search for homes, but that’s largely because as an agent I have access to information that can tell me, for instance, whether or not the property is already under contract even though it’s still listed as “Active” in the search they are using. I’m also looking for certain things that clients – no matter how savvy they may be – will not notice or understand. Still, it’s what comes after finding the property that is going to make a bigger difference to my clients, and makes my involvement crucial for them.

Kim Hannemann,  Samson PropertiesSamsonPropTag
Real Estate Consultant/Realtor
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055
Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


April 2009 Northern Virginia Sales Info

May 15, 2009

April 2009 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna:

  • A total of 1,544 homes sold in April 2009, an increase of 6% over April 2008, and the ninth consecutive month of higher year-over-year sales. Terrific, but look at this – pending home sales, based on signed contracts, are 2,692, up 25% from last year! Pending sales have been up double-digits year-over-year for 13 consecutive months.
  • Active listings – homes on the market – decreased by 23% from last year, with 8,234 active listings at end-April. Fewer homes on the market usually means prices are poised to start rising. The supply of homes remains in the less-than-six-months “seller’s market” range.
  • Another sign of strong activity – the average days on market (DOM) for homes in April 2009 decreased by 15% to 85 days, compared with 100 days in April 2008.
  • Sales prices continue to remain lower than those realized last year. The average sales price in April fell 16% percent from April 2008 to $405,514, while the median price was $356,750, a decline of 14%. The average and median sale prices are again both higher than last month, however.
  • Agents continue to see a lot of multiple-offer situations on attractive well-priced homes in good condition, particularly in price ranges under $475,000. If you are looking for such a home, be prepared to act decisively.

StatsApr

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


March 2009 Northern Virginia Sales Info

April 15, 2009

chartMarch 2009 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna (this sounds like a weather alert, doesn’t it?):

A total of 1,384 homes sold in March 2009, an increase of 11% over March 2008. That’s great, but look at this – pending home sales, based on signed contracts, are 2,306, up a fantastic 33% from last year!

Active listings – homes on the market – decreased by 20% from last year, with 8,069 active listings in March, compared with 10,123 homes available in March 2008. Fewer homes on the market usually means prices are poised to start rising. The supply of homes has again fallen into the under-six-months “seller’s market” range.

Another sign of strong activity – the average days on market (DOM) for homes in March 2009 decreased by 18% to 89 days, compared with 109 days in March 2008.

Sales prices continue to remain lower than those realized last year. The average sales price in March fell 17% percent from March 2008 to $395,512, while the median price was $335,000, also a decline of 17%. Interestingly, though, the average and median sale prices are both about 5% higher than last month.

Agents are reporting a considerable number of multiple-offer situations on foreclosures, and on attractive well-priced homes in good condition, particularly in price ranges under $425,000. If you are looking for such a home, be prepared to act decisively – and, if the home is right for you, don’t let yourself be outbid.
statsmar1

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


The Fed’s Buying – How About You?

March 22, 2009

Info from this week’s Mortgage Market Guide:

ben_s_bernanke

Last week, the Fed used their regularly scheduled meeting to make a blockbuster announcement.

Over the course of 2009, the Fed will purchase an additional $750 billion of mortgage-backed securities, as well as $300 billion in long-term Treasuries, primarily to help shore up the housing market and keep home loan rates low. On the announcement, bonds exploded higher, leaving bond prices within whiskers of the best levels ever.

How does this really impact home loan rates?

While the Fed’s actions may keep mortgage rates from moving higher, they may not cause them to move dramatically lower. The Fed’s actions create demand for mortgage-backed securities, which should help keep the ceiling on home loan rates from moving much higher in the foreseeable future. That’s good news for homebuyers who are seeing the bargains out there and understand that now is the time to act.

But – and this is very important – what actually happens to mortgage rates depends on which bond coupons the Fed purchases. If they purchase higher rate coupons – as they have done so far this year – their continued purchasing will likely keep a lid on rates, but not necessarily push them significantly lower. Additionally, due to many understaffed lenders and investors currently working at maximum capacity, we could once again see that improvements in pricing may not all be passed through to borrowers.

usamcashAnother factor that could impact whether mortgage rates see significant improvement are concerns of future inflation brought on by all the recent aggressive moves by the Fed. While we know there is little inflation at the present time, chatter about future inflation could have a negative impact on home loan rates, or at least stifle any improvements.

Although the media is already spinning it differently, this is not a time to stay on the fence, hoping and waiting for lower rates. Home loan rates remain within inches of all-time historic lows, but may not necessarily move significantly lower, so waiting could be a risky move.

Also, an update on Mark-to-Market – the accounting rule which has had a devastating impact on the financial markets: The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) agreed that it will propose to allow companies to use more “leeway” in applying the accounting rules they use to value their assets, and planned a final vote for April 2. If this rule change is approved, it could result in better first-quarter financial statements for companies that have been affected by this rule. Stocks have been moving higher lately in the hopes that Mark-to-Market will be fixed, and a resolution could help stocks further improve.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


Tips for First-Time Northern Virginia Buyers

March 20, 2009

pricedownReductions in Northern Virginia home prices, and unprecedented low interest rates for mortgages, have combined to offer tremendous opportunities for renters to become homeowners. The prospect of making the change may be exciting, but also overwhelming.

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

hud-logoNot understanding the home buying process. Educate yourself. Find a homebuyer seminar that you can attend, or research online. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has an entire section devoted to first-time homebuyers, information on mortgage programs, downloadable tools such as a “wish list” and home-shopping checklist, tips on selecting a real estate professional, and so on. Another good source is a solid lender such as Wells Fargo or  Prosperity Mortgage whose websites offer consumers a variety of tools and resources on purchasing a home.

housequestionNot asking questions. There are many intricacies to the home buying process, and even though you can gain a basic knowledge on your own, you will still have questions. Be sure to tell your real estate professional that you are new to the process. Choose an agent (like me!) who is willing to spend time with you and walk you through the entire process. A good agent will expect you to have questions at each step – from house-hunting, to making an offer, to the closing (such as, “What the heck is a closing?”). This is one of the largest financial transactions of your life, so you want to have a clear understanding of what’s going on at all times.

Looking outside your price range. Before beginning your home search, get pre-approved by a mortgage professional – preferably one you know or one recommended by your agent – to get an idea of how much you may be able to borrow. Use this information as a starting point in determining your price range. Then take into consideration other factors that will affect your monthly budget once you are a homeowner, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, and maintenance. Don’t go out looking at homes before you have a firm idea of your range.

Buying on impulse. Don’t feel pressured into making an offer on the first home you see. Buyers, especially first-timers, may be impressed by the first two or three homes they view. Look at a good selection, then narrow the prospects to a select few and return for a closer look. When you decide to make an offer, work with your agent to get all of your questions answered first. But don’t wait too long to make an offer. The longer you wait, the greater the chance other prospective buyers may place offers, making it harder for you to negotiate a good deal.

storkNot planning ahead. Think about personal changes you are planning in the next five years. For instance, are you starting a family, and if so, is the home large enough and will it continue to be? If you think you’ll be relocating in a few years, you’ll probably want to pay closer attention to potential appreciation and resale value. If two incomes are needed to qualify for financing or to make your payments, do your plans include the ability to sustain those incomes?

Failure to consider location. Don’t just focus on the house. Examine the community. Does it suit your lifestyle? Is the area safe, well-maintained, close to work, stores and schools? Find out about zoning and whether new construction is planned on vacant land in the immediate area. Also consider the potential market for resale in the future. Your agent can also help with that.

    Above all, remember knowledge is key. No question is silly. Your agent and your mortgage professional are invaluable assets throughout the process, and they want you to succeed. Making smart home buying decisions will make the home-buying process less scary and your first home purchase a rewarding experience.


    Why Is The Buyer’s Agent Paid By The Seller?

    March 5, 2009

    housequestionIt’s a strange arrangement. Here I am, the agent for the buyer, receiving my compensation from a party who not only is not my client, but whose interests are (one would think) directly opposed to those of my client – the seller. They want the highest possible price, my client wants the lowest. They don’t want to spend money on repairs, my client wants the repairs made. The list goes on. The two sides are in agreement on one thing only – they want the transaction to happen. Yet it it almost universal for the seller to pay the buyer’s agent. Huh?

    This seemingly oddball arrangement exists for a couple of reasons. First, the historical background: until the mid-1990s, real estate brokers and agents operated under subagency agreements, whereby brokers listed property, and offered cooperative commissions to other brokers bringing in buyers for the listed property. Under subagency, these cooperating brokers and agents were legally bound to represent the seller.

    conmanDespite this fact, most buyers thought “their” agent represented them, and acted accordingly, often to their detriment. By sharing how much they were willing to pay, when they had to buy, or how much they loved the home, they unwittingly provided the seller with useful negotiating information. Eventually the Federal Trade Commission put pressure on the states to have real estate agents disclose to consumers exactly whom they represent. Most states eventually adopted disclosure laws, and the industry adapted by creating buyer agency arrangements (similar to sellers’ listing agreements). But the existing commission arrangement remains in place – the seller still pays. Why?

    no_moneytranspThe reason that sellers still pay the commission is because the main obstacle to buyers being able to buy is a lack of cash – cash for the down payment, cash for closing costs, cash for the move, cash for furnishings, and the list goes on. It takes a long time to save that money. Some people find it difficult; others find it impossible. Add the buyer’s agent commission, and the seller will have fewer buyers available.

    The seller is receiving cash from the sale. If they pay the commission, more potential buyers are able to afford this property. The more potential buyers, the higher the likely sales price. The higher sales price provides the incentive for the sellers to pay the buyer’s agent in addition to paying their own.

    There are “exclusive buyer agents” who accept their payment only from their buyer client and refuse the seller’s offer. They argue that the only way for a buyer to be certain to avoid any conflict of interest is to avoid firms that both list and sell homes, and to compensate their own agent. In practice, I have never been tempted to change my buyer representation perspective regardless of the offered compensation. I disclose to my buyer clients the compensation offered on every property, and have on occasion used higher compensation levels to assist my clients in the purchase.

    Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
    Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

    It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
    samson-realty-and-bird

    If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

    4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!


    Foreclosure Pricing – Real or Pretend?

    February 21, 2009

    Excerpt from one of my favorite Real Estate bloggers, Kris Berg in San Diego:

    wheelofWe are finding ourselves spending a whole lot of time explaining lender pricing methods to buyers. This week we saw another bank-owned listing priced a full 20% below one active listing and two in escrow – all identical homes within two blocks of the perpetrator. Now, one can argue this is a brilliant strategy for ensuring a speedy-quick sale, and one might even argue that the price will tend to float toward something more in line with true values. Both arguments are valid, but is blatant and gross under-pricing moving toward an ethical gray area? And, what about an agent’s fiduciary responsibilities? Lenders are clients, if not people, too, and pricing a property using a dreidel could be considered negligent. Finally, there is the confusion among buyers that this causes.

    Pretend prices – This is what the prices we see attached to many of the foreclosure homes on the market actually are. Most of these homes are knee-deep in offers numbering double-digits before the sun goes down on the first day of showings. Unfortunately, this is a difficult concept to explain to buyers. “Yes, the home is priced exactly at the amount for which you are approved and, no, you cannot buy it.” This is a bitter, even seemingly incredulous message to swallow, and so often a buyer will need to go through the exercise once or twice before they take my word for it.

    There is a bigger issue  . . . the one of uber-low pretend prices becoming a popular “lead generation” tool for the agents representing the listings. In a world where buyers are doing their own searches, a too-good-to-be-true carrot can sure make that phone ring. And it leaves the rest of us who use real numbers with a lot of explaining to do.

    Read the whole post at the San Diego Home Blog  – Kris’s writing is pretty good, by the way.

    This is happening here too. Buyers call me excitedly about a home they have seen in their real-estate-search-engine-of-choice, supposedly in their price range – “Wow! Can we go see this one NOW???” Sure. If you can get past the hordes of other buyers waving offers. You can make an offer, too . . . and let me show you the “escalation clause” addendum, because you are going to need it.

    No such thing as a free lunch.

    Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
    Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

    It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
    samson-realty-and-bird

    If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

    4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service