School, Corgis & Realtoring ~ Hitting Snags

I'll start with the good.

M: Mommy, when we say the Pledge of Allegiance at school, the Principal makes everyone wearing a hood take off their hood. Why?
DCREM: Because it's a sign of respect, and the Principal is right, people should take off their hats.
M: Then we sing the National Anthem.

I'm not sure why, but when M told me this, I was so happy I felt my smile spread slowly across my face. Like the Grinch.

It was news to me that they still say the Pledge of Allegiance in school but I'm pretty happy to hear that tradition is still going strong. M buzzes around the house singing the National Anthem and it's several kinds of awesome. Real Estate Dad said she learned it on "America's Got Talent" but M claims they sing it in school.

The littles are still in the trailer park. Or as the school calls them, "The Demountable Classrooms in the West Wing." Nah. They're trailers. In the parking lot. Trailer Park. Supposed mass-trapping of mice occurred this past weekend but the scores are in. Zero point Zero mice were caught. Now the mice story has evolved to "last year a child was bitten by a mouse." This, too, is becoming all kinds of awesome. There is not enough popcorn for this show.

And then, Realtoring this week. Yes I know that Realtoring is not a word! It is when stuff like this happens.

 Some asshole obviously needs to borrow my Labelmaker. I love that Labelmaker.

Some asshole obviously needs to borrow my Labelmaker. I love that Labelmaker.

By the time I worked through each of those keys my clients could have had their loan underwritten. What a nightmare. I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to toss that many keys in a lockbox. Jerks.

Then someone flew half way around the world to surrender a corgi to the rescue. No. Literally. Flew from Korea to surrender a corgi. A board member picked up said corgi at the airport, and not even like an hour later the prior owner wanted the corgi back so it could be given to her friend. All these conversations back and forth necessitated the "a lawyer is going to have to weigh in here." Lo and behold, one of our board members located a corgi-loving litigator who brings his corgi loaves to the office and lets them run around. Yes, this is really a thing. And we are loving it!

So this is what is currently making my world go round. Kids. School. Mice. Corgis. Keys. Real Estate. That's all I got for you.

Hackers are the New Silent Party in Real Estate

Also Published on The Huffington Post

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When you buy a home, there are three main parties who bring you through the process from contract to closing. One is obviously your agent. The second is your loan officer. They help you get the mortgage so you can buy the home. The third is the Title Company.

Well shoot, who’s that?

Most buyers are active in their search to hire an agent and loan officer. But hardly anyone ever knows who the Title Company is or how they play into the process. (Title Company, Settlement Agent and Escrow Agent are used interchangeably but they all refer to the same company.) They are responsible for running title to the property, ensuring that the property transferred legally and correctly from person to person and preparing the closing documents and deed to transfer ownership. They also collect and disburse money to/from the appropriate parties.

In the process all this money coming and going, hackers very slyly figured out how divert some of that cash into their accounts.

 

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

For decades, when buyers paid the deposit at the time of contract, it had been customary to write a check. Since checkbooks are about as popular now as princess phones, many buyers wire their funds instead. This is where hackers figured out a pretty perfect crime.

You’re the buyer. You receive an email from someone at the title company, introducing themselves as another point of contact, with wire instructions for your deposit. You wire the money to that account. And no one at the title company ever receives it. You actually wired it to a bogus account.

How is this happening that the hacker knows exactly when to email you during the appropriate point in your transaction?

We’re an industry that has moved online. It is a common daily occurrence for an employee at a title company to receive an email that says: “Attached you will find a contract for our new transaction.” Title Company Employee clicks the link, downloads the contract and the ball is set in motion for a new transaction. Except now not every single one of those emails is a legitimate contract.

Some of those emails with attachments now contain malware links. It can be an attachment. It can be a link within the email. It can be an unsubscribe link. Whatever it is, once downloaded, that software allows the hacker to infiltrate the user’s computer at the title company and see everything on which they are currently working. Then they can spoof emails to people actively engaged in a transaction asking them to wire funds to the account info in the email.

The buyers never realize this is not a legitimate employee and they wire their money.

And then it’s gone.

Local title companies report receiving multiple requests a day to download or click suspicious links. It has become almost impossible to discern which is legitimate and which is a hacker. The emails are in perfect English, there is no clue that would raise a red flag. The recipient would have no reason to believe they are about to send their money to a place where it will never be recovered.

How can we prevent this?

Old School, baby. We’re going old school. We have to do two things we thought we may not have to do anymore.

1) Pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone. Call the Title Company and confirm the wire instructions. Do not use the phone number in the email. Google them yourself (at least I didn’t tell you to look it up in the Yellow Pages) and call the number you find for them.

2) Write a check and hand carry it to the Title Company or mail it to them.

As we take steps forward with technology there is always a pitfall to dodge. Until this is figured out, or until the hacker(s) are caught, (don’t laugh! The Nigerian Prince was caught last week!) we need to go back to the tried and true methods.

Now, go find your checkbook. It’s probably under your fax machine.

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What's Trending in Home Design for 2018

Also published on the Huffington Post.

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See ya later white kitchens, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out!

Various sources are calling the 2018 trends in home design and the white kitchen is allegedly falling out of favor. What are all the contractors in DC going to do? Dollars to donuts, I’m sure there are several million white cabinets sitting on various palettes, waiting to be delivered to one of the many homes being built or flipped in DC. There’s always a trickle-down effect with these things. Take, for example, how we actually got to this white cabinet phase in the first place.

HGTV first became mainstream around the early 2000’s, thereby coining that gem of a phrase: “house porn.” At that time, there was a specific lineup of kitchen choices. Remember black appliances and Uba Tuba granite that had to be sealed every year? Me too. I did love those wood cabinets though. Dark wood, light wood, made no difference to me. I shared an office with the woman who sold the options and upgrades at D.R. Horton and I could have listened to her discussing cabinetry and flooring choices for days.

Black appliances didn’t have so long a run, but wood cabinets ran the gamut from light to dark with neither being declared a winner. The truth was, the specific color choice of the wood was about personal preference. Where the trend came into play was with the style of the doors, which changed over the decade-plus. We saw raised-panel, partial overlay doors early in the trend and full overlay with more of a shaker or minimalist style.

Then one day, some brave soul knew it was time and they pulled the trigger on a white kitchen. There were definitely non-believers (me.) I was convinced I fell asleep and woke up in one of my mother’s Florida house hunting nightmares where she was looking for a clean white Florida kitchen. I was ready to get dinner by 5:00 to catch the early bird.

 

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I finally came around. Look, I admit it. It’s just like that time I worked at a certain lingerie store at the mall 25 years ago. I kept rehanging the same floral robes over and over for months. By the time there was just one left I was thinking, “Hmm, that robe with the pink roses all over it is pretty.” (It wasn’t.) Same thing applies here. Show enough homes with the white kitchen and suddenly you’re doing white in your own kitchen remodel. (I did) and walking out of houses that don’t have the white kitchen. (It was a very catchy trend.)

Enough of that.

Honorable mention for another thing going by the wayside is the “bar cart.” Bar cart? The only person I have known to have a bar cart was Don Draper.

So what’s trending in home design?

Well, by process of elimination…if white cabinets are out, what we have left is either wood or colorful cabinets. And yes, those are the things being shown in kitchen design now. It seems people will be taking a paintbrush to their cabinets and going all sorts of deep. Very bold colors are making the rounds – navy, greens, deep reds. And the light wood look is back.

 

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Another incoming trend worthy of a giant gasp is what’s happening in flooring. Hardwood floors are still safe, but there are other flooring choices garnering some attention. Zillow calls it “statement” flooring; HGTV went straight to “terrazzo.” (If you have totally turned off of HGTV the television channel, let me assure you that HGTV Magazine and the HGTV Website are pretty awesome.)

You can also see at that link above that HGTV shows a colorful kitchen in sage, as well as mentioning “statement ceilings.” I’m a fan but within reason. If anyone tries to pass off a popcorn ceiling as trendy, they will be in a lot of pain when I’m done with them.

[Important note: No contractor with half a brain cell will ever agree to remove the popcorn ceiling because of the intensive labor involved. They all just offer to put drywall up in place which is a stupid but “lesser of two evils” option in their eyes. After striking out with every contractor in town, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to do it myself. Just because I didn’t hire someone doesn’t mean I didn’t pay dearly. It cost 3 days and a broken back to get that popcorn ceiling down. They should be outlawed. I can’t even look at them without vomiting.]

HGTV curated their list from the Pinterest 100, which tracks trends in “saves.” HGTV also mention trends in oversized art, mixed metals and plants, as well as the “Spa Bathroom.”

Weren’t spa bathrooms always on trend?

Well, have at it peeps, there’s some cool looking house stuff coming down the pike!

Five Secrets to Identifying Sloppy House Flips

Also published on the Huffington Post

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We’ve all been there - walking around that gorgeous house that’s finally for sale. Months of construction, preceded by years of abandonment, preceded by decades of neglectful owners and it’s been spruced up and is ready for a new owner. As you exchange the winks and nods with your partner, or friend, or mom – whomever you brought with you for validation, you know this is the one on which you want to submit an offer.

Just as you’re about to fall asleep that night, as visions of Home Goods dance in your head, that little nagging voice asks if you’re sure. You don’t want to buy a money pit. Everything seems shiny and new, but how do you know that it’s been done right? How do you know that behind the walls there isn’t a tangled mess of improperly run electrical wire, waiting to ignite? How do you know that the toilet lines are draining into dedicated waste lines instead of tapped into the plumbing line?

Home Inspectors are amazing, awesome and necessary partners in the process of homebuying, but they don’t have x-ray vision. They can only see what they can access, and depending on what’s visible and what’s been covered behind drywall, you may not get the whole picture.

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This doesn’t mean you can’t get a true sense of how good a renovation this is, but you have to look and listen harder.

You will be involved in the process from the time you place the offer to closing. There are many stops along the way where you communicate with the seller via your agents. Pay attention here and really evaluate how the other side behaves.

1) Is their lockbox clearly marked, easy to find with nice new keys inside? Or is a rusted mess with keys from the 1960’s that barely work? Bad sign if they couldn’t even change out for new locks or invest in a legitimate lockbox instead of one of the basic combination boxes.

2) Are they involved during the marketing process and demonstrate overall pride of ownership? The best of the best will even be at their own open houses so they can respond to potential buyer’s questions or requests.

3) During the negotiation of your offer, are they generally easy to work with, forthcoming with information and willing and happy to answer questions? Or do they give you flip answers for things? I recently asked a seller’s agent where the light switch was for a closet light that was always on. When he replied, “magic,” I didn’t laugh. Turns out they never put in a light switch. Can it be fixed? Sure. But it’s an indication of corner-cutting.

4) Is the backsplash crooked? This makes me laugh because I have used this for years as the example to clients who are apprehensive about purchasing “flips.” During our initial consultation I always said, “Is a crooked backsplash an issue? No, but it indicates a lack of attention to detail.” All these years of this generic example and last month it finally happened – there was the sloppy backsplash in a flip my client loved! It would have been so easy to fix, but they didn’t. This indicates more corner cutting.

 Unfinished Backsplash; Outlet should be GFI as this is next to the sink.

Unfinished Backsplash; Outlet should be GFI as this is next to the sink.

5) Is the house clean and staged? I realize this sounds a bit elitist here but in Washington DC’s Real Estate Market the stakes are high. If there are leaves swirling around on the floors, a thick layer of dust on the counters and you have to jump over abandoned construction equipment, this seller/flipper is not in control of their asset. What else have they turned a blind eye to or left to chance?

The more houses I see the faster I get at the game of “Find this house’s crooked backsplash.” You will also notice your skills sharpening if you pay attention and if your Real Estate Agent points these things out to you as your tour homes.

Hire a thorough Home Inspector known for detail and don’t be afraid to bring in additional consultants (structural, mold) to evaluate the home and the condition of the renovation.

Four Things to Do Now if You Plan to Buy a House This Spring

Also published on the Huffington Post.

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You are so close to that roasted turkey you can practically smell it. Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, you are looking so forward to this. Planning to enter the turkey-induced coma for the next several weeks, stopping at some holiday shindigs along the way, and landing at New Years sounds pretty good.

Not so fast.

Do you want to buy a house after the new year? Lots of people do. Those people will be your competition when it comes time. If you do a tiny bit of prep work now, you can alleviate your future crush of stress and get ahead of the competition so that when the houses are listed, you can respond quickly.

1) Find a Real Estate Agent

This one is the easy one, but it also takes a bit of time if you want to do it right. You’re going to be making what might be the biggest purchase of your life. You should ensure that your team has no weak links. There are plenty of agents out there but you don’t want to be stuck with one you have to replace mid-game. Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, check online reviews, and make a short list. Then you should schedule times to chat, pre-holiday, when many agents are winding down for the year and gearing up for next year. You want to look for many things in an agent. Responsiveness, industry knowledge, strong negotiating skills - all of that is a given. But there’s also an element to this relationship that’s a non-tangible, as in, do you “click.”

2) Call a Lender

This is the scary one for a lot of people. But it’s so necessary. Most people wait until they see a house they love online before they make the agent and lender calls. But it’s often too late. How? Because remember all those other buyers who did their prep-work already? They’re ready to write an offer while you’re still lacing up your kicks to go to the open house. If you have the agent interviews mentioned in Step 1, ask them for their recommendations as they usually have contacts who close without a lot of hassle. You aren’t committing to anyone – just starting a conversation. Get their list of required documents that you will have to provide so that you can start looking for those now. And get a sense of what you need to do between now and purchase time. There may be a mistake on your credit report, it happens to all of us. It’s important to know now so you have time to fight it out with the credit agencies and get it cleaned up in time for spring.

3) Clean out Your House

I love throwing things out. I’m not sure why I had to read that tidying book to embrace how much I love throwing things out but it’s one of my favorite things. Don’t be shy in telling people now what your after-holiday plans are to buy a house and to not inundate you with fake wreaths or give your kids with more stuffed animals they don’t need. Just say no.

4) Call Mama

Or Dad. Or your Great Uncle Earl. And drop the hint that you’ll be buying a house. If they plan on giving you any gift money, now’s the time to pony up. Parental gifts are subject to less rules than receiving money from other relatives so it’s not as imperative to actually get the money in your account, but just know the amount that may be coming your way so you can figure it into your search. Typically, money from people other than Mom and Dad has to “season,” meaning, it has to be in your account for a specified time period. Otherwise, the lender will have to “source” the deposit, which means Great Uncle Earl has to provide proof that the money left his account and you have to show where it was deposited to yours. Poor Earl will spend an entire day at the bank and asking them for copies of his withdrawals, then to the post office to snail-mail them to you and they may not arrive in time for closing. Trust me on this. Unless it’s Mom or Dad, get the money from whoever is providing it, now.

I know, that last one is tough. If there’s anything I know it’s the complication wrapped up in families with money. But it will be more difficult to track later on, so have the tough conversation now.

Five Ways to Prepare Your House For Sale

Also published on the Huffington Post.

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There are two seasons in DC Real Estate – Spring and the Holidays. Once “Spring” gets into swing, the Washington DC Real Estate Market continues unabated until the holidays. Since my house is awash in candy wrappers, and my mini-me’s have been on a week-long sugar high, I know we’re heading from Halloween right into the holiday season.

I am currently in planning mode for spring. Never mind that I’m still wearing flip flops. Never mind that the temperature has yet to dip below 60. Never mind that winter is still coming. My mind is on spring.

I hope I’m not the only one looking 3 months ahead right now. If you anticipate selling this spring, is there anything you can be doing besides planning your holiday menu, scrapping your holiday menu and booking a flight to Mexico instead of enduring the circus that is your extended family at the end of December? Well, yes! There ARE things you can be doing. And not, it’s not the usual bit about painting neutral colors and freshening up the landscaping.

Lucky for you, I like lists and I made one just for you.

1.Tell anyone who will be buying you holiday presents – don’t. I know, this doesn’t sound like the holiday spirit, but your main goal is to clean out the house so that it shows well. We need to tackle what you already have, but most important? Stop anything further from coming in. Shoot, I’m not planning to sell my house but today when I was talking to my parents I said, “Don’t buy the kids any stuffed animals please, I just sent three dozen out for donation.” (They won’t listen. They never listen.)
 
2.Split your house into manageable zones and tackle one zone each weekend. Be very critical of each item. If you haven’t used it, you don’t need it. If you haven’t worn it, you won’t ever wear it. Make a donation pile after each task and then move it to your car before anyone has a chance to retrieve one of the items from the pile and drop it back into rotation. (I know how this works. I am both child and parent of “they who will not throw anything away.”) Drop the items off at your local donation bin during the week. Every week. Gone. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Do it again next weekend with the next project area. Watch your house slowly become manageable!

 

3.Before you leave a project area, make sure it is tidy. Sure, you’ll have to do this again as we get closer to listing time. It’s unrealistic to think it will stay perfectly organized until February. But a bookshelf? Once that puppy is cleaned out and organized, it should stay that way. Unless your holiday parties are real literary ragers.
 
4.Consider hiring a home inspector. They can give you a critical rundown of the areas in your house that need attention. Some people will say this is a double-edged sword because once you have the report, an item has been disclosed to you and you then must disclose to any buyers. True, but anything serious you either already know about or should know about and it should be fixed anyway. We want to remove as many potential objections a buyer may have to not buy your house. If you hand them a report with most items marked as “fixed,” it may give them some peace of mind, even if you note that you didn’t fix some of the smaller issues. It’s more often the “not-knowing” that bothers buyers.
 
5.Take basic care of your house. Living with 22 dead track lights in a home of 38 total is ridiculous. (This once happened to me. Seriously. It was a very dark house.) Don’t let your house go on the market without changing the a/c filter and cleaning the caked-on dust off the vent. (So many people are guilty of this.) Do the little deferred maintenance projects because buyers can sniff these out in a heartbeat and will wonder what else you haven’t tended to.


If you work on the items on this list for the next 3 months, you will be in great shape to sell when spring arrives! If you want help, call me. I love throwing things out. Especially if they’re not my things.
Next week I’ll cover what buyers can be doing for the next few months to gear up for spring.

 
Also published on the Huffington Post.

Classic Real Estate Mama

Over the weekend, I was showing houses one morning to clients and I thought we were seeing one but we went to see five. I promised the littles I would be home quickly and we could head off to do some things I promised we would do. After all the houses and no breakfast, I was wickedly starving. I knew if I stopped home long enough to eat breakfast, they would really boil over. No, this had to be a screech up to the front of the house, kids hop in, and we take off kind of pick up.
 
I'm sitting in the left lane at a red light thinking about where I could grab something to eat when I spy a bagel place on the right, just after the intersection. I thought about that jerk who holds up traffic so he can cut across two lanes to get to the store he needs and I didn't want to be that jerk. Light turns red, and I plan to just figure out a U-turn. Except...the car on my right didn't move so fast and well...the New York Driver came right out.

I gunned it, got in front of the car, and made the right turn into the place I needed with tons of room to spare since they turned right at the intersection.

I walked up to the deli and this woman got to the door at the same time. She opened the door for me and I'm so happy I'm about to get some food in my stomach I'm like, "No you go first" and she said, "No, go ahead, it's fine." I said, "Okay but you can get in line first." She said, "Oh please, don't worry about it, go ahead."

Well shoot that was pretty nice. I order my bagel and when I'm told to move on down the line in that soup-nazi style to pay, I realized there's just one order taker and I held him hostage while he told me all the bagels they DID have since everything I picked was sold out. I turned around to the woman behind me and thanked her again and she said, "Oh, you're welcome. I'm all about being nice in this world where no one else is. I'm just so tired of it."

I felt bad for her. She sort of had a day it seemed. I got to the register and my order popped up without me telling them like you have to do at Potbelly. I said, "Can you see what the woman behind me ordered?" They confirmed, so I said I wanted to pay for that too. The cashier said, "Aww that's so nice." I said, "She's sort of having a bad day so maybe this will cheer her up."

The woman moved down to the register as I was heading into the bathroom and when I came out she came up to me and said, "That was so nice of you! I was having the worst day and I really try to be so nice to people and to top off my horrible morning, when I was driving in here someone tried to cut me off and it really put me in a worse mood."

Uh. Oops?

Forehead slap. Bad! Very bad!

I'd like to say I wouldn't do it again but you and I both know I would be lying.

Multiple Offers 2.0 - Part Deux

Also published on the Huffington Post

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Let’s dive in because I know you’re chomping at the bit to figure out how to handle this property frenzy. You feel totally out of control playing a game where rules change all the time. A new property hits the market with no offer deadline. You quickly submit a great offer at the encouragement of the listing agent and get some mumbo jumbo which amounts to worse than a rejection. They want to hold until other offers come in. Now you have to wait through the weekend for the seller to have their open house, collect more offers and use those offers against you. What do you do, besides chew the insides of your cheeks off?

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Let’s review the options.

1) You think “Oh, okay, well I want this house so I’ll wait.”

2) You think, “I should have offered more, I’ll do that now.” And you re-submit hoping for an acceptance.

3) You think, “Eh, whatever. I’ll withdraw my offer and maybe resubmit in a few days.”

Option #1 isn’t a good strategy. In fact, it sucks. Being nice, flexible and patient will get you absolutely nowhere. Think about it - the listing agent has your offer in hand and holds the open house. People ask “Do you have any offers?” And the listing agent says “Yes, we’ve received an offer.” Now what happens?

Well, remember that old boyfriend you dumped who used to clip his toenails in bed with you and let the nails fly everywhere and not clean them up? Yes, him. You find out he’s got a new girlfriend and suddenly you want him back because he’s the one that got away and just seeing him with Suzie makes you realize that you love him so much? Yeah. That. Except this time, it’s YOUR offer that incites someone else to desire a property they were formerly indifferent about. Nothing makes someone want something more than when someone else also wants it.

Option #2 is also the sucks. Think about it. Even if you go high from the start or you bid against yourself to go higher when the first offer is rejected, at some point there’s a cross over into “too much money.” The seller sees how much you want to pay and they don’t read that number as the representation of your desperation plus the extreme lack of inventory. No, they read that number as “My stupid listing agent made me list my house too low, and it must be worth 18 million dollars so now I’m holding out for that. Step aside small potatoes, I’m holding the equivalent of goldmine here!”

What can you do about this? When you submit an offer to an agent who has no memorialized deadline and the seller does not accept, WITHDRAW YOUR OFFER. Do not allow yourself to be used as a pawn to drive the price up at your own expense. So you see, #3 was the right answer. It’s always the right answer.

What if you just can’t withdraw your offer? What if you want to take a chance and hope you have a reasonable seller who may just accept an offer on Day 1 and cancel the open houses, what should you do to improve your chances?

1) Write an offer higher than list price. I know, I know, I hate escalations and offering more than the seller agreed to accept. But since you’re submitting early and you’re the only offer, there is no escalation that would kick in even if you included one. Add some money to that offer and be prepared to waive your contingencies. Sorry. If this is something you can’t or won’t do, then do not go running out to look at properties on Day 1. You’re going to make yourself insane. Just don’t do it.

2) Deadline. Deadline. Deadline. And stick to it. Put a short window of time in which they need to respond or the offer is withdrawn, and stick to it. Time is not on your side here, don’t afford the seller the opportunity to “shop your offer.” This strategy obviously isn’t for the faint of heart or the emotional though. You have to be prepared to walk away otherwise your integrity is compromised. But at least you will know you didn’t cave in on all your principals. There will be another house, I promise.

 

Multiple Offers, 2.0

Also published on the Huffington Post

Forgive me Huffington Post for I have sinned. It’s been a really long time since my last confession. It’s an indication of just how busy things have been in DC, in Real Estate, and in life.

Nothing has equalized yet, party people. The insanity presented to buyers in the Spring 2017 DC Real Estate Market has continued right into summer, unabated.

It is time to revisit the Multiple Offer, 2.0. This topic is going to be split into a couple parts. We’ll spend the first installment revisiting the lay of the land and getting up to speed on where we are now and how we got here.

Prior to this year, the approach and handling of multiple offers by both buyers and sellers seemed to follow the same essential process: Property listed for sale on Thursday or Friday with the offer deadline in the listing notes. There was the obligatory Sunday open house and offers were due on Tuesday or Wednesday. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. This seemed to work well for the past several years. Everyone had the same information, knew what to do and by when they needed to do it.

Last Fall (2016) there was a definite slowdown in the market. It was a bit surprising, but in a city with all eyes on the Election and subsequent craziness, the collective yawn was the best we could do. Properties on the market sometimes still included notes stating that offers were due on a certain date, which was well into the past. It was hard to know if a 41-day negotiation standoff was in process or if the property was still fully available.

I always call the agent when I see things like this because I’m nice like that and if you have a snot hanging out your nose I’m going to tell you. (I just lied. I don’t always call. Sometimes I don’t have time or the energy to help other people do their job too.) Funny enough, each time I made this call, I received the same answer from all these different agents, every single time:

“Oh, my assistant must have forgotten to change that.”

That poor, potentially non-existent assistant. To be fair, last fall, many of us were off our game. The cooling off came swiftly and no one really expected it.

 That's Clark the assistant. Never once blamed for anything.

That's Clark the assistant. Never once blamed for anything.

Of course, no one expected either that when spring arrived, the bulls would charge out of the gate. Despite the strength of the market in 2017, there are a lot of listing agents who are still hesitant to commit to an offer deadline the day the property is listed. See: Still feeling the chill of last fall.

Despite the market strength right now, this hesitancy to decide an offer deadline on listing day is because some properties out there are defying the odds - and not in a good way. There are properties listed right now that everyone cooed over. And they have yet to elicit an offer. I know – you want to know how I can say the market is so strong in 2017 but there are also properties sitting on the market. The answer is simple. Some sellers got too greedy

(I’m sorry, but if your neighbor Bob sold his house 4 months ago for $500,000 and your house is the exact same floorplan with a slightly nicer yard but in worse condition inside, where exactly do you get off thinking that you are entitled to $625,000 because you’re including a faux-stainless steel microwave and a garden gnome? We’re real estate agents, not magicians. And buyers? They’re savvy, not morons.)

Today, maybe one in ten listings will have an offer deadline noted on the day the property is listed. The other nine are waiting through the weekend to hold the infamous open house to gauge interest before setting a deadline. No matter how strong the market, there are new rules to the game. And we (well, you) have to figure out how to play.

My personal feeling on a property listed with no deadline is that it’s fair game. If my client wants to write an offer an hour after it’s been listed, I’m going to write it and submit it. Why should they wait until after the Sunday open house for a deadline? I always contact the listing agent who always encourages me to write up the offer. It’s always the same thing: “We don’t have any offers in hand right now but if your client presents something that is too good to pass up, my client will look at it.”

Of course, they will look at it. It’s likely one of the biggest investments they will ever own, why wouldn’t they look at it? Their whole purpose in listing their house is to look at offers.

My client gives me their terms and I write that bad boy up and send to the listing agent. And this is where things get interesting, because no matter what the offer says, the listing agents always say the same thing: “The seller decided to wait through the open house to give everyone a fair chance to see the property.” One agent told me he already had the ads set to run in the paper. The what?

Anyway, what happened? This isn’t the playground. We don’t all have to have a turn. But, okay, you pick yourself up, dust off and try to regroup. What happens now and what could you have done differently if you really want the house?

Meet me around the corner for part 2.

 

Be Aggressive! B-E-Aggressive!

A little something I published on the Huffington Post today.

This one is a total 180 from the tone of what I have written in the past. Having lived through a runup of prices, a horrible downturn and the subsequent runup we are currently experiencing, I lean to the conservative side of real estate. They were very dark days I experienced, working for a builder when the phones just stopped ringing. I’m always scared that we’ll end up there again.

In my last article, I said it was a bloodbath out there. It truly is. The market has reached a level of such insanity that buyers have to get creative to get their house. Don’t get me wrong, even I’m perturbed by what is happening now with prices going through the roof and the escalations necessary to secure a home. But I’m not the one looking for a house. You are. And my job is to help you buy your house. So, it’s time for some tough love.

People, we need to get focused!

 Bask in the gorgeousness of Logan Circle.

Bask in the gorgeousness of Logan Circle.

Here’s the advice I have for buyers in making sense of their Spring, 2017 search:

1) Pick One: Location or Condition

Unless you want to totally blow your budget, you probably have to choose between location and property condition. Real Estate is still about location. It is less about finding the perfect house as it is in finding the perfect location, because locations don’t change. While many sellers and their listing agents have cranked up their game and list a home for sale only when it’s immaculate, other sellers don’t have to try as hard. Some locations are so prime that those sellers can list a house that results in a collective sigh upon crossing the threshold. It needs help, work, TLC, handyman’s special - whatever you want to call it.

Look beyond the inside of the house and focus on the things that won’t change like location. Not considering a house because it doesn’t have the countertop you want is silly. Picking apart the interior features is a waste of time. If you want this location, I can guarantee someone else does. There are a lot of people who will live with linoleum counters to get into the right neighborhood, right school district, etc. You need to stop with the First World Problems.

2) Don’t Fixate on Price

Just ignore the price. There will be the rare occasion that a home is priced slightly low. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can get the house for that price. Other buyers are just as sharp and the house will end up in an escalation situation. Wipe the list price from your mind and offer what you think the house is worth – to you – based on what you have seen already and how much this house checks the boxes for you. I constantly witness buyers trying to talk themselves into higher priced houses that aren’t a fit. Then they find the perfect house that’s priced $50,000 lower and knowing they have to escalate to get the house, they won’t go up more than a tiny bit. But they would have paid more for something they like less? I don’t get that at all.

3) Do You Want a House or a Hobby?

For some I believe it is fun to look at houses. If the market is too tough for you to contend with and you aren’t ready to play ball with the big kids, then it’s fine. Sit this out. There is no reason to keep making yourself (and me) crazy looking at houses every weekend when you have been outbid 5 times and you’re getting frustrated. It’s time to think critically. Is this the time for you to be in the market? You’re fighting against lots of all-cash buyers and fully approved buyers. You have to be aggressive. And for the love of all that is holy to you, please don’t look at 50 houses, write offers on 10 and then claim you aren’t in a hurry. That’s a waste of everyone’s time.

4) Please Don’t Talk About Tennessee.

Or any other place where you are from. And please don’t fly your parents in from another place to do it either. Other markets do not work at all like DC. Don’t apply logic from where you live to this market. This market defies logic. Are we Silicon Valley? No, thank goodness. But the government provides a stable employment base so we’re not like other cities at all.

5) Think of the Money!

Please don’t ignore your lender until you need them. Just go get yourself approved so you have nothing to worry about when the loan process begins.

This DC Real Estate Market isn’t for everyone. Many buyers don’t have the stomach for it. But the ones who do are under contract and locked in at an interest rate that is probably as low as it will be for the next few years.

Your real estate agent’s job is to get you a house, not hold your hand while you pick apart the half-assed renovation of some HGTV junkie wannabe who overpriced the piece of real estate in which you are standing.