Tag: realestate

Humble Pie Tastes Awful


Recently, a friend of mine sent me a link to a story with a note that read, “This will make you laugh.” My friend hasn’t been wrong before, so I clicked on the link and gave it a read. I’ll recreate it here and let you decide if my friend chose well.

The author of the story had been working hard and felt a small headache coming on, so he decided to take a break and get some lunch at a local Burger King. The line to place an order was fairly long (who knew Burger King as that popular?), and it was moving rather slowly. While he was waiting for the line to move at its glacial pace, a woman and her son had taken up a place behind him to wait. The woman was jabbering away on her cell phone at a decibel level probably akin to that of a 747 firing up its engines to ready for takeoff, and she wasn’t paying attention to her son.

The author’s slight headache was growing as the woman yammered on about something that was more appropriate for a discussion to be held in the privacy of a doctor’s office, and the child at her side was making it very clear that he was tired of waiting in line and that he wanted a pie. Spying the front of the line, the author noticed that the restaurant’s manager had chosen the lunch hour to train a new cashier who wasn’t exactly catching on that quickly. The headache grew.

As the woman behind him continued to speak on her cell phone, completely oblivious both to the unwritten rule of society that there are things you don’t talk about in public and her son’s growing volume in letting his mom (and everyone within earshot) know that he wanted a pie, the author turned around and asked the woman if she would please speak a little more quietly and rein in her son. She exploded and told the author how rude he was; she then looked down at her son and assured him that he would get his pie to make up for the rude man in front of them. The headache has now reached migraine levels.

At last, the author made it to the front of the line and instead of placing his order for the burger-and-fries combo he had originally intended on buying when he had decided to hop over to Burger King for a break from work, he asked the cashier how many pies they had on hand and ordered them all: 23 pies in all, to be precise. As he was handed his bags teeming with his order, he heard the woman behind him step up and place her order and her son’s request for a pie. Upon being told that they were completely sold out, the woman asked who had ordered all the pies because she had seen them behind the counter when she and her son first walked into the restaurant. The hapless cashier pointed to the author and told the woman he had purchased all the pies – and the author, while taking a bite into one of the pies and heading out the door, looked the woman in the eye and just smiled.

The sale and purchase of a home, no matter what anyone says, is an emotional transaction. Sure, you can run the numbers and make sure it’s a good decision financially, but the ultimate trigger is emotional – sort of like falling in love. While the author of the link I read began his quest for lunch simply as a need to get some food to tamp down a headache, emotion caused him to pay more than he had intended and walk away with something he really didn’t want. The woman didn’t fare any better either as she was stuck with a deal that didn’t get her any closer to her goal. Remember this the next time you’re buying/selling a home: if you don’t keep your emotions in check, you could end up eating humble pie – and that’s not tasty!

Herding Cats: Notes From an LO

Cats in the street


Someone much wiser than I once told me that there are always three sides to a story: Party A’s side, Party B’s side, and the truth. In the mortgage/real estate world, that’s especially poignant.

On a recent transaction, the real estate agent representing the sellers was eager to get the appraisal ordered –we had a short escrow, and she wanted to make sure there were no delays.  I don’t blame her at all, as it’s her job to keep the sellers’ interests at the top of her priority list.  When I conferred with the buyers’ agent, I learned that the inspection had JUST been completed, and he and his clients had just sent over their response for what they wanted to see repaired.

I reminded the buyers’ agent that, while I didn’t wish to delay the transaction either, we needed to be mindful of certain aspects of the appraisal process.  In this instance, if the appraiser went out and did her/his job before the repairs were completed, there’s a strong possibility the buyers would have to pay an additional $150-250.  Why?  If the appraiser included mention (and photos) of these unrepaired items in her/his report, the underwriter would require the appraiser to go back out to the property to confirm that the repairs had been completed.  The underwriter is not going to accept a note and a pinky promise from anyone else that this has been done –only the appraiser can confirm this.  And if this were to be required, the appraiser would charge a return-trip fee, and the buyers would be the one paying that fee.

We explained all of this to the buyers so they could decide with their agent how they wanted to proceed –all agreed to have the other agent stress to her sellers that these repairs needed to be made quickly (and correctly, of course) so the appraisal could be ordered in a timely fashion.  As an aside, one of the repair items was exposed wires in an exterior sprinkler box (the timer most likely), and one of the buyers laughed and said it could probably be “fixed” by closing the box before the appraiser showed up.  No argument there, but I wouldn’t want the buyers to have to pay $150-250 because someone forgot to close that box.  The buyers agreed with me.  And herein lies the dilemma:

Party A’s side (sellers): we’re busy professionals, and we’ll get to the repairs when we can, but we don’t want the transaction being held up.  We’ve given you concessions, so work with us.

Party B’s side (buyers): we met your asking price on the house, so all we’re asking is that you get these items repaired quickly. We’re going to need that extra $150-250 for “house stuff”.

The truth: the underwriter isn’t going to fund this transaction until all the repairs are made and nothing appears on the appraisal that would adversely affect the “lendability” (I’m pretty sure there’s a better word for that) of the home.

In all of this, my job is to spread my arms wide and keep everyone (including the underwriter) moving in the right direction –it’s often like herding cats.  Regardless of how we get there, as long as everything closes on time, I’ll take my scratches –I can always make up a really cool story about how I got them.

The Definition of Insanity (in Real Estate)


More than a couple of years ago, I witnessed something that makes me laugh and cringe at the same time.  Having lunch at a local restaurant, I spied a real estate agent and a loan originator having what I would characterize as a “first date”.  I couldn’t help but overhear little snippets of their conversation, and as far as I could tell, things were going relatively well . . . at least until the agent asked the LO this question: “So, do you like to sit at open houses with agents?” I immediately looked to the LO’s face awaiting the response.  I didn’t need to hear another single word coming out of the LO’s mouth because his face said everything:  you would have thought the agent had asked him if he enjoyed bobbing for apples in a pool of acid judging by the look on his face.  While his face was communicating complete revulsion, his lips said, “Yes, of course.”  And that’s when I looked over at the agent’s face to see, with absolutely no doubt, that she didn’t believe a word he said.  And yet, he was so close!

Speaking of open houses, I recently had the chance to sit at one with an agent, and between the pop-ins from various interested parties, fellow agents, and curious neighbors, we got to know each other a little better and swapped stories, professional and personal.  The one I remember most vividly was when she had graduated from high school, she joined the military –a heartfelt thanks to her and all others who serve!!! –and when she arrived at her first overseas assignment, she noticed that a very large number of her fellow female soldiers were pregnant.  Thinking she might have missed something in her recruitment paperwork, she asked someone who had been stationed at this particular installation for a while for an explanation.  Turns out the hospital at this military base had been dispensing outdated birth-control pills . . . and that’s not a good thing.

I’m going to give the medical staff at that hospital the benefit of the doubt and say they were most likely operating in completely good faith –I certainly don’t think they were sitting around the break room at the hospital thinking up ways to “prank” their female patients.  However, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a soldier working in the local supply depot or maybe a general back at the Pentagon (my money’s on both of them being male) who saw that there was old inventory of this medication at that base and even had an inkling that this could lead to less-than-positive things but did nothing about it.  It would just be easier (for them) to let it go and deal with the results.

I’ve met a lot of real estate agents who tell me story after story of how they have a favorite LO, but this LO’s company is fairly regularly messing up their transactions, which results in MUCH LONGER closings, tons of mistakes, and understandably irate clients –their clients.  Oddly enough, most of the agents who share these stories with me admit that they stay with the LO and just put up with the headaches caused by the LO’s company.  What?!!!! That’s like going back to same doctor who dispensed the outdated medication KNOWING THAT THE HOSPITAL IS STILL STOCKING THE OUTDATED MEDICATION because you liked the doctor’s bedside manner. That’s cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, folks!  Just as it would be wise for the lunching agent to avoid referring business to the LO who lied to her face, it would be equally wise to find a new mortgage company who didn’t make YOU look like a liar, right?

Individual Value Trumps Group Opinion

image displaying individuality


When my friend was in college, he minored in English and enrolled in a course called “Feminist Literature” (don’t worry, we’re not about to get political, I promise), which was taught by a very outspoken and intelligent professor who polarized the small university community. On the first day of class, the professor introduced herself and welcomed everyone to the new semester, and then she handed out the reading list for the course. As the professor was giving an overview of what she wanted the students to take away from her course, my friend started scanning the reading list. The authors and their subjects didn’t surprise him in the least – he went into this happily and with eyes wide open. What made him do a double-take, though, was the sheer number of books he and the rest of the class were going to be required to read fully and be prepared to discuss at length and cover in exams. At that moment, he knew he was going to need to make a beeline to the administration building after class and withdraw from the course – there was no way he would be able to pass all his other courses if he devoted the time needed in this one.

The professor then asked that they go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves and tell the class why they chose to take this course. She started on the opposite side of the room, so it gave my friend time to get a feel for his classmates and see if there was a slim chance that he could convince himself to stick it out. The class was composed of about thirty students with four of them (including my friend) being male. Almost every single person who introduced her or himself gave a very (I’m using his term) “brown nose” answer to why they chose to take this course – everyone was clearly in love with this professor and the idea that they were taking this course to “rebel” against the conservative nature that pervaded the small university he was attending. The funny thing was he also noticed that each time a student sort of professed her/his love for the professor’s daring nature, the professor had a look on her face that could be interpreted as stoically pleased or slightly perturbed.

At long last, it fell to my friend to introduce himself and tell the class why he had chosen to take this course. Still not quite sure what the professor’s “look” was telling him, he decided to gamble by just introducing himself and then going silent. As the next student was eager to introduce herself and was about to launch into her story, the professor stopped her and asked why my friend was taking this course. He smiled and took his time to look around the room and make eye contact with as many of the female students as he could and then said, “Because I’m looking for dates.” Amid a few groans and some stifled laughter, he looked up at the professor and noticed that his gamble paid off: she smiled and openly laughed – she valued a sense of humor over blind servitude.

He had decided to withdraw from the class (the “brown nose” classmates clinched it for him), and he knew that in the future he might cross paths again with that professor in another course. He figured if the professor remembered him, and remembered him positively, that would bode well for him. Even if she hadn’t found it funny, he figured it would be a lot easier to reason and work things out with one person than a group of them. (And he already had a girlfriend who would become his wife, so dates weren’t something he needed.)

In the real estate/mortgage world, it’s all about focusing on the single person rather than the group. If you’re someone who is looking to purchase a home, it’s important to focus on yourself (and your goal) by foregoing an occasional night out at the bar with the group so you can save for a down payment – the group won’t be buying the house for you. For use on the business side of things, it’s a sad day when you ask someone if they can name the agent and the lender who helped them buy their first house, and their response is, “I remember he/she was with X Company, but I couldn’t tell you his/her name.” When that happens to you, you’ve been lumped into a sad group, and that group isn’t going to help you get new business.

Perspective: the Key to Prosperity

Keep calm and carry on sign


Depending on which news channel you watch or which website you follow, the economy and the world are either going to Hell in a hand basket or we’re exactly nine seconds away from entering Nirvana. We could go into the reasons for the differing perspectives, but since you’re reading this column, the only perspective that REALLY matters is mine, right? I say that with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, of course, but I would like to take a moment and just point out a few things that are devoid of passions and politics that should help us all gain a little non-partisan perspective about the housing market.

I know I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating: we are not approaching a bubble. “That’s your opinion, you filthy animal,” some of you may say, but let me give you some data to let you decide for yourself (data about it not being opinion – I can’t do anything, really, to dissuade you from thinking I’m a filthy animal). Using the Tucson, AZ, housing market as my data set, let’s take a look at a couple of things, and you can decide for yourself if my bubble comment is correct (and I hope you reconsider your opinion of my personal hygiene).

In April of 2007 at the height of the “Bubble Era” (I just made up that name), there were 10,387 houses for sale – that was the peak for the Tucson market, and the numbers started to decline from that point.  In February of this year, the number of houses for sale was only 3,293.

Granted, those numbers are going to vary from market to market, and there will be exceptions, but I believe this proves the rule: we’re not even close to the numbers that we were seeing back in the Bubble Era.

Let me share a couple more pieces of information to round out this discussion on the state of the housing market – I’ll use Tucson again as my point of reference. In June of 2007 (the peak), the median home price was $225,000, average sales price was $293,443. In February of this year, the median home price was $207,000, and the average sales price was $249,095. For further perspective: the median home price in February of 2015 and 2016 were $168,900 and $194,000, respectively; the average sales price in February of 2015 and 2016 were $209,527 and $229,703, respectively.

While my stating the obvious may, perhaps, cause a collective “duh” to be uttered, I’ll do so anyway: home values are growing at a healthy but calm pace. Coupling that with the fact we’re not close to a bubble forming, you have reason to be happy if you’re a current homeowner and optimistic that a home is a good, solid investment if you’re a prospective buyer. I’m reminded of something a friend’s dad used to say each time they were on a road trip and my friend would ask, “Are we there yet?”. His dad would always reply, “No, son. We are always HERE.” Stop the hand wringing and embrace the now. The future is only the result of today.