How to Know if a Real Estate Agent is Any Good – Part 2

The Conscious Group - How to Know if a Real Estate Agent is Any Good: Part 2

Continuing the list of How to Know if a Real Estate Agent is Any Good.

Clearly, finding a good real estate agent is an issue. If  you google “how to find a good real estate agent,” you mostly find articles on how to identify a bad real estate agent… and for good reason. There are more shitheads in the real estate industry than in the White House. (As we all remember, Donald Trump started out in real estate… sigh…) Fact is, when you find a great real estate agent, they will earn every dime of their money.

Have you read Part 1?

Here are the second 4 ways to know that you have found a good real estate agent:

5) They are emotionally intelligent.

Real estate agents will need to be able to use various styles of negotiation over time and will need to have the emotional intelligence to know which negotiation tactics will be useful in different situations. A lot of real estate agents, or humans in general, only know one style of negotiation. Some are incredibly nice, some use a “take it or leave it” approach. If an agent is accustomed to working in the city and then needs to work with clients in a small town in the mountains, they will likely need to take a different approach in their negotiations because the super intense Gordon Gecko shit is going to freak the mountain people out. They live in the mountains for a reason – to get away from loud crazy people. Furthermore, some clients will require their agent to take a hard-headed approach to negotiations, whereas other clients prefer to keep things mellow.

A good real estate agent will also know when to push you or when to back off. Some clients may find the perfect home for them and they are afraid to commit. A good real estate agent will know the area and know if this client has found a rare gem and that now is the time to jump on it! And other times, if the client isn’t quite ready yet, if the agent knows the area well, they can assure their clients that another home with that little extra “something” will come along soon.

6) Your agent pretty much always responds to you in a timely manner.

Things happen quickly in real estate. The Denver real estate market moves incredibly quickly and if home-buyers can’t view the property right away, it will go under contract pretty quickly if it’s priced correctly.

Furthermore, a lot of home-buyers and sellers get kind of freaked out during the process. I started noticing this while helping my friends with their real estate deals. Since I know how they are on a normal day, I have seen some of my most mellow friends start to lose their shit when they’ve had to buy or sell homes. Moving can be a huge stressor. There are a lot of moving parts (cheesy pun intended) and unfamiliar concepts during a real estate transaction. This can be very upsetting for Capricorns who like to understand every step of the process as though they actually are a real estate agent. If you have an agent who responds to you quickly, it can help to put your mind at ease if you have a question that’s burning a hole in your brain.

It can be tough to know what to look for in a good real estate agent.

7) They’re proactive.

A lot of issues can be avoided by planning ahead. Surprises will always come up, but a good real estate agent will foresee the majority of potential problems in advance and at least give you a warning.  If your home doesn’t sell quickly for asking price, this agent is looking ahead to see what additional marketing they could add or if there are any quick and easy fixes to an issue that may be deterring potential home-buyers. If you are a home-buyer who is having a difficult time finding a home in your price range, a good real estate agent will be constantly creating new ways to find you a home in a competitive market. If you are purchasing a home, a good real estate agent will ensure that you are thoroughly inspecting the home and will have helped you carefully craft your offer so that you haven’t offered more than what the home will appraise for.

8) They’re honest with you, sometimes painfully so.

Every real estate agent has to be the bearer of bad news from time to time. We don’t look forward to this, but if we are truly being loyal to you and doing the best job we possibly can, then we have to do it, no matter how bad it hurts.

Maybe your dogs have used the carpet as a latrine one too many times, and you can’t smell it because you’re used to it. No one wants to tell you that your home smells bad, but if we are going to sell your home for top dollar, it needs to be free of pervasive odors. Maybe you feel incredibly soothed by your chocolate brown walls, but a lot of buyers prefer a warm light gray and we can sell your home for more money if you repaint your walls a more neutral color. Maybe you have spent your entire adult life working on your Star Wars figurine collection, but it’s not likely to photograph well or be attractive to buyers, so we might need to put Princess Leia in storage. Maybe we just found out that your last real estate agent sold you the home without doing a thorough inspection and now you are on the hook for $10,000 to replace your sewer line. Maybe your home just isn’t worth as much as you thought it was. Maybe your mom did real estate for 40 years and has now given you advice that is incorrect and we have to tell you that your mom is wrong. Seriously, my dearest client… I would rather stab myself in the eye than tell you that your darling mother is incorrect. All of this sucks. But if we are doing our jobs to the best of our ability, we will be honest with you even when it hurts.

The good news is that great real estate agents exist! You don’t just have to put up with an agent who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. If you don’t feel right with the first agent who you’ve met, interview some others until you find an agent who can provide you with a positive experience.

Want a Fantastic Agent instead of a Problem Agent?  Give us a call at 303-908-9873.  

Make sure you read Part 1 of How to Know if a Real Estate Agent is Any Good.

How to Know if a Real Estate Agent is Any Good – Part 1

The Conscious Group - How to Know if a Real Estate Agent is Any Good: Part 1

Clearly, finding a good real estate agent is an issue. If  you google “how to find a good real estate agent,” you mostly find articles on how to identify a bad real estate agent… and for good reason. There are more shitheads in the real estate industry than in the White House. (As we all remember, Donald Trump started out in real estate… sigh…) Fact is, when you find a great real estate agent, they will earn every dime of their money.

A lot of agents will have practiced convincing scripts that are designed to get you to hire them. These scripts are formulated to be effective and many real estate agents play the numbers game. “If you talk to X amount of people using Y tactic in Z amount of time, you are likely to earn A.” For instance, these agents will use your name regularly throughout the conversation because that is a proven tactic to get people to like you… (I outlined a lot of the talking points included in these scripts in a previous series of posts, “Shit Real Estate Agents Say To Get You To Hire Them.”)

You are not a number, you are a person and you should be treated as such. A good real estate agent isn’t going to use a bunch of crappy tactics to get your business. A good real estate agent will be honest with you. They will be authentic. They won’t have to utilize a script, but rather, will be able to have a conversation. They will show how they can be of service to you. A good real estate agent will earn your business.

As a consumer, it can be tough to know what to look for in a good real estate agent.

Real estate transactions truly are a convoluted process. In some cases, a consumer may be able to sell or purchase a home without the help of a real estate agent and not lose money, but those situations are few and far between. Most often, you need a (good) real estate agent. A good real estate agent will be able to gain your business without the bullshit… unless you enjoy falling for bullshit. Some people do and that’s ok. And some of you lovely people tend to succumb to pressure… or you want to believe the best in people and take what they say at face value.

Here are the first 4 ways to know that you have found a good real estate agent:

1) You feel comfortable around them.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been showing properties when another group of potential home-buyers enters who look miserable and awkward with their agent. I have seen agents stop everything to give their clients a history of residential electricity during moments that were completely out of context. I have seen agents mistakenly telling their clients that the floors are original hardwoods, when they’re clearly not only not original, but are made of manufactured product. Often, clients look like they have to “behave” around their realtor, like they are with their boss or are meeting their partner’s family for the first time.

You should not have to “behave” around your realtor. They are working for you, not vice versa. Whatever it takes for you to feel comfortable, whether you need to speak your mind freely, ask a million questions, vent about the process, breastfeed your child, or have a bowel movement, this is your time. You are buying or selling a house, dammit. It’s kind of a big deal. There should be no walking on eggshells – only honesty and communication.

If an agent is just coming at you with a sales pitch when you first meet, you are likely to feel uncomfortable. Get out there. When a good real estate agent meets with you for the first time, they will address how they can best meet your needs – not what supposedly makes them so much more special than any other agent.

Furthermore, consider this: if a real estate agents comes across to you as off-putting, how will the other side perceive them when it comes time to negotiate? If you are a home-buyer in a competitive market like the Denver metro area, sellers will be less likely to accept your offer if your realtor comes across as difficult or obnoxious.

2) They listen (instead of constantly running their mouth.)

This should be really obvious, but apparently, it’s not. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people tell horror stories about realtors who simply didn’t listen throughout the course of their transaction. If an agent doesn’t listen to their clients, how are they going to achieve their objectives? If an agent isn’t listening to a home-seller, they may miss some key information about your property that will help it to sell for top dollar. Or if an agent isn’t listening to a home-buyer, they may waste their time by showing them a lot of homes that they aren’t interested in.

Some of my recent clients fired their previous agent to work with me. Among the many things that their previous agent did wrong, she didn’t listen. My clients explained to their previous agent during the inspection period that if the sellers didn’t fix the problems with the property, they were not interested in moving forward with the transaction. Period. Simple. They clearly expressed this to their agent, yet their agent ignored their wishes and continued to pressure her clients into moving forward with the transaction. What their agent should have done would have been to apply that same pressure to the home-sellers to fix the problems that the buyers desired. This agent clearly forgot who she worked for, and also, she simply didn’t listen. I assure you, these particular clients communicated very clearly and effectively. If she would have listened to her clients and understood that they meant what they said, she would have earned her commission. Instead, I got to pick up some clients who were already familiar with the market and already knew exactly what they wanted. All I had to do was my job, while they lavished praise upon me. They even bought me a sweater.

The good news is that great real estate agents exist!

3) They ask questions.

Not only do they ask questions, they ask good questions. How long do you want to stay in this home? What are your ideal goals for this property? Do you have the resources or the desire for a fixer-upper? Do you plan on staying at your job for a long time and if not, where might your job move? Which is more important – being near your work or being near your play? Will living near a busy street bother you? You’ve mentioned loving dogs – do you plan to get one (or many?) You mentioned wanting top dollar for your home – are you willing to paint the home, since “burnt sienna” has not been in style since 1993?

You may have your mind bogged down with this process, but a good real estate agent is like a detective. They will anticipate and meet your needs for many years to come by asking the right questions.

Many of my clients who are relocating to Denver need guidance on neighborhoods and areas. Most realtors just begin suggesting popular neighborhoods to their clients.  Here’s the thing: every neighborhood in Denver is popular these days and LoHi isn’t for everyone. I simply ask clients what their neighborhoods were like in their previous city and ask them what they did and didn’t like about their old neighborhood. I then use that information to guide my clients in which neighborhoods may work for them in Denver. We then drive around to various areas that could be a good match before we ever view homes.

4) They are here to serve their client, rather than themselves.

Real estate is supposed to be a service industry, but a lot of agents make the mistake of believing that they are in sales because they “sell” homes. Here’s the thing: the homes have to sell themselves, (although we can certainly showcase them in their best light.) Yet a lot of agents working with buyers push their clients to purchase homes that aren’t right for them, so they can close the deal and move on to something else. I understand why they do this – if the buyers don’t purchase this home, it could be several more months before they finally do purchase a home, which takes a lot of time and energy. The agents may simply need money now, so they push their clients to move more quickly than the situation calls for. Or listing agents may not get top dollar for their sellers, because that requires a lot more work. And yes – this stuff does take a lot of work. I have absolutely had days where I spend a lot of time winning a relatively small amount of money for my clients. It’s not necessarily a fun or relaxing way to spend a Tuesday – but if it’s important to their clients, a good real estate agent will make it a priority and do their best to achieve the desired outcome.

Want a Fantastic Agent instead of a Problem Agent?  Give us a call at 303-908-9873.  

Check back next week for more on How to Know if a Real Estate Agent is Any Good.

Should You Buy a Home or Keep Renting? Is Buying a House Right For You?

Buying vs Renting - The Conscious Group

Buying a home can be a major responsibility. If something breaks, you fix it. You have upfront costs. You have to fill out paperwork. And then you have to fill out more paperwork. And then, just when you thought you were done… you guessed it! Even. More. Paperwork.

Many personal finance bloggers who are way more hip than me write compelling articles about why they will never buy a house again. They talk about the huge costs required to purchase a home. The tax advantages aren’t what they used to be. One article suggested that a reason to continue renting is to avoid the responsibility of changing the outdoor light bulbs. Sigh…

I admit, buying a house is typically less exciting than going to a music festival… unless you have really weird ideas about what constitutes a good time or unless you are being filmed on HGTV as you purchase a two-million dollar tree house with your fortune gained from making contemporary art sculptures out of rubber bands and recycled wig hair.

However, owning a home isn’t without its own fun. You can paint murals on the walls, you can adopt as many ferrets as the law will allow, and any improvements you do on the property will contribute to your equity rather than the equity of your landlord.

If you own your home, the rent won’t be raised, or the landlord can’t kick you out because they decide to sell the property or move back into the home once you have made it beautiful and cozy.

Buying a home could be right for you… or not. Let’s address your concerns…

Are you afraid of being tied down?

Everyone is afraid of being tied down, except for Capricorns.

Let’s talk about that… what does “being tied down” mean to you? If you need to move to go back to school next year, that’s valid. You are literally being tied down by something and you probably shouldn’t buy a home this year. If you’re not even sure if you like the area where you’re living, then maybe you shouldn’t buy a house yet.

Often, the feeling of being tied down is just that – a feeling. If you further examine that feeling, you may actually find freedom in the things that you perceive as being limitations. For instance, if being “tied down” means that you don’t like having to spend a lot of money on your living expenses, buying a home could actually provide you with more freedom.

One of my clients was ambivalent about buying a home, so we discussed what made him feel tied down. He wanted the ability to travel at a moment’s notice and to not be encumbered financially. However, he didn’t mind having roommates and sharing his space with friends. I helped him to purchase a 5-bedroom home and he immediately rented out 4 of the bedrooms. He lives in his home for free, because the income from his tenants covers the entire mortgage. He is able to save his living expenses, he makes an additional payment toward his principal every month, and he still goes to Burning Man every year. How does that sound for “not being tied down?” This guy nailed it.

Do you want to be able to travel?

We all do. Even my dad travels now… he’s the guy wearing socks and sneakers at the beach.

Owning a home isn’t necessarily an obstacle to travel, you just have to make it work.

If you are currently living in a rental and are able to travel, how have you achieved this so far? The same method should apply to home ownership, unless you simply travel between leases and put your stuff in storage each time you want to leave. Furthermore, as someone who has traveled quite a bit, I personally appreciate having roots. Having a home to return to has been key to reintegrate into life upon return. Do you really want to get off that plane with hellacious jet lag and then have to figure out how to rent a new place and drag your stuff out of storage while you’re trying to process all of the life-changing experiences you just had? (Maybe you do! If so, you have far stronger constitution than myself.)

If you would like to travel long-term, you can rent your property and the tenants can cover your mortgage while you are away. Hire a reputable property management company to manage your rental in your absence. (Technically, you could do it yourself, but if you are traveling off-grid, you wouldn’t be able to call a plumber if a pipe bursts or something.) Depending on the area, it’s possible that you could even make a profit by renting your property during your absence.

If you are traveling for a shorter period of time, you can rent out your property on Airbnb. Several companies and individuals professionally run Airbnbs for homeowners. They handle the bookings, guest communications, and clean your property between guests. In Denver, I have had several friends who earned enough money by renting their home on Airbnb, it was more profitable for them to live in Bali and do yoga than it was for them to stay home and work. This is especially great for people who can work remotely, like web designers, graphic designers, and so forth. (Check your local laws before moving forward with a short-term rental, as many areas require a license.)

Do you not have $50,000 (or 20%) for your down payment?

This notion that you have to have a lot of money saved for your down payment is often a misconception. If you have good credit (or even decent credit), you probably don’t need to have a 20% down payment.

Conventional loans allow you to purchase a home as low as 3% down if you have excellent credit, while FHA loans allow 3.5% down payments for folks with mediocre credit. In Colorado, CHFA loans allow home-buyers to purchase a home with .5% down, which is typically going to be less than what you would pay for first and last month’s rent with a deposit on a rental. If you are a United States Veteran, you are likely eligible for a VA loan which will allow you to purchase a home with zero money down. (Note: in all of the cases above, you will likely still need to have closing costs available.)

(The 20% down payment myth likely originated from misunderstanding the rules about mortgage insurance. If you don’t put 20% down on your home, then you will have to pay mortgage insurance until you reach 20% equity. Once you hit that 20%, you can refinance to drop the mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance sucks and it doesn’t benefit you whatsoever, but it can be a necessary evil to purchase a home. Chat with a lender to see if you could purchase a property for less than what you pay in rent, even with the mortgage insurance included in your monthly payment.)

Do you tend to trust the wrong people on a very regular basis?

This can be an issue. If you wind up hiring a shitty real estate agent, they may pressure you into buying a home that isn’t right for you. If you know this about yourself, get some friends to help you interview the agents or get agent referrals from someone you trust. Watch out for answers that sound flaky. This is not a time for you to be worried about hurting other people’s feelings or whether you are coming across as “nice.” There is too much at stake. This is a time for you to really vet these “professionals” and ensure you’re picking the right person for the job. Don’t be afraid to say no if it doesn’t feel right!

Maybe bring your bitchiest friend to interview real estate agents – it sounds silly, but seriously… we all have a bitchy friend and we might as well put their skills to use! If the real estate agent can pass the Bitchy Friend Test, you can hire this person to be your buyer’s agent.

And make sure to check out the  Shit Real Estate Agents Say to Get You to Hire Them series for more things to watch out for!

Will you have to use your nest egg to purchase a home?

This can be a bit of a sticky wicket. Many of us purchased our homes and then quickly scrambled to rebuild our nest egg in the event of unexpected, but necessary home repairs. Most of us were able to do so successfully. However, there is always the chance of a SNAFU occurring before you have replenished your savings. In this case, if something major goes wrong with your home, you may not be able to cover it. This is a valid concern and I would suggest that you take this possibility very seriously.

To decrease the likelihood of this scenario, you should have the home professionally and thoroughly inspected prior to purchase. (Of course, things may look fine one week and fall apart the next. That’s life.) Strongly weigh the pros and cons of this scenario. I purchased my home on a prayer and dime and everything worked out. My home greatly increased in value, very quickly. Had I not taken the chance, I would not have received the rewards, but it was a risk. Of course, I do real estate, so I knew what I was doing. Make sure that you are aware of the market in which you are buying and that you have a trustworthy agent who will work to find you a home in an area that is likely to appreciate.

Do you have a super unique rental situation in which you pay rent that is priced well below the market?

If you are one of the lucky ones who would actually have to pay a lot more to purchase a home than what you’re paying in rent (and you’re happy), stay right where you’re at! Take advantage of the situation while it lasts but be aware that it won’t last forever! Save your money. If your situation changes unexpectedly and you didn’t plan ahead, you may not have enough money saved to purchase a home or even to pay rent if the market has greatly increased.

In Conclusion:

For the past few years in Denver, home ownership has more often been a better scenario than renting, as rents have continued to rise. If these renters had purchased a home at any point, they would now have a good amount of equity in their home. Their living costs would be stabilized instead of continuously rising. All in all, home ownership is a good move for most people, but there are always the exceptions to the rule and buying a home is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Not all houses are created equal. Not all housing markets are created equal. Not all real estate agents are created equal. Do your research and dig deep into your values to discover the life you would like to create. With the right information, the right team, and some creativity, home ownership has the potential to help take you to the next level… or not.

Just Moved In? Tips for Meeting the Neighbors (Without Coming Off Creepy…)

 

1. Sit on the Front Porch

Sitting on the front porch or gardening in the front lawn can open the opportunity to have discussions with your neighbors that aren’t forced. A simple wave and friendly smile can go a long ways. Don’t hide, get out there! Your neighbors who will be walking their dogs, picking up their kids from school or just taking a stroll will be happy to see new neighbors in clear view when they first move in. Everyone is always curious about new neighbors and putting yourself out there can avoid nosy ones later – the ones who are wondering, “Just what are they up to?”

 2. Go to the Block Party

Neighbors having a shindig down the street? Grab an appetizer or beers and head over! It’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be more people just like you, feeling a little awkward, yet wanting to get in good with the neighbors. Bring a yummy treat and you can’t really go wrong. Warning: Do not get drunk and do something stupid, unless you want to regret it later. Remember, this is your first impression, and they are important. We recommend going a little after the party has started, or right when it has first begun, and leaving well before its over. Make your presence known, stay awhile, but not too long. It’s good to leave them just a taste and not overstay your welcome unless you want to have VERY close relationships with your neighbors, get involved with gossip or somehow get dragged into some neighborhood committee (unless you want to of course!).

 3. Join NextDoor.com

Another “new-fangled” way to get in touch with your neighbors is to join the social community NextDoor.com. It is similar to Craigslist in that people announce sales, ask for referrals, post government information and events, but it loses the creepy-factor because you can only join if you actually live in the neighborhood. To sign-up, go to NextDoor.com and fill out the application form. After that, they will mail a postcard to your home with a special code on it. Once received, follow the instructions and enter your code on the site. Once verified, you will get access to all neighborhood goings on such as playdates and happenings. You can adjust the frequency and type of notifications you get in the account settings section.

 4. Walk the Dog

Similarly to hanging out on the front porch, walking your dog is a fantastic way to meet your neighbors. In fact, your dog might try to meet them before you, running up to them with a big wet kiss or happy tail wag. Usually, most people are happy to see dogs, but make sure to hold their leash tight until giving the okay. People do not like their space invaded and want to be sure your dog is nice first before petting. This can open up such questions as, “What breed is your pup? How old is she? Have you just moved in?”, etc. If they have dogs too, and you hit it off, offer to go on your next stroll together and pick a time and day. Voila! Friend made. If you find out on your walk that they are not your cup of tea, let them know at the end of the walk that you enjoyed their time, but you are sad because given your schedule of just moving in, it’s likely that most of your time will be taken up with work/school/mother-in-law visiting/household projects/etc. Then, always give them a smile and a wave when you see them next.

5. Bring Over a Basket of Goodies, Flowers or Just Leave a Note

This one’s a classic. Everybody loves gifts and cards. These days, baked goods or homemade snacks may be looked at with suspicion or not eaten if you are still considered a “stranger”, so it’s best to go with wrapped items if you go that route. Flower baskets left on a door with a note are a fantastic way to say hello. Plus, if you are an introvert, this way offers you an avenue to say hello without actually saying hello. Next time you talk, all they have to usually say is “thank you” and all you usually have to say is “of course!” and tell them a bit about where you came from, what you do and what your family is all about (kids ages, etc.). A note can have the same effect if written with kindness, although flowers or a gift add a special touch.

6. Look for a Meetup Group

Another way to find neighbors with similar interests is to look for Meetup groups that suit your fancy. Love crafting? Have small kids? Love hiking? There is a Meetup group for almost every hobby. Simply look on the website, join, mark your calendar, and go! Not every group is the perfect fit for you, so it might be good to tell the host that you are new in town and trying out lots of things so that they don’t pressure you to be exclusive, giving you more time to check it all out. And, if you love it, well, you just found a weekly or monthly activity and a whole bunch of new friends.

7. Hold a Yard Sale

You might have thought you needed every single thing you packed for your move, but upon unpacking, you might discover that not everything fits perfectly or that you just have too much. Holding a yard sale can invite the neighbors to you and maybe even make you a little cash.

8. Start a Free Little Library

Free Little Libraries are always a magnet for good will. If you check out their website, you can learn all about how to build and get your free little library officially commissioned. They are adorable and neighbors can participate by lending and loaning books. Include titles that are non-controversial to start and include some kids books of all ages. You will immediately get a good impression (so long as the one you build is classy and keeps with the neighborhood vibe) and neighbors will appreciate that you are open to sharing with them in a literary way.

9. Go to a Town Hall Meeting

You can find out about town hall meetings from the newspaper, online and in forums like NextDoor.com. Attending meetings about current events affecting your neighborhood allows you to get an inside peek into the happenings around you. And, it allows you to be introduced to your neighborhood “movers and shakers.” If you lean toward politics and getting involved, this can be a great way to break into an influential group of neighbors.

10. Visit Your Local Shops and Tell the Cashiers That You Just Moved In

Shop owners, bartenders and baristas meet and talk to lots of people during their day. Through this interaction, they are privy to current events, people and tips on the best spots to visit in town. Be friendly and tell them you are new in town. Next thing you know, you will likely be pointed in the direction of something awesome to check out.

 

Alright…now that you’ve gotten your tips, it’s ready set go time. See which ones work for you and if there’s one we missed, feel free to send us your idea right here.

 

Should I Search For Homes on Zillow?

willy-wonka-zestimate

Do NOT trust “Zestimates.”

Maybe the Zestimate for your home’s value will be correct… I would say they are correct about 20% of the time by accident. The other 80% of the time, they are WRONG. Sometimes Zestimates are higher than your homes value, sometimes they are lower. I have seen them be off by $100,000 on a $300,000 home! Point being, there currently is no technology that can correctly assess a home’s value. It’s best to get a good realtor to give you a Broker Price Opinion for your home’s value and we are happy to provide those for people at any time. (Note: a Broker Price Opinion is NOT an appraisal, nor are realtors qualified to provide you with a home appraisal unless they are also a licensed appraiser.)

With that being said, we have also run into tons of problems with our clients shopping for homes on Zillow.

At Conscious Real Estate, we like to refer to Zillow (or it’s best friend, Trulia) as “The Heartbreaker.”  Why? Most often, when our clients find homes on Zillow or Trulia, the home has been under contract for quite awhile. We have seen numerous cases where the home has sold months prior. 

Here, we’ll break down what the MLS system is and how it is the only system to use when looking for your new home…

MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service and is endorsed by the National Association of Realtors. The system originated in the 1800’s when real estate agents would get together and share information on the properties that they had available.

Over time, more and more realtors joined the National Association of Realtors and as technology advanced over the last century, the service became digital.

Also over time, and with the advent on the Internet, also came commercial businesses trying to emulate the MLS by way of Trulia, Zillow and the many others out there. Unlike the MLS, Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com are not regulated by any oversight such as the National Association of Realtors.

They are called “aggregate syndicators” in the industry because essentially, they are just media companies who take the legitimate information (and often copyrighted photos and more) from the MLS system and duplicate the listing on their site. The “suggested realtors” that appear on the sidebar for these properties are simply agents who are paying for advertising with them – not the agent on record and usually an agent who has no idea they are being suggested for that property – they simply showed up there due to the program’s marketing algorithms.

Additionally, realtors know they don’t have to follow the rules on Zillow.  If a realtor posts her listings on Zillow, she can leave it up for as long as she likes with no regulation.  Interested buyers will see this property, get excited, and call the realtor.

The realtor then informs the prospective buyer, “I’m so sorry. This home is under contract, but I can certainly help you find something similar.” See what she did there? She just got a new client from Zillow, by being sneaky. On the MLS, properties must have their status updated very quickly and realtors can’t play such reindeer games.

Further, these aggregate syndicators take listings from wherever they can find them. Take this case study for example from Geoffrey Shiering, a San Diego real estate agent and California broker:

“I’ve personally published a “house for sale” advertisement on Craigslist (a home that was not on the MLS), and in less than 24 hours the property description and photos that I’d posted on Craigslist were being displayed alongside my local San Diego MLS listings on Zillow. Anyone can publish anything on Craigslist, whether it’s real, fake, exaggerated, or a downright scam. And when Zillow displays unverified, junk information right alongside MLS listings, the public assumes that the junk is just as accurate as the MLS data.”

Unbelievable. So, before you spend all your time researching online, contact your local real estate agent and tell them what you’re looking for so that they can get you accurate, real-time listings and get you on track for that new home you’ve been longing for.

If you have any questions about the MLS or want to start getting notifications, contact us here and we’ll get in touch with you right away. Just let us know some of the details (how many baths, bedrooms, fenced yard, neighborhoods, open floor plan, price range etc.) and how often you want to receive notifications by email. You can choose from daily, weekly or monthly and can always change the frequency as well.

And, when you purchase a home with Conscious Real Estate, you will be making a positive impact on your community. We donate 10% of our own commission to a nonprofit of your choice. Find a home, make a difference – that’s the way we do business.

 

Why Bike Tours Are A Great Way To Explore Denver Homes For Sale

The title pretty much says it all, but if you need more reasons, read on…

1)  Riding a bicycle will make you calmer, happier, and more clear-headed. 

Most of my buyers get stressed out when they are looking for homes. They are making a major life decision. The market is aggressive. So many decisions to make! Exercise is always a fantastic stress reliever and when you’re making a big decision, you want to be relaxed, feeling good, and maybe even have a little wind blowing through your hair.

2)  You will see more of the neighborhood on a bicycle than you will in a car.

I prove this to myself EVERY SINGLE TIME I ride my bicycle around my own neighborhood – I always notice something while riding my bicycle that I have never noticed before. So, when you’re deciding which area you would like to live in, wouldn’t you get a better sense of the neighborhood if you can experience more of it?  For better or worse, if you’re riding a bicycle, you will see it, you will hear it, and you will smell it – I promise!

3)  It’s eco-friendly.

We don’t have to waste gas on a bicycle and contribute to emissions.  Furthermore, we don’t have to worry about parking!  Many popular neighborhoods in Denver are tough to find parking, so let’s focus on the house and not where we should put the car.

4)  It’s fun.

Buying a house can be fun! Some stressful moments may come up and I coddle my clients through such times, but I also think it’s great to add in fun moments. Whoever said that being an adult can’t be fun was just doing it wrong!

If you’re interested in having a realtor that will tour Denver homes for sale with you, give me (Allison Parks) a call at 303-908-9873 or email allison@theconsciousgroup.com. I’m happy to drive as well, but I’m just trying to make real estate awesome! Whether you tour homes via bike or car with Conscious Real Estate, we always contribute 10% of our commission to the nonprofit of your choice after closing. conscious-bike-tours

Bursting Denver’s Housing Bubble: Navigating Denver’s Real Estate Statistics

 

nice-view

For two years, everyone has been asking me whether I expect a housing bubble to occur in Denver. Like any market, it will have to drop or plateau eventually. No commodity enjoys a steady increase until the end of time.

In the meantime, I come across a lot of articles and blog posts making some pretty broad claims about the Denver real estate market. The ideas are not necessarily wrong, but there’s more to the story.  

So, why should I just read this stuff over breakfast and roll my eyes, when I can share what I know with all of you?  I’m going to burst some of these bubbles, but not without a quick review of Economics 101.

Supply and Demand – Part 1: Denver’s supply of homes for sale is still very, very down. As long as this continues, Denver’s supply of homes for sale (or lack thereof) is a major contributor to our current seller’s market. Think about it… if, all of a sudden, the amount of homes for sale on the market increased by 500%, that would decrease the competition amongst buyers. If competition amongst buyers decreased, prices would go down

Supply and Demand; Part 2: We still have a lot of demand. People are moving to Denver at record rates. Denver consistently is rated as a top city for job-seekers, a top city to start a business, a top city for IT job-seekers, a top city for young people, and the list goes on. Based on historical trends, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that an average of 50,000 people will continue to move to Denver on a yearly basis.  Demand isn’t likely to go down; there is a limit to how quickly builders can build and many builders won’t want to over-speculate this soon after the recession. Therefore, we are likely to continue to have a demand greater demand than supply.

Our Local Economy: The Denver metro area economy is diverse and consistently growing. I read a blog post recently saying that “Denver is just a boom town and will fail like Detroit.” Doubtful. Detroit depended primarily on the auto industry; they did not have a diversified economy. Denver has a variety of industries which are flourishing.

As mentioned in every article about Denver for the past few years, we have weed. We have tourism, for the mountains… and for the weed. This keeps our restaurants full, our hotels full, keeps people shopping in our stores, drinking in our bars, and smoking our weed. We have tons of tech companies, most of which are growing, including a new Google campus which is coming soon in Boulder. We have an ever-growing clean energy industry. (On the flip side, we have a quite a lot of oil and gas companies here in Colorado, although, this industry has recently taken a major hit and people have been losing jobs in oil and gas. Note: oil and gas only accounts for about 10% of our total industry.)

National Interest Rates:  They’re still pretty low. A lot people, including myself, thought interest rates would rise by the end of last year. We were wrong. As long as interest rates remain low, it will keep mortgage rates lower, even if the home price is higher, so people are still very interested in buying now. The Fed has been meeting to discuss raising interest rates and although a couple of folks are bulldogging to raise them, most members of the Fed are interested in keeping interest rates low for a considerable amount of time. If there is a rise in interest rates, it’s not expected to be a major rise for at least several years.

*Note: although this is dependent on your home price and monthly mortgage payment, overall, you will save a lot more money over the course of a 30-year-loan if you buy at a lower interest rate than if you wait around for home prices to drop. The highest likelihood of Denver home prices dropping is if interest rates rise, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will save money.

Got it?  

I’m ready to get really dorky. Let’s analyze some Denver real estate statistics, so I can justify that Master’s degree that’s stashed in my closet…

Here’s one I saw recently from a Denver real estate authority…

In 2015, 10% less units sold under $500,000, while 34% more units have been sold above $500,000 compared to 2014.” It goes on to say that this indicates an overall price appreciation…

Here’s the thing… Sure, any Realtor working in the front lines of our local market will acknowledge that prices have been rapidly increasing. However, you can’t use that statistic to necessarily indicate an overall price appreciation. It could simply mean that less properties went to market under $500,000… If less properties go to market under $500,000, then less properties will sell under $500,000. It’s simple. If we are staying abreast of real estate statistics, we know that properties are generally being absorbed into the market within 4-6 weeks… Therefore, what is released into the market will be absorbed. If properties over $500,000 are being listed, they will likely be sold.

It’s likely that people with properties under $500,000 heard the news about how competitive it can be to find a home under $500,000; therefore, they are choosing not to sell at this time because they believe it will be difficult to find a replacement home. People selling properties over $500,000 don’t face as much market competition if they purchase a similarly priced replacement home in the Denver metro area, so perhaps people at that price point are simply selling their homes at a higher rate than people with homes priced under $500,000.

(This would explain a lot, because if these folks are simply moving within the metro area, then the seller’s home will go on the market, be purchased by a new buyer, and then the seller will buy a new home which likely also costs over $500,000, therefore resulting in two homes over $500,000 being sold. Generally, someone purchasing a home over $500,000 is less likely to be a first-time home-buyer, whereas someone purchasing a home under $500,000 is more likely to be a first-time home-buyer. A first-time home-buyer is someone who is no longer renting or living in mom’s basement, so they are only taking place in ONE real estate transaction. Buyers and sellers over the $500,000 price point are more likely to be participating in TWO real estate transactions, as such, creating a higher statistic of homes being sold over $500,000. In any case, although rapid appreciation is certainly real – we cannot simply assume that this statistic is indicative of purely of home price appreciation.)

I mean, hey… murder rates and ice cream sales both rise during the same time of year, but should we assume that ice cream causes murder?

Lets talk about some more statistics I’ve seen out there…

Another real estate agent/blogger calls himself “The Denver Expert” and encourages readers to “outsource their nerd.” Excuse me while I outnerd this guy and not break a sweat in the process… The “Denver Expert” posits that areas with higher home prices appreciate less than areas with lower home prices, while areas with the lowest average home prices are experiencing the highest rates of appreciation. The 5 areas listed with the lowest home prices are San Rafael, Clayton, Wash Park South, Whittier, and Cole, and it is reported that these neighborhoods are appreciating at a rate of around 19% per year. I live in the zip code of 4 of these neighborhoods and sell properties in these neighborhoods regularly.

What I can tell you is that, yes, the neighborhood has appreciated… a lot! But it has not truly appreciated at a rate of 19% per year. If it were unadulterated appreciation, the homes would have just increased in price with no outside forces at play —–> which means you could have purchased a home five years ago, done absolutely no upgrades beyond necessary maintenance, and had your home value increase by 19% each year.

That would be awesome, but that’s not what’s happening here… I can tell you from living and working extensively in the 80205, this phenomenon can largely be explained by a human species called “A Fix-and Flipper.” As the traditionally posh neighborhoods in Denver remain out of reach for many, people move to up and coming neighborhoods where prices are more affordable. Home-flippers get hip to these trends and they start flipping in these neighborhoods knowing that they can make money on their investment.

I purchased my home in July of 2013 and in that time, 5 homes have been fixed and flipped within 2 blocks of my home. Therefore if someone bought these homes at $350,000, put some work into them, and sold them for $500,000 within the same year, it looks like prices are increasing rapidly. The statistics don’t control for fix and flips; they only show the overall numbers. When you see these dramatic statistics for Park Hill, Whittier, City Park West, and so forth… you’re not getting the whole story.

Similarly, when you purchase a home in Wash Park East or Country Club, that home is already going to be outfitted with luxury upgrades. There isn’t a whole lot one can do with a such a property to add value. It’s already a luxury home. It already has Viking appliances, a top of the line bathroom, and maybe a heated garage. It already has the best roof that money can buy. Therefore, the value increases for these homes will not be nearly as grandiose.

All in all, my advice is to not be too scared of the market. It possibly will plateau or maybe even drop at some point. (A lot of people who were afraid to buy two years ago, but if they would have bought then, their home values would have appreciated during that time. In the meantime, their rents have only gone up.) All commodities drop. And they usually go back up. If your home value drops, treat it like a stock and don’t sell when the market is down.

As a final note, from everything I’ve seen, I do expect rentals to continue to rise. If you are renting, but are fearful of buying a home, you should probably fear the opposite. Home prices may drop at some point, but rentals are likely to go up and up and up. In fact, if you’re looking to invest some money, I would strongly consider getting a rental property in Denver.

If you have any questions about the Denver housing market, are interested in buying a home, or would like to find out your home’s current value if you are considering selling, please call Allison Parks at 303-908-9873 or email her at allison@theconsciousgroup.com. We are Conscious Real Estate – the brokerage that loves our local and global community – contributing 10% of all realtor commissions to the nonprofit of our client’s choice in our efforts to change the world through real estate. 

A Comparison of Roofing Materials

Not all roofs are created equal.  Here is a comparison of the different types of roofing materials, so you can find which roof is best for your home.

Asphalt Shingle is the most common roofing material, because it’s the least expensive and requires minimal skill to install. It’s made of a fiberglass medium that’s been impregnated with asphalt and given a surface of sand-like granules. Two basic configurations are sold: the standard single-thickness variety and thicker, laminated products. The standard type costs roughly half as much, but laminated shingles have an appealing textured appearance and last roughly half as long (typically 25 years or more, versus 15 years plus). Prices range from $50-200 per square foot.  (Depending on the type of asphalt shingle with installation, an asphalt shingle roof can cost many times that.)

Shingle roof pattern for textured background

Wood was the main choice for centuries, and it’s still a good option, though in some areas, fire codes forbid its use. Wood roofs are usually made of cedar, redwood, or southern pine; shingles are sawn or split. They have a life expectancy in the 25-year range like asphalt shingles, though are more pricey at $350-450 per square foot.

Natural wood shake roof

Metal.  Aluminum, steel, copper, copper-and-asphalt, and lead are all durable and more costly roofing surfaces. Lead and copper/asphalt varieties are typically installed as shingles, but others are manufactured for seamed roofs consisting of vertical lengths of metal that are joined with solder. These roofs start around $250 per square, though can cost up to $750 per square.

Modern design vertical roof window with black light metal covering

Modern design vertical roof window with black light metal covering

Tile and Cement – The half cylinders of clay tile roofing are common on Spanish Colonial and Mission styles; cement and some metal roofs imitate tile’s wavy effect. All are expensive, very durable, and tend to be heavy.  Clay tile roofs are likely to last 50 plus years, and will generally cost between $800-1000 per square foot.  Concrete tile is expected to last just as long, though is cheaper at $300-500 per square foot.

Peak of a clay tile roof with half round shingles against a blue sky in southern florida

Slate is among the most durable and long lasting of all roofing materials. Not all slate is the same—some comes from quarries in Vermont, some from Pennsylvania and other states—but the best slate shingles will outlast the fasteners that hold them in place. In fact, slate roofs up to 100 years old are often recycled for reinstallation with the expectation the material will last another century. Slate is among the most expensive of all roofing materials – prices typically start at about $800 a square going up to $2000 per square—and are very heavy.

A Slate roof shingles background

Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells, capturing sunlight and transforming it into electricity. Most solar shingles are 12 by 86 inches and can be stapled directly to the roofing cloth. Different models of shingles have different mounting requirements. Some can be applied directly onto roofing felt intermixed with regular asphalt shingles while others may need special installation. Solar-shingled roofs have a deep, dark, purplish-blue color, and often look similar to other roofs. Homeowners may be drawn to solar shingles because of their aesthetic value, allowing the homeowner to utilize solar power without large panels on their roofs.

shingles-solar

Note:  Not every roofing material can be used on every roof. A flat roof or one with a low slope may demand a surface different from one with a steeper pitch. Materials like slate and tile are very heavy, so the structure of many homes is inadequate to carry the load. Consider the following options, then talk with your designer and get estimates for the job.

How To Improve Your Credit Score in 7 Steps

Money Growing on Green Tree Illustration Isolated on White Background

Thinking about buying a home, but are worried that your credit score will hold you back?  Here are 7 tips to improve your credit score.

1. Know your credit score

Credit scores range from 300 to 850.  Higher = Better.  Your credit score is based on whether you’ve paid personal loans, car loans, credit cards, and other debt in full and on time in the past. You’ll need a score of at least 620 to qualify for a home loan, most loans will require a score of 640, and a score of 740 to get the best interest rates and terms.

You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the major credit-reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Access all three versions of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Review them to ensure the information is accurate.

2. Correct errors on your credit report

If you find mistakes on your credit report, write a letter to the credit-reporting agency explaining why you believe there’s an error.  Send documents that support your case, and ask that the error be corrected or removed.  Also write the company or debt collector who reported the incorrect information to dispute the information – ask to be copied on any materials sent to credit-reporting agencies.

3. Pay every bill on time

You may be surprised at the damage even a few late payments will have on your credit score. The easiest way to make a big difference in your credit score without altering your spending habits is to diligently pay all your bills on time. You’ll also save money because you’ll keep the money you’ve been spending on late fees. Credit card or mortgage companies probably won’t report minor late payments, (less than 30 days overdue,) but you’ll still have to pay late fees.

4. Use credit carefully

Another good way to boost your credit score is to pay your credit card bills in full every month. If you can’t do that, pay as much over your required minimum payment as possible to begin whittling away the debt. Stop using your credit cards to keep your balances from increasing, and transfer balances from high-interest credit cards to lower-interest cards.

5. Take care with the length of your credit

Credit rating agencies also consider the length of your credit history. If you’ve had a credit card for a long time and managed it responsibly, that works in your favor. However, opening several new credit cards at once can lower the average age of your accounts, which pushes down your score. Likewise, closing credit card accounts lowers your available credit, so keep credit cards open even if you’re not using them.

6. Don’t use all the credit you’re offered

Credit scores are also based on how much credit you use compared with how much you’re offered. Using all $10,000 of available credit will give you a lower score than having $10,000 of available credit and using $1000 of it. Occasionally opening new lines of credit can boost your available credit, which also affects your score positively.

7. Be patient

It can take time for your credit score to climb once you’ve begun working to improve it. Keep at it because the more distance you put between your spotty payment history and your current good payment record, the less damage you’ll do to your credit score.

Why Communication With Your Realtor Is Important

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As with all relationships, communication is key and this is certainly the case when you choose a realtor.  Your home is one of your most important investments.   Buying or selling a home is a complicated process –some deals go smoothly and some have difficulties.  Your realtor should strive to make the process as easy going as possible for you – I personally aim to make the process fun for my clients.

1)  It should be obvious that a realtor should return all your emails and phone calls in a timely manner, but I hear people complain often that their realtors do not do so.  Your realtor works for you and while realtors cannot be accessible 24/7, you shouldn’t have to wait too long with your important questions and concerns.

My stepmother was working with a realtor in Las Vegas when the realtor went on vacation.  If I go on vacation and will not be accessible by phone, I would email all my clients to let them know that I would be leaving, have an assistant ready to handle my client load in my absence, and have a voicemail recording outlining how to reach my assistant and my dates of absence.  I would also have a way to check in daily with my assistant if there are any questions that needed to be answered.  This realtor just left for two weeks.  No voicemail.  No email.  No notification.  Just left.  I told her to find a new realtor – that’s unacceptable.  Sure, we all want to run away sometimes and “disconnect,” but not at the price of someone who trusts and relies on you.

2)  Your realtor should be educating you about the home buying or selling process.  The Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate is 17 pages long.  You should understand exactly what you’re signing, because it is a legally binding contract, so your realtor should be taking the time to educate you adequately.

Buying and selling is a very involved process, and you should be comfortable with everything that happens during the process.  Of course, stay realistic… we can’t sell your $400,000 home for $500,000, but you should understand why your home is being listed for a certain price.  Similarly, if you’re buying, beware of a realtor who seems too “salesy.”  Every now and then, if I see a great deal, I will stress this to my clients, but I’m not the one who will be living in the home and paying the mortgage.  I want my clients to be happy with the home they have selected, so I point out the potential problems that I see in a home or neighborhood as often as I point out the positives.  No property is perfect, but I want my clients to be aware of any concerns, so if they make a choice, they do so with eyes wide open.

3)  You should like your realtor.  You may potentially have to spend a lot of time with this person;  at times, I have taken clients to see 50 plus properties before they found the right one.  The time you spend with your realtor shouldn’t be annoying or awkward – it should be enjoyable!

Note:  You, as a home buyer or home seller, should also seek to communicate well with your realtor.  Your realtor may be fantastic, but if you don’t clearly define your needs and priorities, your realtor probably can’t read your mind.  Don’t let your experience suffer because you aren’t being proactive about getting what you want and need from your real estate transaction.

As your home is one of your greatest investments, let’s face it – you probably worked really hard to earn your home!  A realtor should respect that and hold their relationships with their clients in utmost regard.  Without our clients, our business cannot survive.   Beyond my desire to have a thriving business, I enjoy the opportunity to be a positive element in my clients’ lives.  I find it to be a great honor to help people with their homes – our homes are our safe zone, our sacred space.  I enjoy attending my clients’ house-warming parties, meeting their families, and watching everyone move forward in their lives.  My clients have brought a lot of joy to my life and every person deserves a realtor who really has their best interests at heart.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”  So, if you’re a realtor… BE A GOOD ONE.  Scratch that… be GREAT.