Q: I have a lot of questions and I don’t know much about the process of buying or selling real estate… will you get annoyed if I keep asking questions?
A: I am an educator and I can talk about real estate for long periods without getting exhausted. You might experience overload if you don’t stop me because I may provide an information dump on you if you don’t keep me reigned in. I believe that if people have questions that it is important for them to understand the mechanics of how things work so that in the moment they can feel that they “get it” even if they don’t need to remember everything. It is more important for someone to have their mind put at ease, because if some bit of information is forgotten they can always ask for more clarification later. The real estate industry is very intricate and requires a lot of knowledge that is filled with nuances… hence we are a heavily regulated industry and one in which many lawsuits come about on a regular basis. I would rather help my clients make the best decisions based on education rather than dictating instructions that are followed blindly. Remember… I’m a consultant who is there to help people achieve their real estate goals, not a “used car” type of sales person who is just out to make an extra buck. I have a real estate license that I protect very carefully and I do this by keeping up to date with the latest changes in the industry and making sure that my clients don’t make costly mistakes because they were uninformed, or worse… misinformed.
Q: How long have you been in real estate?
A: I got my license in early 2005.
Q: Have you always been with Keller Williams Realty?
A: No. I started out with the Coldwell Banker corporation. I decided to make the move to Keller Williams Realty based on the Keller Williams company model and because it was a better fit for how I wanted to do business. In my opinion, the agent is the one that gets things done, and brokerage firm is really there for us as agents. The brokerage firm sets certain guidelines and policies that I as a representative for Keller Williams Realty must adhere to as my license is held and monitored by Keller Williams Realty. I will be able to serve my clients in the same capacity regardless of the real estate firm that I hang my license with, and potential buyers and sellers should keep in mind that it is the skill and knowledge of their individual agent that is going to get the job done, not the brokerage firm that they are with, and every brokerage whether it is a large well known firm or a small boutique brokerage may have great agents… I just currently happen to be with Keller Williams Realty which has served me and my clients well since I’ve been here.
Q: What’s up with the rabbit? Is that rabbit you have on your card and marketing materials the Keller Williams mascot?
A: No. The rabbit is my own personal branding mechanism. I use the rabbit rather than my headshot because it is a better branding mechanism and helps to set me apart. I have had a lot of people call my office looking for “the guy with the rabbit” – who had not remembered my name or number but knew I was with Keller Williams… very effective. I was told by one agent that when they had taken out a client to look at homes and my card was in one that they were looking at, and that their client was curious about my card because of the rabbit, picked it up and read it, and they both thought it was “neat” — and then they saw my listing with the rabbit on the For Sale sign and they got excited to see the house. That agent told me, “Your marketing really works great!”; so I am quite pleased with the rabbit because I never had anyone say anything similar regarding my headshot before I started using the rabbit as a marketing device. Besides the obvious associations with speed, quickness of thought (think Bugs Bunny), and fertility/new beginnings (think Easter or Oester if you’re a pagan) there is a lot of symbolism that rabbits represent.
Rabbits symbolize abundance and have associations with magic – they are a source of joy. Dreaming of a rabbit, especially one that is affectionate and at ease with you can be a sign of love and domestic happiness ahead. Dreaming of many rabbits is a sign of new responsibilities – but you’ll enjoy the work required to accomplish it instead of viewing it as a chore. Anyway, that is what is up with the rabbit.
Q: Do you work alone?
A: No… the Rabbit Real Estate Group is primarily myself and my business partner Simon Watson. We work with both buyers and sellers to effectively handle any and all challenges that come about in the real estate arena. You can learn about Simon by clicking HERE. In addition to Simon, I have Realtor colleagues in the North Bay and on the Peninsula that are unofficial members of the Rabbit Real Estate Group and are my reliable referral partners. If you have needs outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, I can definitely help to find a reliable and trustworthy Realtor to service your needs… just ask me for some help.
Q: Do you represent both buyer and sellers?
A: I help both types of clients (and some clients will do both in succession.) I am mostly a “by referral” agent and will gladly help those who are looking to purchase a home and just as happy to list a home for sale. I don’t list bank owned properties (although I do help buyers to purchase these types of homes all the time.) I haven’t sought relationships with banks to list their REO properties because I didn’t want to have that be the focus of my career and day to day business (knocking on doors to make sure that if someone is living in a home that they get out because the bank now owns their property isn’t why I got my real estate license) … I deeply respect my colleagues who have chosen to do that as a focus of their business, but I value working with people rather than corporations and do not want to be a property manager who gets dictated to as to how and what I have to do – which is one of the reasons I work as an independent contractor to begin with. In the past I’ve also not sought out specifically owners who are in distress looking to short sale their homes because of the extremely low success rate of closing such an escrow (which in the beginning of the short sale era a few years ago in our current down cycle was only about 7 – 9% actually going through as a successful closed escrow.) As things have improved in the market, and as the banking industry has had more pressure put on from the government to work with homeowners that are underwater and can no longer afford to keep paying on their mortgages, there has been a steady increase in the success rates of short sale properties going through the short sale process and closing escrow. I would now estimate that it is probably in the high 90% of home owners that have a legitimate hardship that will be able to complete their short sale and close escrow.
It is a lot of work to take on a short sale due to the sheer amount of time spent with communicating with the seller’s lender, and to manage the challenges that come with getting an approval to release the seller from their debt obligations with their lender. I make sure that a seller who is considering a short sale for their property has spoken with an attorney and an accountant to make sure that a short sale is appropriate for them as the best option, and when they are green lighted for the short sale, I work with my team to get their property marketed and into contract quickly and deal with all of the details that are involved with getting the seller’s lender to agree to the terms of the sale. I have a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) designation and I am very familiar with the process, and do get into short sale transactions all the time and I understand that there are seller’s that need to sell under these circumstances and I handle these with great skill (so if you are in need… please don’t hesitate to ask me.) I also do probate and trust sales, and I can help clients that might need to liquidate such an asset.
Q: I’ve got so many choices for Realtors… why should I pick you as my Realtor?
A: Yes… why would you pick me? There are so many people who could help you to achieve your real estate goals, but none who you will find have exactly my combination of friendliness, patience, and at ease approach to the often times stressful arena of buying or selling a home. Buying and selling real estate is not rocket surgery, but it does take a decent understanding of the dynamic principles that are at play in the market and I like to educate my clients as best I can so that they can make the best decisions for their particular situation. I have had some of the very best mentors who have helped teach me the intricacies of the business and the principles by which effective negotiations can be achieved. I do not like to learn through the school of “hard knocks” so I have always been good at learning through the experiences of others, and I use the cumulative knowledge of those who have gone before me to great advantage. My skill set definitely is an asset to my clients who often times have challenging decisions to make and I can council them to achieve the most advantageous outcome.
One of the most frequent complaints I hear about real estate agents from folks who have had a less than stellar experience with real estate is that there was not good communication, or that the person felt that the agent didn’t know what they were doing. I wish that I could know everything, but alas I am but a frail human being… which doesn’t mean that I can’t find out information regarding an unknown given a short bit of time. I don’t like to pretend to the world that I have all the answers and If I encounter a particular situation that requires some investigation, one of the first things I do is look to my vast relationship resources to see if one of my colleagues have encountered the same thing. I find it vital for me to have a good working relationship with my peers because we all bounce different scenarios off of each other all the time and it is through the sharing of experience that everyone can keep up to date and have a sharp sword when it comes time to do battle, so to speak.
When communicating with clients I like to promptly return phone calls and I am both e-mail and text friendly. I spend as much time educating my clients as it takes to make sure they are comfortable with the tough decisions they need to make. I have a very good track record with both selling homes for clients as well as helping clients to purchase a home, and even helping clients do a move up or move down scenario (which often comes with much more complex time frames and structuring of offers.)
Q: You seem like you are in high demand… what if you get too busy to handle my needs?
A: AH, this is a very good question! I am in demand, but I also have a team of colleagues that I work with who are very reliable and great to work with in the Rabbit Real Estate Group, and Simon Watson is my main partner. I am only one person after all and can’t be in more than one place at a time, so if I need a showing agent who can help a buyer out when I have a current engagement, I know that my teammates who I work closely with have the knowledge and skill to help my buyers understand the factors of any house that is of interest — and of course I am always involved in the process! With sellers I also have my team that helps to get the home sold… you couldn’t ask for more out of a knowledgeable group of professionals!
Q: Should I search for homes online, or will you help?
A: I can help to create a specific search for my clients on my MLS backend to narrow down the parameters that they might be looking for in a home and have them notified automatically when a home that falls within those parameters are met.
Where I come in is in helping people to narrow down their searches to a realistic number and to help them determine what strategy to take in order to eliminate the properties that do not fit their needs. I prefer it if my clients want to participate in the search process online because realistically I can’t be looking online every minute of the day for every property that might fit someone’s needs regardless of how fantastic my sophisticated tools are and while I do see MANY homes throughout the weeks, there are literally hundreds of homes that are on the market with new ones coming on the market every day in the Alameda and Contra Costa counties where I work and I cannot and do not see every home that is available on the market.
With services like Realtor.com clients can easily search under the parameters we discuss and then when a property is of interest the client takes down the MLS number inquires about that property via e-mail. I then can look up the complete listing information regarding that property on my end which has detailed information regarding what type of sale the property is (equity sale, short sale, or bank owned REO) as well as what the showing instructions for the property are and can then relate the specifics to the client. An efficient and time proven method. EASY EASY EASY.
Q: What happens if your client wants to see a property?
A: My buyers are encouraged as part of the buying strategy to go and take a drive by of the properties whenever possible that end up making it on “the list” to ensure that we are efficiently eliminating properties that don’t fit based on either the location or specific neighborhood or the particular “curb appeal” of the property (often times there will be obvious factors that are cause for elimination such as proximity to high traffic streets, or perhaps obstructed or unsightly views that were not obvious from pictures provided with the listing advertisement.) If a client has limited time to do a driveby, then there is also Google Street View which is available from Google Maps which I know a lot of my clients have been using quite effectively. There is no real substitution for actually seeing a neighborhood in person, and becoming familiar with the surrounding area and amenities and I do very much encourage taking the time to do the drivebys because that will make consideration of homes in that area much easier should one be to buyer’s liking. When my clients and I do make an appointment to see properties we have a well targeted set of properties that have usually been narrowed down to about 6 per showing appointment and they can feel pretty confident about the selection (this is a rough estimate based on about a 2 hour showing appointment and about 6 properties — the right number to avoid confusion between the homes.) Once we see the property it is my job to point out the various factors of the property that I see as strengths or weaknesses of the property regarding resale value, proximity to amenities, etc., and to be the emotionally detached voice for the clients since their job is in fact to be open to their emotions and whether the property will be one that fits their needs and that they can enjoy for the time they plan to live there (if they plan on making the property their residence it is a primary concern to make sure the property suits their needs and then a secondary concern to evaluate the equity potential… for investors we want to do the opposite and leave emotions out of the equation if possible and focus on the investment potential exclusively.)
Q: Will I have to get into your car with you, or can I just meet you at the property?
A: I am certainly open to clients getting into my car and clients are most welcome to ride with me should we choose to meet at my office or at a property and have a number of properties to see. I do have a lot of clients that either would rather follow me to have privacy to talk between properties, or in a lot of cases have car seats for their children which requires driving separately. I am fine with meeting at a particular property to show it. My office is conveniently located in Walnut Creek next to the Walnut Creek BART station and sometimes I have clients that will take BART in and meet me at my office before we go out to see properties. For sellers, sometime they want to see what competitors on the market for their homes look like prior to listing and they are also welcome to hop in my car to take a look.
Q: What happens when a client wants to purchase a property that they like?
A: Once a client finds a property that they get the right gut feeling about and they can feel comfortable living in for 5 to 7 years and they understand the resale factors that come along with the house, then it is time to write an offer. This is the stage that really my skills come into their own. Knowing what the particulars of the market are at the time, and what type of offer will need to be made to have the greatest chance to obtain the property. Structuring the offer and giving the buyers offer a face is vitally important to the outcome of the offer for acceptance by a seller. A seller is looking to maximize their potential for selling their home for as much money as possible and if they have a shrewd agent they will be scrutinizing the offers they receive for not only the amount that they’ll be getting as a bottom line figure, but also the strength of the buyers financing and the competency and knowledge of the agent who represents the buyer because should the home have to go back on the market due to some failing of the transaction due to the buyers, it could potentially damage the seller’s ability to get the property sold if they have to go back on the market later if the escrow collapses. My job is really to act as a consultant to my clients to guide them through the landmines of liability that is inherent in real estate sales and purchases.
Q: I have a property that is out of the area for you, will you sell it for me? Wouldn’t it be better for me to use a local real estate agent?
A: Here is what I have to say about selling homes regardless of where they are located. PROFESSIONAL is BETTER THAN local. Just because someone sells property in your neighborhood doesn’t mean that they are necessarily any better or worse than a professional who is located a few miles away, or a hundred miles away. There are lots of agents who sell properties that are located hours away from them but do just as effective a job for their sellers as long as they can advertise the property effectively, manage to have the home held open if that is the seller’s desire, make sure that any agent who shows the property can have immediate communication regarding interest in the property, and that the seller can feel confident that they are getting the most money they can given the condition of the property and the current market dynamics. I personally handle sales within an hour driving distance from my office and should I need to list a home farther out I will cooperate with a trusted agent colleague who can help me bridge the distance and effectively service the client. No listing is taken either locally or some distance away without thorough investigation into any factors that might play into the sale, such as neighborhood desirability, school scores, amenities, transportation, etc. A good agent does their homework. I’ve helped people to sell their homes out of state by vetting real estate agents and making sure that they are using someone who would do as close to the level of service as I would, and I can continue to be someone who is another resource in the transaction while the house is being sold.
Q: What happens if I want to buy a short sale? Is there any risk for me?
A: A short sale is not called short because it sells quickly! The biggest risk is that you will spend time waiting for the seller’s short sale lender to approve the terms of the ratified contract. A short sale means that the seller will be “short of funds” to close escrow and make their mortgage lender whole. Because the sale requires the permission of the shorted lender, the buyer and seller have to wait for the seller’s hardship package to be submitted to the seller’s lender, have a negotiator assigned to the file, have the valuation department determine what the actual value of the home is for the current market and then compare to the contract terms, and ultimately make a case to the investor who holds the note on the property that it would be better to accept the terms of the negotiated short sale contract than to move forward with a foreclosure on the property. All of this takes time, and buyers should be aware that about 3 months is about the minimum that they can expect for this process to complete. Often it is longer. Even the “slam dunk” situations that seem like they will not take long for an approval can have unforeseen dynamics at play, like the short sale lender switching out key personnel in the short sale department that are working on the file (e.g. if the negotiator has been working with the file for several weeks and then gets transferred to work a different file, a new negotiator will need to re-evaluate the file and may need to take another 2 weeks to get to where the first negotiator was before the transfer — very real scenario here as this has happened often.) If a short sale is being listed one of the factors that needs to be investigated is whether or not there is one loan on the property or if there is two, or if there is two loans but just one lender. If there is a 1st mortgage and a 2nd mortgage, and they are with two separate lenders that means that there are twice the negotiations that need to take place, and if the 2nd lien holder is not cooperative then it can slow the process down or possibly shut it down.
Another thing that can happen is that the seller of a home that is being sold as a short sale could have stopped paying their mortgage and been served a notice of default (NOD) and if there has been a Trustee Sale date set for the property, then that date will need to be postponed or there is risk that the short sale could be shut down due to the property being sold at the court house steps on the Trustee Sale date. I’ve had this happen once when my client was in contract on a short sale and there were 2 loans on the property with two different lenders — the 2nd position lien holder had already signed off with approval for the short sale and the 1st hadn’t. The agent assured me that she was close to getting an approval, and then she notified me that the lender had just set a Trustee Sale date, and that it was scheduled for the following week. The property ended up going to foreclosure and our short sale was shut down. Since we had done a pretty thorough investigation of the property and had the cash to pick it up at auction, the buyer went and got it at the court house steps. Lucky on that one. A lot of the people who purchase homes on the court house steps have to be very cautious of the possible ramifications in regard to whether or not they can get insurance for the property, if they can get title insurance, risk of unknown damage to the property, etc.
Email me if you have a specific question you would like answered and I will try my best to get you a complete answer! If it is a question I’ve been asked a number of times I may add it to this FAQ page.