Who Pays What?
Whenever you close a transaction there are may fees that come into play many of which you may be unfamiliar. Here is a short list of the fees common to almost all transactions in todays market..
Title Fees: The title company charges a number of fees for their services that many are familiar with but some may not be. The title company passes on a Recording Fee which is what the Country Recorder charges to record the documents upon closing. This fee is normally less than $75 and paid by the seller. The Title Company may also charge a Mobile Notary Fee which is the fee that the notary charges to come to your residence, place of business or other location to sign the documents and return them to the lender. This fee is less than $200 and paid by the party to the transactions that utilizes the service. The title company will also charge a Reconveyance Tracking Fee, which is normally less than $100 to ensure that your existing lender actually shows that the loan is paid off after closing.
The Escrow Fee is the fee that the title company charges to prepare all of the forms, track and disburse funds and perform the actual work of the title company’s transaction. This fee is split between buyer and seller equally
Title Insurance: There are two different forms of title insurance applicable to most transactions. There is the Owner’s Title Policy, paid by the seller, which ensures the buyer that the seller has clear title to convey. If the buyer is obtaining a new loan, then the buyer also has an American Land Title Agency Policy that ensures the lender that the title is free of defects so they will lend on the property. There are also some miscellaneous endorsements that can arise but they are too specialized to be incorporated in this discussion. Many title companies offer a discount if you own more than one property in Arizona also known as an Investor Rate.
HOA Fees: Homeowner’s Associations vary widely on what they charge. By Arizona Law, the seller is required to pay the Disclosure Fee for the buyer to receive and approve copies of all the documents relevant to the HOA. By statute, this fee cannot exceed $400. Many HOA’s also charge a Transfer Fee to change the identity of the owner to the new property owner’s name. This fee is not regulated and who pays this fee is an item of negotiation which can be paid by either party to the transaction. Many HOA’s also charge a Capital Improvement Fee which can be called by many different names such as Working Capital Fee, Community Reserve Fee, Asset Improvement Fee, or Future Improvement Fee all of which can be as much as several thousand dollars. All of the HOA’s in our area keep these fees to a minimum but areas such as Verrado and Pebble Creek see these fees in excess of $2,000. Specifically in Verrado, the Community Enhancement Fee is 1/2 of 1% of the sales price of the property being sold. All of this groups of fees are items of negotiation and can be paid by either party.
Think that is bad enough? Many properties have multiple associations. They are listed as the Home Owner’s Associations and a Master Association and some or all of these fees can and do apply to both Associations
Prorations: There are basically three prorations that come into play. The first is the HOA Proration. Assuming you close on the 15th of the month and the HOA fee is $30 per month, each party will be charged $15 for their half of the month. All prorations are based on a 30 day month even though some months have more or less days.
The next proration is a bit more complicated and involves the Property Tax Proration. When you pay your taxes in March, April or May (many times from the impound account in your mortgage) you are actually paying for the second half of taxes for the previous year. Assuming you closed on March 15th, you would owe the taxes for the second half of the year before PLUS the prorated amount from January 1st to March 15th as the seller. The buyer would owe the taxes for the balance of the year. It is very common for a seller to tell us the taxes are paid and then they are surprised when they owe 8 months of taxes even though they have paid the most current tax bill. If you impound your taxes, this is usually offset in the form of a refund from you impound account that arrives 4-6 weeks after closing.
Interest Prorations function in much the same way! Interest on the seller’s loan(s) is charged through the date of closing and is always in arrears. This means when you pay the April 1st payment, you are paying interest for the month of March. For the buyer, they pay interest in advance for the rest of the month and then the next month is paid at the subsequent payment. If you close on March 5th, generally you are charged 25 days of interest up front and then pay the next 30 days of interest when your first payment is due on May 1st.
Lender Fees: Lender fees vary quite widely and are called by many different names. I will highlight some but not all of these fees. Basically, call them what you may, they all contribute to the amount of money that a lender makes as profit and contribute to the different between the Note Rate and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) Some of these fees include the Appraisal Fee, which is generally paid by the buyer and can run between $450 and $650. It should be noted that except FHA loans, appraisals are not longer transferrable between lenders so make sure this is the lender you are going to use before you order an appraisal. The appraisal is an upfront fee and usually paid separately which cannot be recouped if the property fails to close.
The lender’s also charges a variety of fees such as Document Preparation Fees, Underwriting Fees, Origination Fees and Processing Fees which have always been characterized in the industry as Junk or Garbage Fees. They are simply extra income for the lender. This is where some of the misleading advertising you see on TV comes into play as they advertise a very low rate and then have exorbitant junk fees to offset the pricing. My lender doesn't charge any of these. On the other hand, Discount Points are a more straight forward way of pricing the mortgage on your potential new home. Discount Points are the fees charged by the lender to get a lower interest rate. For instance, if 3.5% is the market rate, you may be able to get to 3.0% by paying 2 discount points or 2% of the loan amount to obtain that rate. Since this drops the payment on a $300,000 loan by $83 a month at a costs of $6,000, you will not recover your money for 6 years. Since most people move every 5-7 years, this gamble rarely pays off in the long run.
Professional Service Fees or Commission: At least we as real estate agents let you know up front what our fee is and then only call it one fee! While rates are always negotiable, the better agents always negotiate less than the less experienced ones. Be wary of these advertised rates as low as 1 or 2%, they simply cannot market your home and get the highest possible price for that amount of money.
If you want professional assistance navigating this quagmire of fees and charges, give the Al Gage Team a call at 623.536.8200 or email us at email@example.com
The Snags in a Transaction!
Selling a home isn't what it once was! Solar leases, roof repairs, termites, appraisals as to value and condition, and complex lending regulations all play a more significant role than they did even 5 years ago. It is important that you hire a real estate agent that does enough transactions to be up to date on these tribulations.
Let’s start with solar leases! Let me just say I am an advocate of solar power and its associated green implications and savings! That being said, the way that it is marketed to the average homeowner is not always the best. I don’t want to speak for the solar companies but I believe that they do not adequately explain what exactly is involved in a solar lease transfer at the time of the installation of the solar system. Of course the other possibility is that it is explained and the homeowner simply does not understand the implications. The major problem with selling a home and having the buyer assume the lease (because the buy out of the system is almost always cost prohibitive) is that the buyer must qualify for the lease payment with both the solar company and the lender counts the payment as a debt against the potential buyer.
The first one is usually not much of an issue because if the buyer can qualify for a loan they will also qualify for the solar lease. The second one is a bit more of an issue. Most people buy a home very close to the maximum that they will qualify for as far as price. When the lender counts the solar lease as a debt against the buyer, it lowers, in many cases, the amount of home that a buyer can purchase. It does not seem fair to me that the lenders count this as a debt when, at the same time, the normal utility bills of a home without solar are already factored into the qualifying ratios that the lenders use and are not taken as a debt.
There is also a significant portion of the population that cannot really equate the savings of a solar system with the monthly lease payments. In other words, they simply do not see the value of the solar system in the first place and this actually hurts the sale of the home when an assumption of the lease is required. While we have yet to see a transaction fail because of the solar, we do see many people ready to buy a particular home and then pass on it when they investigate the solar. Bottom line, it just isn't for everyone!
This brings me to the crux of this article. In a recent transaction on a home with a solar system, it was discovered that the property needed a new roof. All of our homes in the neighborhood are nearing that age where the felt underlayment is reaching the end of its life. In general, the cost to replace the entire underlayment and re-use the existing tile will run between $10,000 to $16,0000 depending on the size of the home and the amount of underlying plywood damage that has occurred. I was totally shocked to find out that it was an additional $6-9,000 to remove and reinstall the solar panels. If you regularly read my newsletters, this is the most important advice I will ever give you! Make sure if your are installing a solar system, that you have the roof inspected and it has at least 20 years of remaining life left on the roof at the time of installation of the solar system. This is no guarantee that you will not run into the same problem, but at least it gives you a chance to avoid this costly replacement of a system you do not own.
Changing the subject, the other major problem we are seeing is the lender requirements for a clean termite report. You may think, in Arizona, we have subterranean termites and if you find them, you treat them and that is the end of that story. Spend $500-$700 to have them treated and you are done. Not so fast! While it is true that it is pretty rare that our type of termites do any real damage, I have seen a home where the entire baseboards were destroyed by termites. Most lender’s require a clean termite which means that all of the conditions conducive to termites are also remedied.
These additional requirements beyond the treatment of the termites include excessive moisture and/or water stains which means any former leaks showing on the ceiling or especially under the sinks (many times it is a spill that is called as a leak), has to be corrected. It also means that any leaks or excessive moisture in the eaves of the roof have to be corrected.
Another common one is earth to wood contact. This provides an avenue for the termites to enter the home. This is commonly vegetation touching the home which simply needs to be trimmed back. It can also be places where patio support posts actually touch the ground which is a more extensive repair.
The one that is the hardest to define is improper grading. Essentially, water must not pool against the side of the stem wall of the home. There must also be a gap on the stem wall between landscaping rock and/or earth and the bottom of the stucco. So if you have had a dog that likes to build a sleeping tub against the home or added too much landscaping rock this will have to be corrected. Commonly, the original grading of the home was either improper or has changed over the years for a variety of reasons. Often this is not simply a re-raking of the gravel but a whole new redesign of the slopes of the yard around the foundation. Usually this can be done inexpensively but occasionally it can be a major repair.
If you want an agent that can identify problems before they become problems and knows the proper way to fix them and survive a transaction while at the same time delivering top notch customer service,
Give the Al Gage Team a call at 623.536.8200 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Average is Not "OK"
How does the old joke go? What do you call the person that graduated last in their class at medical school? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DOCTOR! It’s a pretty funny joke but the reality is that it took a great deal of competitive and cognitive ability just to get into medical school, let alone graduate from it. I just love the AT&T commercial that emphasizes this concept with the doctor that the nurses describe as “ok” and then it goes on to show a total lack of confidence on the part of the patient, nurses and the doctor!
As I was preparing the end of the year statistics for all the homes sold in our neighborhoods, I was shocked that the vast majority of real estate agents had only sold one or maybe two homes out of the 10,000 in our neighborhoods. I equate this to being “ok” at being a real estate agent. They probably didn't get sued and nobody probably died, but for most of you the sale of your home represents the largest single financial asset you will ever own. It does beg a few questions:
1. How much money did they leave on the table? Negotiations and skill in this business is hard to come by. I personally have over 34 years in the business and over 1500 transactions under my belt. We recently had a transaction in negotiations where we had submitted a counteroffer to the buyer cleaning up a few minor details in the buyer’s original offer. Before that counteroffer was signed by the buyer, I received an offer that was almost $5,000 over list price and net to the seller. Inexperienced agents would likely have had to call their broker to find out what to do and that delay could have cost the seller $5,000 while waiting for their broker to answer. We immediately withdrew the first counteroffer (with the permission of the seller) and proceeded to accept the latest buyer’s offer.
2. How much money did they lose in the appraisal process?
Back to the same transaction, we now have an offer on the property that is over $5,000 over the listing price that was set based on the comparable sales of the property. Another reason to use your neighborhood specialist! When the appraiser reviewed the comparable sales for the property, I’m sure that the fact that two of the three best sales were also MY sales greatly contributed to onevery simple fact. The appraiser had to take in consideration that I had participated in and viewed both of those other properties. The home appraised for the new higher list price!
I am not saying that any of these agents didn't do a good job! But how do you know you’re not going to get just an average job1 At our team, we listen to our clients and try to guide them through the process based on years and years of practical experience. Bottom line the statistics do not lie! We have sold more homes in your neighborhood since 2014 than anybody in real estate! This past year, we sold 120% of our next closest competitor and 214% of the average of our top ten closest competitor. For the purposes of this argument, we are discounting the agents that sell to a single client investor or represent one of the I-Buyer’s as well as new home salespeople. That 214% figure is based on the averages of the top ten closest competitors because I can’t even imagine the number of sales that the average agent sells in the neighborhood because there is no way to account for the ones that have zero sales.
If you really want to throw your equity away, call an I-buyer. Yes, they make it simple! Yes, they make it convenient! More convenient than I can make it! And their agents are really good, but they do not represent you or have an obligation to look out for your best interest. Is the $20,000 to $40,000 you will lose by selling to an I-Buyer really worth it for the convenience?
We also are not yes-people. We try to explain to our clients what the realities of selling and buying really mean. We are straight forward on where to price you home! We lose many listings every year to other agents that promise the moon as far as pricing goes, only to watch them whittle the seller down on price to the point where it is at or below what we know we could have obtained for the property!
So back to our analogy, there really is only one way to ensure that you have chosen the best practitioner in your neighborhood. Choose the neighborhood expert. You don’t want the person doing your surgery or the person fixing the brakes on your car to be a beginner, family friend, neighbor or friend of a friend. You want them to have proven results that you can verify!
Next time you go to the dentists or the mechanic or to your investment banker, ask them if you can have a no-obligation guarantee. Our’s reads like this: “If you are not happy with our service you can cancel this listing contract without obligation until you have accepted an offer.” Obviously, I cannot release you from the listing once you have accepted an offer because you are now obligated to a third party.
So if you are looking for a pilot that can land the plane, a surgeon that can guarantee a full recovery, a mechanic that can ensure that your car will run, or a quarterback that can complete the pass despite enormous pressure– Give the Al Gage Team a call!
For Exemplary Service, Professional Representation on a New or Resale Home AND to get the most money, net for your existing home,
Call Al Gage @623.536.8200 or email us at email@example.com
Twas' the Night Before Christmas!
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the neighborhood on almost every house,
Al Gage signs were popping up listed by him and his spouse.
The for sale signs were hung in the front yard with care,
In hopes that soon a buyer would be there.
A buyer arrives looking for a home with 4 beds,
while visions of a pool and a fireplace danced in their heads,
Could they get their financing, call Rita Marie,
She’ll run a credit check and then we will see
An offer was written, full price not the cap,
Next step the seller “Why, gee I must accept!”
Who should we choose for title, Al recommends Patty Miller,
No extra work or paperwork for us, the service was killer,
Escrow was opened, earnest money was sent,
Al Gage had accounted for every last cent,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter…
The home inspector had arrived and threw up his ladder,
He found a bad window, broken roof tiles and a backsplash, the eaves need painting and a few outlets have a cross,
We find we can fix it with not too much cash,
Al knows the right people, we avoided taking a huge contractor loss,
Next is appraisal, Al’s favorite thing—
Comparable sales are provided, hopefully the appraiser will sing,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
The buyer’s loan approval with conditions to clear.
The conditions are clear and on to closing with a splash,
The seller gets the most money since the time of the crash,
Hardworking and eager, I knew to choose Al’s Team,
an expert in the neighborhoods, more sales to the extreme.
Contracts, CLUE reports, disclosures! What a list!
They handled it all but we got the gist!
Our house was sold it seems almost before he came,
When leaving he whistled and called them by name,
To Rancho, Now Corte, Now Donatella and Wigwam Creek,
On to Las Palmeras, Crystal Gardens, Westwind and Sage Creek!
For those with a porch but all have a wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! We’ve sold them all,
We will tell all our neighbors, family and even a friend,
The best services available, Al’s team doesn’t pretend
He sprang (spring might be an exaggeration) to his car as his phone gave a ping,
Off to sell the next castle, put up a sign and make his phones ring,
I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight:
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
From my team of Rita Marie from Pinnacle Capital Mortgage, Patty Miller from Driggs Title and personally from our family, Terri and I, we wish you the best holidays of your life and ongoing prosperity and health for the new year.
The Do’s and Don’t’s of Negotiating in a Tight Market!
People, whether buying something at a yard sale, car dealership or purchasing a home cannot stand the perception of themselves as poor negotiators. In other words, almost all people THINK they are great negotiators. I don’t know if it is because they tried a strategy once and it worked, thereby re-enforcing the strategy, or because they read or heard about a strategy that someone else employed that worked. Most of the time, the story you heard about someone purchasing a home 20% under asking price was untrue to begin with and simply an embellishment of their negotiating prowess in any case.
Here is a list of Negotiating Do’s and Don’ts that are especially helpful in our current very tight market!
Don’t write lowball offers on a home you want to buy! I have heard over and over across my career that “All they can do is say No!” This simply isn’t true! When you write a significantly low offer it has a tendency to hurt your negotiating position. We recently had a person give a verbal offer on a property that was less than 70% of asking price. The seller will likely not sell to that person even if they give them their asking price!
Don’t negotiate verbally or via email! In addition to the above mistake, this person made the offer verbally. No seller is going to take an offer seriously that is low or delivered verbally or via email (not meaning emailing a purchase offer) because it is not binding. Even if the parties agree, neither is technically obligated. Furthermore, with all of the complexities of modern real estate, it is impossible to cover all of the issues such as inspection, closing costs and HOA issues in a verbal or email offer. I think most courts would agree that no meeting of the minds actually occurred even if they came to an agreement.
Do write a competitive offer from the beginning! I have long been a proponent of the school of thought that your initial offer is the place to buy a home at the best price. Rather than submitting an offer that you know or feel they will counter, make your first offer good enough that the seller can’t take the chance of either rejecting it or countering it. If you doubt whether the seller will take your initial offer, you are probably right! Improve it!
I am not saying to offer over what the home will appraise. Using a great agent can help you with that determination before you spend money on an appraisal or inspection. In this very tight market, your offer must be competitive especially with the possibility of multiple offers.
Do write a personal letter to the seller! In this age of impersonal emails and many government regulations dictating what we, as agents, can and cannot disclose about a buyer, a personal touch allowing the seller to get to know the buyer often goes a long way in the negotiating process, In multiple offer situations, it is even more important! I have witnessed situations in multiple offer situations where the letter alone won the day. The seller said, “we have 4 offers all about the same but I feel a connection to this one.” I don’t recommend sending pictures of your family with the letter because you never know what biases and stereotypes that may evoke from a seller.
Don’t get hung up on personal property or minor expenses!
Whether the seller is going to exclude the drapes or include the 15 year old washer and dryer should be irrelevant. In the grand scheme of things they just aren't that important. You may say well then I have to go buy those things! If they are willing to leave them, you may have to very shortly purchase new ones anyways! What is the significance of a $450 home warranty on a $300,000 transaction?
Do try to meet in the middle?
It is an age old negotiating tactic, but it works! Most of the time if the two parties are $10,000 apart and the counter comes back $5000 apart, both parties will agree. If it is slanted either way, the odds of coming to an agreement go down drastically.
Don’t let your emotions get in the way of effective negotiating!
Easier said than done! Buying or selling a home is an emotional transaction. The buyer feels like the seller is trying to take advantage of them at every turn and the seller feels like he is giving away the farm with every dollar they discount the property. Starving agents will often pressure a buyer or seller into executing a contract as soon as possible. I believe that sometimes sleeping on it over night pays off contrary to every sales manual ever written. With pressure, emotions are amplified which can lead to poor decision making!
Do negotiate with a knowledgeable, well respected agent! You usually cannot choose the agent and certainly not the buyer or seller on the other side of the transaction so it is very important that you have a pro on your side. Your agent’s reputation and skill in the eyes of their counter part may well lead to the success or failure of the negotiations. I recently had an agent send a cancellation intent. In two questions, I saved the transaction and we proceeded to close without any further concession by my seller!
If you want a pro on your side negotiating on your behalf, give the Al Gage Team a call at 623.694.9004 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Real Estate Articles?
As I read through countless real estate articles aimed mainly at the process of choosing a real estate agent, a common theme emerges. Almost all of them advise you to ask a friend for a referral. Admittedly, we get a great deal of our business from referrals from past clients but let’s analyze whether this is truly the best way for you to evaluate a potential agent? First of all, the odds are that the agent your friend or family is referring to you has only completely one transaction with that agent. If that agent is an average agent, they have done less than 10 transactions in a year. Now they may be a great agent and they may have done a great job for your friend or family member, but the statistics just don’t back up this being a good way to choose an agent.
We just completed a transaction with a client of ours that regularly refers clients to us. This is his 7th transaction with us going back to 1994. This is the third time we have sold that particular home. Another of our clients has successfully completed 8 transactions with us going back to 1989. If this is the kind of referral you are getting from your friends and family by all means use that agent.
We are not saying to disregard referrals from friends and family just to include us in the agents that you interview. Here are some good reasons to use the Al Gage Team:
1. Our team has spent more than $305,000 marketing homes JUST IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, IN THE LAST 7.5 YEARS. We spend more than $3750 per month in marketing of the homes that we have listed. This results in higher exposure and therefore, higher prices for your homes. The old saying is that it takes money to make money and that means it takes money to market your home!
2. Our team has been the Number One Team in TOTAL Sales in your neighborhood since 2013! That’s correct. No other agent has sold more homes in your neighborhoods during that time, not even 50% of the same number of sales. We accomplish this because our marketing plan works and we have satisfied clients at the end of the process.
3. We have sold over 1500 homes in Avondale, Goodyear and Litchfield Park! I know this sounds like a big number but don’t you think it is in your best interest to interview us and find out how we are able to accomplish this number.
4. We are committed to and reside in your neighborhood! Many other agents have attempted to become the “Neighborhood Specialist” in your area. We have LIVED and SOLD here almost exclusively since 1999. Having spent more than $300,000 to market to your neighborhood, we are not going anywhere , anytime soon!
5. We have longevity in the business and a stellar reputation! All of the other real estate agents know that we work in your area. I recently submitted an offer on a home listed with another agent in the area and as I called them to tell them that I was sending the offer, he replied “Of Course it’s You!”. I was caught off guard. He said “ I know that area is your turf and was surprised that I got the listing in there. “ I have over 35 years in the business, the last 25 almost exclusively in Avondale, Goodyear and Litchfield Park.
6. Our negotiating skills, marketing, reputation and experience result in better offers and a better net to YOU on the sale of your home! We have more experience negotiating with other agents than anybody on this side of town. We are also skilled at backing up our case to an appraiser and making sure that if it does sell for more money we can actually get it to appraise and close at that price. Our marketing maximizes your exposure on-line, through Facebook, via email and traditional tracks. Our reputation generates better offers from other agents. Bottom line, our experience almost always results in a better net to you as the seller.
7. We have an undeniable work ethic, answer the phone and leave no stone unturned to get your home sold! If this wasn't true, how could we lead in all of these statistical categories?
If you want the best possible service to get your home sold for the most money in the shortest time, give us a call at 623.536.8200 or email us at email@example.com
Do you really want or need an i-Buyer?
I just want to tell you a story about a client we represented last month. This particular client had interviewed all of the major i-Buyer companies about the sale of their home. You know the ones that advertise that it’s the new way to sell real estate, you move whenever you want and it saves you the hassle of selling your home the traditional way! Fortunately for this seller, he decided to get a second opinion from me on the sales price of his home. The best offer he was able to get from any of these companies was $230,000 which would have just barely netted him $100,000 after his loan payoff and other expenses. Keep in mind, this is the figure that he started with before they came in and did their inspection and asked for somewhere between $3,000 and as much as $10,000 in repairs. They also advertise that these repairs are being done at wholesale prices because they do so many transactions but it seems like a lot..
In consultation with the seller , I convinced him that I thought I could get him at least $15,000 more net in his pocket. He agreed and we went to work! Before I tell you what happened, lets review the math on the i-Buyer offer. It would have netted him $100,000 minus approximately $3,000 as a minimum for repairs or $97,000 net to the seller.
We put the home on the market, and it sold for almost full price, at $247,500 within a few weeks. The seller had some repairs to perform which amounted to about $1000. After it was all said and done, the seller still netted at least $20,000 more than had he taken the i-Buyer’s offer.
Let’s analyze the rationale to NOT use an i-Buyer under the title of
6 Reasons Not to Use an i-Buyer:
1. It Will NOT Net You as Much Money The example above clearly illustrates that unless the i-Buyer company makes a mistake on pricing your home, you will not make as much money on the sale of your home versus a traditional sale methodology.
2. Pay the Cost of Moving out of Your Extra Profits. In all of their advertisements, they advertise that they will move you for free. Sounds like a great deal but for $20,000? I checked with many local moving companies and the average cost for a local move is less than $2,000, that is only 1/10th of the savings. Even if you moved cross-country, it probably would only be $5,000-$7,000.
3. The i-Buyer or their Representative do not Represent You That’s right, they represent the investor who is buying your house and THEIR best interest. At the AL Gage Team we will always represent you, our client!
4. You may be Able to Negotiate not Moving Twice. It is not always possible, especially if you are doing a new build, but we can usually negotiate a longer or shorter closing or a lease back for you to stay in the home. Even if this is not possible, again, what is the cost of putting your belongings in storage and finding a temporary place to stay. It certainly is nowhere near $20,000.
5. They are not Providing Their Service Just to be Good Neighbors, They Must Make a Profit. The only way a company can make a profit at doing this service is to buy your home below market value. The fees are between the same, and almost twice as much as a Realtor charges and that doesn't take into account the discounted price that they offer.
6. They Don’t Make You do Open Houses Neither do we. They don’t make you do open houses because open houses generally don’t work to sell the house you are holding open.
Don’t sell your home to an i-Buyer and throw your equity in the trash! Give the Al Gage Team a call at 623.536.8200 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Art of (Mis) Communication
Have you ever sent that text that got autocorrected to say something totally different than what you intended? Or sent an email without an attachment? Or even better, dialed the wrong number by name from your contacts and started talking before you realized it was the wrong Anne that you had dialed?
In today’s modern methods of communication, it is very easy to miscommunicate because most of the communication is not oral. Now I won’t go into a long diatribe about how communication has developed throughout history from cave art to Facebook Private messaging but let’s just agree that we all communicate better orally than we do by written communication for a few reasons; The first is that in written communication, you can’t hear the tone and inflection of what is being said. Secondly, we don’t always write what we mean and even if we do write what we mean, it can be auto-corrected in a text to mean something entirely different.
Let me give you an example, we recently had a client text us and ask us if “we could obtain feedback from a couple of agents that had viewed their property?” We of course always send formal requests to agents on every showing of our properties for feedback which had already been sent to these agents without reply. Responding very quickly, we responded that “we resent the request for feedback.” I’m sure reading this article very quickly, you got the same interpretation we did. The client responded back “that was kind of rude.” We re-read the text and could not figure out why they thought it was rude.
To make a long story short, the client was correctly reading the text as we resent (as in to feel or show indignation as a result of injury or insult) for being asked to request the feedback. Not what we intended at all. We were trying to say that we had re-sent (meaning they were sent again) the requests. Both the clients and us were both very upset for a few minutes until we talked on the phone. In oral communication the difference in pronunciation between re-sent and resent quickly cleared up the confusion and we both had a great laugh about it.
We as realtors also have to be very careful not to speak in acronyms or Realtor-speak too much. Amongst ourselves we throw around terms like Binser, Spuds and Closing pretty easily. We are very careful to take the time and explain to our client that the Binser, is the BINSR or the Buyer Inspection Notice and Seller Response is the list of repairs that is generally requested and agree upon by both parties at the conclusion of the inspection. The Spuds or actually the SPDS is the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement. This document is a form filled out by the seller, disclose all of the defects AND work done on a property since they have owned the home. Most dispute occurring in today’s markets are either a result of a failure to disclose or improper repairs after an inspection. Both of these documents are very important in limiting the liability and exposure of both the buyer and the seller and must be prepared with care, attention to detail and expertise.
This again is another opportunity for a written miscommunication. Let me give you an example. We recently had a transaction where on the BINSR (here we go again), the buyer’s agent had asked us to “check the underlayment” under the roof tiles on the roof. We did! Our roofing contractor said a fairly good size portion of it was bad and needed to be replaced. Under the letter of the agreement, all my seller’s were required to do was “check it.” I sat down with my clients and said we are only obligated to check this but the right thing to do is to repair it and if we only “check” it and they have a roof leak down the road, we likely will find ourselves in litigation. The clients agreed with the spirit of the request albeit not the actual language and repaired the roof for a little over $1,000. This is fine insurance against a future and expensive legal battle.
Of course we have all had the odd mis-dial. Last month, I scrolled through my phone and dialed Anne. I immediately dove into the transaction at hand and after a couple minutes, Anne stopped me and said: “ Al this is Anne P., you sold our home three years ago and we moved to Iowa. We still love that you stay in contact with us but, this is not our home!” Embarrassed of course, I apologized and thanked her and then called the Anne Pr, that actually had their home listed with us. Interestingly enough, they lived in the same neighborhood with the same model of home! I had simply scrolled to Anne P in my contacts, tried to dial Anne Pr in my contacts and hit the wrong button as I was dialing. As a person with a first name that is likely the first A in people’s contact list, I am well accustomed to being pocket dialed, only saved by those people with a friend named Aaron.
I guess the message that I am trying to convey with this article is that we take great pride and put forth great effort to continuously communicate and service our clients. We, of course, are human and not perfect, but our intent is always good and above board. If you have funny examples of miscommunications via text or email, send them to me so we can use them for a future article.
If you want the same effort and work ethic to communicate with you throughout the sale of your home, give us a call at 623.536.8200 (I prefer to talk on the phone) but we can also communicate via email at email@example.com
A Recipe for Selling Your Home!
All the marketing classes say I should include a recipe in my marketing material so here you go!
Getting Ready: The first thing I would recommend is using non-stick utensils and pans. In the modern era of cooking it is very important that you remove or repair any of the items that might make your transaction stick to the pan. In other words, it is important to fix all of the major things wrong with your home before you put it on the market. Please note that I said all of the major things. It is fine line between the things that will prevent a home from selling and extraneous effort. We often experience seller’s going to either extreme. They either try to fix every little thing and it delays the home from the market and wastes money or they don’t fix enough and either the inspection or the condition prevent it from selling.
All of these issues can be prevented by a preview from us of the condition of the property before you start making ANY repairs.
Gather all of the ingredients: Nothing will deter a chef faster than not having an ingredient. I understand that sometimes you can substitute one ingredient for another but it often isn't the same. In the real estate business this means two things. The first is the selection of your real estate agent. Here is a brief recipe for that part of the equation:
35 years of experience.
#1 in your neighborhood 4 years in a row.
1400 homes sold in Avondale and Litchfield Park.
Dash of Humor
Huge Dollop of Patience
1 full cup of Professionalism
1 full cup of Negotiating Skill
2 full cups of Area Specialization
1 full cup of Personal Integrity
1 full cup of Honesty
Blend all of the above ingredients together and let them rise to the occasion. The result should be choosing Al Gage as your realtor.
The second step is to fold in an additional team of specialists to assist with the transactions. This includes Patty Miller from Driggs Title, Rita Marie from Finance of America and Eric Villaverde from Doubletree Home Inspections and you should have the most stellar team of professionals ready to go into the oven.
Select the Starting Temperature: This maybe the most important part of the transaction. At what temperature do you start at? If you start it to hot (too low of a price), you may actually burn some of your equity by not getting every last dollar out of the transaction. It is easy to see when its too hot because you have massive traffic and multiple offers in just a few days. This error usually self regulates because it gets bid up over the list price in very short order.
If you start out at too low of a temperature (priced to high) you run a very real risk that the bread will become stale before you ever put it in the oven. It is very important that the initial reaction to the price is not too high or low as either one can adversely effect the transaction.
Baking: Once you have pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees by placing the home in this newsletter, let it bake for about 3 weeks at the current temperature. You can test it with toothpicks and once you receive an acceptable offer, you can remove it from the oven for about 4-6 weeks and allow it to cool (I mean close). During this cooling period, all of the specialist will become involved to prepare the icing, ice the cake and either decorate it or simply add some sprinkles. All of these processes sound very simple but, in fact, they require years of expertise and constant attention. I have thoroughly vetted all of the people on that list and can generally also recommend contractors as needed.
Serving the Cake: Once the cake has fully cooled and all of the slices of the cake have been divided up, it is time for you to serve the remainder. It still remains your responsibility for the utility transfers, signing documents and directing where you want all of your slices of the cake to go. It is also your responsibility that we don’t have any candle fires as a result of the cake so make sure you don’t cancel your insurance too soon.
If you need help baking your cake or finding out what you need to do to get your home ready to sell
Give the Al Gage Team a call at 623.536.8200 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumer Protections that Don't Work!
We have all heard about the latest government regulation designed to protect consumers that either doesn’t work or actually has the opposite effect! What is especially clear is there is little or no protection involved in any of these protections for the seller nor has the implications to the seller been considered at all. Let me try to outline the most egregious.
The Three-Day Closing Disclosure Waiting Period: The CFPB (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau which sounds like something from George Orwell) has instituted a three-day waiting period from the time the buyer receives and acknowledges the Closing Disclosure Statement before they can sign documents and close the transaction. This requirement is non-waivable except in extreme financial emergency. The time period is supposed to be utilized so the buyer can compare the initial loan disclosure with the final figures. Sounds like a good plan! First of all, I can do this in about 2 minutes. Second of all, the buyer probably does not know what to look for without the assistance of their agent or lender. What it actually does is either make the buyer rent a truck and pay a hotel for an extra day or three days over a weekend.
The Home Valuation Code of Conduct: This little gem was put in place as a result of the false blame (the real cause was excessive speculation on the part of buyers in real estate) placed on real estate agents and appraisers as a result of the 2008 market crash in real estate.
This program establishes Appraisal Management Companies to supervise and randomly assign appraisers. This program also prevents the agents or the lender from directly contacting the appraiser in an attempt to influence the outcome which was part of the false blame in 2008. Sounds Good?
Well, there are several major flaws in this process. In my almost 35 years in the industry, I will start with the fact that appraisers were never very easy to influence in the first place. They are professionals but just like all of us, they occasionally make mistakes or could benefit from extra knowledge about the upgrades or improvements in the property. The VA actually has a program called Tidewater, where the appraiser has to notify and ask for information if the appraiser cannot achieve the desired sales price. We are currently permitted to supply them comparable sales if they ask for it and are allowed to provide a list of upgrades. In the good old days, when we could build a relationship with an appraiser, we could call them up and ask if a house would likely appraise, BEFORE ANYONE SPENT $650.
Speaking of the $650, this is more than double what the cost of an appraisal was before the institution of this program and is paid to the Appraisal Management Company not the actual appraiser. The appraiser essentially receives about half of that and the Appraisal Management Company receives the rest. The dirty little secret here is that many of these Appraisal Management Companies, which are supposed to be arms length from the lender, are actually owned by the lender’s they provide service to. Not exactly a model designed to protect the consumer!
The High Priced Mortgage Test: This is probably the worst offender of all. This one, among other things, prescribes that a person cannot obtain a mortgage where the costs to obtain the mortgage (including title fees) cannot exceed 5% of the mortgage amount paid by the buyer. Sounds perfect at first sight but it actually penalizes buyers who are more qualified or have more resources. All these years, you though a buyer that paid their own closing costs or put more money down was MORE likely to obtain the mortgage! WRONG!
We recently sold a home to a young couple who had saved/inherited enough money to put about 15% down AND pay their own closing costs. We absolutely stole them a home. The home was listed for $189,900 and we bid $202, 500 for the home. We were proven correct when the home actually appraised for $215,000 and the appraiser probably could have gone higher. The buyer is well qualified and ready to go when we get clarification that on initial review, they have failed the High Priced Mortgage Test and cannot obtain the loan BECAUSE THEY PUT SO MUCH DOWN AND WERE PAYING THEIR OWN CLOSING COSTS. Title fees and other fixed costs are based on the sales price not the mortgage amount. We were able to manipulate the file a bit and it closed successfully but this is not the way that it should be!
Let me give you a more illustrative example. Suppose a buyer is buying a home for $250,000 and putting $200,000 down. That leaves them a mortgage amount of $50,000 so their loan costs and title fees cannot exceed $2500. An appraisal is $600 and the title fees are $1203 leaving less than $700 for lenders fees. This will make them have to take a higher rate so they can receive a credit from the lender and does not give them the option to pay points to obtain a lower interest rate. Does any of this sound like the way informed consumers should be treated?
If you want true Consumer Protection based on the Golden Rule and old fashioned honesty, give the AL Gage Team a call at 623-536-8200 or email at email@example.com
The Doctor is IN!
I recently had an opportunity to interview for a listing in our area. There were many of the most successful agents in our area, all interviewing for the same position. The seller selected us and as part of that conversation, they explained to one of our competitors that they were listing with us because they did not like the concept of a big team. The agent countered that proposal with a statement to the effect that when you visit the doctor’s office, the first person that you talk to is NOT the doctor! But how cool would it be if you could?
Not to be too hard on the medical profession, but lets just say that they are not known for their customer service skills as to office management. That is not to say that many doctors don’t have a good bedside manner, but I think we all agree that the waits and paperwork are simply not conducive to customer service.
If you contact my office, you are either going to speak to the Doctor (me) or the Doctor’s Boss (my wife if you need a second opinion). We have had the huge team before and had to manage and correct the mistakes and errors of underlings and just want to be responsible for what comes out of our mouths from this point forward.
Having just done the yearly statistics for the other agents in the areas that I work just before that appointment, I was able, during the interview, to quote those statistics for my closest competitors. “Agent X, I sold 250% of their sales! Agent Y, I sold 275% of their sales.” Of course this was very powerful combined with the fact that I have been #1 in overall sales within our neighborhoods for 4 years in a row.
Customer service is our goal combined with the actual success of selling your home. In essence, we want to diagnose the problem, treat the problem AND do it all while having a single point of contact throughout your transaction. No passing your file off to someone with minimal experience that has to continuously get back to you with the more experienced answer.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what our clients are saying in 2019. One of our clients said:
“As we all know, selling a home can be extremely stressful. Al Gage was wonderful! He was very professional and knowledgeable in all aspects of the sale. What impressed me the most was his direct approach, none of the usual sales jargon was imposed. If your looking for a good, honest and down to earth realtor, Al Gage is your man. Also a shout out to Terri who is an absolute delight to work with.”
This review sums up everything we are trying to put forward as our philosophy in business. They characterized us as professional, knowledgeable, direct, good, honest and down to earth! You may ask how we do this? It is easy! We work efficiently and and for many long hours to service our clients.
In another review, one of our clients writes: “My house went on the MLS the next day, New Year’s Eve. I averaged one showing every day and received an offer in 6 days, higher than the list price, and closed in 3 weeks. There were 2 unexpected large repairs required before closing but Al’s accessibility by phone, text, and email, at all times, enabled the parties to resolve the matters efficiently and to everyone’s satisfaction. I would highly recommend using Al Gage.”
Again the review strikes at some of the core values of our business. Answering the phone and being prepared to offer expert advice and referrals on a moment’s notice comes with over 34 years experience. We pride ourselves in answering the phone and working efficiently. My wife and I were both blessed with great work ethic inspired by parents that had great work ethic. It does not bother us to work 12-15 hour days if need be. We would love the opportunity to work that hard for you.
If you want to have the doctor answer the phone, diagnose the problem, treat the problem and give you a perfect prognosis on the first visit, schedule an appointment with Al to sell or buy your home.
Thats a Great Question!
I got asked a great question this week by two different clients, so I thought it worthy of an explanation. The question was two different versions of the same question. Essentially, since I publish the price per square foot of the homes in the various neighborhoods, why couldn't they just multiply that price by the square foot of their existing home and come up with a price. The second version was why do larger homes and/or two story homes sell for a lower price per square foot than small and single level homes. Those are both great questions but not the same questions although the answer maybe close to the same for both.
The average price per square foot is exactly that, an average. In all of our subdivisions there are parts of the subdivisions that sell for more than other parts. In Corte Sierra, Sage Creek and Las Palmeras, Sage Creek will typically sell for more than the other two. Crystal Gardens will sell for more than Crystal Point or Upland Park and in Rancho Santa Fe, Alta Mira will sell for more than Vistas, Tierra or Casitas.
There are valid reasons in all of these. The lot size might be bigger across the board or the average house might be larger or smaller. Let’s take Rancho Santa Fe as an example. The average lot size in Casitas is smaller than Vistas but larger than the other newer subdivisions on the West Side. Even when they were all brand new, there was a price per square foot difference between the areas.
Over the years of working in these areas, I have developed definitive numbers to adjust between one subdivision and another and also within different parts of the subdivision. It took me forever to determine how much to adjust between a home on the lake in Crystal Gardens versus one that was not on the lake. Every time I try to present these to a client, they usually say something like “but I wouldn’t want to live there or on the lake.” This is true and also the reason why you didn't purchase a home in the area or part of a subdivision or on the lake———Because it wasn't worth the difference in the price for that amenity. Let us keep in mind that for the buyer who is looking for that amenity, it is worth the difference. This is why you need an area expert to price your home! When I go to price a home outside the area that I work, I have to work 10 times harder to get it right and I am much more susceptible to error because I am just not as familiar with the adjustments to make.
When you choose an agent that is not an area expert, you risk the same kind of problems.
For the second part of the problem of why smaller homes sell for a higher price per square foot than larger homes, it is basically a combination of economics and when you really analyze it, it becomes clear. Let’s look at the lowest price home for sale in Rancho Santa Fe which is a 1290 S.F model. That’s $170.5 per SF. If you multiply that number by the largest home for sale in the same subdivision which is a Regatta (2963 S.F.) that would mean that the price of the larger one would be $505, 191 instead of the $379,000 it is listed for. To my knowledge there has never been a sale for more than $500,000 even in the boom. If you apply the simple multiplication mode, you should all run over there and offer them about $100,000 more than they are asking. Bottom line, it simply doesn't work that way.
The same thing applies when it comes to a two story versus a single level. More people prefer a single level and therefore, the single level will sell for more per square foot than a two story.
This still doesn't explain some oddities such as what happened in Rancho Santa Fe last month. Two identical homes with the same general features including a pool, sold for $117 and $136.5 per square foot. Even allowing for the difference in condition, either the higher one got lucky or the lower one sold too low. Don’t be the guy that sold their house too low because you sold to an I-Buyer, used an inexperienced agent or made a mistake in negotiations. Call Al Gage at 623-536-8200 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe to Newsletter and Add to the Count for Free Movie Night
From 1997 to 2007 we hosted a free movie night for all of the homeowners in Rancho Santa Fe, Corte Sierra, Sage Creek, Crystal Gardens, Las Palmeras and Wigwam Creek as well as our past clients. We would love to offer this little payback to our community again but with the price of mail and printing, the only way we can do that is with your help to promote the E-newsletter to the same level of readership as the mailings touched in the past. In addition, we would be saving a few trees.
So here is the deal, if we can get our readership up to around 3500 per month from our current level of just over 1000, the savings in mailing and preparation cost will allow us to once again rent the entire movie theatre for our neighbors and clients. To accomplish this we will need each of you to forward the email or website to friends and have them opt in for market updates and eventually the free movie passes. We will keep a running count of the opt ins and when we reach 3,000 emails currently living in the Phoenix, Avondale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park and Buckeye areas, we will fire movie night back up
The Final Decision!
Do you remember when you were kids and you had to ask your parents for a decision. I remember that when I would ask my mom if a friend could spend the night, she would invariably tell me to go ask my dad! I would dutifully run to my dad (they worked together running their business) and ask! He would always respond with “What did your mother say?” Of course, I would respond with the obvious answer that she sent me to ask you! He would always say “Well that’s up to her!” And the cycle would repeat! Now I get that they may have had an ulterior motive to try to burn off some of my limitless energy, but I truly believe they were just trying to be consistent and on the same page. Of course, there were rules about the circumstances under which you asked for this permission and if you ever violated them, the answer was automatically “NO!” If you asked with the person you wanted to have stay over present or if it was on a school night, the answer was automatically no! If you asked too often or while they were busy talking to customers that was also the kiss of death! If you followed all the rules and never showed your impatience with the lack of a decision, they were always very fair about granting such permissions.
Now as I watched the Superbowl, I watched two very good quarterbacks make decisions about passing the ball! The decisions they made all occurred in less than five seconds. That’s not much time to think, considering any of those decisions could define their careers.
As drivers, we make life or death decisions on a regular basis in less than a half second. The time it takes to go from the accelerator to the brake or to change lanes. I do have faith in the ability of our society to make decisions.
A good friend of mine was telling me about some of the Realtor commercials running in Canada right now! They feature people who didn't use a Realtor or an inferior Realtor, and the consequences they have suffered by their poor decision. One family ended up next to a newly built oil field and another ended up next to a biker rally every weekend. All of these are items which a realtor is supposed to know and disclose to a potential buyer (and so is the seller).
Your first decision in the house buying or selling process is to choose a Realtor and obviously, we want you to choose us, but we have preached enough on that topic. How many other decisions and decision makers are involved from that point forward? Here is a list of the people that must say yes in the home buying process in order for it to successfully close:
Seller and buyer each choose an agent.
Buyer chooses lender and pre-qualifies
Lender issues a preliminary qualification for the buyer.
Buyer chooses to view home.
Buyer decides they like a home enough to write an offer.
Seller decides to accept an offer or counter.
Buyer accepts counter offer.
Buyer chooses to perform an inspection.
Title company issues an initial title report and property appears clear to proceed.
Buyer accepts, rejects or offers the seller an opportunity to make repairs on property.
Seller accepts, rejects or agrees to repairs.
Appraisal comes in at value or price is renegotiated to appraised value.(If lower than contract price)
Buyer choose a Home Warranty Company.
Repairs are undertaken to be approved by the buyer.
Underwriter reviews loan documentation and either approves or asks for additional documentation.
Underwriter approves loan with final approval after appraisal is received.
Loan is sent to secondary buyer or quality control for last minute review.
Title company issues final title report and both parties sign.
Documents go back to lender for release of funds.
Funder releases funds after balancing with Title Company.
Loan and property closes by recording at county recorder’s office.
Buyer and seller exchange possession of property and keys!
That’s a lot of people that have to say “Yes!” in order for a transaction to close. Don’t you think you want someone who has gone through this process over 3000 times to be on your side?
For experience and integrity, give the AL Gage team a call at 623.536.8200 or email us at email@example.com
Its the Little Things
In real estate, it’s the little things that make the difference! We are all a product of our experiences and we haven’t all experienced the same things. There are little tricks of the trade that separate the great real estate agents from the mediocre or down right bad agents.
Let me give you a non-real estate example. Have your ever fought with a roll of aluminum foil? Pulling out too much or too little, the roll flopping out of the box, down the kitchen counter and on to the floor. How many of you knew that the end of the box has little tabs that you can punch into the end of the roll which will hold it in the box and prevent this from happening! I know I had to run and look when I first heard about this and I will pause for two minutes while those of you who have never heard of this go and look! Now that we have verified that they are there, let me give you some other examples both within and outside of real estate!
One of the tricks that we have mastered is the number of pictures required to get optimum placement on many of the real estate websites. Too few or too many or redundant picture and you move down in your placement. I would love to share the number with you but then I would lose the advantage. I will just tell you that I obtained the information, on accident, from a tech from one of the biggest real estate websites.
How many of you have ever had your garage door opener malfunction because the eyes on the anti reverse are misaligned. Pro tip! You can override that by simply holding down the button while the door is closing. Not a long term solution but it will let you close the garage door for the night and you can fix it tomorrow!
Did you know that you can take the chill out of the house and use less energy in the winter time by reversing your ceiling fans? There is a little switch on most fans that will make them run in reverse, which is clockwise, which pushes all the warm air back down to where you live and off the vaulted ceilings.
In sales, it’s the little things. Like answering your phone and returning phone calls. Whether its another agent or a client, we try to respond to all of our calls within an hour and most of the time we actually answer the phone when you call. This may sound odd to you but you would be surprised by how many agents are “Just to Busy” to answer their phones. We sold 217% of the average of our top ten competitors in 2018 but we still find the time to answer the phone.
Over the years, one of the common problems we encounter on a home inspection is the dishwasher will not start after the home has sat vacant or the dishwasher hasn't been used. There is usually nothing wrong with the dishwasher. The motor is just stuck because of our hard water. If you take the lower cover off and spin that motor it will work 9 times out of 10.
One of the best tricks that we use isn't really even a trick. When an agent calls and says they might be writing an offer on one of our properties, we don’t give away the farm. We thank them and generally welcome their offer. We don’t gush with excitement about the fact they are writing an offer. This conveys to them non-verbally that they may have to write a little better offer to get it accepted. Selling homes is a lot like playing poker. Many, many agents give away information or tells to their fellow agents without even realizing they are doing it.
Every industry has these same kinds of little tricks. I remember a plumber laughing so hard, while he was apologizing to me for charging me, that it kind of hurt. I had installed my own brand new garbage disposal and was proud of my work but the dishwasher just would not drain. Who knew there was a seal in there for the disposal to be used without a dishwasher, that had to be knocked out before the drain line was attached.
One of our best tricks is not leaving our homes in active status trying to get back up offers. Back up offers sound good in principle, but they rarely materialize. Your days on the market continue to add up making the home prematurely stale if you should have to put it back on the market.
If you want an agent that barely knows the ropes or is possibly not a good poker player, then call someone you googled on line. I have been working and been the most successful agent in your area for almost 20 years or since these homes were built. You need a savvy, honest and straightforward agent!
Call Al Gage at 623.536.8200 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org