Commentary

Home Selling is like Dog Adoption

“Selling your home is like finding someone to adopt your pet dog when you have to give it up”. This is by far the best analogy I have ever heard to describe residential real estate.    A random guy from Canada said it one time when he explained his understanding of selling a home.   He brought it up when I was explaining my company, NestingUp, to him a few months ago. It is so, so very true. When you are selling your house, it is like you are putting it up for adoption and you want the best candidate to take care of it.

That analogy has stuck with me and I continue to use it when I explain the value behind NestingUp.  The role of emotion in residential real estate is well known, but rarely discussed between real estate agents and their clients.  Home sellers are in a relationship with their house and home buyers are swiping right and left on homes on Zillow like it is Tinder.  Everyone wants the perfect match.  Agents instead work with the emotion of their buyers and sellers to help them make the decision that is in their best interest.

With so much money at stake you would think that buying or selling a home should be void of all emotion and the decision grounded solely in logic. This has never been the case nor will ever be in the future because we are human and have an emotional connection with our home. As a buyer, you want the next buyer to take care of it. As a buyer, you want to love your home. It’s just like an adoption process as that Canadian so simply understood it.

NestingUp taps into this emotional component of residential real estate and provides a channel for homebuyers to showcase them and their strong desire to buy.   Sellers want to pick the best candidate to buy their home and without NestingUp or a cover letter, homebuyers are reduced to numbers on 20-50 pages of PDF documents in an agents email inbox.   Buyers should be human and express their interest in the home.   Sellers should understand what they want in a buyer.

Aside from cash, a cover letter demonstrates your desire and commitment to buy a home. Sellers look for that desire and commitment when picking a home buyer.

Home Buyer Letters are Effective and Legal

“That letter you sent really made the difference.”  That was the closing remark from Craig Blockmon, a Seattle based lawyer and agent referencing a conversation he had with a client about the effectiveness of a home buying letter.  This Washington State news station had a whole segment on the legality of the home buying “love letter” after speaking with industry experts.   Their conclusion after consulting a real estate lawyer, a civil rights lawyer and  real estate broker was straightforward: a love letter is legal.

I am writing about this news piece because the legality of a love letter is a concern among a few real estate agents who come across NestingUp.  NestingUp is an online platform for agents and buyers to create home buyer letters and custom video messages to sell with sellers.

When we were building NestingUp, we were instructed by our mentors that we need legal advice before pouring money into building the online platform that would generate these “love letters”.   So we did that exact thing.  We consulted two law firms that specialize in real estate as well as an attorney from the California Association of Realtors.  They all confirmed that it is in fact legal in California and throughout the United States.

Some other agents will refer to these as “love letters”, but we believe  the term cover letter is better suited.   A cover letter is like the bow on the package that is your home purchase offer.  Sellers appreciate them and buyers enjoy putting the together.  It’s like submitting your resume for a job; a cover letter is not required but it sure does set you apart from the competition.

NestingUp cover letters are proven effective and when you add pictures or a video, it is even more effective.  It is the message that we continue to spread throughout the residential real estate community.  These letters are both legal and effective.  At the end of the day, sellers are people too and they are moved by buyer’s stories told through these cover letters.   NestingUp is here to mainstream the use of cover letters for all home buyers and personalize the buying process.   We are excited and proud to bring this tool to the market.

 

 

 

Want that dream home? Write that Cover Letter

There is tremendous value in sending over a cover letter to the sellers of that home that you really want to buy.   Sellers take the time to read the letter and buyers enjoy channeling their desire to buy into writing the letter. But more importantly, a great cover letter can seal the deal on getting that dream home.

The market is very competitive today with more buyers than inventory.   Buyers are facing multiple offers situations for entry level to upscale neighborhoods. Without extra cash to throw down, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd.   A thoughtful cover letter with pictures can be your ticket to an accepted offer.

I am residential real estate broker in California and I always recommend buyers put together a cover letter for each offer they submit.   Buyer’s will then often ask: “Well, what do I write?” or “What pictures should we choose?”. Here you have it:

  1. The most important piece of advice that I give buyers on what to write is to assume you’re the seller.   If you were selling your home, then what would you want to hear from a prospective buyer? You likely want to hear that you love the home, will take care of it once you buy it, and that you are more than qualified to complete the purchase.
  2. Paragraph One: Start your cover letter with a compliment. Tell the seller something nice about the house.   You can be specific and discuss a bathroom remodel or the front yard landscaping that is unique and awesome.   Also, mention how you went to the open house or look at their pictures often.
  3. Paragraph Two: this is where talk about you, your family or whomever you’re buying the house with. Just scratch the surface here and do not go into detail about you physical features, life story or personal details. Keep it light and fluffy, but establish that personal connection with the sellers.
  4. Paragraph Three: You should finish your cover letter with a strong closing punch. It would be a good idea to mention your superior finances, eagerness to close escrow early and the flexibly you have to work with the Seller if they need more time.
  5. Whatever you end up writing, Do NOT talk about your plans to tear down the house, do significant remodeling or criticize the seller.   Most people are emotionally connected to their homes so it’s important to respect that.

So, yes, you should create a cover letter. Try using NestingUp, which is a site that is geared specifically for home buyers and their real estate agents. Good luck, buyers!

Accepting Backup Offers? Usually Not

Many home buyers have browsed the internet one time and saw an amazing property that says it’s accepting backup offers or under contract.  A rush of optimism runs through you and you want to see it right away.  I’m here to tell you it’s not worth it, swipe left and move on.

 

These are several different descriptions for announcing to the public that a property is officially in escrow.   No matter how you say it, a property that is in escrow basically translates to: it’s no longer available for sale. The seller has legally accepted another offer and the home is off the market so move on and keep searching.

 

If a property is in escrow and therefore no longer available for sale, then why do agents put a status of “Accepting Backup Offers” or “Under Contract”? The answer is 1) agents have to choose from a list of property status options other than just “Escrow” in their MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and 2) agents want to get as many backup offers as possible.

 

Agents change the status of property after they accept offer to inform the public that it’s off the market.   Those agents have to click on whatever property status box it provides, which forces agents to be more specific than just using an umbrella term of Escrow. Whether it’s “under contract” or “pending”, it varies because each MLS across the US is different. A different MLS means a different way of describing a property that is in escrow. The more specific statuses is meant for other agents consumption and not for the public who will get confused.

 

The second reason is that sellers want as many backup offers as possible. Of course it is a prudent decision for sellers to have a plan B, C or even D.   So the seller’s agent will always tell other buyers that you can and should submit a backup offer if you want. What do they have to lose? Absolutely nothing.   But my experience is that it’s not worth it for buyers to submit a backup offer because if an escrow cancels, the seller just puts the property back on the market for everyone to compete on again despite have backup offers lined up from the first time it was on the market.   They want to put it back out there a second time to fish for an even better offer.

 

Buyers are often confused yet optimistic when they see a property for sale with a status of “Accepting Backup Offers”.   After they see a home that is accepting backup offers they usually call me and ask: “that means we still have a chance, right?”  The answer is yes, but the reality is that it is very, very unlikely that your backup offer will get selected.  Buyers and their agents can be more efficient with their time if they move on and search for other options.  Happy home hunting, folks!

Tips for Buyers to Optimize their Open House Tour Day

Touring open houses is the most exciting and engaging activity for home buyers when they are purchasing a home.  As an agent, working with home buyers during open house days is one of my favorite activities.  Buyers love driving around neighborhoods, checking out homes and then visualizing themselves living in those houses.   “We can put our bed there” or “you can use this room as your man cave” are just snippets of the dialogue I will hear when buyers are walking through a potential home they want to make an offer on.

The scenario is this: it’s Saturday or Sunday, you and your agent have selected 3 or more homes that you want to see, and you packed the family in the SUV with your tails wagging.    In the back of your head you already know which ones you like because you’ve looked at the photos online at least twice now.  Meanwhile, the agent has been working behind the scenes to set up the tour and make sure you’re seeing the homes you want and also make sure they are within reach of what you can afford.  Sound familiar?

After dedicating my weekends to helping buyers, I have some useful tips if you’re a buyer who is about to embark on a few open house tours.   I can offer a few tips for making sure you optimize your open house tour day:

1.   Bring your phone!

This may  seem like a no brainer, but I cannot stress it enough.  It is essential that you have a working phone that can easily access your emails,  internet and communicate with your Realtor. More importantly, if you’re a potential buyer, you should use your phone to take pictures and videos of the houses you like.   Share those pictures with other family members who couldn’t go with you to the open house and use those pictures to help you decide if you want to make an offer.  Pictures and videos can also help you visualize where you’ll put your furniture or set up the layout that works for you.

Also, you will need your phone for Waze or another navigation app in the event you get separated from your Realtor.

2.   Have patience.

One of the agents could be running late or the open house is crowded so you have to wait.  Whatever the scenario,  you’ll need to have some patience to weather through the day successfully.  See recommendation number 1 above to help pass any dead time between open houses.  This day is awesome and emotionally engaging so pace yourself. You will also need to have patience if you decide to submit an offer on one of the houses.  Sellers can take up to three days to respond to buyers and their offers.

3. Ask stupid questions.

When you’re at the house, you’ll have ideas and questions pop into your mind.  Don’t hold back.   You should ask those questions to the Realtor or the owner right then and there.  If the homeowners are present during the open house, ask about the neighbors or the schools.  Use the open house period as an opportunity to gather as much information as possible that you can’t get online.

4.  Use the bathroom at the houses.

So you don’t have to stop at McDonalds or Starbucks.

5.  Drive separately from your Realtor.

Introduce yourself to the owners and agents!

As a Realtor, I want buyers to have personal have time with their family to discuss the property that they just visited.  These conversations between the buyers right after the open house are critical to formulating your collective opinion and decide if you want to make an offer or have additional questions for your agent.  Buyers are often reluctant to express their opinion of a property or the Realtor is talking the whole time so they haven’t had a moment to collect their thoughts.  Come to your own conclusions about the house since you’ll be the one living there.

6.  Bring a tape measure.

As a Realtor, you will be surprised how often buyers will ask if  I have a tape measure in my car.  Buyers want to know if, for example, their king bed will fit in the master bedroom.  Bring a tape measure to help you decide your furniture arrangement.   It won’t be awkward. In fact, it makes you look more interested in the property.

7.   Introduce yourself to the selling Realtor or owners.

Yes, you want to shake hands with these people. It helps put a face to your offer if you decide to make one.  If you don’t formally introduce yourself at the open house, then submit a cover letter with your offer.  I would advise using a service called Nestingup to help you establish that personal connection with the sellers.

Have a great weekend touring homes, folks!

Evan Haug
Broker- Haus California
CalBRE: 01891733
(714) 614-3407

Redfin is the King of Real Estate Websites

Redfin is the absolute King of all residential real estate websites out there today. It is the superior resource for both professionals and everyday buyers and sellers. I am neither a spokesman for the company nor a real agent for it either. I just had great success using the site so I thought I would share it with other agents and the common folk.

Since 2009, my job as an analyst and real estate agent has required me to analyze properties, market conditions, and trends for hours everyday all behind numerous computer screens. After eight years of testing all of the websites out there , I can safely say that Redfin is the best one.  It is better than Zillow and Trulia for several reasons:

1. Accurate Market Data – Redfin provides the most accurate data for markets throughout the United States. Redfin will display all homes for sale (including For-Sale-by-Owners), as well as homes that are in escrow and homes recently sold if you’re interested. When you’re trying to find a home for sale, you don’t want to have to sift through rentals or foreclosures, which is what you will have to do using the other sites.  Zillow puts information about rentals, foreclosures and pre-foreclosures in addition to solds, actives and pending all on the map. It’s information overload and it gets confusing for users to accurately identify what homes are available for sale.

As an agent, this type of situation always happens to me: I will be representing a buyer who will see a home on Zillow at a great price and think it is available for sale. The buyer then immediately asks me about it and wants to schedule a tour right away. I have to then break it to them that it is a pre-foreclosure or that it’s not actively listed on the market. The buyer gets disappointed, I apologize for Zillow, and then we move on.  Agents should use Redfin or at least advise their buyers and sellers to not use Zillow or Trulia.

2. Accurate Property Characteristics and Description – Redfin will display the square footage, bedroom count, lot size, etc. right at the top of the webpage for a home. The information is pulled straight from the public records and displayed on the site.  Public records data is the most reliable information on the legal size of the property, bed/bath count and lot size.  If the house is advertised with larger square footage than what Redfin shows, then there is a good chance the additions are not permitted and thus not accounted for during the appraisal.

3. User Friendly Interface – Redfin’s website is designed to be simple and accurate. Given the incredible about of data it has, it has created a user interface that will allow uses to easily filter, browse and display the real estate information they want. The website is fast and absolutely free to all users.   Redfin recognizes that buyers are concerned with location, price and configuration the most so those features are the easiest to toggle on the site.  If you click on “More Filters”, you can narrow your search even more to fit your needs.

4. Access to agents – Redfin is both a real estate brokerage and database company.  Unlike Zillow, it has a team of real estate agents that will answer your questions through a phone call or email. These are licensed agents in the area that you’re browsing. It’s free advice so why not just ask!

Redfin has  helped me advance my career in real estate because the site allows me to access accurate data quickly.  As a real estate agent, I advise all my buyers and sellers to use it to avoid confusion and manage expectations.  Thanks, Redfin.

Live Near a Highly Rated Burrito Establishments

That looks tasty.


Knowing where the best Mexican restaurants are near you is an essential component to Southern California living.  We all know this to be true.  There are so many options out there that you frequently do not know where to go.  Additionally, your friends and neighbors can offer conflicting or mixed reviews of certain restaurants.  Don’t trust Jane Doe from upstairs or drunken Jessica’s two cents when it comes to Mexican food advice; it’s just too important of a choice.  Rather you should trust Yelp and the thousands of reviews that local patrons have made on the Mexican restaurants near you.  Why do the work of trying new places when others have already gone through the experimenting gauntlet?  It’s the law of averages, folks!  At least that’s my reasoning. 

 
Below is the list of the highest rated best burrito joints west of the 405 (not including the South Bay). The list is not from my personal experience; nope, it’s the highest ranked restaurants according to yelp.  Yelp’s algorithm filters the restaurants with the overall highest rating and throws out the outliers (like a restaurant that has only four 5 star views).  Three of the 5 spots are in Venice and a few are just food trucks without a registered address and only a general vicinity of where they park.
 

1. Tocaya Orangica

Located in sketchy Venice.  It sounds healthy. It sounds like skinny jeans and beards. It sounds like 15 dollars for a tortilla.

2. La Isla Bonita

It’s actually a food truck that parks it on Rose.  It’s affordable, it’s delicious and I highly recommend it. Yelp gives it only one $ so give it a go; you have nothing to lose.

3. Casa Sanchez

Coming in at number 3 with 906 reviews we have Casa Sanchez.  More of a sit down establishment ( “$$” on Yelp). It has a mariachi band on Friday or Saturday nights.  Ole!

4. Pepe’s Tacos.  

A consistent theme in the reviews is the portion sizes so go hungry and leave happy. This a quick and legit place to get full quickly.  Te habla espanol? 

5.  La Fiesta Brava  

Located in West LA, with relatively healthy and affordable choices.   Lard free for those concerned with weight, which you shouldn’t be if you’re having Mexican food. 

 It could be a Tuesday night for tacos or a Sunday morning breakfast burrito for the hangover.  Whatever your reason for going for Mexican, its important to have a plan A, a plan B and in some cases a plan C and I hope the list above adds some new options for you.  But, I am not a professional food critic; I’m a real estate agent and consultant.   Shoot me a text or email if you want to buy or move west of the 405 near any of these fine food establishments. 

Measure S. Dropping a Nuke on LA Dev

There is lots of talk in the real estate development circles about the upcoming Measure S on the ballot in the City of Los Angeles. Measure S proposes a two-year moratorium on all real estate development projects that need a zone change, height district change or General Plan amendment. Wait, what? Yes, it would be a two-year block on all real estate development in the City of Los Angeles on all projects that do not exactly fit the zoning restrictions and regulations permitted for the parcel(s). Builders can still build, but the development cannot deviate from the zoning code at all.

I’ll take the Penthouse, thanks.

So voters will decide on March 7 if that’s what they want. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit in LA, is supporting and funding Measure S. Their general motivation is to stop the development of large, luxury projects by taking two years off to redesign the General Plan. Much of the recent development in LA over the last ten years has been luxury units with very few low to middle income units being constructed. That lopsided development, according to the AIDS Healthcare foundation, is exacerbating the shortage of affordable units in the City.

Developers most definitely do not support Measure S and neither does the LA Chamber of Commerce. Developers build hotels, large multifamily projects that often require zoning changes or general plan amendments. Fox example, developers combine parcels to create a larger project. A two year block on all development will only make the housing shortage in LA worse, not better, according to opponents. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti does not support the measure.

IS the answer to LA’s affordable housing shortage to stop all development so the City can redesign the General Plan that will facilitate affordable housing construction? Seems silly to me.  You can read more about it HERE.

Craftsman, Bungalow and Contemporary Styles

Hey, folks! Thought it would be useful to talk about three common style of homes in the Southern California area. We all know what “Spanish” style homes look like, but many get the others confused.

The Bungalow – Not to be coARCH-RES_CaliforniaBungalow_0nfused with a “California Bungalow”, this style of home is popular throughout the Southern California area.  This type of home originated in California during the 1880s and became more popular in the 1930s.   A small covered porch is the signature feature of a bungalow; just one porch.  You can see several bungalow style homes in Long Beach, Huntington Beach, south LA, Echo Park, and throughout the Westside.  Bungalow homes are often small in size and with low pitched roofs.  Most buyers I work with love them because of their quaint, California feel.

 

ARCH-RES_Craftsman_0   The Craftsman – This style of home is loosely advertised by agents on homes they are marketing.   Also known as a “California bungalow”, the Craftsman style home typically features overhanging eaves, a low gabled roof, with wide porches and tapered columns.   Many of these homes use stone and stucco on the exterior.   The craftsman homes have wide front porches with columns and that’s what distinguishes it from the typical bungalow described above.

The California Bungalow is widely popular with the clients I work with.  To many it represents the California style of home they always envisioned.

ARCH-RES_Contemporary_0

 

Contemporary – Scattered throughout LA County in nearly all gentrified or gentrifying neighborhoods, we have the contemporary.  These homes line the streets of Manhattan Beach, Venice, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and other higher end neighborhoods.   Contemporary homes are characterized by odd size, tall window, asymmetrical designs, unusually mixtures of wall materials, and lack of ornamentation. They’re trendy, unique and usually stand out on the block.

 

You can check out more  home styles infomraiton and pictures by clicking here.  Happy buying, folks!  he 

Mortgage Rates on the Rise. Go FHA

Interest rates are ointerest-rate-blog-picturen the move and they’re heading north.    As of Thursday, December 15th the rate for a 30 year fixed mortgage reached 4.16%; that’s the highest it’s has been since October 2014.   The results of the election on November 8th has caused the upward trend.   Right before the election the rate was 3.57% for the 30 year fixed so we’ve had quite a bit of movement in the last 5 weeks.  A rate of 4.16% is still low historically speaking so do not be discouraged if you are on the market to purchase a home.

 A sustained decline in government bond prices after Trump clinched the election has facilitated the rise of mortgage rates.   The selling of US bonds has lifted yields, which in turn puts upwards pressure on long term mortgage rates.  Well how about that, eh.   This means that it is all connected in a way.  

If you’re a first time home buyer, the good news is that these rates are still pretty low and economists from Realtor.com believe the rise will taper once the new administration takes office.   That is, the rate will not increase much more in 2017.  

The rise in mortgage rates has not impacted FHA borrowing limits.  It’s important to note that the FHA borrowing limit in both Los Angeles and Orange County is $625,500. That’s incredibly high relative to other Counties like Fresno where it’s at $327,000.  I still advise new homebuyers to go FHA when they can because the rate will be lower than conventional financing.   Also, FHA buyers usually put less money down to buy a house and do not need perfect credit.  Most houses will go FHA while only a few condominium communities accept FHA financing.   Holler if you’re looking to buy. That’s why I’m here.