Thriving real estate agent in Denver, Colorado, specializing in the needs of the creative community. Looking to buy or sell a home or invest in rental property? Move up, move out, move on. I will move you.

THE TROUBLE WITH FSBO.

There are a million real estate stories in the Mile High City; this is one of them. The story you are about to read is true, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. This is a story of one girl’s nightmare. Me. I’m a REALTOR®. But I’ll try not to let that get in my way.

It was a hot summer in cool real estate market. The rolling boil of winter’s tax incentives had simmered into springtime and left the pot dry. Houses sat for weeks without a showing. Sweaty listing agents tied balloons to open house signs as potential buyers rolled by on fat-tired bicycles. My phone rang. It was the clients I’d put into a downtown duplex some years before; cute couple, new baby, good debt-to-income ratio and a spanking clean credit score. They were smart enough to see it was time for a move up, down to the bucolic suburbs. Interest rates hadn’t been this low since… well, ever.

We set out shopping, searching for nothing less than the dream home: that elusive slice of Americana where you know your neighbors, raise a family. And we found it, love at first sight, a bit like Bedford Falls but in Technicolor. The drawback? It was a FSBO. *bum-bum-bum-bummm*.

Now I’m a kind of do-it-yourself type dame, within reason. I don’t mind doing my nails or washing the dog but I have to draw the line at what I don’t know, like removing a kidney or my taxes. It’s not that I couldn’t do it if I had to, but it wouldn’t be in my best interest. Some folks get all DIY when it comes to selling a house, I mean, how hard could it be, ey? Stick a sign in the yard, a couple snapshots on the Internet, throw some poor schmuck a few clams for an MLS input, then sit back and watch that baby sell.

As my old pal, Joe Friday, once said, “Ah, sure, but just like every other foaming, rabid psycho in this city with a foolproof plan, you’ve forgotten you’re facing the single finest fighting force ever assembled.” REALTORS®
The problem here stemmed from a lack of access to accurate data. Zillow, Trulia and the CMA done by the affable agent who sent the Broncos schedule doesn’t give a true representation of home value. My hunch is that they took the range provided by the neighborhood expert, added 20 to it for ‘negotiation’ and called it a day. They missed the mark in this game of real estate pricing horseshoes. By 35k . When our offer came in at market value and the appraisal backed it up they went into a tailspin, losing sight of the larger goal of selling their house. Every part of the negotiation was tinged with bitterness as dates, deadlines, inspection items; things that are standard part of the deal became emotional and difficult because they had no neutral party working on their behalf. A house is an emotional commodity and real estate transactions are a fine balance of the human and the business transaction. A good Realtor is adept at holding the deal in balance, by being rational, informed and calm. Our high-centered sellers almost lost the sale numerous times because they lacked the two most important things in the real estate process: accurate information and an advocate. Without these things you’re left vulnerable. Very vulnerable. Just like performing that kidney transplant with a Swiss Army knife and a yard of dental floss. It seems like a good idea at the time, but then you realize how much you don’t know.

Statistics show that 81% of FSBOs sign with an agent within 30 days, at least the smart ones. Because not only do you reduce your headache and legal liability with a REALTOR®, you actually make more money. Have I made my point? So if you’re considering a move in this hairy market, do yourself a favor and call a Realtor®, hopefully me, and ask a few questions.

Oh, and that cute couple? They made it to the closing table alright and are happily ensconced in their beautiful new home.

If this summer finds you  in or on the real estate market the two most important things you will need are a smart real estate agent and healthy dose of reality.  Sure the virtual tour and snappy flyer are pretty, but the market isn’t. Finding a ‘smart agent’ may not mean the guy who’s sent you Broncos schedules and sold your cul-de-sac for the past twenty years, or the bubble-headed blond on the bus bench. I’d rather you go with someone who has a keen sense of where the market is TODAY, not yesterday. Though our trending info charts and graphs show market improvement, no one knows  for certain where we’ll be next year. The agent who offers “certainty” is tap dancing.

With more than 80% of buyers beginning the home search on the Internet prior to contacting an agent, consumers no longer rely on Realtors to provide them with all the information, we now co-create the experience.

Buyers and sellers both benefit by seeking out an agent who can effectively gather and interpret all available information to define the goals and strategies before and during the transaction.  Being a good real estate agent is part instinct, part industry and finding one who does it as a full time job is a good sign they know the realities of today’s market. The key is to have an agent who is not afraid to tell you the truth.

Consider these examples of three areas where a reality check would be helpful.

1.) PROFIT.  A high-end home in one of Denver’s most desirable locations. The sellers have improved it considerably and have lived there long enough to have built some hefty equity.  Ideally they’d like to turn a nice profit and take advantage of the value available in the middle of the market to purchase a larger house in a more modest neighborhood. The problem here is that their beautiful home is sitting in line in the million dollar price point where the inventory is stockpiled to 365+ days on market with fewer banks approving  jumbo loans (over $417k). Experienced ‘flippers’ , they are not novice to the real estate transaction, so it seems logical to apply the strategies they’ve always used to sell their flips. Savvy as they are, it would be more effective to spend a bit of that equity and hire an agent with the skills and resources to reach the broadest pool of potential buyers increasing their ability to compete in a glutted market. Will they sell? Eventually. Will they get top dollar? Statistics say probably not. Will they achieve the desired outcome in the allotted time frame? Well, school starts in August…

2.) PRICE. Seller wants to sell a suburban home. Their segment of the market would be considered a balanced market with only five months of inventory, but even with its unique features the house needs some upgrades and is not selling. Though the home feels too big for the family and they’d like to move into a more manageable townhouse, there is little likelihood they’ll reach their goal if they don’t get real about the price. Here is where a realistic Realtor tells the tricky truth: A house is not a product, like a hamburger, so marketing alone will not sell it. Your house is an emotional commodity. It is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, not what you’d like to net. Harsh as it is, if you need more down on your new place, you’ll have to figure it out. Improved the property and trying to cover the cost? Forget about it. Stop living in your own personal snow globe and put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. Would you pay more because it’s what the seller needs? No, you’ll either keep shopping for the bargain you feel good about, or pay more for the neighbor’s house with the upgrades already in place.

3.) PRESSURE. As missed mortgage payments stack up, so does the stress. You’ve done all you can to keep up, postponed the pit a year ago with a loan modification but it’s still too much. You hire a knowledgeable agent who is able to convey your options and the pros/cons of each strategy and you decide on pursuing a short sale. Experience and market chops tell your perspicacious agent that there’s not another house in the neighborhood like yours and she’s right. Within a week four offers come in, forcing a bidding war on a ‘highest and best offer’ deadline. She gets more than she asks for, but the bank is further along in the foreclosure process than you realized. Reality bites. Better the sting of the short sale than the heartache of foreclosure, but time must be on your side.

The housing market always has a bit of the “smoke and mirrors” to it (not to be confused with a house with smoked mirrors). Sorting through opinion, sales tactics, experts and statistics to glean the facts can be a daunting task for the smart consumer and agent alike. Research is only as good as the information you come up with and strategies are often based on information. Try to make sure you do your work and find someone  willing to do theirs as well, and don’t replace the real estate bubble with a real estate Bubble-head.