Archive 2008 - 2019

Real Estate News and Comment

by Peter Liffiton, P.E.

 DO IT NOW – Get ready for snow
 FREE ADVICE – How to find out what your house is worth
 I WANT YOU TO KNOW - All Realtors are ethical....?

 It may be time for a new political party.  I think we should call it the "Compromise or Get Out of The Way" party.  On November 2nd we ended what had to be the nastiest campaign period in our nation's history.  Negative campaigning and demonizing of candidates forced voters to choose among candidates, all of whom were assuming polarizing positions in an effort to win.  Will those elected now drop their polarizing positions and work together?  Can they even do that and hope to be re-elected?  Unfortunately, probably not but one can hope.

If you are over 21 you have already learned that very few things in life are "black and white." Rather things fall into the "gray" area.  The vast majority of voters are in that "gray" area, but don’t find any candidates there.  Yes, I know it is naïve to think there could ever be such a candidate.  But the country elected President Obama on nothing more than hope, so we can still "hope" such a candidate might have the courage to seek the "middle of the road," and be willing and able to compromise.  If you do find such a person, please encourage and support that person.

If you think about it, every home purchase is a compromise, and usually a successful one at that.  The buyer and seller negotiate price, terms, conditions, timing, etc. and come to an understanding that both accept or there is no deal.  Every element of that deal is a compromise between what is best for the seller and what is best for the buyer.  When the compromise is achieved, both sides are satisfied.  Ah, but that political compromises might be as easy. 

DO IT NOW – Get ready for snow
 We haven't had any snow yet, but it can be here at any time.  So here is a list to help you be prepared:
1.  Put a small shovel in your trunk.  You might not be able to use it well, but the person stopping to help you may.
2.  Change your wiper blades if they are more than a year or two old.  Last year's icy windshield probably ripped up the edges of your blades and by now they are dried out and not wiping well enough for night driving in snow or rain.
3.  Put an ice scraper and brush in you car.  Not in the trunk where you can't get at it easily.  You WILL need them!
4.  Check your tire pressure.  Soft tires slide more easily than firm tires and firm tires can better cut through the snow.
5.  Fill your windshield washer reservoir.  Is it full already?  Are you sure?  A 100 mile drive in slush and snow can empty a washer pretty quickly.
6.  A final item to keep in the car is a pair of jumper cables for starting in case your battery dies.  Cold weather is hardest on car batteries.  Even with a dead battery a car can be started with the help of jumper cables to another car.

 FREE ADVICE - How to find out what your house is worth 
What is the best way to find out what my house is worth?  A friend recently asked me this at the same time suggesting that he hire an appraiser to evaluate his property.  I agreed to answer him in this newsletter.  While a licensed appraiser will perform a well-detailed and documented appraisal of your property, it is not the only approach.  The appraiser will evaluate what the market value of your property is at the point in time at which the appraisal is performed.  They will charge a fee for this service, usually $200 or more.  This compensates them, not just for their time, but also for their professional opinion usually based on years of experience and rigorous licensing requirements. 

But there is another approach.  In an effort to have the opportunity to make a sales presentation to you, hoping to obtain a listing contract to sell your property, almost any Real Estate agent will offer to give you a recommended asking price for your property at no cost or obligation to you.  This is NOT the same as an appraisal.  It differs in two significant respects.  First, a Real Estate agent is not licensed to give you an "appraisal."  They will, however, give you an "opinion of value" that you may "value" (i.e. "judge") based on the agent's experience, how rigorously the agent approached the evaluation, and how well the agent explained the evaluation process he/she followed.  Second, a Real Estate agent will usually not just evaluate for a point in time, but will knowledgably advise on the market direction and how that should affect the recommended asking price (which may be higher or lower than the appraised price, based on market direction). 

You may depend on a single appraiser to obtain an "Appraised Value."  You should consult no less than two, and preferably three, Real Estate agents for an "opinion of value" unless you know the agent very well and know both his/her experience in giving recommended asking prices, and his/her evaluation methods.  For a buyer, a Realtor can perform a similar analysis on a property the buyer is considering for purchase.

I WANT YOU TO KNOW – All Realtors are ethical....?
All nationally registered Realtors have to take an ethics course. Seriously, it is a requirement for our licenses.  And after taking the course, we are, of course, then "ethical."  Now someone who is already ethical may find it just a bit hard to swallow that a person can just sit in a room, listen to a four hour course, and then claim to be an "Ethical Realtor."  But, honestly, that is all that is required.  It should actually be called a course in how to stay "legal" since most serious ethics violations are also legal violations.  But it is the "gray" areas I want you to be aware of; those things that aren't illegal but may not be quite honest either. 

The Realtor profession is rife with examples of "not quite honest" agents who give the rest of us a really bad reputation.  While they are an extremely small percentage of all agents, they are out there and if you do not rigorously research your choice of a Realtor, you may be working with one.  So, sellers, you should make sure you have all the comparable data to know how your property stacks up against the others on the market.  And buyers, you should make sure you have all the comparable data to know how the property you might want to buy stacks up against similar properties that have recently been sold.  Expect this information from your Realtor, and expect regular contact.  Never be concerned about asking "hard" questions.  You have a lot at stake!

Peter Liffiton, P.E.
Registered Professional Engineer

I hope, for you, this will be a regular source of news, information, and opinion regarding local real estate.  I don&r