Friday, September 11, 2015

Zillow? Trulia?

Zillow... Trulia  These sites are probably here to stay.  And I suppose they serve some sort of purpose.  (Yup... they generate a LOT of money... for Zillow and Trulia by professing to offer information and advice).

These sites also spend a lot of money so that if you "Google"  "I want to buy a house in Albany NY"... their sites appear at the top of the list.  I'm pretty certain that if  you "Google" I want to buy a house in Albany NY my name won't be at the top of the list... even though I've been a real estate professional a lot longer than any of those sites were even being thought of!  I COULD pay the search engines money to insure that my name shows up in the top portion of the lists, but I don't.


Why?  Because I am certain that real estate IS local.  The people you need to get in touch with are the people that are in THOSE trenches.  Day in and day out.  They know how much houses go for.  They know which ones are currently on the market... and having sold three months ago!  And now, nearly everyone uses a buyer's agent in this quest.  As an example, my sister in law and her husband were thinking about selling their house in the Binghamton NY area, and they called me for some advice.  My most prominate suggestion was to speak to a local agent.  I told them I had no real feel for that market and I would be doing them a dis-service by giving them that kind of advice.  So, I did some research for them and came up with a couple of names.  they had heard of one of them and they decided to contact her and proceed.  with a LOCAL professional.

So, when we have a potential seller tell us they checked their house out on Zillow... "... and it says my house is worth....",  we know that we can "hear" them, but we will check it out and come up with what is probably a more accurate analysis.

When a buyer calls us and says, "Hey I saw this home on Zillow..."  We know that there is a strong possibility that  it's either not on the market at all, or the information is erroneous. 

Simple solution here folks... Get in touch with someone directly involved in the market. And not necessarily someone whose picture and contact information show up when you're on that site doing a search...  those people PAY for that to happen.  Doesn't mean they are all that familiar or all that good... they PAY for that.

Talk to someone in your area.  Ask them who they have used or know of.  then take it from there.

Real estate is local.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Too much advice can make your life sooooo confusing.   I have come to the conclusion that too much advice can really slow things down.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not an advocate of "Full speed ahead... damn the torpedoes!". But I do know that many of our clients, after they have listed their house for sale, or after they have engaged the services of a Realtor to buy a house tend to want to talk about it. And why not? Let's face it.  It's exciting! It's stressful!  It's difficult!  It's all that.  So what happens?  They go to a BarBQue and their friend says, "Hey. I hear you're selling your house."  Then it starts.  They get all this unsolicited advice.  "Mu agent did this..."  "You should do this..."  "Oh your house should be way more than that..."  "Make sure your agent does..." 

I'm hoping by this time you have placed your trust in your Realtors hands. You met with your Realtor and you got the sense that they knew what they were doing.  You got the sense that there was a plan.  You understood the approach.  You just wanted your agent to use the resource he or she had and get the job done.  Now, you were able to go on with the rest of your life.

Of course the majority of the advice you seem to be getting is well intended.  From someone who cares about you. Someone who is interested in your well being.  But, to the point?  Your Realtor does this sort of thing day in and day out.  In fact he or she has probably seen situations very similar to yours on several occasions.  Most of them have gone through extensive training to get to where they are today.  And they have an army of support in their office.

And quite frankly real estate agents are wired to serve.  It's what they want to do.  They want to make a successful result out of this.  More than anything in the world.

So, what am I driving at? 

T   R   U   S   T

Trust your agent to take the lead on your real estate needs.  He or she will use their infinite wisdom and experience, coupled with all their resources, to steer you in the right direction.

Don't let your neighbor who sold his house 20 years ago, or the person who was watching that real estate show last night on TV, or that well intended uncle who had a brother in law who was married to a woman who was the secretary in a real estate office... ten years ago, confuse you.  Keep the lines of communication open with your Realtor and follow their advice.  You'll go to a closing!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No charge.... really... no charge... happy to do it!

A bunch of years ago a couple of my associates and I decided to start up a new real estate company.  Now the Albany area already had a bunch of real estate companies, so why?  We were leading the way for two things...  Understanding and advocating buyer representation AND the "un-bundling" of services.  When we went public that October Real Estate Group was actually open we got a call.  A very surprising and unexpected call.  Bob Howard, President and CEO of Bob Howard Real Estate was on the line. Bob Howard was one of the largest and most successful real estate owners we had seen around here.  He instructed my partner to call his executive VP and General Manager and tell him we were to have access to his storage garage in Delmar.  In that garage was all sorts of office stuff...  desks, phones, file cabinets, chairs...  We were to be able to take whatever we thought would be helpful.  "Oh, and all the best of luck to you folks... I admire what you're doing." When I saw him a few weeks later and asked him why, he just smiled and said, "I hope you will do something like this for someone else someday."

We were blown away.  And to this day when I see Bob, I remind him of his generosity that helped us get started. (Incidentally when I do, he usually holds his hand up as if to say, 'Please... don't mention it" and just smiles)  October Real Estate Group enjoyed an eleven year ride and certainly some measurable success... thanks in part to unsolicited help from a self made man who seems to just "get it".

So I just read this article by Jeff Haden for Inc.  And you know what?  I could not have said it better... so I'm sharing it with you!

If you don’t devote a small percentage of your time to working for free, you’re making a mistake.

Most entrepreneurs don’t do pro bono work.

(By pro bono I don’t mean for charity, I mean for another entrepreneur.)

A friend swears “pro bono” is Latin for “no way.” He says, “I’m against the idea of anyone working for free. As a more colorful person said, there are two kinds of articles on Huffington Post: Those that shouldn’t be written at all, and those that are too good to give away. I don’t think anyone should give away their profession.”

You probably agree. You invested significant time and money into your business or profession. You provide value.You should receive value in return. But sometimes free is valuable.

Aside from simply doing something nice for the sake of doing something nice (which has a value all its own) here are other reasons why occasionally working for free—or for a big discount—can still provide value to you in return:

You get to stretch. Your processes are solid. Your operations are optimized. You’re a fine-tuned machine. You’re also a little stale and stuck in your ways.

People who can’t afford to pay you often have, um, unusual needs. Unlike most of your clients, they’re struggling. Help them and you’ll see and do some things you would otherwise never experience. Not only will you benefit from what you learn, so will all your other customers.
And you might discover opportunities you never knew existed.

You get to be scared. It’s easy to forget how fortunate you are. Help a person whose business is on the brink of failing and you’ll remember the true meaning of “urgent.” The experience will help ground you… and help you see your own business from a different perspective.

You get to be creative. A person who needs help does not deal from a position of strength. Your standard techniques or strategies don’t apply. You’ll need to find new ways to leverage limited resources and transform weaknesses into strong points.

You get to flex an atrophied muscle. You’re successful. You have a team and infrastructure in place. You can throw money at certain problems. You can call in favors. Some customers do business with you just because it’s comfortable.

People who need help have none of that going for them. Often they’ve made poor decisions and have limited choices. The only approach that might work is a practical approach. Using common sense and finding creative solutions are core strengths for a good entrepreneur—exercise those muscles.

You get to do the right thing. No, you can’t help everyone. No, you can’t give all your time away.
Yes, you can help a few people who really need help—just like, somewhere along the way, someone went out of his way to help you. You remember how that felt. Pass it on.

You get to be a hero. You rarely get feedback when performing well is an expectation. Help someone who needs a hand and their thanks will be sincere and heartfelt.

Can’t beat that.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Here's One... But Not About Real Estate

A friend of mine in the mortgage business ( I won't say who but who's initials are Dina Trahan with 1stPriority Mortgage 518-348-6900 sent me this thought... I wanted to share it with you:

Thanks DT!


The most famous "thought about" and "talked about" day is tomorrow. For some it is filled with hope and cannot come fast enough.  For others, it is the day of reckoning when they must be held accountable for the transgressions of the past and all the things that were never completed.  I believe for the most successful among us, tomorrow has little meaning other than the things we plan to accomplish, the key word being "plan."  The most unproductive among us, use tomorrow as one more excuse in a long list of excuses.  "I will do it tomorrow" has to be one of the most repeated sentences of mankind.  It also represents the single greatest difference in the ability to achieve our hopes and dreams.  If there is one skill the most successful and happy people possess it is the ability to utilize "today" to the fullest.

Time is the great equalizer.  The rich man receives no more of it than the poor man.  At the end of the day the same minutes have ticked from the clock for every human being.  So how do some people accomplish so much more in the same time period?  The answers are numerous, but one thing is true.  How you use today is the key to all your future success.  You can talk about time management and organizational skills and they are certainly important, but the key is "leverage."

Time leverage is the ability to squeeze the most activity out of the smallest amount of time.  Some people are masters at time leverage!  Let's look at how you can become one of these "time masters."
First, plan your day.  If you do not, your day will control you with crisis and unforeseen diversions.  Do this the night before or that morning.  As you plan your day keep the following in mind:

*    Plan to do the most important tasks first and try to do it before the work day starts if possible.
*    Make sure you have outlined the exact action steps that will allow you to complete your most important tasks.
*    Review your major goals when you plan.  Make sure you have at least one of your major tasks related to the main goals.
*    Define the activities that will yield you the biggest results and just do them!

Second, honor your time.  Stop letting other people and things waste the most important minutes and hours.  Here are a few hints:

*    Stop checking e-mail every ten minutes.  Decide when is the best time to check e-mail and develop an e-mail system of folders so you can easily find things.
*    Group your phone calls together if possible and make as many calls as possible at one time.  Also return your calls quickly but all at once if possible.
*    Do not let others sit around and waste your time with idle talk.  Be polite but stern when you tell them you have a lot on your plate.
*    Take one hour each day behind closed doors or away where you can concentrate on the goals and objections you must finish.
*    Have a top notch organizational system so you are not looking for things that you have misplaced.  This often takes at least an hour a day just looking for "stuff."

Third, when tasks come up that are unexpected, evaluate them and decide what you can do within a few minutes and just do them, and decide what is going to take longer and assign a time to complete the tasks.

Last, check your list of most important tasks midday and decide what corrections you need to make.  Stop right then and accomplish at least one of your most important tasks.  Do not let the day finish without knowing you have accomplished what is most important.  At the end of the day review what you have done, do one more task before you end your day and prepare to start again tomorrow.

There is nothing new about these things, but just by having this simple plan you will leverage time effectively and double what you get done in a day!  Success comes from doing the things that others never get to!  Start leveraging your time today!   

Hope you liked this... Zap me a note if  you want some real esatte help... or even if you just want to say "Hey!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Buyers!....Take Your Time

As real estate agents we spend a lot of time and effort with our sellers.  Especially in the beginning.  We closely inspect the home with intense scrutiny.  We make suggestions.  We research the market. We discuss all the possible events that may and probably will take place. We literally spend hours before the property even goes on the market.

We are finally realizing that we need to this with our buyer clients as well.  I think we took it for granted that our buyers understood how it was all going to go down.  So what did we do?  We just whisked them up and took them out to look at properties.  And when they saw one they liked... We rushed to the office to fill out enough paperwork to choke a horse!

Frankly, that scenario can be very confusing... for the buyer AND the agent.  there's a sense of urgency and we all know we shouldn't make important decisions under any kind of duress.

So here's my suggestion.  Set up a "consultation" with your agent.

Your agent should take the time to get to know you.  I'm big on this adage: "They don't care what you know... until they know you care"  So take time to get a feel for the kind of person your agent is.  Guess what?  They should be doing the same sort of thing.  The agent will get a feel for your  likes... your dislikes... and what your motivations might be.

Your agent should take the time to explain agency. Actually, the law requires it.  As an informed consumer, I'm pretty certain that you will want to be represented in the purchase, so you will ask your agent to conduct your real estate affairs as a "Buyer's Agent".  The topic of signing an exclusive buyer's agency agreement will most likely come up here.  Your agent can help you to understand how this relationship can benefit you.

The contract to purchase is also a pretty complicated document, and this is not a bad time to go over it... paragraph by paragraph.  this way when time comes to actually sign one... it will be a little familiar to you!

It is also important for a buyer to realize that only 1 in 21 contracts ever get accepted as they are written.  your Realtor will explain how the offer is presented and what might happen, as in counter offers... multiple offers... short sales.... cash offers... etc.  Once you write that purchase offer up it can get kind of emotional.  If you and your agent took the time beforehand to discuss how it all can go, you might feel a "little" better about what's happening (or not happening).

Financing is also very very important before you go out.  Sure, you may have already had some discussions with a lender.  And maybe you even got pre-qualified.  But your agent works every day with these professionals.  A quick discussion may evolve into you getting a better situation, or it may result in you feeling confident that you have the best terms currently available!

Most certainly your initial consultation will include you discussing the particulars of your next home.  What you absolutely have to include... and maybe what you'd like to have...  You know... that wants and needs talk...

So this whole consultation can take a little bit of time.  But you know what?  It's going to be worth it!  You'll feel better and your agent will have a much clearer idea of where it is you want to go.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

OK... One more time....

We've talked about it before.  I keep seeing so many houses that look like one big unmade bed.... YA HAVE TO MAKE IT SHINE!

There are too many houses out there to choose from for you, as a seller, to think you don't need to get your home up to showing state!

Clear the shelves and counters.  Really? a half liter of Mountain Dew?

Empty the trash. Don't leave a full waste basket!

Pick up the living room.

Make the beds.

Shoes? strewn all over? Nice. NOT!

And the bathrooms! Clean the mirrors. Toilet seats down. Towels at a minimum... not hanging over the shower rod.  Pick up around the sink and make it look like you have lots of room there to shave and brush your teeth! I think you know about an open tube of toothpaste too, right?

Get rid of out of season clothes. ( take 'em to your mom's house if you need to!)

Mow the lawn.

Clean windows.

Smudges around door knobs and cabinet handles?  Scrub them!

Porch full of shoes 'n stuff?  Nope... clean entryway.

Same goes for stairwells.  That is NOT where you put everything!

Pets?  Take em for a walk.  And I love pets... but a lot of buyers don't. Especially the way they might smell!

Kids? Don't tell them to sit in front of the TV in the family room and be quiet!  Take them out for ice cream!

Don't leave your mail out!  Even if it's neatly stacked!

Extension cords should be nowhere to be seen!

Don't stuff everything in the closets either!  Did you think they wouldn't look????

Loose door handles are a sure sign you don't take care of other stuff as well.

Look up. At the vent in the bathroom.  Fuzzy looking?  Clean it!

Pictures and magnets all over the fridge?  Not good.  Get rid of em!

Here's an idea... set the dining room table like you're getting ready to entertain the Queen of England... a fresh vase of flowers might help too.

Come on folks... I hear that some agenst feel like you should invest 1% of your asking price into making the house look better.

Sorry don't mean to nag, but I've got buyers that are questioning whether or not you're serious about selling.  And when they go into one of those houses that has been set up properly, they say, "Wow, Steve... nice place here!"...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Just because it's sold doesn't mean you can let your guard down...

You know, we go through a lot of effort making our homes ready to show don't we?  The reason is obvious.  We're gonna have company.  Total strangers coming through our house! In fact, strangers that need to be impressed, because they just might be the buyers.

So, as any good agent would do, we tell our clients to "unclutter", "paint", "throw out", "simplify", "stage"... all that stuff.  Terry Watson, renown advice giver said at a recent seminar I was at, "If I can smell it, I can't sell it!"

So depending on your circumstances, you had to endure a period of time where you felt like you were living in Buckingham Palace.  Can't put your feet up... no underwear on the floor... make the bed!... toilet seat down... get that stuff off the counter.

But, now your house is sold. Finally!  We can relax!


We've got two more hurdles.  There is probably going to be home inspection (sometimes called a structural inspection)... then there's probably going to be an appraisal.  Both of these events are very very VERY critical.  So do yourself a huge favor.  Set up your home as if it was a first time showing to a potential buyer!  Yup! that's right.  Because the person who comes in to do the home inspection and the person doing the appraisal is just as impressionable as any buyer.

So make it shine.  Everytime someone related to the outcome comes in... then, you can relax!  For more reasons than one!

There you have it!  Hope this helps you.  Like me on Facebook if you get a chance and if you want to make a comment on this or any of my blogs... have at it!  Rock on friends!