Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ever thought of signing a Buyer Agreement with an agent?

I suspect that most of you that might be reading this blog know that you can call just about any real estate office and ask the agent to show you a house(or houses) and they will.

Now, they might ask you some prying questions like... "Have you been pre-approved?" "Are you currently working with a real estate agent?".... And if you say yes to the first question and no to the second... well, you're probably off to the races. Races, indeed.

This is a somewhat cavalier and casual way to go about spending what could be the the most money you will ever spend in your life, don't you think? Depending on where you live, presumably hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Pretty serious stuff isn't it?

So what would happen if you called a Realtor and said this: "We are thinking about buying a house. And we would like to interview you to discuss what services you have to offer."?

I would hope that the next step would be an appointment at the Realtor's office to sit down and discuss the process. The discussion should include what you can expect from the agent and his/her firm. How long this relationship will last. What steps might be taken to terminate that agreement, if necessary. What the fee would be and how it would be paid. Also what this agent would be doing to find the suitable inventory. What type of agency relationship is this going to be? Most likely the firm will be a buyer's agent, but the agency will need to be discussed and disclosed.

The agent, I would hope, will explain the process and how his/her firm will support you with their resources and support staff. The agent, if they have enough experience will have a significant knowledge of the market and certainly will have available to them any and all professionals that might be needed to pull this project together.

So, my question is concerning having a written agreement. It has been my observation that clients who sign this type of agreement, transcend from a casual and cavalier relationship to a more structured and serious arrangement. With a more structured plan the client has confidence that their representative is looking after their account daily... scouring the market to find potential properties.

Give it some thought... if you are really serious about finding a house. Ask your Realtor if they will sign this agreement. If they don't or won't... does it make you wonder?

Monday, November 30, 2009

First time buyers! How about a two family?

You know, we are seeing quite a few young buyer-wannabes expressing some frustration. The banks are a little tougher on them. It really is harder to get approved for a mortgage these days.

So, some of the agents in my office were talking the other day and they are offering an alternative to these young first timers.... How about a two, or maybe three, or even four unit? You live in it, and collect rents from the other unit(s)! The banks will consider the potential rents as part of your qualifying... it will vary from institution to institution as to how much of the income can be projected to be used in your qualifying for a mortgage.

Now, you may notice I stopped at FOUR units here. That's because once you go to five or more units most banks will consider the property to be of a "commercial" nature and their loan packages vary significantly. They usually want a larger down payment (20 %)... they also may change the length of the loan and their right to call the note.... the interest rate may be subject to market indexes as well.

But think about this... You buy a house for say, 175K.... put 5% down... So you have a principal of $166,250.... At 5% rate you are looking at $892.47 principal and interest for your payment. Of course you will have to pay property taxes and insure the building... But think about how much you are paying in rent at your apartment right now.. $450?... $600?.... $800? If someone else is paying that to YOU... what's your net cost for living in the building you own... and the tax advantages you are getting... and the appreciation of the value building!

So you buy the building, live in it while you are building up equity and saving money for that single family home down the road....

Now this is a blog. It's not a detailed scenario that covers all the aspects... but it might be an idea that you may want to pass by your real estate agent!

Pretty good way to get started! Call your favorite agent today!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Home Buyers' Tax Credit

So... the Feds are saying this as of 10/29/09....

The plan might still change .

For now the details:
# Income eligibility for home buyers increases to $125,000 for individuals and $225,000 for couples.
# The tax credit for first-time home buyers (anyone who has not owned in the last 3 years) will be the lesser of $8,000 or 10% of the purchase price.
# For move-up buyers - "who have lived in their current home for at least five years" - the credit would be limited to $6,500.
# The credit runs from Dec. 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010, with an additional 60 day period to close escrow. (So end of April to sign contract, end of June to close escrow)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Now, more than ever !

Now more than ever you need to tighten up your position when you are selling your home. There is too much information out there. Yup! I said "too much". Now, you might be thinking that you can never get too much information. Maybe I should clarify here and say "too much UNRELIABLE information"...

Just the other morning I listened to this "real estate mogul" telling everyone houses were flying off the market! And quoting statistics that need a little more than just a quick quip or bumper sticker analysis.

What am I getting at? Now, more than ever, you need a professional to give you the true picture of what is happening in YOUR market. A phrase that is quickly getting old, but is true: "Real estate is local". And your real estate agent had better understand the local market! If you suspect he or she doesn't, it might be time to look for another professional. Someone who is paying attention, someone who has the resources, someone who you can trust to keep up on YOUR market.

Just because you read on some Internet site that a house like yours in Valley Falls is work $XXXXXXXXXX doesn't mean it really is. Heck, I went to one of those sites and checked out my own house and it was ridiculously overvalued by their analysis.... In fact that was what got me thinking about this blog. That and the talking head telling America what was going on in the real estate world as if it were all one community.

So, now, more than ever: Get together with a real estate professional that you know... that is serious about the business... that has pride in his/her profession. And listen to them. They know.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Be careful on the internet

The other day, one of my real estate agents came to me and told me this story:

"I got a call from a young (sounding) girl who wanted to see the property I have listed on such and such street for rent. I told her that it was for sale and NOT for rent. She asked my why it said it was for rent on the Internet then. I told her it shouldn't, so I went onto our site and checked it out... It didn't say 'for rent'! I also checked out the data on the Multiple Listing Service and same results! So I called her back and asked her where she had seen this. 'Craig's List' was her response. The info on Craig's List told a story of someone being shipped, in the military, overseas and they needed to rent immediately. It went on to instruct her to send a money order to secure the lease..."

Well, this girl got lucky. She found the address on the RealtyUSA website and called the listing agent. She got through to him and he was able to figure out that this was an Internet scam! Otherwise she would have sent the money order (because it was an incredibly good deal, and she didn't want to lose out)... and she would have been taken.

What does this tell you?

Do business with PEOPLE! If you can... people you know! Or you got referred to. BUT be very very very VERY (emphasis on VERY) careful about this type of thing you see on the Internet. Warn your kids... friends, etc.

How does this happen? It's easy. A bad person gets on any real estate site... steals the info, sometimes even the pictures... and sets up a way for people to send them money. With absolutely no intention of ever helping them find an apartment or house!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

We put in an offer... where's the response!!???

Seems to be mini epidemic in my profession.

I am hearing of agents submitting offers to other real estate "professionals" [note here I put quotations around the word professionals because I feel that agents that conduct themselves in the manner of which I am describing are anything BUT professional]and they are not getting a response.


The seller wants to sell the house doesn't he? Why is there no response?

There can be many answers to this question... some of them reasons... some of them excuses... some of them true... and some of them lies.

Let's take a look at just some of the answers:

1. "My clients haven't gotten back to ME yet."
2. "My cell phone battery died."
3. "My client is out of town and difficult to get a hold of."
4. "We are not going to respond because there are more showings to take place."
5. "We are going to wait until after the Open House this weekend."
6. "We are not going to dignify that offer with any counter."
7. "I'm told we have another offer coming in."
8. "Your offer is too low."
9. "I called you back... didn't you get my message/email?"
10. "I have someone else interested."

That's just ten... a sampling of what we might hear. Meanwhile, you as buyer, sit and wait, and... let's be honest here... start to wonder about YOUR agent.

Understand these facts:

ALL offers that are submitted to a listing agent in writing MUST be presented. Please understand a verbal or oral offer is not binding.

In most areas the purchase contract includes a "Time Period of The Offer" clause. This means the sellers have a specified period of time to respond. If they do not respond within that time frame, the purchasers have the right to move on. IF the seller responds after the time frame, the purchasers have the option of accepting or even ignoring that delayed counter or acceptance even. So how much time should you give a seller to respond? Under normal circumstances a day is adequate. If they do need more time the agent may respond that, "We might need to have a little more time than the contract allows for, can we move that Time Period Of The Offer a little?"

By the way, there is usually a form available that can be given to the listing agency requesting that they have their client sign which verifies that they were, indeed, made aware of the offer.

It's too bad that this kind of topic has to be talked about, but unfortunately there are agents that are not taking their fiduciary obligation seriously.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Help me, PLEASE

I'm looking for your help here. I am two people.

I am a Realtor who makes a living when people buy and sell homes.

I am a thinking and rational adult who pays taxes.

The government... locally and nationally seem to feel that the public needs an "incentive" to go out and buy houses. So, in their collective infinite wisdom, they offer tax breaks and even MONEY back... if you will go out and buy a house.

Yeah! I make money because I help people to buy and sell houses!

Oh no! I lose money because I am a taxpayer, who's taxes keep going through the roof and it's those very taxes that are funding these "incentives".

So how should I feel about this? Happy? Frustrated?

Listen, I am all for anyone being able to buy a home. And just like anything else in life, you should probably not buy something you cannot afford. Simple rule right?

Well, these incentives seem to be targeted at persons that have shown a history of not being able to manage their money... more specifically, not being able to figure out how to save enough money to buy a house. This saving thing involves something that most Americans do not want to do anymore.... WAIT. We want it all and we want it NOW. And our governments agree. We should ALL have it now. "Oh, you haven't saved enough money? Here... you can borrow it from us... or a bank that WE have loaned money to."

Still, I feed my family by selling real estate. So if the government or some other entity wants to throw out a program or embark on a project that moves people to buy or sell houses... I should be happy.

Yes? No?

Help me! I'm two people!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I know he's an attorney and I know he's your uncle... but DON'T do it!

So here's the scene... The buyers want to buy a house in Albany, NY. They are using a local Realtor and that's all cool. When they find the house that fits they tell the Realtor their uncle, who is an attorney from back home where they grew up, will write up the offer. Now, around these parts, the real estate agents write up the offers. In some parts of the state and the country, it is otherwise, but in the Capital Region it's the agents that do the contract.

What does the agent do? It is very difficult to tell a client that their uncle, who is all well meaning and good, that this is not a good idea. Especially if this uncle is planning on using the agreement that is customarily used in his area. It confuses people. In fact it often has features and clauses that the local Realtors have never seen.

What do people do when they see something they are are not familiar with? They back away. We, obviously don't want that reaction from the sellers, but sometimes we can't talk them off the wall.

Simple approach: When in Rome... do as the Romans do. Simpler approach: Use a local attorney familiar with the ins and outs and the idiosyncrasies of the area you're purchasing in... It will be in your best interest in the long run!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


You know, I had an opportunity the other day to visit some folks who were considering selling their house. They had been given my name by a past client and they wanted to meet me. So, I went to their place and they gave me the tour. And we talked about what they wanted to do. In the course of our meeting I explained what my role was, what resources I had available to me and what I would do for them.

They told me, on the way out that they were also going to interview another agent. I know most of the agents who are "really" in the business, as I have been doing this since 1982. I did not recognize the name and they told me that she was a friend and co-worker who does this part time.

Now, I told them I don't blame them for giving her a shot. In fact, I would expect that a prudent person would interview more than one agent. But I also told them that I have in the past, observed people use someone else, for various reasons... "they're my friend"... "it's my brother's neighbor"... "they gave me a really good rate".... That kind of stuff. And I have had times when I genuinely felt sorry for them, because I knew that they would not get as good representation as they deserve. This also happens from time to time when one of my agents tells me the seller (or buyer) chose to work with someone else. I KNOW we can do the best job. I also have become aware of individuals and organizations who do not seem to embrace the same work ethic as we do. I, however, would never throw anyone in... it's just not very classy and I feel is bad business.

So I told my wife about what I said... I tell her EVERYTHING. She said that would have turned her off. Now, my daughter who is 25 was listening in and she said that she would want to hear that. She pointed out to her mother that you want someone who is confident.

So, that is what I'm blogging to you today... Look for confidence in your agent. Someone who KNOWS they can get the job done. You might be paying a little more than others might charge, but you want someone to get the job done and get it done efficiently and in in a timely and professional manner!

Good luck... email me or call me if you have any questions or thoughts!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

They turned down your offer?

So, you put pen to paper, as they say, and the agent is telling you that the sellers gave you a big, fat, "NO!".

Was it a decent offer? I mean pretty reasonable?

Don't sweat it.

Let 'em sleep on it.

I've seen many a time that either the next day or so the sellers' agent gets in touch to try to re-visit the proposal. Don't get all excited here... they probably still aren't going to take your offer as written, but they at least are willing to talk a little. Maybe come closer to your terms.

So there's my advice. Sit tight. You might be surprised as to how it all comes together!


Thursday, May 14, 2009


Around the Albany, NY area it is that time of year that you can have a talk with your local tax department and discuss your taxes.

From May 1-26 you can go through a process known as "grieve your taxes". This is process designed to allow property owners to approach the assessor's office, look at other property owners' taxes and assessments and make a case to have their assessment (taxes) lowered.

Now, don't get the wrong idea here. You aren't going to gouge The Man here. It's a process to promote fairness. So what you are doing is looking at other properties that are similar to yours... think: square footage, number of bedrooms, closeness of proximity to you, improvements such as garages , pools, decks, sheds. Then if you discover that there are many homes assessed less than yours, well, you may have a case. Then the onus is on you to fill out the proper forms and submit them to the assessor's office. Different areas have different procedures. You may be able to meet with a representative from the assessor's office directly to plead your case, or you may just send the form in. I have gone in on a few occasions and met the assesor's rep in person. I like the one on one approach. Although sometimes I felt like the rep was taking it personally!

Anyway, you might look into the tax situation and find out that your tax assessment is fair! Or better yet... you might actually be low! By the way, if you just bought recently you should know about the WELCOME STRANGER ruling. I'll tell you about that later or you can contact me as to how the courts view re-assessing properties that were just acquired!

Bottom line is this... save yourself some money... look at your assessment. May is usually the month to do it!

Peace out!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hey Real Estate Dude! You need to Work HARDER!

My rambling today is centered on a remark I heard a friend exclaim, as he is frustrated with the "non-results" of his engagement of another real estate agent to sell his home. He questioned, "Why can't these real estate people just work harder?!!" .... (to get his home sold). He declared that his agent had agreed to list his house at a certain price and now all the agent is doing is trying to get him to reduce, reduce, reduce!

And I thought about this for a while. I thought about the 22 or so agents that work out of my office. And I thought about the hundreds of agents I have known and met in those years. I know they work hard, because I've watched them. They put a ton of effort into helping buyers and sellers alike. They perennially do whatever they need to do to get the job done. Sometimes it's draining. And sometimes it almost breaks them!

But I kind of knew where this guy was coming from. In a previous life, the real estate agent could hustle. They really "worked" a buyer over.... convincing them that this real estate was a screaming good deal! They could get the buyer to believe that this deal was so hot that they had better jump on it or they were going to lose out! They seemed to be able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!

And they turned over every stone to find a buyer! Sometimes going door to door. Talking up their listings everywhere they went.

Enter the computer. Enter new technology. Enter public access to records and statistics. Enter , get this... buyer representation!

In today's real estate arena, you can't put a higher price on a property and realistically hope that some "rube" will come along and pay it! The buyers have SO much information available to them! They have an agent to counsel them. And even if they did cruise in and pay more than market value, the bank will probably stop them, either by way of the appraisal, or terms that the buyer can't meet! Not to mention an attorney might be reviewing the contract and ask their client if they researched the market, or at least ask them how they came about that price!

So what does an agent need to do to make a seller like I mentioned earlier in this blog, happy? They need to work hard in the beginning. The first and most important thing they need to do is they need to work hard in counseling their clients in proper pricing. A good agent knows this and does this right out of the gate. And they need to be frank with the seller about cleaning up and getting the house ready for the market.

But let me tell you what a weak agent does. A weak agent visits the client and has not developed the confidence it takes to tell the client what they need to hear. The weak agent falls victim to allowing the seller to dictate the asking price based on what they want... not on what the market will bear. Now a weak agent may go into the listing opportunity fully aware of the market, but wants , so desperately, to get the listing, that they will agree to any number the seller puts up. They have not learned, or don't have the guts to explain the facts and be prepared to walk away from an impossible situation. They might even think, "I'll take this listing at this inflated price because I know the sellers will eventually reduce to find the true market value." But what does this do? It does a lot of things, and most of them are bad. It misleads the sellers. "Sure, we can put it on for that figure." They hear, "We can sell it for you." It puts an impossible task on the shoulders of the agent, and costs the broker a lot of money in advertising and carrying costs. It keeps in-the-know agents from even bothering to bring good buyers to the house. And after a house has been on the market too long, it becomes stigmatized and the buying public begins to think that there is more wrong with the house than just the price... hence it may never sell... EVEN BELOW market value!

SO, I agree... work hard! But work hard where it makes sense and can get the job done!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wanna sell your house? CLEAN IT UP!

You know what houses are selling these days? The ones that shine!

I'm going to be pretty blunt here... I have seen some houses recently that don't show well. Reason is that the people who live in them are living like pigs! I mean, if you are not selling your house then you have the right to live how you want to. But if you have asked a Realtor to help you sell your house, you have to do your part. And that means cleaning it up. Seriously... underwear on the floor of the bathroom?! Wastebaskets chuck full that should have been emptied days ago! Smudge marks by light switches and cabinet handles. Toilets that look like Attila the Hun and his crew stopped in for a potty break! Dirty dishes on the counter and in the sink. Carpet that looks like it was installed when Henry Hudson sailed up the river! Windows that need Mr. Clean's attention. I've seen entry ways like porches that look like there had been an earthquake there! Kitchen drawers that won't open or close properly, or a hinge on the kitchen cabinet that is just barely hanging on. The seal on the kitchen refrigerator has so much gunk and mold in it that it actually stinks! Here's an easy one: a lightbulb out! Hard to fix?

OK.... do you get the point? You really need to clean the place up. You might even have to repair and/or replace things like broken closet doors or blinds ... Buck up! I'll tell you what. I feel so passionate about this that if you email me at and ask for it, I'll send you tips on things to do to get your house ready for showing. I mean it!

I'm telling you... the house needs to shine! Be tough on yourself! Clean it UP!

Cheers! -Steve

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Off the REAL ESTATE Topic

I know... I know... this is supposed to be about real estate. But I need to get this off my chest!

If you are under 40 years old, please think about this. Heck if you're over 40... please think about this!

We are in a new era. We fax. We email. We leave voice mails. We text. We IM. We Facebook. We Twitter. We blog. We put on out earphones and dig our iPods or MP3 players. WE close out the rest of the world.

Please don't forget how to interact with each other in person. Please don't forget how to look in each other's eyes. Please don't forget how to speak eloquently when it's appropriate. Please don't forget how use common courtesies. Please don't forget how to spell. Please don't forget how to read body language. Please!

I see folks reading text messages in the middle of a conversation with their friends. I see people taking phone calls while engaged in conversation with friends or family members... or worse yet, customers and/or clients.

By NOT taking a phone call, or by NOT texting right back, or by paying someone close attention you are sending a message. The message is, "You are the most important person to me right now. That other person may be important to me as well, but right now you and I are talking and they can wait their turn. It's the polite thing to do."

Personally, with clients, I tell them that my phone is on vibrate. I will only respond to the phone if I see it is a family member. And I will check to be sure there is no emergency. No emergency? Then I am right back with them. If I do not recognize the number as a family member, I will not answer it. That is what my voice mail is for.

Think of a ringing phone as a rude child tugging on your sleeve saying, "I want your attention right now! I don't care who you're talking to!" It is a rude instrument in nature. Weren't we raised by our parents to understand that it is not polite to interrupt? Let's not tolerate it!

Also, remember the power of person to person contact. Not an email. Not a text. Not leaving a message. Especially bad news! NEVER deliver bad news any other way than in person. If it has to be by phone, so be it... but do not leave a message and do not text or email!

OK... I actually probably have more crazy ideas in that department, but that's my beef for right now!

Wanna talk to me in person? Call me! 518-423-3808! But, if I don't answer right away, it's because I'm with someone else right now.... I'll get back to ya!


Thursday, April 2, 2009

What is a Home Warranty ?

You know, in New York, if you build a house there is a state imposed thing called a Home Builder's Warranty. Essentially what it does is protects the consumer from any defects in materials and/or workmanship for up to six years after the home is built. The buyer does not pay extra for it... it's a state imposed warranty.

But, if you are buying a re-sale, what can be done? Many firms, such as mine... RealtyUSA.... offer a home warranty program. The arrangement varies from firm to firm. It might be automatically offered on every home listed by some firms. It might be "available" for a fee to a seller to entice buyers to consider their home over anothers. Often the buyer's are offered the policy once their offer is accepted. Some sellers might even offer to buy the policy for the buyers if it will help a skittish buyer to make a decision.

Another variance is, of course what is covered. Many warranty programs will not cover such items as pool equipment, etc. Some may require an inspection, some may just require filling out an application.

The great thing about these policies is that a buyer can feel comfortable about having help with any unforeseen expenses in the first year of ownership. A seller can leave the closing knowing that if something does happen, it will be attended to. It's not uncommon that a buyer's agent offers to buy the policy as a house warming gift or a showing of their appreciation. AND, often the homeowner may be able to renew the policy indefinitely!

So... bottom line is... ask the question. Of your agent or the other agent... "Is there a home warranty program?" If there is, get a copy of the application and read it over. Could be a real smart move on your part!

Happy Housing!!!!!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Decisions, decisions!

So you're thinking about getting a couple of real estate agents in to help you sell your home. One guy is a friend of yours. One guy's name was given to you by a co-worker. The people two doors down gave you their agent's name.

So you call them. Tell them you want to sell could they come over and take a look?

What's going to help you make your decision? The price they give you? The way they look? The commission they want to charge? The "stuff" they say they'll do?

There are so many factors that will come in to play here, that it's almost impossible to point to one as the most important!

But beware. Beware of the agent that gives you the highest figure for asking price. They are often trying to tell you what they think they want you to hear. Almost like you're going to list with the "highest bidder"!

Beware of the agent that seems to think you should list with them because their company is the biggest, or the best!

Beware of the agent that is going to offer the lowest commission rate. Often this is the person who will give the least amount of attention and effort.

But instead of what to beware of let's go this way....

Interview your agent.

Observe their manner when they set up their appointment. Are they succinct? Do they do a good job listening and confirming the appointment? How are their communications skills?

Next, when they are scheduled to arrive... are they on time? Early, but not too early? Or are they late? And if they are late, did they call you to explain why they got held up? Given they were late, are they flustered? Did they seem pre-occupied with making excuses for their tardiness? Were they able to get their feet under them and get down to business?

Do they talk too much? Are they trying too hard to impress you? Do they seem to be genuinely interested and willing to listen more than speak?

Are they credible? If you ask a question that they do not know the answer to, are they willing to admit to not knowing, but ready to do the work to find out and get back to you?

Are they organized? Do they seem to have a "plan of action"? Are they able to lay out a plan and show you how it will work?

Overall do you get a good feeling about them? I mean, they are going to represent you. Are you getting the feeling you can depend on them to negotiate and communicate in a professional and efficient manner?

How did they react when you asked them how long they've been in the business? Remember, it may be OK if they are brand new... as their training and their approach is fresh! But, if that question made them stammer, how will they hold up when they are negotiating on your behalf?

I'm still pretty convinced that you should do business with people you know. But, I am also acutely aware that you need to feel comfortable with their skills and style.

In the long run, you have to feel comfortable with your agent... don't have to become their best friend, but you need to trust them.

Do you trust them?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Time = Selling Time?

If I've been asked once, I've been asked a few dozen times... "When is the best time to put your home on the market?"

Well, if you have that luxury of a choice... In other words you aren't being transferred or forced to sell.... you'll need to do some thinking.

Many people... in the real estate business and out of the real estate business point to spring. This hypothesis has many supporting factors.
The snow is gone.
It's easier for buyers to get around.
The properties show better.
People's attitudes improve.
Pools look better when they are open.
The sale would conclude in sync with the end of school...

Any other ideas? There are tons of "reasons" we can collectively come up with.

Now, it is true, around the Capital District, we see more houses come on the market in the spring. So, often we will meet with sellers who are anxious to embrace the method of getting their house on the market, before the spring rush. So as to avoid a higher number of competing properties.

Ideally, I guess you would like to be the only house for sale, right ? That way the buyers would only have one choice! And if there were many buyers, like we would hope there would be, they would fight over it! Drive the price up.

Of course, this is rarely the case! More accurately, never the case! So sellers, or potential sellers, if you will, need to be savvy and figure out when to put their house on the market. But, more importantly they need to research the current conditions. They need to be informed as to how many houses, reasonably similar to theirs, are out there right now. They need to be brutally honest and consider how their house measures up to those houses. They have to think like a buyer. "Hmmm... if I had xxxxxxxx number of dollars to spend, I wanted to buy a house like this one... why should I buy this one, instead of that one?

So really, the answer is, you need to put your home on the market when it suits your situation and timing. Whether it is spring, summer, fall, or winter. But more important is that you need to have your real estate rep research the market. Place your property into the existing inventory in such a way that it will look like, if not THE BEST, one of the best deals available right now! See, you need to realize, that how your price your home and place it in the buyer's sites is going to do one of two things. It will help other homes to get sold. Or it will sell itself, because it appears to be the best deal out there! I have often re-assured sellers who might call me and point out that, "such and such a house just went on the market... very similar to ours.... and they are asking xxxxx dollars more than we are!" Well, we should call them up and thank them shouldn't we? They are going to help the buyers to make a decision.... our house is a better deal!

Crazy business this real estate, isn't it?

Stay in touch. Keep looking at market conditions. Make smart, not emotional, decisions.

Questions? Call me 518-438-4511 or email me at

Monday, March 9, 2009

So, should I buy now or NOT???!!!!

Yes. I mean, "No!". Uh.. yes! Well it depends.

Geesh! Don't you wish that these kind of questions could be answered, for sure, with a simple yes or no? Sorry. They just can't. But here's what I would say to you today...

Do you need a place to live? Probably. So if you have saved enough for a down payment and closing costs... and if you've done your homework (read: analyze your income and expenses) and determined it's financially possible to do... do it! Buy a house. How much are you going to pay in rent? How much would that figure support as far as a mortgage goes? Then look at the tax benefits. Probably makes more sense to buy than to rent.

Don't try to figure out what the market's going to do. Don't try to figure out if interest rates are going to go down. Tell you what. They will. And they'll go up. And they'll go back down again. But you and I really can't be sure as to when and how much.

So... buy your own home. But just make every effort to avoid overextending.

Be smart... don't fall victim to a lender who tries to tell you that you can buy way more house than that!

Also, realize this. You know those companies that advertise on line and TV that you can submit your info and they can have you an approval in minutes, blah blah blah? Be careful with them. We've seen them! Here's what happens. You get a real quick approval and you're very excited. Then they put you in touch with their local rep, and the real work starts. "Oh, we're sorry, but after looking further into you financials, we're going to need this and that, and by the way the rate has changed and also we're going to require some more money up front...." This is a recurrent theme and has made many a buyer very sad and many sellers upset that the deal fell apart weeks after they were sure they had their house sold! So what should you do? Work with a local banker or mortgage originator! Ask your Realtor who THEY recommend. I'm pretty sure you will be on much more solid ground if you use them.

Last, but not least: Save. Even if saving means waiting a little bit. Saving money shows the bank that you are a responsible person who will be a good risk to loan money to!

Go ahead... plan... save... and buy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My home... my investment

Well, after all it was us that started it! Us real estate people!

We told Americans to buy instead of rent... "It's a sound investment!" And at the time... 50 years ago... it turns out it WAS a good investment.

But today I propose that we change our view. Don't buy your home because you perceive it to be a "good investment". Buy it because you need a place to live. Buy it so that you have a place to raise a family. Buy it because you want a place to call your own.

You know what? Real estate, historically speaking, has appreciated in value, at a rate of 4-6% per year. So think about recent years.... we've seen, in different parts of the country, and specifically in the Albany, New York area appreciation years of 7... 12... even 24% . Pretty good, eh? But more recently we've seen the rate of appreciation flatten out. Like NO appreciation on some homes. But still, guess what? We had a place to live. We owned our own pad. Otherwise, we might have been paying close the same number of dollars to a landlord and STILL not owned anything. And had no right to sell it. And certainly not had any tax deductions in the real estate department. (Didja ever wonder why our government decreed that there should be deductions and tax benefits to owning as opposed to renting?... more on that later)

While I strongly urge you to enlist the services of a Realtor when purchasing a home, I would also strongly urge you not to OVER analyze the process with speculation of what kind of return you can get and when. First, NO one can predict the future. Secondly you know as well as I do that if you are going to pay to live somewhere, it would be better if you could actually call it your own and even actually own it free and clear someday! I would be amused to find out how many of you ever heard of a "mortgage burning party"? You probably need to be older than me. The Mortgage Burning Party would be on the occasion of you making the last payment on your house and you becoming the free and clear owner! People would invite their friends to come to their house... have a party and actually light to mortgage documents on fire... they might even raise a glass in honor of the event. These days financial smarty pants will probably tell you that having no mortgage is a "dumb idea", because now you have no tax deduction! Oh for the simple days!

Anyway... please.... if you are buying your personal residence... make sure you are not paying too much. Have your Realtor research the recent sales activity to help you understand the real value of the property. Buy it for less if you can. Hope that the market works in your favor. But if it doesn't grow at 25... 17... 25% a year... that's OK... you have had a real nice place to live.

In all likelihood it will appreciate. But don't bank on it!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Who says we can't predict the future?

I am not one to spend a lot of time on laying blame on anyone. But at some point you have to figure out "whodunnit"... so that we don't allow them to do it again!

When our government starts to impose quotas and minimums and maximums should that raise a red flag? A flag that flies in the face of making good business decisions?

This was sent to me by an alert reader.... NY Times excerpts NOTE the DATE 1999!

I made my notes and thoughts in white.... kind of like when you sat in class and wisecracked during a lecture...

September 30, 1999
Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending


ln a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.
Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people ...

...These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough
to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates --anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.

"Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements," said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. Here is an example of how our society has turned into an "I want it now" beast that has abandoned the age old concept of save up your money if you want something. I refer to our parents when we told them we wanted a bike, they told us to save up our allowance, and after we've saved enough come back and see them. "Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called sub-prime market." Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that l8 percent of the loans in the sub-prime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

"From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us," said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "If they fail, the government will have to step up and , bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry."


Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, does not lend money directly to consumers. Instead, it purchases loans that banks make on what is called the secondary market. By expanding the type of loans that it will buy,Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings. (makes sense... right? If you have bad credit you should still be able to get a loan!)

Fannie Mae officials stress that the new mortgages will be extended to all potential borrowers who can qualify, for a mortgage. But they add that the move is intended in part to increase the number of minority and low income home owners who tend to have worse credit ratings than non-Hispanic whites. Unfortunately that approach is almost impossible to challenge these days, as one certainly stands to be labeled a racists or elitist.

Home ownership has, in fact, exploded among minorities during the economic boom of the 1990's. The number of mortgages extended to Hispanic applicants jumped by 57.2 per cent from 1993 to 1998, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. During that same period the number of African Americans who got mortgages to buy a home increased by 71.9 per cent and the number of Asian Americans by 46.3 per cent.

In contrast, the number of non-Hispanic whites who received loans for homes increased by 31.2 per cent.

Despite these gains, home ownership rates for minorities continue to lag behind non-Hispanic whites, in part because blacks and Hispanics in particular tend to have on average worse credit ratings. But! That shouldn't make a difference!

In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed that by the year 2001, 50 percent of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's portfolio be made up of loans to low and moderate-income borrowers. Last year, 44 percent of the loans Fannie Mae purchased were from these groups.

The change in policy also comes at the same time that HUD is investigating allegations of racial discrimination in the automated underwriting systems used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to determine the credit-worthiness of credit applicants.

There was a time when loaning money was business procedure. The lender would analyze the process and try to determine if there would be enough of a return to make it worthwhile, and further, and maybe even more importantly, could the applicant satisfy the terms of the agreement. The banks would send the loan application to "the committee". The committee would review the application and either deny or accept. Their collective decision was based on many factors, but mostly on what the chances of getting their money back and making a profit would be. See, the banks used to make loans based on money they held on deposit. Then the government got into the act. Pretty soon the government was the best source of money. And banks were finding that they had more applications for money than their deposits could prudently support. So they became inclined to go to the Feds and ask for support. The Feds obliged, but, long story short, they determined that if they were going to back or supply loans, they had the right to impose conditions. In other words, tell you how to run your business and tell you who you would do business with. Does this sound like some of the movies you've seen where a struggling business owner gets a note from a caring and friendly source, who later comes in and tells them who they will buy from, and who they will sell to ?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Real Estate a better investment than the stock market...

Random thought for ya here.... Yesterday one of my agents stuck his head in the office and told me that he met one of his clients from last year. He said he was actually thanking him for convincing him to buy this apartment building as a real estate investment. While the step to actually do it, was a big one and hard to take... he calculated that if he had left the money it took to buy the property where it was, today it would be gone! But! Today, thanks to my agent's efforts, he has a stream of income from the four apartments and he has a building that is appreciating. Maybe not as rapidly as in years gone by, but at least it is appreciating!

So maybe, diversification is the key here.... hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Good FHA news

Well, it seems that the most popular way to finance a house these days is using FHA mortgages.

Here's the skinny around Albany New York:

Maximum loan limits:

$312,500 single family
$400,050 two family
$483,550 three family
$600,950 four family

Pretty cool, eh?

Rock on!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Just Want To Get This Off My Chest

It amazes me how our "leaders" think. "Leaders"... I couldn't follow some of them if the other choice was the doorway to Hell!

They sit on their pompous asses and question the lending institutions as to how they could have done what they did to all these poor mortgage applicants... Many years ago, when we had a pure free enterprise system, banks decided who they could loan money to when someone wanted to buy a house. They knew they had to be careful, though, because it really wasn't "their" money... it belonged to the depositors. And they took that concept very seriously. So they were very careful by making sure the borrowers had real jobs. They were careful to make sure that the borrowers had exhibited an ability to save money. They were careful to investigate what the likelihood of repayment would be. In the process of their "carefulness", they, as a result, turned people down for loans. Often, telling them to save more money, or get more established, nonsense like that.

So not EVERYONE qualified for loans. The banks had executive committees that would review applications and collectively decide on whether or not to extend credit. Sure, they wanted to loan money, because they figured out it was a good way to make money, but still, it was not their money. So if they sensed that this applicant was a bad risk, they would reject the loan.

Enter our government. Our government decided that more people should have the right to get a loan. So the government imposed quotas and regulations that would require lending institutions to "loosen the purse strings". EVERYONE should be able to get a mortgage! "What about qualifications?", the bank would ask. Don't worry about that, just make sure a broader segment of our society gets loans... in fact, make sure you can document that more "low-income" persons are getting loans. Wait... "low income"... so that means that they don't make as much money as most people, but they should be extended credit... Even if that means getting them into a situation that most bankers would agree they would not be able to handle? Yup. Give em all loans.

The government, so much believed that this should be done, that they went into the banking business to compete with the privately owned banks. Not only to compete with the banks, but they decided they could use the money we all paid them in taxes to sell money to the banks.... And then all hell broke loose. The private banks could not compete with the government, and if they wanted to stay in the mortgage business, they would have to buy money from the Feds... And of course the Feds said if you want to buy money from us, we have the right to regulate and restrict and tell you what percentage of borrowers have to be "low to moderate income". And at first it seemed to work. Until these low to moderate income person got into their homes for a few years, and used other "easy money" (read: credit cards) and started to have trouble paying their bills.

The AMERICAN DREAM (owning your own home) became the American Nightmare. There were people buying homes that had no business buying homes. Get this... it even became popular for buyers to pay thousands of dollars more than the asking price. Why? So the sellers would turn around and give the "overage" back to the purchaser for the purpose of a down payment and closing costs! The buyers wanted to buy a home, but they haven't saved enough money for down payment and closing costs! Should that be a red flag if you are thinking about loaning someone money?!!!! Wait, you have NOT exhibited the ability to live on a budget and save for a rainy day, more so to buy a house, yet you still think you should go get a loan??!!!

So, when the interest rates, which by the way are now pretty much controlled by the Feds, got too high, the adjustable interest rate was invented... We'll start you out at a low rate and worst case scenario it will increase 2 percentage points a year and now more than say 5 percentage points over the lifetime of this note... It's all mapped out in a worst case scenario here... and if you agree, just sign this and we're off... you just bought a house! Then in a couple years after what they told you could happen actually happens, you bail out.... stop paying... go broke... declare bankruptcy! Used to be bankruptcy was the LAST THING YOU WOULD DO! Not any more. There is no shame in it. In fact, it's encouraged! There are companies that will "Help" you with it! Call us! Consolidate you loans... we'll get those creditors off your backs! Yeah, you remember them.... the folks that were nice enough to give you money to buy something you could not, at the time, afford! The nerve of them! Wanting us to play by the rules we had agreed to!

I want to sell houses! I really do. And I want every person in this country to be able to own their own home. But I don't want it to break them financially... and I don't want the government controlling the process. Monitor it ? OK. Control it? They can't even control their own show!

So today, I got some stuff off my chest! I might remove this post later, but I typed what was, and has been, going through my mind for a long time!

Be smart. Live within your means. Don't put undue pressure on yourself. And don't let others sucker you into that kind of situation!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Congress enacts Home Buyer Tax Credit

Here's what I have:

Credit of $8,000 to first time home buyers. Actually 10% of purchase price UP to 8K.

Must purchase between January 1 and December 1, 2009.

Must be principal residence.

Single taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000.

Married couples with incomes up to $150,000.

If your income exceeds these amounts, you MAY be eligible for a "partial" credit.

Home buyers must use the residence as a principal residence for at least 3 years or face recapture of the tax credit amount. Certain exceptions apply.

What is a "First Time Home Buyer"? Anyone who has not owned a home in the last three years!

So congratulations you first time home buyers! If you have other questions you can check out this site:

Stay strong!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'll be glad when they finally decide about the home buyer's tax credit!

I remember once many years ago when an older than me co-worker commented that the
" camel is a horse designed by committee."

So our government... these days the "ultimate committee" have been trying to "invent a good economic environment". It will be interesting, at best, to see what comes out at the other end!

So today... February 17, 2009, I am of the understanding that the tax credit will be $8,000. It will be offered to first time buyers only. It will require a contract purchase one's primary residence no later than July 1st.

NOTE: This could change. Remember this is a committee.

Whatever the result, I am still certain that most people will want to, at some point, want to own their home. I suspect that the driving factor will not be the tax credit (although it may help), but rather our seemingly age old desire to own our own home. Plain and simple.

Questions? Concerns? Comments? I'd love to hear from you!

Keep the faith!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hmmm No tax credit after all...

As you may recall a few days ago I "jumped the gun".... (can we say that these days?) I have removed the post. Anyway, I was given enough information to feel confident that we would have an "up to 15% tax credit for purchasing a home in 2009".... Didn't get past the Senate. At this point (2/12/09) I'm not sure why. Our economy is still slated for several governmental manipulations designed to "stimulate" but it appears the house purchase portion will not be included. At least the banks and the large corporations who couldn't manage their business and possibly cost you serious money will get some assistance.

Sorry for the misinformation. If you rushed out and bought a house on my account, you are NOT going to get that 10% up to 15K credit. But you know what you will get? A place to live. A place to call your own. A place to work on. And maybe even some "standard" tax deductions. Good for you.

Here's to good government and freedom!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"You know what? I'm not sure... let me find out and get back to you"

Have you ever heard this from your real estate agent? God bless the agent that has the courage and the common sense to say it! This means they are not going to risk giving you misinformation, in what might be the biggest financial activity of your life!

I appreciate that we live in a society that wants answers and wants them now. We can be in a real big hurry for everything! Look how edgy we get when we sit at a stop light... or while we wait in line at the fast food joint, and the person in front can't decide on whether or not to "super-size" it... or we are sitting waiting for the computer screen to pop up and it has taken more than 10 seconds! TEN SECONDS!

OK... that may be the way we're going in our society, but when you are thinking about buying or selling a home, and there is information needed that may be critical in the decision making process... appreciate the agent who tells you (admits to you) that they don't know the answer, and they will research it and get back to you.

Value added!

Gotta love it!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

We're buyin'... BUT we're sellin' too!

When it comes time to "move up" to the next stage of home buying, the need to have a professional is even greater than before!

So, you have lived in this wonderful bungalow for seven years and you're gettin the itch to find a bigger palace! You've outgrown your first home. So what is the drill? How does this work?

Well, if you find the new house and make an offer to the sellers, and everything looks great... price, timing, etc... what happens when you tell them you have to sell your home first ? They are going to want to know a lot of different things. They have a right to... Is it currently on the market? How long? What price? Have you had any offers? What does it have? Can you buy this house without the funds from the sale of your house? Can you get a bridge loan? You need to be ready to answer these questions and project great confidence.

If you tell a seller that you are "going to sell it on your own" watch the look in their eyes. They aren't sure you know what you're doing... Believe me you've lost a little credibilty right there. And if you tell them you're "going to put it on the market", they will think to themselves... "oh boy... when?"

This is where a well poised real estate professional can get the job done. We are trained to keep this process together. And the thing is... it's never the same process. Each situation may require different approach and the trained real estate agent is equipped to analyze and execute the appropriate course of action.

So, go ahead and look. But be ready to answer questions. Be ready to show you mean business. Keep your Realtor informed, and follow their advice.

Good luck! Keep on Rockin!

Monday, January 26, 2009

What does your Realtor REALLY want ?

If you're like most of us these days, you're pretty cynical. You hear or read something and you wonder what the REAL story is. Is there a hidden agenda? What is the author really trying to accomplish?

Sometimes I hear people talking about the real estate agent they've worked with and it seems they think the agent is only thinking about "the commission". You know, I have been involved in helping people to buy and sell real estate for over 25 years now. So, I cannot argue with you and say that this is NEVER the case. But, I can tell you this... The majority of the Realtors that stay in the business really just want to help you with your real estate need. They get great satisfaction out of a successful ending to your real estate transaction.

Sure, they are doing this for a living, but almost all of them understand this:


It's that way for all of us. If we all strive to do the very best we can, we increase the probability of being successful. This also applies to our personal lives, from how to communicate with our kids, to dealing with others in our day to day lives.

So I guess, what I'd like to accomplish today is to encourage you to work with a Realtor you really trust. And when the counsel you get seems "unpleasant", remember the person you've picked to represent you wants the best for you.

Good luck with your real estate ventures!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Predicting the Future

"So, Steve... how's the housing market going to fare out ?"

A good question, but one, as I get older (and hopefully smarter!), I back away from. Or at least I try to be VERY careful as to how I answer it.

Side note: There was an article in the Wall Street Journal on 1/12/09 about a guy named David Lereah. He was the National Association of Realtors' chief economist. He was the guy everyone turned to to with that same question. And he got paid big bucks to answer it. So he did... he answered that question, sometimes without even being asked. And he gave his answer in fantastic settings like Hawaii, and Colorado and all over, while staying in VERY nice accommodations and flying first class everywhere he went. I have a signed copy of his book written in 2005, on my shelf at the office, "Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom" ... "why home values and other real estate investments will climb through the end of the decade- and how to profit from them"

Today, Mr. Lereah, is no longer associated with the National Association of Realtors (NAR). There are different stories as to whether he left or was told to leave. But his six figure stream of income from NAR is no more. In fact Mr. Lereah is struggling to adjust and trying to keep his portfolio in tact. The very house he lives in has taken a 20% hit since he bought it and moved into it. His life has changed.

Now, whether Mr. Lereah should be castigated for his faulty prognosticating, or NAR needs to be questioned on why they might of pressured Mr. Lereah into somewhat less than accurate forecast, is up for debate.

But I will take this from Mr. Lehreah's experience: DON"T TRY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE.

I have a very optimistic "feeling" today about real estate. It's my nature. But if a client is ready to purchase a $250,000 home today and turns to me and asks me if I think they can "get their money back" inside of four years.... well, I am very cautious with my response.

For single family home buyers... do your homework. Counsel with your Realtor. Buy a home that is TODAY a good buy. You're buying it because you want to live in it. If you're buying it because you want to sell it at a better profit than you could get in say, a certificate of deposit, or in the stock market, you are taking a risk. And that's OK, but remember it's a risk!

For investors.... crunch the numbers! But the same thing goes for them as far as future values... it's a risk!

Good luck my friends... And keep on rockin'!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A new beginning

I saw a comment on one of the internet sites that was covering the inauguration, "...finally it ends". I feel bad for that kind of attitude. Look, I voted for Bush. to say the least, I was disappointed. But, come on... this isn't the end... it's the beginning. Hope, enthusiasm, determination. Let's go!

You might be surprised to read this, coming from me, but you know what?


But there is a catch... The banks aren't as friendly. So there are fewer buyers. Fewer good buyers. That means, if you've done your homework... if you have spoken to a TRUE professional mortgage counsellor... you know exactly where you can go with your real estate search. You are a much more valuable commodity because there are still plenty of houses available. Just fewer buyers. So when you take your offer in, the seller and their agent are going to take a good hard look at your offer.

So forge on, just do your homework.

If you need help with this, you know you can contact me. or call 518-438-4511 x780 ... I'll get you pointed in the right direction.

God Bless America!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'm Sorry

I have not been here since JULY!!!!

I started this blog with the intention of writing in it every day. Stupid. Even though I have a lot to say, it was very difficult to do. So now, what I plan on doing is NOT committing to an everyday thing, but to enter my thoughts as they cross my desk OR every couple of days. I will probably check in every day but I can't make a daily entry!

If you have a question or a topic you'd like to address on the blog, I'll do my best to get to it in a timely fashion.

I will say this though... if you ever have a question concerning real estate you can email me a note at

I of course will respond to that immediately.

I am looking forward to getting back to the blog thing, but I am going to put less pressure on myself to come up with a daily topic!

Thanks for checking in.... Steve