Saturday, December 31, 2011

Don't let the pics fool ya!

In this day of technology we are finding that more and more people are looking at houses. And never leaving their house(apartment)!

Today's buyers want a link... a website... a URL... They want to "sneak" into your home without you knowing it. They want to take a look without inconveniencing you. So your Realtor hired a really good photographer/videographer to post your home to that wonderful resource, the internet.

Don't get me wrong here, because I absolutely LOVE the internet. But I have seen on more than one occasion a young couple walk into a house that they had seen pics on line and turn to me and say, "Wow! It looked a lot better than this on line!" But I have also heard this: "Wow. I wasn't sure I wanted to see this house based on the pictures, but you know what? I'm glad we came..."

You see my point right?

I think the best way for you to make a decision on a house is to GO LOOK AT IT. And don't eliminate it solely on the pics or video you saw on line. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Think about this. It's a big buy. You're not buying a stereo system or even a car. It's going to be your home! Your castle! You are going to be there every day for quite a while.

Take the time to go look. You don't have to stay a long time, but you might!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"How IS the market?"

Having been in the real estate business for nearly three decades I am very often questioned about the status of the real estate market. And it comes from all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. Some are merely friends who are just asking me how I'm doing.... somethimes it's someone with an agenda (they are thinking about getting involved in a purchase or a sale)... sometimes it's a person thinking about a career change...
It's a tough question to answer sometimes because the answer truly is relative. Right now, buyers are seeing the most favorable terms , maybe ever! Sellers sometimes are seeing this an opportunity to get their real estate sold because there is less inventory and less competition. Many investors will tell you there are deals to be had out there and real estate is a great place to be while the money and stock markets settle down a bit.
So it's all relative to what you (the questioner) want to do.
Locally... in the Albany NY area our pending units are down 5.1% from last year... our inventory is down 3.1% and the sellers are seeing 91.1% of their asking price... down 1.3% from last year....
So those are a couple "stats". But my office in Loudonville has seen a 26.1% increase in volume and 13% increase in units sold.
Why? My agents are full time professionals that re ready when their clients need them to be ready. They are not sugar-coating any of their analysis when working with clients... They are giving honest straightforward counsel and their clients are listening.
So right now the best advice I can give any seller or buyer is to trust their Realtor and follow their lead. Don't try to apply recent years' appreciations or even deprecations to today's market.
Good luck!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Medicare Tax on Real Estate Sales????

There have been a lot of "rumors", "stories", "prognostications" regarding President Obama's plan to hit us all with yet another tax. The one I'm referring to here is the so called Medicare Tax. The talk is that every house that gets sold, starting in 2013 will be taxed at a rate of 3.8% of the sale price.

It is, as I understand it proposed to be an "investment income tax", which may or may not be real estate related or attached to the sale of a property.

From what I am reading, and I could be wrong, and if I am I would appreciate your enlightening me... If you sell your home for a profit of more than $250,000 as an individual, or a profit of more than $500,000 for a joint filing, then you would be required to pay a tax of 3.8% of any profit OVER that threshold. So, if a couple sold a house and made a profit of 501,000, they would owe a tax equal to 3.8% of $1,000. That'd be $38.00.

My personal view is that the majority of the persons we work with won't fall into that category.

Still, it rankles me that this proposal finds it's way in front of us. It's a typical "tax the rich" liberal left solution to solve our financial woes?


Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Biggest? The Best? I'm Number One?

First let me apologize for being off the blog thing for a while. True enough I've been busy. But not so busy that I couldn't take a few moments to air my views and two cents. And a few people have emailed me with stuff like, "Hey Staples! Didja run outta things to say???" I have not, and doubt that I ever will run out of things to say... might repeat myself, but I will always have something to say.

But today I want to ask YOU a question. Get YOUR opinion.

I work for one of the nation's largest independent real estate firms. And we are the number one firm in the Capital Region.

So what?

I want to know what you think that does for anyone. Does it make a difference in you deciding who to have helping you sell your house, or helping you to buy a house?

Seems every day in the paper and on billboards all over you and I see real estate agents professing to be the top Realtor, or the best agent, or Number one! They spend lots of money to get that message out too.

Here's what I think. And I do want you to email me a note at with your thoughts. But, here's what I think.

There are over 3,000 licensed real estate agents in the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, based in the Albany NY area. Some work for RealtyUSA.... some work for Prudential... some work for Foothills Realty. Some of these brokerage firms have 600 agents and some have 6... some have less. When an agent from the largest firm advises you to use them because they have the largest firm in the area are you going to? When an agent boasts that he has over 50 listings active on the market right now and he sold over 150 houses last year is that going to convince you to sign on with him?

I firmly believe that RealtyUSA has some exceptional real estate professionals. BUT... we aren't the only brokerage firm that has exceptional professionals. In fact, it is all together possible that the smallest real estate firm in the area has "the best" Realtor working for them!

Now, the one thing I can be sure of is that RealtyUSA, and most of the larger firms have more resources available to them in the form of marketing power, training, support services, etc. But there are many very good real estate agents out there working out of what some might refer to as boutique firms.

So let me know what you think....


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Good Old Days ? Maybe

It's snowy here in the great Northeast and I am sitting at my desk trying to resist going off on a rant and sounding like an crazy old man...

Too late! Can't stand it any more. It's Crazy Old Man time!

When I started in the real estate business in 1982 I am not going to say there weren't computers, but essentially there weren't computers. I mean they were out there, but first they were pretty difficult to operate (anyone remember MS DOS?) and they were not being used in the real estate business.

I'm not here to say that computers are bad, because honestly... I LOVE 'em! You should too... they're here to stay you know! They really have simplified our lives. Put incredible amounts of information (and misinformation) at our disposal. And communication?!!! Revolutionized how easily we can get our messages out. So for the most part ... good.

But let me zero in on a dynamic that you, outside the real estate business especially, may not be aware of. Like I said, I started as a Realtor in 1982. Our database for houses for sale was the Capital Region Multiple Listing Service (CRMLS). It came in the form of a BOOK. Published weekly, but every other week was only the "new" listings... the other week was the complete inventory. There was a thing called the "Hot Sheet" which was mailed weekly to every broker who was a member of the CRMLS. And if you were truly ambitious you could physically visit the CRMLS offices and check out the new listings that had just been submitted. (They had them on clipboards in the vestibule... one clipboard for each day). So if you had a buyer that you wanted to get the "hottest" info for you needed to go down to the offices. I can tell you that there were never many agents there when I went...

Oh, but I said I was going to zero in on something. And that something was how we presented our offers. I am not going to give you a historical lesson on the agency part of this because it's too lengthy. But here's what would happen.

After my buyers left my office, having signed a purchase offer I would call the agent who had the house listed. This was usually done on a "land line". So we would have to catch them at the office or their home. I would tell the agent that I have an offer and I would like to present it as soon as possible.

You know what happened next? They would ask me when I would like to present it. For example I would say, "How about tomorrow morning at 10 am?" They would tell me they'll get back to me. Usually within a few minutes the phone would ring and the agent would say something like this, "My sellers can meet you at their house at 11 am... Is that OK with you?" I, of course would say yes.

Here's what I think has changed and not for the better. I would go to their house. I would be welcomed in by their agent and we would go into, say, the kitchen and sit down. The listing agent would introduce me and we would exchange pleasantries. I would tell them what a cool house they had... didn't your kid go to Guilderland High?... Wow can you believe how hot it's been.... Then we would settle in and start talking turkey.

But guess what was going on here? From my side of the table, I was gathering information, observing mannerism, looking into their eyes, FEELING the transaction. I was helping the listing agent to feel at ease. I was trying to project confidence so that the sellers would feel that this set of buyers and their agent could get this done.

And even before the paperwork got put on the table, I spent some time describing my buyers and their family. I painted a picture of this new owner lovingly caring for their home just like they did. I talked about where they came from and what they do for a living. I made the buyers real to them. In fact I usually got the sellers to like the buyers.

So now the rubber meets the road.

I present the offer as the listing agent listens in... all the while reading body language... facial expressions... looking into their eyes... gathering unwritten and intangible information. To help me better understand the sellers and to help me do a better job representing the buyers.

After I go through the presentation, I sit back and LISTEN... and observe. Sometimes a listing agent will ask me to give them a couple of moments so they can speak freely... but often the discussion takes place right away with me present.

If we have differences... prices... dates... chattle... whatever, I ask them to help me to understand the difference(s), so that I can communicate it properly to my buyers. I take notes... so they see that I am going to get it right and I am organized. Building confidence. But really what I am trying to do is to verify and overcome objections. "So if it weren't for the closing date being too soon, am I to understand that you would feel comfortable signing this agreement today?" or "If I could convince my buyers to move that date to accomodate your schedule, can we say we have a deal?"

9 times out of 10 we could come to an agreement right then and there. And the sellers would feel pretty good about who's buying their home and their agent that is overseeing the process.

What I'm talking about here is interpersonal relationships. Communication skills. Negotiating skills. Psychology.

You know what happens today? The listing agent tells us "Fax the offer over to me". I'd really like to present it in person. "No... just fax it and I'll present it."

You know what? I think, that if we would discuss more of these things in person... we'd sell a lot more houses. What do you think?

Like I said... I am not against computers and faxes and modern technology... I just think we could still utilize the human element to get it done.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How to market your real estate in a tough market

Our marketing efforts often vary from account to account. Certainly the most crucial, we feel is the presence in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). This data base will engage the over 3000 real estate agents in the Capital Region. It’s where we all look first to find properties for our buyer clients.

Times have changed our approach in advertising with the advent of the internet… and more importantly the internet being so available to so many. While we do advertise in newspapers and some of the Homes magazines we are finding that the overwhelming majority of our buyers are surfing the web. We are very proud of our database This site gets over 180,000 unique visitors a month according to our IT people. The way our site is set up, a procedure occurs every early morning whereas our site visits the MLS database and imports all the new entries and any changes that may have occurred. This constant updating has made our site a favorite with savvy buyers who check in regularly.

To supplement our efforts we of course engage direct mail marketing .. neighborhood announcement… open houses… virtual tours, etc.

The interesting phenomenon that we are watching take place is the fact that more and more people are visiting your house without visiting your house! Before this technology was available the only way we could know what a house looked like on the inside was to actually, physically, visit it! This new luxury of being able to look at still interior photos or virtual tours without leaving our desk chair or comfy apartment is good and bad. It’s good because we feel it saves us time. It’s bad because sometimes the pictures don’t do the subject property justice. Maybe the agent didn’t get as good a pic as they could have or maybe the property is just hard to get pics… whatever the reason is a web-surfer may glance at the pics and dismiss the idea of actually going in. I have had clients visit a property after having more or less pooh-poohed it on line and expressed amazement that it “looks way better in person!”. By the same token, we have looked at pics on line and decided to visit the property and we look at each other and say “Is the right house????”

Another resource a good Realtor uses is to do the research to see who in the real estate business is active in your area and make direct contact with them to promote the property.

The trick to marketing real estate these days is to have a well-rounded and open approach. One of my agents stopped in the office today and told me he sold a house in the far reaches of the Capital Region because he advertised in the local Pennysaver! He was amazed at the response he got from that little ad, but as it turns out EVERYone in that town reads the Pennysaver!

So count on us to take an approach to marketing your real estate in an account by account way. Each and every account will warrant a unique approach... count on it!