Archive for February, 2009

Yes, real estate brokers fire listings. It is a rare occurrence for me, but if a client is particularly uncooperative, self destructive, or a liability to the company’s well-being, the listing has to be cancelled and the client given the opportunity to seek their fortunes with another broker.

Today, after months of acrimony and headaches, I gave a seller client her release. The ironic thing is that she is a retired real estate broker herself, and someone I thought would be collegial to work with. She wasn’t. Just scheduling showings was like performing a miracle, filled with drama and angst. It was a short sale file, no easy task to begin with, and an offer has been on the table for about 2 weeks. My client refused to submit the offer to the lender for approval, and has been obstructing my efforts to affect a short sale.

This afternoon I got a call from an agent who could not schedule a showing; I called my client to get to the source of the issue. It was a tempest in a teapot. I am not showing a lack of empathy, believe me. If Ed McMahon showed up at your door with a check for $1 million, would you refuse the money because his tie and socks didn’t match? An offer on a short sale is important, precious, and not to be trifled with. For a veteran of our business to obfuscate important issues with pedantic obsessions with process is not something I can work with.

My hope is that this will be a wake up call to the lady that she needs to get serious about avoiding a foreclosure. For me to continue things the way they were going would be enabling destructive behavior and subordinate my diginity to earning a commission. Even in this market, that is something I cannot do.

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Many who grew up in Ossining, NY like I did will remember an old, overgrown algae-covered man-made pond near the Chilmark Shopping Center known simply as The Reservoir. It was the Village’s water supply for much of the pre-World War II era, and then was replaced by water towers. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s the Reservoir was used for skating (AT OWN RISK, as the sign said) and hanging out.

The water towers had their share of graffiti, and nobody really knew what good the Reservoir was. I learned to skip rocks there,and I spent many hours of my youth sitting quietly, watching the water, either alone or with some friends after buying baseball cards and candy at Chilmark Pharmacy. In the Spring and Autumn we’d ride our bikes around it. I had a 5-speed with high handle bars and a banana seat.

In the earlier part of this decade, the Village cleaned the place up,  added an asphalt ring around it for walking, installed some park benches and tables, and dedicated it as Reservoir Park. An aerator was installed for the algae, and the towers were repainted. Mayor Perillo was vilified by some for the improvement expense, but most, like myself, applauded the move. It is an extremely popular place to sit, walk the dog, stroll the kids, and spend quiet time. The SKATE AT OWN RISK sign is long gone, replaced by 3 LAPS = 1 MILE.

Ossining Reservoir Park

Ossining Reservoir Park

You can barely make out the water towers at the other end of the Reservoir. They use to be an awful sky blue accented with graffiti. Now they are a dark green-far better aesthetics. A few years ago the park was renamed after Richard Wishnie, a retired county legislator for his 40 years of distinguished public service.
Pump House

Pump House

That brick structure behind the sign is from 1869 and is an old pump house. I climbed inside a few times when I was around 12. There is nothing inside except an old wood floor and brick walls. It was a great hiding place and we  flipped baseball cards inside.

Pump House Dedication from 1869

Pump House Dedication from 1869

As the stone says, Ossining used to be known as Sing Sing, an Anglicization of Sint Sinck, the aboriginal natives of the area. To differentiate the village from Sing Sing Prison, the name evolved to Ossingsing and then Ossining. Ossining High’s mascot was the Indian for many years to honor the Sint Sinck, but political correctness ended the Indian mascot. The neighborhood across Pleasantville Road from the Reservoir is known informally as the Indian Village, as the streets are all Native American names, such as Mohawk, Pocantico and Iroquois. I grew up on Osage Drive West.

There is alot to like about Ossining-the diversity of the residents, the managable commute to New York City, and that magnificent Hudson View. Of course, since they finally turned around that derelict, overgrown hole in the ground, the Richard Wishnie Reservoir Park is another great thing about the place.

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There continues to be a series of article at Inman News about the compensation of real estate agents. The latest article, entitled “6 Percent is Dead,” the owner of a web-based company chimes in with his view. A version of my response is below:

I have not read every article in this series, but the two I have read were written by an agent whose blog paints a picture of frustration who is muses for a salary; and a web-based firm which doesn’t do traditional brokerage in a market where local listing agents have to accompany every single showing (no easy feat).

Inman may get alot of chatter and mileage from these articles, but in light of the failure of Foxtons and Iggy’s House, Real Estate never had the massive Internet-fueled sea change we saw in travel, insurance and stock brokerage, which revolutionized entire industries almost overnight.

I’m also a little tired of people poo-pooing the role agents play in the home buying process. The “I saw it first on the ‘Net so I don’t need a broker” game is tired, inaccurate and obtuse. You saw it on the net first because you were on a broker’s website and they figured out how to make it play into their model. The rest of the process is so clunky, complicated and drawn out that the best brokers who do the most business drive the traffic while working at companies where they can earn the most for their expertise.

Read the rest here on my ActiveRain Blog .

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I want repeat business from past clients and I also want their referrals. That won’t happen by accident, and I don’t see recipe cards as being useful. So I am available for other things they need after we close on the house. Here are just a few.

  1. Help them grieve their taxes. The taxes on homes I’ve sold in recent years may be reduced. I just emailed 4 recent sales to someone who bought a house with me in 2006 and it looks like his assessed value should go down by $50,000.
  2. Market updates. People are curious about how much a new listing as asking or what a nearby home sold for. Better that they ask me than another licensee.
  3. Make them hip to my blog. Past clients may wonder what my thoughts are about the stimulus bill, where the market is going, or just I am doing in this economy. I tell them right in these pages. Clients are a built in readership, and they select themselves- no emails for them to delete and they visit when convenient.  
  4. Service directory. Most of my clients use the lawyer, lender and home inspector I refer. I also have a filing cabinet filled with plumbers, carpenters, electricians, landscapers, chimney sweeps, heating & cooling firms, oil companies, and other sources that homeowners need. I may not be the good housekeeping seal of approval, but whoever I refer will make me look good for doing so.
  5. Network them! I count among my past clients physicians, restaurateurs, free lance artists, contractors, insurance brokers, roofers, teachers and dozens of other professionals. If someone needs E & O insurance, a tutor, artwork or a new driveway and they ask me if I know someone, why wouldn’t I give business to the people who gave business to me? If you need something, call or email me.

ALSO- The STAR exemption for your property taxes is key to saving money on your New York property taxes. All of my clients are encouraged to fill out an application to get it ASAP after closing. If you haven’t followed through, contact me and we’ll help you get it done.

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I sold my first short sale in the 90’s. I have over 10 in my pipeline. I am known in my marketplace for the specialty. Buyers are justifiably interested in the savings a short sale can offer. However, few buyers are prepared for the process, often because it is new terrain for their agent as well. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are some things that you should be prepared for if you have a short sale in your sights:

  • You must be prepared to wait…and wait. Occasionally, we get some short sales where everything just clicks and the thing is done almost as quickly as a regular sale. Those are the exception and not the rule. Typically, and it all depends on the lender, short sales can take months. Here is part of what is going on behind the scenes: the lender’s loss mitigation department is inundated with short sale applications. Often, the negotiators are rotated every 30 days. Faxes get lost. Responses take a long while, and the seller’s negotiator (typically the agent or in New York, the lawyer’s office) can be on hold for an hour waiting to speak with a human, only to hear that they were given the wrong fax number last week. It is a maddening, daily battle. Be glad you aren’t in the front lines. Eventually, it gets sorted out.
  • You are buying the house AS IS. Just like with a bank-owned foreclosure, it is “an as” is transaction, because no principal has the funds to remedy any physical issue with the house. Get an inspection for sure, but understand that unless it is an environmental problem, the lender won’t address anything and the seller cannot financially.
  • You WILL get clear title. In an approved short sale, none of the seller’s back taxes, arrearage or other issues convey to you. The lender is hitting the reset button and releasing all liens. That may not mean that a non-conforming bathroom shed or finished basement is compliant, but financially the title is whole.
  • No, you may not speak with the bank. Some buyers get frustrated with the process and figure that all they need to do is speak to someone and fix the short sale. They cannot. The lender will speak ONLY with the borrower or an authorized party about the mortgage being worked out for the same rules of confidentiality that prevent your bank from talking with anyone about your finances. Even if you were to get hold of a loss mitigator, your input will be as welcome as if you walk into a stranger’s operating room or onto a construction site.
  • You probably can’t “steal” the house. As a matter of fact, your offer may not even be submitted unless it is your best offer. Once the seller’s hardship package is approved, the bank will order a BPO (broker price opinion) or appraisal to ensure that the sale price is in line with market conditions. You might get a $400,000 house for $365,000, but you won’t get it for $250,000. Short sales are good deals, but they are seldom steals. Which brings us to this point:
  • The lender may counter your offer. The house may appraise considerably higher than your offer, or your offer may indeed be too unrealistic. If the bank counters you, look on the bright side: the finish line is in sight! If the counter isn’t to your liking, the smart move is to counter back. If you simply walk away, you may have nailed the seller’s coffin, who has, in good faith, been working and waiting just like you have been. Negotiate. If the seller chose your offer to submit to the lender over the others, you should operate in the same good faith and negotiate. The lender may still come down some.
  • Once approved, you have a deadline to close. The biggest irony in real estate is how glacially slow lenders are in approving short sales and how impatient they are to close once they rubber stamp one. Typically, it is only 15-30 days to close or the offer is rescinded. Therefore, you should have your act together with regard to your appraisal, rate lock, inspections, and so forth. When that approval come down the pike, you need to be prepared to pull the trigger.
  • You can’t get a seller’s concession. If you were able to borrow more against the house, the lender, who is losing money, will want it.

My view is that if the short sale process were easier and more streamlined, the market would stabilize far faster, doing the economy a world of good (are you reading this, Mr. Obama?). Unfortunately, the process we work with now is often bloody difficult more often than not, with lots of moving parts and a shifting landscape. Understanding that going in can lessen your frustration and minimize the confusion of a process that is anything but simple. Few worthwhile things are.

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