Every first of the month Ronnie, our administrative assistant, arrives at the office and begins the daunting task of addressing letters to several hundred homeowners whose listing expired at the end of the previous month. One of the good people who came off the market on November 30th called me and we met just this evening to see how I could help them sell. The details of why homes do not sell are not unfamiliar to me; price is certainly a big reason, but there are often other fatal mistakes the prior agent made that punctuate the home’s failure to sell. In this case, the home’s MLS data indicated as the size of the yard as “0 acres.” In other words, anyone who put the yard size in their search criteria would not find the house. Not good.

In discussing the options facing the home owners and what could be done to get the house sold, I was impressed with one of the seller’s concerns about the feelings of their prior agent. They didn’t get the job done, and they didn’t have my record in sales, but all the same she felt bad about letting them go after they tried so hard and were so nice.

I have to say, I wish more people cared about my feelings the way she cared for theirs. This is a woman with a good heart. I told her that this is business, not personal, but she was still kind of bummed about her old agent.

I wish there were more people like her. We spoke about it more, and the thing she acknowledged in our discussion was that it doesn’t take a cold and calculating person to make a smart business decision. You can still be a good person and do what is right in a business sense without being mercenary. Being good to people is important. That does not mean, however, that you subordinate your financial health and well being to appearing nice. If the right thing for her is to get a new, better broker, she owes it to herself to do so.

Selling a home is serious business. And it is not a vehicle for relationships. It is something some people do but once in their lives, and they owe it to themselves to have the best representation, even if their prior agents were cordial and nice. Huge money is involved, and there are no do-overs once a closing is over. I would say that all people should have a good agent, but good people especially deserve a good agent. I know of no other Westchester agent that sells more homes that previously expired with other brokers than myself. It is what we do, what we excel at, and how we grow the company in these rough times. When we do get started with this particular family, we’ll get them the results they very richly deserve.


With a median home price hovering near $700,000, even a modest price reduction on a Westchester County home can be tens of thousands of dollars. I have to approach a reduction with the diplomacy of a funeral director but be as convincing as a physician imploring his patient to quit smoking.

No one could predict after the stimulus where prices would go, but it is clear that what few buyers we have are skimming the absolute cream off the top and leaving the rest. They even fight over the good stuff, creating an illusion of urgency in isolated precincts. Overall, sadly, median home price is an illusion; it is a metric of the value of those few, unique sought after homes that people watch even when they weren’t on sale. They needed nothing. They were priced to the bone for their category.

Money lost in a price reduction was never your money. It was an illusion. It didn’t exist. I find myself, more and more, explaining to mournful sellers that the $25,000 that went down the drain when they went from $624,900 to $599,900 was a paramour that never loved them. She never cared, Johnny. The baby wasn’t yours. She wanted to close the Copa and make sure you never worked in this town again. For God’s sake man pull yourself together, it was all an illusion.

You know, that sort of thing they cover day 2 in licensing class. Or not.

In 2005, 852 single family homes sold in Westchester County with a median price of $732,000.

In 2010, 424 single family homes sold in Westchester County with a median price of $715,000. 428 people got nothing.

The pool of able buyers has shrunken by an absurd amount. Millions of prospects have vanished due to either their own disasters or the new draconian lender underwriting guidelines. What few buyers remain are skeptical, drunk with options, terrified of making a mistake, have no confidence in the future, and are heavily invested in the group think notion that they must get a steal or they will be exposed to grave financial risk. You know, all those happy things perspective home buyers have always focused on.

Here’s the reality: If you are multiple listed, staged well, tidy, and have been on the market for 60 or 90 days with no offers or few lookers, the market has spoken; you need to reduce your price. You aren’t the McClotchkees down at the end of the cul de sac who sold in the first 30 days. They had something, or ten things, you don’t have. And the only adjustment you can make to the buying public is price. A feature ad won’t do it. A newspaper display ad won’t get it done. Busting your agent’s chops to chase down Gladys Pflarphlingston for feedback on a showing 2 weeks ago won’t do it. If you are on the MLS, I can show you how many people have clicked on you online and clicked off every week since we listed. You aren’t a secret. Quite the opposite: with public searches, serious prospects can tell me their opinion of your toothpaste.

If we are in showing condition with my marketing and you aren’t sold, the faster we address price the faster we’ll sell. The money you are asking for is not on deposit in the bank of buyer opinion.

Originally posted at: J. Philip’s Westchester Real Estate Blog: The Money You “Lost” in Your Price Reduction Wasn’t Real

The Fed’s recent decision to outlaw Yield Spread Premiums (YSP) paid to mortgage brokers by lenders is the latest success by the bank lobby to kill competition and bait and switch the public into thinking the government is actually doing something to reform the industry. It is, in fact, reaffirming a double standard that has existed in the industry far too long, and may be the death knell for mortgage brokers.

Some background: For ages, the more profitable the loan, the higher the commission paid to the originator. In mortgage brokerage, the commission has been Yield Spread Premium (YSP). For bankers and direct lenders, the commission is Service Release Premium (SRP). Even though they go by different names, they operate exactly the same:

Continued at Luck Strikers Blog

I have posted on Croton on Hudson before. One of the businesses in the downtown area is Senses Salon, located at 5 Old Post Road South, right in the center of town.

Senses is a full service, unisex salon that caters to the entire family but shines brightest in New York style work without having to pay city prices. Joe Tucci, owner and manager, is board certified a master colorist, international educator, international competitor in men’s hairstyling, and as a makeup artist. His work is impeccable, and he has been written up in Westchester Magazine in both 2004 and 2006.

Among the services offered are hair cutting, hair coloring, Japanese straightening, Brazilian keratin treatments, makeup, waxing, and even  hair extensions. The staff of 5 is professional, friendly, and highly skilled. There is a private waxing room, a separate room for hairdryers, and the main cutting floor is reminiscent of a high end Manhattan establishment.

I don’t know much about Japanese hair straightening, Brazilian keratin treatments, or beauty salons in general. But I do know that people will keep going to a place they like. The striking thing about Senses is cutomer loyalty, and it has kept them in business for 21 years. This one is my favorite success story: one client who relocated to North Carolina flew in just last week solely to get a cut and highlights. She had not found a beauty salon down there that could do highlights as well as Senses.

I think that says it all.

I was quoted three times in an article on the 2010 real estate market discussing how sellers have adjusted to falling property values.

“Look at it like the stages of grief,” says J. Philip Faranda, the broker-owner of J. Phillip Real Estate in Westchester County, N.Y. “In 2006 and 2007, it was denial; in 2008 and 2009, it was mourning; in 2010, it’s acceptance.”

Sellers slow to change

It’s not surprising that it would take some time for sellers to come to terms with the market’s rapid and drastic changes. It’s a learning process — a “price-discovery process,” in economic terms.

Sellers frequently concede they’re harboring unrealistic expectations only after having tried and failed to sell their home. (See “Are you the reason your home won’t sell?“) Or they’ve watched other sellers reduce prices repeatedly to get buyers to even look at their homes, then seen those sellers relinquish additional ground when negotiating.

Pride often prevents sellers from seeing foreclosures as the new competition.

“If a guy with a half-million-dollar house still thinks it’s worth $600,000, I can show him two or three foreclosures that are listed for $400,000 and $450,000 and ask him how he thinks I’m going to hypnotize people into buying his house for $600,000,” Faranda says.

The Internet has helped change expectations. A seller traditionally blames his agent when his home isn’t selling. But today, Multiple Listing Service and syndication agreements let sellers list homes for sale on a dozen or more Web sites (take a look around your neighborhood), so “all the old excuses of ‘you’re not advertising my house’ have gone away,” Faranda says.

The reporter told me that she found me on Active Rain, which is nice to hear. I post quite a bit on that blog. The link is in the sidebar. I also got a nice hate email, from some anonymous guy who told me what a bad person I am because I helped cause the economy to fail. His presumptiveness is secondary; I acknowledge his frustration.

My main point in the interview with the reporter was that, once listed, a home becomes virtually ubiquitous, and, therefore, the main reason any home doesn’t sell is price.

Marie Graham, in addition to being a friend, is the founder of the Refreshed Home. Her specialties include interior design and killer staging for getting your home sold. On Saturday, January 30th at 10 am, she’ll be putting on a workshop on how to stage a home for sale optimally, and I will be in attendance. I am encouraging my seller clients to check it out. The event will be in the conference room of the Ossining Public Library at 53 Croton Ave.

What sellers need to understand is that buyers in this market are very choosy and the competition for their attention is brutal. A home that is not attractive or set up to it’s full potential can have it’s chances hurt for selling in a timely fashion for the most the market can bear. People buy with their eyes in many cases.

If you are for sale or are considering it, you should make this event.