Intermediate Information: May 2008 Archives

This email exchange is worth another article on a different subject. Everything down to "Afterwards" is a straight out of the email except that I deleted any information that might identify a particular individual or company. The context was that he wanted my ability to locate and recognize bargain properties.

I am currently working with a coworker with no agreement. However, she has offered to rebate 50% of her commission. Are you negotiable with your commission?

I am very ready to buy a place at a bargain or discounted price. I have been pre approved by DELETED for $550 but I do not want to spend more than $525, preferably around the $450 range.

I have sufficient liquid funds for 10% down and have an excellent credit score...score 3 months ago was 752.

Let me know.

I do have lower cost packages for when you do part of the work, starting with finding the property.

When I find the property, I retain the entire commission.

Yes, getting half the commission back is cool with most folks. But consider: Did your current agent find you something like this? Does she spend enough time shopping the market that she even knows what is and is not a bargain, or does she just say "Here is the living room."? What value is she providing you? If the answer is, "not much," then no wonder she's willing to rebate half the commission! As far as she's concerned, the half she does keep is free money for going around and looking with you. My goal is that my clients end up with at least 10% they would not have had without me - either a better property for the same money, or the same value property for a lower price, or some combination of the two. Now, if getting half of a two point five percent commission via rebate sounds better than saving 10% of the value of the property, by all means keep doing what you are doing. If getting a property that is worth more, or paying less for the same property, is what you are after, you need someone who is likely to deliver that.

Yes, I'm one of the deepest loan discounters there is. That's because a loan is a loan is a loan, as long as it's on the same terms. A thirty year fixed from National Megabank is the same loan as a thirty year fixed from the Bank of Nowhere in Particular, provided the rate, costs, and terms are the same. Only difference is who you make the check out to.

No two properties are alike. Especially in the current market, the difference between shopping smart and not doing so is tens of thousands of dollars, far more than a commission rebate. I don't rebate buyer's commissions because I provide more than that in value.

Now, I've got some bargains I've found. If you'd like to work with me and get shown these bargains, or have me go looking for bargains specifically for you, give me a call and let's make an appointment to meet and get my contract signed. It's non-exclusive, so if you don't like what I find for you, you're free to stop at any time and go work with someone else. If I don't perform, as in find the property you want, I get nothing. I put a lot of work into every client or prospect I work with, with the idea of getting them a better bargain. I'm confident enough of my abilities that I don't need to tie you to me exclusively. But you do get what you pay for. If you want a Yugo agent that breaks down in the middle of the transaction and leaves you stranded, that's no skin off my nose, but you are not the client I'm looking for and the bargains I find are for my clients.

Consider that your boss could probably hire other people to do your job more cheaply, but his additional investment in you probably makes him more money than that cheap replacement worker would save, and that's same reason is why I am worthy of my pay.

By those characteristics, you are a very qualified buyer. You should be working with someone who knows how to use that as leverage to get you a better bargain.

Or you can pay full price for a mediocre property, and console yourself with 1.25%.

If you decide you would rather have the real bargain, here I am, ready to go to work for you.

It may be true of what you are saying, however, if you want to win over are going to have to change the tone of your communication. You come across very demeaning. Even if you were giving your services away free...I wouldn't be interested.

I took the time to explain the situation to you, rather than a flat answer. That's just a small taste of the value I provide. I am paid to be the expert, and I earn my pay. If you are an expert, you don't need me. If you don't know about all the stuff you don't know about and are stuck in denial about "Agents don't even need a college degree!", you won't see the value of a real expert - which is part of the point of what I wrote. Believe it or not, there are clients a good agent does not want, and you appear to be one of them by your response.

If all you're interested in is that rebate, that's fine with me - I am not looking for penny-wise and pound-foolish clients. I am looking for people who understand and are willing to pay for value when they find it, in order to save more money in the long term. But if you won't pay for value, don't be surprised when you don't get it. If you don't believe skill makes a difference, by all means go with the commission rebater.

Good bye and good luck.

You are an idiot. And I am going to report to the board.

There are plenty of agents that want my business. I haven't even tried to contact any agents yet.

You are the one that needs the good luck.


Afterwards: This guy is working with a weekend agent who isn't good enough or confident enough to quit her real job on the largest transaction of his life. No wonder he doesn't realize what a difference a good buyer's agent can make! Furthermore, it's highly unlikely that working forty hours per week somewhere else, she has the time, energy, and inclination to keep up with the market and its changes, let alone screen out properties that aren't worth the client's time. Value provided? Letting him into the property and saying, "Here is the kitchen. Here is the living room." Most people really can figure that out for themselves. Improvement in outcome over just doing something incredibly stupid and calling the listing agents? I can't see that there is likely to be any.

Now this guy was hoping I'd reduce my commission, and it's okay to ask. It's not okay to get upset when someone won't. It's counterproductive to get upset and claim I'm being "demeaning," by explaining to him what he plainly had not considered, that the value provided by a good agent far exceeds the commission rebate. He probably thought that that was "hard negotiating," not understanding that he had marked himself as someone that cannot be dealt with on the basis of mutual profitability, both of us coming out of the exchange better than we otherwise would have. If you don't understand that there is a problem or challenge, you are unlikely to understand the solution. On paper, the Yugo looks like a good idea. But once you deal with one, you know it's no bargain. Maintenance, reliability, performance, noise, lack of room, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I see a lot more original VWs on the road, marketed to the same demographic over twenty years earlier, than I do Yugos. Problems in real estate transactions happen, and they're often much better buried than anything purely mechanical. Furthermore, there's no real "lemon law" equivalent in real estate, and if you fail to deal with the issue at the proper time - most preferably, before it's a problem at all - it's far more costly to go back and fix. You saved $4000 on agent commission! Yay! You bought the wrong property, paid too much, can't afford necessary repairs, and have to sell at a huge loss and pay bigger commissions out of that than the person who sold you the property did? Not so good. Definitely not so good. Not to mention that with the prices of real estate being what they are, anything you "saved" in compensating the person who is supposed to be the expert on your side is likely to be lost several times over because the person who will work cheaper isn't worth as much.

In certain quarters, it's practically an offense against humanity to claim that you provide more value than another agent might, but it is nonetheless true that some agents provide more value than others. Get offended if you want. It makes zero difference to the facts. It is more constructive to employ techniques to find those agents who provide more value. Agents need to know the market segment they are serving, and this person is not part of mine. My business model does not permit me to do business with this sort of client and stay in business. You want cheap service with a commission rebate? The weekend agent is the way to go, not me, however much it might anger you to be told so. You want someone who is actually going to find you a better property at a better price, and provide more leverage in negotiations? You may be the client I'm looking for, and the discounter with the commission rebate is as inappropriate for you as an agent as I am for his ideal client. The discounter might want my clients, but they are not set up to serve the needs of those clients. I occasionally do business with one of the discounters preferred clients, but I have no interest in seeking them out, and I cannot stay in business spending as much time and effort on them as someone where I make the full commission. Truth be told, the existence of such clients dilutes the value of my reputation, when somebody who has persuaded me to offer them a discounted package for lesser services tells someone who might otherwise be a good prospect that I did a good job, but nothing special. My target client is someone who's not only looking for excellent value, but recognizes it when they see it.

Caveat Emptor.

Found this on a public forum

I need help to stop foreclosure on my home. I need to sell quickly? I am a couple months behind on my payments and want to sell now. I am not looking to make a profit just need to get what i owe.

Boy, did the sharks swarm over that one! There were at least a dozen offers to purchase before I saw it.

Anybody will buy your house for half the market value.

Contact an agent about selling at quick sale prices. Offer 2% listing agent, 3% buyers agent. Even a quick sale price should get you at least 80% of value. Yes, that will cost you 5%. But you'll come out with 75% of value, net instead of 50. If your loan balance is anywhere under 75% of the value, this puts more money in your pocket. If your loan balance is more than that, it means you'll owe less in taxes when the lender hits you with a 1099. Not to mention that trying to sell a short payoff without a good agent is an exercise in futility.

Now this is not to say that you should list it for 80% of your most fevered imagination of what it is worth. You need to sell, as in have someone offer a price that they can actually pay you. You need offers. Ideally, you want multiple offers fast. You do this by underpricing the market value of your property, so that you will attract people who want to look, and they think it's a good price so they make an offer. The offer will not be full asking price, and don't waste your time hoping that you will get such an offer. Once that Notice of Default hits, everybody knows that you need to sell. To use one example I'm going through with a buyer client right now, if your property is a two bedroom place that basically looks like wild animals have been living there, and your list price is 99% of the three bedroom down the street, you are not going to get it, and you have a deadline, while your prospective buyers do not. You need to figure out what it is really worth by sales of comparable property happening right now, and then you need to discount that price by enough to make a difference. How much? Depends upon what your local market is like. That's part of what good agents get paid for.

Toss any concept of "negotiating room" or "getting what the property is worth" out of your head. Get your attitude out of the seller's market of a few years ago. Especially in the current buyer's market, all of the power is in the hands of the prospective buyers. If you won't sell for what they offer, the one down the street who is a little bit smarter, or a little bit more desperate, will. Sellers have little enough power right now without the deadline of foreclosure. People who need to sell have only the power to say no, and what happens if they don't say yes to someone? I'll tell you what happens: You get nothing. The chances are better of flying to the moon by flapping your arms than of getting some of your equity back out of a foreclosed property. Since your best alternative is lose everything you have in the property, that's not a strong negotiating position. This buyer does not have to have your property. With very high inventory in my local market, they can go find a more attractive property, cheaper, from someone else. Their best alternative in negotiations is that they go find some other seller who will sell for what they want to offer. Negotiating position: Very strong. Net result, the buyer offers what the property is worth to them. If you won't take it, they only need a bit of patience to find something else that will. If you didn't need to sell, you could just hold on to the property, of course, but we've already determined that you don't have that option, and time is not your friend. A very large proportion of agents still have their heads in seller's market mode. Indeed, most of the major chains are still telling their agents to think like it's a seller's market. This kind of thinking is of no use in the present market, as roughly 46,000 residential property owners discovered in San Diego County in 2006. Considering that only 31,000 transactions successfully closed in the same time period, that is a warning. Only about 40% of property owners who listed their properties sold at all, on any terms. When you consider the time constraints of selling under pending foreclosure, it behooves you to understand your position.

Caveat Emptor

This article is for sellers who want to put their property on the market priced too high "just to see if we can get it."

I know where sellers get it. A lot of people are out there hyping the notion that getting a higher price is a function of patience. It isn't. It's a matter of being worth a higher price. The higher priced your property, the lower the percentage of the population that can afford your property and therefore, it takes longer to sell higher end properties. But the notion that getting a better price for your property is a matter of patience is wishful thinking.

I keep telling people, if you want to be a successful seller, think like a buyer (The opposite also applies).

Here's what buyers do: They look for the most attractive property that best suits their individual needs at the lowest possible price.

Buyers are quite conscious of the fact that there are other buyers out there, and they want - very strongly - to harness the collective brain-power of those other buyers. As I had quite forcefully driven home to me recently, one of the things that buyers want out of listing services is "days on market." It wasn't a surprise to me, but the vehemence of the feeling certainly reinforced my understanding. I've written many times about the selling your property quickly and for the best possible price, and the effects of not adhering to that strategy. Buyers don't want to "waste" their time with picked over remains that nobody else liked, hence their rather strong focus on the variable of "time on market". It's incorrect, but that's the way the average buyer sees it. Kind of like the produce and meat sections of the supermarket at closing time. I cannot recall the last time a gateway client sent me an email about a property that had been on the market as much as two weeks - and at least 90% (maybe 99%) of them came onto the market within the last day or two.

So what happens when you put your property on the market over-priced? You might get showings, but when your buyers look at competing properties, they get a better deal - more of what they need and want for the same price - by buying those other properties. Therefore, they will make offers on those other properties - not yours.

Within a short period of time - usually a month or less - the showings will trail off. That pesky "time on market" counter. Buyers aren't interested in what's been picked over and rejected - they want fresh offerings, just like at the supermarket. There are any number of methods of gaming the time "time on market" counter to fool the buyers. Let me ask you: Would all these methods even exist if it wasn't important to buyers? Heck, no! (Enforcement of measures against that gaming is getting stronger, by the way).

Once your property is on the market, it's effectively a depreciating asset, thanks to that "days on market" counter. It may not be as time critical as the fresh seafood counter, but it's a matter of how quickly it loses how much of its value, not whether it does. I'm typing this on May 5 - it you're looking at a fridge full of milk cartons, would you be looking for the one that expires May 7th, May 12th, or May 17th? People are so used to doing this that they don't even realize they're doing it or that it may not be appropriate in this context. But right, wrong, or indifferent, they do this. Pretending otherwise doesn't make it so.

There is one way to refresh that interest in your property, and it's the same way that the grocery store does it. What's the feature of the "day old bread" table that people remember? Sometimes a grocer will have a place for meat or fish that's older than ideal as well, and they use exactly the same principle: lower the price.

At this stage, you've got to lower your price to compete with the other "day old bread," and to get a successful sale at this point, you've got to be priced like day old bread. This means significantly less than you could have gotten in the first place. Nobody buys day old English Muffins for a dollar when there's fresh ones sitting right next to them for that dollar, and it's not like people can't tell they're day old. So in order to sell those day old English Muffins, the store marks them down to fifty cents. The same principle will work to sell a property that's been on the market too long. Even though the discount isn't as steep, proportionally speaking, it's still cost you a large amount of money to put your property on the market overpriced. People still buy day old bread - just not for the same price as the stuff the drive delivered fresh this morning. Not to mention those carrying costs for a property. The fact is, putting your property on the market over-priced costs you thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. The longer it takes you to see the light, the worse it gets.

I've been writing all of this as if asking price was implicitly equivalent to sales price, which is not the case, but the relationship between the two is beyond the scope of this article (or any other article I'm likely to write here). Suffice to say that asking price is a representation by the seller of a sales price they would be pleased to accept.

But the buyer's perception of value diminishes with time on market, regardless of whether or not there is any merit to that viewpoint. In general, there is not, but it's kind of like believing in communism or social security or single payer health care, to construct a "Christmas Carol Ghost" parallel (disaster past, disaster present, and disaster yet to come). Doesn't matter how much nonsense it is - if enough people believe in it, it's going to be the law of the land until enough people change their mind or the whole system falls apart. Since the time between adoption and abolishment is longer than most property owners can hold onto that property, this means you might as well treat it as a fact of life, because from the point of view of a seller, it is.

You can avoid this issue by pricing the property correctly in the first place, and correct pricing should be a difficult discussion if your prospective listing agent is any good. If the pricing discussion isn't difficult, were I in your shoes I'd take that as a strong warning sign and tell that agent that their services are not desired.

Caveat Emptor


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