Buying a House: Just Like Getting Married, It’s All In The Prep

Here’s the skinny on buying a house in today’s market. It’s not neurosurgery though to purchase a home right now takes a lot of preparation. Kind of like a finding the right partner for a successful marriage. Stay with me.

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There are 3 stages to the home buying process:

  1. Finding a home.
  2. Negotiating the contract.
  3. Get through the escrow process

Just as there are 3 stages to getting married: 

  1. Find a partner.
  2. Negotiate the relationship.
  3. Get married. 

Get Qualified

Talk to a lender. Talk to a few lenders. Find out what programs are available for your specific needs.  Talk to your partner. How qualified is that partner for your specific needs? Your offer is much more likely to be seriously considered by a seller if you’ve done your due diligence and proper homework completed before even beginning the search. Have that pre-qualified letter handy. Email to your agent, in fact. They’ll keep it in their file for you, usually good for 3 months.  And might even want to write a personal letter to the seller too, reasons why you’d be the perfect buyer. Sellers like knowing a prospective buyer is human.

Interview Agents

Not all agents are from the same ilk. Again, kinda like finding the right partner. Some bond easier than others. You think you’ll marry the first one who asks you out? Perhaps. For the Realtor, ask a lot of questions. Don’t skimp. Ask why he is the best agent for your particular needs? How well does he know the hood? What will he do during the process of a search other agents may or may not do? How does the agent feel about where she hangs her license? Is she ‘eh’ about her company or stand by and share their philosophy? What is an agent’s philosophy? Why is the sky blue and what does it take to get a returned phone call response to my voicemail? Things like that.

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Unlike preparing for marriage, the term timely manner is at one’s discretion. Since this website sticks to matters of real estate, we’ll save a marriage blog post elsewhere.  For a real estate transaction today, motivation to get paperwork done in a timely manner remains paramount to getting an offer accepted. Depending on how motivated a buyer is, get all that fun paperwork done before your search. Have it ready in hand or online, give to your agent of choice and feel the anticipation of a possible acceptance. Maybe, just maybe, the seller will say YES. 

Service Among Us Realtors

So began my day at preview. Real estate previews are pretty cool.  Who doesn’t like looking at houses? I suppose it depends on what neighborhood one previews. In my hood, here in northern part of Orange County, CA sit neighborhoods, their own distinct character and flair. From high-priced sprawling ranch houses to the more moderate suburban residence , the variation of architecture as diverse as its sellers. In any case, I enjoy the variety of the neighborhoods I work in.  Today I saw some incredibly beautiful houses; some beautiful simply by sheer aesthetics of columns, others, embraced by warmth and stained glass windows. Affluence is something I’m just beginning to take notice of in my business as I currently have a listing priced at $1,485,000, most expensive one yet.  IMG_0665

A conversation took place while driving the neighborhood. In between home tours the subject of leases came up, specifically the amount of work leases require for less money than regular sales. Compensation for doing a lease is usually based on a flat fee versus a percentage from a sale. Depending on each transaction, a lease  might produce as little as a hundred bucks, five hundred or somewhere in between.  From a strictly economical point of view, representing a client with a sale versus a lease is far more beneficial to the agent. But what about the client? Two successful agents complained about doing a few leases they’d done over the last year. They’re busy, busy, busy. Leases are a bother, a nuisance for many top producers.  Listening to their dialogue, I asked myself would I be so busy as to wave aside a low paying lease? Would I be as annoyed with a measly hundred bucks when surely I would make more with a sale? Even if annoyed, what would my client think if they suspected I thought this way?

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To be clear, I am not a top producing real estate agent. I’ve never been part of any Golden Club or won a trip to Hawaii based on my sales track record. Nor is my name embossed on a wall for “Salesperson of the Immediate Future.” I think those kinds of goals are ALL worth attaining and I have the utmost respect for fellow agents who pride themselves as such.  My business acumen is based on one-on-one service rather than sheer volume.

I’m a Realtor. I like making money. This is my career, my livelihood. Someone’s gotta pay for those extra useless television channels. When I work with my clients, I am at their service. It is an honor to be trusted and relied upon for the service I give. Not all will bond with me nor I with them. When that happens (and it has, always will) I’ve learned the skill to thank them, wish them the very best in their real estate endeavors and walk away. Most times, clients understand the service I provide merely by demonstration. Making $5000k versus $500, pretty much a no brainer.  What must be questioned is why that client chose us in the first place. If one ever finds me complaining about the next $100 made on a lease, I’ll treat them to a trip to Target with that money. That’ll probably cover a few t-shirts, beach towels, cleaning supplies, a neon green sports bra with matching leggings and some fancy chocolate candy bars.  Not bad for making someone happy about where they live.

Transforming Family Thru Real Estate

La familia, real estate and a trust: what to do, what to do?

There’s ample reason for taking time in making big decisions after a loved one dies. Upon the death of Mom a year and a half ago, first thoughts of what to do with her house: gut the kitchen, new granite tops, tile floor – the intention was to rent it out, make the most of what Mom worked so hard for and keep her legacy alive at the beach.

Mom's House: Circa 1933
Mom’s House: Circa 1933

Let’s face it, beach house + tenants = goldmine, yes? Not so fast, landlord. Time has a way of teaching different perspectives.
Though it seemed logical to keep the beach house for numerous financial and emotional reasons, my bro and I began questioning what he and I really wanted for ourselves. We came to the realization that we each had our own specific goals. Now we had to work together to find the right compromises that would enable us to move forward.

A living trust takes trust. And good faith.

As co-executors, Mom knew very well how well her kids would work together. This escaped me at the time, as one doesn’t think about such things while a parent is living. Once she was gone, brother and sister had to take the time necessary to reconnect with other and to understand where we were in our individual lives. I commend my Mama for taking action and creating a living trust years ago, as well as for having the faith that her children would do the right thing for themselves and for each other. Her preparation has raised a new awareness of our own lives as we now wish to take care of our own kids as she did for us.

The decision to sell Mom’s house, although not easy, now feels right. When a loved one passes on, give yourself time. Breathe, think, feel, mourn. If there’s real estate involved, even more reason. That property ain’t going anywhere. Decisions should be made with clarity. Other people mean well. They may give advice, feel they are helpful yet not understand your exact situation. Most people believe a simple will will allow heirs to handle the sale of a home. Not true. Depending on the situation it’s very likely “probate” will skim some of the sale profits.  Consider a trust. It’s a gift of legacy. 

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Mom & Paul, (aka, my bro) at 1405
Sometime late 90s
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Mom & Carin 1405 – the circular house:
Sometime late 80s

Surround yourself with trusted advisors, whether they be personal friends or professionals such as a trust attorney, tax consultant and yes, even a Realtor. Shameless plug? You bet. Call it what you will, pretty convicted about this one. Through my own personal experience, the care and compassion I bring to the table are that much stronger, authentic, to the point and undeniably altruistic. Sharing my personal story of Mom – a way to help you, someone you care about, the objective to simply let others know I understand, I care and if need be, will be there to help. 

In the near future, more to share regarding other real estate issues – the purpose, to share, engage and hopefully make one think a little bit, learn a little something.  I make a living helping families find their next home.  A very cool thing. 

Click on link to check out Mom’s house. 🙂

http://animoto.com/play/0EWcemc00DGav96ldzlbZQ

Role of Trustee: Selling a House

Part two in a series regarding death, assets and trusts, from a professional and personal experience point of view.

Mom’s desire upon her death for my brother and me? Co-executors. We work together in tandem, honoring her, her trust, what she would have wanted.

IMG_0811In preparing for sale of Mom’s estate (ok, it’s really a small cozy beach house) in lieu of signing a regular residential listing agreement, brother and I, as trustees, will sign a Trust Listing Agreement (Form TAL). Essentially, brother and I are managers of Mom’s trust, not sole owners of the house. Three parties are involved in the transaction: my bro and I, Mom’s trust and the broker.

I knew avoiding probate would prove positive, though now going through the experience of a trustee sale, more convinced than ever the magnitude of this gift Mom left. This is not to insinuate those going through probate are less than human simply because a trust wasn’t set up preceding death of a loved one. I am suggesting that one seriously consider writing a trust, as probate involves court proceedings, more time and added expense, whereupon a trust eliminates much of that. More cool info *here.

Along with the TLA, California Association or Realtors require a Trust Advisory (Form TA)  This form is “intended to inform Buyer and Seller of their rights and obligations independent of those established by the contract between them.” In other words, for the seller, what’s required, exempt and other considerations based on the trust, whether revocable or irrevocable. For example, sale of a trust is exempt of smoke detectors: “The sale is exempt of the State requirements that, for single family residences, operable smoke detectors be in place and that a written statement of compliance be provided to buyer.”  

Here’s the dealio: trust or not, exempt or not, I’m installing smoke detectors. And I’m gonna make sure ALL disclosures are provided to Buyer. Better for Seller, better for Buyer. Just makes good sense.

Going through this exercise of a trustee sale, I must admit I’m not prepared for my own kids. Granted, my ex and I were on the ball, having written a trust years ago. After the sale of Mom’s house, I’m not certain where or when I’ll purchase another property.  Guaranteed, with an asset such as a home, I will leave my own trust for my children, pass along the gift my Mom gave me.  What I’ve learned thus far, as a trustee and a real estate agent, prepping for the sale of any home, dealing with assets, today and tomorrow is imperative. The rewards of doing research, homework, thinking ahead and working with an advisor or two can eliminate a great deal and add an extra dose of peace in one’s life here on earth.

*For the record, I am not an attorney nor do I play one on TV. Please refer to your attorney for professional consultation.

*For those who need references, please look for that page coming soon to An Uncommon Agent near you soon. Thanks.

The Greatest Gift Upon Death

Part one in a series regarding death, assets and trusts, from a professional and personal experience point of view.

Death – gotta deal with it. Morose, you say? Not at all. It’s reality.

We’re all born, we die, we pay taxes. Not necessarily in that order.

Each time I learn of a person’s death, whether it be one I know or through a friend of mine, I’m reminded death is imminent. Even young people are not exempt. Newsflash, I know, yet most are afraid to confront death. 

The Greatest Gift

When Mom died sixteen months ago, I had no idea how much I would appreciate the greatest gift she gave. Not a house, estate, specific asset, clothing or rare books. It was her trust, her written instructions of her DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) her completed plan and pre-paid cremation. It was her gift of peace. 

Before Mom died, death played little part in my life. My grandparents passed away years ago, that experience a further distance from one’s own parent. I am in a quandary whilst dealing with another family member, not knowing for certain what their plan is. It’s causing anxiety in me. The anxiety stems from little to no cooperation, the hesitation from the family member to share pertinent  information which is necessary  to help them. Why such hesitancy? How much does fear reflect inaction?  If not for the recent experience of Mom’s death, there would be less anxiety, as I now under understand, fully, completely the significance of her gift. 

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 Expect the Unexpected

It was brought to my attention today at my weekly meeting that a colleague’s neighbor passed away last night, completely unexpected. In addition, he was young (mid-forties) and not married though lived for years with his girlfriend. Evidently, no will, trust in place. Of course this is all hearsay, though got me thinking a lot about Mom’s death and my own mortality. 

While married, my husband and I were on the ball regarding a trust. As one was put together for my dad-in-law, he and I wasted no time having the attorney do one for us as well. At the time (almost 10 years ago) I didn’t hesitate having it done, yet didn’t see the value either. As parents of younger kiddos at the time, hubby and I weren’t gonna leave this earth anytime soon. But it made sense at the time, mostly due to simple default: almost a two-for-one. 

Recently divorced, I shall begin the process of having a new trust written up in my own name. No longer dependent on my ex-husband to proceed with such matters, I’m awake, paying attention and taking note of my life – and my death. My children, both adults now, will not be put in a precarious place upon my death. They will experience my death though they will also experience my gift – the gift of peace, protection and love. 

One not need be an old person to confront death. I find the more I deal with this subject straight on, fear diminishes. 

How prepared are you for your loved one’s death? Are they prepared or do they need your assistance? Are you having difficulty helping them confront their own mortality or even discussing the subject of death in general?  Help and resources abound. Where to turn, whom to trust?

Next time, resources and different options in confronting loved one’s regarding death.   

Awesome Senior Rummage Sale

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Rummage Sale at Rita’s Treasure Chest!

Please join Rita and Friends from Orange Senior Center for their Spring Rummage Sale! 

Held 2 days, Friday May 17th & Saturday May 18th – 8:00am – 1:30pm

Orange Senior Center

170 S. Olive  Orange 92866

Remember all proceeds got right back into the Orange Senior Center. I’ll be there both days so come on by, say hello and thanks for supporting our Orange seniors! 

Selling Mom’s House and Growing Up

In the throes of prepping a house to sell, always a bit daunting. After my Mom’s death January 2012, her house isn’t the same. My brother and I made the deliberate decision to leave everything of hers “as is” weeks after she died – moving toward week six, eventually gaining the emotional energy to begin a new transition – from Connie’s home to Connie’s Trust.

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Connie’s Place, Circa Jan 2012

Connie gave my brother and I the gift of all gifts a parent can give their children – a living trust. That’s not the focus of this post, though relevant for a number of reason, some of which I’ll share another time. That said, nothing quite prepares a kid (even middle-aged ones) for the death of a parent. Whatever age, growing up takes on a new life of its own.

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Connie’s Place, Circa Jan 2012

To understand her death is to understand her life. She LOVED her house. I mean, the woman truly loved where she lived – Newport Beach, CA. Far from the east coast shore the Jersey girl grew up in, she found her west coast rendering of the shore in the early 70s years after my parents moved west.

Upon my parents divorce in 1972, going back to work as a newbie real estate agent, the single mom of two young kids scratched and saved every penny, first purchasing a 6 unit apartment building on the peninsula right between 10th and 11th streets on Balboa Blvd. Selling the apartments five years later, Mom and a friend, pooling their financial resources, together bought a 1933 bungalow on West Bay Ave. Ten years later, in 1988, buying her friend out, the entire property was newly titled in Connie’s name only – an incredible accomplishment considering she did most of it on her own.

Which brings us to today, the year 2013. After months of deep conversation, lot of thought through the tears, my brother and I have decided to sell Mom’s beloved home. Has not come easily; mixed emotions, of course. Grateful Mom left her gift of a trust, it’s increasingly expensive living in Newport  (currently we both reside on Mom’s property – he in the main house, me in unit behind, an apartment upstairs) In addition, my brother and I are heading down our own individual paths moving forward.

Never having had the experience of coping with the death of a parent until last year, all of this is still new, unexplored, a bit unsettling and at times, overwhelming. Are we doing the right thing? Should we sell now or wait longer? As a real estate professional myself, the challenge lies in remaining pragmatic, not the easiest when the emotional ties lie within the lathe and plaster of a structure.

My Hero
My Hero

She’s gone, yes, though I find I talk to her much more these last few weeks;  the need to find the right buyer, asking her to share her wisdom and indelible capacity to use that amazing common sense of hers. Her main wish for my brother and I was to experience just five minutes of peace (her wonderful Jersey accent and sarcasm) in one form or another. Ultimately, her gift, a home she worked so hard to attain and keep, her children, now given the opportunity to do with it what would be best for us. She stressed over the never-ending house payments, property taxes, changes throughout the city, the growing number of people visiting Newport each summer, trash left in the alley and litter on the sand. Despite these issues, despite she could have sold during the peak of the market, make more than enough dollars to retire much earlier than she did, Connie wasn’t going anywhere. Point in fact, she’s still here. I have no idea what it’ll feel like when the house sells yet  I’ll always feel closest to her on the beach. Difference now, I’m a little more grown up.