Thanksgiving: From the Frontline in Real Estate

It’s December and, as the operator of my own business, it’s a good time to review my 2011 business year.

I have some testimonials given to me by some of my past clients. I’ve been reading over them and thinking about whether or not to publish them. What do you think?

Testimonials are an important form of feedback that Realtors can use to improve the quality of service they offer future clients. Some of the comments in the testimonials, while positive, caused me to ponder whether or not to offer them as evidence of the high standard of service I offer my clients.

One of them says:   “Thank you Amy for your dedication and resourcefulness in finding [me] the perfect house! Your cheerful demeanor lifted [my] spirits in the crazy days and kept [me] focused. [I] couldn’t have done it without you.”

Crazy days? Do I want potential clients to ponder the meaning of “crazy days”?

A little background:  The person who offered me such high praise is a professional executive with very high standards. She must make good, solid business decisions quickly and confidently. She is accustomed to a great deal of responsibility in her professional life and expects equally great performances from those who work for her. As you can imagine, acting as her Realtor meant I needed to be on my toes.

During every transaction, there are moments my clients feel as if the purchase or sale of their home is no longer in their able hands. This occurs after an offer is carefully constructed and submitted to the Seller. Buyers really want to buy the property but their success lies in the hands of an individual, or individuals, they do not know. That can be nerve-wracking. When a property is put on the market and open for the public to see, and walk through, Sellers can sometimes feel as though their home is no longer their own. And that too can translate to a feeling that their home is no longer something they control.

We, as human beings, like to be in control. It is one of the qualities that makes us unique in a world full of living creatures. However it is also a characteristic that can make us feel unbearably frustrated. Out of control. And out of control can feel a little crazy.

There were periods during the transaction when the Buyer felt as though she was not in complete control of the transaction. Unfortunately, those brief periods when one party is waiting for a response from the other does feel like a loss of control. It really isn’t, because both parties to the contract are equally invested in the outcome. But when one cannot do anything to effect the conclusion of the deal until the other responds, anxiety can creep in and interject doubt where it needn’t be.

The person who gave me that testimonial is a person I like very much. She is elegant and decisive. She has a smile that can light up a room and poise that can feel intimidating. She is the consummate professional. I loved working with her and worked very hard to learn what she was looking for so I could find her the house that would produce the expression that lets me know my client is experiencing something she/he likes. And, after showing her about five properties, I found one that was absolutely beautiful, an hour after it hit the market, and our offer was the first one on the Seller’s desk. She got the house she wanted and I was elated to have been part of her process.

Thank you Jan.

Another client wrote:   “I recently completed a very difficult transaction and Amy was a huge asset to have on my team. There were some tough issues for me to think about. Amy went to so far as to tell me that if it were her, she would not buy it. That took integrity as she was the one what would lose out on a nice commission. I’d highly recommend that you give her a chance to help you with your property as that is what she will do. She not a body that just does as little as possible. She’s the real thing. I can’t recommend her highly enough.”

Okay. Do I publish this? I did, but I edited it a little. I don’t want people to think I walked into the property and said, “Ew! Yuk! No way. You don’t want this.” That’s not what happened.

A little background:   I adore this client. She is another professional and well-educated business woman. She was looking at a bank-owned condo that was located in a complex that was suffering greatly in one of the most badly affected areas (in the country!) by the foreclosure/sub-prime mortgage crisis. There was obvious deferred maintenance and other, myriad signs of an operating budget slashed to the bone.

The complex will recover because of its unique and very-desireable location. But in the short-term, I worried about my client’s investment. The bank that owned the property paid little heed to contract deadlines and the Condo Association seemed to do everything it could to drag its feet when it came to getting my client the Condo Association documents with Meeting Minutes included, required by law to be given to her within 7 days of her initial request. (In California) Fortunately, my client had purchased other condo units in other buildings and she knew when to persist. I was new to selling condos and the experience was like being thrown into the ‘hood’ of condo purchases.

This client is noble. She likes to purchase properties others do not want, rehab them, and rent them out. She is involved in the neighborhoods where her properties are located. She is the neighbor and landlord everyone would love to have in their neighborhood. She believes in community. I believe in all those things too, but the property she was considering needed so much extensive (and expensive!) work that the price hardly seemed worth it. However, the complex really, really needed my client to purchase that unit. It did. And she did. And I am so glad she did!

Thank you Troy.

A third client wrote:   “…without your bulldog tenacity, our land purchase never would have happened. We both thank you very much for all of your help.”

My “bulldog tenacity”? Oh my! Do I want potential clients to think I am a tenacious bulldog? Okay. In the defense of bulldogs, every bulldog I have ever met was wonderful and sweet, so I suppose I can consider this a compliment. Really.

These clients are an awesome couple. He has a remarkable and sometimes hairbending job and the Type-A personality to go with it. She is another ultra-professional business woman who also happens to be extremely talented in the I-can-learn-to-do-it-from-a-book department. She decided to tile the floor and the risers of their stairs while her husband was out-of-town on business, and it is one of the most beautiful tile jobs I have ever seen. I’m not kidding! It is perfectly level, the tile is wonderfully straight, and the mini-tile insets are gorgeous.These two are excellent at everything they do.

They wanted to purchase a 10-acre parcel with a home on it that was not habitable. The house on the property was breaking in half and slowly sliding down the hill. The bank was not yet aware of the state of the home and it was a short sale. The property had been purchased for $1.3 Million at the height of the market, when the house was all in one piece, but was now being sold for $250,000. This was in scorpion, rattlesnake, brown recluse, and tarantula country and all those creatures were making their ways into the living space where the Sellers were trying to remain until the transaction closed.

The Sellers were truly traumatized by the whole experience. Imagine it for yourself – you buy your dream house with the dream view and you begin your retirement in peace and serenity. Sure the price was a little steep…but you get to live here and wake up here every day! You decide the price is worth it. Soon, cracks appear. Within two or three years you hear loud cracks and thumps in the middle of the night as the roof trusses begin to unseat from the columns that support them. Huge gaps appear between walls and floor and soon you find rattlesnakes in your living room and tarantulas in your closet, living in your sweaters. The Sellers were very nice people and I felt terrible for them. No one should ever have to go through what they experienced.

Because of the state of the house, and the crash of the housing market, the retirement place they saved and saved for, and finally purchased, was worth only a fraction of its original value. They couldn’t live in their beloved home any longer. A city engineer was summoned to inspect the home. He condemned the home after a brief inspection saying it was, “…unsafe for human habitation.” There was no possible way for them to continue living in their home, and no possible way to sell it without short-selling it. So that they did.

My Buyers were the able and willing purchasers. There was one bank involved in the short sale and two loans. You’d think the fact that both loans were with the same bank would have expedited the process. It didn’t. Five months later and an untold amount of stress on the part of the Sellers, the Sellers moved to a beautiful and safe rental home in a golf course community with a view. It wasn’t his dream 10 acres of unspoiled grassy hills, but it was warm and safe and there were no unwelcome critters in their house any more. It was clear the Seller surrendered the gate code and keys to the disintegrating house under enormous duress. It was heart wrenching. He was leaving behind a wonderful dream for an uncertain future. My Buyers were amazing and compassionate. I was in awe of them both.

My Buyers had the house deconstructed by a charity that recycles or reuses every single salvageable piece. The house is gone and only a dirt pad remains. They plan to build their dream house there after the market improves. They have already consulted with and architect and are weighing their options. I have no doubt that whatever they build will be beautiful, level, and have footings that anchor the home deep underground in that hillside. And because Kris is playing an integral role in the design, it will be stunning.

My ‘bulldog tenacity’? Well, I think it is more accurate to say both the Selling agent (me) and the Listing agent (Laura) worked very, very hard on our clients’ behalfs. The waiting, the negotiating, the finessing of the banks, the requesting of our clients, was all very time-consuming and our efforts were often met with frustration. We had to submit, resubmit, and resubmit again documents to overworked and overwhelmed bank asset managers over and over again.

This was a team effort. Nothing less. It taught every single person involved precious lessons of compassion, patience, persistence, and understanding. I am a different person for having had this experience and I will use the lessons I learned to serve my clients to my highest capacity.

Thank you, for your ‘bulldog tenacity’ Kris and Bill. I couldn’t have done it without you.

There are valuable stories behind every transaction. Those stories are the jewels of my industry. Every person, every couple, every newly widowed or divorced, every move to upsize or downsize, each and every motive is deliberate and new and important.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these stories. The full names and addresses have not been revealed for obvious reasons. But, rest assured, the truly remarkable people are all real and the transactions did occur. And I am honored to have been part of all of them.

 

Happy Holiday Househunting?

YES!

It is officially the Holiday Season when the real estate market slows down to a slow crawl. Right?

Not really. In fact, it doesn’t slow down that much at all. A pace reduction of only 30% is hardly a crawl. That means that during this time of year, the market is bustling along at 70% of its Summer speed and from my perspective, that’s a pretty good pace.

Why sell a house now?

Interest rates are below ‘low.’ This morning, Homestreet Bank (Windermere Mortgage, yes, we are affiliated) said it is offering 30-year, fixed-rate, fully amortized loans at, get this, 3.95%! Fifteen-year loans are even lower than that!

Interest rates this low means buyers get more house for their money because the dip in interest rate means they can afford more house. And that makes this an excellent time to buy. And sell. There are a lot of people who do not really want their homes on the market during the holiday season. It makes sense. But it also means you, as a Seller in this market, this time of year, have less competition. Less competition means opportunities to reduce your price are fewer, and the likelihood you’ll get your price, is greater. Selling your home right now increases your chances of being handsomely rewarded for your time and effort, and that you’ll have to expend less time and effort to sell.

Buy right now? What about buying right now?

That’s a good question. Interest rates are lower now than I have ever seen them. That means you may be able to afford the home of your dreams. It means you, Buyers, too may be handsomely rewarded for your time and effort.

It is a great time to sell and a great time to buy. Don’t let the holiday season, or the weather, dissuade you. There are some amazing properties out there. I was out on Broker Tour yesterday and this morning and found myself ooh-ing and aw-ing at completely remodeled homes, at great investment homes (that need some updating), and at some newer properties that were beautifully staged. More than once I found it difficult to pay attention to the property and stop staring at the view.

Are you dreaming of waking up to a view? I have a property (or five) with views that will inspire you and make your friends ask you how you ever got so lucky.

Give me a call and we’ll go take a look! I’ll say, “You have got to see this!”

Happy Househunting!

Amy Munsey, Broker

Windermere Cronin & Caplan Realty Group, Inc.

Call (971) 258-5500  or Email Amy@AmyMunsey.com

May Your Broker Be Picky!

I joined the large and substantial team at Windermere a few weeks ago and it has been a whirlwind of new knowledge to absorb and trainings to attend to get up to speed on Windermere’s unique culture.

Culture? Sure! Every company has its own culture and Windermere is no different. They are a serious bunch and Principal Broker Ron Howard makes sure all the brokers and agents who look to him for guidance are up to speed on the latest contract and law changes.

This is important and it happens to be one of the qualities I like so much about this office.

Pretend you are the Buyer: Did you know that you, the Buyer, need to be careful to make sure all your inspections are complete and negotiated within the inspection period? Usually this period is 10 days. I like to extend it to 12 or 15 days. If all inspections are not done and all repairs are not negotiated, and the inspection period expires, no matter where negotiations are at, if the inspection period hasn’t been contractually extended by both the Buyer and Seller before the deadline passed, the Buyers are automatically in contract and obligated to buy the property.

Nah, No Sellers would really make Buyers do that…would they? Answer: Yes.

My relationship with my clients is legal, ethical, and fiduciary. To serve my clients and meet my obligations stated under guidelines that describe the duties an agent/broker has to their clients, it is my duty to protect my clients and their money as best I can. One of the most important ways I can do this is to make sure all the terms of the contract are met, per the terms of the contract. And that means filing for an extension of the inspection deadline before that deadline expires. Not after. Because promises and assumptions that are not supported by a legal contract are difficult to defend in litigation and arbitration.

“We thought the Sellers would extend the deadline so we sent them the form to extend the day after the deadline expired…” And? Did the Sellers extend the inspection deadline? They didn’t have to. And the Buyers are now, technically and legally, in contract to buy the house with its leaking roof, missing GFCI outlets, dry rot under the living room where they want to put their piano, and gas furnace that doesn’t work despite the fact that their lender may not want to loan on a house with so many health and safety issues. Now what? Call the Seller’s agent and beg her or him to beg her or his clients to extend the deadline?

Now look at it from the Seller’s point of view: They want to sell the house. Selling a house and keeping it in perfect condition while it shows is a pain. They don’t want to go back to that. And they have put all the money they feel like putting into the house, into the house. They don’t want to put anymore money into the house. They just want to sell the house and be done with it. They’re tired of trying to sell their house, they’re tired of people they do not know tromping through their home, and they’re tired of locking the dog in the garage. And now they have the Buyers on the hook to buy the house. No backing out now! If the Buyers back out, they lose all their earnest money deposit so they’ll have part of that. However, they’ll have to wait out the contract and they can’t try to sell it to anyone else while they do that. You know what? Fine. They’ll wait.

Now look at it from the Buyer’s point of view: Oh My Goodness! They didn’t actually read thoroughly the Sale Contract they signed (which is a legal and binding contract written by lawyers), and they did not see that if they did not release the inspection contingencies, and the inspection deadline passed, and they weren’t done negotiating with the Sellers to split the cost of repairing the leaky roof, the missing GFCIs, the dry rot under the living room, and the furnace that doesn’t work, they’d be on the hook to buy the house AS-IS. Now what? Call their agent and ask why the inspection deadline wasn’t extended before the deadline passed? Yes. And they might be angry when they make that call. Because they’ll have a right to be angry. Because it never should have gotten to this point. Right?

Right.

If I am your agent, it is my responsibility to be nerdy and particular about deadlines, and to hound you for the paperwork I need you to sign, and to hound the other agent if I need to for the return of signed paperwork acknowledging receipt by her or his client, because it is my duty to be loyal to you and to protect you and your money to the best of my ability. I will seem pesky at times, sure. But remember, I am particular and careful to protect your money and your time. You hired me to do that.

And I do not like receiving phone calls from desperate agents wanting the inspection deadline extended after the deadline has passed. That is one hard argument to sell to my Sellers. Trust me. So I call the other agent before that deadline passes, just to make sure their client is okay with the deadline passing. Because that is the ethical thing to do for my client, and theirs.

And it is because I make these calls that my principal broker, Ron Howard, hired me in the first place.

Happy House Hunting!

Amy Munsey, Windermere Cronin and Caplan Realty Group, Inc.

Call (971) 258-5500 or Email Amy@AmyMunsey.com

The Hawthorne Bridge on a Saturday Afternoon

Saturday was a little grey here in Portland…but it was bright. My husband and I parked near the Eastbank Esplanade to see if we could get a few photos for my website (www.amymunsey.com) and for the business cards I need to get printed up pronto.

We parked near one of the entrances to the Esplanade, near the life-size statue of the great and wonderful Vera Katz (who also happened to be a former mayor of the Rose City) and walked until we found a good place to begin. Sure, we passed a few homeless folks who set up camp near the port-potties…I can’t say I blame them. I t makes sense to me. The wind was blowing a little but we got a few good shots. Still, the light wasn’t right.

We walked up across the Hawthorne Bridge and that was when the fact that I am home really set in. I love the Hawthorne Bridge. When we lived in the Queen Anne Victorian on 14th and Taylor Street, the Hawthorne Bridge was the distinctive landmark that was the obvious point of beginning for so many sets of directions given to family and friends who were trying to make it to our house from who knows where. I walked across it in the snow one Winter to get to work because my car was snowed in and the busses were sporadic. I rode across it on countless bike rides enjoyed with my husband and walked across it on a regular route we used to stroll on weekends. Those walks often ended at the Daily Cafe’ in Rejuvenation House Parts on Grand with a warm latte’ and a sandwich that tasted like heaven. Hearing the cars buzz across the steel grating and looking up at the huge concrete counterweights that lift both sides of the bridge span to make way for tall masts to pass underneath was almost cathartic. I could smell the river beneath and stopped to watch a man in a speedboat cutting loop-the-loops through the surface of the water. People were enjoying the amphitheater and the fountain was running high. The Hawthorne Bridge is beautiful.

 

If you are not from Portland, I can tell you the city is all about the river. Streets parallel it and several bridges serve car and bicycle commuters, and those who walk to the places they need to be. Will you need to take the Sellwood Bridge? Are you going to Sellwood or Milwaukie? Do you need Powell on the other side of the Ross Island Bridge? Or are you staying on I-5 across the Markham Bridge to get onto I-84 on the other side? There is the Hawthorne Bridge, the Steel Bridge, The Broadway Bridge, and the gorgeous and Gothic St. John’s Bridge. That is a stunning bridge. Here, it all about getting across that river, the Willamette River to be precise.

Oh yes, and if you say you ‘took your bike’ to get somewhere, it will be understood you rode your bicycle to make the trip, not a motorcycle. Portland has been rated the “greenest” city in the country, in part, because it is also rated the “most bike friendly” city in the country. There are hundreds and hundreds of bike commuters who cross the Hawthorne Bridge alone on any given weekday. And then there are the other bike riders…

We loitered on the Westbank Esplanade for a bit and my husband found the shots we were looking for.

Photos are an important part of a Realtor’s effort to let you know who they are. For this reason, many put a lot of thought into the photos they present of themselves, to the world. I hope you all know I love this place. If I don’t believe in something, I can’t honestly sell it. For me, Portland is an easy sell: We have cafe’s galore, food carts that serve delectable dishes that are so good they’ll make your toes curl, awesome bikes to ride, hundreds of miles of designated bike route, a lush, green landscape, a dizzying array of award-winning restaurants, art galleries, museums, public libraries, a vibrant creative community, a world-class Orchestra that recently wowed the crowd, and critics(!), at Carnegie Hall, an award-winning Ballet Theater, live theater, smaller orchestras and quartets, a gaggle of remarkable Burlesque and Vaudvillian performers and venues, beautiful open spaces, huge parks, urban community gardens, walking paths, hiking trails, micro-brewed beer, a growing fashion industry (before you giggle, remember that three Project Runway winners are from this area!) and small boutique stores run by local people who also love this place.

And it’s green. And lush. And we have beautiful trees…everywhere. The Ginkos in the Park Blocks are spectacular this time of year. Don’t forget to look (way) up and admire that glowing gold the leaves turn this time of year.

Incidentally, Portland’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Portland Weird.”

If you’d like to see other reasons to live in this wonderful place, call me! We’ll go look at some houses together.

Amy Munsey, Real Estate Broker

Windermere Cronin & Caplan Realty Group, Inc.

Cell (971) 258-5500 or email Amy@AmyMunsey.com

The Search

Oh Portland! How I do love your Bungalows, Saltboxes, ‘Old Portlands,’ Foursquares, Moderns, Victorians (yes! Victorians!) and everything in-between really?

More than words.

On Broker Tour today there was everything an old-house-enthusiast could ever want: hardwood floors, grand foyers with gracious banisters, box-beam ceilings, a kitchen remodeled with warm Hickory cabinets and glass knobs, original lead-glass and stained-glass windows, tasteful and period-correct reproduction light fixtures from Rejuvenation House Parts, laundry chutes that remind us of childhoods at our grandparents’ homes, cool, dry basements with new, energy-efficient gas furnaces, and air conditioning too!

There were beautiful back yards, well-appointed with patio furniture and thoughtful plantings. Two homes had detached studios. One house had a huge, private back yard and an 8-car garage with a true epoxy floor. The former owner was a car enthusiast. Sound a little over the top? It was actually really well-done. I could have eaten my lunch off that floor, it was so clean.

I was touring some of Windermere’s listings in Irvington, Alameda, Laurelhurst, and one in Southwest.

The agents who were holding their listings open were all experienced and it was clear they all know their craft well.

It was a great opportunity to get re-acquainted with Portland’s wonderful and unique architecture. Each area has its own, distinct character. The streets have a certain feel. So do the houses and yards. Driving up Fremont, there are small boutique shops that serve neighborhood residents. People wave hello to one another. It feels like Fremont.

I’m showing homes to a couple next week and was previewing some of our better listings today to find homes they may want to see. I found a few.

She’s very particular about the arrangement of space – the flow of the house. I agree with her. Ultimately, the flow of the space is what they’ll have to navigate every day, to do anything in their new home. He wants a space to call his own – not a “man cave” per se’. An office or den. A place away from the kids and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday family life. I understand his need for this too. The kids need space to play and pretend and create…and giggle and build forts and paint and write stories…about space travel and adventures on Saturn. Or so their son tells me. I believe him and I completely understand him too.

I want to write stories about space travel and adventures on Saturn!

So I look and gauge the feel of the space, check distance between appliances, check to see if the laundry facilities are in the basement or on the main floor where it would be so much more convenient. I check for air conditioning that could keep them comfortable on warm, humid days and for a back yard large enough, and safe enough, to kick around a soccer ball. I look for a little garden space for her vegetable garden and for a window in the kitchen. She likes the light. I look for orientation to the sun to see if they’ll get the warm Western sunset. And she practices yoga. So all potential homes need to have a nice, large, airy space for her to stretch and pose.

Sound like a long wish list? Is it? We all have ‘must-haves’ on our own lists. Sometimes things are removed and others added once the hunt begins in earnest.

But that’s okay. I tell her what I tell all my clients; “Embrace your picky-hood! It’s your life, your home, your money. Your list can contain whatever you want to put on it. It’s up to you!”

And she understands that. It’s what the good real estate agents I have dealt with in my past have said to me. They were right!

Let the search begin!

 

‘Self-Stated-Income’ or ‘No-Income-Verification’ Loans: Friend or Foe?

Here is a blog I ran on another real estate blog I was writing while working as a real estate salesperson in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It was important to talk about then and is still important to talk about now. Here it is…

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Let’s talk about loan modifications (and short sales) and the loan packages that hate them.

Recently, I was asked to talk with someone about how to get a loan modification. After quite a bit of discussion I realized I hadn’t asked the $10,000 question. And it is literally that because the answer determines whether or not a person can short sale or get a loan modification at all.

Case Study:  This really happened and this is not a dramatization of what occurred. My husband and I decided to sell our beautiful Queen Anne Victorian in the Hawthorne District.

We’d spent the previous 6-1/2 years renovating that beautiful house but its constant need for our attention had become more than we could bear. We were married to our house. We finished all the unfinished projects and put the house on the market. It sold very quickly.

We promised ourselves we’d stay within our price range and that we’d never, ever buy another ‘old’ house again. That was before the huge, restored 1900 Craftsman with loads of character caught our eyes. Oh! We were in love! It had a grand presense, porches on every side of the house, and it sat on 2-1/2 lots near Mt. Tabor. But it was a tad more expensive than we belived we could afford.

“Not to worry,” our loan officer assured us, there were “loan products” to assist people like us! We offered the top of our budget, our offer was accepted, and the loan papers were drawn up.

Caveat: I was not working in real estate as a real estate sales professional at the time and I was not as savvy about loan products as I am today…

When my husband got a copy of the loan papers to sign he noticed something very strange. While we were thrilled with the initial interest rate for the interest-only ARM loan, the loan officer who filled out the paperwork had written in a number that incorrectly represented my husband’s salary by over 100%. My husband called the loan officer and asked that she change it to his actual salary.

And folks, this is where an error of judgement occurred that could have landed my husband in court for loan fraud and that is currently landing many desperate homeowners in court – the loan officer told my husband this, “Oh, that’s alright. That’s what we have to do when we use this loan product. Don’t worry about it. We do this because it’s a ‘self-stated-income’ form. We can write whatever number we think is prudent in there and it’s perfectly fine.”

Wrong. It was not fine. Occurring was an improper use of that loan product. But we weren’t loan specialists so we took her word for it. She used that loan product because it allowed her to write in whatever amount she thought necessary to allow us to purchase that house. In reality, the house was too expensive and we should have kept looking.

Self-stated interest loan products are for people who are self-employed or who own their own businesses and who likely write off most their profit to keep their taxes low, to keep their businesses going. Today, if my husband and I decided to get another home loan, we would probably get a self-stated income loan because I am self-employed as a real estate professional.

Fast-forward 3-1/2 years to 2008. The real estate market was tanking and we needed to sell our home because my husband transferred with his job to California. We did sell it at a time when the average home in our price range stayed on the market for over 6 months. But to do that we took drastic measures. Before we put it on the market, we had the home inspected, the roof cleaned, the windows professionally cleaned, paid a housekeeping crew to clean the bathrooms and the kitchen, had the sewer lateral inspected and paid $7,000 to fix a discovered problem, finished every single unfinished project, moved half our things out of the house and into a giant storage unit, and staged the house with our remaining things. We sold in about 2 weeks.

We sold our house and made $20,000. The $180,000 in renovations we put into it were for the new owners, not for profit. But at least we didn’t try to get a loan modification or short sale…because, you see, if we had attempted to get either one, though we didn’t know this at that time, we could have been prosecuted for loan fraud.

Today, in an effort to prove they have adopted more careful measures than used in their pasts, some banks are double and triple checking the loan modification and short sale applications. They also ask for a ton of paperwork and sometimes request the original loan application paperwork for the home loan being modified or short-sold.

If you have a self-stated-income, or “no-income-verification,” loan you will need to provide evidence that substantiates the income stated on the original loan application. If you cannot prove you actually earned the amount stated on the loan application, and you signed that application, you could be prosecuted for loan fraud. And to make matters worse, the amount of money often involved in a home loan is high enough that the crime can be considered a felony.

What about the loan officer’s culpability?

A home loan is a contract. The contract is not valid without an authorized signature of a representative of the lending institution and the signature/s of the borrower/s. When we signed the loan forms, the contract became valid. The loan officer’s signature is not required to make the contract valid. Therefore, the legal burden belongs to the parties to the contract – the bank and the borrowers alone.

We walked away from a traditional sale of our home relatively unscathed. Ther loss of investment we made in the house stung, but we didn’t have to short sell it. Had we waited another couple of months to sell, we would have been considering a short sale. Had we gone ahead with a short sale or loan modification, the creative license exercised by the loan officer who drew up our original loan paperwork could have landed us in court.

Do you have a self-stated income loan? If you do, can you prove you actually earned the income stated on the loan application? Make sure you can do that before attempting a loan modification or short sale. That extra bit of due diligence is worth the time it will take to muddle through that long form paperwork for the trouble it may save you.

If you have any questions about real estate in the Portland Area, please feel free to contact me at (971) 258-5500 or email me at Amy@AmyMunsey.com

Almost There!

I passed my Oregon Real Estate Broker’s License Exam on Tuesday (9/20/2011) and am impatiently waiting for the State to complete the mandatory background check before my license is mailed to the brokerage I will be working for (Windermere Cronin and Caplan in Lloyd Center). When they tell me they have mailed my license, I can go to work.

I find myself hounding my landlord, who lives across the street, into telling me about his most recent meanderings through prospective houses and condos to purchase, fix, and rent out. Thank you Miro for being so patient and for telling me the details!

HGTV is on the television far too often and I haven’t toured a house for sale in months…besides OPEN HOUSES. I have people I want to go look for and people I’d love to talk to about their satisfaction level with their current homes. If they’re happy, I’ll encourage them to stay put. If they’re not satisfied, I’ll encourage them to interview Realtors to find the person who is the best fit for them.

As a real estate professional, I can tell you that making a living in Central California during one of its many pendulous swings in the really-really-not-so-pleasant direction was tough-going! We moved there and I knew no one. No one at all. So I had no “Sphere of Influence” to ring up and ask if they wanted to list their home/s for sale or inquire if they knew anyone who did want to list their house or buy a house. So, to generate business, I walked my neighborhood territory. And my approach was something I felt comfortable with, being the Pacific Northwesterner that I am…

Door-Knocking:   Some agents like to go door-knocking. Door-knocking is an activity during which agents walk door-to-door, knocking and asking if people want to list their homes for sale. I don’t feel comfortable doing this because I don’t like my door being knocked on…especially in the evening. UPS keeps trying to deliver packages to the people who used to live at our current address and the thunderous knocks by the 6′ 5″ tall, burly, delivery-person are startling enough.

Door-knocking is an activity that may have some level of acceptance in a different regional culture. And I assure you, Central California is a completely different regional culture than the Portland Area, but my guess is this strategy will not be effective here. People in the Portland Area are a private sort and they, like me, do not appreciate being disturbed by a stranger who wants them to move so she/he can sell their house.

However, when I lived in California, I did go door-to-door with flyers that I left on people’s doors that was a basic printout that had three homes that had recently sold in the neighborhood and one recent listing so they could see what homes in their neighborhood were selling and listing for. It was a mediocre strategy at best…for every 100 homes I left a flyer at, I received one phone call. I’m thinking I’m not going to do that here. It can create a paper mess and it uses too many trees.

Post-Card Mailing:   Some agents mail out post cards announcing their presence in selected neighborhoods in an effort to attract business. I could spend the $75-$100 to do this but it’s less effective than I would like because I don’t think what I have to say matters anywhere near as much as what the homeowners or prospective clients have to say. So I can pontificate about my wonderful attributes until the cows come home, via postcard or in person, but none of that really matters. Not really. Telling people about me doesn’t tell me what they need. The information they have to give me is so much more important than the information I have to give them about me. Besides, they can find everything they need to know about me on the Internet. I may do this once and gauge the result to see if it generates any response. If it does – great! If not, I won’t try it again.

Talking with my Sphere of Influence“:    I sure wish they’d change that phrase. It’s a standard real estate term that describes the people a person knows. That’s it. I don’t feel like I have any particular influence over the people I know so I think the term is rather out-dated. But it is what it is. Remember, I didn’t have a “Sphere of Influence” in California so having one here is a luxury. I like the idea of talking with people I have known for a long time to ask if they know anyone who may need my help. My friends know me and their testament about my ethics and hard work is the best advertisement I can get. Talking with people I know is definitely high on my list of ‘must dos.’

HoldingOPEN HOUSES“:    This is a great way to get to know the neighbors of the people who are selling their house and, if enough signs go up and an ad goes on Craigslist, is a great way to allow people to interview me. I plan to hold as many OPEN HOUSES as I can. I’ll bring cookies and may have coffee there so folks can come in and make themselves at home. OPEN HOUSES are a great way for me to spend time with people so they can get to know me and decide, for themselves, if I am a good fit for them. OPEN HOUSES are high on the ‘must do’ list.

I once had an OPEN HOUSE trainer tell me, “What matters is not what the people have to tell you. What matters is what YOU have to tell them.” I disagreed with that statement then and I disagree with it now. That same trainer also told me that if I didn’t ‘get the appointment’ during my first conversation with a person, I’d failed. An agent-client relationship takes time. I have the time to invest and I do not feel like I’ve failed if we do not have an appointment to go look at homes the very first time we talk.

Blogging/Tweeting/Tumblr-ing:   I’m a modern kind of agent and I believe in the power of the Internet to help us get where we want to go. I have profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Trulia, Realtor.com, Yelp, Tumblr, I have a professional Facebook page, a Google profile, and I have my own website www.amymunsey.com. If anyone wants to know about my hobbies, professional background, educational background, what I do for a living, and where I’d like my business to go, they can find all of this out pretty easily by simply Googling my name. The Internet is a great venue if you want to show people what you’re all about.

Attending Popular Events:   This is, perhaps, my favorite strategy. It isn’t so much a strategy as it is an excuse to visit the places and events I love so much – First Thursday downtown, Last Thursday on Alberta, Saturday Markets to buy from local vendors, neighborhood Street Fairs in the Summer, Octoberfests (because there are many), concerts, art fairs, the symphony, and participate in local events. This is at the top of the ‘must-do’ list.

There are agents (at other agencies, of course!) who choose more conventional methods to get the word out that they are in business, but I really believe the Internet offers a great opportunity to do this for a low price, in a way that does not invade people’s homes at dinner or inundate their mailboxes with junk mail they have to shred, that uses less trees, if any, and that enables agents to get a large amount of information out about themselves, as long as they do it right.

Agents are on their own when it comes to advertising. It can be expensive and it does seem that the more an agent spends, the more responses they can generate. But that initial investment may not pay for itself for a few months or even a year. So, for me, big and expensive advertising is not in the cards at this time.

In a few days, after my license is confirmed, I’ll be calling my friends, not in an inappropriate and persistent way, but in a genuine way to ask if they still want help finding their next home or if they’d like a free CMA (Competitive Market Analysis) to see what their house may sell for if they put it on the market. If they are comfortable in their current homes, I will encourage them to stay put. Seriously, there is no reason to sell a place they are perfectly happy in. I wouldn’t. Why ask others to do something I wouldn’t do?

I love everything about real estate:   Homes, architectural styles, neighborhoods, neighbors, parks, and the small local businesses that are such an integral part of neighborhoods. I find the people who own homes and who are looking for their next homes, fascinating. Their stories, no matter what they are, are important to me. If it is important to my clients, it is important to me. And I feel a deep sense of protection which drives my desire to do the best possible job for my clients, even if they have no idea what they want in the beginning. It’s okay to not know! “Embrace your picky-hood!” I tell my them. Because that is what I really hope someone would tell me.

I’m into fair: fair treatment, a fair deal, and respectfulness borne of the desire to be fairly treated.

That’s me. Look for updates on this blog, www.portlanddigs.wordpress.com, check out my website for updates at www.amymunsey.com, check out my Facebook page to see what’s going on at www.amymunsey.facebook.com, and I have profiles on other sites such as Trulia, Realtor.com, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, Tumblr, Yelp, and more.

Adventure Around Every Corner

My life as a real estate agent begins anew, next week!

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a California Real Estate Salesperson’s license but we all know Oregon doesn’t always play well with others. This is the case when it comes to reciprocal real estate licensing between Oregon and California. So, even though my California license is still shiny and only 2 years old, and it allows me to sell real estate in Nevada, I need to retake the expensive classes in Oregon, pass all the preliminary exams with a score of 75% or better, and take the State and Federal board exam all over again, and pass it with 75% or better, to get my Oregon real estate Broker’s license. Oregon doesn’t offer a salesperson’s license. Oregon is classy like that.

I paid my money, took the classes, aced the preliminary exams, paid more money, and registered to take the board exam Tuesday, next week on September 20th!

If, ahem! I mean, WHEN I pass the exam, I’ll be issued a temporary license so I can get to work selling houses to cool people, and for cool people to cool people, here in the Portland Area on Wednesday.

Have you driven around Portland’s neighborhoods lately and looked at the houses? I mean really looked at them? They’re so unique, every single one, and the neighborhoods have such individual personalities that I wonder who will pop into my life next, and where will they want to look?

I interviewed four brokerages but only one made me want to go into the brokerage and pay them an in-person visit. I’ll be paying my next principle broker a portion of my commissions, because that is the way it works. I believe I am good at what I do, so I really want to make sure I am going to get the most ‘bang for my buck.’ I pay my broker a percentage of what I earn, but what will I get for my money?

For example, what if I list a Seller’s house for sale? Does the company offer a well-established brand and do they have access to a great graphic design marketing suite to market the house? Have they worked hard to present a cohesive brand that is recognizable to the people I want to attract (buyers AND sellers)? It’s great to work for a small operation but if they don’t have the resources to best support my clients, they may be serving me just fine, but my clients, not so much.

I want a principle broker who has a life outside real estate. My job is fun. I mean, it is really super fun. And because it is so engaging, it is easy to get wrapped up in doing it 24/7 and neglecting the rest of life. I don’t want to be lorded over by someone who has no life outside real estate. My new principle broker is a jazz musician, is heavily involved in the community, and is a fellow creative. He encourages everyone to have a life outside real estate.

I want the brokerage to be nice. I want it to sing success because if it does, my clients are more likely to feel at-home knowing, and feeling, well-supported by an experienced and well-represented team. The office is in one of Lloyd Towers near Portland’s Lloyd Center Shopping Mall. The colors are understated and conservative and the atmosphere is clean. My clients will love the office though, in truth, they will probably rarely come in.

I want a managing, or principle, broker who will give me the freedom to practice real estate for this generation. And the new guy is all about that. I do not want someone who will tell me every phone call is not a success unless I got ‘the appointment.’ I worked with a guy who would repeatedly interrupt me to ask, “Did you get the appointment?” And he would walk away and tell me my communication was a failure if I didn’t get the appointment. Later, after working with that guy for a bit, and noticing he didn’t close any sales and it became clear to me his old-school approach wasn’t serving him very well. He wasn’t getting very many appointments. At all.

I want free parking if parking costs money at the brokerage. Parking can run $10-$15 per day and I don’t have that kind of cash to toss around right now. And I don’t want my clients paying for parking either. Parking does cost money at the new place but the brokerage does validate it. Check!

Most of all, I want a brokerage that is established and has a host of well-established agents. Why? Because they can afford to advertise. A LOT! And their advertisements help me because they promote the brokerage and solidify its reputation in the minds of potential clients. Here in a larger city, that is really, really important. Thank you Mr. Grippo for your bench-back advertisements!

I’ve chosen to work for Windermere, Cronin and Caplan Realty at their Lloyd Center location. You’ve no doubt seen Windermere’s blue and white signs around. I think they’re quite classy and their advertisements are beautiful.

My last experience working for a large brokerage wasn’t pleasant. In fact, it was a real disappointment. I loved my managing broker there and I know the policies she was promoting were the ones the corporate office was implementing. But the atmosphere was a little depressing. She tried very, very hard to get me to stay. Then I went to work for a smaller brokerage and loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it! But I’ve moved back to the city now where things work a bit differently.

If all goes well, next week, and there is no guarantee it will, I’ll pass my test on Tuesday and be done by 1:00. Wednesday morning I’ll attend the office meeting and tour some houses that are fresh on the market and start calling my contacts to ask them if they know of anyone who may be interested in buying a house.

Let the adventure begin!

Alberta Summer

I was walking down Alberta Street on Sunday, headed toward my favorite fabric store in the world, Bolt Neighborhood Fabric Boutique, wishing I had $200 to spend on cool contemporary cottons, and walking past the food carts that have customer seating fashioned from PVC pipe with toilet seats fastened to the tops (all painted in a wild and grunge artsy style), when I started thinking about my next tattoo.

You too, you say? You know that kind of day? Good! Then you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, please come to Portland to find out. You must know this feeling, at least once, before you go. It’s bliss to be sure.

Back to my story: For some reason I started thinking about a former class-mate at Portland State (University) who used to wear her cute jean skirts to school even through she rode a classic 1970s Schwinn bike everywhere. “Who needs a car?” she used to ask. Her attire was whatever she wanted to wear that day, not some spandex bike outfit with colorful slogans all over it in orange and blue. Nope. Not Adrian…and not for most Portlanders who ride bikes, now that I think about it. Anyway, when I asked Adrian about people who could see up her skirt, because they totally could, she answered simply, “If they want to look up my skirt, I don’t care. I just wear colorful polka dot underwear so they have something amusing to look at.”

From fabric to tattoos to colorful underwear and bikes…and back to a chicken shwarma that smelled so delicious I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to partake. And then to Bolt.

After ohh-ing and wowwww-ing at a wonderful array of colorful, lightweight voiles with my name on them (but without the budget to buy any of them), I purchased my cool, purple and olive print bias tape and took my leave of the wonderful sewist’s fantasy-land that is Bolt. I made my way past a French Boulangerie where smells of cappuccino and freshly baked French pastries filled my nose and made my mouth water and found Trade-Up Music where I can peruse used musical instruments sold for affordable prices or available for trade.

There are independent clothing stores that carry creations by local and almost local designers. I saw the sweetest dresses in the window of one shop, adorning headless fabric dressforms, that were original and light, perfect for Summer if I only wore a smaller size. Still, they inspire me to sew and paint.

Are you looking for some really fantastic tea? There is actually a real live tea house (not by the tracks) on Alberta that serves a variety of wonderful teas, steeped any which way you could ever want, and that allows well-behaved dogs to sit beside the table’s of their human companions.

Portland is a very, very dog-friendly city.

I headed to Halibuts II for a margarita that was so fantastic my taste buds sang along to the blues wafting through the door. If you are looking for real, fresh, wonderful thick cuts of deep-fried Halibut or giant Tiger Prawns, with fries and a spectacular alcoholic drink, you cannot (cannot cannot cannot!) miss Halibuts II and their ‘Ultimate Margaritas.’ They have live music several nights a week and most often that music is Blues. Rumor has it they’ve been written up in the New York TImes for their cuts of fish and for the talent that plays there regularly.

I remember, years ago, seeing the great Paul Delay play there. He was a big man and there isn’t much room for the band. He lit that place up like it was a Christmas Tree. The sweet sound of blues rang from that harmonica of his on a clear Summer night when the stars shined bright. We had drinks and danced to that man’s tunes until we couldn’t. He’s gone from us now and sorely missed, but I will never forget that night.

After more browsing and some water to clear the head, I got into my car and pulled out, headed for the freeway.

If you haven’t experienced Portland’s cool, creative Alberta Neighborhood, I hope you get a chance to someday. It is truly an artistic heaven that would be a cryin shame to miss.

Cheers!

Gotcha!

I have to tell you a story. I think it is pretty funny. It involves the tools Realtors regularly use to maintain their businesses and the other, shall we say, side benefits those wonderful, magical tools provide.

We were in Tenino, Washington last Saturday for a family event. The event was for my husband’s aunt who’d passed away the week before. One would think the event would be all about the woman we were all gathered together to memorialize. But I have been ‘alerted’ that there were other agendas at play.

In the days before we attended the memorial, I received alert after alert that my husband’s family members were searching my name on the Internet. How did I know? Because the alerts I receive give an associated IP Address or, more often, an associated email address. If an IP Address is provided, it is not that difficult to find out who it belongs to. Trust me. I have received these alerts over the months since moving back to Oregon. Usually they identify past or potential clients. My old boss in Portland looked me up. Hello to you too Scott! Before this family shindig, however, I was beginning to wonder if some of my husband’s family members searching my name on the Internet needed a hobby!

By the time we arrived at the event, I knew who and when members of his family had been searching my name on the Internet…and I even knew what search terms they’d used. But here’s the fun part: I didn’t say a word! I watched the guilty and tried to match them to the terms they’d plugged in. It was interesting, to say the least. And I couldn’t help but wonder how they’d feel if they knew I’d been as curious about them. Which, I am happy to say, I have enough to do in my life that they rarely cross my mind.

The moral of the story? We do not have private lives on the Internet. At least, not the way we used to. If you’re looking up an old flame or the boss you cannot stand, please be aware that the person you are searching for may be receiving alerts every time their name is searched on the World Wide Web. And if this is the case, as it is with any Realtor who takes their business seriously, they will not only receive an alert that their name is being searched, but they will also receive the search terms, AND they will receive the email address or the IP address of the person doing the searching.

So, to Kim, Linda, Kara…GOTCHA!