Adventures in House Hunting, Buying a House, Realtors

Voted Most Likely to Become a Realtor

I know a lot of realtors. I know some socially through church or other organized events. I know some through friends of friends. There’s also the realtor that sold me my condo. There are a few who have latched onto me from an open house or one-time viewing of a listing. They keep me on their newsletter mailings in hopes that I will use them. Every once in a while, even I am surprised by a new realtor connection.

When we started seriously looking last spring, we didn’t want to commit to a realtor. I figured I might come across a house where the seller wanted to sell but couldn’t because he owed so much on his home that he couldn’t unload it for market value and maybe if we didn’t have those pesky realtor commissions a deal could be worked out. Or maybe I’d find the house I liked then use one of those discount brokerages that give you part of their commission. After all, I was planning on doing the lion share of the work. I wanted to keep my options open, especially since I was going to be doing the work of searching the MLS for the house we wanted.

Ultimately, we didn’t go that route. It’s hard to see a house without an agent. Not every listing has an open house and agents typically won’t schedule a private show a house unless you are with another agent.

If we said we had an agent, some would get quiet and stop “highlighting the home’s features.” If we said we hadn’t settled on an agent yet, they would pounce on us like a closeted theologian on a cabana boy.

Redfin has this option where you can tour homes with no obligation. Now, there’s no such thing as no obligation but this is probably the next best thing. After a certain number of home viewings, you are expected to commit to an agent. So we signed up and picked a few houses to see one Sunday.

We selected five homes to tour (maximum allowed per tour is six) since there were a lot on my favorites at the time. Of those, the agent could only get us in to see two. No one returned phone calls for two listings and another didn’t match the comps and she wouldn’t show it to us. The biggest surprise was the agent’s name. Layching Quek. I went to high school with a Layching Quek and I wondered if it was her. [While both common Asian names, I recall from high school Layching pointing out that the combination wasn’t that common].

Turns out it was her! She didn’t recognize me, or appear to recognize me so I didn’t out myself. Just played it straightforward. We saw two homes and they did not impress. One was in a new subdivision behind a bus terminal and the thought of people getting lost trying to find it was enough to put us off. Plus it was a short sale, which is anything but. The second was one of those homes in a great neighborhood that would have been worth asking price during the boom. However, the owner had overleveraged his mortgage and put no money into the house, which was quite frankly a dump.

The interesting thing is that after the tours, Redfins sends you an email with the agent’s comments. She said something very positive…about the wrong house! Her comments were clearly about the first house we saw, but she attributed them to a house we didn’t even get to see. I emailed her about it and she said she would correct it, but one year later the comment is still there. I guess we must have been in different curriculums in high school.

Adventures in House Hunting, Uncategorized

Realtors – a Necessary Evil

After you’ve figured out how much home you can afford and where you want to live (and I’ll blog more about that later) the next thing to do is get an agent.

Technically, you don’t have to have an agent, but the Real Estate Cartel Industry has pretty much rigged the system to work better if you work with an agent, so get an agent. Get a really good agent.

When my friends heard we were house hunting, everyone either asked if I was working with an agent, or simply offered theirs like they were loaning me 50 Shades of Grey.

You can get away without having an agent for a little while but the pressure will get to you. At Open Houses if you say you are working with an agent, many listing realtors will ignore you from that point on. If you say you aren’t working with an agent, the showing agent will try to snag you.

In the post-boom era, a pre-qualified buyer, especially one who doesn’t need to sell a property in order to buy one is a Golden Goose and most realtors want to lay him.

They do this little stunt where you walk into an open house and they find out you aren’t working with an agent yet. They offer to send you some more listings similar to the house you’re looking at. Sounds innocent, right? I naively expected to get an email with some direct links to specific houses that were on the market. Instead you get the MLSConnect sign up.

Now you are signed up to get frequent emails about homes that are vaguely what you looking for. Depending on the agent, you might get search results that match the house you were looking at when you meet them. More times than not, they send you listings of every house that is on the market in a particular quadrant of the city at a similar price point. I’ll rip MLSConnect in a future post.

Meanwhile, it’s much easier to work with an agent than without one. Realtors are just trying to make a living like anyone else. Many are simply inept yet harmless. Some are downright sleazy. A few can actually be harmful. Realtors don’t make any money until a house is sold. (At all times, remember that the agent on both sides of the transaction is paid by the seller.)

You’re trying to find someone you can trust, so be vigilant. It’s one thing if they call a broken down crapshack a “fixer-upper with charm.” It’s another thing when they tell you they can sell your house for more money than any other agent out there.