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Category Archives for ‘Advice’

A Comprehensive Guide to Stalking

Have you ever wondered if you’re a stalker? Or have you wondered about the types of people who are potentially stalking you? The world of stalking is a complicated and confusing one and navigating it can be awkward for newbies. So to help those of you who are considering becoming a stalker or being stalked, I’ve put together a little guide from an expert’s perspective.

8 Ways To Stalk: 

Business Stalking

Stalker – Realtors, lenders, salespeople, etc.

Stalkee – Professional acquaintances the stalker needs something from who do not return voicemails in a timely manner. Occasionally this form of stalking is used on family members or friends of stalkers who are particularly proficient in the art of Business Stalking.

Stalkery Activities – The stalker usually begins with a phone call and will then proceed to text, email, call home numbers, tweet and even possibly facebook the stalkee in succession at regular intervals until the stalkee is irritated enough to reply with whatever information or document the stalker is requiring.

Level of Danger – 2. This form of stalking is really only dangerous if the stalkee gets pissed off enough to retaliate or hold his stalkery behavior against him. Most business people consider a certain aptitude in cheerful Business Stalking a respectable asset.

Friend Stalking

Stalker – Normal, nosy, bored people sitting in front of a computer who don’t feel like doing actual work at that moment and who’ve already read all the pertinent celeb gossip of the day.

Stalkee – Friends of the stalker.

Stalkery Activities – Pulling up good friends’ facebook pages and going through old pictures. Seeing if you missed any status updates. Scrolling through friends’ friends to see if they are friends with anyone you’re not but should be. Checking friends’ twitter feeds directly to see who they’re talking to that you aren’t friends with.

Level of Danger – 1. How are you going to know what you’re missing out on if you don’t stalk your friends’ social media?

Spousal Stalking

Stalker – People who wanna know what her husband is up to. You know, just in case. Because she has an overactive imagination and watches too many movies where the wife is like, “I just had NO IDEA my husband was actually a CIA agent and had a whole other family in Cincinnati.”

Stalkee – Emotionally removed spouses who aren’t ‘secretive’ really, just sort of quiet about his feelings in general.

Stalkery Activities – Same as Friend Stalking, but with an emphasis on suspicious wondering and concern over contact between the stalkee and attractive members of the opposite sex.

Level of Danger – 4, but mostly just to the stalker’s mental stability. It’s generally not healthy to get sucked down too far into the rabbit hole of ‘Who is my husband talking to and why is her goddamn hair so pretty in her avatar?’

Boy-You-Knew-Years-Ago-Who’s-Now-Cuter-Than-You-Remember Stalking

Stalker – Everyone

Stalkee – That nice but unremarkable guy who just friended you that you knew a little bit when you were a teenager who aged really well and is way cuter and more interesting than you thought he was back then.

Stalkery Activities – Looking through his pictures and thinking how adorable he is with his dog/tattoo/kid/garden/haircut. Lamenting the fact you didn’t think to date him when you were a teenager because you were interested in his best friend. Liking his status updates and being proud of your own wit when he likes yours.

Level of Danger – 5. This type of activity is generally harmless and everyone does it, but if you’re too obvious and aggressive about it people (and especially the stalkee) are going to think you’re a weirdo.

Ex-Boyfriend Stalking

Stalker – Again, everyone. Don’t pretend you’re above it.

Stalkee – That guy you dated that summer between your sophomore and junior years in college who played the guitar and had to go back to his east coast school in the fall, so you both ended up just moving on to other people. He’s not like ‘the one who got away’ or anything, but you still sometimes wonder how he is and if he ever wonders how you are.

Stalkery Activities – Clicking through the photos of his wife and wondering if she’s prettier than you are in an objective sense. And is she more fun? Checking out his ‘About’ section only to realize he has an inordinate amount of religious/conservative/gun related/sport related things he ‘likes’ and realizing you maybe didn’t discuss all that many important life details that summer when you were 20. Deciding you are definitely prettier than his wife anyway, especially in that photo her friend tagged her in where she has spinach in her teeth and is laughing with her mouth open.

Level of Danger – 2. EVERYONE DOES IT.  Plus it often lays to rest any thoughts of ‘what might have been’. It also helps if he got fat and now wears Hawaiian shirts.

‘Friend’-Who-Posts-Something-Weird-or-Outrageous Stalking

Stalker – People on facebook enough to see random shit other people decide is appropriate to post.

Stalkee –  That chick you knew in junior high who never really interacts on facebook and then one day just busts out something overly personal or revealing as a status update or photo (examples: boudoir photos as profile pics, any photos involving nudity, angry status updates about exes who’ve hacked their accounts and are scumbags, announcements involving gender identity reassignment, closet exits, etc.).

Stalkery Activities – Visiting the stalkee’s page and looking for any evidence of previous crazy.

Level of Danger – 0. If she’s going to put it out there, she really can’t blame you for looking for more of the story.

Minor-Internet-Celeb-With-a-Dramatic-Event Stalking

Stalker – People who read blogs.

Stalkee – That blogger who built her platform on how much she loved her husband and being totally open and transparent and then just randomly and with no warning announced she was getting separated.

Stalkery Activities – Checking the stalkee’s twitter, husband’s blog and even gossipy opinion blogs about why this possibly could have happened and how you didn’t know it was happening. Feeling overly emotionally invested in the life of someone you do not actually know.

Level of Danger – 7. This activity can be weird and dangerous if you have a proclivity for crazy and instability. If you don’t, it’s probably just pretty normal. Don’t send her gifts or write her personal emails telling her you’re so sorry she’s going through this. That’s crossing a line.

Criminally Prosecutable Stalking

Stalker – Crazies

Stalkee –  Normal people, famous people

Stalkery Activities – Researching where the stalkee lives In Real Life. Visiting the stalkee IRL. Calling the stalkee’s cell ‘just to chat’ even though you don’t know each other. Mailing anything live or that was one time alive to the stalkee. Attempting to assassinate presidents in the name of love for the stalkee.

Level of Danger – 35. Don’t participate in this type of stalking, People. It sullies the good name of stalking, and I won’t stand for it.

So there you go. You now have all the information you need to be a proficient and socially acceptable stalker. And remember, stalking is not to be confused with lurking. Everyone stalks, but only weirdos, deviants and creepers lurk*.

*Edited to add: Dear Self, It’s probably inadvisable to make a joke (that was really aimed at your twitter-lurking brother) insulting people who potentially are nice enough to read your blog and just don’t care to comment. Way to alienate your traffic, dopey. (Also? That joke was totally Jason’s idea. I blame him.)

Sales 101: You’re Doing It Wrong

Last weekend at a new build site in the models with a client –

Builder rep: So here’s the master bath. It’s nice, right?

My client: Well… I mean I wish it had a separate tub and shower. The last one we saw did… could I upgrade the bathroom at the design center to make the shower and tub separate?

Builder rep: Where would you put it?

Me: It looks like there’s not the space to do it…

My client: So you’re saying I can’t do that?

Builder rep: Ah, basically, yes.

My client: Why didn’t you just say, ‘You can’t do that, there’s not enough space.”?

Builder rep: Well I didn’t want you to feel like I was telling you you can’t have what you want. I wanted you to figure out why it won’t work for yourself. We’re all about you having what you want here. We’re not like your dad who said you can’t have an ice cream cone when you wanted it.

My client: I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. But it feels like you’re saying I can’t have what I want so…

Me: We should move on.

And later that day in the specialty tea store at the mall –

Teenage salesgirl: Hi, welcome to our store. Can I help you find something?

Me: Well I don’t really know anything about tea but my husband loves it and I’m looking for something to add to his Father’s Day Gift. Something smallish, probably.

Teenage salesgirl: Oh, well if he loves tea, he would absolutely adore one of these cast iron tea pots. They’re the perfect way to brew tea. They keep the water the perfect temperature.

Me: Uh… I’m not sure. He has a really specific sense of style. These are kind of froufrou looking for his taste…

Teenage salesgirl: No, no, they’re really manly. This one has a dragon on it. It’s super manly.

Me: Definitely not his taste. But these over here are slightly more simple and sleek. They might be ok. How much do they cost?

Teenage salesgirl: $170.

Me: *COUGH* Oh. No, I’m just really looking for something smallish for him right now. But I’ll keep that in mind for Christmas or something.

Teenage salesgirl: OK, well I also have this electronic teapot that does everything to brew your tea exactly right (pulls out a teapot with lots of buttons and levers and demonstrates it’s high-techness).

Me: How much is this one?

Teenage salesgirl: $250.

Me: OK, no. I’m just going to look over here by myself for a minute.

Teenage salesgirl (completely ignoring my not at all subtle plea to be left alone and following me to a wall of tea travel containers): If you’re looking for one of these, you shouldn’t get this one (taking the container I’ve picked up out of my hands). The tea strainer is way too shallow. You should get this one instead (demonstrates its features).

Me: Great. Fine. I’ll take it. In dark grey. I think he’ll love it. (Subtext: get me out of here.)

Teenage salesgirl: Alright, but what about tea? Don’t you want to get him some tea to go with it? I mean what good is a travel tea container without tea? There’s a sampler gift set up here at the front of the store he might like…

Me: No, I don’t want the sampler.

Other teenage salesgirl walking over to join the harassment: What type of tea does he like?

Me: He just bought himself a sampler thing, so I don’t think he needs any more right now… chai? I think he likes chai.

Original teenage salesgirl (grabbing two giant bins of tea from a wall of tea bins, removing the tops and using them to fan the scent in my direction in what I’m sure is a copyrighted tea store motion): Try these. Aren’t they wonderful? We sell them by the ounce in these aluminum canisters. We also have decorative canisters. And if you fill them up you get (sales talk fades out in my head and I just hear ‘Wah wah wah wah’. Walls begin to close in but the door seems so very far away I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach it).

Me: OK, fine. Just give me the smallest amount I can buy and leave the store now. Here’s my card. Please take my card so I can leave.

Teenage salesgirl: So which container? The regular or the decorative?

Me: The regular (I start to say and then my head explodes all over the inside of the tea store. The girl charges my order anyway, forges my signature, shovels my remains into a plastic shopping bag with the tea store logo along with my purchases and sets me out in the walkway of the mall, effectively ensuring I will never enter the tea store again.).

Can we come together as a civilization and agree these ‘sales techniques’ do not work and stop using them? Pretty please with my sanity and your dignity on top?

Yes, I spent $76, but I hope it was worth it because you could not pay me to set foot in your store again.

How To Avoid The Next Housing Market Collapse

Let’s talk about the market. (I know, I know, all the people who read this blog for stories about my kids and how I regularly humiliate myself just left the room. It’s ok. I’ll get back to that tomorrow.)

It’s official. The Phoenix market is back on the upswing. We’ve been seeing the signs for months: stabilization of the job market, loosening of lending constraints, decreasing inventory. Finally, recovery is on the horizon.

Unfortunately, this is Arizona, and our housing market isn’t for the faint of heart. We’re not a cheerful drive down a gently rolling country road. No, kids, hold on to your hats, because the Metro-Phoenix housing market is a pee-your-pants Six Flags rollercoaster that you sometimes feel like you literally might not survive.

  • Prices have gone up across the board.
  • Average days on market for a correctly priced house are down at 2 or 3.
  • It’s not unusual for a house to get 10 competing offers.
  • It’s not unheard of for a really well-priced house to get 40 offers.

I had a client who offered 39% over list price on a house over the weekend. We were the highest offer, but my client was using conventional financing and a cash buyer came in at just a few thousand under what we were offering, so because a cash offer won’t present an appraisal problem, the seller went with that buyer. I wish I could say this was a crazy situation, but it was closer to what’s become the norm than I’m comfortable with.

It’s just not pretty out there. And it’s really starting to feel spookily like 2005. But listen, people, we have an advantage now. We know how this goes. We’ve seen it before. We can learn from the past. You don’t have to get burned by the market again.

9 Ways to Avoid Being Destined to Repeat the History of 2005

1.    Don’t get caught up in the hype – Are you buying just because everyone else is buying? Did you hear on the local news that ‘the investors’ are back in the game hardcore and that made you feel like you’d be making a bad financial decision by not buying right now? Dude. No. You don’t want to be involved in this unless you need to be. Stay out.

2.    Don’t push your price range up past where you’re comfortable – I know this is frustrating and you just want to be done with it all, but the purchase is something you’ll have to live with for a long time. If you can’t afford it, it’s going to be a problem sooner than later.

3.    Don’t buy a house that isn’t what you want just because you can get your foot in the door – It’s easy to lower your expectations because there’s so much competition for the really good stuff, but again, remember that you’ll actually have to live with this house long past the feeding frenzy. Do you really want to be out in Maricopa or back to McQueen for the next 5-30 years?

4.    Don’t buy a house because ‘it will be a good investment’ in 2 years or in 6 months or even next month – we don’t know what the market will be like at any point in the future. Historically, housing was a ‘good investment’ because its value increased slowly and steadily. We’ve seen this is just not always (or even ‘usually’ in Phoenix) the case. Just because prices are increasing rapidly right now, does not mean they will continue to for any length of time. Buy a house because it’s a good plan for you right now.

5.    Understand your financing choices – I haven’t seen any super shady scams yet, but I can’t imagine they’re far behind. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is too good to be true.

6.    Be patient – Houses come on the market every day. I know you didn’t get the last one and you know prices are increasing and the whole thing is exhausting and stressful, but it won’t do you any good in the long run to let this work you up into a frenzy. Every day is a new day and every house is a new house.

7.    Make your offers clean and strong in all possible ways – Don’t just top out your purchase price. If it’s really the right house for you, go in with high earnest, as short of a close of escrow as possible, write a letter about your family and how they will love living in the house. Your offer isn’t just about the purchase price.

8.    Don’t ignore appraisal – I know, everyone’s doing it. Everyone says appraisal doesn’t matter right now because the buyers are willing to pay what they’re willing to pay. Appraisals are a check and balance of the system. It’s when we ignore them that things get ugly in the long run. Do you really want to be the buyer who’s bought at the very top right now?

9.    Don’t let the pressure of making quick choices freak you out – If you’re an ‘I need to sleep on it’ kinda guy, this is going to be tough. You’ll have to know what you want probably faster than that. If you get your ducks in a row (financing, housing wants and needs, etc) before you start your search you’ll be ready to pull the trigger when you find the right house. And know that if you end up getting your offer accepted, you still have a 10 day inspection period to cancel if you change your mind. There’s plenty of time to make this decision in a well-researched manner.

Let’s be smart, people. If we allow prices to rocket up like they did in 2005 they will have no choice but to collapse back down again. Don’t be swayed by the chaos and the crazy. Make smart, well informed choices and we’ll all come out of this just fine.

10 Reasons I’m Not Intimidated By Zillow

My broker, Jay Thompson, got a job at Zillow.com a few weeks ago. I guess this is a big, fat, hairy deal to a bunch of people who think it’s some kind of traitor move. Apparently, because Zillow is website about real estate that zestily offers some of the services Realtors do, but does not automatically filter leads back to Realtors, some of my fellow agents are super offended. I wasn’t really getting it. There was some serious vitriol on the interwebs revolving around the whole thing. It seemed out of proportion to me.

Then, today I was listening to a piece on NPR about robots and machines taking over jobs of actual humans. As they were discussing how the agricultural revolution and the invention of farm equipment did away with multitudes of labor jobs in the 19th century and how various robots and machines are doing the same thing to the middle class of today, I had an epiphany: Realtors are afraid Zillow is creating a real-estate-agent-bot to replace us. This must be what has everyone up in arms.

Not only can you search the MLS on Zillow to find a potential house to buy or rent, but if you put in your own address Zillow will give you an estimate of what your house is actually worth. It puts information in the hands of the buyers and sellers that had, in the past, been exclusive to real estate agents. ZILLOW IS TRYING TO STEAL OUR JOBS WITH ROBOTS THAT WILL EVENTUALLY RISE UP AND TAKE OVER THE WORLD, I can practically hear the nervous hoards whispering.

But here’s the thing; while I am a little afraid robots might eventually take over the planet (I didn’t see all of I, Robot [which I just tried to spell iRobot], but I did see that scene where The Fresh Prince was interrogating the robot guy and the robot gets all mad even though robots don’t have emotions and it’s super creepy), I’m not actually afraid of Zillow stealing my job. And I think any agent who is intimidated by a website obviously doesn’t have much to offer his clients.

10 Reasons I’m Not Scared of Zillow –

1.   Zestimates are not an appraisal.  Zestimates are about as accurate as a Tarot card reader. Sure, she gets some stuff right about you, but most of it’s because you have a big mouth and started telling her about your life as soon as you sat down. The Zillow estimate of your home value is based on comps, but it doesn’t adjust for extremely relevant data like condition of property, where the house is situated and about eleventy other vital details. This is sometimes irritating to combat when a seller has seen a Zestimate that inflates the actual value of their home, but generally pretty easy to dispute if you know and are confident of your facts and the market.

2.   The MLS is a much more accurate search. The listing information on Zillow is fun for a quick search, but it just pulls from the MLS. Thus, if you want the fastest, most accurate information and the widest capability of search, you gotta go to the source.

3.    You can’t pick Zillow’s brain. You can’t look Zillow in the eye, smile sheepishly and say, “So this might be a dumb question, but…” and even if you could, Zillow wouldn’t say, “Not at all!” and tell you a story about a much more embarrassing situation where Zillow asked a dumb question, and then answer your question so that you feel confident you understand.

4.    Zillow can’t help you find flaws. Zillow won’t walk you through a home and point out dead scorpions that are almost invisible against speckled beige carpet. (It’s a super power I developed after living in a scorpion house for five years. Ask any client I’ve shown more than 15 houses to.)

5.    Zillow doesn’t have years of personal experience you can rely on. Zillow might have a guy to recommend for your every need, but will Zillow also have personally used the guy and can vouch for his services, or did Zillow just take ad fees from the guy? I think we both know the answer.

6.    Zillow isn’t personally and financially invested in helping you achieve a common goal. Zillow won’t show you 200 houses over 6 months and go home at night emotionally invested in finding you that perfect house. Of course, Zillow probably also won’t drink a bottle of white wine alone when it feels frustrated and like it’s failing you because the market is so difficult. So Zillow’s liver is probably the winner in this one.

7.    Zillow can’t tell you the hard truths you need to hear. Zillow won’t tour the house you’re ready to list and sit you down and tell you gently, “I love your taste in décor. It’s very Martha meets the Southwest in 1983. But if you want to get the extra $10k out of this house, your collection of coyote paintings needs to go into storage and the salmon wall with the mint-green edging needs to be neutralized. Not everyone can think as creatively as you do.”

8.     Zillow isn’t there for emotional support. You can’t call Zillow when you’re at the end of escrow and up to your eyeballs in boxes and stress and sob because it’s all just too much. But you can call me. You can even yell for a minute if you need a scapegoat. I’ll say, “I understand this is so stressful and frustrating. I wish it was going more smoothly. But we’re so close to done and in a week you’ll feel so much better,” and bring you ice cream.

9.    Zillow can’t rescue you if you need it. Zillow wouldn’t climb over a balcony and scale down the side of a house when you get locked out. Although, to be fair, Zillow probably also wouldn’t get you locked out there in the first place.

10.    Zillow isn’t as funny as I am. When you’ve seen 12 houses in one day and you’re so exhausted you can’t see straight and are pretty much over the entire thing, Zillow won’t make a wildly inappropriate joke to break the tension. But I will. It will make you feel better, I promise.

So hey, Zillow and I can get along. It’s cool. If I’m doing my job poorly enough I can be replaced by a Realtor-bot, then I deserve to be replaced. Excellence like this cannot be mechanized.

Although there is the small matter of stealing my broker… you might owe me a beer over that one, Zillow.

Getting a Good Deal: The Bigger Picture

At some point during the first consultation I have with every new buyer he utters the sentence, “Well, and I don’t mean to be a difficult client, but I’m going to want to get a good deal,” and glances at his spouse for support. She nods earnestly in an almost apologetic, but firm manner.

Yes, a good deal,” I always repeat, and take it down in my client notes as though I’m hearing it for the first time, mostly because it would be offensive if I rolled my eyes and said, “Wait, you want a good deal? This is shocking. No one ever wants a good deal! Mavis, hold the press!! This guy wants a good deal!!

But I also don’t say that because I get it. I was in that place once. I bought a house before I was a Realtor. The only thing I knew going into it was what the list price was and that I didn’t want to just give them what they wanted. This wasn’t because I couldn’t give them what they were asking, or because the mortgage payment for what they were asking was too high for us to afford, it just seemed pretty obvious that in any negotiation someone has to be the winner and someone has to be the loser, and paying what they were asking for the house would clearly make me the loser. I don’t like to lose. I didn’t know what the house was worth, but goddamn it, I wanted a good price.

I’ve written at length before about how to write an offer, and that’s not where I’m going here. Today I want to talk about this idea of a Good Deal. Let’s start with an analogy about wine (because there are two things in this world I know and love, a good analogy and wine).

You want to buy an important bottle of wine. It’s a 1992 Pinot Noir from an Oregon vineyard. You want this wine for a special night with your wife celebrating 20 years of not ending up in a murder/suicide situation (AKA: wedded bliss). Now the question is: How do you prefer to acquire the specifically special bottle? Here are your options:

A – Total Wine has this bottle right now. It will cost you $375 (and you’ll probably buy lots of other things because how can you not? It’s like Toys R Us for adults with stressful jobs).

B – There’s a discount wine shop you’ve heard of in downtown Chandler. There was a gang shooting pretty near there in broad daylight last week, but you called and they have the bottle you’re looking for available for $350.

C – You can order the wine online direct from the vineyard for $300, but you will have to pay shipping and you need to order it 3 weeks ahead to get it on time for the anniversary.

D – You could have purchased a bottle of the wine when you visited the vineyard on your honeymoon 20 years ago and saved it in your wine fridge until now. Back then they even let you carry wine on the plane. It would have cost you $30.

E – You could buy a different bottle of wine today at Total Wine that’s not quite as pricey. Sure, it wouldn’t have nearly the emotional significance of this particular wine and will probably have that nasty metallic aftertaste your wife hates, so she’ll be disappointed and might even give you the cold shoulder tonight, if you know what I mean, but it will save you several hundred dollars. You can get totally make your wife cry and be rejected easily for about $25.

OK, so assuming we have a time machine and all of these options are actually possible, which would be the best deal? D is what you’d want to do, right? Sure, maybe you could haggle down the ghetto discount wine shop a few more dollars, or hey, if you order a case of the wine in question from the vineyard, you might even be able to get it for $200 a bottle. Even taking into account inflation, however, buying the wine when it was inexpensive on the market and hanging on to it while it aged and increased in value is the most economical option, by far. Still with me?

My point is not: You should probably figure out how to build a time machine, or just quit your whining. My point is it’s important to keep in mind the very best deals come with the most favorable market conditions. Let’s translate this to real estate. Which of these scenarios would you prefer to have purchased a house in:

A – A 4 bed/2 bath/3 car garage in Gilbert in 2005 for $10k over asking price at $350k.

B – The same 4/2/3 in Gilbert in 2007 for $20k under asking price at $280k.

C – The same Gilbert 4/2/3 in 2009 for $40k under asking and the seller is paying your closing costs at $250k.

D – Same Gilbert 4/2/3 last month (2012) for $10k over asking at $190k and you have the historically low (and almost unbelievable) interest rate of 3.75%.

E – A different Chandler 3/2/2 that has a back fence 20 feet tall because it backs to the 202 in 2005 for $20k under asking price at $250k.

See the big picture? Even though you have to pay $10k over list price, D is the best deal.

You can’t get too consumed with winning the battle of the negotiation with the seller. The war is with the market. Focus on buying at the right time and then do what you need to do to acquire the property. (Also? Now I really want wine. Although boxed would work. I don’t really need 20 year old Pinot Noir from Oregon.) (Also, also? I have at least 3 current clients who are going to read this and think I’m talking specifically about them. I’m not. I’m talking about everyone.)

A Realtor’s Guide to Feeling Better After Being Fired

It’s been kind of a cruddy week. My phone keeps doing that echoy thing where I can hear myself talking a second after I say anything and it’s so distracting I can barely get out, “My phone(my phone)… is break(is break)ing up(ing up)… Ineedtocallyouback(Ineedto) *click*,” without sounding like a stuttering weirdo.

Plus I got fired yesterday. Not from Thompson’s Realty, thank Allah. Jay and Francy are still putting up with me. No, I had a client actually tell me he was no longer in need of my services and would be finding himself another agent. Except he said it louder and with more f words. It’s not something that happens often to me.

So in the spirit of turning the other cheek and moving on, I put together a list of 10 Ways to Feel Better After Getting Fired:

1. Open a bottle of wine and drink just one glass, then go to the gym and walk on the treadmill at an incline while watching excellent trashy TV (United States of Tara works) on Netflix on your iPad for 45 minutes. Then go home and drink the rest of the bottle. Endorphins + alcohol + mindless entertainment = the perfect combination of brain numbing and head clearing.

2. Remind yourself that no longer having to show 17 houses all over the East Valley first thing Saturday morning means you can go to your favorite ballet class, which you’ve missed several weeks in a row.

3. Wear glitter eyeliner for no reason but that it makes you feel pretty and sparkly.

4. Receive an apology email in response to the email you sent earlier in the week that began with the sentence, I can’t help but resent the implication that my seller would intentionally fail to disclose a material fact about the property, and only got crankier from there. This apology email will restore your faith that there are actual people with hearts and brains still in real estate today.

5. Go out and look at the carrots finally beginning to grow in the garden. *Squee* because, hello, baby carrots grown from seeds sprouting up from the dirt, you are so cute and precious and I love you!!

6. Remind yourself that you cannot please everyone at all times. People who want you to be a property-showing robot who belongs only to them won’t ever be happy with anyone but a property-showing robot. You are not a property-showing robot. Feel happy you’re not a property-showing robot, because it doesn’t sound that fun.

7. Wonder if maybe you should consider getting a job at Wendy’s instead of this bullshit because if you worked for Wendy’s people wouldn’t call you at midnight when you’re not on shift and ask you to make them a burger. Your hourly wage would probably also be higher. Ultimately dismiss this plan because if you worked at Wendy’s you couldn’t watch trashy TV in your pjs while filing paperwork because you’re having a cruddy day.

8. Remember that even though you’ve been fired, in the last week you’ve also sold the house of a widow who is now free to move closer to her children and will see her grandchildren on a daily basis, and you sold a different house to a couple with a new baby, who will be growing up with that as her home. Sure the lows are low in this biz, but the highs are nice and high.

9. Come to the conclusion that the big blowout was for the best. You stood up for yourself and spoke your mind and at least you’d only spent 15-20 hours and $50 or so in gas helping this client before he went postal. The damage could have been so much worse.

10. Revel in the fact that you will get to both snuggle your parents’ new puppy and have your nephew sleepover tonight and realize the hollow ‘I hate myself’ feeling in your stomach has been replaced by a warm fuzziness. It’s like your 20 year old cat has burrowed into your intestines and made a nest to curl up in and fall asleep, except less weird and gross.

 

Confessions, A Market Update and A Sexy Picture

You know in the movies and on TV when a drug addict falls off the wagon and goes on a bender, how he wakes up the next morning and is confronted by the physical evidence of his failure? I felt like that this morning. Except, instead of being surrounded by passed out hookers and drug needles, I had to face an empty Cheez-it box, the wrapper of a dark chocolate and caramel Dove bar and an empty wine box.

Diets are hard. Also? Garlic and Parmesan Cheez-its are like meth; one hit and suddenly you’re 5 days into a downward spiral filled with carbs and sugar and you don’t even know how you got to Wendy’s, much less how you managed to eat not one but two double patty bacon blue cheeseburgers and a large fries.

Not that this has anything to do with today’s post. I just felt the need to confess.

Let’s talk about “The Market”. Yes, The Real Estate Market, hence the air-quotes I was just making in your head while you were reading this. I know, I know, you don’t really care that much about The Market unless you’re buying or selling right this very second. Even then you’re not sure you care very much. I get it. It’s boring. I’ll try to keep it brief. And as your reward for sticking with it, I’ll end this post with a sexy photo.

As of today, Maricopa County has 14,664 residential properties actively listed for sale. To give you an idea of scale, when The Market had gotten super schlumpy* back in 2009 there were as many as 50,000-60,000 properties listed actively in Maricopa County. Conversely, when the market was moving like lightening and prices were jumping up $10K every month back in 2005 we had as few as 5,000 listed properties.

The inventory has been steadily dropping for awhile now, but it’s starting to reach scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel levels.

OK, you’re saying, so how does this affect me and why should I care?

Well if you’re a buyer, this means it’s going to be more difficult to find a house. It’s like when you go to Walmart to try to find something cute to wear. You may be able to find something that will work, but it’s not going to be easy and you’re going to have to do a lot of digging through gross stuff ‘designed’ by B-list celebs. When you do spot a shirt that’s actually pretty cute and not at all disgusting, you might get into a fight with a lady wearing a leopard-print tube top who thinks she saw it first (and if you do, you should just yank on the bottom of her top, grab the cute shirt and make a mad dash for the register while she’s covering her chestal region. All’s fair in love and Walmart). House buying in a more normal market is more like shopping for a cute outfit at Target. You’ve got a reasonable amount of options and time to try everything on and make sure it doesn’t fit weird.

If you’re a seller, I have good news and bad news about the current state of The Market. The good news is that with so few options, if you price your house correctly it should sell fairly quickly. The bad news is, I know you’re thinking this means you can bump of the price on your house, but it doesn’t, really. Yet. As of right now, we haven’t experienced any real spikes (or even gradual increases) in pricing yet. But that said, a decrease in supply is generally an indicator of an upcoming increase in prices. We just may be finally getting back to a market where our real estate increases in value, rather than holding people hostage to houses they’ve grown out of or that aren’t in areas they want to live. That would be peachy, right?

And what if I’m not currently buying or selling, you ask? How does this low supply situation make any difference to me at all? Well, here’s the thing: Arizona real estate may always be volatile. Hopefully we won’t have an exact repeat of the insane roller coaster ride prices took from 2004-2009, but we may have that kind of activity again on a smaller scale. If supply gets low enough and people get desperate enough to obtain property, competition will drive prices up. Will you be one of the people who didn’t learn anything from the last time and who jumps into buying up investment property at inflated prices? Will you get caught up in the frenzy and help to push everything up further? Will you be party to the cycle so many of us (ME) didn’t see coming and that had a drastic effect on our bank accounts? Or will you be able to step back and understand the bigger picture and use this information to make smart real estate choices not because it’s what everyone is doing, but because it’s right for you? I’m just doing my part to keep us all in the latter category.

OK, I lied and I didn’t keep it short. But I totally have a sexy picture for you:

Who doesn’t find a young father with a hot new haircut reading to his adorable son before bed totally sexy? No one. You’re welcome.

 

 

*Schlumpy is a technical real estate term that means slow, shitty and depressing.

10 Questions to Ask When Building New

New builds are the Angelina Jolie of home buying: glamorous, alluring, sexy and perfectly-coiffed, but at the same time, inscrutable, unpredictable, prone to man-stealing and potentially not worth the high paycheck. When you first see them all dressed up for the Oscars looking like the unattainable fantasy of all men (and 75% of women), those model homes are hard to resist. It’s important to keep in mind, however, their history of wearing blood in a vial on a necklace and that time they passionately kissed their brother at a televised award show. These things can influence your decision, is all I’m saying.

Here’s how a visit to the new build models has a tendency to go:

The large colorful signs and banners draw you in on your way home from lunch Saturday afternoon. You may not even be seriously considering purchasing a new build. You might not really be in the market for a new house. That won’t seem to matter when you glimpse the circus-like atmosphere of the model home center. It’s inviting and fun. They’re begging you to stop by. Why not just take a look?

You walk in the door to the sales office and are immediately inundated with floorplans, color choices and a subdivision layout all over the walls. There’s a smiling, friendly salesman who acts so familiar you wonder for a split second if you already know him from somewhere, but you don’t.

You’re struck dumb. It’s sensory overload. You know these houses and the things in them must cost money, but you don’t see prices anywhere. You become tense at the possibility that it’s wildly out of your price range. What if you ask about the prices and they’re embarrassingly far out of your financial universe? That would clearly be humiliating and should be avoided at all costs, you decide.

You throw out a test question: Do you have a list of what’s available? The smiling agent turns to you and pauses. You see a deadness in his eyes. The silence is just long and awkward enough to make you realize how stupid you are for asking something like this. The answer must be utterly obvious, but you don’t know what it is. It was a terrible, stupid question. The sales rep finally answers, Well, why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll let you know what we have that would work for you. This is where you conclude you should just let the agent tell you what he wants to and avoid all uncomfortable conversations.

By the time you’ve left the new build office, two hours later, you think you’ve agreed to something, but you’re not sure what. You registered and signed your name on some document, but it was only presented to you long enough for you to scrawl your signature and then was whisked away. You remember remarking that a 6 bedroom, 8 bath home with a basement and both and indoor and outdoor swimming pools was a nice house and you wonder if you’ve agreed to buy it. The agent seemed really excited when you said you liked it. And you’ve got free bottles of water in your hands. That has to mean you’ve purchased something.

It doesn’t have to go like this. Don’t be afraid to ask the sales agent specific questions. He’s the dumbass, not you. To help you navigate the reality of buying a new build house, I put together a list of 10 questions you should never be afraid to ask.

1.    What is the average build time?

This will vary depending on the builder, the market and the availability of materials, but you can expect an answer of anywhere from 90 days to 8 months.

2.    Do you have any available specs?

A spec home is a newly built house that’s already had everything in it picked out by the builder and constructed. These are also referred to as ‘inventory homes’. They are usually ready to close in 30 days and they have a set price.

3.    Is there a lot premium?

New build pricing can be ridiculously confusing. There is usually a price range each floorplan ‘starts at’ (the range is for the different elevations), and then the upgrades increase the price from there. With some new builds all of the lots will have a cost or a ‘lot premium’. This will be higher if the lot is larger or in a better location. With other builders only the really great lots have a lot premium.

4.    What is the average amount people are spending on upgrades?

The builder isn’t going to be able to tell you how much you’re going to want to spend on upgrading the counters and the flooring and what have you, but usually the sales rep can give you an estimate of what other buyers have spent. This is sometimes in the form of a percent. So, if they tell you the average buyer is spending an extra 10% on upgrades, and the house you’re considering ‘starts’ at $300K, then expect to be up between $330K and $350K when all is said and done including upgrades and lot premiums, elevation and the like.

5.    How much earnest do you require?

Every builder will have a different amount required at the time of writing the contract to secure the lot and start the building process. This is usually not a negotiable figure. It’s also not usually refundable once building has begun.

6.    What are your incentives?

Most of the time (just to further confuse things) the builder will have some sort of incentive program that takes money off of the price. This is usually fairly convoluted and difficult to understand. Make sure to ask as many questions as it takes to feel like you are comfortable with what the incentive is and how it can be used. Sometimes they will have a $25K incentive to upgrade options that cannot be taken off the price. So you need to realize that you will have to use all of the money at the design center to get it. You can’t reduce the base price using the incentive.

7.    Does your preferred lender have any incentives?

Sometimes the preferred lender of the builder will have additional incentives for using them. Make sure you get all of the rules on this as well.

8.    What are your HOA fees and what does this include?

This seems like an obvious question, but you often get caught up in the whirlwind of all of the other info and forget to ask this one. It’s an important one.

9.    What is standard with your properties?

Different builders have wildly different base standards. With a KB home, you often start at a pretty low price, but that price includes 8 foot ceilings and laminate flooring with gold metal transitions to the carpeted areas. With a Blandford home, your base price is going to feel high, but you’ll usually get granite counters, 18 inch tile and lovely plumbing fixtures without spending a dime extra. It’s important to know where you’re starting. Ask the sales rep for a tour of the model and ask which things are standard with that model and which are upgrades. You’ll probably be shocked. Much of what’s in the model isn’t even available for the actual buyer.

10.    Is landscaping (front or back), appliances, blinds or paint included?

This is another one that will vary from builder to builder. Front landscaping is pretty commonly included, but still often not at all. Meritage had an EI package at one point that stood for ‘Everything’s Included’ (blinds, landscaping, appliances). Sometimes these things are not included, but can be added as an upgrade at the design center.

Or hey, better yet, call your agent and she’ll run interference with the sales rep. Your agent will be happy to meet you out there at a moment’s notice. She doesn’t get paid unless she goes with you the first visit. And it’s nice to see the sales reps get a little nervous when they’re evenly matched. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that deadeyes are countered with a steady gaze, an eyebrow raise and a head tilt.

Momentum: The Other Side of the Coin

Can we talk about Momentum?

I have a love/hate relationship with Momentum. Momentum is like my high school boyfriend who seemed more important than eating or sleeping, until we broke up and he started dating that blonde and then he was the reason all I wanted to do was eat and sleep. Momentum is the Nicole Richie to my Paris Hilton; my best friend and closest confidant until she invited me over and showed my sex tape in front of all of our friends.

A couple of months ago I had forward Momentum. It was glorious. I was writing 2,000 words a day. I was running 4 miles every other day. I had lost 5 pounds. Momentum was on my side. Every time I considered sitting on the couch under a soft blanket drinking wine, eating mint chocolate chip ice cream and watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Momentum was there to whisper in my ear, “You did it yesterday. You can do it today. It’s not that hard.”

Because that’s the thing: if I did it yesterday, I can do it today. And I had. I’d done it again and again, so I knew I could do it tomorrow. Momentum stood behind me and pushed me forward. She helped me succeed.

But then I took a break from writing after NaNoWriMo ended to get through the holidays. And I took a break from the diet to go on the anniversary vacation. And I’ve taken a week long break from running to rest a sore knee. They were all legitimate reasons for breaks. I didn’t just give up because I wanted to watch trashy TV at night or because a Whopper and medium fries really sounded delicious, but I might as well have. I paused in my climb up the mountain and as soon as I did, that bitch, Momentum, turned and slapped me backwards. I tripped behind myself and rolled, just like Jill, tumbling after.

Last Monday was Back-to-Business Day. I should have written 1,000 words and eaten only greek yogurt, salads and almonds. I was busy getting back on top of the rest of life, though, and because it didn’t seem to matter if I did it that day or the next and it all seemed too challenging I wrote 0 words and threw myself a carb party for lunch. Momentum was against me.

Every day last week it got easier and easier to fail at my goals. “You failed yesterday; what does it really matter if you fail again today?” Momentum whispered evilly in my ear. I caught up on TV. I ate too many carbs and drank too much wine. I slept 9 hours every night.

Today I’m here to declare war on Momentum and her mind games. I can do it, regardless of yesterday. I’ve proven I can do it. Yesterday is gone and dead; whether I’ve failed or succeeded. Today is all that matters. Today I will eat better. Today I will write 1,000 words. Tomorrow I will run again even though I’m terrified of what that will feel like after a week off. I vow to listen to Momentum only when it benefits me and to block her out when she wants to do nothing but drown me.

Dear Momentum,

You never really cared about me. We have a toxic relationship. You’re an enabler. So I’m dumping you.

I feel better already.

Sincerely,
E

How to Make an Offer: The Three Things You Need to Know

You’ve seen 87 houses:

53 were horrible, disgusting homes you were fairly certain should be condemned

7 were nice but backed to a major road, giant electrical lines or a Walmart

20 were almost right, except the floorplan wasn’t Feng Shui

5 totally would have worked except you found too many dead scorpions and/or cockroaches for your comfort

1 seemed perfect until you researched the sex offenders in the area and realized a child molester lived next door

But one house was THE HOUSE. One house has everything you’re looking for. The master has his and hers closets. The kitchen has an island with room for four barstools. The downstairs guest room has its own bathroom for the in-laws who can’t make it up the stairs. The backyard has a pool with a margarita table in it. There’s a closet under the stairs that’s totally big enough to house an orphaned magical nephew you would prefer to pretend doesn’t exist, if you needed to. The house is close enough to an elementary school the child molesters can’t legally live within a respectable distance. It’s the house you can see you and the hubby and kids living in for the next 20 years.

So now what?

Now you come to me and say, OK, we want to make an offer. Can we go in $30K low? It’s a buyer’s market, right? I mean no one can afford houses right now, so we should be able to get this for a steal, shouldn’t we?

This is where I cradle my head in my hands and try to decide if wine at lunch is acceptable if I put it in a sippy cup.

I’m not saying I don’t understand where you’re coming from. I remember when Jason and I bought our first house, way before I had even considered diving into the shark tank that is the life of a professional Realtor. I had no idea what the house was ‘worth’; I just knew it seemed like a rip-off to pay asking price. It felt like in Rocky Point when you want to buy a piece of jewelry from the street vendors; only the suckers pay full price, right? And then the locals laugh at you behind your back.

I’m here to tell you: Buying a house is not like bartering for cheap junk in Mexico. I know, it’s a revelation.

There are three things you need to take into consideration when making an offer on a house. That’s right, only three things. It’s not scary and complicated if you can boil it down to three things. And this works in any market. You don’t need to consult a stock broker or a weather girl or even a tarot card reader if you just consider the three following things:

1.    The listing price in comparison to the recent sold comps.

2.    How long the property has been on the market.

3.    How bad you want the house.

Yep, that’s it. That’s all of the information that should go into what offer to make on the house. Let me walk you through an example so you can understand how it works.

Example 1:

Perfect house A is listed at $250,000. The comps show other similar houses in the neighborhood have closed escrow for between $227,000 and $268,000. House A seems to have better upgrades and amenities than most of the sold comps.

Perfect house A went on the market 2 days ago.

Perfect house A is the perfect house! You reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want it!

The analysis of this data shows that you should make an offer at or slightly above list price. House A’s value is supported by the other houses that have sold. House A just went on the market, so they are unlikely to accept a low offer and could potentially have competing offers. You can’t afford to let House A go because you superalot want it. You need to make a strong offer.

OK, you say, I get it that if I really want a house and it hasn’t been on the market long then I need to make a good offer. But you’re a Realtor and you always want me to offer more money so I can get the house because it’s not your money. Show me how this system actually benefits me.

Yes, let’s do another example.

Example 2:

House B is listed at $279,900. Neighborhood comps have closed in the $240,000 to $270,000 range recently, but House B seems to need a lot more work than any of the comps did.

House B has been listed 48 days with no offers yet.

You like House B and it would definitely work, but it needs all new floors and a kitchen remodel, so for it to be worth it you’d need to get it at a really good price. Otherwise you’re OK with moving on.

Ah, so House B is an excellent candidate for a lowball offer. The seller doesn’t have anything else to go with and you’re not going to be devastated if you lose out on the house. The comps support a lower price. In this case, there’s no harm in going in fairly significantly low.

Are we all on the same page now? Alright, I won’t break out the wine yet.