Speaking safe about neighborhood safety (and other matters of disclosure)

Often, buyers turn to me and ask one of the most frequently asked questions: “So, how is the neighborhood?”

These five words encompass so much: School system? Demographics? Neighbors? Safety?

Most buyers ask these questions because they view real estate brokers as local experts who can shed light and provide information on matters that are important to them and their transition into a new neighborhood. Often they are new to the city and look to an experienced broker for guidance and wisdom.

Many buyers are not aware of how tricky and dangerous such disclosures might be for a licensed broker.

Consider this – an innocent buyer approaches a broker at a public open house and begins a conversation. During their conversation, the broker is excited to learn that the buyer has no representation, thus making him a potential new client. The buyer indicates that he/she LOVES the property and has many questions about the building, neighborhood, school around the corner and mixed-income housing located on a nearby street.

Every one of these questions invites a deep dilemma for the broker. Speaking about the building might cause him to volunteer information about other owners (race, occupation, pets, personality). Discussing the school might cause him to describe who attends, what is the racial ratio and test scores in recent years. Speaking about nearby housing projects might result in the wrong information and impression about project dwellers. Talking about neighborhood safety is a complex can of worms.

The broker wants to engage the buyer and earn his/her business. The buyer is pressing on some of these burning questions, demanding guidance.

What should a buyer know:

1. According to the fair housing act, real estate professionals are not allowed to disclose any information that may sway buyers towards or away from a neighborhood. The act of “steering” may result in a broker’s license being revoked. A home purchase decision should be based on market value and not factors such as race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Buyers should do as much homework as they can about a neighborhood prior to looking for a home. Much of the information buyers seek is public record, and an experienced broker should guide buyers to do their own research and explain the limitations of disclosure conduct by which he must abide.

2. If you are not clear on how safe the neighborhood might be for you, visit the local police precinct and request an activity report. Such a report will summarize illegal activity in a neighborhood and help you decide if you are comfortable with your surroundings. If you are concerned about specific pockets or buildings, inspect the police reports carefully for disclosures of activity in those particular locations.

3. Walk around a neighborhood during different hours of the day and evening. Engage residents and visit local establishments. If you are a family, look for parents and strollers and gauge their comfort level while enjoying a family stroll. If you are a pet owner, walk to the nearest dog park, speak with other pet owners. These simple steps will allow you to have a first-hand experience of what it might be like to live in a neighborhood. By doing so you will avoid a situation in which your real estate broker is faced with the disclosure dilemma.

4. Every school should be willing and able to provide you with specific information. Respect the fact that a broker might not be able to elaborate beyond some very basic information in order to avoid misrepresentation.

5. Know that no matter how expensive the property you are looking to buy, an experienced, ethical broker will not engage you as a client if you insist on information that is wrong for him/her to provide.

The path of a healthy real estate transaction is littered with obstacles. Knowing what your broker can disclose should set the conversation in the right direction.

Posted in Buy Property, Disclosure, Etiquette, Moshe Elmekias, Real Estate Tips | Leave a comment

What Sellers Wish Buyers Knew Before Submitting an Offer

With property selling at lightening speed, sellers are in the position where they can review multiple offers. However, not all offers are created equal and some are down right off. Here are 4 things sellers hope buyers know when submitting an offer.

1- Nitpicking and nickel-and-diming will not get you a discount.

Pointing out every little stain and out-dated design will not have the seller agree to a discounted price. Sellers and seller’s agents know the difference between cosmetic issues and major concerns, and they (should) price the home accordingly. If you want to offer a certain price based on what you are going to have to do to the home, fine, but if it’s significantly less than asking and what you need to do is cosmetic, it will not be considered a serious offer by the seller. Even if you come back with a more reasonable offer, (and the property is still available) the seller may have taken your original offer personally and may decide not to work with you.

2- Giving a sad story with a sloppy offer will not impress or move a seller.

I have suggested to my buyers to write a brief letter about themselves and why they want to buy this particular property. This is a good idea when the sellers have multiple offers and the property was the seller’s home rather than a new construction from a developer. The letter gives the seller a chance to identify with you and in the best case scenario allows the seller to see you are in the same position they were in when they bought this home.

However, if your offer is incomplete (missing pre-approval letter, offer not signed, no deposit check, etc.) and you have a letter saying how you would rather be homeless than live in any other home than theirs, it could raise a red flag to the sellers and they may not want to deal with you.

Tips for Buyers from Sellers3- Making everything easy for the seller will make everything easy for the buyer.

First, have all your the paperwork signed, complete, and organized. Not every agent types the offer to purchase paperwork, which is fine as long as the offer is written clean and legible. Second, know what your timeline is but also be flexible to what the seller’s timeline is. Many sellers want to sell as soon as possible, so consider having your offer with accelerated closing dates. This will also give sellers more confidence your offer will make it to closing. Of course, paying cash will bring the most comfort, but if the buyer can have an inspection in two days, sign purchase and sale within a week, and close in 30 days, the seller may find those terms more comforting than a cash offer at a lower price.

4- Mind your manners.

Asking for a seller to fix something or give credit toward fixing something is not uncommon. Little issues are almost always found during an inspection. But do not demand to have the something done that doesn’t need to be fixed. If there is an issue, politeness and rationality goes a long way. Even beginning a request by stating, “I understand that I may asking this too late but…” or “Thank you for considering” will help your cause. As always “Please” and “Thank You” goes a long way.

5-Choose your agent wisely.

From beginning your search to closing your transaction, your agent is there with you at every step acting in your best interest. Whether you are selling a home or buying a home, your agent should be acting professionally, responsibility, and constantly communicating with you. If you are putting in an offer to purchase, your agent should make sure you have all the paperwork to sign, have the dates clear, and go over everything to make sure you know what you are offering. I have written this many times, but it bears repeating, buying property and selling property is emotional. Anything that involves egos, memory, and money will be emotional, real estate transactions involve all of these with multiple parties. As your Realtor, it is our job to represent your best interests and keep emotions calm. Many of the tips I’ve written above can and should be explained by your Realtor, so it is very important to work with a Realtor you trust and who will represent you in the best possible light.

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How Clean is Clean? Real Estate Etiquette for Those Moving Out

Sellers and renters, by law, are only responsible to broom sweep their old home. This is another instance where you have to let your conscience be your guide. Ask yourself, “When I’m exhausted from packing and moving everything I own into a truck, do I really want to clean my new home that I just purchased or rented before I can put any of my things down?” I’m sure the answer would be “no.”

Clean Your Old Home Yourself and Save Money

I understand the last thing you want to do after a long day of packing and moving all of your belongings into a truck is to clean a place that is no longer yours. Here are a few ways you can motivate yourself to do it.

One : it’s good karma (if you believe in that)! But bottom line it is the right thing to do. Always leave a home the way you would want to walk into your new one.

Two : for the security deposit. The last thing you want is to have to pay for someone else to clean a place you no longer live in. If you are selling, the last thing you want is for your deal to go south at the final moments or have the buyer come after you.

Three : your old landlord will think well of you, which is key if you ever need a landlord reference in the future.

Cleaning your old place doesn’t have to take hours, but hit the important areas:

  • Remove all stains in the bathroom (hint: bleach takes care of about everything in the bathroom).
  • Make sure you leave nothing behind in the cupboards since not everyone will want your leftovers.
  • It’s amazing what a difference clean floors make, so vacuum and/or mop the floors.
  • Thoroughly clean the fridge. This task should take the longest. Many people are very particular about their food and what is near it. I am not one to judge, everyone has their eccentricities and since this is now someone else’s home it should be respected as such.

Even though you may not be legally obligated to professionally clean your old home, proper real estate etiquette is to clean it throughly whether you are renting or selling real estate.

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Can I Quit You? Ending a Real Estate Relationship

This spring in Boston, properties for sale are moving at lightening speed. By the time a property hits the general public, it seems to already have multiple offers. This is both intimidating and disheartening for all buyers but even more so for first-time home buyers. The most important resource both buyers and sellers have is their Realtor. Depending on your Realtor, this can be the best thing you have or the worst. It is important to have someone you are comfortable with and who understands your goals and real estate needs.

Just like in any break up, honesty is the best policy. Using the cliche “it’s not you, it’s me” phrase is worthless. It is unnecessary, vague, and doesn’t help either you or your Realtor. If you are unsatisfied with how they are doing their job, tell them, but give specific examples. If they are not responsive, show you properties that are not at all what you are looking for, or you feel like they are pressuring you to take certain properties, tell them. Sometimes your Realtor isn’t aware that you are dissatisfied. Your response time might be much sooner than what your Realtor believes necessary. Maybe the perfect property isn’t out there and your Realtor is showing you options that work for your needs. Getting on the same page with your Realtor and understanding how each party feels is crucial to making the process a smooth one. After you have had that conversation and nothing has changed, then tell your Realtor that you no longer wish to work with them. Do not avoid them and work with someone else without telling them. If you have signed an exclusive buyer representation agreement and you buy property through another party, you will still owe your original Realtor their commission.

Before beginning a real estate relationship, make sure both parties are on the same pageMore often than not, your Realtor will let you out of your contract if you are truly dissatisfied and have clearly discussed your dissatisfaction with them. No one wants to be in any kind relationship when one of the parties wants out. This holds true if even if you are the seller.

Furthermore, you may be surprised by your Realtor’s reaction. If neither of you took the time to understand each other, your Realtor may be as interested in breaking up as you are.

There are many Realtors in Boston, every one has a different approach, attitude, style, and personality. It is crucial to work with a Realtor who understands your specific real estate needs and goals. We at Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate feel jumping blindly into a business relationship costs time and money. We need to understand what our buyers and sellers want. We take our time to discuss what our clients’ goals are and what are their highest priorities. Especially for first-time home buyers, buying a home is just as emotional as it is business and constant and clear communication is the only way to achieve your goals. Taking the time for a one hour consultation with our real estate team will save you time in the long run and make the experience less stressful for everyone involved.

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About to View Property? Here are Some Do’s and Don’ts

Not too many people put much thought into etiquette these days even when going to view property to buy or rent. It’s not anyone’s fault, it is just how society has evolved. When I talk about etiquette, I don’t mean to conjure images of Victorian Britain and reruns of Upstairs Downstairs. I am simply speaking of the basics in proper behavior dictated by certain situations. For example, appropriate behavior does exist when one is going to view property. It’s nothing complex, it is common sense behavior that follows the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

For those who are just starting their search to buy property or rent property in Boston please help us help you.

First, if you are working with a Realtor, be aware that just because you are available in the next hour, your Realtor, the listing agent, or the current occupant might not be. If you are available within the hour, do let your realtor know but also give other times you are available.

Second, when you are going to view property, bring everyone that needs to see it. Inventory in Boston is limited and moves fast. If this property is for roommates, a couple, or a single occupant that needs parent approval, make sure everyone can see it. I am not saying multiple showings are inappropriate, but in the time it takes to schedule and reschedule showings, someone else can come in and scoop it up.

Third, even if the listing is pet-friendly, leave the dog at home. Again, this property is someone else’s home and that someone may choose to not have a pet regardless of the pet policy. They may have allergies or a fear of dogs and forcing one into their home is disrespectful. Or they may have pets that may not want another animal in their home.

Fourth, don’t ask to use the bathroom. Just don’t.

Fifth, if you are looking at property for sale, look beyond the paint and the furniture. This was how the current or previous owner made it their home, you can change it to make it yours. When comments about the decor are being made, one is not always sure who may be listening. Not to mention those comments are irrelevant and off-topic when it comes to the task at hand, which is finding your next home.

These are not fixed rules; there may be agents who disagree with some of these, and there may be agents who have even more rules. We are not trying to make anyone on edge when viewing property, because buying property is stressful enough without thinking about behavior at the viewing. All we ask is to think of it in this way: If you are planning to rent or sell your property, think about how you would want people to treat you and your property when viewing it.

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