Home Buyers: Test Drive The Driveway!

When home buyers in the Triangle drive to properties in a separate vehicle from me, I always tell them to park in the driveway.
“Test drive the driveway.  It is part of what you are buying.”

We don’t have mountains here in the Piedmont, but the topography certainly rolls. It is easy to find steep driveways in both Raleigh and Cary.  And that steep driveway can be a deal breaker.
A Buyer needs to know they are comfortable in the driveway, if their car scrapes bottom entering or leaving, if they have good sight lines when backing out, if that side entry garage requires a three-point turn to enter and exit or if it has adequate space for a pad that allows easy access.
The time to know is prior to going to contract on an otherwise appealing house.
As their buyers agent, I want my clients to notice before we write, before we give up a large Due Diligence Fee to get a contract.

Inducements to Buyers Agents on the Rise?

It is only fair that consumers know about incentives offered to their agents.
This applies particularly to commissions, bonuses, and spiffs offered to buyers agents by builders, or resellers, who offer fat checks to agents to drive traffic to their subdivisions or resale homes.
Nearly 90% of resale listings in Wake County offer me 2.4% of gross contract price as my commission for bringing a successful buyer
Many builders offer 2.5%.
My Buyers Agency agreements all stipulate either a 2.4% or 2.5% Expected Compensation.  I always inform the Buyer client if I am offered a higher pay from “across the table.”
And, I am seeing an increase in higher offers dangled in front of me, if I will bring my client to contract with a builder.
For example, I just received this email from a builder’s representative:

Hi Mike,

“XYZ” is offering 4% commission on all 5 quick move-in homes at “XYZ Development” in “Lovelytown” if they can close by the end of November. That’s BIG money.

As an incentive to attend our luncheon this Thursday 9/14 from 11-2pm we’re offering a $25 gift card for the first 10 agents to arrive. In addition we’re having a drawing for 3-$50 gift cards for touring our quick move-in homes.”

I have a file of many offers like this, from many builders, collected over the last few months.
Transparency in ethics, and current Buyer Agency regulation, require that I disclose these incentives to my buyer clients ASAP, and definitely prior to writing an offer for them.
A buyer should rightfully know, early and clearly, that I stand to reap an increased financial benefit for guiding them, or pressuring them, to purchase any property.

I remember well in 2009, when the market was completely reverse of that we have experienced over the last couple of years, when we bragged about getting contracts in less than 3 months on the market.
And, sellers were desperate.
I saw buyers agent commissions as high as 8%.
You read that right.  “8% of contract price.”
Now, THAT is really BIG money.

I showed a new house in a subdivision where the builder was offering me 4.5%.
And, in follow up, the on-site agent whispered conspiratorially to me, “And, Mike, we want to take care of YOU, too.  I’m sure I can get you more money, if we can get your buyer under contract.”
All I could think was, “EEEwwwww!  So glad my buyer has no interest in these homes.”

I am seeing an uptick in these bonuses and increased commissions, usually in outlying areas outside the Hot Hot Hot Cary, Raleigh real estate market.
Builders want contracts and closings before the end of the fiscal year.  Help those top and bottom lines, and get more houses coming out of the ground.
This happens every year.
I don’t see anything unethical in their actions.  Ethics?  That is my responsibility, and I can choose to be transparent or conceal my motivations from a client.
Transparency, ethics, integrity, clarity.  It’s a package deal.

Plumbing!! Zurn QPEX Fittings

 

It seems like mankind has never devised a “perfect” way to carry water into houses.  We had many fewer issues before we attempted “indoor plumbing.”
Recently, I worked with a buyer in Wake Forest, NC.  Heritage community, and they bought a very nice house.
In the course of home inspections, Scott Makseyn, the inspector, came out from under the house and said, “Mike, you know you have Zurn QPEX fittings?”
Nope.  I didn’t know and didn’t know why it mattered.
Apparently, there is a higher incidence of waterline failure due to corrosion of the fittings.
“Ugh.”
zurn QPEX fittingZurn QPEX Fitting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were fortunate to have an agreeable seller who offered adequate funds to replace the plumbing in the house.
Cary Plumbing did the turnkey replumbing job and I have a happy client.  The plumbers were helpful enough that they saved a box of fittings from the house for “Show and Tell.”
For years, I have crawled under houses for my buyers, trying to learn if they were getting Polybutylene piping.  Now, I have an additional concern, and find myself getting under even more houses.
So it goes…..

 

You Don’t Need a “Certified Deed” When You Buy a House.

Bob bought a nice little condo in Cary.

He contacted me a couple of weeks later and told me he was getting a sales pitch from someone who was peddling a “Certified Deed.”
He wanted to know if this is something he needed.

No.  He doesn’t need a “Certified” Deed.
This is just a low-level scam that comes around now and then. The scammer follows closings at the courthouse and contacts  new homeowners with an official looking letter, offering to help them protect themselves with a “Certified Deed,” usually for a fee in the $70–$150 range.
And it is totally unnecessary and useless.
Bob’s deed was recorded at the Wake County Courthouse Register of Deeds Office, and is on the public record.  When he emailed me asking about the “Certified Deed” scam, I emailed him a link to the recorded deed.  That recordation carries more weight than any scammer’s fake deed.

And, I told him if he ever had a question about his deed and ownership, he should contact his closing attorney.

The current market in the Raleigh-Cary area is moving FAST!

Sellers’ Market Alert!  Real Estate Factoid!
Since yesterday morning, as of now, 55 Wake County homes have been put on “Contingent” status in the Triangle MLS.

For those 55 listings, the median average Days On Market, “DOM,” is 30.

And that is happening with multiple offers, difficulty getting showing appointments, and barely ready listings.

And, this is mid-April.  We are just ramping up!

Thus defines a “Sellers’ Market,” and a “Frustrated Buyers’ Market.”

 

Why Do HVAC Equipment Makers NOT Date ALL Their Products?

Anyone looking at a resale house wants to know how old the heating equipment is.
And it seems to be a state secret.
I looked at a water heater today, and after going all over the data plate, all I know is that it apparently meets ANSI standards from 1994.
It is in a home built in 2002. That “1994” is not much help, as I assume they didn’t put an eight year old water heater in a new home.

Of course, the manufacture date is embedded in the serial number. And you can Google the serial number and manufacturer and generally deduce a production date.
But why so coy, fellows?

I like how Trane usually does it:

HVAC Label Photo

There’s your Date of Manufacture, at the top right of the data plate.
MFR DATE 2/2011
No mystery. No secret.
That unit was turned out in February, 2011.

Now, when was it installed? I dunno. Maybe in March, 2011? Or, June or July? But at least we know we can be assured it isn’t a 20 year old AC unit. And, it may have replaced one.
See, that home was built in 1969.

JUMBO Rates are Lower than Conforming Rates?? Wow.

JUMBO loans, Home loans for more than $417,000 for upscale homes in the Triangle market, are coming in cheaper than conforming loans at less than $417,000!
Luxury Home buyers and Home sellers, Rejoice! This may be a shot in the arm to a stodgy real estate market strata.
That just does not happen, historically. There has been a cost penalty for JUMBO loans, varying from a quarter point, to a point or more, just about forever.

The reasons? Banks have money and need to put it somewhere. JUMBO home markets are flooded with stagnant inventory. Luxury homes in the Triangle are just not moving, with 2 years’ inventory in many local areas for homes in the $800,000+ price ranges.
And, as Nick Timiraos noted in the Wall Street Journal last night, volatile mortgage bond yields are driving up confirming loan interest rates.

As usual, fascinating stuff. Structuring loans for upscale and luxury homes with 80/10/10, 75/25 products, or other scenarios has been a staple of JUMBO lenders in the past. And it is hardly a concern today, with JUMBO money very competitive and even more competitive than cohforming money.
Will this give the Triangle’s upscale home and luxury home real estate markets a boost? Stay tuned….

Moving to North Carolina? A LOT of other People are, too!

This fascinating graphic of relocation statistics from Atlas Van Lines shows that as of 2012 50% more people are moving to North Carolina than are moving out of the state.
And that relocating to North Carolina has been quite common for years.
Of course, those of us who have been living in the Triangle for many years have noticed that. Neighborhoods spring up and fill up rapidly! I moved to Cary in 1997, and have seen Cary swell from abuot 80,000 residents to almost 140,000. And Raleigh has also grown tremendously in that time.
They had to come from somewhere!

The graphic, courtesy of Atlas Van Lines:

2012 Migration Patterns
2012 Migration Patterns by Atlas Van Lines

House Photos at Dusk

When I list a house for sale, I enjoy getting a variety of photos.
One of my favorites is getting a series of shots at dusk, with all the lights on and the house looking warm and welcoming.  It requires a special trip back to the house, but the results make that quite worthwhile.  I usually use one of the dusk photos as a feature photo on the Triangle MLS, and Realtor.com

Here are a few listing photographs I shot in Cary and Apex:

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Photographers call dusk “Magic Hour.”  I think a nice dusk photo of a pleasant home helps curb appeal, exposes the home for sale in a nice fashion, and makes the listing stand out to Home buyers.  And, home sellers always like to see their property shown in the best possible light.