Tag Archives: Real estate agents

Brokers and professionalism

A client sent me this Craig’s List ad, placed by a local agent, for a unit at the Commons on the Post Road. For out of town readers, the condominium project looks like any cheap project and not at all like this picture the agent supplied to illustrate the ad:

Welcome to the new Commons!

Welcome to the new Commons!

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Soft market doesn’t slow this Realtor!

Lady Realtor goes jewelry shopping with her keybox. Owners object.

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Who needs a real estate agent?

Not Jason in Boston. From his description, he’s not getting anything out of the relationship.

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Does Jason really need a Realtor? He wants to be convinced
Email|Link|Comments (18) Posted by Scott Van Voorhis June 19, 2009 09:00 AM

Check out this email I just got from Jason, who is looking for a condo in the South End and Brookline.

It cuts to the core of some of the changes sweeping the real estate industry.

A few years ago, real estate agents had a lot more market power. They had access to the stats and the most pertinent listings. For the average, hapless home buyer – as I was back in 2002 – doing it on your own was not necessarily an attractive option.

But with the explosion of information available on-line – and a profusion of websites offering different insights into the numbers – there has been a democratization of all that information.

Does that mean the real estate agent is doomed? I don’t think so – like journalists and a lot of other folks, they have to reinvent themselves and get smarter about what they do.

Yes, we are awash with information in our society, especially when it comes to real estate.

That makes expertise in evaluating all that data even more valuable.

Alas, Jason, a first-time buyer looking for a condo in the $300,000 to $350,000 range, is stuck dealing with a real estate agent whose ways appear mired in decades past, not in the data driven market of 2009.

Here’s how Jason frames the issue:

“Scott – I think the age old question needs to be brought up in your blog, “why do I need a Realtor”. I am currently looking for a condo in Boston and the only thing my realtor seems to bring the table is getting me in the door to see the place. With the advent of the internet and the MLS, potential buyers now have access to all the listings as any realtor. I figure I could easily find a condo I like and simply hire a lawyer to draw up the paper work for the deal.
What am I missing?”

In a followup email, Jason elaborates further.

“I currently view my Realtor as more of a salesperson than someone there to guide and assist me through what is supposed to be a complex process. I’m constantly the one finding properties on MLS and then I go to her to get me in the door if there isn’t an open house. I can somewhat see the importance of a Realtor during a boom market, but the way things are right now I just can’t justify paying the commission when I’m the one doing the work. “

I guess if I were Jason, I would be questioning as well.

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Century 21 Realtors promise to help you browbeat your stupid husband into buying a house you can’t afford

Well that was the promise made in 2006, at any rate. I suspect they’re not running this ad today.

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Professionals at work

From the Connecticut MLS website (not Greenwich’s)

Please Respect Foreclosed Properties
We have recently begun receiving complaints from listing agents about damage being done to foreclosed properties.  
The damage appears to be the result of showing agents or their clients attempting to determine the extent of preexisting damage in the property. 
Regardless of a property’s condition, no one has the right to enlarge holes in walls, remove insulation or otherwise modify any listed property without first obtaining the seller’s permission.
Please Respect Foreclosed Properties.

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Warning, professionals at work!

A regular reader and fellow realtor passes this along:

A house seller told me this story and gave me permission to pass it on to you should you be interested….
 
They had a broker open house recently and an agent came up to the listing broker in the kitchen and said “These must not be very nice people, there son killed a rhinoceros!”
 
She had seen a picture in the master bedroom of the sellers’ son, a photographer/conservationist, kneeling next to an AT REST rhino at a sanctuary in Kenya. The rhino may have looked wounded because it had been scratching itself or was scratched by another rhino, but don’t you love the chutzpah! 
 
Obviously she was one of those newly empowered TWITS out there who like to express their FEELINGS!  Maybe Manhattan real estate queen Barbara Corcoran was right when she advised sellers to remove all the family photos!

P.S. This particular seller (of a spectacular house) plans to splash the photo with fake blood and leave it in place.

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The level of professionalism among Greenwich real estate agents

So my clients offered a bit under $3 million for a property listed for $5.1 million. We received this response:

Chris,
My clients are very appreciate [sic] of your offer and would like to counter @ 4,099,000. 
Okay, that’s a substantial drop, so our offer goes up and is submitted to the agent together with the comparative sales that we’re basing our bid on (including the sale for $3 million of the adjoining lot two weeks ago). And we receive this response:
 

Hi Chris,
I made a terrible mistake.  Their counter was actually 5,099,000.  I had 4.1 on the brain for some reason.   The point being that they were insulted by the offer.  This was a way of  expressing. 
So we have here an illiterate agent who can’t keep track of what her listing is selling for, tries to insult the buyer and blows it, then comes back to make sure that she’s offended him and driven him away. “Still here? Go! Shoo!” Trust me, we’re gone.
If you seek evidence of the robust strength of the Greenwich real estate market, consider that agents like this one managed to make a living selling houses for the past decade. It gives me hope, actually; if house sales survived and even thrived under this kind of skilled negotiating, how much harm can a wee depression cause?  


 

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Go ahead, borrow a camera

I was considering mentioning a house that’s dropped its price today but decided that, despite some money spent on improvements, it was still priced where it was bought in 2006. That’s not news, or noteworthy. But in reviewing its history I noticed that all of its interior shots were taken by the original seller’s broker, four years, two owners and three brokers ago. Digital cameras are everywhere and can be easily borrowed and the shots themselves are free. If you’re trying to get $3 million for a house, do the owner a favor and take a few pictures.

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This crap gives Realtors and energy saving both a bad name

If it’s green, we’ll hype it! Here for your reading pleasure is an example. I’ve highlighted the bullshit.

The outlook sounds bleak for both buyers and sellers, but Realtor Michael Kiefer sees a silver lining in all of that – a green lining, to be precise. As people tighten their belts and try to live frugally, property that’s eco-friendly is becoming hot. Green real estate – which includes energy-efficient design, cost-saving appliances and long-lasting Earth-friendly or recycled materials – is increasingly sought, Kiefer says.

“This housing crisis has people thinking more closely about their utilities and being more conscious about how they operate a home,” says Kiefer…. Kiefer is an example of a new breed of real estate agents, professionals who have earned special credentials as experts in eco-friendly homes. Though there are currently only a handful of “green” real estate agents working in the District, the ranks of these planet-conscious pros are growing.

 

“When I started out four years ago [advocating green real estate], people would say ‘Green what?'” says Kiefer. Now, however, homeowners know enough to not “leave a light on in every room.”

Kiefer boosted his green smarts by becoming trained and certified as an expert in sustainable and environmentally friendly design by EcoBroker International (EcoBroker.com) in 2006. EcoBroker has been certifying professionals since 2002 through its courses in topics such as solar thermal energy, environmentally friendly paints and window finishings. In November 2008, the 1.3 million-member-strong National Association of Realtors launched its own Green Designee program (Greenresourcecouncil.org) to educate Realtors in green property and practices. Both the NAR and the EcoBroker programs require 18 hours of training; EcoBroker’s is completely online; NAR’s requires some in-person course work.

….

Courtney Poulos, a Realtor with the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage-affiliated Reishman Group in Dupont Circle, was the only local Realtor who had been certified by the NAR as a green designee by mid-March, according to NAR’s Green Resource Council.

Poulos, 31, had already become an EcoBroker in 2007 but says she wanted to learn even more about green residential properties. The NAR’s program taught her more about topics including “green communities, smart growth and design, public awareness and utilities, water consumption, efficiency, vendors and energy audits,” says Poulos.

“There are two reasons to go green in this market,” Poulos says. “One is to save money on your utility bills.” Small tweaks such as insulating a water heater or adding extra insulation to leaky walls can help homeowners save $40 or $50 per month, Poulos says.

The second reason to make a home more energy-efficient is simply to improve its desirability on the market down the road.“Buyers want to save money [on utilities], too,” Poulos says, noting that Montgomery County recently passed a disclosure law that requires the sellers of owner-occupied homes to provide utility bills as part of their disclosure package to potential buyers. “If that’s not proof of awareness of utility costs and energy in the real estate market, I can’t imagine what is”.

Anyone with brains isn’t going to throw money away needlessly and a well insulated house is more comfortable to live in. Energy efficient boilers can make sense, over a long enough ownership, as do windows, wall insulation etc., all with the same caveat: if you stay there long enough to recoup the expense. None of this is cheap.

But this whole “Green Certification” program is a bunch of hooey dreamed up by the National Association of Realtors to add another look -good, meaningless “certification” after an agent’s name. Eighteen hours of on-line training? Wow, an expert!

My personal opinion is that an agent unwilling to keep abreast of new building techniques, including energy saving ones, without the help of an on-line course and without the lure of a silly new certification is probably not qualified to sell real estate to begin with. We’re supposed to be providing value for the money we receive. Blissful ignorance isn’t value.

Buyers have not and are not paying more for eco-friendly houses (they probably do in Seattle and Berkley, but those are in a different country). That fact drives eco-nuts crazy and explains why they keep enacting ever more onerous laws on builders. If something makes economic sense, people will respond. If it doesn’t, they won’t. Example? The compact fluorescent bulbs discussed earlier today. The Greens insisted that they save money so consumers should be forced to pay $15 each for them. Instead of being grateful, the rest of the country is discovering what those of us wh tried them before already knew: they give out lousy light, take forever to warm up, don’t last anywhere close to their advertised life and spew toxic dust when they break. So much for other people deciding what’s best for you. And so much for “Green Certification”. We don’ need no stinkin’ badges!

UPDATE: As mentioned previously, this stuff is no more valuable in Tucson than it is here.

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Same writer (check ip address) different language

From Delray Beach, Florida come these drunken missives:

realtor
76.109.133.44
Submitted on 2009/03/21 at 1:40am

there will soon be a complaint filed with the board of realtors, regarding your disinformation about real estate in greenwich.

Who said I was infallible? 

  a
76.109.133.44
Submitted on 2009/03/21 at 1:37am

you are all a bunch of a**h****s. f***k you chris fountain, if i see you see you around, g-d have mercy on you, you f*****g piece of s**t. get a life scumbag. print this you f*****g degenerate washed out real estate broker. you and your readers are jealous that your houses aren’t selling.

[edited for clarity by CF]

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Liars, damned liars and real estate agents

Market for vacation homes blazing hot, say real estate agents

Actually, some of the agents tell the truth in this article, so I blame the editor for insisting on putting a positive spin on dismal news. Mustn’t upset advertisers, must we? It’s a lesson known well by the folks at Greenwich Post.

Even in troubling times, those with cash to spare — and the desire to invest outside the turbulent stock market — face a silver lining: prime conditions to find a vacation home.

With wide inventory and competitive pricing in their favor, folks in search of frequent leisure (and perhaps retirement) could score a deal that puts relaxation within reach.

“Now that people are able to afford it or justify it, the market has become extremely hot” for vacation homes, said David Nourse, a real-estate broker who splits his time and clientele between Columbus and Naples, Fla.

“As soon as (Naples) houses come on the market, I’m on the phone” with interested parties, Nourse said.

Claiming that he hasn’t been as busy in three years, Nourse said Naples-area homes that might have sold for $450,000 at the start of 2006 are being snapped up for as little as $300,000. He added that smaller inland properties can be found for even less, prices that didn’t exist several years ago, when the housing bubble and building boom fueled sky-high sale prices.

Amid a battered economy and a rash of foreclosures, housing markets in sun-soaked states such as Arizona, Florida and Nevada — prime second-home markets — are hurting, according to RealtyTrac, a Web site that collects default data.

“It’s a buyer’s market,” said Joe Mezera, a real-estate broker who works in Columbus and Hilton Head, S.C., where list prices on some parts of the island are down 20 percent. “Prices are certainly lower now. The inventory of properties is higher, without a doubt.”

Nationwide, fewer shoppers purchased a vacation home in 2007 — 740,000 homes vs. a record 1.1million in 2006, according to a national survey by the National Association of Realtors.

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Designer suits, lunch at the Four Seasons, jetting off to California with clients; they’re telling my story!

Tough times for glamour agents in New York City.

As the market soared in the past decade, so did the status of once-humble real estate brokers, some of whom became quasi celebrities akin to their clients, boldface names who appeared in gossip columns and, yes, became regulars at the Four Seasons, dining alongside the city’s most high-profile movers and shakers. 

Oh, how I miss those days! It’s lunch at Chicken Joe’s now, usually with low-lifes like Frank Farricker – the Donald won’t return my calls anymore (or his cellphone service was cut off by the bankruptcy Trustee). But we’re all coming back! You wait and see.

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This isn’t nice

There’s a house in the Back Country listed for sale for just under $5 million which would be a good price, if the house and its location were better. They aren’t, so I’m not showing it, but I did discover, no thanks to the listing broker, that there’s a $10 million lien on the property, the result of some unfortunate business decisions of the owner. It’s not impossible to sell a house that’s so burdened, but the banks have to cooperate and, since there won’t be any cash coming out of the sale, there’s a real possibility that the buyer’s broker won’t get paid unless an agreement with the liening banks is reached ahead of time.

The Greenwich Board of Realtors is supposed to have a rule requiring listing brokers to show a listing as a “short sale” precisely so as to warn buyers’ agents of this possibility. I could be wrong, but it seems to me this particular broker has violated that rule. If so, nothing would surprise me less.

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Happy News from Canada

It’s all in the headlines. This one says, “home sales warming” and you are not to be discouraged by the rest of the article, which admits that new homes have taken a dive to the bottom and existing home sales are off 40%. “Well yeah, but the beginning of last year was exceptionally strong”, explains a local real estate flack. I see.

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Green nonsense

This eco- realty silliness has spread to Tucson. John Schneider writes in his own blog, Tucson Foothills:

going green

It’s getting really tiring. Between the NAR and the local real estate schools we’re bombarded with ads to ‘go green’ and take the NAR’s Green Designation course.

Saving energy and building and selling more energy efficient homes, and learning the ropes in the green arena would seem to be a good thing for all.

Except that I’ve seen just one home for sale in the Foothills with a certified green designation. I think it was a LEED gold level home, the tippy-top in the green world. And it was beautifully done, a great renovation and a beautiful home that had the added advantage of being a home that was much less expensive to heat, cool and boil your tea in than a traditional home. Much less expensive.

But that home sat on the market forever and a day and, ended up selling for way less than the much reduced list price and, well under what the owner had put into it. About $300K under.

And I met the owner and talked with her, and admired what she’d done, green or otherwise, but given what it had cost her to attain that LEED designation, no buyers were interested.

Going green is so far down on the must-do list for residential real estate as to be virtually non-existent.

Yet despite what I’m sure are noble intentions, what else could it be, the NAR and the local real estate schools fail to take market conditions into account, and relentlessly press their agenda.

Give it up guys, it has the familiar ring of that well-worn NAR chant-
Now is a great time to buy or sell a home. 
No kidding, thanks for the advice.

I certainly don’t think it’s wise to waste money on energy when instead you can make your home weathertight, but if it doesn’t make economic sense, don’t do it. And spending a large premium on a so-called “green” house doesn’t make economic sense. Nor, for that matter, does it make sense for an agent to waste her time getting a “Green-Realtor” designation when the information she might need to provide intelligent advice on the subject is readily available free and on line. Like everything else the NAR peddles, this latest certification program is just another way for know-nothing idiots to look smarter than they are.

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Professionalism (and manners) among Realtors

Angry reader # 20001, “Greenwich Realtor” writes this gently chiding note:

Hey Mr. O so Cynical (or should I say O so stupid, not to mention bad speller!).

You are obviously a 1 dimensional thinker.  To pontificate that the brokers have such power as to manipulate housing prices is laughable.  And BTW, Greenwich realtors are among the most professional you will find if you could only get your head out of your a** for just 1 moment.  Enjoy your day and please, get a life……

Here’s an example of the professionalism Greenwich Realtor is so proud of:

15 Almira Drive
15 Almira Drive

 This bank-owned property is currently for sale at $534,900, not a bad price for a remodelled house, even if it is just 864 square feet according to its tax card. It was sold, unremodeled, by a real estate agent for $630,000 in October 2005 and another agent relisted it after the remodeling for $989,000 in March 2006. Our local MLS shows that it expired unsold and I hope that’s true, but Trulia shows that someone paid $960,000 on July 28, 2006. All that magic was performed by one of my colleagues. Nice work.

Another house, one that is actually very nice, if a tad geologically challenged, is 72 Laddins Rock Road in Old Greenwich. It sold as new construction for $1.3 million in July ’04 and its buyers re-listed it, with a Greenwich agent, for $1.850 million in February last year. That was an unrealistic price, at least from my perspective with my head tucked away where it is, and its price slowly dropped. A few months ago I mentioned it in this blog and suggested that it seemed somewhat over-priced. I wasn’t telling anyone anything new, because the market had spoken during the past nine months and said exactly that, but I still received a phone call from its miffed listing agent, complaining that I was hurting her sellers. I hope not, and I wasn’t trying to; I was just reporting on what I saw. Regardless, without any commentary whatsoever, I will now report the latest news about this property: its price dropped to $1.375 today.
UPDATE: I just heard from “Greenwich Realtor” – he was actually responding to one of the commentators who seems to think that Realtors make the market. Oh well. We do have some really good, professional people in our ranks (of whom Greenwich Raealtor is one, which is why I was so surprised to track down his identity) and then we have some who wouldn’t know a zoning regulation from a wet bar. Takes all kinds.

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The power of blogs

I feel a rising heat from Greenwich real estate agents and their managers because they blame this humble blog for ruining their fun – I’m “talking down the market” they say, and if I’d stop reporting negative news and put a sunny face of things buyers would still be willing to pay 2007 prices despite what they might otherwise hear about the national real estate market. Because Greenwich is different, or would be, if I wouldn’t spoil the party. 

Get a grip, fellas. This blog doesn’t cover real estate in Stamford, New Canaan or Darien yet those markets are as dead as ours. For that matter, England, Dubai and Spain aren’t doing so well either. Or  California, Arizona or Florida. What’s really got your knickers in knots is that your clients aren’t buying the line of bull s…. you’ve been feeding them and you don’t know what to do. Try telling them the truth – they can handle it. Or start your own blog of “Happy News” and send that to your clients – you’ll have them howling with laughter in no time.

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Wouldn’t you really rather be selling Maseratis?

Wanna-be real estate agents flocking to get licensed.  Guess it beats investment banking.

2008-maserati-gran-turismo-s-1

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Never mind!

The listing for the Stamford land on Taconic I reported on earlier this week as 12 acres for $950,000 has now been corrected to show just 2 acres. Not the bargain it seemed. No worse, in its way, than the Riverside property that came up for sale as ‘3/4 of an acre” – a not insubstantial parcel for that area and one that excited some interest until the listing agent admitted that she thought 0.37 acres was three-quarters. Remember, “Realtor” is a trademarked name, signifying the highest standards of knowledge and professionalism.

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Mad Monkey’s Mother writes

Chris Fountain–

Do you have Any good news to share–Shame on you! You are not supportive of the Greenwich real estate market. What’s your point? In your job as an agent, you could be more positive. Are you the prophet of doom? And what makes your opinion SO IMPORTANT??? You have been wrong many times before.

Why do I suspect that the writer is a fellow real estate agent? If we could just all get along and say wonderful things about every house for sale – how each one is in the very best neighborhood, on the very best street and perfectly priced, our market would soar! It’s nasty people like me who are ruining the party and no one will like us when we’re proved wrong. Boo hoo.

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