Real Estate Vocabulary

March 30, 2007


Radon – A radioactive gas formed by the natural breakdown of uranium.

Make sure to test for radon when buying a home, especially if the home has a basement. Radon comes form the ground, into the pores of the basement floor, French Drains, etc.  Radon is a colorless, odorless gas which has been proven to cause lung cancer, resulting in an estimated 20,000 deaths per year in the U.S. That’s the bad news.  Some people dispute these numbers. Some scientists claim the numbers are higher.

The good news is radon is cheap to test accurately ($100-$125) and is rather simple to eliminate ($1,500) with ventilation. Most newer homes have radon systems already in place.  Radon is know to be more prevalent in certain areas, but has at times little consistency from house-to-house, neighbor-to-neighbor.

Homes without basements will be too difficult  to test accurately, especially if occupied, with occupants opening windows and doors.  Most radon gets “trapped” in the basement area, making it easier to test for. Make sure to use more accurate testing measures, using machines, not canisters. Home Depot and Lowes also sell canisters, making it simple for consumers to do self-tests.

For more information, click here.  (Wikipedia)


Just Give Me the Address!

March 29, 2007

I received a web inquiry yesterday from a past client, and a great guy. He was very frustrated because the MLS section of my website (technically known as IDX, for Internet Data Exchange) was not giving him the address of the properties he was viewing.

I explained to him why this was happening, and that he was being blocked by the other broker, because they want to keep the address a secret, so you are forced to call in to their office. There is even one company whose policy it is not to give you the address unless you give them your name and phone number for “security reasons”. Unbelievable. They have a big sign outside the property,but won’t give me the address from their direct mailer.

The address of the property is the number 1 thing a buyer wants to know. Why? They want to know the neighborhood, and they want to drive by.  Price and taxes are believe it or not, distant second and third concerns.

As a home seller, I would insist that my broker published the address everywhere, so the buyer could drive by, not be hassled, and shop for their home on their own terms.

At Help-U-Sell, we publish the address of every listing on our website, our direct mail pieces and we freely give the address without hassle.

So, as a future home seller, you have 2 options: insist on your broker providing the address upfront, or list with a Help-U-Sell broker.

Detach Your Emotions When Selling Your Home

March 28, 2007

When a buyer buys a home, on average, they view 11 properties before choosing one to buy.  They compare size, condition, amenities, and most importantly, location. Many factors go into the home they ultimately chose, including price, value, and other intangibles.

When a seller sells a home, they first thing they do is compare their home to other recent sales in the neighborhood. Usually, not very objectively. Then, they stack up all of their expenses and upgrades and improvements and – here’s the worst part- maintenance.  They add those things up, add it to the sales price of the neighbor’s home, add another chunk for negotiability, there you have it, an asking price.

Now of course, this may be the stereotypical seller, and not indicative of all home owners, but this is not uncommon.

The worst thing a seller can do (yes, some day I will probably construct a post called “5 Biggest Seller Mistakes”) is overprice their home, from an emotional standpoint.

My suggestion?  It’s no longer your home. The day you put in on the market, it is a commodity. The babies you raised, the birthday parties, the wedding pictures, the holidays you celebrated there do not have any value to the buyer.  The extra insulation, the 2×6 (instead of 2×4) studs, the special paneling in the basement,  even- become somewhat irrelevant to the buyer. Detach your emotions, be objective, and price your commodity to sell.   Or let it expire with your broker and call me.

The Sub Prime Debacle

March 27, 2007

The latest big real estate news is the rising rate of foreclosures in our country. The latest-latest big news is how lenders are pulling commitments out from underneath buyers- sometimes hours before closing is to occur.   It is very unfortunate to see this happen, for obvious reasons.  Some pundits believe we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.  Here are my feelings about why this is happening:

  1. Lenders are under tremendous scrutiny for approving marginal buyers- many of whom should not have been approved.
  2. Many lenders have convinced buyers to get a 2nd mortgage, an “80-20” for 100% financing.
  3. Many buyers have purchase homes way above their price range, then gone out and maxed out credit lines for new furniture, accessories, home improvements, etc.
  4. Along the same lines, many buyers have bought what they “wanted”, not what they “needed”.  This case can be argued for days.
  5. The adjustable rates on these ARMS have increased.
  6. Over-zealous buyers are not finding their earnings increase as they had hoped.
  7. Prices have dropped, leaving less equity for homeowners. This is where Help-U-Sell does their best work, since our fee is much less than a 6% fee.

Sub prime is a term for buyers with less than great credit.  If you are not sub prime buyers, make sure to keep it that way.  Make sure to work with a credible lender, and perhaps get counseling before you buy from an accountant, a financial planner, and a good real estate agent.  Plan before you go shopping!

Why Newspapers are Doomed

March 26, 2007

Since I was a little boy, I loved getting up every morning and reading the newspaper. For the past 30+ years, I have been in the habit of buying a local paper, or when on vacation, USA Today or The Boston Globe or whatever.

During the last year or so, however, like many of you, I find myself buying the paper less and less.  And then I got to thinking. And then I did some research. Here are some random facts and thoughts:

  1. Every year for the last 17 years, newspaper sales have gone down nationally, even though our population has pierced the 300 million mark.  17 years ago, the internet was not a common household term, and gave it no competition.
  2. Newspaper ad space keeps going up, every single year, making the cost versus benefit counter productive.  A full page in the Sunday Times of Trenton for a Realtor is approximately $7,000.  Ouch.
  3. Newspaper ads typically account for about 3% of all inquiries into a real estate office. Even less turn into sales.  Why? 1) Too much clutter.  2) Its not how people shop anymore. 3) Extremely limited information. 4) 80+% of all buyers now start their home search on the web.
  4. I have less time now than ever to sit down and read all of the paper, making it a waste of time to buy it in the first place.  Then when I do read it, the murders, rapes, child abandonment stories and the like are not how I prefer to begin my day. On the web, I can pick and choose which stories I am interested in. FREE.
  5. Everything in the newspaper can be had, for free, on the internet and TV.  With color photos, video, charts, graphs, etc.  In real estate, a buyer can visit my website and get the address of the property, a virtual tour, photos, learn of the next open house, see the floor plan…you get the idea.
  6. I don’t trust (all) people who write articles in the newspaper.  Have you ever read an article about something you witnessed, like a sporting event, or in your area of expertise?  Enough said.
  7. Many of us, but especially Generation X&Y, want to be stimulated with video, color, interactivity.  Not newsprint.
  8. Newspapers, while recycled very efficiently, still are the #1 contributor to landfills.
  9. Most newspapers are known for making numerous mistakes to Realtor ad copy. Once printed, too late.
  10. Most people at newspapers seem to have arrogance, knowing they are one of the only games in town. Trudy Holzbaur at The Times of Trenton is the rare exception.

I fully expect 90% of newspapers to be extinct within 7 years.  The NY Times, LA Times, USA Today and some tiny independents will somehow figure out how to stay relevant and profitable.

Real Estate Vocabulary

March 23, 2007


Flashing – Metal strips placed around roof openings to provide water tightness.

Typically you can find flashing around chimneys, vent pipes, and where corners meet. When I purchased my new home 14 years ago, we had some leaks around the flashing area, which the builder needed to come and fix. This should be one of the first places you look if you have a leak. 

Agents Showing a Lack of Courtesy

March 23, 2007


At my office when an agent from another company wishes to show my listing, the agent calls a toll-free number, and the  professional appointment center takes their call. Typically, the agent name is already in their database from having shown properties in the past. Many brokers  (not all) use this same service.

After the showing, the agent is immediately sent an email regarding feedback for the seller. This email is sent for me, automatically, from the appointment center.

My gripe?  All the agent has to do is respond to the email. It takes about 20 seconds, and then I can forward the email, or call my client with the proper feedback. This, of course, allows me and my seller to make adjustments to get the listing sold.

About 1/3 of all agents respond.