#1 On Google? A Waste of Time of worth the Time?

OK, here we go again. Three new e-mails today with the promise to get me on the first page of Google. I saw another seminar invite with the subject the same. I know the Internet is now the #1 place most BUYERS start to search for listings……. but do they REALLY search Google looking for an AGENT? I would say 100% NO.

I understand that this Internet Google “guru” is touting numbers like “95% of buyers today start their home search on the Internet” and so fourth. But the fact is, MOST of that 95% starts on the Internet alright, but that traffic and “hit number” is driven by sites like Realtor.com and homes.com for example. The buyer finds the house and calls the agent that has the listing. Investing on the enhanced listings on Realtor.com for example and having a good amount of listings to input is MY #1 source of buyers leads.

Don’t be misled. Most of those touting this Google deal have never sold real estate before. I drive traffic to my own website with my own marketing. In 2010, in Tampa Florida, one of the worst realty markets in the USA where unemployment is around 18% and over 60% of homeowners are upside down, I had 115 sales sides. NONE of that business came from Google.

I’m not saying a good position on Google will not look good on a listing presentation, but I can easily overcome such a minor obstacle in my interview process.

To learn more, visit my website at http://www.headofrealestate.com


A Word to My Friends in The Print Media

Here it comes! The doom and gloom! Sales this September, October and November are going to be WAY down from the same time period as last year! Before you report that the market is CRASHING and that real estate is getting worse, PLEASE consider the following!

The ORIGINAL end to the first time home buyer tax credit (that was also being used by non-first time buyers, thank you Mr. President) was originally supposed to end on November 30th, 2009. Needless to say, everyone was in the hunt to get the “free money” our government has been giving away to people who don’t really need it the past two years.

The bottom line is this. THE TOTAL NUMBER OF HOUSES SELLING IS ALMOST EXACTLY ON PAR WITH 2009. The volume of sales was just spread out more evenly as opposed to peaking every time the government established another extension of the tax credit. Further, prices, at least in Tampa, have remained very steady over the past year and I only see the luxury market poised to take another hit in values at some point in the future if the economy does not get any legs to her SOON.

To report a bottoming out real estate market, even though the wires will be full of such information, it will pay to do the homework and look at the entire number of sales, YEAR TO DATE from 2009 when making such comparisons. Although I love stories on real estate, sometimes all that negative press scares away the buyers and that has a huge impact on our economy nationwide.

Why should the investors make a killing while the average Joe is apprehensive to buy those great deals. I have not seen so many investors buying up real estate since the early 90’s. THEY are not impacted by the national media and are making a killing. Realtors that represent those investors are also along for the ride. But the average American needs to know, that over the course of history, buying a home is one of the best investments you can make!

A house in Tampa that was built in the 1970’s for $20,000 in now worth over $200,000 (and was worth $400,000 in 2005). A person RENTING that home paid almost the same payment except the buyer has long since paid this home off and received a great tax break while he had a mortgage. The rate was fixed for 30 years (so the payment never changed) while the renter got price hikes at every renewal. Look at that house value over time. Even with today’s value, that homeowner would tell you that buying a home in the 1970 was one of the smartest financial moves he made in his life. The SAME THING that buyers who bought in 2009 and 2010 are going to be saying in the future.

Will somebody PLEASE run a story on the long term value of real estate and the trends in has run over the last 100 years? THAT would be a great story, a feel good story that would actually HELP the situation out. After all, the media was certainly fanning the flames in 2004, 2005 and 2006 giving consumers the confidence to all walk off that cliff together. Now we need that type of reporting going the other way to ease concerns of those who bought and got burned.

To those investors who bought in 2005 for example and own a home in a community worth 50% less than what you paid for yours…… go buy two or three more of the same model NOW at 50% off and put your renters in their. Those values will rise in the future and the huge profit you make will more than offset the loss on the one you bought. Just like the stock market! You bought stock in a company you have confidence in too early and it is down 50%……. if you believe in the product, go buy more at the discount to offset your loss. THAT make perfect sense to me………..

What say you?


Listing Agent Must Accompany?

The dumbest thing I see in MLS today is “Listing Agent Must Accompany Showings” in MLS. If you are a Seller, here is a message from Vincent Arcuri: I will NOT be showing your house to my potential Buyers.

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Seller: You are asking why your Realtor attending the showings is not a good idea? I can give you a truck load of reasons why they SHOULD NOT be there but I will keep it short. #1) Nobody in real estate is ever on time. Either I will be running late because the buyer took longer than expected to look at each house or the agent meeting us there is running late so all the showings get pushed back. #2) Your Realtor wants to tell my buyer about every little detail of the house “here is the master bedroom” and “look at that chair rail” and drags what should be a regular showing into this 45 minute DRAMA of an agent trying to show off their real estate knowledge. #3) NOTE TO THOSE REALTORS: Buyers are emotional. They will not buy a house over another because yours is better built and the trusses are commercial grade. They like the pool, they like the location, they think this is the coolest house for the money? SOLD. You being there is not making one ounce of difference in the sale price or if my buyer is going to purchase the house or not. #4) When my buyer is late and you throw attitude around, it further puts your listing in the doghouse.

Locboxes today are safe, effective can be set for showings during certain hours and have the security needed to protect sellers. I set mine from 9:00AM to 8:00PM and deactivate the box at night. After each Agent that opens the box, I will get all the data on-line from MLS. I leave as much information as possible about the home IN THE HOME for any interested buyers to take with them. My listings are EASY to SHOW. That makes them SHOW MORE and the chances of a higher sales price and a faster time to sell are much better.

EGO should be left out of the process and that is what some agents are trying to do when showing up for every showing. Some top producers not have their assistants show up for them! AS IF! Who do WE as AGENTS make the home selling process so difficult on each other! We talk about the banks and how horrible they handle the short sales and REO’s and we do no better as a group.

Making listing difficult to show is a mistake and is not the best representation for your seller or buyers in the marketplace. We can do better.


Free Ways To Increase The Value of Your Home

I was showing property this weekend to an investor from New York. As we went from house to house, I was stunned at how poorly some of those houses showed! Do agents communicate with their clients anymore? After listing your home, the Realtor you hired should walk you through the entire house and call out issues that hinder buyers from making offers on your home. And Agents wonder why the failure rate of new agents is over 80%.

Here are a few tips for getting TOP DOLLAR for your home when listing:

Clean everything in sight! PAINT  A N Y T H I N G  that needs to be painted! Clean the carpet, wax the floors, wash windows! Clean your closet! Pack any unnecessary items in boxes and store them in another house or storage unit! Thin out your furniture. De-clutter the house so it shows bigger and flows smoothly. CLEAR YOUR KITCHEN AND BATHROOM COUNTER TOPS. Store those things underneath the cabinets so the home shows cleaner and more open. Take EVERYTHING off your refrigerator (talking exterior and top as well). Open blinds and turn on lights when showing.

Also, I recommend getting a home inspection before you list. This will help you avoid surprises after you are locked into a legal Sales Contract that requires you make those repairs with a General Contractor (Florida). By knowing about those defects prior to listing, you can fix them yourself or with your own reputable handyman, saving yourself time and money later on.

Clean the house! Some of the houses I showed this weekend were filthy! A clean looking and SMELLING home is much more appealing to Buyers. If it is hot outside, turn the A/C down so it is refreshing to walk into. Nothing is worse than it being ninety-seven degrees outside and walking into an oven! A nice cool home will make the buyer stay longer and take a better look! Try to make your home show well. It takes EFFORT, but the rewards of selling your home in this market far outweigh the alternatives…… your home not selling! Now get to work!

A Mortgage Rescue Plan

A great story from the AP today. Please read below. After the article, I have my comments: __________________________________

WASHINGTON (AP) — A mortgage rescue plan to save hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure drew overwhelming Senate support Monday, inching toward passage despite Republican objections. The Senate voted 76-10 to advance the bill, a broad array of housing measures including overhauls of the Federal Housing Administration, the Depression-era mortgage insurer, and government-sponsored home loan giants Fannie Mae (FNM, Fortune 500) and Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500). Its centerpiece is a new $300 billion FHA program to allow debt-ridden homeowners who are currently too financially risky to qualify for government-backed loans to refinance into safer, more affordable mortgages. The measure is on track for passage by an overwhelming margin, possibly by week’s end. It has survived several test votes in the Senate, repeatedly demonstrating that there’s enough support for it to override President Bush’s promised veto. But Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is blocking its progress because Democratic leaders have refused to allow a vote on attaching an $8 billion package of renewable energy tax breaks. Ensign has said he wants the tax incentives to hitch a ride on the housing measure because it has a good chance of being signed into law by Bush. “This will be the major achievement and accomplishment of this Congress when it comes to dealing with the underlying economic crisis, which is at its heart the foreclosure crisis,” said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., the Banking Committee Chairman who wrote the legislation.

Bill still faces hurdles Beyond the Senate, the election-year package still faces a tricky path. The president has said he thinks a deal is possible, but the White House is balking at key portions of the bill, particularly $3.9 billion included for buying and fixing up foreclosed properties. Democrats argue the money is key to preventing neighborhood blight, but most Republicans call it a bailout for lenders who helped cause the mortgage mess. The two architects of the plan, Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the House Financial Services Committee Chairman, have been negotiating privately to iron out Democrats’ differences on the plan, but the stalling tactics in the Senate have sapped momentum for a quick agreement. 

One key divide is over limits on the mortgages FHA can insure and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy, which the Senate measure sets at $625,000. The House-passed bill set the caps at $725,000, which is preferable to lawmakers from the highest-cost housing markets, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. 

Also at issue is whether the new regulator and tightened rules for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should take effect immediately, as dictated by the Senate bill. The House-passed legislation delays them for six months, leaving it up to a new president to implement the changes. And the two sides are at odds over which tax breaks to include and whether to pair them with offsetting tax increases to prevent a rise in the deficit – something that conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats insist on. The Senate’s $14.5 billion package falls $2.4 billion short of being paid for, while the House’s $11 billion is fully covered. 

There is broad agreement on using the FHA to help struggling homeowners refinance into mortgages they can afford. The Bush administration has twice broadened the agency’s authority to do so under a program it calls FHASecure. Top housing officials were planning to discuss the expansion – as well as the fate of the housing legislation – on Tuesday.


 As a real estate agent, I love the idea that Uncle Sam is getting involved. As an American, I not certain they should! About a year ago, we (Real Estate) were all alone in this mess! In 2008, Gas Prices have joined the loop (just filled up my Expedition at a cost of $98.00), skyrocketing property taxes got noticed and our great Governor, Charlie Crist has kicked the insurance industry right in the “mommy / daddy button” and it seems like the world is going to fall apart! NOT SO! Everything is not what is seems!

At our office, we have this big “Sale Pending” board that shows what deals are currently pending escrow. We use color to describe the deal. Bank foreclosures are green, short sales are blue and regular, arms length deals are black. since mid 2007, that board is 95% green and blue! However, in the past week, black has made a glorious return! The past 3 weeks we have been partying like its 1999 (or 2005) as MANY regular deals are starting to close. A CLEAR SIGN that the worst is behind us! If the government wants to get involved (article above) to speed the process, I say “run Uncle Sam, RUN!.”  We have hit bottom and we are turning the corner!  2009, here we come!

As a final note: As the NFL training camp is about to open for all 32 teams, I want to wish my client, Michael Pittman the best of luck playing for the Denver Bronco’s. As a Buccaneer, her was not appreciated enough and like Chris Simms (not in Tampa when the season starts), Michael will shine in Denver. It would be great to see him play in the Superbowl here in Tampa this February!

Tampa X 2

The future looks?……………………….. the media would make you think the sky is falling in on real estate! It’s just a thunderstorm! According to the Tampa Tribune yesterday, the population of Tampa is expected to DOUBLE in the next 30 years! Holly Cow! Builders better get to building! With only a 5% vacancy rate here in the Bay area, they are going to have to double the housing in less than 30 years (build another town the size of Tampa)!

Again, I caution all of those in a panic: Like the early 70’s like the Savings & Loan crisis of the late 80’s and early 90’s, this too shall pass.

A word of caution if you are a buyer in this market: Gauge the curve! In other words, give yourself some flex room! Try and buy below market if you can to offset the decline! I can’t see the market getting below 2004 values so to me, this is a good spot to be in if you can get there.

If you are not looking to sell just yet, this is a wonderful time to do some renovating and updating! You will enjoy the newness of your home for a few years before you sell! Better than adding those granite counters after you move out! Live a little! DON’T renovate your pool! I had one person ask me if they should renovate their pool (how much would it increase value) and in a word NO. You will get almost ZERO for that type of renovation (drastic pool renovations). Pavers yes, outdoor kitchen, yes, re-marcite, yes. Radical alterations, NOPE!

You will get about 80% from kitchen and bathroom renovations. Find a contractor who gives you a 20% discount and you will get 100%! PLUS the renovations will make your home easier to sell! Shop around. Lots of skilled contractors looking for work now that they are not building so many houses!

We are in a soft spot in the market! Now is the time to come up with your game plan for the new three years!

Bad Advice

One of the most frustrating things Realtors have to deal with in real estate when competing against other agents for listings is “bidding up” prices. Many times, the Sellers are not interviewing Agents, the are auctioning Agents. In other words, they simply select the Agent who tells them the highest price to list at. They will ignore the more experienced Agents and go with one who tells them what they want to hear…… and those agents are laughing all the way to the bank! Want to know how? Check out this video at www.sellwithvince.com/pricingVideo.html.

Flat out, if you purchased your home in 2005 or 2006, it is not worth more today than it was back then……..no matter what a wishful thinking, inexperienced Agent tells you. Facts are facts. In a declining market, pricing your home correctly is more critical than in any other market. In 2004, you could overprice for example and simply wait a few months for the market to catch up to your price. Not so today!

In 2008, not only are you making payments and carry (taxes, insurance, maintenance costs), but your value is in decline. A $400,000 home in 2005 is now worth $300,000 for example. Most of the loss or “crash” has happened in the past 12 months. Say this seller listed at $370,000 six months ago when the home was worth $350,000. As they begin to reduce the price, so dropped the market in conjunction. Unless that seller cut the price to get in FRONT of the price curve, he will be in trouble. Six months ago, he should have been at $350,000, today, six months later, this same Seller is at $320,000 when he should be at $300,000. Had he priced right from day one with an experienced Agent, he would be $50,000 ahead of the game, plus the carry.

Bottom line is this: The more reputable, experienced, HONEST Agent that tells you the truth, will net you more money than taking the advise of an ignorant or inexperienced Agent when it comes to pricing your home. Look at each Agents Market Analysis. See HOW the Agent came up with the price. Look at the FACTS. Sometimes the experienced Agent will give you the HIGHER price. What is important is that you look at the material, see how much work and analysis the Agent did to come up with the price. Most important, use your brain and not your heart when pricing!

Happy Selling!