Wednesday, January 22, 2014

USDA loans, financing woes, oh my!

Ya know what's cool about this time of year?

The weather! Monday's temps? 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday? 10 degrees F and today a windy 27...ah, the effects of weather like this make peoples crazy, cars act funny and animals refuse to come out of the barn.

Also makes my profession, real estate, a bit of a dance on the razor's edge. First a client calls and calls, texts and texts to see this and that then cancels as the wind picks up and the mercury drops. Tis okay by me...I need the time to blog.

I've got a fabulous new listing: MLS 323552 on my website:

I've been trying to post photos here but Google Blogger is on the fritz about letting me upload the photo. I'd think it was my computer but I've noticed others are, too, being held up by the Blogger here. All in all, though, can't complain too much about a free site to blog.

Speaking of free. I've gotten word from two bankers that the USDA will not be cutting Rural Development (or RD) funding for homes along the Route 13 corridor. There had been talk that that part of SoIL was going to be considered as one "mass population area" meaning: too populated to be considered rural thus no funding for RD.

From the email of USDA:

The appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014 has been signed into law.  Section 737 includes a provision that no appropriated funds may be used to make rural area map changes this FY: None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to reclassify any area eligible for rural housing programs of the Rural Housing Service on September 30, 2013 as not eligible for such programs. 
This means that areas that would have become ineligible will remain eligible until September 30, 2014."

So you can see: we have funding until at least September 30, 2014.

What this means? If you're thinking of listing your home, let's get crackin' cuz time's awastin'. I need listings. I'm getting calls from buyers and have not much to show them. I have been calling on FSBO's and knocking on doors, but, seriously? If you're curious? Call me.

It also means buyers need to get your financials together PDQ so if there are a few blemishes on the credit scores, you'll have time to sort that out before the September deadline.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

GRI, I am

Hey, just got my IAR newsletter and there's a picture of me in the email. Yep, there I am along with 54 other Illinois real estate brokers. I am now a graduate of the Graduate Realtor Institute.

Kind of a big deal in the Realtor work world.

It was a cool class. Held the first week in December in Chicagoland.


Ahhhh, January in SoIL

May I say I love Southern Illinois in January? I consider this to be spring...we started the first weekend this month with a Polar Vortex: wind chills -30 and then today it, January 14, it was 51 degrees. Lovely.

I listed a house during the snow storm/Polar Vortex madness. Took the photo with all the snow. The seller just sent me some shots he'd taken last spring....I switched them out. In another few weeks we will have all that grass greening up.

I've been having a lot of buyers calling me, now, too, that the weather warmed up. See...that's the thing. Warm weather brings out the buyers.

I've really been trying to push up my listings. I love that the NAR ((National Association of Realtors)) have put out some wonderful stats.

All those first time homebuyers are using Realtors. (89%)

All those first time homebuyers using financing. (96%)

All those repeat buyers using financing. (81%)

All those buyers who see Realtors as a useful resource. (87%)

All those buyers (with NAR now saying the average buyer is 42 years old) under the age of 44 looking online for houses. (96%)

Of all those buyers? Only 15% will contact a For-Sale-By-Owner. Why? Probably because they are intimated and stressed out enough by the whole process without the extra heart-pounding experience of talking to a stranger about a house this buyer may or may not like.

See. That's what you have to factor in: People are not typically ready, willing or able to walk up to a stranger and negotiate a transaction as stressful as buying a house. Add in the first time homebuyer's jitters, the newly divorced or widowed still-fresh trauma or the newly relocated transplanted buyer's anxiety about the neighborhood/schools/taxes/commute distance and when the Allied Van truck is arriving. That's why I'm called in by these buyers. It is an alarmingly daunting task they are more than happy to hand off to a Realtor.

Me? I ease them into the transaction. I call their banker and start a dialog. I get them insurance quotes, house inspectors who are kind to first timers and tough on issues. I get them closing costs or carpet allowances. I know what to do, who to call, where to take them for title work, legal issues, insurability and how to negotiate not only the price but the place and timing of the closing.

See? People who are buying houses? They usually have some sort place...oh, I don't a job! Where they have to be at certain days and times. Realtors like me? We get to know all these personal, intimate, sometimes TMI details about our clients. Stuff we wouldn't dream of sharing with anyone because...well...outside the deal? Its just too complex to start to relay to someone outside the deal even if we weren't obligated and compelled to keep undisclosed by law.

It is time to call me to help you sell your house, keeping in mind since I'm a small business owner, it helps the local economy. So... maybe... its time to call me to help you sell or help your daughter/son/niece/grandson/neighbor/cousin/best friend sell their house. Realtors are in business to list and sell property. We get our buyers not only from our own circle of friends but from your listing.

Me? I have a huge circle of family/friends/people in SoIL. If you are, at all, daunted, frightened, discouraged about stories of unscrupulous real estate practitioners...please rest assured when I tell you: I know too many people and far too many people watch what I'm doing for me to "pull a fast one" on you the seller or the buyer.

Me? I LIVE IN SCHELLER!! Do you think, for a second, that I could live in this small, rural, almost too-close-nose-in-your-business-gossipy-tiny-village community and do something as public as real estate without being squeaky clean in my dealings? A hint, an allusion, a soupcon (hee hee...that's French but I don't have the proper accent markings on my keyboard), a taint or nuance of wrong-doing that would put me in a short line for a public shaming with siblings, cousins, classmates and former babysitters ((yes, people who babysat ME)), still living and monitoring my actions with an interest that I, personally, find very, very endearing. I would never compromise my integrity with them. I would rather chew glass than disappoint these people, these folks who are my people.

I recently did a listing appointment with a couple who told me a dastardly deed done by a real estate practitioner that soured them on using a Realtor to sell their house. Notice I am not calling the person that soured them a Realtor...that's a name we earn and the practitioner they told me about doesn't deserve the title. That person needs to retire her license because she's making us all look bad. Shame on her. I have her name and I am currently in the process of, if not public shaming, at least a broker-to-broker shaming of her actions. She needs to know I'm out here and I have heard her buyer's side of a story in which I wouldn't want to be the heroine. She needs to be ashamed of herself for letting them down. And she needs to feel shame for tainting our profession, shaking the public perception of Realtors. Hopefully, my local connections will convince this couple I am worthy of their trust.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New year, New Neighbor?

I've been spending quite a lot of energy giving listing presentations. Negotiation around the crazy weather patterns, not withstanding, I'm feeling very good indeed about getting my message out there to those sellers.

My new brokerage helped by sending me a copy of the latest stats from National Association of Realtors. The NAR puts a great deal of the monies collected from us Realtor-types into some concrete facts surrounding the sale of residential property.

Some highlights?

* Well...How about this? 88 percent of sellers were assisted by a Realtor when selling their home.
Probably because:
** 41 percent of home buyers looked online as their first step in the home-buying process. The use of the Internet in a home search rose slightly to 90 percent. And...for those buyers under the age of 44?  This share jumps up to 96 percent. ((Hint: if your house isn't online, you are losing a lot of potential buyers.))
***89 percent of those buyers purchased their home through a Realtor. That is up from 69 percent in 2001. And 9 out of 10 of those buyers would use their Realtor again or recommend to others.
**** Reasons given for using a REALTOR by homebuyers, whether it is their first or 91st house?? Want to take a guess??? No? It is a really easy answer and, no, you can't have another minute to think about it....
Buyers used Realtors because they don't like to, aren't comfortable with, or simply don't know how to -- NEGOTIATE.

I think this is a big deal. While it did surprise me; it just wasn't something I thought about. I've spent a career, previous to this real estate one, getting in someones business and putting a giant microphone in their face. Granted in some markets, like Buffalo, New York, I had a "Thor-sized" off-duty police officer pulling security duty for the radio station...which does tend to make me a lot bolder. But even in markets where it was no one but me and my press card, I never got too nervous about asking questions. I did get chased to my car more than once while covering city politics, but, hey, that was the allure of the gig.

In this career? Real estate? The most I have to consider is dogs, their, a-hem, leavings and not letting cats out/in during showings. I did have a near heart attack once while showing a house in Mt Vernon: upon opening a seldom used front door, a huge and I mean HUGE spider landed on my head. My quick-thinking client grabbed me, swept her hands over my noggin thus displacing Mr. Big-n-Creepy. I didn't scream until I saw what she'd brushed outta my hair. (( yes that was 2010 and folks in that neighborhood thought the city was testing some new kind of siren that day)).

She didn't buy that house.

Some other interesting tidbits?

### 87 percent of buyers will finance and they will finance 91 percent of their purchase. What this means for sellers? You aren't likely to get a cash buyer....heck, seller's are likely to get a buyer who can put more than 9 percent down!! Its been my experience that buyers will not be putting down anymore than 3.5 to 6 percent down. So...Sellers? Forget the rich Chicago cash buyer. You will most likely be selling to someone getting a mortgage and using a small down payment which means:

FHA, USDA - commonly called Rural Development, or VA. Get cozy with those terms because I sure have. I can also tell you that FHA made a huge comeback last year as government loan of choice for local bankers. USDA has become rife with delays, mind-numbing inspections/appraisals and underwriting combing over the documents using very fine teeth.

First time homebuyers? They are using financing 96 percent...that's up from 81 percent for repeat buyers.

What does this mean?

If you are trying to sell your house, you will be talking to a Realtor: Your buyer's agent. A Realtor who doesn't care one whit for you or your problems.
As a matter of fact, the more you tell that Realtor? The more they will use it to their client's advantage because they don't represent you. You are going into a gun fight with...not even a're going in with your finger pointed like a gun. And you will lose.

My first contact with sellers trying to sell on their own is for information for my buyers. Each and every single one of these sellers has disclosed information they should not have. I -- unlike some of my profession -- will stop you from spilling your guts to me. I will tell you not to tell me stuff. I am only previewing your property for buyers. But this year, I got serious about telling sellers they need to list with me.

The primary reason given by sellers to NAR for not listing? They didn't want to pay a fee.

So...because you didn't want to pay a commission, a fee, you are willing to let good buyers not know about your house ((all those online lookers)) and you will let those non-negotiators pass you up ((because they are intimidated or scared or have an agent who can find them something just as good that's listed)).

Here's one more factoid from NAR that those trying to sell it themselves might want to research:

$$$$ -- Direct quoting the NAR now...."The typical For Sale By Owner home sold for $174,900 compared to $215,000 among agent-assisted homes." That's almost 18.5 percent....I typically charge 7 percent to market and sell your property. Yep. Ya just "saved" yourself paying someone a fee.

And what, exactly, do I do for that fee?

I market your house. I put it on the MLS. I put it on my website:
My office feeds it into nearly a dozen websites including the big Z and Trulia. You should be able to search your address and find it on any number of online sites. Pictures, tours, we put them on YouTube! And, yes, I put a sign in the yard with my name and phone number. Plus, here in SoIL, I get it in the print media that appeals to your property. I facebook it, tweet it, LinkedIn it, and I blog about it.

I pay for all of those things except the last few...Facebook and such is still free. But websites and web runner feeders are not.

Most important to my sellers? I have a dog in the fight. YOU. Your property is now MY property. Let's get it sold.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Okay. Last post of 2013 and looking forward to a busy, happy, fun 2014 with my new location at CB Prime Realty with the main office in Carbondale.

Lots of interesting data being spit out by Zillow with predictions like:

"We’ll see a rise in mortgage rates.

According to our data, mortgage rates are predicted to hit 5% by the end of 2014. While that’s still low, it’s up from the 3-4% range in 2013, making it more expensive for people to finance a home."


"Homeownership will decline.

Zillow data predicts that homeownership rates will fall below 65% in 2014, the lowest since the mid-1990s. However, the easy lending standards we saw during the housing bubble led to higher-than-normal homeownership, and in the recovery we’re seeing ownership rates normalize. Another issue impacting the decline in ownership is the large number of Gen Y-ers who are renters. This group is the next generation of homeowners, but they’re seeing high unemployment and low wages, which will reduce the number of first-time homebuyers in 2014."

I believe I've already starting seeing these trends. In 2012, with a Presidential election, sales were effected negatively with bank loans becoming harder to process. In 2013, government loans tightened their underwriting so USDA loans, especially USDA Direct, became arduous to achieve. I didn't do any USDA Directs in 2013, mostly because the guidelines became stricter and my folks that could qualify? I urged them to use bankers who could put them in a FHA product.

It has become harder and harder for the first time homebuyer and, in 2014, we're going to see more changes to USDA loans and their underwriting. For the first time, too, we might even see areas in SoIL along the Route 13 corridor excluded from these loans.

All in  all, if you're thinking of selling your home, you're going to have to be careful to screen those who wish to see it. Qualifications for loans will be tighter with more processing and underwriting delays. Even more of a reason to list your house with a Realtor. Seriously.

And for those who are buying: The inventory is still really low in SoIL. If you find a house you can see yourself living in, even if its not it or someone else will.

Buyers get qualified. NOT pre-qualified...I mean, go do the loan app and get qualified. I had two deals die in 2013 because the loan fell apart after these buyers handed over a pre-qualified letter.

Believe me, I will be calling bankers about "pre-qual" letters when I get them. I will be looking out for my clients best interests when I represent the seller. Contracts will stall until I get some assurances these loans are good and the banker is standing with the buyers.

And BUYERS -- don't waste a Realtor's time! If you can't buy now, say so in the first call. Tell me about it and, if I'm doing broker's views, I will call and see if you can tag along. But you are buying my gas. It is a good way to make up you're mind what you really, really want or what you won't do.

Buyer, you may also be surprised at the loan options available. That its easier to get into a house that you might "settle" for right now, live in and fix up with plans to sell it in a year or two. I can help with that as I know what sells, what's not worth the investment or what is worth the investment. As I've said before -- Some of the HGTV shows aren't all bad about what to fix and what not to bother with.

Sometimes, Mr & Ms First Timer, the closing won't give you a huge wad of cash to pay into the next house....but what you've built is credit. You might even put more money into a house and have to bring cash to the table to unload it. But you've built your credit up to the point, that now, you can get that loan for the house you want.

Look at it this way: Buy the fix-up, imperfect house; fix up the majors & make it cute. We then sell it and you're now able to get the bigger loan on the house you love. You didn't lose any money, you built your credit better and faster than paying rent plus you had the added tax benefits of home ownership.

Zillow says home prices will increase.

"Home prices will increase.

Zillow data predicts that home prices will rise 3% in 2014, building on the 5% rise in national home prices we saw in 2013. However, due to higher home prices, a rise in mortgage rates, and increased home inventory, prices aren’t expected to rise aggressively."

I'm not at all sure that's going to be true in SoIL. I am 100% sure that houses priced right for the market will sell. Overpricing your house will cause it to sit on the market matter how wonderful it is.

All-in-all, buying and selling property is one of the most stressful things you can do. Don't try and do it alone...choose me to help you. I'm fun, I'm experienced and I'm going to be on your side. And I need your listing!!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year, New Attitude

My new website is up and running....I'm chasing after it with hopes of making my web-a-tude more worthy.

I got a new Galaxy Tab 3 phone "system" with Bluetooth headset ((as here in IL after January 1, ya gots to be hands free whilst driving)).

So I took my first "selfie" with it on Xmas day. My talented niece Christa captured the other shot.

My other talented niece, Celeste, captured this one (above). I'm using it on my business cards but I've also gotten a good tip about an online site for those so I'm only getting 500 to start. Then I can refresh those photos as I go. Because as you know: I hate having that one photo out there forever. Ugh.

Christmas is still drying up. Oldest son, Alex, was here for a much-too-short visit:

He's been out in Arizona working on Cisco Systems for Maricopa County. He wasn't sure he was going to go back and wanted to cut our visit short so he could go back to Ashton IT Solutions main office.

That's okay. I have plenty of new gadgets, webinars and learning/training going on with the new move to Carbondale Coldwell Banker Prime.

And, by the way, the first week of December I finally finished up my Graduate Realtor Institute or are a series of three and you must complete all three to gain the certification.
It is kind of big deal in the real estate world and it should be to anyone thinking of listing or buying property.

Especially since a lot of Realtors are not carrying any college credits except for their realtor's license requirements. GRI brings up the scale of knowledge, the credential, the ethics, and the value of that realtor's licensure: it is kinda a big deal for the consumer, too.

We only have a couple of days left of 2013; I'm so looking forward to this new year. Out with the old chaos, in with a new techno-savvy and forward-thinking management style of the Jackson office. In 2013, I sold property from Murphysboro to Mt Vernon (($1.5 million)), I sold farms and I sold in urban neighborhoods; I made my goal of becoming a REGIONAL agent. My car, my phone is my mobile office and this year, in 2014, I will expand that more than ever with the new managing brokerage and new technology like mobile hotspot and boost battery pack to take my laptop presentations to clients with ease. This broker/owner wants me more mobile and supports that 110 percent with office support staff and technology, innovative ways to capture leads, continuing education, and more advertising support: all the big, key, push/pull points to propel my goals.

It is a whole lot more than just jibber-jabber. I can do that all by myself...hee hee.

2014 will be the year of action, activity and connectivity. Using my natural skill set with new enhancements.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New work profiles and photos

Okay readers, I'm sorry for neglecting you. So I guess I need to bring you up to speed with what's what with the Reluctant Broker:

First -- I've moved my license...again. This time, though, I did stay in the brand. Just moved to a different, more progressive and more aggressive brokerage: Coldwell Banker Prime Realty.

Check the website and you'll see I've moved up. We're going all mobile and touch screens, too, soon. Broker/owner is Greg and he's positive-attitude central: tech/savvy, hands-on with training and presentation, AND is pro-training outside the office. He's on board with advertising, blogging, and aggressively going mobile. I can't make any money if I'm not moving among the public...he wants all his broker/agents out there moving, networking, talking to people. Big plus for this guy? He's a gym/workout routine machine.


Now on to homework assignments from the new broker/owner: I had to profile myself on Zillow and Trulia. Never been one not to like to write about my favorite and mine. Here it is:

"Totally awesome woman who has travelled around the country with a broadcasting career doing the news/talk/morning shows in various places like Anchorage, Alaska and Buffalo, New York even some freelance voice work in Canada.
Moved back "home" to Southern Illinois in 2009...where I stumbled my way into a new life and a new career in REAL ESTATE, which, I find has a lot of the same elements of my previous occupation as it is all about the hunt.
Hunting is all about preparation. No hunter goes into the field, sits down; just waiting and hoping for game. Anyone who's ever hunted for game ((or even bargains while shopping)) knows you have to know where to look, you have scout the trails ahead of the season, and you have to plan.
In Alaska, I was fortunate enough to be included while hunting moose. Believe me, you have to have a plan to hunt an animal that big because once you shoot it, you have to pack it out of the area before the bears come take it from you.
Real Estate is about the planning. It is not just sticking a sign in the yard and hoping someone comes along. There's a campaign with advertising, networking, and diversity. It is a moose hunt.
Real Estate for the buyer is hunting a totally different animal. More like hunting geese, quail or doves. Some agents just blast away hoping to hit a bird. I take a different approach by digging into my buyers preference: likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams. Then when we're ready to take a shot we are sure to get our golden goose.
2009 - 2011 Mt Vernon Downtown Development Committee, Mt Vernon, IL
2009 - 2011 Granada Preservation Committee, Mt Vernon, IL
2011 Voted "Best of the Best" in Real Estate, Mt Vernon Registered News.
2012 - Charter Member Williamson/Jackson County Sunset Rotary
2013 Earned GRI accreditation"

I'm sure I'll be editing it. I'm sure Greg will be editing it.

But for now. For this day, for this time...this is me.