Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fighting the price

Appraisers appraise.

"Oh they just put those together to match the contract price." said a buyer of mine.

Sigh. If only.

Here in Illinois, Southern Illinois especially, if you have a business practice that, shall we say, swings loosely on the hinges? Some will use your services just to get the number they want but sooner or later these shenanigans will catch up to you. This goes for licensed inspectors, appraisers, contractors, mold mitigation....expands into other licensed professions like doctors, nurses, cosmetologists, Realtors. We are all licensed by the Great State of Illinois. We paid for college, training, fees to get to take the test, more fees to get the gosh-darn license printed and sent by the state then more fees to boards and associations to be recognized and legal. We then pay dues, required monthly or quarterly rents/deposits, and, last but not least, insurances. Sure. Easy as pie. Commit a felony for you just to collect a fee, sure, I'll get right on that.

Sure. Yes. It can be done. Just like you can find a licensed physician to write any or all 'scrpts for you; you can find a licensee to mock-up an appraisal for you. Money always finds the ones who will.

Putting those licensees into that category with Dr. Nick or Conrad Murray shames all with the M.D. after their name and a Caduceus on their business card. Lumping me in with frauds bothers me, too.

Because that's what that phrase "match the contract price" means to me; that these appraisers are all frauds and real estate is a racket. We're all in kahoots to swindle poor suckers out of their money; little better than used car salesmen. Little faith is put into the collective education. We are not one of those states that allow the weekend diploma mills to set up in hotels, where candidates are given the answers for a "proctored - rhymes with doctored" test Saturday night.




  1. Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
  2. A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.


cheat - deceit - deception - swindle - humbug - fake


Holy crap!

Is that what the general public really thinks about Realtors? I can lose my license, be criminally charged with felony activity and be sent off to jail. So I can sell you a house?? Believe me. If I was the type person to do this type of illegal enterprise I would not be setting up shop in SoIL where the average price of a house is about $120,000. (Yahuh...with a split on six or seven percent commission -- or less!! -- in some cases because there are some unbelievably cheap bastards out there). You'd really need to put another zero in that loop and then I'd still have a problem because...see? That behavior is wrong.

I've always been of the opinion guys like Dr. Nick and Conrad Murray get swept up in the fame. They aren't famous but enjoy being around the famous. They get off on being needed and on call to a celebrated figure. I get it. These guys are groupies!! Just like the girls/boys who shag the boys/girls in the band. I had a modicum of success in radio -- people seek you out when you are top-of-mind news. They send you flowers, food, free tickets to their events, invitations that wouldn't be sent if I'd been just plain ol' Rosie from SoIL. Hell, I even had a stalker!! So I get it.

Now take that back into SoIL real estate reality. No one sends me flowers unless its my birthday or it was a lovely date night. Free food comes from vendors who want to curry favor for my business referral and invitations to events come with a sponsorship fee.

Appraisers and inspectors make even less per transaction than I do. They have more transactions per week than I do but they make a set fee not a commission of the whole of the sale. All are heavily regulated and, in this little marketplace, governed by their peers! Oh, yes! There is nothing quite as tasty as the gossip about a misstep made by one of your brethren. Fabulously titillating! Oh my!

Even Realtors or inspectors who are working within the law, collect sneers from those who watch their tiptoed steps along the ledge of misrepresentation. Gossip, gossip, gossip...what the heck to you think we do in our down time?


"Oh they just put those together to match the contract price." 


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stuff to share


Photos above are from my newest listing: 4183 Black Bird, Mulkeytown, IL.

It was a wild week; I listed two:
1101 Thomas, Carterville;

I've also, in the last 7 days, gotten a contract negotiated for my listing on Timothy: (Full Price!) We've gotten the legal done for my Scheller listing and the appraiser is due May 30th. (This one has been on my desk since December and I have high hopes it will close next month: see my blog "Pending")
The sellers of Timothy are buying a short sale. These usually take months but I heard last Thursday we've gotten a green light to close next month! ((Meanwhile Timothy's first round of inspections found some beasties...Please SoIL sellers -- get your house treated for termites because with our wet weather the beasties are busy))
I hosted my out-of-stater buyers buzz in for a round of looks. They tell me they have to find their new home because their home they are selling closes late next month. Got a call from a couple whose house I sold in 2011 - they are tired of renting and want to own again.
A closing on Friday took me to Campbell Hill, IL (On Highway 4-- I never knew this place existed so I got to see something new in my beloved SoIL.) My buyers are the couple I talked about in "Houses Are a Girl's Best Friend" -- we were delayed by a week. When closings are delayed because of wrinkles at the bank, bankers find I am better than 'Constant Contact' with emails, texts and calls. <snicker> Stalkers have nothing on me when I am bugging someone to close. Finally met the loan officer face-to-face Friday and he was quite charming after being hassled my me for more than a week.
Ended my week with a first outing with some new buyers and making appointments for next week when it all starts over again.

Today I am taking my 'day off' by updating my blog. <sigh> Like I said before...if we could only cuddle.

In the middle of all my activity I finally got the finishing touches put on my summer marketing push. Watch this space! I will be sharing my upcoming ad campaign soon!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


The time of anticipation. The time of wait-and-see. The gibbous, unbalanced, salient and giddy moments before the event: things are pending.

I've spent the last 6 months working to close a property in Scheller. 4855 N Scheller Lane: see the Virtual Tour here --

I have a personal connection with this was the home of some very close friends of my daddy's, Andy and Martha. Daddy would have been 90 this past April had he lived. Daddy was younger than Andy and Martha by a few years.

Their daughter's name? Rosie -- not me -- the woman who babysat me, baked me cookies and made sure my hands were clean. My youngest son, Andy, is named for the man who built this house. Close friends of my dad's? Yep.

They built the garage first and lived there while Andy picked up a trowel and, with some help, built Martha's house, brick by brick. The pines out front? They were less than my height when planted -- I remember because I was there -- and I've been trying to sell this house since Martha died in 2009 (Andy predeceased her by several years).

Martha had her brick house. Meant to outlast her, withstand any fury mother nature could dish out, with 4 cisterns so she'd never, never, never run out of water, Dammit.

Her granddaughter inherited the place and I was tasked with selling it. And a task it was...because I truly believe Martha walked beside me sniffing out every nuance of potential buyers. Nixing the deals until a buyer met with her approval.

That house had to go to someone who not only loved it and appreciated it but someone who met Martha's standards:  Someone who could tell a good story, play a good game of cards, laugh loud at themselves, fill the house with loud friends, obnoxious relatives, arguments, opinions, regrets, redemptions but, above all, love.

Someone who could hold their liquor but not their tongue. Someone who could not only dish it out with righteousness and sass then was big enough to take it and take it with dignity and class.

It was a hard act to follow. With many not making the cut, I knew I'd found a winner when he lit a cigarette just outside the garage. A veteran of two tours in Iraq, this buyer knew to stand into the wind blowing away from the house -- which he did -- not a whiff of smoke should have come into that garage. But it did, just one little puff, almost like it was inhaled by the house;  I knew right then and there the heavy-smoking Martha had made her choice.

My buyer, a war veteran, a single father, has had hurdles to leap and challenges aplenty. But I knew Martha was pulling for him. And anyone who knew her, knew she usually got what she wanted.

We hope to close on Father's Day.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start your Engines.

This will most likely be my last weekend off. The selling season in SoIL is just about to leap into hyper drive and I'm chillaxing before the big push.

Almost like having shore leave before the tactical offensive...Semper Fi.

Anywaaaaaaaay. Here we go with the real estate stuff:

The Mother Ship has tipped me with some great advice to clients to pass along. This time the topic is bidding wars. Yes, kids, the bidding war are back and back in a big way. The days of low balling an offer are done.

Last year I was bested in bidding wars so this year I upped my game. Yeah, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

I have clients right now who are the winners of the first bidding war of my selling season. I trusted my instinct and set them up with the right tools so if it happened, we'd be ready.

Mother Ship has offered six ways to make sure you win your wars:

1. Make sure your lender and your broker (hopefully me) have a touchy-feely relationship. If you are my client, I want your lender's cellphone number. Period. End of sentence. If we can't get that then I'd strongly suggest you consider one of the half dozen lenders I have in my cell, who will take my call until way into the evening, on holidays and weekends. I want a lender for you who isn't getting paid but getting commissions on what he/she brings to the closing table.

2. If you are a cash buyer: prove it. Make sure your finance guy, lawyer, trust manager writes a letter stating your liquid assets. It is a proof of funds letter and your financial guy knows exactly what to write. Have it emailed to me so I can access it PDQ and put it in the hands of the seller's agent. This can make the difference in a bidding war. Even if your are mortgaging BUT you putting in a substantial down payment, one of these letters is priceless.

3. Be quick, be creative, be helpful. Be compassionate and kind. Sellers need to sell quickly but have nowhere to go? Offer a short term lease-back to sellers. Say you have cash; we can close in 10 days: those sellers might appreciate 30 days to move (rent free is a plus!). I've done this before in a non-bidding war situation and it works well. Or maybe the sellers have pets they need to place -- offer to help. Offer to allow the sellers to store stuff in what will now be your garage for a put-in-place and agreeable time.

4. If you really want the house have it inspected before you have a contract in place. Then your contract is not contingent on inspections. In fact, do away with any and all contingencies to be more attractive to the seller. The object here is to win the house.

5. Trust me. Give me a game plan and, if necessary, put in place an escalation clause. This is an addendum that allows me to bid for you.  Mother Ship explains: "An escalation clause is an addendum to a purchase offer that authorizes your agent to offer a specified amount above the best offer the seller receives." These are powerful when I deal with short sale properties listed at below appraisal or below the market comparable or 'comp'. What's a comp to 7 acres and stick-built house from the 1970's in a rural school district? Zillow and Trulia won't tell you. I can and will explain how it should be searched.

None of this is secret stuff. It is all out there in cyberspace and, yes, you can do with all without an agent. But why would you want to do that? Sellers pay commissions. Frankly it would be stupid not to choose someone to guide you along.

And it is your choice. Whether you are buying or selling: you choose your agent. I've gone into this before but I'll say it again. You get to hire your own broker whether you are selling or buying. If you want a bargain basement agent to sell your property, please go with the cheapest one. If you want someone you can trust, someone who has your back, someone who is just as interested in getting the right price for your property as you are: choose me.

If you are buying -- I'd say the same goes. I want to get you the house you want. Even if I have to go knock on a door to see if the owners are ready to sell.

It is all about finding the right property. The right deal for the client. Soon I will be showing off a super-new marketing tool I've been working on. Hopefully unveiling it this week.

Watch this space.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Closing Time

Taking one to the closing table today.

Glad for that as I get my commission check when I close. Notice I said, "Commission check."

That's because I do not get a paycheck.

I get a commission check which goes into my business as a paid. Of that paid amount I feed the Mother Ship, the fees to the brokerage house (rents). I pay the funds that fuel my business: Advertising, Insurances, Car, Marketing/Promo; then and only then, I get to pay myself. I like bar charts for this. This is how I have my business set up so at tax time I can go through all these titles and see what is costing me what. After a year or so, I can see if insurance companies are raising rates and look at different policies. I can look at fuel/car issues and see how uneconomical my Lincoln has become so I can start the "new ride" funding.

I have continued education funds, vacation funds, upkeep funds. They get fed when commissions come in. I do lots of graphs.

I have future business plans funds. I have dream funds. I like pie charts for these. All fed by commission checks.

Not a great deal different from when I collected a paycheck except all these funds get referenced with whether or not they are tax deductions for my business.

Paychecks. FICA and taxes are taken out.

Commission checks. FICA and taxes are my responsibility. One I do not take lightly, one that takes a lot of planning and oversight. I am a small business.

This is not my first foray into small business ownership. I owned a catering company in Anchorage. I owned a drywall finishing business for a while when I first came home to SoIL. The ache in my right thumb pretty much sidelined that business. (I broke that thumb twice so it is full of pain.)

I minored in accounting in college. Worked as an account's clerk - a job I hated but I loved the old dude (Mr. L) who owned the place.

My own books are set up a lot like all those in Mr. L's office. I did learn stuff while working for him -- he also taught accounting at the local junior college.


I'm good with money. It isn't a issue for me. Unless you refer to my commissions as a paycheck.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bankers and lawyers and titles, oh my!

Never a dull moment. Well, yeah, really there are lots of dull moments in the daily life of a typical real estate broker. It is up to me to add some sass and sway to the day.

Today's journey begins with a call from a lawyer dealing with survey and title for one of the deals in the 'pipeline' -- the pipeline? It is the journey or, funnel, from accepted contract to closing table. Hold on to your hats, boys and girls, 'cuz it is always different with dots and dashes of crazy thrown in. Sort of like riding the slurry line down the stream for the gold at the end. (That one's for my pals in Alaska.)

Adds some zest to my otherwise dull existence, don't ya know?

Today's torment begins with getting one of said pipeline contracts to new lawyer in the mix so he can tango around the survey requirements. Getting some extensions put out there in email-land and waiting to hear from mystical and magical creatures of myth and legend known only as appraisers. Egad, people, this is my day.

It is 12:27 p.m. and already I'm thinking of cocktails. It has gotta be 5 o'clock somewhere.

Usually I do love lawyers. Yes, I know, I'm the only one but I like lawyers because they, like me, are usually quickly thinking of ways around the problem. Nimbly dancing around the dicey and doing a mean doe-see-doe while sidestepping objections thrown out there by bankers, underwriters and all others who seem to think their job is to stop transactions.

Really? Really? Real estate sales move the economy, people. Get out of the way of progress!

For those not familiar with Dante's work --
-- one of the circles? Real estate transactions. Oh, I know they say the Fifth Circle is Wrath and Sullenness -- its just shorthand for real estate transactions. A broker's wrath and the lender/underwriter's sullenness. True, dat.

Me: "Hey! Hi! Remember me? Your client is my client and where's the loan commitment?"
Bank: "Oh, hi. Ummm...lemme see...oh, that's not in-house so we're waiting on the bank we farmed it out to so..they have to make the call to appraiser."
Me: "What's their number so I can call them? And who do I talk to?"
Bank: "I don't know that information."


Okay, you've just told me you are a middleman for my client so I need to talk to someone who can get things done and you "don't know" their phone number or who I need to speak with?


One thing I do know from years of dealing with sources in the newsroom? There is a human somewhere who can somehow answer the call and get some kind of answer for you if you are persistent. Texts work, too. You'd be surprised...or maybe those of you who know me, wouldn't be how many financial officers will give me their cellphone numbers so I can text them.

I'm fun to text. You should try it. 618-438-1900. I find I can be very irreverent and get quite a few laughs from the crankiest of bankers. I'm thinking their jobs aren't always very fun.

So...sullen...yes, I can see that. They probably get a lot of crabby real-a-tours calling and cranking on them.

That's the other thing I'm finding in real estate. A general rudeness and defensiveness displayed by other real-a-tours.  I'm beginning to think this trend is caused by stressful work environment, lack of control and feeling out of control. So far, I've found there are a lot of real-a-tours out there would have some major control issues. Dude...dudette! Chill.

The whole of this real estate business is out of my control. I have to be cool with this otherwise, you see, I'd start to display some sullenness. And we all know that's the bankers' domain.

All this leads to...da, da, daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa: MicroManaging. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Oh. The. Horror.

A topic for another blog, though, kids, because those calls are starting to generate the afternoon's callbacks.

Happy hunting out there and text me if you need some great, snappy answers to your real estate quests.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Holy Cow it is May already!

Time finally arrived to introduce the newest realtor: My former foster child, Monika Thomas! Ain't she grand?

If you are in the market in the San Francisco region, she's your gal: 415-572-2670

Make sure to tell her where you got her number.

She is also on-air in Cali and has her very own, successful Internet podcast. She tells me she will be branding with a new podcast: Get REAL Estate with Monika.

I'm very proud of her. See...back in the day...when dinosaurs still roamed the earth ((and media was live, real and not owned by two guys)), I got her into radio in Anchorage. She's travelled the world as a teacher and broadcaster. She lived and worked radio in Japan, France and then while in the UK, she acted as a live "on the spot" journalist a la Bridget Jones. So, yeah, those types of jobs do really exist but what the movies don't tell you is that you can't really eat, pay rent or bills while doing them.

So a few years ago when I moved out of broadcast/print journalism and into real estate in SoIL, Monika and I started talking about my major moves. I'd like to think she's again following my lead into a career path (this time), if done correctly, you can pay the rent and eat.

Especially in San Fran.

I'll be waiting on that podcast and will pass along those links when its ready.

Viva La Belle Monika!