<UPDATED OCTOBER 11, 2011>
Part of utilizing 19 years of combined experience is a depth of allies. Hannah and I use several of the same people for several of the same functions, but have each introduced the other to new resources that deepen our clients’ experience. From REALTOR.com to Harris Interactive to REAL Trends, studies typically report that 90% of all consumers who buy a home start their home-buying experience online; with our client base being slightly younger than average, we know our numbers are 95% to 99%. So one of the things we do as a way of introduction is introduce our new people to resources that are online, and our resources that are local, so they can begin their process from a position of strategic strength.
I’m cheating of course, and creating a blog post out of a sent email. It’s been a couple years, and Rob, I’m sure you’re thrilled to see that I’m back at it; but here goes: The Resource Email BlogPost. Bookmark for your next friend that you refer our way. 🙂
This resource email is a bit of a boilerplate and isn’t terribly personal. But a bit of our story and why these resources are important to us is reflected in the email.
Content-wise, everything is up and ready on our sites. These sites host a lot of information that you can use before, during and after a transaction. There is an IDX-search site, a term that means that you can search the live MLS. Our monthly market report, the Stat Pack is archived here (and found quickly at http://www.cosrealestate.com). Additionally, the 2011 Annual Report and Forecast is here. I can provide you with a hard copy if you would like one. Our buying process is summarized here and our recommended vendors can be found here. The underpinnings of our business approach are to educate our clients with measurable, objective data when they enter the market (buyers and sellers, both). We believe that it is important that our clients have as deep an education as they can handle in how the market works because the market rules how the game is played. Other companies flatter us with their imitation of the Stat Pack (one company uses the same name), but this is the original report, originating in April 2006 (ironically, the month the market tipped). We are also the only real estate organization that has produced annual reports for each of the last four years, and have projected the single-family sales numbers with 95% accuracy each of the last three years. This is a bit geeky, but it’s also user-friendly. It has charts, it has graphs, it has numbers, it has analysis, it has bottomline answers, it has national perspective, local perspective and micro-market perspective. It’s eight pages of goodness and we want you to at least skim through it. Please. Pretty please.
REALTOR.com: the behemoth of real estate, this is supposed to be current within 15 minutes of MLS listing and is the best place to see photos of properties. I say supposed to be because that is not our experience. We find it up to five days out of date. It is not the best place to get great mapping information or anything that is more personal, or connecting. But it is a good place to see photos and which homes stand out. Remember, REALTOR.com is not an even playing field, even though the name sort of implies that it is all REALTORS collaboratively working together to disseminate listings: I personally pay for premium positioning and add features for my listings. Just because a property is not displayed well (even over a million with only 16 photos and no additional text descriptions, a common occurrence), this should not be a reflection of the property. If you see something here that you want more information about, cross check it at www.PikesPeakUrbanLiving.com or simply text or email us.
<UPDATED!> Yahoo and Zillow.com merged this past March, and now they are the number one site for search. Yahoo is great for syndication purposes (putting real estate on many different web channels) and is outstanding for REALTORS to market their services. Zillow is where our consumers are increasingly spending a lot of their time.
Zillow.com: has become the go-to site for most of our clients, young and old. We are rare in the industry in that we’re big fans. It now showcases most of the listings for sale, and is data-rich. Zillow zestimates are heavily subjective, and that is why most agents pan the site critically. The truth is, we have seen firsthand that Zestimates can be very accurate in any part of town. It also more often than not is a good projector of final selling price. Saying that, it is far less accurate when there is greater price elasticity in a neighborhood (something Hannah and I are big fans of as a concept, it’s where you make your money in any investment, especially real estate). Example: one 3000 square foot home could cost 25% more (or less) than another 3000 square foot home in the same or similar area. That’s pretty elastic. Or, one 3000 square foot home could cost 8% more (or less) than another 3000 square foot home in the same area. That is not very elastic. Most of the nicer neighborhoods built in the 1970’s through 2000 on the westside fall are elastic to heavily elastic, and then there is our historic downtown and The Broadmoor. Zillow is only as good as the data input, and it occasionally misreads the assessor’s site in terms of square footage or floorplan, which is the primary and most critical factor in determining price.
Not everyone uses Trulia.com but we like it for demographic information and trend-spotting. It is best known as a site where there can be all sorts of Q&A between prospective homeowners, lenders, REALTORS, and people who are bored and like to get 100 email alerts a day to answer questions about high-tension powerlines in Dubuque. It’s also a great site to mine for ethics violations, but that’s a REALTOR joke. Moving on: this is a very interactive site, and that’s their niche. The problem for consumers with highly interactive real estate websites is that other agents use these as lead generators, and truthfully, agents love to respond with general, non-specific information about all sorts of things they don’t know much about. So it’s not at all uncommon to ask a question about Colorado Springs and have some one from Laguna Beach answer it. Trulia is a true social site because it is about starting conversations, and if you wanted to ask subjective questions about a neighborhood, this is a good place to do it, because fair-housing should be followed and it’s free. I should note that Zillow has a similar Q&A feature, but you’re less likely to get consumer feedback, and very likely to get broker feedback.
www.pprbd.org: showcases permit history for the county. This is a great place to see if that roof was really replaced after that hailstorm, or if the homeowner replaced that water heater with a buddy and a six-pack or if they hired a licensed trade. No one is really sure where the gap is, but it appears that online permit history is sketchy 1997 to 2002 on this site. You just don’t see a lot of permits for those years. I still advocate using it.
www.springsgov.com: is technically, the most accurate demographic site, crime site, interactive site. The city provides a lot of information for public perusal. You can link to Trails and Open Space and almost every other entity in the city from here.
http://land.elpasoco.com: is the assessor site and the mapping on it is superb. I use this all the time. Not much in our city government works as well as this site. It’s a very good place for instance to go and pull a plat map on a property and see if that advertisement for open space is actually city-owned open space, or something Jeanine Richardson bought and intended to develop into office condos. How you would do this is input the address you’re looking for, when it pops up select the map, and then simply click on any of the surrounding parcels to find out who owns it. Probably way too much information for buyers just looking online right now, but hopefully it comes with the peace of mind that we will be able to drill down onto some of the specific use issues quickly when you’re looking at property here.
Wanna look for foreclosures? Like the assessor’s site, our trustee’s site is impressive. Call it a nice consumer-centric response to a whiny populace, but in a city where people are constantly appealing their low tax valuations (Assessor) and where we were in the national vanguard of major foreclosures (leading the nation in ’87 & ’88, Top Ten counties nationwide in 2007 and early 2008, that would be the Trustee’s job), the county got smart and made a slick site. You can find ANY foreclosure action on a property in the calendar year on this site. You can search by name, zip code, street, neighborhood, and go back in time with date ranges. It’s great. If you’re a buyer and you’re worried about foreclosures in the townhome complex you like… pay this site a visit.
While we are talking foreclosures, let’s cut to the chase on where to find those suckers. Yeah, that’s right, we said suckers.
Our favorite is www.Homepath.com. That’s because we like getting paid for our work, and these are Fannie Mae foreclosures. Fannie Mae prices their properties right, they’re usually not criminal in their condition, they winterize them before stuff explodes, they pay to de-winterize when you inspect them, and they don’t blink at closing costs. Conventional buyers can buy them with as little as 3% down (inflated rate, but not much) and no mortgage insurance. We almost like www.HomeSteps.com as much, this is the sister quasi-government entity, Freddie Mac’s way of wholesaling properties. Freddie Mac offers some weird two-year home warranty and usually takes more steps to improve property condition before reselling. They don’t price them as well and they’re laborious as all get out in getting deals closed. In both cases, they offer programs in the initial offering for primary resident purchasers only. Investors can come in after 15 days usually. After about 30 days and no contract, Homepath especially will make an aggressive price cut.
Way down the list of foreclosure sites is www.HUDHomestore.com. You can read more about Ben’s personal sentiments of HUD properties in this post which is one of my five most popular posts all time. The new site is a lot better, but HUD homes are a bit more of an adventure and they’re a lot more expensive to inspect for buyers. They also lack the cool $100 down program these days. They still do offer Good-Neighbor Next Door programs for primary resident Teachers and First-Responders.
VA, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and small, local or Colorado bank-owned properties? These list in the MLS. That’s where a custom automated search from us to you is likely necessary. All our clients, once seasoned online, get custom searches, as many as they need (one client this year had 16 different automated searches going on at once).
www.spotcrime.com and www.familywatchdog.us are two “popular” sites for researching crime statistics and other nasty information about areas. Like anything, these sites are only as good as their data, and we don’t endorse either site or any crime-related research site and recommend you use as you choose. We cannot and will not advise you on whether or not a neighborhood is safe. Please keep this in mind about any site that has the intention of showing crime information: it is a lens into the past, not an oracle of the future. As the stock guys say, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. It is very important
that you clearly communicate your impressions of neighborhoods to us as we
cannot enforce our own subjectivities on your lifestyle.
If you would like to see a copy of the Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate, a Residential Listing Contract for a Residential Property or Brokerage Relationship (Buyer), we would be happy to send you one via E-Contracts along with the Definitions of Real Estate Relationships. E-contracts is a life-saver for agents, but is usually seen at first as a nuisance by buyers and sellers because the signatures are so shaky-looking. But they usually end up being a great time reducer and have become the standard in our community among agents. We usually like to meet and strategize for 30 to 60 minutes with buyers before showing properties, then show a sample of properties that represent the width and breadth of opportunities for the customers. If this process goes well, at that point we ask for a Buyer Agency contract. This contract is a two-way street and we are a good bit more selective in who we work with; we are talented at what we do, and we offer several very unique services that most brokers do not. We are
strategic negotiators, effective communicators and our personal name and
brokerage have high credibility with real estate peers. Correspondingly, we work with clients that want those skills and reputation working for them, and are willing to work within some of the “constraints” that system provides in order to
reap the privileges and benefits it produces.
Lenders: Colorado went from the least regulated state in the nation for
lending to one of the most severely regulated in 2009. We were in “the
vanguard” of criminal lending activity and the number of licensed lenders
has been sliced in half by these regulations. Correspondingly, it is
critical that a buyer have an ally in the lending process.
We have a number one… and a number one… and a number one. You’re in
great hands with one of these three:
Residential Mortgage of Colorado
We encourage you to contact AT LEAST TWO LENDERS EARLY IN YOUR HOME-BUYING PROCESS and do not be afraid to let them know you are shopping around. Each of our recommended lenders have attributes and skills that are unique and we want you to find a good fit. Every one of these lenders has pulled deals out of the fire that should have died and got them to the closing table. Quiz these individuals with your personal questions, your strengths and weaknesses and see what loan they recommend for you. We believe in helping clients make sustainable financial decisions, so do not worry about being over-qualified with any of these lenders; they respect the way we do business and are long-term minded, not transaction-minded. If it’s a toss up and you’re looking for the best loan, it is a good idea to request the same size loan at the same rate on the same day among lenders. Analyze the Good Faith Estimate that they will provide you with the same day, and compare the APR. Mortgage rates are volatile and you need to find out how and when you can lock your loan with each lender. Please allow 15 to 20 minutes per phone conversation when obtaining pre-approval. Hannah and I require Pre-approval in order to look at home (the only exception are cash buyers); it is completely in your best interest to look only at homes you can afford and be able to pull the trigger on an offer that represents you as a solid and straight-forward buyer if you find the right home. Pre-approval dramatically benefits your negotiating position; it requires a credit check and analysis of your assets and income verification. The better picture you present to a seller, the
better you are. If you are a VA customer, it’s a good idea to ask what fees are charged to sellers that are buyer non-allowables. This essentially is a cost of doing business, and it’s good to know as you have to make that request in the initial contract. Each of these individuals are EXTREMELY well-regarded locally. The value to you is that in this day and age no one in the real estate industry likes uncertainty. If a listing agent can tell their seller “this is a lender of strong regard and reputation” that buys you a couple thousand dollars in negotiating. Local agents are generally less enthusiastic about offers from several lenders not mentioned here, and they may convey that to their seller when presenting an offer. By the way, you should know that Hannah and I both authorize these lenders to be “jerks” in the pre-approval stage with the sheer number of questions they ask you. What that means: it is your responsibility to give them everything they ask for, and if you don’t have 100% certainty in an answer, please tell them that. This is not something you can skate through. If it can go wrong, it will. It is much better to get it all out on the table immediately and at the very beginning so you don’t end up finding out three days before closing that your loan is denied, you’ve lost your earnest money, you’ve moved out of your rental and you might have taxes on that fat check Mom and Dad gave you to buy your home. Seriously: please cooperate. Getting a loan stinks with any lender. These three really have your best interests at heart, so no matter how invasive it feels, it’s kind of like a surgery: everyone has a scalpel. Go with the person most skilled in using it who makes the smallest scar. We think we have three that fit that description.
A last note on lenders, many buyers have concerns about having multiple
credit inquiries. This is understandable. The reality is that you are allowed
multiple credit inquiries without it substantially impacting your credit (a dozen points or so) because your multiple inquiries are for the same purpose: primary residence home financing. It’s not a good idea to get a new American Express or check out car financing at the same time, as those are multiple inquiries for different intentions.
Colorado does not license or certify home inspectors in anyway shape or form. It’s terrible. It’s stupid. Apparently there are more pressing legislative matters as there is no timeline for this to happen.
Since the state doesn’t regulate inspector actions, real estate brokers have the responsibility of policing inspectors and promoting the best.
A Precise Home Inspection
Housemaster Home Inspector
We also regularly recommend a structural engineer. This is the guy who can tell you if the building is falling down, or in one case “no Ben, this is actually built like a parking garage. This thing is safe in an earthquake. Be afraid of the asbestos in the ceiling, instead.” He’s also a home inspector listed above, Mark McCafferty. Criterium-McCafferty is a trusted name in the engineering world, and if something looks like a big problem, or you have a little problem that will lead to a big problem (a sump pump that chronically won’t work), Mark’s your guy.
After all this information, you will notice that there is something
surprisingly missing: schools. If ever there was a place that sending
information online was suspect or lead to inaccurate information or quite
simply, problems, it’s online. Put simply, both Hannah and I are parents and
pretty involved with our kids’ education. The variety of things that are
important to parents are so wildly subjective and the information that is
promulgated online is intended to be as neutral and objective as possible,
that it becomes very difficult to find exactly what you are looking for. The
last thing we want is to make the process more frustrating. So we recommend
that you actually find out what you can using the sites school districts provide for general information, and then make phone contact with schools directly for more specific information. It never ceases to surprise out of town buyers how open and friendly and accessible the administrations are for many of the schools in the Pikes Peak Region. School choice deadlines are looming, so it’s a good idea to research that process (it is standardized and not subjective) at both school district websites.
Colorado Springs District 11 (central city, largest school district):
Cheyenne Mountain D12 (southwest city, small and generally elite):
Academy D20 (second largest, northern city):
Falcon D49 (eastern city):
Harrison D2 (southern city near Ft. Carson and Peterson AFB):
Widefield D3 (southern city, near Ft. Carson): http://www.wsd3.org
Fountain/Ft. Carson D8 (on post): http://www.ffc8.org
Lewis-Palmer D38 (Monument, northern county): http://lewispalmer.org/
Manitou Springs D14 (Manitou and Ute Pass, tiny): http://www.mssd14.org/
Woodland Park DRE2 (Rural, west of COS): http://www.wpsdk12.org/
Our business. Hannah Parsons and I teamed up in
November, 2010 under the name Pikes Peak Urban Living. Combined, we have 19 years of experience in helping customers achieve financial stability through
sound real estate decisions. I have been in the real estate business for 12 years after spending three years in the fly-tackle industry helping a company build it’s brand entirely around best-in-industry customer service. Hannah’s prior career was in financial services and when she says that she likes Profit and Loss Statements and Spreadsheets, that’s her MBA speaking. We do not work the entire city, but together specialize and share resources, marketing collateral, vendors, processes and time to optimize our own business practices and personal well-being. Put it this way, there are a lot of burned-out real estate agents going around being all things to all people. Our structure is designed to keep us fresh,
rejuvenated and smarter than our competition. We both are married with
elementary school-age children. I live in D20 and Hannah’s
kids are in D11. We encourage one another and our families share time
together. In business, we look at significantly more property firsthand than
our peers. We construct detailed market reports to help individuals see
clearly what is going on in the market. We take more educational
opportunities than are required to deepen our knowledge. We ask lots of
questions. We are bloggers and social media pioneers that operate in a
transparent, consumer-centric way. We are active participants on multiple
boards and organizations in our community. The majority of our clients
recommend us to a friend or peer within 12 months, something we deeply
appreciate, but also something that is consistent with the framework of our
business: we show our appreciation for our clients by working hard in a
uniquely advantageous way for them, and many of them feel obliged to share
that story with those they trust. This is not an instruction to start recommending us to your friends and family. But we don’t mind when you do, and that’s the gold-standard in our business: are we worth referring? Honestly, we better be. You deserve that care. That referrability is earned.
We are instructing you to have lots of questions and high expectations. And hopefully after reading a 4000 word blog post, you’ll see that we operate in a strategic fashion rather than a reactionary fashion. We have plans, systems and processes to enhance the home-buying experience with the intention of maximizing the benefit for our clients. That might limit certain hours that we see properties, or it might force us to substantiate plans with specific, actionable data. Our job is to make this process as smooth and as easy as possible, to mitigate risk and maximize opportunity.
Hannah’s contact is (719) 338-2755, email@example.com. Ben’s is (719) 331-9170, firstname.lastname@example.org. Each of us have our specialties and there might be questions better suited for a male agent, others for a female agent. You have access to us both. And feel free to text us.
A quick blurb about Selley Group: Hannah and I are enthusiastic to be at this
high-powered boutique brokerage. Cherise Selley is our broker. Cherise has as great a reputation as you can find in the city and happens to be a superb agent and a top producer. The three rarely mix in our culture, and that’s a big reason we are where we are. Cherise and her husband Gordon are internet pioneers in real estate and represent the new generation of consumer-centric business. There are only five licensed agents at the company, but all produce multiples more per year than the average agent, and all of us conduct ourselves with professionalism and respect for our peers. If for any reason you need to contact Cherise or Selley Group, the number is (719) 598-5101.
All our best to you, and we look forward to starting the journey together!