Sold, Bought, Sold… Next…!

Have been working with Muriel Ballard off and on for several years. She is always extremely helpful, responsive, and thorough! A genuine pleasure working with her – would recommend her to my closest friends.

Jon Haveman

Happy Investors

My husband and I have done multiple real estate deals in the past 40+years. Our experience with Muriel Ballard of Marin Modern Real Estate has been exceptional. Muriel willingness to work with us for over a year, through multiple properties and offers, resulted in our purchase of the property of our dreams. She was always both professional and caring. There was never any doubt that she had our best interests at heart.

Patsy and Zein Yountchi

A Vintage Home Dream Realized…

Muriel Ballard of Marin Modern represented us in both the purchase of our new home and in the sale of our previous home, and she was outstanding in both capacities. She understood our very specific tastes and spent several years showing us homes that fit our criteria, and then once we found “the one,” she did everything but tap-dance to get our offer accepted. As a seller’s agent, she was able to leverage her relationships with excellent contractors to help us get our existing home in tip-top condition to show and sell. She also was very canny about pricing strategies and negotiation. What more could one ask? Muriel is highly empathic, very intelligent and always professional.

I would and do recommend her to anyone!

Laura Ackley

Terra Linda Eichler

We are so happy with the experience we had with Marin Modern and this is totally down to Muriel Ballard!! Muriel helped us in buying our first house , a beautiful Eichler. She made the whole process comfortable and provided us with great advice and support through every step to find our chosen property. Muriel is responsive, kind and does her very best to meet all needs for the client. She is keen to get to know you and find what it is you’re looking for and makes sure you find it!  Thank you so much!!

Paula & Rob Duncan

REALTOR: FRIEND OR FOE?

REALTOR: FRIEND OR FOE?

I know someone is not interested in being my friend when they say “I don’t think we should work together because I am afraid it will impact our friendship.”  The only folks who ever say this are people whom I know casually and are not my friends.  They are correct in what they say because, if they did work with me we would undoubtedly become much closer.  As it is, these folks never do become my friends.

The relationship you have with your Realtor, if successful, may very well become one of the longest, most intimate of your life.  Most people will move a few times which means not only finding a home (or homes), but letting someone into your home when you are ready to sell.  The depth of the relationships that I develop in going through the sales cycle with my clients is one of the things I cherish most about my profession.

You will rest easier knowing you have a trusted Realtor on your team, just like you would your dentist, accountant, hairdresser, etc.  Would you want to see a new dentist every time you needed to get your teeth cleaned?  Of course not, because you want to know that they understand your history: the scary experience you had as a child, your commitment to only getting porcelain fillings and so forth.  The same is true with your Realtor, who will know about your: life priorities, style preferences, job, income, risk nature, children, health, allergies, pets, dreams for the future and more.

In order to find a house that is a “best fit”, a good Realtor needs to listen carefully to the things that really matter to their client.  You should always have a sense that your Realtor has your best interest at heart, even if it means walking away from a potential sale because it wouldn’t serve you in the long run.  For example, I lost a deal when I counseled a young family not to buy a tiny two bedroom house with their darling one-year-old.  I knew that as soon as their son got a little older, with bigger toys and toddling friends, the house would become excruciatingly small very quickly.  When you outgrow a house it means you need to move again sooner.  Moving again sooner is costly.  It is always better to get a little more house than you need to avoid moving more frequently.

I have counseled past clients that it is time to sell when they were upside-down, effecting a short sale and transitioning into a home where they could once again begin to build equity.  I keep an eye out for  my clients who have “maxed out” their investment, as far as their capital gains income is concerned, meaning they’ve done very well, financially speaking, with a house, and advise them to leverage into another home where their wealth can continue to build.  I am diligent in identifying homes that I believe are both safe physically AND sound investments.

The bottom line is, I often spend many more hours with my clients than I do with my non-client friends, which is why my clients often become very, very dear friends, whom I fret over to ensure that they will thrive.  We go through something very powerful together each time they buy or sell a house.  They know I am a fierce advocate for them, and isn’t that what a friend is supposed to be?

If you approach your relationship with your Realtor as if they are just someone you’re going to pick up in a bar (Open House) and then ditch after you’ve had some fun (bought a house), then you may be missing out on one of the most powerful relationships you can have.  Pick a Realtor that you really like.  Someone you genuinely feel you would like to get to know more.  Don’t be afraid of the possibility that they may become a great friend.  In that person you will have a terrific ally!

And a final note.  If a Realtor does not seem to care about you as much as a friend would, perhaps you should reconsider whether they are the right person to help you out.  You don’t want a foe by your side as you make some of the most important decisions of your life.

THE THING ABOUT INSPECTIONS…

              Every real estate transaction has a period in which there is an opportunity to inspect the property.  Protocols around who is responsible to book and pay for these inspections vary.  In Marin County the buyer generally pays, but regardless who pays the buyer must ultimately take responsibility—after purchasing the property—for having done their due diligence.  Matters discovered after the buyer has signed off on the inspections and closed on the property can be difficult to remedy.

               My husband is a General Contractor, and also a Home Inspector.  Together we have bought and remodeled four homes.  We have attempted to purchase others but backed out due to the findings during inspection.  As such, I feel I have a unique ability to assess a home for both its potential and its weaknesses.  Still, as an experienced Realtor and home buyer, I continue to learn important lessons about how to protect my buyers.  Most recently I was reminded that, when it comes to inspections, you get what you pay for.

These days with plenty of folks seeking to “get rich quick” by flipping homes, initial impressions can be deceiving.  Be aware that a coat of paint, good staging and really clean windows can provide just the right smoke and mirrors to take a buyers attention away from larger issues that may be at hand.

The first thing I look at when examining a new property is the roof line and exterior trim.  A straight ridge and no apparent rot and chipping are welcoming, but still no reason to exhale.  When I enter a house, I also take note as to how it has settled.  In Marin and the Bay Area there are many homes built on landfill.  If a home built in the last 50 years has a great deal of settling, that will mean much more than a 100 year old home having a little.  These are the obvious telltale signs, but there may be a great deal more that does not meet the eye.

Inspections are ALWAYS a good idea, though very savvy buyers and investors may choose to waive them as a bargaining chip, usually because whatever costs they may incur to correct existing problems is well within their means.  Sometimes, when I have a buyer client who does not have a great deal of money to waste, every nickel being scrimped away to get that down-payment together, I will discuss with them which inspections are absolutely essential vs. those they might put off or pass on altogether.  Some inspections, like Radon Testing for example, are less relevant as the whole county has a very low percentage of the gas present therefore making its threat to home ownership immaterial.  When you are about to buy a house, your Realtor should provide you with a list of ALL of the inspections you may want to consider, and allow YOU to decide which are important to you.  Your Realtor can then review your decisions and, hopefully, set up the appointments with reputable inspectors.  Which leads me to the reason I am writing this article…

Recently I encouraged two different clients to use a company that offers a great deal by including the General, Pest and Roof inspections under one umbrella.  If you pay the fee at the time of inspection, they reduce the cost even further.  In both cases, the houses appeared to be in very good order on the surface and I thought this was a safe bet.  In both cases this inspection company missed problems that have cost my clients additional funds spent on repairs after close of escrow.   Inspection companies have you sign a contract relieving them of responsibility for anything they miss, so there is no recourse.  In one instance, this inspection company provided an estimate for repair of a roof leak (missing another one altogether!).  The roofing contractor they sent out was careless and sloppy.  They were obviously trying to make up the reduced cost of their inspections by offering contracting services as well, using cheap labor.  Also, in both of these cases, I hired an additional electrical inspection, as this particular type of home is vulnerable to inferior wiring.  The electrical inspector did miss something in both homes, but the difference is he came back out, himself, and corrected the problem at no additional charge.  Of course I worked closely with my clients after the sale to get them over these hurdles and save them as much money as possible, until they felt safe and happy.

Whenever you buy a home, you simply need to accept that there will be unexpected expenses associated with maintenance.  Even a perfectly maintained and/or inspected house can still throw you a curve ball.  Discuss with your Realtor the possibility of getting a Home Warranty.  Though they often seem to “not include” whatever your problem is due to one caveat or another, there are the times when they can save you thousands of dollars on an unforeseen breakdown—making them a worthwhile investment.

Be willing to spend those extra few hundred dollars hiring excellent inspectors.  Ask for the guys who have a reputation for being tough.  Though some of these guys may be known as “deal killers”, I’d rather have my buyers know up front what they are getting into.  In the long run, the extra money you spend on your inspection could save you tens of thousands in miserable surprises down the road.

Sellers may choose to pay for inspections to be done prior to going on the market.  In this case the price of the home will either need to be adjusted down to account for the cost of repairs, or the seller will, ideally, take care of the repairs before putting the house up for sale.  BECAUSE a seller has already done inspections does not mean the buyer should not also inspect!  It never hurts to get two opinions, or to delve more deeply into another area of the property that may have been referenced briefly in the sellers’ reports.

Make sure you know if the foundation is in good order, whether there is any active pest infestation or serious dry rot, if the house is likely to flood or is in a high liquefaction area, and whether the drainage on the property is sufficient.  Those are the biggies. Roofs and windows are cosmetic by comparison.  And use your common sense.  If a house is in a flood zone, for example, and has been there for 60 years and the foundation is good and it hasn’t done any weird settling, then maybe it’s a great place.

In conclusion, don’t skimp on inspections.  Your new home is a major investment.  A good, solid home in a desirable location will undoubtedly help you build wealth.  Don’t be dazzled by shiny things.  Everything is not what it appears to be on the surface.  And think outside of the box.  Many excellent real estate investments are over-looked by the average buyer.  Make sure your criteria are well considered.  There are, after all, Peet’s and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in addition to Starbucks!

SMOKING HOT!

Who are you?  Are you one of the buyers who bucked the trend, took a risk and bought at the low, when everyone else was afraid?  Maybe now you are ready to leverage those gains into your move up property!  Or are you trying to buy now, for the first time, when there are many reports of OVER 40 offers on one home!  To succeed in real estate, ideally you’re working against the trend, taking advantage of the markets when they are in your favor.

This is a call to action for SELLERS!  Inventory remains at a critical low, with over 50% of the homes in contract.  This is NOT EVEN  a “Seller’s Market”…  It is called an “appreciating market.”  The demand is forcing buyers to bid prices up in order to prevail.  This market will not last forever; things will eventually stabilize and for you, Mr. or Mrs. Seller, that could mean a lower sales price.

Right now, home prices are the highest they have been in seven years.  Though 1/3 of the mortgages in the country are still underwater, we are seeing the least number of foreclosures, also since 2007.  This due to the government stepping in with the Homeowner’s Protection Act.  With prices rising, some folks who were underwater are no longer, and can move forward with a normal sale.  What great news!

Condo sales have also gained phenomenal traction, often being the only real estate that first time buyers can afford now that the low end in single family homes is all bought up.  And the rental market remains smoking hot!  Investors are buying tenant occupied homes and just lettin’ em stay there, rents are so high.

If you are a buyer, though nearly every other buyer is mobilized, it can still be a great time to buy with interest rates so low.  Keep two things in mind when buying: 1) buy the largest home you can afford – moving again is expensive and as families and lives grow, so does the need for more space, and 2) keep an eye out for that house that every one else has overlooked.  Do your homework, there are still deals to be had.

If you’re looking for an advocate in this crazy, crazy market, give me a call, text or write… I’ll keep it very real for you, and make your purchase proceess as easy as possible

Buyers & Sellers: Roll up your sleeves!

In a recent company meeting it was said that “this is the strangest market in memory”.  My experience validates that statement.  Recently my sales have taken place off-market, selling properties that never made it to the MLS.  Serious lack of inventory forced me into scouring the Expired listings, and even Craig’s List to try and rustle up property for my very ready buyers.  The last deal I did actually had MULTIPLE OFFERS off market!  More and more realtors and seeking inventory behind the scenes to try and give their clients an edge in a market which is now seeing multiple offers to the tune of 30, 32 and 34 offers!  I have heard these stories from the direct experience of realtors in my office– this is not just hearsay.

Now more than ever you need a realtor who is going to be lock-step with you in order to acheive your objectives.  Prices are climbing quickly, and though interest rates remain low, they too are inching up.  It is critical to be pre-approved and PREPARED to go to battle!  The saddest buyers in the world are the 33 that lost out in a multiple offer situation with 34 buyers!!

I always suggest taking another look at the properties that have been languishing.  Sometimes you can have a diamond in the rough, and it may make financial sense to negotiate and pay less, putting those extra dollars into making the house exactly what you want it to be, rather than over-paying while in an emotional frenzy.

I support myself as a realtor by saying, I am not the busiest realtor in Marin.  I don’t want to be.  I just want a steady stream of cool folks to work with such that I can give them all of the time and attention they need to get the job done.  I’ve been doing this for eight years, and my dedication to quality remains the same.

If you’d like an ally while tromping through these crazy scenarios, give me a call, e-mail or text.  As a former Professional Life Coach, I know how to listen.  We’ll get it done.  I promise.

What’s Happening with the Market?

It’s the middle of December and the word is: the real estate market has been strengthening steadily throughout the year.  When 35% of the homes for sale are in contract, that is known as a “Seller’s Market”.  Currently 51% of the homes in Marin are in contract, this is called an “appreciating” market, with the limited inventory driving prices up once again.

We continue to be anxious for more inventory!  If you have a home and are holding off until next year, think again.  It is highly likely that your home would receive multiple offers if you were to put in on right now, two weeks before Christmas!

If you’ve read this far, allow me to wish you a very Happy Holiday Season!  And please feel free to contact me anytime should you need real estate support or assistance.

DESPERATELY SEEKING HOMES FOR SALE!!

There are only 342 ACTIVE listings in Marin at this time (Single Family Residences). Of those, only 104 under $800,000 – a very hot market. Of those only 76 have the classic minimum 3 bedroom/2bath conformation. I have three buyers looking for homes in this price category, and the inventory is frustratingly low. If you have a 3+/2+ home, especially with a level lawn, and you are considering selling, putting it on the market now could very well yield you multiple offers. Interest rates remain low, with predictions that they will inch up into the 4% range in 2013. Perhaps now would be a good time to leverage the market, as a down-sizer or someone looking to get more for your money. By the time spring rolls around, there will be a lot more competition for sellers, as it is common to list in February and March. Think about it, and if you’re ready to move, give me a call. Buyers in Marin are ready to jump, needing only the right property to make the leap!