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“Don’t just love me for my comps!”

April 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Stop Sign

About a week ago, I was driving in Central Phoenix and I saw a Times Square-sized billboard of a happy, smiling Realtor who’s a well known name in the Valley.  Next to his portrait, in which he’s fielding an obviously mission-critical phone call with a clipboard tucked under his arm, and yet still managing to give a thumbs-up and toothy-grin for the camera, was a simple phrase:

What’s your home worth? Call Ted (not his real name) NOW to find out!

I dismissed the ad and continued my commute.

About 4 blocks later, while stopped at a red light, a bus drove by with a smaller version of the same advertisement plastered on the back.

A few blocks later and there he is, grinning at me from a bus stop poster.  Wow.  Deja vu.

At this point, I found myself wondering if maybe I was missing the boat on the commuter market and drivers’ apparent fascination with property values.  I mean, maybe ramping up my social media visibility was not the right strategy at this time after all.

“Hmmm…,” I thought, “perhaps I should enlist the Ron Paul Revolutionaries to engage in a poster-hanging, sign-pounding, sticker-stickering grassroots campaign to blanket the public streets and sign posts with my brand.”

Commuters would be pummeled on every corner with my messaging, stickers plastered over signs –

STOP  (wondering what your home is worth and call Justin!)” and

YIELD  (to the best comps methodology in the business and call Justin!)” and

NO U-TURNS  (Justin will tell you what you’re home is worth so you can make all the right turns! So call Justin!)”

ONE WAY (To know what your home is worth — CALL JUSTIN!)”

After a few bizarre Willy-Wonka-esque moments, I realized that, despite commuters’ apparent uncontainable excitement about property values, my blitzkrieg campaign was unlikely to yield sufficient ROI to cover the fines that would be levied against me for defacing public property.  I had hit a dead end, so to speak.

Having ruled out vandalism as a marketing strategy, my thoughts shifted away from how to reach an audience of perspective home sellers to the concept of VALUE.  Specifically, what do Arizona home sellers want from their Realtor?

Marketing 101 teaches us that one’s marketing message should convey some notion of value to the target audience.  Since the majority of Realtor marketing to sellers promotes helping them put a price on their home, one might conclude that home sellers look to their agents primarily for this purpose.

Now, I’m the first to admit that running comps the right way takes experience and a sound methodology.  However, I’d argue that ranking it as the number one service of value from your Realtor is like choosing a doctor because they have an accurate scale at their office.  (Not that we can choose our doctors anymore.)  Yes, knowing and tracking our weight is one factor in understanding our health, but we usually have a rough idea of our weight so a scale that’s a couple of pounds off isn’t going to have much of a difference on our overall experience.

When you visit your doctor, issues like timeliness, education, experience, “bedside manner”, office resources, staff support, and other issues have a much greater impact on the overall quality of care.

The same holds true with Realtors.  Are comps important?  Of course!  But I’ve never met a seller yet who didn’t have at least a “Zillow-rough” idea of what their property was worth.  If an agent suggests a value that differs grossly from their own opinion, they’ll know something is wrong.  They look to me to help them zero in on the right number that maximizes their sales price because every dollar counts.

However, there are several other facets of the client-agent relationship that can have a greater impact on the overall success or failure of the experience.  This is where not all agents are created equally! 

Consider a short list of factors that directly affect what I’ll refer to as the “sales experience.”  That is to say, the bundle of qualities that include sales price, transaction-related hassle, and potential liability.

Ways Realtors can add value beyond comps analysis:

  • Home staging (proactive recommendations to help your property show as well as it can)
  • Marketing strategy (how to position the property to target the right buyer)
  • Advertising (outlets and reach)
  • Quality and completeness of photos, descriptions, measurements
  • Ongoing adjustments (based on showing feedback, sales activity updates)
  • Accessibility of your agent (Are they there when you need them?  Do they return your calls?)
  • Negotiating skills of your agent (contract terms, repairs)
  • Knowledge of contracts, including when and how to modify to best protect your interests
  • Risk management to minimize your present and future liability (disclosures, repairs, insurance, etc)
  • Communication “flow” with your agent (current steps, next steps – do you know them?)
  • Post-sales support (does your agent disappear after the sale?)

The way these issues are handled can have a much greater impact on the sales experience, including the sales price, than a set of comps that’s a few thousand dollars off target.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to gauge in advance how an agent will address these issues.

To find the right agent, whether you’re looking to purchase or sell a property, I recommend the following steps:

  1. Ask your family, friends, co-workers for recommendations.  Gather a short list of 3 – 5 names.
  2. Visit their websites and search around the Internet to get a feel for their online presence and candid Internet reviews.
  3. Schedule in-person interviews with those who “make the cut.”  Your goal is to learn about the agents’ services and philosophy.
  4. Ask for references from each agent and call them!  Have questions prepared that will give you insight on issues that are important to you.
  5. Once you find the agent who you feel offers the best mix of services and personality fit, get a commitment in writing of what they promised during your interview(s) so you can hold them accountable.
  6. You should also insist that the Listing Agreement contain verbiage that allows you to sever the Agreement if the Realtor fails to deliver on what they promised to you.

The concept of “value” in a real estate agent is much easier to appreciate after you’ve had a positive or negative experience.  With some due diligence up front, you’ll increase your chances of finding a Realtor that brings maximum value to the table, far beyond a good Comparative Market Analysis.


Trilogy at Vistancia to Open New Neighborhood

November 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Trilogy at Vistancia remains my favorite active adult community in the Valley.  When I do a walk-through of a new home in Trilogy, I’m consistently impressed with the quality of construction.  With many builders, I leave a walk-through looking like a blue-tape blizzard has blown through, due to so many quality control issues.  I’ve done walk-throughs with Shea Homes where we haven’t even torn one strip from the blue tape roll.  Just amazing!

Equally impressive are Trilogy customer support and onsite staff.  They’re helpful to my buyers and responsive to needs after close of escrow.  Every time I accompany them on a tour of Trilogy’s amenities, I learn something new.

As an obvious fan of Trilogy at Vistancia, I was pleased to receive the following email from one of the Sales Staff notifying me of a new parcel release:

I hope this email finds you well.  I wanted to give you a quick update on our Trilogy at Vistancia community in Peoria Arizona.  I am very excited to share we are days away from opening our next neighborhood Desert Bloom aka Parcel C-12.   This quaint neighborhood will have approximately 99 home sites and will be released in phases.  The first phase we will release home sites 1582 through 1622.  Please let me know if you have a client who you think may have an interest – if so, highlight the specific lot of interest and I will be more than happy to provide more information!

Sales will commence on Saturday, November 17, 2012.  While I am not anticipating needing a drawing, you just never know.  So, should we have more than one individual interested in the same lot we will have a drawing for that specific lot to determine who has the first opportunity to purchase the home site.  If a drawing is necessary it will be held on Saturday morning, November 17th, 2012.  The party drawn who has the first opportunity to purchase that specific lot will have 4 hours to execute a purchase contract.  Should they fail to execute a purchase contract in the 4 hour window then the 2nd interested party will have the same 4 hours to execute and so on until the lot is sold.

I have included a copy of the new neighborhood map for Desert Bloom at Trilogy (Parcel C-12) below for your reference.  I also included a copy of the overall Trilogy community map so that you can see where this new neighborhood is located within Trilogy.  The location is spectacular – in the heart of the community and extremely close to the Kiva Club.  We saved the best for last – this will be your clients last opportunity to enjoy a new home in a premier location!!

Here’s an updated price list (remember — BASE PRICES ONLY — no lot premiums or personal upgrades):


A couple of important points to remember when you consider purchasing a new home.  Most importantly, don’t EVER contact a new home builder directly until your Realtor has registered you.  Otherwise, the builder will not allow you to work with your Buyer’s Agent.  Furthermore, the builder will require you to sign a disclosure that says you understand and agree that the builder’s agent ONLY represents the BUILDER, not you!

Read more in one of my previous posts about new home representation in Phoenix here.

For many considering Phoenix real estate, new homes are an attractive option.  Call or email if you have any questions at all!  I can help you evaluate new home subdivisions across the Valley and compare prices with resale homes in the same communities, which are often available.

How to Pick a the Right Real Estate Broker to Buy or Sell

April 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Art and Science of Selecting a Phoenix Real Estate Broker

Issues to Consider and Questions to Ask

One of the largest single transactions you’ll ever complete is the purchase or sale of a home.  A multitude of factors play a role in the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the transaction, not the least of which is your choice for representation.  While some choose to navigate the real estate waters without representation, most elect to employ the services of a professional Realtor.

Whether you’re looking to sell a Phoenix condo or a buy luxury Scottsdale home, picking a Realtor can be an overwhelming proposition.  The recent housing boom and the perception of ‘easy money’ has caused a huge swelling of the Phoenix real estate agent ranks, especially among Phoenix Realtors and Scottsdale Realtors.  Virtually everyone knows a Realtor, or several.  The problem is, how do you select the best one for your needs?

I put together the following list of suggestions as a good starting point for any prospective homebuyer or homeseller looking for ‘the perfect match.’


For Buyers and Sellers

Ask around: A good place to begin the screening process is by asking colleagues and friends if they’ve ever worked with a real estate agent that they think did a great job.  Ask very specific questions so you can get a feel for how the agent truly performed.  “How often did the agent communicate with you?  Were they easy to reach?  Do you feel they negotiated effectively for you?  Was there anything they might have done better?  What kind of personality do they have?  Have you heard from them since the sale closed?”  Have you ever had someone give a glowing review of a restaurant that you just “had to try” only to find once you went that it was mediocre at best?  Everyone has different preferences, so don’t rely too heavily on the opinion of a friend’s experience.

Don’t compromise: When researching Realtors, do your homework and listen to your instincts.  As easy as it is to take the path of least resistance by working with the first agent you meet, don’t settle for an agent who you feel gives you any less than 100% effort and professionalism.

Consider certifications and designations: Real estate is an ever-evolving field.  Trends change, contracts change, momentum changes.  In short, the only constant is change.  You should consider working with a real estate agent who continually strives to better themselves and stay abreast of the latest issues and trends.  Certifications and designations reflect a proactive effort to hone ones skills and result in a better educated, better informed real estate agent.

Ask for references:  In fact, if a long list of references isn’t voluntarily offered, I’d be cautious.  Any highly-performing agent will have accumulated a long list of satisfied customers that they can gladly refer you to.

CALL THE REFERENCES!  You’d be surprised how few home sellers ask for a list of references, and then fail to call even one single person on the list.  Pick 2 or 3 references from the list and CALL THEM!  Ask a few very specific questions about their experience with the agent and take notes so you remember which feedback belonged to which agent.


For Prospective Home Sellers

Visit open houses, but BEWARE: Successful real estate teams often divide their agents into Listing Specialists and Buyer Specialists.  In Phoenix real estate, if you visit an open house, you will most likely be greeted by a Buyer Specialist on that team who may not be equipped to answer your questions about the team’s listing program.  You should ask for the Team Leader or Listing Specialist to schedule a listing consultation.

Beware: New Realtors and those who don’t carry many listings will often volunteer to hold an open house to pick up buyers.  These agents may have no affiliation with the Listing Agent whatesoever, except that they work in the same brokerage office.  While they may be excellent agents-in-training, to maximize your chances of working with an experienced team you should only work with a Listing Specialist or Team Leader.  Note: If you ever visit an open house in which you were very impressed with the agent holding the house open but you’re not quite ready to sell, be sure to get his/her card and jot a few notes down on the back, then file it away in your “Mortgage” file so you can pull it out and look them up when it comes time to sell.

Also, never visit an open house if you’re currently working with a Buyer’s Agent without your agent present.  In Arizona real estate, your agent will not be entitled to represent you if you view the open house without them present.  And as mentioned above, many agents holding open houses are specifically looking for unrepresented buyers, so be up-front with them.  See my earlier posting about this subject…

Interview the local specialist(s): Most neighborhoods are served by many Realtors, but may be dominated by one or two ‘local experts.’  A local expert isn’t necessarily the best choice, but can serve as a good starting point.  They have likely visited/previewed more homes than anyone else that works in the community and are better in tune with price dynamics and neighborhood trends.  Furthermore, the local expert usually lives in the area, which means they have a vested interest in preserving property values.  Be aware, however, that the local specialist may not be the right choice for you.  Local knowledge may be offset by a stronger marketing plan or an agent with a better personality fit, among others.

Tips for the interview: There are many pieces of information that you should collect before and during the interview in order to make the best choice for your needs.  Does the Realtor show up on time for your appointment?  Are they dressed professionally?  What sort of ‘vibe’ do you get at the very first moment you meet?  Are they comfortable to be around and easy to communicate with?  Do they sound like they know the area?  Remember, this agent will be representing you to prospective buyers, title officers, lenders, and other Realtors.  Your agent should convey the image that you’d expect of a professional and have the knowledge and experience to get your home sold!

Once the introductions are made, let the interviewee ‘lead’ the process.  They should ask for a tour of the home before you ever sit down for the presentation.  During the tour, do they ask lots of good, fact-finding questions about your home?  Do they tour the entire home, including the back yard, sides of the house, closets, and garage?  They should already be trying to determine how to best position your home for the market, even before the listing is issued.  A thorough inspection is part of the process.

Focus on the Marketing Plan: After the tour is complete, the interview begins.  The Realtor will present his/her marketing plan and why they believe they’re the best candidate for the job.  You should look for a marketing plan that advertises to a broad segment of the market, both online and in print.

Make sure your agent will communicate with you: As I detailed in an earlier post, the biggest complaint I hear from sellers about past Realtor experiences is that their Realtor fell out of contact with them after they scored the listing.  “They took my listing and I never heard from them again!”  Your agent should commit to providing detailed, written status updates so you will have a formal record of the progress on the sale of your home.  You should know what is being done at all times to market your home, as well as how it’s being received by the market.

Ask for a cancellation clause: Ask each listing agent interviewee if they will put in writing that you may cancel the listing agreement at any time if they’re not performing to your expectations.  Any Realtor that believes in their quality of service should be willing to offer the same assurance.  Just ask for it.

Don’t put too much weight on sales stats:  Many articles encourage you to ask a Realtor about their listing statistics: average days on market, list-to-sale-price ratio, etc.  I disagree.

Why?  Because stats can be deceptive.

For example, of you list your property on the low side of fair market value, it’s highly likely that your agent will sell your home faster and closer to the asking price.  In this example, days on market and sales price as a percentage of list price will both be favorable for the listing agent.

And what about short sales?  I represented clients in a Phoenix short sale that took 6 months to close.  That’s a transaction that could negatively impact my days on market (time to sale) stats.  To pad my stats, I’d have to turn these clients away.

Finally, you can’t easily validate an agents statistics.  I quit providing sales stats when on one listing appointment I had my sales statistics recited back to me by a seller who had previously interviewed another agent that worked in my area.  Not surprisingly, the other agent had superior numbers.  It’s pretty easy to position yourself against the competition when you know the competition’s numbers.

The bottom line about sales statistics is that they don’t always tell an accurate story.  You can ask for them, you can’t confirm them or interpret them.  Place more emphasis on other screening factors mentioned here.


For Prospective Home Buyers

Don’t commit until you’re comfortable: It’s a commonly-accepted practice for a Buyer Broker to require clients to sign a Buyer Broker Agreement, which confirms agency and outlines party commitments.  In my opinion, you should not sign a BBA until you have a chance to evaluate a buyer’s agent.  At a minimum, you should have an initial consultation, be set up to receive Phoenix real estate listings or Scottsdale real estate lisings, and go out for one property showing appointment to determine whether or not there’s a good match with the Realtor.  You will learn so much about the agent the first time you go out to view properties together and you’ll know whether or not you’ve found the right professional.  Once you’re confident that you have, you should be ready to commit to the agent just as the agent is committed to you.

How well does the Buyer Specialist know the process?  You should ask all the questions you can think of about the purchase process, escrow, inspection period, and the contracts.  Even better, ask to review some of the forms that you’ll experience during the purchase process.  Does the agent answer your questions promptly and confidently?  Do their answers make sense?  If the Realtor can’t explain things clearly or you just get the feeling they don’t have everything straight, then find someone else.  No need for you to be a ‘learning case.’

There are so many Scottsdale real estate agents and Phoenix real estate agents that it’s hard to even know where to begin to look for the right one for your needs.  If you follow the tips that I’ve offered here, you will be on the right track.  Just remember to be patient and not to compromise your expectations.

Phoenix Real Estate Update / Scottsdale Real Estate Update

July 6, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Here’s a look at what the latest sales reports tell us about Phoenix real estate and Scottsdale real estate sales activity.  All data is from reports published in mid-June using data through the end of May, and compiled by the Arizona Association of Realtors, the Scottsdale Association of Realtors, and the Phoenix Association of Realtors.


Phoenix Real Estate Update


Total Inventory:

March: 13,086

April: 12,970

May: 12,850


Average Days on Market:


Single Family: 93.28

Condo: 95.86



Single Family: 92.51

Condo: 104.02



Single Family: 86.38

Condo: 114.51


Average Sales Price:



Single Family: $255,568

Condo: $195,214



Single Family: $249,483

Condo: $166,824



Single Family: $239,035

Condo: $199,903


Over the past three months, the single family market for Phoenix homes and Scottsdale homes has showed signs of stabilizing, even correction.  The market for Phoenix condos and Scottsdale condos, however, still remains unstable and no significant inferences can be made.


Consult a qualified Phoenix Realtor or Scottsdale Realtor for additional information.

Real Estate Myth-Understanding #1 – “It’s OK to visit an Open House without my Realtor present.”

April 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

After working with hundreds of homebuyers, I’ve come to recognize that there are several common misconceptions that are widely held to be true by experienced homebuyers and first-timers alike. I refer to them as “Myth-Understandings” and I’ve seen many prospective buyers harm their own cause as a result of their misled belief in them.


Keep in mind that real estate laws very from state to state. If you have any questions about how this topic applies outside the State of Arizona, consult a local attorney in the state in which you plan to do business.


MYTH #1: “It’s OK to visit an Open House without my Realtor® present.”


TRUTH: Only if you don’t care to work with your Realtor® anymore! If you visit an open house, whether you’re represented by a Realtor® or not, the Realtor® hosting the open house becomes your only legally-recognized agent for that specific property and the only agent entitled to compensation by the Seller.


The legal notion of procuring cause states that the broker who engages in an effort which brings about the sale is the one entitled to the commission. (The Language of Real Estate, John Reilly, Fifth Edition) In this case, the “Open House” signs that guided you to that property would constitute the procuring cause, if you eventually decided to purchase the home. The Realtor® who hosted the open house would be entitled to the full commission, effectively cutting your Realtor® out of the equation. You’d be stuck working with the Realtor® representing the seller, regardless of how professionally and fairly you believe they’ll represent you.


Even worse, if you had signed a Buyer Broker Agreement with your Realtor®, which has no effect on procuring cause, you could be compelled to pay your Realtor’s® full commission yourself!


Here are a few other situations that fall under the procuring cause umbrella, where you could lose the ability to work with anyone other than the Listing Agent:


-You drive by a house for the first time and see a “For Sale” sign in the yard. Not wanting to bother your Realtor®, but motivated to see the property, you call the Listing Agent and arrange for them to meet you for a private showing without your Realtor® present. The Listing Agent’s “For Sale” sign is the procuring cause.


-You see a gorgeous property advertised in the newspaper, so you call the Listing Agent and meet him at the home for a private showing without your Realtor® present. The Listing Agent’s advertisement is the procuring cause.


-Your Realtor® is out of town for a week when, while searching on the Internet, you see that the ‘perfect’ property has just hit the market. You call the Listing Agent and notify her that you are already “working” with a Realtor®, but that you’d like to meet at the property for a showing so you can tell your Realtor® about it when he gets back in town. Since the other agent showed you the property, they would be the procuring cause.


-You visit the Sales Office at a new home subdivision that you’ve never visited before, just to take a look at the models for decorating ideas. While you are there, you fall in love with one of the homes. The next day you meet your Realtor® at the community to put an offer in on the home. Because you visited the community for the first time without your Realtor® present, the builder’s advertising is the procuring cause and the builder would not compensate your Realtor®.


Implications When Looking For Phoenix Real Estate or Scottsdale Real Estate


In a non-dual agent role, your Realtor® is your agent, your trusted advocate whose sole function is to help you find and acquire the perfect property for your needs at the most favorable terms and conditions to you. The safest thing to do is to notify your Realtor® of ANY properties that you would like to see, including “For Sale By Owner” homes, new construction, and traditional resale properties. Your agent can gather the facts for you and make arrangements for you to visit these homes, when applicable. Furthermore, an experienced agent will begin positioning you for the potential upcoming negotiations with the other Realtor® from the very first communication.

Why Do People Hate Real Estate Agents?

April 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

A few years back I heard about a public opinion poll that had rated real estate agents only one spot ahead of used car salesmen in trustworthiness and likeability. At first I wanted to deny the results. “Show me proof of this poll!” I very quickly realized, however, that the existence of this poll was irrelevant. If such an idea could remain alive and circulate freely through the general public without being quashed, it’s clearly not so far-fetched.

I vowed to do whatever I could to separate myself from “them.” I created a slogan that let people know they could trust me to serve them. And I created a mission statement that captured the essence of my business philosophy:

“Re-defining the residential real estate experience through integrity, market knowledge, and professionalism.”

Most importantly, I sought to understand precisely which behaviors led to the public’s perception of my chosen path. In any service industry, the best way to learn how to improve one’s performance and one’s image is by understanding where we fall short. I use the term “we” to include all professionals working in a given field, because customers tend to lump various types of professionals together in terms of their characteristics (think “postal employee”), without regard for the natural tendancies that differ from person to person.

Very early on in the relationship I like to have a discussion with my clients about what sorts of experiences they’ve had with Realtors in the past, if any. Have you worked with a Realtor before? To buy or sell? Tell me about your agent. Were you pleased you used them? Why aren’t you using them for this purchase/sale?

I’ve interviewed hundreds of people on this topic and few common complaints surface again and again.

Home buyers most often report that their agent “didn’t listen” to them with regard to property characteristics. “We told him we wanted a house with a large kitchen, but he kept showing us houses with small, galley-style kitchens!” Or “We said our home MUST be in a certain community, but he continued to send us property listings for homes in other areas! He didn’t listen to us!” Many of these buyers ended up ditching their agents to take their searches into their own hands.

Hands-down, the most common complaint among home sellers is, “My agent took my listing and I never heard from her again, except to suggest price reductions! I have no idea what she was doing to sell my house!”

Both buyers and sellers commonly report that their agent didn’t negotiate as strongly as they thought they should have, or that a ‘mistake’ in the contract paperwork caused a negative financial impact (e.g. “He didn’t tell us that our flat-panel big screen TV was considered a fixture and had to convey with the house!”).

Unfortunately, the sales cycle is an emotionally-charged time for all parties, so any problem, either real or perceived, is magnified. Realtors are paid handsomely for their expertise and nobody likes to feel like they’ve overpaid and been underserved.

As for my team, we listen to and learn from our clients in order to continually improve the value of the services that we bring to the table. Whether we’re working with a seller of a $150,000 Phoenix condo or someone who owns Scottsdale real estate, our service standards do not vary. Our clients put their trust in us to represent them as effectively as we can regardless of the price point of the transaction and that’s exactly what we deliver.

Back to my original question, why do people hate real estate agents? I believe it boils down to a few key reasons, all centered around consistency and quality:

  • Low barriers to entry and perception of ‘easy money’ have flooded the market with agents, resulting in erratic service at best;
  • There are no standardized systems for running a real estate business – agents are independent contractors who are responsible for developing their own business and service models. This results in inconsistent (often incompetent!) service because it’s beyond their expertise to build them;
  • There are no systematic mechanisms in place to regulate real estate agent performance – we’re free to practice at any level of competence as long as we retain our licenses, which involves 48 hours of continuing education training every 4 years and not running afoul of the law. Only public complaints filed with the Department of Real Estate or legal troubles seperate the professionals from the rest. Otherwise, we all look the same.


The good news is that high quality real estate professionals will thrive in all market conditions, while those who aren’t, won’t. Every decade or so the housing market will ‘correct’ and the least capable agents will be forced from the business, leaving it a better place, at least temporarily.