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Monday, 27 October 2014

These real-estate agents walked into real-life houses of horror

The first floor of the house contained many floor to ceiling bookshelves, displaying countless vases.
That was odd.
In the second-floor office, sitting on a desk, sat a sign that read “World’s Greatest Mortician.”
“Either it was the craziest coincidence that the owner liked to collect vases and was a mortician, or we were in a mausoleum,” and all those vases were actually urns, said Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.-based real-estate broker Phil Faranda, of J. Philip Real Estate.
It doesn’t have to be Halloween for real-estate agents to stumble into some truly creepy houses. In some cases, sellers haven’t taken the care to stage their home properly before listing. Foreclosures also often yield some rather odd showings. Here are some of their stories.
The creepy
Halloween spectacular: The seller’s birthday was on Halloween, and his home d├ęcor showed it. The house was decorated with skulls, scary dolls and other odd items, said real-estate agent Cyndi Lesinski, of Cyndi Lesinski & Associates — Cobalt Realty Group, based in Valencia, Calif. She took limited pictures for the listing so she wouldn’t scare off buyers. When prospective buyers arrived, some people couldn’t give the house a chance, and would walk out of the showing.
Haunted-looking house: Atlanta real-estate agent Colette Barnett and her clients saw a foreclosure home that could rival a haunted-house attraction: The porch was held up by cinder blocks — and had caution tape strung around it. The stairs were crooked. A garden window was caved in. A huge patch of black mold colored a wall in the basement, and tiles were falling off the shower. The house “looked like it had survived an earthquake,” said Barnett, an agent with Redfin.
Strange boarding house: Something about the house in Santa Clara, Calif., looked not quite right from the outside. But when Janelle Boyenga, with the Boyenga Team of Intero Real Estate Services, entered the place with her client, they discovered it was, in essence, a boarding house. Bedroom after bedroom had locks that needed to be accessed with a key, and even more rooms were carved out in the attic, garage and storage shed spaces. Some rooms they could get into, some they couldn’t. “It was kinda creepy — every nook and cranny was occupied by someone,” Boyenga said.
Terrifying money pit: In Colorado Springs, real-estate agent Willi Ellis, with ERA Shields, showed a pre-foreclosure home where most of the flooring was ripped out, exposing the plywood subflooring. A beat-up refrigerator was in the dining room, and clothes were piled in a bathtub. Her clients bought it anyway, seeing it as a diamond in the rough, but the problems continued — asbestos remediation was required and radon levels were well over the EPA’s limit.
The weird
Someone’s watching you: A number of times, Jordan Clarke, a buyer’s agent with Redfin in San Diego, has come across mannequins lurking in corners — clearly items used by seamstresses in their work, but very creepy when you’re not expecting to see a human figure while walking through an empty house. “You walk in and get that sense that something is staring at you,” he said. “This has probably happened a half dozen times now. I had one client scream briefly,” Clarke said.
Creepy reptiles: The townhome was fairly new, and very normal — until they reached the basement, said Tonya Nelson, a real-estate agent with Redfin in Arlington and Alexandria, Va. Once down there, she and her clients discovered 10 large reptile aquariums containing frogs, snakes and alligators — and fluorescent lights everywhere.
The gross
Disgusting discovery: When you visit a foreclosure, you might not be expecting the tidiest home on the block. But you also don’t expect to find piles of feces in the bedrooms. That’s what Atlanta-based agent Barnett and her clients found in a house they visited, likely the work of homeowners who became very angry when they were told to leave. Barnett wasn’t sure if the waste was from a human or a dog, but it didn’t matter — she and her prospective buyers rushed out of the house quickly. While the former owners left that surprise behind, they took plenty of the house’s fixtures with them, including the kitchen cabinets.
Teen spirit: The house wasn’t exactly clean, but that was no preparation for when Clarke, the San Diego agent, and his clients entered the mother-in-law suite of one particular home. The area reeked of body odor, he said, adding “it was almost as if a dozen teenage boys were living in there with no housekeeping whatsoever.” His clients were able to stay and look at it; he had to get out of there.
The lessons
In preparing a home for sale, it’s important for it to be clean and uncluttered. “Anything that is too specific to a homeowner has to be put away,” said Kerrie Kelly, interior design expert for Zillow Digs, Zillow’s home design site, and the founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.
To make sure smells aren’t a problem, be sure to air out your house regularly. Do this even as the weather gets colder, just keep the doors and windows open for a shorter amount of time, she said. You might even ask a friend or family member for a second opinion on how fresh your place smells.
Also, it’s best to board pets or keep them at a friend’s home during showings and open houses, said Nelson, the real-estate agent from Arlington who stumbled upon the reptile-filled basement.
Of course, if you can look beyond the scary aspects of these homes as a buyer, you may be able to cut a good deal — since much of your competition will run for the door.
By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch

Sun columnist Shelley Fralic says, “I knew then as I know now that the best way to get into the market is to get into the market…”

Shelley Fralic: Housing affordability in Metro Vancouver — Is the real issue our expectations?


All the talk about housing affordability is usually limited to a single-family detached house. That’s not a reasonable expectation for most people in many work-class cities, so stop complaining, columnist Shelley Fralic writes.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann , Vancouver Sun

Right now, in New Westminster, there is a well-kept, 1,080-square-foot, two bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath apartment for sale, with a fireplace, in-suite laundry, stainless steel appliances and a wraparound balcony in an older three-storey building on a quiet street near parks, shops, transit and schools.
The price: $249,000.

Which means, if you negotiated it down to, say, $240,000 and put down 20 per cent and qualify for a three-per-cent, five-year variable mortgage, the monthly payment would be under $1,000, or less than the average rent in Metro.

Right now, in Surrey, one low-rise complex currently has three condos for sale. They have multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and range from 1,145 to 1,334 square feet. The most expensive is $269,900.
Right now, in Coquitlam and Burnaby, there are 200-plus listings for two-bedroom, two-bath units under $300,000.

And so it goes
Do an MLS search on Metro Vancouver condos and townhouses and there are hundreds, yes hundreds, of similar offerings across the region.

There are even a number of two-bedroom condos for sale for less than $300,000 in, wait for it, the city of Vancouver. A two-bedroom, two-bath unit in East Van is on the market for $238,000. It has in-suite laundry, and the building has a gym and pool.

And yet the moaning about unaffordable housing in Vancouver and environs grows ever more loud, especially on the eve of municipal elections. Good lord, the cry goes up, who can afford to live in this place? Who can afford to raise a family here? It’s not right, and the mayor/feds/my parents need to do something about it.
Fuelling the chorus are the endless surveys and comparisons reminding us that if this is heaven on earth, it’s also a mighty pricey postal code.

The latest dose of bad news, delivered recently by this paper, reported that 76 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s 21 municipalities are unaffordable for the average family earning $80,000.
But is that true?

Well yes. And no. Those statistics, like so many published before them, refer to the purchase of single-family homes. The kind of place with no shared walls. No elevators. No pot smoke wafting in from the adjoining balcony. No restrictions on window coverings and tomato planting.
It’s the dream, right? The picket fence. The big backyard for the kids and dog. The two-car garage. We have been conditioned to believe that ownership of a single-family home is the symbol that you have made something of yourself, that you have secured the lottery ticket to ensure a happier family and comfortable retirement.
But why, one wonders, does one’s first home have to be a house?
Oh right. Easy for the big bad baby boomer to say. We had it easy, didn’t we? All those post-secondary jobs for the taking, all that cheap local real estate.

I was born in Vancouver nearly 62 years ago. I have never been able to afford a house in the city.
Nearly 40 years ago, when I was in my early 20s, my young family’s first “house” was a condo in Burnaby, purchased for $49,900 with the help of the CMHC’s Assisted Home Ownership Program. The unit was eventually bought back from us because the complex was leaky, riddled with mould, and eventually torn down.
Our next “house” was a townhouse in a co-op in Newton, a neighbourhood then on the wrong side of the Surrey tracks.

In 1984, facing soaring gas prices and an increasingly brutal commute into Vancouver, we bought a little heritage pile on a postage-stamp lot in New Westminster. It cost $73,000 and the roughly 13-per-cent interest rate demanded a mortgage payment of $800 a month, exactly half of my then take-home pay from this newspaper. Oh, and the bathroom in the basement had a dirt floor.

In 1988, we moved a few blocks over into the house in which I now live. It cost $130,000, and my husband and I lay awake at night wondering how we could possibly afford it, along with two young children to raise.
But I knew then as I know now that the best way to get into the market is to get into the market, even if the dream doesn’t come with stainless steel appliances and isn’t in the dream neighbourhood.
I have equity now, but I will still never be able to afford a single-family house in Vancouver, and gave up that notion long ago, along with the arrogance to think it is somehow my right.
And, as it turns out, Vancouver has nothing on the ’burbs. This is where density and congestion are traded for wide open spaces, family-oriented neighbourhoods and, yes, more affordable housing, single-family and otherwise.

So for the love of God, people, stop complaining about the price of housing in Vancouver. Market forces, not your mayor or mom, determine the cost of housing. Just ask home buyers in New York, Paris and London.
And consider that your home doesn’t have to be a house, and that it doesn’t hurt to start small and think big.
Who knows? Someday, a new generation of Metro Vancouver house hunters might be grouching about your good fortune.
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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Not Going It Alone - Single clients often depend on practitioners for emotional support as well as transaction knowledge.

Not Going It Alone
Single clients often depend on practitioners for emotional support as well as transaction knowledge.
For Marianne Guenther Bornhoft, green, SRES, working with single women—40 percent of her clientele—was a natural fit. “I’ve learned that it’s easy to work with people you can identify with and who can identify with you,” says Bornhoft, a sales agent with Windermere Real Estate in Spokane, Wash. “I bought a house on my own when I was divorced, so I know that market intimately.”
Nationally, 25 percent of buyers are single, according to the latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of REALTORS®, with nearly twice as many single women as men (16 percent vs. 9 percent) purchasing homes. Though the share of homes bought by singles has been stifled in recent years, first by the recession and then by tight lending conditions, many practitioners are finding success serving single clients, regardless of their own marital status. The bond between those real estate pros and their single clients can be especially strong. “Buying and selling real estate and moving is already a highly emotional process. If you’re doing it alone, it can be scary and stressful,” says Tiffany Stevens, gri, sales agent with Phyllis Browning Co. in San Antonio. “I keep that in mind when working with my single clientele, so that they never feel like they are completely alone in the process,” she says.
Unmarried people may, in fact, have more frequent real estate needs than couples and families because they tend to be more mobile. Between 2012 and 2013, 12 million never-married and 3 million divorced people moved homes compared with 9.9 million marrieds, according to Census Bureau data. Christopher Mills, sales agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, D.C., says many singles who buy homes in the District’s hot H Street Corridor change jobs or need to move within five years. For them, the issue is finding a home that can transition to a rental property easily.
Rising Purchasing Power
The rising purchasing power of single women suggests they’ll be an important demographic for decades to come. Currently, six out of 10 college graduates (whose incomes are typically far higher than those of high school grads) are female, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Income parity is also improving: Among workers ages 25 to 35, women’s hourly wages in 2012 were 93 percent those of men, compared to 84 percent for women of all ages, according to a Pew Research Center study.
To reach single women, community involvement is key, according to Bornhoft, who has worked with more than two dozen nonprofits in her area. She serves on the board of Visit Spokane, a local visitors’ bureau, and targets her advertising within the tourism industry, where a lot of women happen to work. “I’ve sold a lot of properties to single clients who are successful professional women,” Bornhoft says. Many of her clients end up being lifelong friends as well as repeat -customers—in fact, one client has purchased seven homes from her. “You have to be a confidant, a financial adviser, sometimes a parent, and a friend.”
Social media can play a powerful role in strengthening contacts. Stevens reaches singles on Fridays by posting local events on Facebook. “Someone who’s single is likely trying to get out there and meet friends,” she -says “[My posts] can make them feel I’m more connected and really know the community.” She has found single women to be a powerful referral sources. “If you’re really there for them, they rave about you to everyone they talk to. You didn’t just get their house sold; you took care of them,” Stevens says. “They won’t forget that.” Conversely, if the customer is unhappy, her friends will likely know that as well.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014



(Surrey, BC) – The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board processed 1,419 sales on its Multiple Listing Service (MLS®) in September, an increase of 25 per cent compared to the 1,131 sales during the same month last year, and an increase of 9 per cent compared to sales in August.

Ray Werger, the Board’s president, says, “Similar to this past summer, this is the busiest September we’ve had since 2009 with sales of all property types combined out-performing the 10-year average by 13 per cent.
“Residentially, the single family home remains the preferred property type. From North Delta to Mission, sales increased in every Fraser Valley community compared to last year with the price range of $400,000 to $699,999 garnering almost sixty per cent of our total detached market.”

New listing activity was also brisk in September with the Board’s MLS® receiving 2,758 new listings, an increase of 16 per cent compared to last year, taking the total number of active listings by month-end to 9,156, a decrease of 7 per cent compared to September 2013.

Werger adds, “An important factor underlying the housing market is consumer confidence and in our region that confidence has been bolstered by the stability of home prices. Since March, the benchmark price of our three main residential property types combined has remained flat, increasing by only 0.6 per cent.

“Long-term, the value of single family detached homes has increased at a faster pace than it has for attached properties, particularly in areas such as Surrey, White Rock, Langley and Abbotsford where we’ve seen many new townhome and condo developments. The supply of new inventory has affected the price of resale product.”
The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price of a detached home in September was $569,800 an increase of 3.1 per cent compared to September 2013, when it was $552,900. In the last six months, the HPI benchmark price of a detached home has increased by 1.1 per cent.

In September, the HPI benchmark price of Fraser Valley townhouses was $299,600, an increase of 1.1 per cent compared to $296,200 in September last year, and in the last six months has increased by 0.8 per cent. The benchmark price of apartments decreased year-over-year by 4.7 per cent, going from $203,100 in September of last year to $193,600 last month, and has decreased by 0.9 per cent in the last six months.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board is an association of 2,751 real estate professionals who live and work in the BC communities of North Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Abbotsford, and Mission. The FVREB marked its 90-year anniversary in 2011.