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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Amazingly I See A Trend Towards Pocket Listings - To Me It's Criminal

I have to say, it amazes me, what I am seeing. A pocket listing is where real estate agents intentionally take actions that prevent a home from being marketed by other agents. The typical strategy is to not place it on the MLS. 

Who would stand for their home not being in the MLS? Where the answer seems to be nobody would stand for that, I have seen two types of sellers who fall for that strategy: 1- the old and not sharp anymore 2- those who think the agent is a nice guy and trust him. After all the nice guy agent is cool, especially if he sells the home. Actually, it's not so cool. I am at this time trying to intercept such as situation. The owner is 97 years old and about to go into assisted living. The nice guy agent is trying to get  her to sign paperwork giving him the right to sell her condo for $220,000.00. He has a buyer. That sounds great, a buyer so fast. Not so great - the home is worth $250,000. So in this case the agent gets both ends of the commission, the home never hits the multiple giving other agents buyers a chance to bid the price to its real value.

Sadly there are two condo developments in our community that have agents living in the buildings that have this kind of control. They get away without having sanctions by our MLS because they don't belong to the MLS. 

I actually consider this behavior to be criminal, nice guys or not. What is the difference in embezzling $30,000 and intentionally under pricing, or leaving it out of the MLS to get a quick sale. The answer should be, there is no difference.

There is another way, and I have seen two of these quite recently. One knows I am competing against him and is now on occasion slipping the listing to an MLS broker he is related to. The other, the seller is living in New Mexico and was unaware of what was happening. What these two blokes have done is to not place a lock box for other agents to access and show the home. In instance one, the listing relative is the point of contact and then he says to call the non MLS agent who must accompany anyone who wants to see the home. The homes are empty. They are listed in the MLS as by appointment only. THIS IS IN FACT THE SAME AS A POCKET LISTING, as it in reality prevents other agents from bothering to show this one. That is the strategy, no one else is to show it.

You should have seen the stunned look on the folks from New Mexico. They hadn't lived in their home for the past two years. They called me and said they were on the way to Salt Lake and wanted to meet me to discuss listing their home. I met them at their insistence. I was hesitant as their was some confusion if the listing had expired. They said that they were on the way and only were coming to see me. So I met them. It went fine. They loved how I would market the home. I wanted my staging expert to see the home while they would be gone to determine a few things. So, I asked them was their a key in the lock box? Their face showed stunned. They hadn't seen a lock box. It turns out there is no lock box. This home has been on the market for over 9 months. The listing says by appointment only, listing broker to be there. WHY? THE HOME IS VACANT? The home is on a busy street. The agent has a gigantic sign out front to contact him. The total lack of activity has caused the price to be driven down by $95,000, way below market value. He wants to sell the home, but he has it so only he can sell the home. Yep, criminal.

This months REALTOR (r) magazine addresses the seriousness of pocket listings, which in all these cases I write of here, are in reality pocket listings. The most common way this is done is to just delay putting the listing in the MLS, to persuade the seller it isn't the thing to do, or to just ignore the rules and omit doing it.

It is a serious activity.This months article to agents makes the points "withholding a a listing from the MLS, depending on how the situation is handled, can be a violation of his/her higher fiduciary duties, including loyalty, or placing the interests of the client above the interests of the agent..... An unsatisfied seller could allege that a broker breached his duties as the broker did not seek to obtain the highest possible price for his client where the client didn't understand that the marketing of the property might achieve the highest price."  

The bigger question that comes to my mind is if they will do this for money what else will they do?

For Pete's Sake Read What You Sign Before The Agent Leaves.

It's a good practice in any document you sign.

So why this article? Is the point necessary?

Twice this week,  people in my own small world have had to deal with the same issue. They had no idea that they signed a one year listing agreement. A listing is a contract. In this situation the only way out is to take the home off the market. If you aren't happy with the broker you must obtain an unconditional release. This would allow you to list the property with another agent. Guess what most brokers want you to sign? Yes, a conditional release, requiring you to list with them should your home come back on the market during the original days you signed for.

I have to say that the Utah Real Estate REPC make it very easy to slide over when the listing expires. I have suggested that they make it more obvious.

I know you know that you should read before you sign. I also know that by the end of a listing presentation you are worn out. It is better to take the paper work and wait over night to read it than to be sloppy with the details.

Utahns' satisfaction with downtown Salt Lake City is on the rise

Deseret News: July 11, 20014

For George Thaut, living in downtown Salt Lake City brings vibrancy to everyday life.
"I've always loved being in the city," Thaut said. "I love being in the center of everything. … There's so much to do here and it's all so convenient."

Mark Rogers, an equity real estate agent for Clearwater Homes, says he hears similar expressions from others living downtown.

"I think they find the size of the city is big enough to have interesting things going on all the time, but small enough that you don't feel like you're lost in the city," Rogers said. "You feel like you have a sense of belonging, a part of something."
A recent survey by the Downtown

Alliance showed that 52 percent of Utahns feel a sense of ownership and connection with downtown Salt Lake City — up 8 percent since last year and 18 percent since 2009.

You can read the entire article by clicking here

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Featured Open Houses

A rare find, close to Temple Square and City Creek. The Practical Alternative too. This Condo has it all.

It is open twice this week. This is it if you want luxury, view, convenience, and over 2300 square feet of living.

Open Friday September 5th 4PM To 6:00 PM                  and
Saturday September 6th from 10AM To 1PM

COME AND SEE THIS WONDERFUL HOME: It doesn't get any better than this! Top floor suite boasting over 2300 sq. ft. of beautifully redone living space on one level, and it is quiet! Very short walking distance to City Creek Mall, Temple Square, etc. Sweeping views of the State Capitol and City Creek Canyon. Twice the space for half the price of other downtown/City Creek condos. Quality throughout. Must see inside! In addition the entire roof is a delightful garden, gazebo, and all amenities for entertaining in the summer months. This condo is a very rare find!

TELL YOUR REALTOR FRIENDS: This condo is a rare practical alternative to the expensive high rise South of Temple Square. Both have wonderful views, both are luxurious. Subject property is only a short walk from Temple Square. What makes this a practical alternative, the comparative value of size of home vs. price. This 2325 sq. ft. home feels spacious, suits a comfortable lifestyle. An extremely important difference to this homes advantage is how quiet it is. This is a rare gem that had been hidden from buyers. It was originally priced at $645,000. Sellers are offering 4% BAC. Come and view the condo and you will be entered in a drawing for a Surface Pro 3 w/ detachable keyboard. See details on If your buyer is looking to be close to Temple Square and City Creek and is seeking a quality, more affordable, practical option this is it!

This photo is taken from the large rooftop garden with lots of entertaining space.
The Condo we offer is on the top floor.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Is This All About - The Seattle Street of Dreams

I have to say that the Salt Lake Parade of Homes is a great show. However, it took us three days to see them all. Even then we passed on seeing  a few of them, a very few.

But this article is about a similar show, The Seattle Street of Dreams.

It is different in that all of the homes are in the same development. Usually there were 7 or more homes, all very much show homes, like in the multi million dollar range. Each builder would be working a year ahead making connections with the best designers and furniture stores. In a big way the attraction is a much about the furnishings and accessories as it is the home.

Each year the homes became more elegant and more out of reach for buyers. One builder that Kathleen was the designer for went way overboard, he won best of show but no one could or would pay for what he had put into it, in the battle to be the best in the show. After many months of this and other builders homes not selling as they priced themselves out of reality they began to call the show "The Street of Death".

For the show's paying customers it was a great experience. A chance to dream and see the latest of what an expensive showhome has to offer. Many attended for decorating ideas.

Kathleen was an interior designer for the first show and for five others that followed. For her, each show was a year long project. As soon as one show was over the next years builders were trying to tie down the top stores and designers for next year. She was involved in the entire home, picking exterior colors, etc.

I was reminded of these past shows as I sat enjoying the awesome condominium I just listed near Temple Square and City Creek. It has the same elegant and classy feel. It is now in show home condition. Kathleen has spent hours in the photography process. It is like she is presenting this home for a magazine shoot. I end my day thinking not only is she an amazing wife, but she is an amazing talent.

The Parade of Homes was terrific. It would be nice if  they were all in the same development. "Not going to happen". I know. At least The Parade of Homes endures, the financial crush ended The Street of Dreams now and for who knows how long. It's fun to dream isn't it?

PS: One show had a sad happening. Had you heard about it? One photo here has a clue.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Do You Subscribe To A Sales Prevention Program?

Over the years Kathleen and I have laughingly noted that this home is being marketed under a sales prevention program. Today we ran into such a situation and we are trying to recall all of those instances we used to laugh at.

Seriously, putting your home on the market is a major inconvenience. However, I suggest that you do not subscribe to a sales prevention program. Your goal is to sell, not to place hurdles.

It's been awhile since we addressed this problem so I will probably add to this list. For now here are some examples of things that qualify for the sales prevention program.

1-Shown by appointment only or at certain times. I know the reasons and they are many. Mostly you don't want a last minute drop in. You want the house in perfect condition which is a good thing. The problem for whatever reason is that many buyers discover your place while on tour with their agent. Some are looking in a particular time frame. You know the folk, that are from out of town and are limited in time slots.

The only at certain hours issue may be legitimate, such as someone in the home works nights and sleeps days. Still, it's a hurdle to limit showing times. Maybe you should put hubby up in a hotel for a couple of months. Just kidding. 

The solution, keep it in show condition at all times. Don't limit any opportunity for the right buyer to find your home.

This is a big one - it's rented. There is a condo that has been on the market here for 441 days. The MLS instructions say "There is someone living there at the present time. Must make appt to show. For more information please call agent". It is very unlikely that I would be willing to take this listing. Why bother? My experience is that renters don't cooperate. They don't keep the home in presentation condition. They have no interest in getting booted out. To make matters worse there are two condo's in our market where the new buyers can't occupy their property for months due to the lease the current renters have. Most financing requires the new borrower to guarantee they will occupy their new home within 60 days. Otherwise bye bye financing - it will  be treated as an investment purchase or be disqualified totally. Sure you need the money the rent brings in but why bother for the last 441 days. It's a waste of everyone's time, effort, money, and energy. This is truly a sales prevention program, wouldn't you agree?

2- Some agents  use a showing service. This is required in some states, not Utah. Often it's a security issue. Sometimes it's for the agents convenience. It is another obstacle. Do you see that hurdle photo above? Hurdles are sales prevention programs. Dump the hurdle. If showing services were the only solution all states, all agents, all companies would require their use.

3- No flyers, flyer box empty. Utah is pretty good at this bad habit. People shop neighborhoods. Often they start their home search by cruising through neighborhoods. When we first came to Salt Lake, before settling on downtown Salt Lake City we were intrigued with Daybreak. We made several trips to Daybreak. We picked up flyers.

Flyers are an expense. Keeping them full is a hastle. Having them run out just after you saw they were full is a problem. You the owner can play an important role by having a supply and you being willing to keep the flyer box full. When someone is serious you want them to know about your home.

4-  In similar manner to 3 above some agents won't list the price on their signs or flyers and some use what is called call capture. Most folks won't surface until they are ready and won't let call capture bug them. Most agents that use call capture aren't looking out for you, they are looking to capture the lead even if they don't want your home. It's not in your best interest to put any hurdle between a passer by and your home. Be skeptical of the agent that shows thousands of call capture hits.

5- You being at home during the showing is a hurdle, high on the list of sales prevention programs. Buyers won't be comfortable when you are there. Please don't be like my father was, he refused to leave. He showed every nook, cranny, cupboard, and corner. He drove them crazy and out the door. Being there is a hurdle and definitely in the sales prevention program.

6- Not presented nicely. See the staging category.

7- Not being marketed well - See the other articles in "marketing your home".

8- No open houses. No brokers opens. You are likely to have been told open houses don't work or that open houses are only for finding buyers for agents. Open houses done right do work. Don't accept the hurdle that open houses don't work.

9- Your agent isn't quick to respond to a phone call. Your agent is the conduit to all questions. Just this week I had a question for four agents. Two didn't return the call. Now I am persistent and won't let that stop me, but fickle buyers aren't always so persistent. If agents are too busy to return calls they are possibly too busy at the time to take another listing.

10- FSBO. I know you don't believe in the commission thingy. My son has this attitude. Shame on him. I get it, I know how to show you how to get the most out of my charges. I am counting on surprising you. But this post is about sales prevention programs. There is a statistic that I can show you on when you should sell FSBO. I can also show you the math on how to get to dollar when using an agent. Right now, in this market the numbers are definitely against FSBO success. Try me, I will surprise you. I want you to net the most possible, and I don't discount. 

11- No MLS and not marketing properly in the MLS. I can't believe how many old timers have such a captive market here in Salt Lake City that they don't join the MLS. More than that I can't believe how many sellers put up with it. Not only is being in the MLS important, even though costly, marketing heavily to those member agents is a major strategy. Avoiding it is a component on the sales prevention strategy.

I just did a survey of condominiums sold in three nice buildings close to Temple Square. The average days on the market was 186 days. One home dropped 15% in price to sell. No fast sale, no full price. Such a shame.

12- Poor directions. I know in the era of GPS it shouldn't be difficult to locate a listing. Some instructions are so poor that when on a limited time schedule the site with bad instructions gets left out.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Every Home Purchase Should Have An Inspection - Inspectors recommended

Some assume that everyone gets an inspection. Well, unfortunately some avoid the costs. Avoiding those costs can be costly.

In one case where I was the loan officer it was almost deadly. My client was brought to me by a real estate agent. The transaction neared closing when the seller, a small builder, informed every one that  he was unable to bring enough funds to close. The buyer was furious and made such a fuss that the builder promised to refinance his residence to obtain the needed funds. As part of the transaction he let them rent the home prior to closing.

This was summer time. It took until fall to get ready to close.

So, renting, right? Right. No need to get an inspection, they could live in it, right? Right. The builder/seller did as promised. The loan closed...... The very next day the weather turned cold. The family without having the home inspected went to bed and turned the furnace on. Perhaps you guessed it by now, the furnace blew up and burned the home down. They did escape without personal harm. The home should have been inspected.

Kathleen and I have owned several  homes and condos. New construction, condos, whatever, we always have an inspection. And incidentally, even when the sellers provide copies of one they paid for, we always do our own.

Our company, MediaOne Real Estate offers a list of home inspectors that we have found to be reputable. We do not endorse any one inspector over another. Some offer different services for different fees. We recommend that yo talk to a few of them before you make your choice. We like to get feedback on how satisfied you are. We do follow up on complaints. Too many complaints, sometimes two, cause us to remove a vendor from the recommended list. Note that the list is alphabetical.

A Closer Look Home Inspection - Tom Rees 801-674-4994
All-Points Home Inspections - Westin Cross - 801-455-7679
Criterium Bernhisel Engineers - Scott Bernhisel 801-466-0931
Homestead Examiners - Brian Glover - 801-254-2656
Pillar To Post - Fred Larson - 801-281-0484
The Home Inspector - Dan Hess - 801-466-1874
Watch Dog Inspectors - 801-580-5551

I believe in the concept that you should always use a service provider that has future business at risk. Be sure and say who they were recommended by, it makes things go better for you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Internet, What Role Does It Play In Marketing Your Home?

My how the world has changed. It's all about the Internet isn't it? When is comes to marketing homes for sale virtually every agent is placing their listing online. The consumers go there to search for homes. Nationally Zillow is the 38th busiest website, Trulia is # 98, #148, and is #557. As of January 2014 there are around 861,379,000 registered host names. Even getting an honorable mention is a big accomplishment.These specific real estate sites benefit from people staying on them, looking at several pages. Not all sites have this sticking power. The average visitor to visits about 8 pages and stays for over 7 minutes.

There is the rare agent that doesn't belong to the MLS, very rare, and for sure he or she is costing their client dearly.

And what do Internet shoppers see online? Some see a messy home. Some see amateur photos. Some see just six or so photos. People searching on line want photographs, lots of photographs. They make their decisions quickly, a typical internet shopper trait. Do they see clutter? Do they see a home they want to visit? A home that has an ugly shot is virtually shot. The appeal of your home is now driven by what they see online.

One of the benefits of being licensed at MediaOne is that our firm provides every home seller photos done professionally. One of the benefits of having Kathleen as my wife and partner is that she too is an excellent photographer. When she had her own Interior Design Company she was often involved in show homes, Street of Dreams Homes, and homes that were being published in magazines. She has a degree in art and Interior design. What we do is pick the best of the photos from the professional and from Kathleen's photos and those are what go online.

As I said, virtually all agents place their photos online. The MLS requires photos. These then are syndicated to agent and broker sites, such as my agent site: When a listing goes live, so do the photos and property information.

Ninety per cent of the agents listings and photos now end up on and/ or Most agents take the effort to do some sort of national website syndication. Before I joined MediaOne I had arrangements that published my listings to over 30 sites. Joining MediaOne bumped that to over 50.

I have an additional niche, having written about genealogy on for over two years. As of this writing it has had over 74,000 visitors. I have had people tell me that various LDS Family History Family Search centers have its website address posted on the wall as a site to visit. Many downtown home buyers come to be around Temple Square. I seek to let them know what is available downtown.

It is simple technology that now allows a blog post to be posted on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Combined I have over 14,000 connections with people. I also publish my content on a site recently purchased by LinkedIn, I received an email from them congratulating me that my content was in the top 5% viewed by others. You may or may not have heard of Slideshare but it is ranked # 211 in the United States for traffic. I was stunned when they announced my high ranking with them.

Effective home marketing should be designed to find the right buyers. No buyers means the price will go down to sell. To sell at the listing price just needs that right buyer. To get a higher price you need multiple buyers.

The internet, including the quality of the photography is an important, but not the only way to find those right buyers.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You Can Make The Mortgage Process Go Well

Not many realize that there are several barriers to a smooth closing. A borrowers interaction is usually limited to the loan officer. There is an automated underwriting process which does a quick approval. The Loan officer has a processor doing backup, getting your loan ready to close. Additionally there is an underwriter. What many don't realize is that often there is another underwriter looking at your file. After receiving an initial automated approval you might be shocked to find out that it may not be as simple as you think. Don't let your loan officer make you think it's a slam dunk, even if it is.

What may excite a borrower is that the automated underwriting can give a quick approval. Yeah baby, you are done, you are approved.

Not so fast.

This is just step one. You have a long way to go to get to the end. It has always been a trek to the end, but with the advent of the meltdown everyone involved in your loan became fearful of making a mistake or being too lenient. This resulted in a lot of last minute issues.

Now I bring up the pressure event - the U Haul is rented and the loan must close on time. Nothing is more problematic than a delayed closing. It can actually be worse than the U Haul issue, closing late can kill the transaction. Sometimes a seller gets remorse, maybe has a better offer as a backup.

You are responsible to provide everything asked for, be it pay stubs, bank statements front and back, everything. So many of my borrowers have been slow, sloppy, even resistant to requests. And hey, your loan officer and processor might have more than your loan to get funded. Push Push push your way around. "What is the status, do you have everything, may I see the list of conditions by the underwriting" are all things you can do.

No matter what your nature, detailed or not, get involved in every detail of your loan. Make sure you see a copy of your credit report. See if anything is fishy. Fix everything fast that needs fixing or explaining. Ask your loan officer if they have a back up plan if trouble arises. I did. Doing loans was pressure packed for me. I laid awake at nights or woke up early in the morning scouring the loans in process in my mind. What if this happens, what will I do? I loved it, but it was grueling. At times I had 11 to 15 loans of my own in process. If you only knew what a gigantic list of details that created.

Don't lie. The only loan that I had that blew up at the end was not my fault, yet I was the target of blame. The borrower was from Hawaii. Hawaii like Utah, isn't a community property state. Spouses can buy real property separately. In Washington, where I was working, the opposite is the rule. This borrower - buyer, lied on his application. He said he was single. We came right down to closing and the underwriter conditioned a document to be signed  by his wife. He was furious and wouldn't comply. "How did you find out I was married?". Dumb question! He made such a fuss that since I was working for a mortgage company owned in part by the real estate company he pressured the real estate company to fund the loan out of their own capital.

I will never forget the brokers statement. He too was out of step. He said he hated it - that loan officers say all the way through the process; he is approved, he is approved, he is approved and then at closing - sorry he's not approved. He lied folks, and got caught.

I had another borrower that two days before closing came to me to back out by blaming it on me. He had $5,000 earnest money in escrow. I listened to his accusations which were many. I finally had had enough and said, "listen buddy this is all crap. I don't know what is the real excuse but you better come clean with me right now. I have done loans for several members of your family, if you don't come clean that's it for the whole bunch of you." He then humbly apologized and confessed that he had his accountant provide us with phony tax returns. I felt compassion for him, for he had already confessed this to his young wife. He said it broke her heart, both in losing this great home and in his actions. I assured him it was better to quit now and lose his earnest money than proceed with committing a crime. His conscience was his buddy even though the consequences were painful.

I once received a call from an underwriter. It was over one of our loan officers who had submitted his own loan. She tactfully said she was sending the loan back and that I should confront him over the income he claimed. I did. He blew up and threatened my with bodily harm that I should suggest that he faked his income. He said that he had filed amended returns and how dare I insult him. He was fired that moment and I informed him the underwriter had pulled a summary of all of his tax returns and I had copies. They did not match his application and he could leave now quietly or my next call was to the Feds.

He left.

So please do all you can do to make sure things go will with that you haul you have ordered. It's on your shoulders too. Do it all, do it immediately, and do it right.

And oh, pick a lender recommended by your loan officer - even if he or she has to recommend several. Forget the neighbor or cousin that does loans. Go outside of this advice and beware, be prepared for a crash. This also includes avoiding that hot radio ad you heard. Ignore this advice and see how easy it is to change the date of the U Haul as you just may need to make that change. Sorry, but that is based on having closed thousands of loans.It's experience talking.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Selling Your Home. Is There a Difference Between Interior Design And Staging? Yes, Yes and Yes! Part 1

I published a series of article by Kathleen about Staging your home for sale. They originally went up every few days. We have had several Positive responses to them so I am making it easier to read them all together. They are now seen in order. If they are split at the bottom of the page (as each new article pushes the old one down one) click older posts to go to the previous page.
by Kathleen Leavitt Cragun
When you are selling your home, it immediately becomes a product that buyers compare with all the other homes they look at. Preparing to have your home look its best is a very smart idea. However it is easy to spend time and money on things that may not help all that much, and could even have a detrimental effect. A lot depends on the price range of the home. Hiring professional help to put your home’s best face forward is a relatively new phenomena.
Most Interior Designers think they can stage homes and most Staging Professionals think they can do Interior Design. There is some crossover, true, but the philosophies and purpose are very different. There is much more training, talent and skill needed to be an effective designer than most Staging Professionals possess. On the other hand, many designers don’t really understand the common sense or purpose behind Staging. Their egos take over and bad advice is given. Even though I believe I succeeded in my goals with the rooms below, they were Street of Dreams homes, so the final results were to that end.

 When you are living in your home you usually want to express your individual tastes. You want it to look great, but you want it to be YOU! Enter the Interior Designer. After determining how you live, what your family’s functional needs are and style, color preferences, etc., she prepares and executes a plan that will make your home the envy of your friends who have no courage to dare to be different. You love it. The designer loves it.
The objectives are different when you are staging your home for sale. You don’t want the prospective buyer to fall in love with your decor, or be green with envy over your art collection, or focused on your great black and white photography collection of your children and pets. You want them to be able to focus on the HOUSE! You want them to get a vision of how their things and their family could fit in it. You don’t have to pack up and move completely out leaving it empty, but almost every home needs a little editing. We all accumulate a lot of stuff and a little early packing is in order.
Staging is not rocket science! Much of it is common sense. If successfully accomplished, prospective buyers will be able to view your home at its best. Best because its good features will be discovered and enhanced and they can see and feel themselves living there. That usually means a faster sale and a better price. Much of this is related to Clean Up….Clear Out…..Fix In…..Fix Out! The hardest part is to be able to be objective. Pretend you are the buyer. Would you buy your house? If you are a person who can’t remember if you made the bed today, or your friends say to you ” I can’t believe what you did to your house,” (and not in a positive way) you definitely need professional help! (staging help, that is) NO 1. in a series of staging posts.
Posted by Kathleen Leavitt Interior Designer, a.k.a. Kathleen Cragun Part 1 of a series