Archive for April, 2010

Selling St. Augustine Homes: Real Estate & Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare

Friday, April 30th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan of ours on Facebook.

Ramsey, a kindred spirit.

Ramsay, a kindred spirit.

Last night I stumbled across “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare” while channel surfing.  Basically Ramsay is chef who takes over a failing restaurant and tries to get it running right.

Ramsay is incredibly profane.  He drops F-bombs with the passion of a hockey coach.  He has no problem telling a restaurant owner and chef that their food is “f*-ing crap” and that the restaurant’s atmosphere is worse than a sleazy “f*-ing strip club.”  He yells, he screams, he belittles, he berates.

Early in the episode Ramsay discovers that the restaurant isn’t preparing anything from scratch.  In the kitchen the chef was preparing food ahead of time from a mix, then reheating it in a microwave.  Meanwhile, the owner was doing a sound check with an acoustic guitarist in the seating area.  It was lunch.  The restaurant was empty.  They were losing $1000 a day in overhead, and the food was awful.  

Ramsay gets the owner and chef in the kitchen and starts blasting them like a battleship.  One thing he said struck me like a lightning bolt.  I’m paraphrasing here:

“You f*-ing morons are falling apart at the f*-ing seams.  No one wants your food. You aren’t selling f*-ing anything and you wrap yourself in this bubble and keep telling yourself everything is alright!”

And I think to myself, “Omigosh that is so real estate.”

We deal with sellers all the time…thank goodness most of them don’t list with us…that are wrapped in that bubble of self delusion about the market.  Some property is very black-and-white on price, some isn’t, but everything falls into a range.  And then you get a seller who wants to list for $50,000 or more above any rational threshold, and you think to yourself, “What planet are these people on?”

Home sales are simply a function of supply and demand, with a caveat for available credit.  There are 2200 homes on the market, only 1000 of them may sell.  If the price goes down on the other 1200 the demand might increase enough to generate 1200 more sales.  But, “my house is worth more than that.” 

I had a Ramsay moment (or two) when I lost it with an irrational seller.  Once, in response to the question of “Why isn’t my house selling?” I replied:

“Because you don’t clean up the dogsh*t on the floor John!  I’ve been telling you for weeks to clean the house. John, the last person who saw it threatened to call the health department, John.  Clean up the freaking house!”

I eventually paid to clean the house, but it was too little too late and it eventually went to foreclosure.

I’ve even threatened to quit. When a seller wanted to counter a very good offer on a very tough to sell home two years ago I told her I wouldn’t present it.  I told her I was going to give back the listing and she could find another Realtor to present it, but I wouldn’t do it.  Because it was a b*llshit counter on a good offer in the worst market in history and I would not go down that road.  So after hanging up on me she called back, apologized and took the offer.  And a good thing she did, because the market turned even worse after.   

I saved that one but for every one I do save it seems like I have another one that fails, like I had with John, above.

The last one involved, you guessed it, a very good (actually above market) offer on a very hard to sell property.  I thought the sellers were rational until they countered at a very irrational price and terms.  They seemed normal up until that point.  I had educated them every week on selling prices and market conditions…they knew as much as I did.  But they stuck on that hard counter thinking the buyer was going to budge, but the buyer just walked away.  So after a few days the sellers came back with a better, but not great counter offer.  But at this point the buyers wouldn’t even respond.  I assume they had a choice #2 and bought that instead.

So, Ramsay, you got kindred spirits in real estate.  Maybe not as profane, but a kindred spirit nonetheless.

Homes for Sale in St. Augustine: Top 10 Reasons Bank of America/SunTrust Loan Packages are Late

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan of ours on Facebook.

In two of my recent closings Bank of America and SunTrust (or as we colloquially refer to them at the office, BOA and S*ckTrust) were somewhat cavalier about the closing dates.  Closing dates were extended multiple times and left both sellers and buyers disappointed: moving dates were disrupted, utility services changed and changed again, days were taken off work to close…and then no closing.

In S*ckTrust’s case we extended the original close date three weeks taking us to the 67 day mark from when the original offer was signed.  And they still blew it, triggering the new RESPA 3-day wait becuase their closing costs exceeded the threshold they promised at application.  Since it was supposed to close on a Friday,the three business day wait took us to the following Wednesday.

For Bank of America we gave them a short window to close, so length was not the issue…my sellers were prepared to go longer.  But, BOA’s communication was poor, never giving any indication when their loan package would show up.  Two days before our third closing date (and right after the second came and went) we e-mailed to check on its status. “I’ll be out of the office today,” was the reply.  Frankly, this automated vacation response was the only timely feedback we ever got from BOA during the process.  

But the BOA package did show up before the fourth closing date, at 4:15 on a Friday afternoon.  Guess what, everyone had to come back Monday because the money wouldn’t transfer after close of business on Friday. 

So here are the Top 10 Reasons BOA and S*uckTrust miss closing dates:

10. Bank management out at airport ogling CitiBank’s new lear jet.

9. Underwriting department took off early for Jessica Simpson concert.

8. “Casual Friday” extends to work ethic on loan packages.

7. Workers too busy shoveling short sale offers into incinerator to work on loan packages.

6. Todd, the janitor, unplugged the fax machine.

5. Staff too busy following Tiger Woods saga on TMZ online.

4. Management worried that timely loan packages will hurt “ailing bank image.”

3. Executives too busy in Washington lobbying against Wall Street reform.

2. Loan money spent on TV commercials for NBA playoffs.

And finally, the number one reason…

1. Bank servers tied up while executives try to calculate 8-figure bonuses.

St. Augustine Homes for Sale: $8000 Tax Credit Extended to Active Military Overseas

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan of ours on Facebook.

Think the tax credit is done? Not so fast!

U.S. military personnel who are out of the country for 90 days (since 2008) may have an extra year to get the tax credit, up to $8,000, for buying a home. The active-duty rule is not new. It’s part of the current tax credit law, though its use is limited. The qualification must be for “official extended duty outside the United States for at least 90 days after 2008 and before May 1, 2010.” Should that be the case, the homebuyer has an extra year to buy a home. He or she has until April 30, 2011, to secure a binding contract, and until June 30, 2011 to close on the home. Other conditions such as a maximum $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for move-up buyers still apply.”

Selling Homes in St. Augustine: SHORT SALE DELAY SECRETS EXPOSED!

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

by Staff of St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan of ours on Facebook.


We just received this photo of the man who is handling EVERY SHORT SALE IN AMERICA.  In an effort to save money the banks have hired one man to handle all their short sale transactions.  This accounts for the sometime months-long delay for answers, the amazingly inconsistent practices, and the feeling that there really is no one in charge at these short sale departments. 

Charles, Your Short Sale Specialist

Charles, Your Short Sale Specialist

“Sometimes, dude, I can get like, 3 or 4 short sales a day,” said Charles, Everyone’s Short Sale Specialist. But you know, like, I can’t find any Doritos, I mean phone numbers to call people.  Like it’s stressful. The bong helps mellow me out. Where are those Doritos again?”

Charles was born in America and is not an illegal immigrant.  This makes him attractive to many big banks.

“We applaud Charles and the hard work he does,” Funkel Willingham III, CEO of Too Big Too Fail Bank said.  “Now where’s my bonus? ING got their bonuses this week.  I want my bonus!”

Willingham went on to quash a rumor that Charles was a former Enron executive.

“I worked at Enron and Bear Sterns and I am sure I never saw Charles anywhere.” Willingham said.

First Time Buyer in St. Augustine: A Few Extra Expenses You Should Know About

Monday, April 19th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan of ours on Facebook.

I just did a post on my personal site for Home Expenses that First Time Buyers Aren’t Aware of.  I hope you enjoy it!

Selling St. Augustine Homes: New Short Sale Regs Will Make it Easier?

Friday, April 16th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan on Facebook.

Short sales might get easier starting this month. 

A new federal program , called HAFA, is for loans not guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  If it works correctly, it will allow the home owner to have pre-approved short sale terms prior to listing. 

To qualify the home must be the owner’s primary property (with a loan date before January 1, 2009), the mortgage must be delinquent or default is “reasonably forseeable,” the current unpaid balance is less than $729,751, and the owner’s monthly payment exceeds 31% of gross income.

Will this actually work?   Will the short sale terms be in line with the market?  We shall see…

St. Augustine Home Selling: Does Paint Color Really Matter?

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan on Facebook.

After getting some customer feedback on some homes we had this week, I did a post on my personal site on “Will the Color of Paint Really Kill the Sale of a Home?”

I hope you enjoy the post!

Selling St. Augustine Homes: Listing Special for Teachers, School Employees

Monday, April 12th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan on Facebook.

If Governor Crist won’t do it, then we’ll veto Senate Bill 6.

During the month of April, St. Augustine Team Realty is offering educators and school employees discounted commission rates of 4.5% on our Gold Premium listing package.

St. Johns County has some of the best public schools in the state.  Yet these past two weeks the state legislature has decided to downgrade the way our teachers are paid, and this is after budget cuts at all levels of education.

So we decided we were in a position to do something positive about it by putting money back into the pockets of the people affected. On the average sale this will save someone $3000.  While it does cost us money in the short term, it helps us in the long term by keeping and helping the people who teach our kids.

Get the details at on the Special Deals page.

Buying Homes in St. Augustine: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint this Weekend

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become our fan on Facebook.

This weekend the Realtors in Florida are having a statewide open house, which we are participating in also.

However, if the idea of driving around burning gasoline (which has mysteriously crept back up to near $3 a gallon) doesn’t turn you on, we’ve got a better idea.  We call it our “Inner House,” because you get to stay “In-(y)er-house” to do it.

It’s pretty simple.  Every home we have for sale has a virtual tour, which is essentially a tour of a home through images highlighting its features.  You can do the Inner House by going to our Featured Listings or Epic Listings page, click on a photo of the home you want more information on, and then click the photo on that page for the virtual tour (it’s always in the top right corner).

Best of all the Inner House is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  So if you wanted to spend your hard earned gas money on a trip to the beach instead of Suburbia, you can still view homes even after all the conventional open houses are closed. 

Now, if the computer bums you out, or you’re just the touchy feely type you can visit two of our wonderful open homes in person this weekend (call the agent below to verify times):

lowerviewSuzie Hancock (904-521-2603) will be holding 825 Anastasia C-16 open.  What a location near Lighthouse park…just minutes to the beaches and with a view of the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse!  This 3 bedroom townhome is in great condition, & includes a one-car garage, computer area, and all appliances. There is a screened porch and upstairs balcony.   

Sondra Sparapani (904-209-8320) will be holding Summerhouse Unit 320 (8550 A1A South) open. The ocean views from every room of this townhome condo in St. Augustine’s Crescent Beach will leave your friends and family impressed! Relax on the balcony or just enjoy the spacious living areas, tastefully decorated and fully furnished inside with bonus views of the Intracoastal from the kitchen. Outside enjoy the 25 acre grounds with easy beach access, plenty of green space for kids to run, and four heated pools. That image to the left is a photo of the ocean view taken from the lower level of Summerhouse 320.

We also have a map link to all of our St. Augustine area properties on the same page that the virtual tour is on.  So if you’re not sure where to go just click on the link.  And enjoy!

Selling St. Augustine Homes for Sale: Blasting the Realtor for Missed Showings

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Become a fan on Facebook.

It’s been a crazy week in St. Augustine Realtor World and it’s just Wednesday.

I got all hot and fired up to write a post blasting a Realtors for missing a showing appointment.  This is the “behind the curtain” part of real estate the average consumer never gets to see.  And in truth Realtors rarely, if ever, blast another Realtor for anything but the most boorish behavior.  The reason is that we all need to be in each others’ good graces because that person might have a buyer for one of our properties some day.  This social element is the oil that makes the real estate machine run.

But, sometimes you have to blast the mentally challenged Realtors anyway. Some of the nutso stuff I’ve already seen this week:

A Realtor calls me to make a showing appointment for a condo we have listed, but that is tenant-occupied by short-term renters for Easter week.  I say it can’t be shown this week because of the renters.  The Realtor calls my partner(not me, the actual listing agent), leaves a four-minute, detailed message appealing to her about how she needs to see the property, how these people are set on buying in St. Augustine and moving to St. Augustine and that “this is the only condo that her buyers want to see and the only one they are thinking of buying.” 

So Monday morning, the day after Easter, we call her in the morning and get a time that these buyers could see the unit if we can possibly arrange it.  Then we call the owner at work.  He calls the property manager for the condo.  The property manager tries all morning to get in touch with the tenants and finally arranges it.  The owner prepares to get a $50 gift card for inconveniencing the tenant for the showing period.  We call the other Realtor back to tell the buyers, “yes, they can see this condo, the one that all their hopes and dreams rest on.”

My partner who was helping me coordinate the showing texts me back: “Crazy Realtor – the people who HAD to see this unit tomorrow now no longer want to look at it :) Awesome.”   

So after all this effort on a busy Monday, calling the owner who was at work, bothering a property manager who has better things to do, disturbing renters who were trying to get a restful vacation, and all this after being told that very morning that yes, these buyers NEEDED to see THAT particular unit…the Realtor’s gives us  a very terse “no we don’t want to see it now.” 

You know, if that happens and you inconvenience that many people, you just go ahead and show the unit anyway.  Even if the customers changed their mind at the last second, you make a special trip, if need be by yourself.  My partner summed it up this way: “Friggin’ headcase Realtor.”

This week I’ve also had three “my key is broken” Realtors.

When you’re a Realtor you typically have an electronic key that opens lockboxes.  These electronic keys cost about $200 a year (if you’re brand new there’s an extra $300 one-time start up/initiation fee). 

The keys aren’t mandatory for membership.  But if you were a carpenter, wouldn’t you have a hammer?  If you were a bricklayer, wouldn’t you have a trowel?  A working electronic lockbox key is a tool the Realtor just needs to have.

Now, my partner had a broken key she exchanged it at the board office in 15 minutes.  So it’s more likely a case of these Realtors not having keys.

Hence I’ve been getting the “key is broken” or “my key isn’t working” call. 

In some circumstances, if you’re just getting into the business again and funds are low, for example, I can understand not having a key until you make your first sale.  Or, if you are a property manager and maybe you only do one sale a year, I can maybe even see that.

But if you don’t have a key you have to accommodate me as well.  Yesterday a Realtor called at 8:30 in the morning and got huffy with me because I couldn’t arrange a key for him on a property that already had lockboxes. 

In some cases where we have properties that out-of-area agents are likely to show we will place a lockbox on the property that is keyed to their specific board.  Or we will place a “generic” non-electronic lockbox on the property.  But we have to be really comfortable with the property or the Realtor when we give a generic code…because we have no way of seeing when a person views the property.  And we have to change to codes frequently. 

In this case of the Dude Without the Lockbox Key, we still may have figured out a way to get him a key.  But he mentioned he was looking at other units in price ranges all over the map, which means the buyers were new to the market and probably not qualified.  Buyers that are qualified tend to stay in single price range or a single unit “type” or single community.  Dude Without a Lockbox Key was essentially playing tour guide by spending his day driving around tourists.  And he wanted us to facilitate this when we had paying customers that needed the time more.   

The idea for this whole post started with me getting a call early Saturday morning from a Realtor who wanted to wanted show one of my properties that afternoon.  I set it up with the seller and it was no problem.  But it became a problem when the Realtor never showed up.  So I called the Realtor and left a message asking, you know, are you still intending to take a look at it?  I get no reply, so I call the seller back and apologize.  And I’m not mad so much as, “WTF…these are professionals, right?”  Because this already happened a week earlier…in that case the Realtor go backed up and did call to cancel, but an hour-and-a-half after missing the appointment. 

But after back-checking the electronic lockbox I saw that the Realtor did indeed show up, and during the appointment window that she asked for.  Did she go in the house?  Why didn’t she call me back when she did show up?  I don’t know.

Sometimes you’ll pull up to a house and the buyer will know right away that it’s not the house.  “Let’s not even waste the time of going in,” they will say.  And if you think it’s vacant, you won’t.  So I’m thinking that the other Realtor didn’t know the seller was home that day, or didn’t realize the home wasn’t vacant.  Or the seller stepped out and didn’t realize the Realtor came in.   In any case we both got fired up for no reason.

But it was a good way to show you what goes on behind the curtain in the Realtor Land of Oz.