Archive for July, 2014

My Agent Is Out Of Town And I Need To See A House: What To Do?

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

What happens when your agent goes out of town and you need to see a house? What is your plan B (or even plan C)?

My partner Sean Hess and I walk you through it in the short video below:

The million dollar question is: “What if I love the house and I want to write an offer?”

Well, if your agent’s backup really isn’t available you could contact your agent’s broker to do it. Failing that, the listing agent could write the offer as well, but you must insist that your agent’s name is on the offer as your agent (not the listing agent).


Well, in Realtor circles, writing an offer for someone else’s customer and then inserting your own name is almost unforgivable. That shouldn’t concern you, however, because that’s between Realtors.

What should concern you is this: If this agent has no problem screwing another Realtor (in an industry built on relationships and networking), they will have no problem screwing you, knowing they will never see you again.

That’s our two cents.

Thanks for watching!

Want a real estate agent who can help you get into that special property? You can contact me at the email above, or email my partner Kate Stevens. We can help!

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How Fast Can I Buy A House? How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?

Monday, July 28th, 2014

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

So you need to close fast? Lightning can't help but your Realtor can...

So you need to close fast? Lightning can't help but your Realtor can...

If you just flew in from Mars and needed to buy a home yesterday, how quickly can be done? Here it is: The whole home buying process in a nutshell…

If you’re paying cash you can buy a house and be moving in a week or just under, though it does depend on how comfortable the title company or closing attorney is preparing the title insurance that quickly. They might need a few days to do lien research just to make sure the title to the property is sound. If the sellers of the property you want to buy have a mortgage, it might also take a few days to get official word from their lender on how much they actually owe, what the actual payoff is, and where to send it.

There is also the most obvious thing: how fast the sellers can move out? If the sellers currently live in the home they may not be able to get out in a week.

Quick Tip: If you really need a place fast, find one that is already vacant, and if possible, one that is owned outright by the sellers (no mortgage to pay off so faster turn time).

What about a “quit claim” title, where a home is signed over without any warranties given? Can’t you do that?

Most closing agencies won’t do a closing where a title is “quit claimed” between a buyer and seller that don’t know each other (as opposed to a husband quit-claiming a title to his wife, or someone quit-claiming a home to a relative).


Because there is simply too much liability. The closing company may insist on a title search and insurance, and it shouldn’t take more than a few days anyway. If it does take longer than a few days something funky might have showed up (and aren’t you glad they insisted on checking?).

Now, if you need a loan to buy a home then “fast” might mean 45 to 60 days. I’ve seen some closings make it in under 40 days this year, but the buyers already had their paperwork in and made their loan application before they made an offer on the house. Even in these cases a lot of things had to go right.

Sooo … to get a loan and a house fast right off the bat you need a good Realtor and a good lender.

The lender is the first step because you need to know how much money you can spend on a house.

You’ll need pay stubs, the last two years tax returns, the last two or three months bank statements, etc., so start gathering those up if that’s what you are planning. There may be a nominal application fee that just covers checking your credit, and when you actually go to make application it will be approximately $400-500, to cover the cost of an appraisal.

You may be in the enviable position of being able to afford more than you’re comfortable with. If you have a monthly payment in mind, tell the lender and stick to your guns. See what that monthly payment will buy before you decide to go higher, which leads us to…

If your credit score is bad, you’ll need a higher down payment (10% on a FHA loan), possibly more on a conventional loan, if you can get a loan at all. If you’re buying a condo you might need to put 20% or more down regardless of credit. For a home in otherwise good condition (not a fixer upper) you can a down payment as low as 3.5% with FHA.

Once you get the number on what you can afford, a Realtor will help you identify properties right away. As soon as you decide on one they will help you make an offer on it.

If you want to absolutely get the home NOW offer full price and don’t dicker … nearly every seller in the world will accept full price.

The negotiations to go quickly at full price (duh), and, since you’re offering full price you should be able to get any and all of the minor details to your advantage.

You will put down an earnest money deposit (also called a “binder” or “good faith deposit”) of a few thousand dollars to be held in escrow until closing … the amount of the binder is outlined in your offer. The higher the binder, the more likely you will get a “yes.” Think around 3% as the binder. This binder money is applied towards the purchase price at closing.

When the offer is accepted you need to get a copy of your contract back to your lender so they know what they are lending on. The bank will schedule an appraisal and they will check your income, job status, etc., right up to the day of closing (so don’t make any big purchase or apply for credit until after you close on your new house).

There will be more paperwork and hoops to jumps through as the loan process winds its way to conclusion.

While the bank is doing its thing, you will be attending home inspections to learn everything you can about the home you are buying. Find something unexpected or simply get cold feet buying so fast? You should be able to back out as long as you do it by the deadline specified in the contract.

After inspections there will be a few weeks of dead time while the bank goes through its underwriting. The appraisal will be done during this period as well.

If the home appraises at or above the agreed price, all things remaining equal, the loan paperwork, yourself, and the sellers go to closing. Make sure you bring your down payment (the binder should already be there). In the process of an hour or so you sign a bunch of paperwork (the seller does too), the money from the lender shows up, and you have just bought yourself a house.


Want a real estate agent who understands when you need to move fast? You can contact me at the email above, or email my partner Kate Stevens. We can help!

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Let Anyone on Facebook Know the Details When You’re Buying a House!

Monday, July 14th, 2014

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

Dont Post Details

In 2010, Microsoft employee and blogger M3 Sweatt, (Chief of Staff of the Windows Core Operating System Division (COSD), according to his about page at the time) took a lighthearted approach to warning people not to divulge secrets on social.

When you are shopping for a home it is okay to tell everyone that you are looking.

But don’t go out and breathlessly tell the world via social media how much money you have and how high you will go. And once you do get a deal in place don’t instagram pictures of the home or pin images of the contract.

Sharing the details on an open forum is a bad idea. It’s a small world out there and one of your friends with might have a connection with the other party.

Let’s you’re a buyer and you just made an offer…

A Realtor might take your name and try to find you on facebook. If they see you posting about the offer they may be able to use the information to get a better price for their seller.

Think I’m nuts? I’ve heard of real estate agents doing this as far back as 2010 (when I first wrote about it). Heck, what’s stopping a seller from attempting the same thing?

Think about it, how many times do you see what your friends are liking in real time on facebook. Heck, I have so many friends on FB that are real estate agents I may just be able to find out the details of deals that way (though I wouldn’t do it).

There are even people who set up fake friend pages (with the name of someone you know), just so they can get access to what you are posting.

“Lose lips sink ships” they used to say.

I wouldn’t even brag after a sale. Bury that fact that you would have paid more, then bury the shovel.

And if you still have a home to sell make sure no one knows you’ve moved.

When I bought my new home I never announced it. I didn’t want anyone to know that my old house was sitting there empty and make it a target for thieves.

When it finally went on the market, I put it all over the place on social media but never identified it as my own home.*

It wasn’t until after I closed on it that I released pictures of it to say goodbye, and some real estate themed videos on how I sold it.

*Legally a broker or real estate licensee has to divulge when they are the owner of the home, so the proper disclaimers were there when and where they had to be.

Want a Broker who truly understands social media? You can contact me at the email above, or email my partner Kate Stevens. We can help!

Image originally featured on the blog post:

Loose lips sink ships

By Kip Kniskern | Posted July 26, 2010

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How Critical Is Pricing When It Comes to Selling Your Home?

Monday, July 14th, 2014

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

How critical is pricing when it comes to selling your home? It’s the most critical thing you can do.

My partner and Broker Associate Kate Stevens go over it with you in the video below.

Want a Broker who truly understands how to price a home? You can contact me at the email above, or email Kate Stevens. We can help you get this done!

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Sweating Out The Appraisal, The Home Inspection, And What To Do When Your Neighbor Parks A Rogue Motorhome Next Door

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Sean Hess (, Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty ( Join us on Facebook.

What To Do When A Neighbor Parks a Motorhome Next Door

What To Do When A Neighbor Parks a Motorhome Next Door

As a real estate broker I am used to the appraisal and home inspection process, and normally I have a detached perspective on it.

On appraisals what I usually worry about is, “How are we going to handle this if it doesn’t appraise? What solutions do we have going forward? Will there be a way to keep the buyer and seller together?”

With home inspections it’s similar, “What do we do if the roof is bad and the seller doesn’t have the funds available to fix it?”

But then I went through the appraisal and inspections for my own house and it made me a nervous wreck. Maybe it’s because I knew of all the things that could go wrong but I was a living, breathing stressball in the days before and after.

The Septic Inspection

I wasn’t too worried about the home inspection, per se. I replaced the roof earlier in the year, added a new dishwasher and water heater, re-did the ceilings and painted the home both inside and out. I even added some new carpet. The a/c broke when we were moving out so I had that fixed and cleaned up as well.

I’d replaced some lights, all of the door knobs, and every burner on the stove. Even the washer and dryer and all the faucets weren’t older than a year. There pretty much wasn’t anything left to break down except maybe the refrigerator.

What had me in a twist was the septic tank inspection.

I’ll be starting my 14th year in the real estate business this summer and I have attended several septic tank inspections. If that ain’t a reason to get into real estate I don’t know what is.

Anyway, a septic inspection is where the septic guy sits there in front of an open septic tank as he pumps it out and observes it. As I sat there next to him I had no idea what he was looking for, or what constituted a good or bad inspection. Since I had no idea what the inspector was looking for, I had no idea how to prepare for it.

I mean, it was working for me while I was living there. That’s good enough, right?

The inspection turned out just fine. And the worrying just kind of ruined the day for no good reason.

Get An Inspection When You Sell

If you want to spare yourself some stress, pay to have an inspector come out for yourself. If anything shows up broken in the “major” category you can have it taken care of, and improve your net by selling the fix as something “new.”

Getting back to the roof replacement I did earlier, I discovered the roof needed replaced while painting the exterior. I noticed the shingle over done ten years earlier was holding wetness between the shingles and against some of the decking. So I ended up putting a lot of new decking on when I replaced the roof.

Had that happened while we were under contract it would have come as a major shock, and it might have scared the buyer.  But putting the home on the market with a new roof and wood repair already done made the house easier to market (and for a higher price, too).

I actually planned to have an inspection to catch any last “gotchas,” but the house went under contract too fast. Nothing showed up on the inspections anyway, so all’s well that ends better.

Sweating Out the Appraisal

I had my house listed at $179,900 and it sold for $172,500. The offer came in 9 hours after it hit the market.

As a broker I saw all the local comparable sales for other area homes before I put my own on the market. For example, I saw several St. Augustine Shores homes built in the 70′s on smaller lots list in the $170s and sell in the $160s. So I knew $179,900 was a good price for my own home built in the 1980s and nearby.

The trouble was, the house immediately next door sold for $141,000 a month before I put mine on the market.

So I was super worried. Was the appraiser going to look for homes just like mine, nearby but not necessarily right next door? Or was the appraiser going to look at the home right next door simply because it was right next door?

Here’s what I knew that an appraiser might not know: The house next door had been tenant occupied for nearly 10 years. The last tenant took good care of the place but he certainly didn’t put any money into it … nobody had in the last decade. The house was built with an obsolete floor plan (the floor plan didn’t become obsolete over time, it was actually built that way … with a very small kitchen and a master bedroom that opened directly to the living room and adjacent to the television). The roof was bad. There were only a few trees. The back yard had an “Elephant’s Grave” style septic tank.  But that kind of stuff doesn’t show up on sales records.

It’s not that I’m saying that the other house was a negative, but using it as a comp wouldn’t be an apples to apples comparison. I was a little concerned its sale price would drag mine down if it was used.

So what I did do was put every major improvement (and the year it was completed) listed in the marketing and in the MLS. That way the appraiser could see in black and white how the home had been improved compared to any other home it was being compared against, and the appraiser could verify things with their own eyes,.

No news is good news on appraisals. If things go south you usually find out in a few days.

After three or four days I started to relax. I still have no idea what it actually appraised for … at the closing I never looked.

The Rogue Motorhome

The day before I put my house on the market I was in one of the bedrooms doing some final touch up work. I looked out the window and the guy who moved into the house next door (thirty days earlier) was parking his 100-foot long motorhome in the side yard next to my house.

“You have got to be f*cking kidding…” I said to myself, incredulous.

I was a little upset. I was literally ready to run outside screaming.

And then I chilled.

First of all, I’d talked to my new neighbor a few times and he was super nice. He had the RV parked on the other side of the house for the first month, and maybe he was just moving it from side to side to keep the yard in better shape.

Secondly, the motorhome looked brand new, and it’s brown and gold scheme really meshed well with the trees on my side of the property line. And this is going to sound crazy, and this is not a knock on my neighbor’s judgement, but the motorhome looked a hell of a lot nicer than the house he just bought. Seriously.

And it was better that it happened right then, right before I put my home on the market.


If a buyer bought my house and all of a sudden a motorhome the size of Jupiter showed up, the buyer might have freaked. With it happening before the house hit the market I certainly freaked, but any buyer viewing the home would know about the RV up front, and it could either be an issue or a non-issue right then.

Obviously, with the winning offer coming in just 9 hours it wasn’t an issue at all.

And This Is The Reason Why They Have Homeowner Associations

I am now a member of a Homeowners Association (HOA).

Since I’m in the real estate business I am aware of how some HOAs can be poorly run or overly intrusive.

But HOAs keep the guy next door from parking his RV 20 feet from your bedroom window. There’s something to be said for that.

When you sell your house, call us. We’ll sweat the appraisals and inspections so you don’t have to: Click Here to Hire St. Augustine Team Realty! Or just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).

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