Be The Expert: Storytelling

Homes are more than just wood and nails. They’re places where families grow, where memories are made, where milestones are celebrated. When a homeowner decides that it’s time to sell their property, they’re selling their memories and looking forward to creating new ones.

What I am often struck by is that when a property is listed, there is a lack of storytelling in a listing. Homeowners deserve more from their Realtor.

Having worked for a Multiple Listing Service, I’ve seen good and bad storytelling when looking at listings. While it’s easy to blame these shortcomings on the lower-valued, short sale, or bank owned properties, I really wanted to show how this issue is common across multiple dollar valuations.

On a $329,500 listed property:

“2 Master Suites. Great home in great shape at a great value. Lots of house for the money.”

This property is staged properly in the photos. They are of high quality and there is a lot of information contained in the listing, but these comments make me feel as if something is neglected. What story is this property telling you?

Mistakes aren’t limited by the listed value of a property. I noted this property, listed at 1.1 Million dollars.

“Must see – Large colonial home with ajoining foster care business all on 4.83 acres. Projected to be briught into urban grouth boundry (date not yet determined) A Masterpiece. 2 kitchens. Licence not transferable, buyer must obtain own licence, Do not diturbe owner, call agent”

Typos are a part of life. I make them often. However, the MLS provides a spell check. We should feel comfortable to use it. This really reflects poorly on an agent and on the industry. It’s the small things that make a big difference.

When I worked for the MLS, I found that most brokers didn’t know what the abbreviations in a listing meant, they can be somewhat hard to decipher, so I find it interesting when brokers use abbreviations in descriptions meant for the public:

“Charming,updtd & move in ready!Great flr pln, designer paint colors & updated fixtures thruout.Mstr ste w/walk-in closet.Lvl,fncd bckyrd w/patio.Awesome close-in location. All new in ’10: roof,h20 heater,granite in kit, kit sink & disposal.Gorgeous Lyptus hrdwds on main installed in ’07. Upper lvl carpet installed ’08.”

Finally, I wanted to leave you with a description that I thought was effective. It’s something that, if I was in the market for a home, would catch my attention and would give me, as the potential buyer, pause to check out the home:

“Cute, roomy 3 BR 1 Bath in a terrific neighborhood. Wood floors, lots of kitchen cabinets, energy efficient windows, fenced backyard that faces an alley, carport. Coffee shop, library, bookstore, hardware store, grocery and four parks all under one mile away. Bus #19 within a 1/10 mile.” (This property is listed at $140,000)

Part of the service we provide at Coldwell Banker is to make each of our clients’ homes a star property. This also means telling each story effectively, giving each client’s needs our proper attention, and going that extra step to ensure that our clients receive the best service possible.

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Seattle Bellevue Housing Up

Demand for Puget Sound Homes Increases

Recently I was contacted by KING 5 News regarding a story they had been ‘pitched’ from another real estate company. Apparently, this other company had sold 10 homes with multiple-offers recently, and felt that this was a sign that the market was definitely heating up. Was I surprised?

Wellll…no, not at all. Tracking the real-time consumer demand for homes has always been a pet focus of mine. It just seemed to me that when the dynamics of a neighborhood, town or regional market are shifting, being one of the first to figure out what’s happening provided my client, whether buyer or seller, with a substantial advantage. Negotiate hard, or maybe not at all? It all depends on what’s happening with demand.

That’s why I have spent years at CBBain spreading the ‘Gospel of Demand’.

KING5 reporter Natasha Ryan was patient enough to let me give her my standard 5 minute sermon on demand. “In Seattle, there are less than two single-family homes on the market for every home currently in escrow and waiting to close. This means the supply of homes for sale, especially in Seattle-Bellevue urban-core neighborhoods, is wickedly low”. I went on to tell her rents in these areas are also increasing, and rentals are becoming increasingly hard to find. In fact, a check of West Bellevue single family rentals in the NWMLS and on Craigslist in West Bellevue a few days ago yielded not a single home for rent under $4,000 a month. None. Nada.

Natasha seemed a little shocked…what does this mean?

I was almost afraid to say it…the “R” word. Recovery.

This down cycle has been so different from others, so difficult to gauge, that it probably has a lot of solid real estate professionals more than a little gun shy on making predictions. But the signs of recovery are here. In the last several weeks, my branch in Bellevue has participated in the sale of over 15 homes priced north of a million-dollars, many of them way north. I’m getting phone calls from buyers absolutely distraught because they were beat-out by another offer, asking what they can do to reverse the decision (they usually believe the solution is offering more money…ironic, as that would have gotten them the home in the first place, right?). It’s as though no one can believe that things in real estate could be improving.

But they are. Demand for homes is very strong in our Seattle-Bellevue urban core, the places where recovery usually begins. When a great home in these areas comes to market, the worst strategy is waiting for price reductions. It won’t last that long. (See the Real Estate Minute video).

So it’s time to admit it…we live in a desirable, highly attractive area on the West Coast. Demand is out-stripping supply. Things are changing.

And I believe. Demand never lies.



Don’t Compromise Yourself—It’s all you got

And yet—most real estate transactions are all about compromise.  The perfect house has yet to be built.  Buyers have their list of features. Then the savvy broker says—“tell me your top three”, not because they wouldn’t love to find all 20—but because it isn’t likely to happen.

The broker serves the buyer by helping to focus the search.

Likewise, sellers want and deserve to get the best deal for their property.  To do this they have to convert their home into a sale-able commodity, diminishing the personal, upping the neutral. Their brokers guide them from one calculated choice after another, balancing the expenses to sell with the potential sales price. A closed transaction most often represents compromise all around.

On the other hand, compromising your own integrity should be inviolable. The other day a broker came to me about a transaction in which the selling broker wanted some documentation about the property.  No problem with that, but this selling broker wanted to use the statement to minimize the buyer’s concerns, concerns which were justified. For that buyer to make an informed decision, they needed to do more investigation.

Do you provide the information, knowing it will be misused?  What responsibility does the listing broker have towards the buyer?  One thing is for sure, you don’t want to compromise your own integrity.  Don’t let yourself be manipulated into participating in a falsehood, whether it is withholding information from the buyer or the lender or any party to the transaction.  Making the deal can’t be at the expense of what’s right.

The Realtors’ Code of Ethics says we owe fair and honest dealings to all.

Start with yourself. Be fair. Be honest. No compromise.

CB Bain’s Bobbie Chipman and Virgil Wells receive top Realtor honors.

Annually, the Washington Association of REALTORS® recognizes Washington REALTORS®, affiliates, businesses and private citizens for outstanding contributions to the state’s real estate industry and the communities. This year’s awards were announced on April 14th, 2011 at the Association’s Spring Business Conference held at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington.

CB Bain's Virgil Wells Realtor of the yearTop awards were presented to Virgil Wells and Bobbie Chipman, both of the Tacoma/Puyallup offices of Coldwell Banker Bain. Virgil was recognized as the State’s outstanding REALTOR® among 15,000 real estate professionals, having contributed significantly over recent years to the Association and to the community. Bobbie, the recipient of the Eddy Award, was honored as the State’s top real estate educator.

Asked to comment, Bobbie said, “It was really unique that it happened to the same (local) Association (Tacoma), and then you look at (Coldwell Banker) Bain with all the past presidents… I think there is a tremendous theme there.”

The real estate professionals with the Tacoma/Puyallup office of Coldwell Banker Bain have a long history of dedicated service to the community and to their REALTOR® family. Six of the last fifteen local Association presidents have come from this Coldwell Banker team. In addition, six times the REALTOR® of the Year award has gone to Coldwell Banker brokers. Furthermore, the Coldwell Banker Bain brokers have served in countless Association offices and merited numerous special recognitions; evidence of their culture-of-service to the community and to their industry.

We are proud of these great leaders. Coldwell Banker is honored by their association!

Please see the brief video interview of Bobbie and Virgil.

Portland/Vancouver Metro on the rebound!

Fueled by the formation of nearly 16,000 new jobs in the first quarter of 2011, the Greater Portland-Vancouver residential housing market has bounced off the bottom and is on the mend. Portland Market rebound

Oregon Live: States saw uneven job growth last month, but Oregon was near the top

While we are not totally out of the woods in the Portland/Vancouver metro the first quarter job growth results are the best in several years.

This is even better news on top of the significant job growth in 2010 – nearly 27,000 new jobs

Oregon Live: Oregon post third straight moth of job growth

Together job growth has been positive in 13 of the last 15 months, including the last 6 months. Job growth always leads to improvements in the housing sector.  New jobs as well as the more than 50,000 births in 2010 drive and support lifestyle changes….and lifestyle changes are the main driving force for buying and selling homes.