What are the signs of a good agent??

A good agent* should be:

1.       Up-to-speed with loans:  knowledgeable of the constantly changing lending criteria you will face as a buyer, so everyone, including you, can be assured of what you can actually afford before wasting time.  I do NOT recommend using a loan broker as your transaction agent as a good transaction requires a totally different skill set than a good mortgage broker skill set.

2.       Empathetic:  “hearing” your real needs and capacities, not just listening to what you say, but asking correct and in-depth questions to figure those needs and capacities out with you.

3.       Industry smart: Knows how to find all the properties that would be of interest to you (ie:  with 83 MLSs in California, not all properties are listed where you’d expect them).  Don’t hesitate to ask him/her directly how he/she would help you find the best property for you.

4.       Your Champion:  Advocates for YOUR interests at every step of your purchase, including the searches, the (multiple) offers, the escrow (ie: absolute focus on getting the best deal for you).  Don’t hesitate to ask him/her how he/she represents the client’s best interests.  If he/she understands and focuses on that, you will get answers, not just a blank stare.

5.       Honest and property smart:  Fully discloses ALL property issues even those possibly not disclosed by the seller.  Ask what disclosures are usually included in the transaction.

6.       Experienced:  has done many successful transactions (don’t hesitate to ask how many deals done in the last year or two) so you will be sure to not be “on job training” for the agent.  Don’t hesitate to ask for buyer referrals.  A good representative will have buyers wanting to talk to others about their positive experience.   A bad agent will be full of excuses, like confidentiality…

7.       Has a good team:  knows and has a good and reliable team of experts available – mortgage broker, pest inspector, home inspector, escrow officer, etc.  This team can make or break your deal.  Don’t hesitate to ask the agent how much inspections cost, how often they have ordered inspections, and/or why they feel that a particular inspector is good, or why they selected that “team” member over another person.

8.       Is an excellent negotiator:  knows every aspect of a deal in order to capitalize on every opportunity for your benefit.  (ie:  typically a good agent should be able to save the buyer money even during escrow negotiations).  Don’t hesitate to ask the agent how he/she handles negotiations, how he/she feels about making multiple offers at the same time, how the escrow works.

9.       Has solid backup:  no one person can be constantly available.  However, as a buyer, you don’t want to be left in a lurch when your agent is unavailable.  Don’t hesitate to ask who will help you if the agent can’t.  Most agents do NOT have a backup, which is one of my major complaints with the standard industry business structure.  I think an independent broker is more likely to have a secretary or admin or another agent that can back him/her up as necessary.

How to find a good representative:  I strongly urge you to interview several independent BROKERS (franchise brokers are not usually actively representing clients).   Ask them about their experience representing buyers, and other questions stemming from and included in the attributes above.

In California, agents have only a “saleperson” license, and cannot practice real estate without being hired by a broker.  A broker’s license is much more rigorous, demands more experience, more in-depth knowledge, and is the license that gets sued if things go wrong.  It is much more likely you’ll get far better representation from an active broker, than just a salesperson.

*  A “realtor” is just a licensee that pays annual fees to the California Association of Realtors.


“For Sale By Owner” Efforts Prove Disappointing

“For Sale By Owner” Efforts Prove Disappointing
By CJ Holmes

Almost everyone who plans to sell their home wants the transaction to be as profitable as possible. That’s why there is often serious consideration about whether or not to use the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) approach. After all, the thinking goes, why pay a broker fee when you can sell the house yourself? It’s a simple way to keep as much of the profit as possible.  Right?

Wrong.  A high percentage of FSBO are not profitable transactions. To be specific, more than 95% of FSBO fail to deliver a successful outcome for the sellers.  What this means is that FSBO do not reap the rewards that sellers believed were possible.  Experts say that’s because the results of every real estate transaction depend upon a variety of factors that most sellers are not experienced with. These include knowledge about the buyer’s market, pricing strategies, loan qualifications, negotiations and much more.

At CJ Holmes & Company we encourage clients who are considering the FSBO ‘do-it-yourself’ route to ask themselves the following questions before they make a decision. Because our goal is to make their transactions as profitable as possible we also offer them insights. These perspectives are based upon our years of real estate experience in working with hundreds of clients to help them make the best choices possible for themselves.

  • Do you understand your home’s target buyer market?

Most owners do not really know which buyers to target or how to target them. As a consequence, they waste time, effort, and money marketing incorrectly with poor results.

  • Are you aware of your property’s down-side to potential buyers?

Many owners are not aware of what may cause buyers to walk away. Uninterested buyers will not tell the truth, and interested buyers will be angling for price concessions.

  • Do you understand pricing strategies?

Selling a home for maximum profits requires an intimate understanding of the current real estate market. Priced too high, the property will be ignored. If the price is too low the owners will leave  money on the table; most likely more than the real estate agent commissions they were trying to save.

  • Do you fully appreciate the effort and risks in dealing directly with the public?

The schedule for showing a property is random. It is often precipitated by an unexpected phone call or drop-in at the buyer’s convenience. And showings do not happen unless the owners are  available.

With these random showings to random buyers comes concern about the legitimacy.  Anyone can claim to be a would-be buyer in order to gain entry to the home; their intentions can range from criminal to merely satisfying their curiosity about the way the home is decorated or what possessions the owner has.

  • Can you qualify a potential buyer?

The real estate transaction can languish weeks in escrow with property taken off the market before the owners discover that buyers, for a variety of reasons, were not able to fulfill their end of the deal.

  • Are you prepared to handle the purchase negotiations?

Often FSBO’s are targets of “low-ballers” who are seeking price concessions. It is human nature for buyers to be suspicious if the owners begin to praise their own property, or anxiously try to sell it. Buyers may conclude there is something wrong with the property, the neighborhood, or attempt to find things wrong in order to secure the property at a lower price. The owners must then struggle to overcome buyer objections and keep their intended profit.

  • Are you prepared to handle the all the legal paperwork, disclosures, and liability of not doing it correctly?

Most owners are totally unprepared for the massive amount of legal paperwork required by California State Law. Contrary to popular belief, escrow companies do not formulate real estate contracts nor take liability for required disclosures. In fact, in California, the seller, not the escrow company, is liable. Escrow companies only take directions regarding their deal from the parties involved. Owners who are not familiar with contracts, disclosures and financing instruments may find themselves unable to properly take care of this phase of the transaction.

CJ Holmes & Company knows what it takes to successfully and, as profitably as possible, complete each and every real estate transaction with which we are involved. We handle all of the details in a manner that is cost-effective for our sellers.

We know that FSBOs are filled with risks and inconveniences that could cost sellers far more than they are prepared to pay. In fact, this is what makes most FSBOs a disappointing experience.

CJ Holmes, owner/broker, has been investing in real property since 1977.  Starting with a fixer home, she and her husband have built a portfolio of income-producing property.  Licensed in 1998 to facilitate the constant search for investment property, CJ began Agent Representation for Buyers and Sellers in 2003.  In March 2005, she earned her Broker’s License and now brings her real estate investment expertise, experience, and energy to every client.

Real Estate Insider Secret #1

Real Estate Insider Secret #1
“The Multiple Listing Service: Not just One, But MANY”
By CJ Holmes, California Real Estate Broker

The belief that there is only one Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is one of this country’s biggest real estate myths.  There are actually 83 MLSs in California and dozens more in every state.  Very few people outside the industry know this and most agents don’t want their clients to know about it.  Why?  Because then they would lose their clients to another agent who won’t keep the secret because of commitment to providing better representation. Such representation (or its lack) underscores how ethical and successful an agent is.

The “Multiple Listing Service” is a computerized database of properties listed for sale to which only agents and brokers have access. It is designed to allow them to see all the properties for sale so they may help their buyers purchase any property, no matter who listed it.

The idea of an MLS sounds great, doesn’t it? But here’s the catch: no single MLS in the state has all the listings. The MLS’ are typically by county or region within a county. And each MLS has its own monthly fees for agent access.

Imagine what it would cost an agent to belong to all 83 MLSs or the dozens of MLSs in any state. The total access fees would be thousands of dollars a month, in addition to paying each of the MLS’s a one-time non-refundable initiation fee.

So here’s how this secret hurts Sellers:

  • The Seller walks into a local real estate office and says, “I’d like to list my property for sale.” The agent says, “No problem. I’ll put it on the MLS” (implying there is only one MLS). Then the agent lists the property in the MLS the agent belongs to – NOT necessarily the MLS where the property exists. So now agents local to the property can’t see the listing and don’t even know it’s for sale.  That leaves the Seller wondering where all the buyers are.

Real estate agents who understand this join multiple MLS’s, and then double or triple enter Seller listings in the MLSs that make sense for that particular property. This definitely gives the Seller an advantage over an agent that doesn’t do this.  However, the time and expense of representing Sellers this way simply prohibits many agents from providing this service, no matter how much they may want to.

Here’s how this secret hurts Buyers:

  • Buyers think that all the property they are interested in will be on the local MLS. But it’s not. And unless the Buyer’s agent belongs to and searches many MLS’s, those properties won’t be found.  (See the above mentioned Secret Hurts Sellers). Those local properties become invisible to Buyers whose agents don’t realize that there are many MLS, don’t invest in multiple MLS’s, don’t dedicate the time it takes to search several MLSs, aren’t concerned enough to try to provide their Buyers with better representation, or simply don’t have enough resources to do so.

Real Estate agents who can afford to care as much about completing a quality transaction as the Sellers do, understand this, and dedicate the resources, time and energy to enter listings multiple times.  Failing to provide Clients with as much as exposure as possible, because it may be too much effort or expense for the agent, definitely leads to poor sales results and lower net proceeds, particularly for the Sellers.

CJ’s expertise helps buyers lock in profits, maximizes sellers’ net proceeds.  She works extensively with real estate investors.  Her wise guidance literally means more money for her clients, and comes from years of personal investing experience, and hundreds of transactions.  


False  Assumptions  Can  Tank  Sales  (FACTS)
By CJ Holmes, California Real Estate Broker


We all make decisions based on what we think are the Facts. But sometimes what we think is a Fact is actually a Myth. In the real estate market it’s especially important to know the difference between accurate information and misconceptions because the success of your transaction depends on it.

Indeed, you have a right and an obligation to know exactly what to expect from your real estate professionals. That’s the only way you can make the right decisions for your particular situation.

To assist you, here are four of the more common Myths people experience and the Facts that will help them set the record straight:

1.  Myth: All listing agents will have similar excellent marketing programs for selling my property.

FACT: Research shows that 85% of agents do one transaction or less per year. As a result, many agents have little experience, insufficient funds to handle an effective marketing campaign, and end up doing the minimum or less (i.e., no photos) and calling their effort ‘good enough.”

Unfortunately that leaves thousands of dollars left behind on the table due to inadequate marketing, incorrect pricing, and ineffective negotiating.  Lack of attention to contract details, or unscrupulously selling to a pocket buyer to get the entire commission, also result in less profitable transactions for the sellers.

At CJ Holmes & Company you work with a seasoned Investor-Broker who will guide your sale to lock in profits others leave behind. We provide expert market analysis, proven pricing strategies, and target and entice the correct buyer market. We also give you outstanding photographs, customized professional signage, showcased online listings, multiple search engine exposure, individualized property websties, and capture all buyer calls. Brochures and email blasts to a large buyer database all combine to generate more than quadruple the buyer leads, generate multiple offers and maximize seller proceeds.

2.  Myth: Buyer’s agents will show all property to their buyers regardless of what commissions are offered to them.

FACT: As a business consideration, many agents review the commissions offered prior to deciding which properties they will show their buyers. Just as a seller has a choice for what commissions to offer, the agents have a choice of what they will accept and work for.

At CJ Holmes & Company you get what you deserve: the most possible seller proceeds for your property. Since the sales price is directly affected by demand, the best way to enhance demand for your property is to ensure that it is seen by every buyer in the market. And the best way to ensure that is to adequately compensate so each agent is motivated to show your property to his/her buyers.

3.  Myth: Bringing many listings to the same agent makes negotiating a commission discount good business.

FACT: An agent should carefully consider what commissions are offered for the effort. Because there is no way for an agent to sell separate properties in “bulk”, there is no way for them to affect any savings in the marketing and transaction efforts for different listings. The listing agent must simply agree to do the same work for less.

At CJ Holmes & Company you get the best market value possible for your property.  Our marketing program virtually guarantees the seller will get the highest net proceeds possible in any given market at any given time.  We know that listing agents who agree to commission discounts are often either desperate for business or not motivated to do much marketing work, causing seller proceeds to suffer badly.

4.  Myth: Agents never really earn their commissions. It’s mostly just free money for them at your expense.

FACT: Some agents don’t do much for the money they receive. Others will more than earn their commissions. It’s up to the seller to understand that all agents are not created equal. Therefore, it will be important to hire the best representation money can buy.

At CJ Holmes & Company you experience quality representation that combines extensive experience with a focus on building the client’s wealth. To this we add our powerful marketing program, significant personnel resources, strong negotiation skills, and excellent escrow management. All of this often produces greater than expected seller proceeds.

Remember, you have the right to receive the best representation possible. But unless you know the difference between fact and fiction you may not be able to determine whether or not your real estate professional is working in your best interest or theirs.

Ask questions and expect answers that make sense.  Place your needs and goals as the top priority. If this is the only real estate transaction you will experience in your lifetime, you still want it to count.  And if this is one of many real estate transactions, you still want them all to be successful.


SELLERS MAY LOSE MONEY using Agents That Participate in these Online Sites
By CJ Holmes, California Real Estate Broker

Perhaps you’ve read the article “Site gives real estate agents inside scoop,” specifically mentioning Agent2AgentLink and Top Agent Network.  These online networks are described as ways for agents to “post details online about listings coming to market so they can be matched to interested buyers.” This activity obviously occurs before the seller signs a listing agreement, which fact by itself raises serious issues.  The article mentioned listing agents that have used this network to get pricing feedback from buyers agents prior to listing a property, and that at least one agent has sold a property this way.

Sellers, watch out.  These type sites can be:

A)     a “free for all” where a seller’s net proceeds will likely be subject to a buyer’s price preference,

B)      a great way to enhance unapproved pocket listings for agents, and

C)      a subversion of the normal listing process that exposes the seller’s property to the entire buyer market.

Let’s address these issues one by one.

A.  Any listing agent that wants or needs buyers’ agents to suggest a property price is either:

1)      is too new to the industry to know better,
2)      not trained well enough to do a good CMA (comparable market analysis), or
3)      too desperate for the income from a quick sale so “gives-it-away” to the first interested buyer.

Quick sales leave (seller) money on the table, and really quick sales are usually (seller) cheats.  By definition, the ‘quick sale’ focus is not about maximizing seller net proceeds.

B.  Unapproved pocket listings are a violation of the Realtor Standards of Practice.  A pocket listing is when an agent lists a property, but puts the property details “in his pocket” rather than on a true Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  This “pocket listing” gives complete control over all property exposure to the listing agent, making it easy to sell to a favored buyer at the buyer’s favored price or for the agent to focus on double-ending the commissions.  The seller has been tricked into thinking the property is actually listed on a true MLS with lots of buyer exposure, so has little reason to doubt his agent’s advice.  This trick greatly reduces seller net proceeds.

These type “sharing” sites are, by definition and usage, promoting collusion between agents generally against the vested interest of sellers.  And there is simply no way to ensure a listing agent would not be swayed by the temptation inherent in these arrangements.

C.  A true MLS, like BAREIS in Sonoma County, has over the years, developed broad exposure to the buyer market and now includes every agent in five counties.  This is the exposure that sellers want and expect for their listings.  Giving the seller anything less than this could be considered a breach of the agent’s fiduciary responsibility to the client.

In my opinion, any service described as ‘giving the agents an advantage’ should immediately be suspect by all parties.  Let’s remember that it’s the CLIENTS, the sellers and buyers, whose interests are paramount.  Agents are hired representatives, legally obligated to “protect and promote the interests of their client.”

Fortunately, sellers can decide whom to hire and should use due diligence in doing so.

CJ Holmes, real estate investor since 1977, broker since 2005, and market research analyst since 2007